ECCLESIASTES


Chapter 1 Chapter 6 Chapter 11  
Chapter 2 Chapter 7 Chapter 12
Chapter 3 Chapter 8
Chapter 4 Chapter 9
Chapter 5 Chapter 10

All Bible readers are acquainted with the record of Solomon, the author of this book. He, the son of David and Bathsheba, was the third king in the succession of the rulers of Israel. He was made king by his father David at a very early age. In I Kings 3:5-14 the record is given of God's gift of wisdom and riches to Solomon. God made him the wisest mortal man, who ever had lived, or would ever live on earth. Yet as we follow his career, as recorded in God's word, we see that, in spite of this, he, in his later years turned away from following the commandments of God, and followed the lusts of the flesh. Not only did he have many wives and concubines, but he was led of them away from God to the worship of idols. There is no commandment in the law God gave Israel limiting the number of wives a man might have. But there is a prohibition against any Israelite, whether king or commoner, marrying a woman of certain nations, lest the wife lead him away from serving God to worshipping idols. As the record shows, Solomon completely disregarded this. And the result was that, he even built great houses of worship for the idols of his wives. This is the man who wrote Ecclesiastes. So when he says, "And whatsoever mine eyes desired, I kept not from them," he is speaking the literal truth. He did whatever he wanted to do. Surely, many of the things of which he wrote are from his own experience. He knew first hand the vanity of many of the things he had done. He also knew the futility of trying to change that, which has already been done.

Chapter 1

 

(Verse 1) The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.

 

Thus the writer identifies himself. And, since the only person fitting this description is Solomon, we know that he is the author of this writing.

 

(Verses 2 through 4) Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. What profit hath a man of all his labor, which he taketh under the sun? One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth forever.

 

Notice that Solomon gives his conclusion for this before he even asks his question, or answers it. He declares that everything is "vanity of vanities." This is an expression he often uses throughout this writing. In his manner of using it, it seems to mean that everything a man may do in this world, "under the sun," is worthless, has no substance, and is a waste of time and energy. One must keep in mind that his focus throughout this writing is, for the greater part, on man's work and its effect, or lack thereof on the world and its continuation. Rarely does he deal with man's relationship with God, until he comes to his conclusion. So, in this light, he asks, "What profit hath a man of all his labor, which he taketh under the sun? One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth forever." Although a man may spend his entire life working, planning, worrying, and doing everything he can to accomplish something, and sometimes even be successful in his endeavor, he and his generation will surely pass away, and be followed by another. But the world goes on as it has, with nothing changed. So all his labor has been in vain, so far as he is concerned. There is no profit to him from all his labor. Sometimes a man is able to accomplish something that benefits following generations. But he will not know anything about it. So it is all vanity.

 

(Verses 5 through 7) The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose. The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits. All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again.

 

As Solomon speaks of the elements of nature, we see that all of man's labor has made no difference in their operation. He wrote this almost three thousand years ago. Since that time every generation of man has put forth much valiant effort: and he has been permitted to accomplish many things. Some of them have been long lasting, and many have been beneficial to man. But the generation that produced these things passed away, to be followed by another. And the entire accumulation of these things has had no effect upon the world order. The sun still rises and sets where it always has. The winds change from one point of the compass to another as they have from the beginning. And all the rivers still run into the sea; but they do not raise the level of the water thereof. Moreover the water that goes to the sea is also returned to the source of the river to repeat the journey. All of man's labor has made no change in that order.

 

(Verse 8) All things are full of labor; man cannot utter it: the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.

 

Whatever man attempts to accomplish is filled with, or requires, effort to bring it about. It would be beyond the ability of man to tell how much effort, and even suffering, has been required in all the things man has done. Still we have never reached the point at which man says, "I never want to see anything else." Neither have we arrived at the end of our desire to hear something. We may, at times tire of seeing and hearing the same old things we have seen and heard; but we still have the desire to see and hear something new. We commonly consider that if a man reaches a certain level of fortune or fame, or both, he is successful. But the only true measure of success is satisfaction; and few indeed ever reach it in this world. If they did, they would cease from striving for something more than they have.

 

(Verses 9 through 11) The thing which hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. Is there anything whereof it may be said, See, this is new? It hath been already of old time, which was before us. There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after.

 

Many will immediately take issue with what Solomon has said here. They will begin to name various modern inventions, and declare that they are new, and have never been before. While, indeed, each of them may be a new assembly, every particle of every one of them is made from something that has been here since the creation of the world. And the principles of operation for every one of them have also been here since the beginning. Had they only known how to design and assemble all the proper components, they could have had television. The materials for all the components and the principles for its operation have been here all the time. The only thing lacking was the "know how." That only came by the gradual accumulation of knowledge through the ages. The man, who invented the television, only built upon knowledge already discovered by former generations. However, I believe a little different approach to this matter will be useful. In verse 8, Solomon introduced another matter, the quest for satisfaction of seeing and hearing. So the question arises: since man will never be satisfied until he sees and hears everything there is in the world, how can he achieve this? Of course this can be applied to any other field also; but since Solomon has introduced this, we shall consider it as an example. The seeing of things in this world until recent decades, except by pictures, which were not always too clear, has depended upon our going to the site. This brings us to the logistics of the matter, the getting from point "A" to point "B." During my span of life, I have seen this progress from walking, riding a horse, or riding in a wagon, to traveling by automobile, by airplane, or, in the case of our astronauts, by rocket ships. Yet that makes no change in what we are trying to do. We want to get from here to there. Man will never be satisfied until he can simply think where he wants to be, and immediately be there. This is clearly shown in all the fairy tales, which children have read through the ages. This, of course, he will never achieve. Nevertheless his purpose and quest is the same it has always been. There is nothing new. He still wants what he has always wanted. Although he puts together what seems to him a new means of obtaining his desires, he has to make them from existing materials; and they work on existing principles, to accomplish the same old purposes. He thinks he has a new toy, but it is only a different arrangement of that which has been from the beginning. "It hath been already of old time, which was before us." So far as Solomon's declaration in verse 11 is concerned, some may argue that we have remembrance of former things because we keep records of them. What we read from the record, while it may be true, is not our remembrance of the thing, or the event. About the best illustration of this that I can give is this. Several years ago I was talking with a friend, who had been in a certain battle in Italy, during World War II. He described, in clear detail, that battle. From the details he gave of it, I am sure he had remembrance of it as long as he lived; but I have no remembrance of it at all. I can only remember what he told me about it. And I am sure that he told the truth. Yet I have no remembrance of it because I was not there to see it or experience it. Whatever is done in, or by, this generation, when this generation is gone, there will be no remembrance of it. There may, indeed, be records thereof, but that is all there will be. And it may be safely said that following generations will not learn from these records; for they will repeat the mistakes of those gone before.

 

(Verses 12 through 14) I the Preacher was king over Israel in Jerusalem. And I gave my heart to seek out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven: this sore travail hath God given to the sons of men, to be exercised therewith. I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit.

 

This appears to be a slightly boastful declaration, amounting to about what we often hear someone say today: "I've seen it all." Yet when we consider that God had given to Solomon greater wisdom than to any other man in the world, and had also given him great wealth, so that he was able to go where he would to observe all the works in which men engage, we find it only a declaration of fact. He does not claim to have an all-seeing eye, as does God, but that he has taken notice of all the various kinds of activities in which man expends so much of his energy. Having done this, he comes up with one conclusion concerning the whole: "All is vanity and vexation of spirit." That is, in all these activities, man only wears himself out, and accomplishes nothing. He still finds no satisfaction, but continues to reach for something more until the moment of his death. He never has the success of being satisfied.

 

(Verse 15) That which is crooked cannot be made straight: and that which is wanting cannot be numbered.

 

When he says, "That which is crooked cannot be made straight," he has no reference to such things as a piece of steel, which has been bent. We have machines today, and they had smiths in Solomon's day capable of taking care of that. His reference is to the path that is before us, or the path we have already traversed. Since we do not know all that lies before us in life, we cannot chart, and follow, a perfectly straight course. Many of the obstacles in life are not even imagined until we come face to face with them. Some of them we may be able to pass through, and continue on in the straight course we have planned. However, there are sure to be some that are such that our only way to get by them is to change our course. Whether that change is a right angle bend, or a very slight turn, the way has been made crooked. And there is no way to make it straight. Every time we look back at it we will see that crook. As he uses it, "crooked" does not mean evil, or dishonest, but simply a crook in our path. And once made it cannot be changed, no matter how much we may wish we could have gone on in the way we planned. When we consider his statement, "And that which is wanting cannot be numbered," we see that he does not mean that, if we know how much of anything we have, and  how much it will take for whatever project we are planning, we cannot compute how much we lack. Rather, his meaning is that we cannot count, or depend upon that which we do not have. Just as a general, who goes into battle, cannot depend upon the soldiers he does not have, so we, without sufficient resources, cannot depend upon what we do not have. We are all acquainted with the saying, "Don't count your chicks until the eggs hatch." That is the essence of what Solomon has said.

 

(Verses 16 through 18) I communed with mine own heart, saying, Lo, I am come to great estate, and have gotten more wisdom than all they that have been before me in Jerusalem: And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness, and folly: I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit. For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.

 

Here we find Solomon musing in his own heart concerning his situation. God promised him such wisdom that in it he would be above any mortal man who had ever lived, or would ever live. And this He has fulfilled. Now consider the result. He has experienced wisdom, examined madness and folly, and come to a remarkable conclusion. They are all "vexation of spirit." Not one of them will bring happiness; but all vex, or irritate the spirit. He is speaking of the spirit of man, not the Spirit of God. We might readily agree that madness and folly would vex the spirit of man, but wisdom? Would it not calm the spirit of man? He says, "No. For in much wisdom there is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow." So, it seems that in direct proportion to the increase of our wisdom and knowledge is the increase of our grief and sorrow. It is surely no wonder that he declares all endeavors and achievements of man to be vanity, or emptiness.

 


Chapter 2


(Verses 1 and 2) I said in my heart, Go to now, I will prove thee with mirth, therefore enjoy pleasure: and behold, this also is vanity. I said of laughter, It is madness: and of mirth, What doeth it?

 

As we continue through this book, we shall find that Solomon tried to study and experiment with many different things. Here he tests mirth, which, in this case is not to be considered simply as being happy, but rather as pleasurable excitement. So he said to his heart, "Take part in anything that will cause pleasurable excitement." His conclusion from this experiment is: "Behold, this also is vanity." There is no profit in it, but it is completely worthless. A very popular saying of the modern day is, "Laughter is the best medicine:" but he says, "I said of laughter, 'It is mad:' and of mirth, 'What doeth it?'" None can deny that he was an exceedingly wise man. Yet, in spite of our modern ideas, he declared mirth to be insane, ("mad,") and laughter to accomplish nothing. Many people today spend their money for pleasurable excitement or mirth; and when it is over, what do they have to show for it? Only a little thinner wallet. Likewise, laughter never accomplishes anything of value. Many will argue that mirth and laughter are worthwhile, because they may lower the tension of one's nerves. Even this is very hard to prove. And both are addictive, and produce no lasting benefit for those who follow after them.

 

(Verses 3 through 10) I sought in my heart to give myself unto wine, yet acquainting my heart with wisdom; and to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was that good for the sons of men, which they should do under the heaven all the days of their life. I made me great works; I builded me houses; I planted me vineyards: I made me gardens and orchards, and I planted trees in them of all kind of fruits: I made me pools of water, to water therewith the wood that bringeth forth trees: I got me servants and maidens, and I had servants born in my house; also I had great possessions of great and small cattle above all that were in Jerusalem before me: I gathered me also silver and gold, and the peculiar treasure of kings and of provinces: I gat me men singers and women singers, and the delights of the sons of men, as musical instruments of all sorts. So I was great, and increased more than all that were before me in Jerusalem: also my wisdom remained with me. And whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy; for my heart rejoiced in all my labor: and this was my portion in all my labor.

 

This is a rather long list of activities and projects done by Solomon. The most outstanding point of it all is shown in an expression he several times uses in this list. He either says, "I made me_ _ _," or "I got me _ _ _." This shows clearly that his interest in all of it was mostly selfish, and for self aggrandizement and personal pleasure. Not once does he say anything about doing anything for the glory of God, or for the benefit of his fellow man. In everything he did it seems that his motto was one that has become very popular in recent years: "Show me the money," Or "Show me where is the profit in this." If he thought he could find any pleasure in a thing, he tried it, whether it was something as great as a big building project, or as small as experimenting with wine. In spite of these activities, his wisdom remained with him. So he was able to evaluate all these activities; and he took great pleasure in the things he had done.

 

(Verse 11) Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labor that I had labored to do; and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.

 

In spite of the great pleasure he took in doing all these things, Solomon, as he looked upon all these activities in which he had been engaged, could find nothing worthwhile in any of it. "All was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun." This seems to very strongly reinforce what our Lord said about the rich man in Luke 12:21. "So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God." Everything that rich man had, he considered only for himself: and that is exactly Solomon's attitude toward everything he had and every thing he had done. So, as he evaluated all these activities and accomplishments by the wisdom that remained with him in spite of them, he saw that they were all complete emptiness and vexation of the spirit. They were good for nothing. In them was no profit.

 

(Verse 12) And I turned myself to behold wisdom, and madness, and folly: for what can the man do that cometh after the king? Even that which hath been already done.

 

Having found all his endeavors and activities to be of no profit, but only worthlessness and worry, he turns to examine three things, wisdom, madness, (insanity,) and folly (foolishness). He does not give us his conclusion concerning madness, or insanity, possibly, because he realized that it is not an exercise of the mind, but a mental condition beyond the control of man. He does, however, take up both wisdom and folly, the two extremes of the spectrum. Since God had given him such great wisdom, he was better qualified than others to make this study. His reason for turning to the consideration of these was that, since he had done everything there was to do, whoever might come after him could do nothing new, He could only repeat that which had already been done.

 

(Verses 13 through 17) Then I saw that wisdom excelleth folly, as far as light excelleth darkness. The wise man's eyes are in his head; but the fool walketh in darkness: and I myself perceived that one event happeneth to them all. Then said I in my heart, As it happeneth to the fool, so it happeneth even to me; and why was I then more wise? Then I said in my heart, that this also is vanity. For there is no remembrance of the wise man more than the fool forever; seeing that which now is in the days to come shall all be forgotten. And how doeth the wise man? As the fool. Therefore I hated life; because the work that is wrought under the sun is grievous unto me: for all is vanity and vexation of spirit.

 

The first thing Solomon concluded from this study is that wisdom is as much better than folly as the light is better than darkness. He illustrates this by saying that "a wise man's eyes are in his head; but the fool walketh in darkness." That is, the wise man has the ability to see what lies around him, just as when a light shines on the path he is traveling, enabling him to see the obstacles in the way, and thus avoid them. At the same time, the fool does not have such light, and is therefore subject to stumbling over unseen objects that are in his way. All this seems very comforting to one who feels that he has wisdom. But Solomon then comes to a very disturbing point in his observations. He observes the end of both the wise man and the fool. That is, their end, so far as this life is concerned.  "And I myself perceived that one event happeneth to them all. He explains that both the wise man and the fool die, and are forgotten. The wise man is no more remembered than is the fool. It is to be kept in mind that this discussion is in regard to man's relation to this world, not his relation to God. From this perspective, the same thing happens to the wise and the fool: both die. This caused Solomon to question, "Why was I then more wise?" So he declares this also to be vanity, or worthlessness. In this he, with all the wisdom God had given him, was no better off than the fool. Since what is being done today will, in days to come, all be forgotten, the wise will be no more remembered than the fool. While it is true that the scriptures tell us that God made Solomon the wisest of men, few of the exercises of that wisdom are recorded. Everyone remembers that the record declares him to have been an exceedingly wise man; but almost no one can tell us any of his great acts of wisdom. So he asks the question: "And how dieth the wise man?" His answer is, "As the fool." For this reason he hated life, and considered it all to be only, as we often hear said, "an exercise in futility."

 

(Verses 18 through 20) Yea, I hated all my labor which I had taken under the sun: because I should leave it unto the man that shall be after me. And who knoweth whether he shall be a wise man or a fool? Yet shall he have rule over all my labor wherein I have labored, and wherein I have shewed myself wise under the sun. This is also vanity. Therefore I went about to cause my heart to despair of all the labor which I took under the sun.

 

I certainly have not had the experience Solomon had. That is, I have not been an exceedingly wise man, who has built up a great fortune by his wisdom, but I believe I can, to some extent, understand his frustration as he takes stock of all the effort and worry he has invested in all his works, and is faced with the knowledge that he must die and leave it all to someone else. What makes it especially frustrating is the realization that no one can tell him whether the man who shall follow him will be a wise man or a fool. If he is a wise man, he can build upon what Solomon has already done. If he is a fool, he can quickly destroy it all. (The record shows that the latter was the case.) This is the same question faced today, by men, who have spent their lives trying to build up wealth, and as they approach the time of their departure realize that no one can tell them whether their heirs will be wise enough to be good stewards of their estates or foolish enough to waste everything. This very question has sometimes led men, who have accumulated great fortunes to cut off the inheritance from their children, and leave it to some charity. Because of this question Solomon was in despair concerning all the effort and worry he had expended on the things he had done.

 

(Verses 21 through 23) For there is a man whose labor is in wisdom, and in knowledge, and in equity; yet to a man that hath not labored therein shall he leave it for his portion. This also is vanity and a great evil. For what hath man of all his labor, and of the vexation of his heart, wherein he hath labored under the sun? For all his days are sorrows, and his travail grief; yea, his heart taketh not rest in the night. This is also vanity.

 

How often this very thing occurs! A man, in some sort of business, will have sufficient wisdom that, by making use of it and spending his life in working, worrying, and planning, will build up a profitable business. Then, as he either retires, or dies, the business is left to another, who does not have the wisdom of the first man. Within a few years that business is both destroyed and forgotten. Thus it often is with humanity. This, Solomon says, is both vanity and a great evil. He then asks, "For what hath man of all his labor, and of the vexation of his heart, wherein he hath labored under the sun?" That is, What lasting profit is there in the end of this matter? All that the wise man had worked for is gone. All his life he had spent in working and worrying, both of which only bring sorrow and grief. He had even denied himself proper sleep and rest so that he might achieve his goal: and now all is destroyed. Surely this is emptiness.

 

(Verses 24 and 25) There is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labor. This also I saw, that it was from the hand of God. For who can eat, or who else can hasten hereunto, more than I?

 

His conclusion in this is that, since the fruits of our labors are gifts from the hand of God, we should never deny ourselves the necessities of life in order to heap up wealth to leave to someone else. We have labored, and God has given us the fruits thereof. Therefore we should enjoy the fruits of that labor as His gift to us. His question in verse 25 simply means that, if God has given these blessings to one, who can have a better right to them, than he to whom they are given?

 

(Verse 26) For God giveth to a man that is good in His sight wisdom, and knowledge, and joy: but to the sinner He giveth travail to gather and heap up, that he may give to him that is good before God. This also is vanity and vexation of spirit.

 

All the way through this chapter, Solomon has dealt with the man, who has devoted his life to the gathering and heaping up of wealth, only to have to leave it to another. Here he says that God gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy, to the man who is good in His sight, that is, the one to whom it pleases Him to give them. At the same time, the sinner, (and, in this case, "the sinner" is he who is only concerned with worldly wealth,) is given "travail," or a great burning desire to gather and heap up riches. Although this man is not aware of it, he is only heaping them up to give them to "him that is good in the sight of God," that is, the man to whom God sees fit to give them. Therefore all that he who gathers them gets out of it is the labor and travail of gathering them together. So Solomon says, "This also is vanity and vexation of spirit." This is the portion of the man who is striving to accumulate the wealth.

 


Chapter 3


(Verses 1 through 8) To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: a time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

 

Verse 1 holds the key to the proper understanding of all of this text. "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the sun." Some seem to think that this text teaches that God has appointed a specific moment for each of these things to be done, and that each shall take place at the appointed time, and none can change or hinder their doing so. While I am well aware that God is Omniscient, Omnipotent, and totally Sovereign in all His works and appointments, this text has nothing to do with that doctrine. As verse 1 declares there is a season or time to not only these things mentioned in the text, but to every thing, and "every purpose under the heaven." And the inference of it all is that the proper exercise of wisdom is necessary that we may recognize the time or season for each. While it is true that, in being born, and in dying, we are passive so far as being able to consider the situation and make a choice of the time, every one of the others involves the recognition of the proper season for each. "A time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted." Surely we would not go to the field while it is covered with snow to plant something that requires warm weather to come up and grow. Today many have taken up investing in the stock market, which is a form of planting. If all indications are that the stock in which one is interested is about to make a big gain, wisdom says that it is time to buy it, that is, "to plant." On the other hand, if all pertinent factors indicate that it about to crash, it is time to sell, that is "to pluck up that which is planted." We could go through all the items Solomon has here mentioned, as well as multitudes he left off, and the same principle will hold without fail. Thus his message is that it takes wisdom to know when is the season for any activity. This same writer tells us in Proverbs 9:10, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the Holy is understanding." So those who fear Him are given the necessary wisdom to direct them in the proper use of the times and the seasons.

 

(Verses 9 through 13) What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboreth? I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it. He hath made everything beautiful in his time: also He hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end. I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life. And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labor, it is the gift of God.

 

Solomon's question here is the same that he has asked several times before. "What profit hath he in that wherein he laboreth?" If he is looking for profit, or gain, at the end of the way, What is it? Or where is it? He must leave it all after giving his life in pursuit of it. He has been so busy and preoccupied with the pursuit of wealth, that he has not taken time to enjoy the fruits of his labors; and now he must leave it all to another. Where is his profit, or gain? Then Solomon says, "I have seen the travail, (suffering, or burning desire,) which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it." His often used phrase, "the sons of men," simply means the human family. And its usual reference is to them as they are in nature, with no reference to anything spiritual. To these God has given a great desire to excel in the gathering up of wealth, so much so that it even becomes a travail, or an obsession. In it they are continually exercised. They have no other goal. God has so made the world that every thing in it is beautiful "in his (its) time."  That is, at sometime it appeals to, or is beautiful to someone, because these sons of men have the world set in their hearts. There is no man who can find out, or search out God's whole work from beginning to end. Only that which He reveals will ever be known by men. But Solomon says that he knows something. And, apparently, it is something that these sons of men do not know. It is that, the only good in all these things, after which men seek, is "for a man to rejoice, and do good in this life. And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labor, it is the gift of God." He is not saying that a man should be a glutton, nor that he should engage in drinking binges, but that, since God's gift to man is that he should enjoy the fruits of his labor while he lives, he is not to be so obsessed with getting rich, that he denies himself or his dependents the necessities of life, for the sake of wealth. Instead, let him "enjoy the good of all his labor, it is the gift of God."

 

(Verses 14 and 15) I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be done forever: nothing can be put to it, nor anything taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before Him. That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past.

 

We do well to carefully consider, not only what Solomon says here, but also the sequence in which it is said. First, and most important, he sets forth a truth that will forever stand the same. He tells us that it is something that he knows; not something about which he guesses, or something he thinks. That truth is: "Whatsoever God doeth, it shall be forever: nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it." This we all ought to keep always in mind. There is no stronger declaration of the sovereignty of God. Not only is whatsoever He does everlasting, but neither can it be changed. It can neither be augmented, nor diminished. In addition to this, all of His works are to one end, or to one purpose, "That men should fear before Him." The next verse is not a change of direction, but a follow-up of these two declarations. Therefore the reference is not to machines, gadgets, and other things that man has been enabled to discover, or assemble, as time has progressed, but to the works of God, which He has done that men might fear before Him. "That which hath been is now." God, in the beginning, created the heaven, the earth, and all the fullness thereof. Therefore they have been, even from the beginning; and are they not still here? Certainly they are. They have already been from the beginning, and He has declared that they shall be to the end. So "that which is to be hath already been." This is not to say that He cannot, or will not, also do other works, but only to declare that "Whatsoever God doeth, it shall be forever." "And God requireth that which is past." In chapter 2, verse 16, Solomon said, concerning men, "For there is no remembrance of the wise, more than the fool forever; seeing that which now is in the days to come shall all be forgotten," This is the way it is with the works of man. They are soon forgotten, But it is not so with the works of God. He requires, or brings forth, the past. That is, He causes His works that are past to be held in memory, that men may fear before Him. He requires the past, and will not suffer it to be forgotten.

 

(Verses 16 and 17) And moreover I saw under the sun the place of judgment, that wickedness was there; and the place of righteousness, that iniquity was there. I said in mine heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked: for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work.

 

This is a sad truth, and one that not only was seen in Solomon's day, but is alive and well in ours also. The place of judgment is, of course, the courts of the land; and the place of righteousness, in his day, was the temple, and today the church. Often in our courts today wickedness and corruption are found, and unjust verdicts are rendered and unjust sentences applied. Also the churches, which should be the place of righteousness, sometimes harbor iniquity. Everyone has not turned away from the Lord, but many have. Yet we can be sure of one thing: "God shall judge the righteous and the wicked: for there is there a time for every purpose and for every work." So God is fully aware of these things, and will, at His time, bring all to judgment. And it will not be perverted judgment, but will be righteous in every way.

 

(Verses 18 through 20) I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts. For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth the beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity. All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and shall turn to dust again.

 

In studying this, one must realize that this entire text is dealing with the natural body, and natural life only. In fact, it does not even embrace the natural spirit, or mind, of either man or beast. So, from this perspective, man and beast are alike. In speaking thus of men, Solomon says, "that they might see that they themselves are beasts." He then declares that man and beast die in exactly the same manner. When their breath is taken away they are dead. So man is no better than a beast. (He has "no preeminence above a beast.) He says this whole study is vanity, or emptiness. Man and beast both go to the same place, the earth. So, in that respect they are all alike.

 

(Verses 21 and 22) Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth? Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing  better, than that a man should rejoice in his own works; for that is his portion: for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him?

 

Having concluded that, so far as the body is concerned, man and beast are alike, and come to the same end in this world, Solomon asks, "Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward; and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?" This is not asked as an attempt to find someone who knows these spirits. Rather, it the strongest manner of declaring that no one does know them. That is, no one has seen either the spirit of man as it goes up to God Who gave it, or the spirit of the beast as it goes down to the earth. The only difference Solomon has shown between man and beast is that the spirit of man goes up to God, and the spirit of the beast goes down to the earth. Since these spirits are beyond the ability of man to know, he concludes that, "there is nothing better than, that a man should rejoice in his own works; for that is his portion. Again, we emphasize that this entire discussion has been of man in his natural state. Even to him God has given the ability to rejoice in his own works; and, since no one can bring him to see what shall be after him, the best he can do is to rejoice in the present fruits of his labor.

 


Chapter 4


(Verses 1 through 3) So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter. Wherefore I praised the dead which are already dead more than the living which are yet alive. Yea, better is he than both they, which hath not yet been, who hath not seen the evil work that is done under the sun.

 

Having considered the emptiness of man's constant scramble to heap up riches, which he can only leave to someone else, Solomon turns his attention to another problem, which has been with man as long as he has been on earth. That problem is the oppression of the poor, or the weak, by those who are stronger, or richer than they. The oppressors have all the power on their side. So, no matter how many tears the oppressed may shed, they have no one to comfort them, or deliver them from the oppressor. Someone will surely ask, "Will not God deliver the oppressed?" He has indeed promised that He will deliver them: but He did not say when, nor how He would do this. He might choose to deliver them through death and the resurrection, as He did His only begotten Son. However, Solomon is not here considering God's hand in this matter, but only the dealing of man with man. Since, as he considered this matter he saw no man who would deliver the oppressed, or even comfort them, he concluded that, those who were already dead were better off than those still living under this oppression, and even better off than those not yet born. The one who is already dead is free from the oppressor, while the one still living is still suffering. And the one not yet born, will have to face this same abuse when he is born. Those not yet born have not seen the evil work that is done in the world, "under the sun," but they will. There may be varying degrees of this oppression, but it still continues today.

 

(Verse 4) Again, I considered all travail, and every right work, that for this a man is envied of his neighbor. This also is vanity and vexation of spirit.

 

He turns his attention to all the travail (suffering, or hardship) that accompanies the doing of things that are good, "every right work." Even for this, for doing right, a man is envied of his neighbor. The most outstanding example of this we can find is our Lord Jesus. In speaking of Pilate when Jesus stood before him in that mock trial, Mark says, "For he knew that the chief priests had delivered Him for envy." (Mark 15:10) Every work He had done was a "right work." Yet for the envy the chief priests had against Him, they had Him tried and crucified. Surely this is vanity and vexation of spirit.

 

(Verses 5 and 6) The fool foldeth his hands together, and eateth his own flesh. Better is an handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit.

 

Solomon here speaks of both ends of the spectrum, so far as the drive for amassing wealth is concerned. First, he says that the fool has no interest in doing anything. He just folds his hands together and does nothing that is at all beneficial, even to himself. As a result thereof he has nothing to eat. "He eateth his own flesh." This, of course, is not to be taken literally; but simply to mean that his lack of effort leaves him with nothing. He will not even put forth enough effort to provide food for himself. He has not even accumulated the handful, of which Solomon next speaks. "Better is an handful with quietness, than both hands full with travail and vexation of spirit." That is, it is better to have only the necessities of life without all the worry and vexation of constantly driving for wealth, than to obtain that wealth at the expense of being so worried and driven by ambition that one cannot enjoy that which he does have. In the next two verses, he will give further insight into this matter.

 

(Verses 7 and 8) Then I returned, and saw vanity under the sun. There is one alone, and there is not a second; he hath neither child nor brother: yet is there no end of his labor; neither is his eye satisfied with riches; neither saith he, For whom do I labor and bereave my soul of good? This is also vanity, yea, it is sore travail.

 

As Solomon's attention returned to the general condition of humanity, he saw a situation, which he considered noteworthy. He saw a man, who was alone. No one was with him, or dependent upon him. "He hath neither child nor brother." This man was so driven by the desire for riches, that, no matter how much wealth he accumulated, he could not be satisfied with it. He even denied himself the enjoyment of the good things of life, only that he might heap up more wealth, never considering for whom he made such sacrifices. Since he has no family, and the inference of what has been said is that he never will have. Who will be the beneficiary of all his effort and sacrifice? It might be someone for whom he cares nothing at all. Solomon's conclusion of this matter is, "This is also vanity, yea, it is a sore travail." It only amounts to needless suffering for no benefit.

 

(Verses 9 through 12) Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone? And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not easily broken.

 

Certainly, these observations will stand of themselves, with no need for explanation. But the lesson Solomon is setting forth is the same as that which David has declared in Psalms 133:1. "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!" The apostle Paul also tells us the same thing, in slightly different words, in Ephesians 4:1-3. "I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye have been called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." Surely, the more there are who are in "the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace," the more readily and successfully they can face the enemy.

 

(Verses 13 and 14) Better is a poor and a wise child than an old and foolish king, who will no longer be admonished. For out of prison he cometh to reign; whereas also he that is born in the kingdom becometh poor.

 

The "old and foolish king, who will no longer be admonished," or will no longer listen to his advisors, will certainly bring his kingdom, including everyone in it, to ruin. He is like a man, who, having been shut up in prison, is now released, and because he was formerly restrained, is now determined to do exactly as he pleases, with no regard for the consequences of his actions. Certainly, even a poor child, if wise, would be a far better ruler than would he, for he would listen to the advice of his counselors. Also under the rule of the old and foolish king who will not listen to advice, those born in his kingdom are brought to ruin. Neither the kingdom nor any of its citizens can prosper.

 

(Verses 15 and 16) I considered all the living which walk under the sun, with the second child that shall stand up in his stead. There is no end of all the people, even all that have come before them: they also that come after shall not rejoice in him. Surely this also is vanity and vexation of spirit.

 

Solomon considers a "second child," who comes up (becomes king) after the old and foolish king, together with all his subjects, "all the living which walk under the sun, with the second child." There have been so many before them that they cannot be counted, "there is no end of" them. But the noteworthy thing about this is that, "they also that come after shall not rejoice in him." Just a little reading of history will convince one that far more of the evil done by a bad ruler is remembered, than of the good works done by a good ruler. A quotation from Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar" expresses that truth very clearly. "The evil men do lives after them. The good is oft interred with the bones." This is the same principle expressed here. His conclusion is the same as he has often expressed. "Surely this also is vanity and vexation of spirit."

 

Chapter 5


(Verses 1 through 3) Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil. Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter anything before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few. For a dream cometh through the multitude of business; and a fool's voice is known by multitude of words.

 

Verses 1 and 2 are extremely good advice for us even today, and should always be kept in mind. When we go to the house of God, let us go desiring and seeking to learn of Him, instead of going for the purpose of telling something we think is great because it is our "brain child." And let us do everything we can to make sure that our conduct shows the proper fear and respect for God. Just as dreams are often brought about by, and are evidence of too much worry and striving about worldly things, so the multitude of words, and continual talking of one shows him to be a fool. We have all seen the one who always has to get his "two cents worth" in on every subject. Usually what he says is not worth two cents. In fact, it is often detrimental instead of being valuable. This is "the sacrifice of fools" of which Solomon speaks. Let us guard our tongues so that we make no rash statements before God. We might also keep in mind that we are continuously before Him, whether we are at His house, or over on "the back forty." We cannot win in a confrontation with Him: for He is in heaven, and we are on earth. So let our words be few, and well selected.

 

(Verses 4 and 5) When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for He hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow, and not pay.

 

We are to carefully select our words before God, and be sure that we make no rash vows that we cannot, or will not pay. Judges 11:30-40 tells the story of a man who made a very rash vow to the LORD. He, indeed paid that vow, but at what a terrible price! It is better not to vow, than to make a vow that we cannot, or will not pay. Not only must we pay whatever vow we make to Him, but we are not to defer it. That is, we are not to put it off, but pay it on time. Only fools try to get by without making payment, or without making it at the due time. And God has no pleasure in fools.

 

(Verses 6 and 7) Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel, that it was an error: wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work of thine hands? For in the multitude of dreams and many words there are also divers vanities: but fear thou God.

 

We should always be careful about what we say, and what we vow, or promise, even in the presence of men; but when making a vow to God, this becomes doubly important. If we make a vow to God, and follow through on it, all is well. But if we make a vow to Him, and fail to keep it, the vow may have been all right; but the flesh sinned, in that we did not pay it. Thus our mouth has caused our flesh to sin: and be not deceived, God will require it of us. Let us not be foolish enough to say to the "angel," God's messenger for the collection of that vow, that we made the vow in error, or that we did not realize what we said, or that we forgot, or any other excuse we might think up. Remember that we are dealing not with man but with God. And His anger can "destroy the work of our hands." He is able to collect, not only that which we have vowed, but also everything else that we have. The more excuses we try to devise, the more worthless they are. "For in the multitude of dreams and many words there are also divers vanities." So the only course left us, if we do make a false vow, is to fear God, confess before Him that we have sinned, and beg for His mercy.

 

(Verses 8 and 9) If thou seest the oppression of the poor, and violent perverting of judgment and justice in a province, marvel not at the matter: for He that is higher than the highest regardeth; and there be higher than they. Moreover the profit of the earth is for all: the king himself is served by the field.

 

Without question, it disturbs us to see, or hear reports of, the oppression of the poor, which is going on in the world. Nevertheless we should not marvel, or be surprised, at such. It has been going on as long as man has been on earth, and, most likely, will continue until he is removed from the earth. Yet in all ages "He that is higher than the highest regardeth." He may not bring immediate judgment upon such, but at His appointed time it shall be judged. Those who are actually carrying out the "oppression of the poor, and violent perverting of judgment and justice in the province" may not alone be responsible for this. For "there be higher than they." The responsibility goes right on up the chain of command, even to the king himself. Yet "He that is higher than the highest regardeth." God is greater than the highest in the chain of command; and He is watching the whole matter. "The profit of the earth is for all: the king himself is served by the field." It is not so stated, but there is here the implied threat, that if He deems it necessary to His purpose, God will cut off the profit or increase of the earth, so that even the king will be made to suffer. Remember that God has power over all things. He is fully able to bring down the oppressor, whether he is a low ranked local official, or the king himself. They may fancy themselves above the law. But they are not above God.

 

(Verses 10 and 11) He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity. When goods increase, they are increased that eat them: and what good is there to the owners thereof, saving the beholding of them with their eyes?

 

The natural greed of man is such that, no matter how much wealth, such as silver and gold he may accumulate, he will never be satisfied with it. He always wants more. Yet, the more he gains the more "friends" he will have to help him spend it, or, as Solomon says, "When goods increase, they are increased that eat them." This brings us to his question: "What good is there to the owners thereof, saving the beholding of them with their eyes?" All they gain from these goods is that they see them as they are gathered up. But their problem is that they immediately see them go out again. This seems to be in keeping with what the Apostle Paul said to Timothy. (I Timothy 6:6-10) "But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows."

 

(Verses 12 through 17) The sleep of a laboring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much: but the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep. There is a sore evil, which I have seen under the sun, namely, riches kept by the owners thereof to their hurt. But those riches perish by evil travail: and he begetteth a son, and there is nothing in his hand. As he came forth from his mother's womb, naked shall he return to go as he came, and shall take nothing of his labor, which he may carry away in his hand. And this also is a sore evil, that in all points as he came, so shall he go: and what profit hath he that hath labored for the wind? All his days also he eateth in darkness, and he hath much sorrow and wrath with his sickness.

 

This is like much of the rest of this book, in that, Solomon is looking at the man in nature, and assessing his profit, or lack thereof, in his effort to obtain material gain. In this view, he sees a man, who has not yet gained enough wealth to be affected by it, but is primarily dependent upon his daily labor for his subsistence. This man is not yet so engrossed in the pursuit of wealth, but is so exhausted by his labor that he has sound and restful sleep at night. His sleep is sufficiently sweet that as he is tired out by his labor during the day, he looks forward to the night for sleep and rest. At the same time the man, who has grown rich, is so worried about holding what he has, and gaining more that he cannot sleep soundly. This causes Solomon to conclude that this is a sore evil. He says that this keeping of riches has gone so far that it works evil to the owner instead of good. Then those riches "perish by evil travail." That is, through bad management, or some other means the owner loses this wealth. Then, he has a son born to him; but his fortune is all gone. He has nothing in his hand. With all the wealth he once had, now he has nothing with which to support the son that is born to him. And as he passes on through life, and finally comes to the end thereof, he still has no wealth, and if he did, he could not take it with him in death. He must return to the earth as he was born, with nothing in his hand. And he leaves nothing for the son that was born to him. "And what profit hath he that hath labored for the wind? All his days also he eateth in darkness, and he hath much sorrow and wrath in his sickness." Not only was there no profit to him in all this labor "for the wind," but his whole life was full of darkness and sorrow; the earlier part was too much entangled with his schemes to get rich, while his later days were filled with sorrow for having lost it all. So he did "eat in darkness," and he had much sorrow and wrath with his sickness.

 

(Verses 18 through 20) Behold that which I have seen: it is good and comely for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labor that he taketh under the sun all the days of his life, which God giveth him: for it is his portion. Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labor, this is the gift of God. For he shall not much remember the days of his life; because God answereth him in the joy of his heart

 

This seems to be a conclusion based upon what Solomon has already said in this chapter, and is to be considered from the same perspective. In the light of this he concludes that a man should not deny himself the enjoyment of the wealth God has given him, be it much or little. He should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of his labor. This does not mean that he should go to excess with his eating or drinking, but that he should not deny himself these for the sake of gaining more wealth. For this is God's gift to him. It is his portion. There is no profit in hoarding wealth for wealth's sake; because when death has come, he will have "not much" memory of the days of his life. In fact, he will have none. God only gives him the present in which to enjoy the good things of life, which He has given him.

 


Chapter 6


(Verses 1 and 2) There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, and it is common among men: a man to whom God has given wisdom, wealth, and honor, so that he wanteth nothing for his soul of all that he desireth, yet God giveth him not power to eat thereof, but a stranger eateth it: this is vanity, and it is an evil disease.

 

The first thing we wish to notice is, that Solomon uses the word, "evil," not to mean that God has done something wrong, but only that men look upon it as something they think is unfair. As we often hear the question asked, "Who said, 'Life is fair?'" This situation is that God has given a man wisdom, and has let him gain wealth and honor, but has permitted a situation to develop, under which that man is not able to enjoy that which he has gained. Of course, there could be many ways in which he could be deprived of this ability; but the result would be the same. Someone else is permitted to enjoy that for which the first man had labored. To men, this seems to be unfair. So Solomon concludes, "This is vanity, and it is an evil disease."

 

(Verses 3 through 6) If a man beget an hundred children, and live many years, so that the days of his years be many, and his soul be not filled with good, and also that he have no burial; I say, that an untimely birth is better than he. For he cometh in with vanity, and departeth in darkness, and his name shall be covered with darkness. Moreover he hath not seen the sun, nor known anything: this hath more rest than the other. Yea, though he live a thousand years twice told, yet hath he seen no good: do not all go to one place?

 

In this modern age, with its emphasis on what it calls "Family Planning," and reduction of the population growth, it may be hard for some to understand the importance of having many children. Besides the obvious advantage of having more children to work in the business of making a living, there would also be, when they were old enough to go to war, more to fight for the defense of the home, the community, and the nation. So the prevailing attitude was that every man should father as many children as possible. This is the basic reason that polygamy was accepted as a normal way of life. So a man who fathered a hundred children and lived many years would be for that reason considered great. But this alone is not enough to be worthwhile. If during this long life, his soul is not filled with good, and when he dies, there is no burial with its attending mourning and lamentations for him, he is, according to Solomon's conclusion, worse off that an untimely birth, one who is stillborn. When Solomon says, "and his soul not be filled with good," he has no reference to the man's moral character, but his meaning is, "If he cannot enjoy his life." This is in keeping with what he has said in verse 2. Although this man has lived many years and has a big family, he gets no joy out of life, and when death overtakes him, there is no honor, not even that of a burial, bestowed upon him. Although he has had a long life, it has been without joy. So it must have been one of suffering and sorrow; and this is something all men would prefer to avoid. Therefore, with his life so miserable, the stillborn has the advantage over him. The stillborn comes into the world with nothing, departs in darkness, and his name is covered with darkness. Indeed often he is not even given a name. He never sees the sun, and never knows anything. Yet, since he has not known anything, he has never been disturbed by the suffering and sorrow endured by the man already discussed. If that man had lived two thousand years, and all his life was without any joy, it would only have amounted to more suffering. So his situation is less desirable than that of the stillborn. "Do not all go to the same place?" When considered only from the natural perspective, surely they all do go to the same place, the dust.

 

(Verses 7 through 10) All the labor of man is for his mouth, and yet the appetite is not filled. For what hath the wise more than the fool? What hath the poor that knoweth to walk before the living? Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the desire: this is also vanity and vexation of spirit. That which hath been is named already, and it is known that it is man: neither may he contend with Him that is mightier than he.

 

Some might consider verse 7 as an over simplification of the matter. But if we consider all Solomon has said before it, we will find it a reasonable conclusion. Indeed some may be striving to lay up riches instead of only laboring to obtain food. Yet their efforts are for the appetite of their greed; and it is never satisfied. The fact that a man is wise does not, necessarily, make him rich, while sometimes the fool becomes rich. So, in this respect, "What has "the wise man more than the fool?" If that wise man is poor, though he has sufficient wisdom to "walk before the living," that is, to lead them, what advantage does this give him? He is still poor. Obviously, Solomon is still considering these things from the viewpoint of natural man. He declares, "Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the desire." That is, that which is actually before us, "the sight of the eyes," is better, because it is really present, than the "wandering of the desire," that for which we are constantly wishing, but cannot obtain. The wandering of the desire will never be satisfied. This is also emptiness and worry. Certainly, there may also be things other than man that "have been," and have also "been named already," but the one he has been discussing from the beginning of this book is man. And he has come to a very profound conclusion concerning him. "neither may he contend with Him that is mightier than he." From the beginning of man's time on earth, he has tried to contend with God, "Him that is mightier than he," only to lose every skirmish. Yet he, apparently, has never learned this truth. In fact, none ever learn it, except those to whom God reveals it. Then, and then only, can man see his true relation to God. Nothing else will stop his vain contentions against God.

 

(Verses 11 and 12) Seeing there be many things that increase vanity, what is man the better? For who knoweth what is good for man in this life, all the days of his vain life which he spendeth as a shadow? For who can tell a man what shall be after him under the sun?

 

As will be seen, after this chapter Solomon begins to turn slightly away from a purely materialistic view of man and his efforts, to a consideration of some things God has done, and will do for man. So this is an ideal conclusion for the first half of this book, which deals almost exclusively with the materialistic. He questions, "Since all these many and various things for which man strives, become such a burden, or such an obsession, to him that he deprives himself of the enjoyment of that which God has given him, what profit, or benefit does he have from them?" His next two questions concern man only, not God. For, surely, God can answer both. He can tell man what is good for him in this vain life which he spends as a shadow, and what shall be after him under the sun. But both are beyond the knowledge of man. So, from the perspective from which Solomon asks the questions, there is only one answer to both, "No one." Let man search as he may, he can never by his own wisdom find the answer to either.

 


Chapter 7


(Verses 1 through 3) A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one's birth. It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart. Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better.

 

Here we see a slight turning from materialistic consideration to those of more nearly spiritual value. First, Solomon says, "A good name is better than precious ointment." Even today we use ointments, sometimes for healing abrasions and wounds, and sometimes for overcoming offensive odors. Some of these ointments might even be considered precious, or valuable. And that was especially true in Solomon's day. So this statement can be readily understood. But the next declaration may be a little difficult to accept. "And the day of death (is better) than the day of one's birth." When a child is born, to look at it from the viewpoint of that day, this is potential strength to that family, the community, the tribe, and the nation, as we have earlier pointed out. Almost always there is rejoicing that another member is added to the human race, with none considering how much toil, worry, pain, sorrow, and suffering, may await that child. When one dies, there is usually great sorrow for the loss of a loved one. We claim that we are mourning that person, but we are not. Our grief is selfish. We are mourning our loss, not his. Yet this mourning should cause us to consider the brevity of human life, and because of this make better use of our lives while we have them. It should also cause us to remember another truth God has had recorded for us. "The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart: and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come.: (Isaiah 57:1) Especially when a young person dies, someone is sure to say, "What a pity! He had his whole life ahead of him." The truth is, that no matter how short it has been that person's whole life in this world is behind, not ahead, of him. Not only so, but if he had continued to live, who can tell us how much sorrow and suffering he would have had to endure? So, in spite of our aversion to the thought, "The day of death is better than the day of one's birth." As we go to the house of feasting, we get caught up in the revelry, and lose sight of the serious and important things of life. But when we go to the house of mourning, we are reminded that death awaits each and every one of us, because it is the common end of all mankind. And it may come upon us at any time, without warning. Then we will lay it to heart. We may prefer laughter above sorrow; but sorrow is more worthwhile to us, because sorrow, "the sadness of the countenance," will make us consider in our heart the more important things of life, thus making our heart better.

 

(Verses 4 through 6) The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools. For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool: This also is vanity.

 

The wise man does not, enjoy being in the house of mourning, nor does he, necessarily, go there by preference. But because he understands that sorrow, affliction, and even death, are a part of our lot in this world, he has no reservations about going where they are. At the same time, the fool only wants to be entertained. So he goes to the house of mirth, not realizing that, although he will not go to the house of mourning, the mourning is sure to come to him. When it does, he knows not how to deal with it. It is certainly more profitable to "hear," or pay heed to, the rebuke of a wise man, that to hear the song of fools. The rebuke of a wise man may sting a little. But if we pay heed to it, it will surely help us; whereas the song of fools is worthless, and can teach us nothing of any value. "For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of fools." In the dry areas of Israel there were many places where thorn bushes were about all that would grow. In order to curb their spread, they were often cut down and left to dry. Then they were used as fuel around a pot in which water was heated. As they burned, they would crackle loudly. But the fire would be short lived, and leave little ash, because the thorns had little substance. So it is with the mirth and laughter of the fool. It has no more lasting substance than do the thorns. Solomon says, "This also is vanity." It is completely without substance.

 

(Verses 7 through 10) Surely oppression maketh a wise man mad; and a gift destroyeth the heart. Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof; and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit. Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools. Say not thou, What is the cause that former days were better than these? For thou dost not inquire wisely concerning this.

 

When a wise man sees, or is subjected to oppression, it makes him mad. That is, it so upsets him that he cannot reason with the same wisdom that he could use in thinking objectively about the matter. As long as a wise man is only observing the plight of one who is oppressed, he may be able to reason wisely concerning that person's problem. But when it becomes his own problem, he can no longer reason objectively concerning it. Also a gift, or, more properly, a bribe, destroys the heart, or especially the integrity of the heart. A judge may have his heart set on rendering justice to all who come before him, until someone presents him with a bribe. He may even resist it for a while; and some, indeed, will not let themselves be thus corrupted. But most members of the human race, in spite of their good intentions, can finally be corrupted. So the gift destroys the heart. The end of any matter is better than its beginning, because at its beginning, no one knows what will be the outcome, while at the end thereof all doubt is removed. Most people can much better endure something very bad, once they know the full truth of it, than they can while it is, as we often say, "in limbo." Certainly Solomon's next statement is clear enough without explanation. "And the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit." Oh, how often it is that we allow ourselves to quickly become angry! Then we will invariably do, or say, something that will be hurtful to ourselves, or to someone else. So, "Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools." We certainly would not like to be called, "fools," but when we permit our anger to rise up quickly, we prove ourselves to be such. In verse 10, he gives us a caution, which, perhaps, none of us takes as seriously as we ought. It is certainly not unusual for us, or someone else to fondly remember former days, and, perhaps, even ask, "Why were they so much better than the present?" Solomon says this is not a wise question for us to ask. Those days are gone forever; and inquiring about them will not bring them back. In addition to this, our memories are not always accurate; and those things we remember so fondly, may not be exactly as our memory portrays them. So our best course is simply to be thankful for present blessings. And though we may remember the past, let us not dwell upon it, and thus build it up in our minds to be better than it was.

 

(Verses 11 through 14) Wisdom is good with an inheritance; and by it there is profit to them that see the sun. For wisdom is a defense, and money is a defense: but the excellency of knowledge is that wisdom giveth life to them that have it. Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight which He hath made crooked? In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: God also hath set the one over against the other, to the end that man should find nothing after him.

 

No matter what one might inherit, it will do him little good if he has not the wisdom to take care of it. One of the big troubles with man is that he is more concerned about getting material wealth, by inheritance, or otherwise, than about learning how to wisely take care of it, if, and when, he does get it. Thus it may do him little good; and it could even do him harm. So wisdom is profitable "to them that see the sun" (all living). For wisdom is a defense, and money is a defense." This might lead one to believe that, if he can just obtain money, or wealth, he will be hedged in, or protected, whether or not he has wisdom. So Solomon tells us the difference between the value of wisdom and that of money. Although both are a defense, wisdom is greater, because knowledge gives life to them that have it. Here, he uses "wisdom" and "knowledge" as interchangeable, although we sometimes consider them to have a technical difference between them. Certainly he is not saying that people without life have wisdom or knowledge, and it makes them alive. He is only saying that wisdom will teach those who have it how to survive through the troubles of life. This, money without wisdom will not do. Therefore wisdom is the more excellent of the two. Solomon then tells us to "consider the work of God." That is, pay special attention to the course of things as they take place through the days and years. How often the whole course of one's life is changed by events, which he neither planned, nor could foresee. These are the work of God, which he says we are to consider. Review your life, and see how often such has caused your path to turn in a different direction from that which you had planned. Thus the work of God has made crooks in your path; and you cannot change a single one of them. When he says, "Who can make that straight, which he hath made crooked?" he is not using "crooked" to mean evil, or dishonest, as we often use it, but he is only speaking of a crook, or turn, which has been made in your path as you travel through life. Sometimes that crook has made things more pleasant, in the long run, for you; and sometimes it may have been more unpleasant than you think life would have been in the way you planned. But in either case, there is nothing you, or anyone else can do about it. The crook cannot be straightened. So give close consideration to this work of God, and you will come to this result: "In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider." When things are going well for us, and our path seems to be straight ahead, let us be joyful, or happy. And when there is adversity, do not become angry, and, especially, do not become angry against God, as some seem to sometimes do. Instead, consider the matter soberly and wisely. Although it may even put a crook in your path, that may prove of value to you later. "God also hath set the one over against the other, to the end that man should find nothing after him." God has so balanced "prosperity," or, in particular, the achieving of our goals, with "adversity," our falling short of them, that no man is able to study their sequence, and determine what shall be next. God will still work events to suit Himself, and not according to any schedule man may think he can set up by his studies.

 

(Verses 15 through 18) All things have I seen in the days of my vanity: there is a just man that perisheth in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man that prolongeth his life in his wickedness. Be not righteous over much; neither make thyself over wise: why shouldest thou destroy thyself? Be not over much wicked, neither be thou foolish: why shouldest thou die before thy time? It is good that thou shouldest take hold of this; yea, from this withdraw not thine hand: for he that feareth God shall come forth of them all.

 

In spite of the fact that God will, at His time, justify the righteous and punish the wicked, He sometimes, for reasons of His own, permits variation from this in this life. Solomon declares that in his lifetime, "the days of my vanity," he has seen both extremes of this variation. He has seen a righteous man perish in his righteousness, and a wicked man grow old in his wickedness. He makes no effort to give a reason for this. He only reports it as a fact. So if, and when, we see such, we are not to become discouraged, and think that God has abandoned the righteous and exalted the wicked. Although He does not always reveal His purpose to man, He has a purpose in everything He does, or permits to be done. Verses 16 and 17 are never to be taken out of context for consideration. The answer to them is in verse 18. In verse 16 Solomon says, "Be not righteous over much; neither make thyself over wise: why shouldest thou destroy thyself?" This seems to mean, "Do not be such a stickler for the righteousness of the letter that you cannot have compassion on one who makes a mistake. And do not give yourself to such a study of wisdom that you forget how to be practical. In either case you will incur the hatred of those around you, and destroy yourself so far as any influence for good is concerned." Then he says, Be not over much wicked, neither be thou foolish: why shouldest thou die before thy time." Although they have not always been enforced, since man has tried to have any form of government, he has made laws against wickedness. In most cases the penalty for extreme wickedness has been death. Thus to be over much wicked is to court death. Also to be "foolish" (without understanding) can lead to the same end. Why then should one do such? As said earlier, verse 18 gives the definitive answer to both of these situations. "It is good that thou shouldest take hold of this, yea, also from this withdraw not thine hand: for he that feareth God shall come forth of them all." It is good, or to our benefit, to take hold of this answer and not let it go. It will sustain us through all things. It will prevent our going to either of the extremes set forth above. The principal wisdom anyone needs is to fear God. Those who do will be found striving to do His commandments. And they, when reduced to their simplest form are: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." (Matt. 23:37-39) What a wonderful life we would have if we constantly adhered to these two commandments. We would, indeed, "come forth of them all."

 

(Verses 19 through 22) Wisdom strengtheneth the wise more than ten mighty men which are in the city. For there is not a just man upon the earth that doeth good, and sinneth not. Also take no heed unto all words that are spoken; lest thou hear thy servant curse thee: for oftentimes also thine own heart knoweth that thou thyself hast cursed others.

 

Although man has always wanted to rely upon the strength of brave men for protection in time of danger, wisdom makes one wise man stronger than ten who have only their physical strength upon which to rely. In the whole world there is no man so righteous that everything he does is always right. He is certain to make a mistake at one time or another. In addition to these observations, Solomon tells us to pay no attention to everything we may happen to overhear. For in so doing, we might hear our servant, or someone we think to be a friend, bring forth some criticism against us. This could, possibly, infuriate us. But we should remember that we have many times criticized others, and that, perhaps, without cause.

 

(Verses 23 and 24) All this have I proved by wisdom: I said, I will be wise; but it was far from me. That which is far off, and exceeding deep, who can find it out?

 

By the wisdom God had given him, Solomon has proved all these various observations. His next statement seems to indicate that he had decided to acquire wisdom by his own efforts: and when he attempted this, he could not reach it. So he concludes, "That which is far off, and exceeding deep, who can find it out?" Indeed, he found that there are things too far off, and too deep for man to understand. He must try to content himself with the understanding that some things are, and always will be beyond the reach or understanding of man.

 

(Verses 25 and 26) I applied my heart to know, and to search out, and to seek wisdom, and the reason of things, and to know the wickedness of folly, even of foolishness and madness: and I find more bitter than death the woman whose heart is snares and nets, and her hands as bands: whoso pleaseth God shall escape from her; but the sinner shall be taken by her.

 

As he set his heart to seek out wisdom, Solomon discovered some truths, which he presents. He learned that folly is actually wickedness, and to act like a fool is madness, or insanity. He also saw that the wiles of a woman who is set to snare a man, are stronger, "more bitter," than death itself. Those to whom God grants favor shall escape her, but those without His mercy will be snared.

 

(Verses 27 through 29) Behold, this have I found, saith the preacher, counting one by one to find out the account: which yet my soul seeketh, but I find not: one man among a thousand have I found; but a woman among those have I not found. Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.

 

From this it seems that Solomon was making the same search that was made by the old Greek philosopher, who carried a lantern around in the daylight, searching for an honest man. Solomon was searching for an upright man. But he had little success in the search. As he counted them one by one to establish the number, he had found one man in a thousand, and no woman at all that measured up. In spite of his lack of success in this, he did discover another truth: "that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions." To sum up his findings: God is not to be blamed for man's evil condition. He made man upright. Men alone are at fault, because "they have sought out many inventions."

 


Chapter 8


(Verse 1) Who is the wise man? And who knoweth the interpretation of a thing? A man's wisdom maketh his face to shine, and the boldness of his face shall be changed.

 

The two questions here asked are to the same intent, and simply point out that the wise man is the one who knows the interpretation of a thing, or things. Also the wisdom of the wise will cause his face to shine, that is, in a friendly manner, or with a smile. Instead of retaining a bold countenance, which is the badge of fools, and will often place them in jeopardy, he changes that boldness to a friendly appearance, knowing that such will make whatever mission he serves have a greater chance of success.

 

(Verses 2 through 5) I counsel thee to keep the king's commandment, and that in regard to the oath of God. Be not hasty to go out of his sight: stand not in an evil thing; for he doeth whatever pleaseth him. Where the word of a king is there is power: and who may say unto him, "What doest thou? Whoso keepeth the commandment shall feel no evil thing: and a wise man's heart discerneth both time and judgment.

 

So Solomon's advice, which seems very reasonable, is, "Do what the king commands you, even if he requires you to take an oath of God. Do not be in such a hurry to leave his presence that it shows disrespect for him, and do not contend against him for that which he does not want. Remember that he does whatever he pleases. And when he speaks, he has the power to back up what he says. There is no one who can question what he does." This seems to be ample reason for being very circumspect in his presence. Anyone who keeps his (the king's) commandments is safe from punishment. And a wise man's heart is able to understand the situation, and exercise proper judgment for his own safety.

 

(Verses 6 and 7) Because to every purpose there is time and judgment, therefore the misery of man is great upon him. For he knoweth not that which shall be: for who can tell him when it shall be?

 

Since every purpose (every project or enterprise) requires both time and judgment for its accomplishment, it puts man in a great misery for lack of one element required for perfect planning. That element is knowledge of what the future holds. No man can tell him either what, or when it shall be. So he is in misery, knowing that, in spite of all his planning, working, and worrying, to bring about his purpose, something unknown, and even totally unexpected, may take place, and cause the failure of his entire project. All he can do is to put forth the effort, and wait for confirmation, or failure.

 

(Verses 8 through 10) There is no man that hath power over the spirit to retain the spirit; neither hath he power in the day of death: and there is no discharge in that war; neither shall wickedness deliver those that are given to it. All this have I seen, and applied my heart unto every work that is done under the sun: there is a time wherein one man ruleth over another to his own hurt. And so I saw the wicked buried, who had come and gone from the place of the holy, and they were forgotten in the city where they had so done: this is also vanity.

 

The New English Bible translates the first statement of verse 8 thus: "It is not in man's power to restrain the wind." We have been told that, in the Hebrew language, the same word means, "spirit," "breath," or "wind." Yet it seems better, in the light of the next statement, to maintain the K. J. V. reading, which actually makes both statements have the same meaning, although, certainly, no man can restrain the wind. But that seems to be so foreign to the subject of verse 8, that it is left by itself, when thus translated. No man has power to retain the spirit, or to resist death when it lays hold of him. "And there is no discharge in that war," seems to mean, and is usually interpreted to mean that in the battle against death, which begins at birth, and continues until death, there is no discharge until it is over, which is, of course, when death overcomes us. It is also true that those who are given to wickedness cannot be delivered from death by that wickedness. The New English Bible changes "wickedness," in this text, to "wealth." But neither will that deliver one from death. There is no escape. In verse 9 Solomon declares that in his study of "every work that is done under the sun, he has not only seen what he has already reported, but that he has even seen the time when one man ruled over another to his own hurt. It is usually considered that he who rules over another has the advantage of the situation. Nevertheless Solomon says it can work in reverse. As he continued his consideration of things, he saw another sight. Wicked men, who had usurped the place of the righteous, "coming and going from the place of the holy," had died and were accorded the respect and ceremony of burial. And in the very city where they had lived so wickedly, and pretended to be so holy, their actions of wickedness were forgotten. He declared this also to be vanity, or worthlessness.

 

(Verse 11) Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.

 

There surely can be no misunderstanding of this, in spite of the great reluctance of the modern generation to recognize it. The greatest deterrent to the perpetration of evil deeds is the swift execution of the penalty against those who are guilty of doing them.

 

(Verses 12 through 14) Though a sinner do evil an hundred times, and his days be prolonged, yet surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before Him: but it shall not be well with the wicked, neither shall he prolong his days, which are as a shadow; because he feareth not before God. There is a vanity which is done upon the earth; that there be just men, to whom it happeneth according to the work of the wicked; again there be wicked men, to whom it happeneth according to the work of the righteous: I said this also is vanity.

 

We have all been taught that right will prevail. Solomon declares this to be true, but not, necessarily, in the present life. He gives us an example. He speaks of a sinner, (and since all men, even at there best, are sinners, his meaning, evidently is, "a wicked man,") who continues to do evil many times without being punished. In verse 14, he repeats this example contrasted against its opposite, a righteous man who receives the penalty one would expect the wicked to receive. This, he also declares, is vanity. That is, it is totally meaningless to the natural mind, that considers things from only the "short term," or materialistic, viewpoint. In short, to the human, or natural, mind, it seems unfair. Yet he declares that, though the wicked might do evil a hundred times and escape the penalty for it, "It shall not be well with the wicked, neither shall he prolong his days, which are as a shadow; because he feareth not before God." In this declaration he is looking beyond the present life. The wicked man's life may be spared, in that he does not immediately have to suffer the consequences of his wickedness. But he cannot prolong it forever. He will have to die; and, of course, he must then face the judgment. On the other hand, Solomon says, "Yet surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before Him.." Although the righteous may, in this life, receive even the penalty, which we think should be executed upon the wicked, it will, in the final end, be well with him. For Malachi has said, "Then they that feared the Lord hearkened and heard it; and a book of remembrance was written before Him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon His name. 'And they shall be Mine,' saith the Lord of hosts, 'in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.'"

 

(Verse 15) Then I commended mirth, because a man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry: for that shall abide with him of his labor the days of his life, which God giveth him under the sun.

 

This is Solomon's conclusion as he thought upon the things just brought forth above. The key to it is in the words, "the days of his life, which God giveth him under the sun." That is, the present life. If that is all the foundation upon which one considers these things, the only thing that will abide with him therein is the satisfaction of his sensual appetite. This by no means negates what Solomon said in the first six verses of Chapter VII.

 

(Verses 16 and 17) When I applied mine heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done upon the earth: (for also there is that neither day nor night seeth sleep with his eyes) then I beheld all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun: because though a man labor to seek it out, yet he shall not find it; yea, farther; though a wise man think to know it, yet shall he not be able to find it.

 

As Solomon considered his efforts to "know wisdom, and to see the business that is done upon the earth," that is, the works of man in his twenty-four hour per day effort, he found nothing man had achieved to be worthy of consideration. So he turned his attention to the works of God, and considered them. As he did so, he discovered that the work of God, even that which is done under the sun, or in the lives of men, cannot all be found out. Even though a wise man apply himself to the search, he shall not be able to find out all of it. God's work and ways are so much above those of man, that man can never understand them. The only glimpse he gets of them is that which God sees fit to reveal according to His own good pleasure.

 


Chapter 9


(Verses 1 through 3) For all this I considered in my heart even to declare all this, that the righteous and the wise, and their works, are in the hand of God: no man knoweth either love or hatred by all that is before them. All things come alike to all: there is one event to the righteous, and to the wicked; to the good and to the clean, and to the unclean; to him that sacrificeth, and to him that sacrificeth not: as is the good, so is the sinner; and he that sweareth, as he that feareth an oath. This is an evil among all things that are done under the sun, that there is one event unto all: yea, also the heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live, and after that they go to the dead.

 

This continues in the same vein as most of what Solomon has already said in this book. He has, almost exclusively, been concerned with the material advantages, or disadvantages, of men in this life, or as he has often expressed it, "under the sun." Only rarely has he even hinted at anything in the life to come; and he has never directly and positively mentioned such. From that same perspective, he says that he has found, "that the righteous, and the wise, and their works, are in the hand of God." That is, He directs them all. Yet no man is able to look upon their works and discern whether His direction of them is based upon His love, or His hatred of them, because "all things come alike to all: there is one event to the righteous, and the wicked; _ _ _ and madness is in their heart while they live, and after that they go to the dead." Everything he says between the first and last segments of this quotation only reinforces his statement that both righteous and wicked experience the same things in this life, and come to the same end, death. Solomon says this is "an evil among all things that are done under the sun." Again, remember that he is speaking from natural man's perspective of the matter. How often we hear someone say, "It just isn't fair!" But who are we to judge the work of God? He is the One, Who has established these things. And there is always a good purpose in everything He has done, does, or will do. Our problem is that we do not understand His purposes in some of those things that He does.

 

(Verses 4 through 6) For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope: for a living dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not anything, neither have they anymore a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they anymore a portion forever in anything that is done under the sun.

 

This is obviously continuing in the materialistic view of things. With this view of the matter, it is no wonder that most people will fight so hard, even to the use of artificial means, to stretch life as far as possible. Although the dog has long been called, "man's best friend," it has never commanded the respect and admiration accorded to the lion. Yet, a living dog is better than a dead lion, because whatever power and dignity may have been ascribed to the lion in life, is not there in death. So even a poor man, who is still living, is better than a dead king. In death one has no more reward and no more portion in this life, "under the sun." No matter how much we may try to honor the dead, it means nothing at all to him. Even his emotions, such as, love, hatred, envy, etc., are all gone. He can no longer feel them. The living may not be very wise, and, in fact, they may know very little indeed, but they do know that they shall die. On the other hand, the dead do not even know that. They know nothing at all, in spite of whatever wisdom they may have had in life. So, in this respect, anyone still living is better, or has more advantages, than any who are dead.

 

(Verses 7 through 10) Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works. Let thy garments be always white; and thy head lack not ointment. Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which He hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity: for that is thy portion in this life, and in thy labor which thou takest under the sun. Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave whither thou goest.

 

Having considered all men according to nature, and having declared that all come to the same end, death, Solomon gives advice to all those "under the sun," that is, those living under the conditions he has described. The expression, "Go thy way," actually means "Quit worrying about the situation, and go ahead with your life." Then he advises that we receive the food and drink which God has provided with a glad, or thankful heart, because it is evidence that He still accepts our works. That is, He still spares our lives. Further, he says, "Let thy garments always be white; and thy head lack no ointment." This is very nearly the same instruction given by our Lord in Matthew 6:16-18, except that, Solomon makes no mention of our heavenly Father's seeing our secret fasting and sorrow. He only tells us to not let our worry cause us to neglect our grooming so that we would go around with ashes on our heads and our garments which was the common practice in mourning. Then he tells us to let our family relationship be one of joy, because this is the portion God has given us for our benefit in this life. Last, but by no means least, he tells us to put forth full effort in everything we set forth to do. There is no profit in trying to reserve our strength; because in the grave, which is the destination for each of us, "there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom." So it is foolish to reserve these for later use. The grave may be closer than we think.

 

(Verses 11 and 12) I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all. For man also knoweth not his time; as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare; so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them.

 

As Solomon continued his studies, he found something that might seem a little strange. "The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong." This does not mean that, ordinarily, the swift will not win the race, or the strong will not win the battle. It simply declares that other things, such as, "time and chance," do also enter in. I Kings 22:34 says, "And a certain man drew a bow at a venture, and smote the king of Israel between the joints of the harness." The account tells us that this was the death blow to Ahab, although he did live until the evening of that day. But the point we wish to notice is that the archer "drew a bow at a venture." So far as either he or king Ahab was concerned it was an accident. Ahab was a strong warrior, and he was also wearing a protective armor. But he did not win the battle. We, no doubt, can find examples of wise men, who have not been able to accumulate any wealth, but are almost on starvation. A very popular attraction for many people today is professional baseball. All have seen a pitcher, who everyone knows is very skilled, go to the mound, and be unable to "find the strike zone." With all his skill, the favor is not to him. This will apply in all fields of endeavor as well as to sports. "Time and chance happeneth to them all." The reason for this is that man does not know his time. That is, he does not know beforehand what will be. Therefore he has no more defense against failure than the fishes have against the net in which they are caught, or the bird has against the snare. So when an "evil time" falls suddenly upon them they also are snared.

 

(Verses 13 through 16) This wisdom have I seen also under the sun, and it seemed great to me: There was a small city, and few men within it; and there came a great king against it, and besieged it, and built great bulwarks against it: now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same poor man. Then said I, Wisdom is better than strength: nevertheless the poor man's wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard.

 

Solomon says that the illustration he is about to use shows a wisdom, which he considers to be great. As given in the K. J. V., there was a poor wise man living in a little city of few inhabitants. When a great king and his army besieged the city, the wise man by his wisdom delivered the city. Then, as people usually do, because that wise man was poor, they immediately forgot all about him. The New English Bible gives a slightly different translation. According to it, the poor man was wise enough that he could have delivered the city, but no one remembered to call upon him. I personally prefer the K. J. V. translation. However, no matter which translation one might take, Solomon's conclusion remains the same: "Wisdom is better than strength: nevertheless the poor man's wisdom is despised, and his words are not heeded." Although wisdom is better than strength, people usually ignore the wisdom of the poor. In our day they, probably, would not consider him "politically correct."

 

(Verses 17 and 18) The words of wise men are heard in quiet more than the cry of him that ruleth among fools. Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroyeth much good.

 

 

Certainly, this presents an important truth. When wise men quietly speak their judgment of an affair, they are accorded far more respect than all the shouting the commander of a whole army of fools can do. It is much better to have wisdom than to be armed with weapons of war. Yet "one sinner," or one who fails to carry out his part in the execution of a project, destroys much of the good planning that has been done on it.

 


Chapter 10


(Verses 1 through 3) Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savor: so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honor, A wise man's heart is at his right hand; but a fool's heart at his left. Yea, also when he that is a fool walketh by the way, his wisdom faileth him, and he saith to everyone that he is a fool.

 

In modern usage, we consider "apothecary" to mean the same as "pharmacist." Solomon's use of the word actually means "a maker of perfumes." Although his perfumes and ointments may, when properly cared for, have a very sweet smell, if he allows flies to fall into them and die, their odor will soon be offensive instead. Just so, a man who is held in reputation for wisdom and honor, will soon ruin that reputation if he engages in doing foolish things and giving foolish counsel. Since in the history of mankind, there have usually been more right-handed men than left-handed ones, the idea developed that the right hand is the hand of both power and favor. It is from this that to be at the king's right hand is to be in his favor. So Solomon's meaning seems to be that the wise man is always ready to bestow favor upon others, while the fool is concerned only for himself. In verse 3, Solomon declares that a fool, even when only taking a walk along the way, will be betrayed by his folly. If he has any wisdom at all, it will desert him and both his words and his actions will reveal the fact that he is a fool. He cannot hide it.

 

(Verses 4 through 7) If the spirit of the ruler rise up against thee, leave not thy place; for yielding pacifieth great offenses. There is an evil, which I have seen under the sun, as an error which proceedeth from the ruler. Folly is set in great dignity, and the rich sit in low place. I have seen servants upon horses, and princes walking as servants upon the earth.

 

Verse 4 seems to address one whom the ruler has placed in some office in his government, although it will apply anywhere that there is someone in authority over us. If he who is in authority is angry at us, we should not also become angry, and "walk out," as is sometimes done. Neither should we contend against him in the matter. Rather, we should follow the advice given us by the Apostle Paul, in Ephesians 6:5-8.This is in perfect harmony with the advice of Solomon. Yield to the one in authority, even when we think he is mistaken: "For yielding pacifieth great offenses." Now Solomon sets forth an evil for which he says the ruler is to be blamed. It actually proceeds from him. The ruler has set folly, or those who follow it, in a place of great dignity, and the rich in a lower place. Since his consideration of the situation has only the material good of the kingdom in view, it is easy to see that this practice will bring ruin upon it. Further, he has seen servants riding horses, while the princes, or leaders in the kingdom were reduced to walking. All this, he says, is an evil.

 

(Verses 8 through 10) He that diggeth a pit shall fall into it; and whoso breaketh an hedge, a serpent shall bite him. Whoso removeth stones shall be hurt therewith; and he that cleaveth wood shall be endangered thereby. If the iron be blunt, and he do not whet the edge, then must he put to more strength: but wisdom is profitable to direct.

 

It can readily be seen that this is a short collection of truisms Solomon has set before us. His meaning is not that literally every person who attempts any one of these things, which he has mentioned, will be hurt thereby, but that everyone who does so places himself in position to be hurt; for the danger is there. Therefore, to use these things as metaphors, they mean that we should never "dig a pit," in the sense of setting a trap for our neighbor. Neither should we try to break down that which protects him, as does a hedge, nor should we try to remove "the stones," or markers that identify his sphere of authority. We have all heard the saying, "Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones." Solomon's statement, "He that cleaveth wood shall be endangered thereby," has exactly the same meaning. Anyone who has ever tried to split wood, knows that there is always danger that a stick, or splinter of the wood will fly off in an ungovernable direction. It may strike someone who is nearby, or it might even strike the one wielding the ax. Verse 10, in the literal, means, of course that it takes more effort to cut with a dull blade than with one that has been properly sharpened. As a metaphor, it means that if our address of a matter is not properly prepared, we must work harder to get our point across to the other person. Nevertheless, in either case, "wisdom is profitable to direct."

 

(Verses 11 through 15) Surely the serpent will bite without enchantment; and a babbler is no better. The words of a wise man's mouth are gracious; but the lips of a fool will swallow up himself. The beginning of the words of his mouth is foolishness: and the end of his talk is mischievous madness. A fool also is full of words; a man cannot tell what shall be; and what shall be after him, who can tell him? The labor of the foolish wearieth every one of them, because he knoweth not how to go to the city.

 

They are not so common on our streets in this part of the world; but in both the Middle East and the Far East, snake charmers have been, and still are a very common sight. They keep one, or more, poisonous snakes in baskets with lids, and they also carry some sort of a small musical instrument. With the music of this instrument, they seem to be able to "charm" the snake. Then they can handle it in the manner to which it has been accustomed. If they try to handle it without first charming it, it will bite them as readily as it would anyone else. Just so a babbler, (one of the definitions of this word is "one who tells secrets,) who is not in some way held in check, is no better than the snake that has not been charmed. He will bite; and his poison can be extremely dangerous. A wise man's words are gracious, because they are words of truth and wisdom; but the words of a fool are so totally lacking in wisdom, that they will even cause the destruction of the speaker. The fool's speech starts as foolishness; and the longer he speaks the worse it gets. So that the end of it is such insanity that it causes mischief, or evil. A fool is always full of words. Ask him what you will; and he will give you an answer. However, the greatest trouble with this is that the answer may be far from the truth. For " a man cannot tell what shall be; and what shall be after him, who can tell him?" The fool is not satisfied to work, as do others, to accomplish his goals. His labor tires him so, that he will not continue it very long, "because he knoweth not how to go to the city." This last expression is very similar to one we often hear, and has the same meaning. "He doesn't have sense enough to come in out of the rain."

 

(Verses 16 and 17) Woe unto thee, O land, when thy king is a child, and thy princes eat in the morning! Blessed art thou, O land, when thy king is the son of nobles, and thy princes eat in due season, for strength, and not for drunkenness.

 

To "eat in the morning" has no reference here to such activity as eating breakfast, but to a feast, which begins in the morning, and continues until everyone is so filled with food, and so drunken that no one is capable of attending to the necessary affairs of state. The king, being a child, or having no more wisdom than a child, has no ability, nor desire to restrain the "princes," or leaders of the kingdom from so wasting their time and talents. In such a scenario, nothing but evil can come to this kingdom. So "Woe unto thee, O land! when such is the case. On the other hand, the kingdom is blessed when the king is of noble lineage and conduct, and when all feasting is reserved to the proper time to give strength, and not drunkenness. Then the princes can give proper attention to matters of state. And the kingdom will prosper.

 

(Verse 18) By much slothfulness the building decayeth; and through idleness of the hands the house droppeth through.

 

Just as a house upon which the owner will put forth no effort toward maintenance will decay, and finally fall down, so it is with any project one may start. This is in harmony with the advice he has given before, "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might."

 

(Verse 19) A feast is made for laughter, and wine maketh merry: but money answereth all things.

 

This is another of Solomon's declarations of how things are, not, necessarily, how they ought to be. The purpose of a great feast is to have a great time of mirth; and the wine makes the partakers thereof merry. But, so far as the natural man is concerned, money is the answer to all things. Nevertheless, the Apostle Paul told Timothy, "For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." (I Timothy 6:10)

 

(Verse 20) Curse not the king, no not in thy thought; and curse not the rich in thy bedchamber: for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter.

 

The first thing to be said about this is that, although "curse" can mean the use of what we call profanity, its primary meaning here is "to speak evil against" someone. Solomon tells us not to do such against the king, or the "rich," even under what we think to be the most private, or confidential, circumstances. In this statement, "the rich" may refer more to those in authority than to those who have wealth. In either case it is not wise to speak evil of them. No matter how confidentially the one to whom we tell such may promise to keep the matter, it will somehow get out, as if a bird carried it.

 


Chapter 11


(Verses 1 and 2) Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days. Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth.

 

Verse 1 has no reference to taking a loaf of bread and throwing it into the sea, or lake, or other body of water. The only positive thing that could do is to feed a few little fish. He is telling us to be generous in helping the hungry and needy. They may not be soon able to repay us. In fact, they may never repay us; but that should not deter us from helping them. If we have done so for the love of our Lord, it will surely be more than repaid, even if it may be a long time in coming. The number seven is one of those usually considered as a "complete number" in scriptural references. Thus, we might think it to mean, in this instance, "all that we deem worthy of our help." But we are told not to stop there, but to give "also to eight." Perhaps then, we should consider this to mean, "Do not try to judge the worthiness of him who asks, but give to all. "For thou knowest not what evil shall come upon the earth." In fact, it might even come upon us. Then we might be asking for a hand out. The best answer to the question of whether or not I should consider one who asks for help to be worthy is this: "Did Christ Jesus die for me because I was worthy?" You and I both know there can be but one answer to that question. "NO." Why then, do I bother to ask is this, or that person worthy of my help?

 

(Verses 3 and 4) If the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth: and if the tree fall toward the south, or toward the north, where the tree falleth, there it shall be. He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap.

 

The first two statements here show the inevitability of what is to be. If the clouds are full of rain, all that man can do will not prevent their emptying it out upon the earth. Also in whatever direction a tree may start to fall, man cannot stop it, and turn it in a different direction. This principle is true, not only concerning rain clouds and trees, but also with every event that will take place. True enough, we do plan events, and they do sometimes take place; but only because God let them come to pass as we had planned. Everyone knows that he has planned things that in spite of all his efforts, he could not bring to pass: but not so with God. What He starts, He finishes. Consider how many disasters, such as storms, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods, etc. have taken place; and man has not been able to stop even one of them. So, when the clouds are filled with rain, they will empty it upon the earth, and where a tree falls, there it shall lie. As Solomon said earlier, "Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight which He hath made crooked?" Now he says, "He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap." This is true, not only in farming, but also in every walk of life. There is an old saying with which we are all acquainted. "Nothing ventured, nothing gained." If we wait until we are absolutely certain of success, we will never start a project of any sort. And, of course, if we never start it, we surely will never reap from it.

 

(Verses 5 and 6) As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God Who maketh all. In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they shall be alike good.

 

Solomon declares two things that we do not know, in order to prove that we know nothing about the work of God Who makes all things. In Chapter 12, verse 7, he says, "Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return to God Who gave it." Someone will immediately say, "Surely the spirit goes up, because God is in heaven; and heaven is up, above the earth. But the problem is, "No one knows which direction is up. You may think that you will have a "field day" denying this, and showing up my ignorance; and perhaps you will. But let us examine the situation. First, consider that the earth is a sphere, or ball. Now, take a ball and a pin. Stick the pin in the ball at any point, setting it as nearly perpendicular to the surface of the ball as you can at the point of contact. Then take another pin, move to some other point on the surface of the ball, and repeat the process. These two pins represent two persons standing at different points upon the earth, and each pointing "up." The questions are: first, are both pointing "up?" Each would declare that he is. Second, are they pointing in the same direction? The answer can only be, "No." This would bring us to even a third question: "Who is right?" No doubt, the spirit goes up to God. For He is far up, above the earth. But we still do not know which way the spirit must go to God. Neither do you know how the bones grow in the development of a child before birth. Yet we know that when the spirit leaves the body it goes to God, and every child is brought to a point of development before it is born into this world. Both of these events have been repeated multitudes of times since man was placed upon earth. Even as we do not know these mysteries, neither do we know how God works His other wonders. Since we do not know how God works His miracles, we do not need to claim sufficient wisdom to know whether it is better to sow in the morning, or in the evening. Both may prosper equally. By the same token, both may fail. We are still fully dependent upon God's blessings. It is He, Who made, and makes, all things.

 

(Verses 7 and 8) Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun: but if a man live many years, and rejoice in them all; yet let him number the days of darkness; for they shall be many. All that cometh is vanity.

 

This should be one of the easiest texts of this entire book to understand. How the man, who was born blind, but to whom our Lord gave sight must have rejoiced when he saw the light, and his eyes beheld the sun! Surely it was sweet and pleasant to him. Of course, we also can apply it to our experience when the Lord brought us out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of His dear Son. However, Solomon's continuing statements indicate that his primary concern was for the natural light of the sun. He declares that even "if a man live many years, and rejoice in them all," he should still keep in mind "the days of darkness; for they shall be many." His choice of words in the usage of "years" and "days" indicates that, though a man's life be mostly pleasant, so that he does rejoice in all his years, there will still be enough sorrows, "days of darkness, " that he will do well to remember them, lest he forget that there is also a serious side to life. This too, according to Solomon, is vanity, or emptiness.

 

(Verses 9 and 10) Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these God will bring thee into judgment. Therefore remove sorrow from thy heart, and put away evil from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity.

 

Having considered the many efforts of man, and having found them all to be emptiness, Solomon gives advice to the young. They should rejoice in their youth. That is, rejoice in the fact that they are young. This is the answer to one of the greatest problems of present day youth. Instead of rejoicing that they are young, and not yet faced with the more serious problems that come with maturity and responsibility, they are borrowing trouble by trying to do what neither they nor anyone else can do. They are trying too hard to look into the future. And because they are not able to know what lies ahead, they become depressed, sometimes even to the point of committing suicide, or hurting someone else. The only future for them, or for us, is God. He alone knows what will be, and is able to take care of it, and us, when it comes. The young should rejoice in their youth, and follow, not what they see on TV, or even on the streets, but, in short, "act their age," be children, and cheer up in the days of their youth. They should do the things which appeal to the hearts and eyes of children, and not be trying so hard to be "little adults." At the same time, let them keep in mind, "that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment." This is not a threat, but a promise. He does not mean that God is going to condemn you for all these things; but that he will evaluate you in all these. He will just as faithfully approve and reward the good, as he will disapprove and punish the evil. He is a merciful God. Therefore lay aside sorrow from your heart, and put away evil from your flesh. This is the best advice that can be found. God knows that childhood and youth are not the productive years of humanity, but only the time for development. Yes, they are vanity. But so also are all the days of man, whatever his age.

 



Chapter 12


The first six verses of this chapter make up one sentence. Verse 1 tells us what to do before we reach the stage in life wherein we cannot take advantage of what is our present opportunity. The remainder of the sentence describes, by the use of many metaphors, what those "evil days" will bring.

 

(Verse 1) Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them.

 

Solomon has given much effort and energy to the study of things in this life, as he often says, "under the sun." He now gives advice concerning what we should do, as he has, by the wisdom given him, and the study he has made, determined is for our good. That advice is to do something while we can. What we should do is to remember our Creator in the days of our youth. As he continues, we see that it would not be amiss to say that we should do this before it is too late. I realize that many do not like this expression. Certainly nothing is ever too late for God to do that which He has purposed; but it can easily become too late for us to do that which we would like, and sometimes too late for us to do that which is for our benefit. The days of our youth are not only the days when our bodies are stronger and more active, but also the days when our senses are more acute and our interest in the things around us more intense. The young may not believe it, but when they grow old, the time will come when they will lose a great deal of their zest for life. Many may reach the point at which they will indeed say, "I have no pleasure in them" (the days of life). The extreme of this, which I have seen, is the man or woman, who through all the active years of life, had worked to raise and provide for a family, but now broken by age and failing health is made to sign over any assets he, or she, has to the children, and is then carried to a nursing home, left there, and seldom, if ever, visited by the child, or children, who now have control of whatever worldly possessions the old person had. Then, indeed that elderly person will not only say, "I have no pleasure in them," but will even pray to God for an end to his, or her, days of existence in this world. As we mentioned, this is the extreme of this condition; and it should never be done. But we have seen it happen, and more often than most would think. Even if it does not come to this, the days will come when you will enjoy life far less than you did in youth. We often hear someone say of an elderly person, "He, or she, lives in the past." There is a fully legitimate reason for this. The past is far more pleasant to him than the present. He can remember the joys he had when younger, and in his memory, even feel some of the zest of life he enjoyed when doing those things. Whereas, if he tried to do the same things today, he would not get the same joy from them.. So, "Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, 'I have no pleasure in them.'"

 

(Verses 2 through 5) While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain: in the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out the windows be darkened, and the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of music shall be brought low; also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail; because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets:

 

Thus Solomon describes the person who has grown old and is weakened down by age, and is soon to meet his death. He uses metaphors, which in some instances may be a little obscure, but are, for the greater part, fairly clear. In verse 2, he is pointing out the fact that most people lose much of their ability to see, as they become old. Their vision becomes much dimmer, so that it appears that the light of the sun, moon, and stars has become dimmed, or darkened., and instead of seeing the bright blue sky after the rain has passed, they see so dimly, that they think the clouds have returned after the rain is over. Today, we might think such a person could be helped by wearing glasses, and well he might. But in Solomon's day, no such help was available. All one could do was to endure the dimness, and consider it a part of aging. "In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves," might need a little explanation. Let us consider the conditions and lifestyle of the people of Solomon's day. They had none of our modern weapons of battle. Every weapon was for hand to hand fighting. Since the keeper of the house is he that defends it, and the hands and arms were the members of the body used to hold the weapons of defense, the safety of the house is greatly diminished when they begin to tremble from weakness. Likewise such fighting requires strong legs, "the strong men." As the weakness of old age sets in, the legs began to bow from weakness also. So, with weakened arms and legs, one cannot put up much defense, and is no longer able to keep the house. "And the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out the windows be darkened," tells us that most of our teeth may be gone, leaving us with few with which to "grind," or chew our food. This metaphor might be lost on many today, because now it is not at all unusual for one to have all his teeth pulled, and dentures made with which to replace them. However in the days of this writing, the man who lost his natural teeth had to do without. There were no replacements. Again he refers to the decline of our ability to see as he says, "And those that look out the windows be darkened." In verse 4 he tells us, "and the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of music shall be brought low." Whether "the doors in the streets" shall literally be shut, or not, he will have lost his ability to go out into the streets because of his weakness. So they may as well be shut, so far as he is concerned. Again Solomon refers to the man's ability to eat having been greatly reduced, "the sound of the grinding is low." He also becomes so weak that even the voice of the bird will startle him, possibly because his hearing has reached the point to which it is reduced in many. He may be able to hear sounds, but not able to distinguish them as to what they are. So the sound of the bird is heard, but not recognized. So it startles him. He can no longer enjoy the singing that he may hear for the same reason. So the sound of the daughters of music is brought low. In verse 5, Solomon brings us to the final scenes of old age. "Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail." Although people of Solomon's day led a very active life, often even climbing mountains, and other high places without fear, and fearing nothing that might be in the way in which they were going, when the weakness of old age set in, they came to fear "that which is high," that is, just as is often the case with old people today, they were afraid of heights. Also they, because of the weakness of old age, had many fears, however brave they may have been. Although our K. J. V. says, "And the almond tree shall flourish," those who understand the Hebrew language say that it should have been translated, "When the almond tree shall blossom." When it does blossom, it is covered with white, just as the head of an old person. So this is just another metaphor that is used to describe an elderly person. "And the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail," is our K. J. V. translation of the next statement. From this it seems that weakness has so beset the one of whom he speaks that, although in his younger days he would not even have noticed a grasshopper as it alighted upon him, now even that is a burden. And in addition to this, he has lost all zest for life. The New English Bible gives this translation of this: "And the locust's paunch is swollen and caper-buds have no more zest." To me, the K. J. V. translation seems to make more sense. But I cannot speak concerning the correctness of either translation, because I know nothing of the Hebrew language. Now he tells us what is, at this point, taking place with this man. "Because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets." All these things are leading up to, and are caused by his dying. Since in this book Solomon's focus has been so much on the natural, it seems reasonable to interpret "his long home" as his grave. In Chapter 9, verse 3, he says, "and after that they go to the dead," and in Chapter 9, verse 10, "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest." Then, when man dies, the mourners go about the streets.

 

(Verses 6 through 8) Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the wheel be broken at the cistern. Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return to God Who gave it. Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher; all is vanity.

 

Perhaps it might better fit our modern usage of words, to change the phrase, "Or ever," to "When," and "be" to "is" in verse 6. For the significance of the whole expression is that, "when the silver cord is loosed, the golden bowl broken and the wheel broken at the cistern," man is dead. The loosing of the cord, the breaking of the bowl, and the breaking of the wheel are all metaphors for death. They point to the complete cessation of all activity of the body. The loosened silver cord will no longer hold spirit and body together, just as a broken bowl or a broken wheel is no longer usable. Thus when death overtakes us, the body, "the dust," returns to the earth as it was; and the spirit returns to God Who gave it. This is in perfect keeping with Solomon's perspective on all the "things under the sun." He discusses all from only the viewpoint of nature. Nothing is said about any future life for either the righteous or the wicked. He leaves both for others to discuss. It is certainly no wonder that, viewing all things from that perspective, he pronounces all, "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity." If there were no life beyond this world, all would indeed be emptiness and worthlessness. The Apostle Paul tells us, "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable." (I Corinthians 15:19)

 

(Verses 9 and 10) And moreover, because the preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yea, he gave good heed, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs. The preacher sought to find out acceptable words: and that which was written was upright, even words of truth.

 

Solomon is here approaching the close of this work. As he does, he tells us that because he was wise, he taught the people knowledge. In his teachings, he gave special attention to all things, and studied, or "sought out," many wise sayings to set before the people. He also assures us that, his teaching has been in suitable words, words that can be understood, and that what he has taught is the truth.

 

(Verses 11 and 12) The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one Shepherd. And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.

 

Goads were sticks with a sharpened end, which were used to make oxen or donkeys put forth more effort in pulling their loads. And, of course, nails fastened by masters of assemblies, or master carpenters, are nails put in the proper places to add strength to the assembly. So the words of the wise will cause us to put forth more effort in whatever we are trying to do, and will add strength the finished project. And all wisdom is given by "one Shepherd." Although, at this point, he does not say so, it is obvious that this Shepherd must be the LORD. Solomon cautions us to be warned, or admonished by these sayings. He further declares that the number of books that can be made is endless, so there is no need for one to think he can make, or write, enough books to cover everything in the world. Not only will an excess of study tire the mind, but the body also, Perhaps, all of us should do more studying than we do; but to be a "bookworm" may not be so profitable to us as a more rounded regimen of activity would be.

 

(Verses 13 and 14) Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: fear God, and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.

 

The conclusion of anything is the end of it. If, in a discussion, a conclusion is reached, there is no more room for discussion. That is what Solomon now sets before us. The whole matter that he has been discussing in this writing has been brought to the place where there is no more profit in the discussion. The only thing to do is to announce the substance of the conclusion. That is that there is only one thing God requires of man. Man's whole duty is summed up in this one thing. "Fear God, and keep His commandments." To fear God is to hold Him in the highest respect, and remember that He is fully able to not only demand, but fully enforce obedience. And to keep His commandments is to do what He has told us to do. Since He has left with us His written word, it leaves us with no excuse for not knowing what He has told us. The Jews had a habit of writing some of His commandments upon scraps of parchment or paper, putting them in little boxes, and hanging them on their bodies, usually on their arms or near their hearts or heads, to signify that they were keeping His commandments with their affections, thoughts, and works. This is not required. What is required is to do what He has said for us to do. This then, is the whole duty of man. And there is something more for us to remember. That is that, "God will bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil." We may be able to fool men, or we might be able to persuade them to render judgment in our favor, in spite of the evidence. But God cannot be fooled, and neither can He be bribed. His judgment is always true, and will stand forever.




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