“For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.”
Explanation and Commentary of Ecclesiastes 1:18
Admittedly, much of the book of Ecclesiastes presents a cynical look at reality. The author here is speaking of a contrast to being blissfully ignorant of the harsher elements of existence and knowledge of the way things are. One is reminded of the devastation brought on by the newfound “knowledge of good and evil” possessed by Adam and Eve after their rebellion in the garden. They were genuinely wiser in a certain way (Gen 3:7), but sorrow and grief were part of the package.
There seems to be a spectrum concerning wisdom. Jesus commended children for their childlike faith and humility. Children understand the world very little, and it lends to their sense of joy unless a child is exposed to cruelty at an early age, in which case he or she is “wise” in a way that is tragic. Then there is the wisdom of one who has learned a lot about human nature, and at least some of it, the hard way, through experience, the “street smarts” that come at a cost of innocence. This is the wise person in view in this verse. But beyond that point, there is a truer wisdom of the understanding that comes from the fear of God. This wisdom acknowledges the harsh realities of the world, but sees to eternal purposes and is brought in that way back to a childlike faith, “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Cor 6:10). An eternal perspective and true trust in God the Father will put wisdom and knowledge in their proper place in the heart, subordinate to wonder and love for God and his glory.
It could be said that this is referring to the state in which one sees the corruption of the world and his or her own abject poverty of spirit, and despairs until he or she is ready to cry out to God for salvation and in repentance.
Breaking Down the Key Parts of Ecclesiastes 1:18
#1 “For with much wisdom…”
The Bible generally commends the attainment of wisdom (Prov 4:7). When it is set against foolishness, then certainly wisdom is to be preferred.
#2 “…comes much sorrow;”
Becoming worldly-wise, and at first, even spiritually wise can open the eyes to the harshest and saddest realities.
#3 “the more knowledge, the more grief.”
Ignorance is bliss in this way. But it is even better to go beyond the grief of knowledge to the joy of the true knowledge of God and biblical reality.
Bible Study on Ecclesiastes 1:18
Expert Overview of Ecclesiastes
Biblical Translations of Ecclesiastes 1:18
For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.
The greater my wisdom, the greater my grief. To increase knowledge only increases sorrow.
For in much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.
For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.
For in much wisdom is much grief, And he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.