Studying the Book of Ecclesiastes
By David J. Riggs
Title and Author
- The term "Preacher" (Hebrew: koheleth) was translated "Ecclesiastes" in the Septuagint translations and means "the
preacher or public speaker."
- The author of the book, no doubt, is Solomon.
- Though the book doesn't name Solomon, the things the writer says about himself, best fit him; e.g., 1:1, 12 (not
just Judah) 1:16 (could only be him) 2:9; 12:9, etc.
Purpose and Design
- Purpose - 1:3; 2:3b. Thus, the theme is: "What is the chief good, goal, or purpose in life?
- Design - 1:2; 13-14; 2:11. Thus, the book teaches the right relation to this earth life. It leads away from love and interest
in this world, to God.
Title and Author (Additional Notes)
- The term "Preacher" (Hebrew: koheleth) was translated "Ecclesiastes" in the Septuagint translations and means "the
preacher or public speaker."
- The author of the book, no doubt, is Solomon.
- There is an old scholarship which says that Solomon was not the author of the book because, supposedly, the
internal evidence lends itself to a later date.
- Though the book doesn't name Solomon, the things the writer says about himself best fit him; e.g., 1:1, 12 (not
just Judah) 1:16 (could only be him) 2:9; 12:9, etc.
- Solomon's personal history best fits the book. His great wisdom, wealth, building projects made for an unparalleled
opportunity to observe and explore every avenue of life.
- He was blessed with everything a person could want (1 Kings 4:29-34; 8:63; 10:14-27 (vs. 14 - one talent
equaled 12.5 lbs; thus, over 4 tons - one talent was equal to about $50,000.)
Purpose and Design (Additional Notes)
- See 1:3; 2:3b. Thus, the theme is: "What is the chief good, goal, or purpose in life? Is it to seek after wisdom, pleasure,
labor, and wealth?
- Thus, he explores this theme through his experience, observation, reasoning, etc.
- The book tears us away from the things of this world.
- See 1:2; 13-14; 2:11. The book shows the vanity (emptiness, uselessness; used 37 times) of all things so far as this earth
- Thus, the book seeks to teach us our right relation to this earth life.
- It leads away from the love and interest in this world, to God.
Outline of the Book
What Profit Under the Sun?
||All is Vanity, Grasping
Examples of Futility:
1. Passing of
2. Cycles of Nature
3. Curiosity of Man
4. Absence of the
Mirth & Pleasure, Madness & Folly
Envious Nature of Man
High station, Popularity
|A Warning to the
A Picture of Old Age
A Final Admission
|The End of the
|Narrative, Proverbs, Maxims
1:1 The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.
- Thus, the writer was a public speaker (an excellent one as we will see), a son of David, and a king in Jerusalem.
- As we mentioned, though he is not named, there is overwhelming evidence in the book which points to Solomon
as its author.
- The book, no doubt, is one of Solomon's lectures that God chose because He deemed it profitable for all men.
1:2 "Vanity of vanities," says the Preacher; "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity."
- The word "vanity" is used 37 times in the book and means, "emptiness; something transitory, unsatisfactory."
- This verse contains one of the themes and purposes of the book; that is, "The vanity of all earthly things."
- The book produces disillusion and disappointment in what this world has to offer. It removes us from the love and
interest of this world. 1 John 2:15-17
1:3 What profit has a man from all his labor in which he toils under the sun?
- Man obtains very little profit from all his toil under the sun.
- "Under the sun" is another key phrase. It is used 25 times and is important in understanding the message of the book.
- The writer in his dissertation is looking at things from an earthly standpoint.
1:4 One generation passes away, and another generation comes; but the earth abides forever.
- Verses 4-11 give a feeling of emptiness and a sense of uselessness in so far as this life is concerned.
- This is a world of general routine or unending monotony.
- Chart #3 - Examples of Futility
- The passing of generations (1:4).
- The cycles of nature (1:5-7).
- The curiosity of man (1:8).
- The absence of something new (1:9-11).
- "One generation passes away, and another generation comes" - He is observing how transitory man's life is. Though
living today, he is quickly replaced.
- "But the earth abides forever" - The word "forever" is literally, "age-lasting." It is not the word for "eternal."
- The writer's point is that man, the noble creature, quickly passes away while the crude materials continue.
1:5 The sun also rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it arose.
- The sun, in its repetition of ceaseless striving, is a type and symbol of the things of this world.
1:6 The wind goes toward the south, and turns around to the north; The wind whirls about continually, and comes
again on its circuit.
- This is typical of all earthly existence. The continual routine of this world just goes on from day to day, year to year.
1:7 All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is not full; to the place from which the rivers come, there they return
- Vapor rises from the sea, is condensed and falls as rain, and the rain swells the rivers which run back to the sea.
- Although the rivers keep running to the sea, they seem to get nowhere.
1:8 All things are full of labor; man cannot express it. The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with
- Man has endless labor, but seems to never accomplish anything.
- For example, we have more "time saving" devices than every before, but most people are busier than ever before.
- Life is tiresome and wearisome when viewed from this angle.
1:9 That which has been is what will be, that which is done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the
- All the material things and laws and forces of nature were part of God's creation from the beginning.
- Someone says, "What about the airplane, isn't that something they did not have in those ancient times?" Answer: "Only its
discovery is new. The law of gravitation acting upon a vacuum was here from the beginning. The birds had been using it
from the start.
1:10 Is there anything of which it may be said, "See, this is new"? It has already been in ancient times before us.
- Generally speaking, there is nothing new. One might think it is new, but often it has long since been forgotten, and has
only recently reappeared.
1:11 There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any remembrance of things that are to come by
those who will come after.
- Multitudes of ancient transactions have been lost, and this will be the case with many others which are yet to occur.
- If you consider purely earthly values, what is your life? It is just part of endless circles.
- Thus, we need to consider the higher values.
1:12 I, the Preacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem.
- "Over Israel" - not just "over Judah" as was the case after the kingdom divided.
- Thus, this points to Solomon as the author of the book.
1:13 And I set my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all that is done under heaven; this
burdensome task God has given to the sons of man, by which they may be exercised.
- From 13a and 17a, we see what the preacher gave his heart to do.
- 13a - He diligently set his mind upon searching out things. He diligently cultivated his mind to learn everything
done by man.
- 17a - "Madness and folly" - As we would say, "He acted like an idiot." It refers to "gaiety and bad sense." He tried
living in all of life's ways.
- Have we met people who seem to make a joke out of everything? Certainly we have. Being "the life of the
party" is their main goal in life.
- In 13:b and 17:b-18, he gave his conclusion after seeking after those things.
- 13b - "burdensome task" or "sore travail" - The most laborious discussions and perplexing experiments come in
the name of "search for wisdom." Eccl. 12:12
- "God has given" - God has put this urge in their hearts.
- Remember, he is speaking of earthly wisdom, not spiritual. Prov. 4:5-7
- We are to seek after spiritual wisdom. Eph. 5:17
- Even spiritual wisdom is not the main goal (1 Cor. 8:1), especially to the neglect of other important things;
e.g., one's family.
- 17b - "grasping for the wind" - a worthless, useless endeavor. Also, it is "vexation of spirit" - Being vexed or
irritated, it is an irritation to the spirit.
1:14 I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed, all is vanity and grasping for the wind.
- They provide nothing for the supreme good of man.
- The works of man often have high objectives, but produce unsatisfactory results.
- The Christian should look at his job (his work done under the sun) as a means to feed himself and/or his family while he
sojourns here on earth.
- He should always put the Lord first. Matt. 6:25-33
1:15 What is crooked cannot be made straight, and what is lacking cannot be numbered.
- There will always be wants, problems, shortages, wars, etc.
- As long as the earth stands, these crooked and wanting conditions will be unavoidable.
1:16 I communed with my heart, saying, "Look, I have attained greatness, and have gained more wisdom than all
who were before me in Jerusalem. My heart has understood great wisdom and knowledge."
- Literally, "I spoke to my heart"; thus, he said these things to himself. He had these deep thoughts within.
- He had gained:
- Greatness - great estate, notoriety, etc.
- More wisdom - he was extremely intelligent, more so than all who had gone before him.
- Understanding - he knew his comprehension was excellent.
- Thus, his account of himself showed himself to be far superior to all his predecessors.
1:17 And I set my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is grasping for
the wind. For in much wisdom is much grief, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.
- More wisdom only brings more heartache and sorrow.
- There is some truth to the old statement, "What you don't know, don't hurt you."
- Chart #4 - Exposing Lies About Life
- "By my diligent labor and toil, I will someday be happy and satisfied." (1:8)
- "Every day in every way our world is getting better and better." (1:9-11)
- "We can correct all the ills of the world." (1:15)
- "Those who obtain much worldly wisdom are the happy people in this world." (1:18)
- Thus, in this first chapter the preacher exposes many modern-day lies about life. He will continue to do so as he proceeds.
Chart #5 - All Is Vanity & Like Chasing the Wind
(Note: additional notes are in parenthesis)
Wisdom - 1:17-18
(1 Kings 3:7-14; 4:29-34; 10:23)
Mirth & Pleasure, Madness & Folly - 1:17; 2:1-2
(A life geared only to fun and games will not bring lasting satisfaction).
Wine - 2:3
(Should one become a connoisseur of fine wines?)
Building Projects - 2:4-6; 1 Kings, Chs. 4-10; 2 Chron., Chs. 2-9 - Houses, plants, parks, pools, etc.
(Let's consider only one passage here: 2 Chron. 9:17-21)
Possessions - 2:7-8; 1 Kings 10:1-8; 2 Chron. 9:13-28 - Slaves, animals, singers, wives, etc.
(We can't deny that sensual pleasures are enjoyable - Heb. 11:25. However, the thrill they produce is fleeting, while the guilt
and anguish of these illicit pleasures lingers on. To behave like Joseph will bring a greater and lasting happiness - Gen. 39:9.)
2:1 I said in my heart, "Come now, I will test you with mirth; therefore enjoy pleasure"; but surely, this also was
- "Go to now" or "Come now" - This is an often used expressions in the O.T. which means: "Listen to what I am about to
- "Mirth" - "Gladness or gaiety as shown by, or accompanied with, laughter." (Webster)
- "Enjoy pleasure" - Many people today live only for fun and frolic. They are always pursuing some type of entertainment:
movies, sports, vacations, etc.
- "But surely, this also was vanity" - He found this, too, to be vain and empty. It has no lasting value.
2:2 I said of laughter; "Madness!"; and of mirth, "What does it accomplish?"
- "I said of laughter; "Madness!" - Thus, he strongly criticizes it.
- "Of mirth, 'What does it accomplish?'" - Of what good is it? What lasting value does it have? We need to remember his
ultimate conclusion. Eccl. 12:13-14
- Thus, with superior knowledge, great wealth, complete control, he finally realizes and proclaims that these are all
vanity and vexation of spirit.
2:3 I searched in my heart how to gratify my flesh with wine, while guiding my heart with wisdom, and how to lay
hold on folly, till I might see what was good for the sons of men to do under heaven all the days of their lives.
- He tried wine as one today might try social drinking with the elite in society, or drugs.
- "While guiding my heart with wisdom" - Thus, he carefully guided himself in these things. It was a carefully controlled
- The sad thing is that many people experiment in these things, get addicted, and never overcome them.
- "Till I might see what was good" - He is seeking and searching for what might produce happiness in this life.
- "To do under heaven all the days of their lives" - He is trying to see what men ought to do in this earth life.
- There are many human opinions as to what men ought to do. Only God Himself can give the true answer.
2:4 I made my works great, I built myself houses, and planted myself vineyards.
- His own house was larger and took longer to build than the temple. 1 Kings 6:38; 7:1
2:5 I made myself gardens and orchards, and I planted all kinds of fruit trees in them.
- "I made," "for myself" - is used 8 times in verses 4-10. He did all this for personal satisfaction.
- "Orchards" - Literally, "parks" - He planted garden terraces to beautify. His landscaping was spectacular.
- Some people's only pastime is to landscape. They strive to make the piece of property they have bought to look
- These things are all right, except when they take priority over spiritual things.
- Let us have the wisdom to know what things are truly important in this life.
2:6 I made myself water pools from which to water the growing trees of the grove.
- He had great irrigation projects.
- He planted trees of all kinds and built irrigation channels and pools to water them.
2:7 I acquired male and female servants, and had servants born in my house. Yes, I had greater possessions of herds
and flocks than all who were in Jerusalem before me.
- He had many servants who would supply his every need and command.
- He had "herds and flocks" - Lit. "live stock." It includes horses which was one of Solomon's mistakes. Deut. 17:16; 2
Chron. 1:16; 1 Kings 4:26; 10:26-29
- "Greater possessions...than all who were in Jerusalem before me" - Again, it shows that the writer was Solomon.
2:8 I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the special treasures of kings and of the provinces. I acquired male
and female singers, the delights of the sons of men, and musical instruments of all kinds.
- He collected many articles such as were expected to be possessed by kings or countries.
- The NASV in 2:8 instead of "the delights of the sons of men, and musical instruments of all kinds," has: "and the
pleasures of men-many concubines."
- He had 700 wives and 300 concubines. 1 Kings 11:3
- Someone once said, "This was nothing but the lust of the flesh."
- He had a complete assortment of musical instruments and singers.
- He had the real thing, not just a stereo.
2:9 So I became great and excelled more than all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with
- God promised to bless him with riches and honor when he prayed for wisdom. He was to remain faithful to the Lord. 1
- Solomon indulged to the extreme in these things. They eventually led him astray. Neh. 13:26
2:10 Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure, for my
heart rejoiced in all my labor; and this was my reward from all my labor.
- "I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure" - No one can charge that he had not been sufficiently thorough in pursuit
of this matter.
- He spared nothing; he denied himself nothing.
- He could take to himself anything he wanted because of his wealth and authority.
- "For my heart rejoiced in all my labor; and this was my reward from all my labor." - This is something the writer keeps
before us. It is mentioned 7 times throughout the book.
Chart #6 - God Wants Us To Enjoy Life
2:24 - There is nothing better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and that his soul should enjoy good in his labor.
This also, I saw, was from the hand of God.
3:12-13 - I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, and also that every man
should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor - it is the gift of God.
3:22 - So I perceived that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his own works, for that is his heritage. For
who can bring him to see what will happen after him?
5:18 - Here is what I have seen: It is good and fitting for one to eat and drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labor in which
he toils under the sun all the days of his life which God gives him; for it is his heritage.
8:15 - So I commended enjoyment, because a man has nothing better under the sun than to eat, drink, and be merry; for this
will remain with him in his labor for the days of his life which God gives him under the sun.
9:9 - Live joyfully with the wife whom you love all the days of your vain life which He has given you under the sun, all your
days of vanity; for that is your portion in life, and in the labor which you perform under the sun.
2:11 Then I looked on all the works that my hands had done and on the labor in which I had toiled; and indeed all
was vanity and grasping for the wind. There was no profit under the sun.
- Purely earthly values will eventually let people down and will disappoint them.
- The one who believes in Christ will never be disappointed, ashamed, or confounded for having believed in Him.
Isa. 28:16; Rom. 9:33; 1 Pet. 2:6
- "There was no profit under the sun" - There is no gain or profit in all of man's works or labor; they are a waste of time
and energy. One is killing himself for nothing.
- All of man's earthly works and labor have no profit or value for the soul.
2:12 Then I turned myself to consider wisdom and madness and folly; for what can the man do who succeeds the
king? Only what he has already done.
- He had already mentioned this in 1:17.
- Everything has already been tried and, thus, we don't need to go through the same disheartening and saddening
experiences. We need to simply follow the advice he gives as result of his experiences.
- "For what can the man do who succeeds the king? Only what he has already done" - We don't need another who we
might put our trust in to do more or better than this man.
2:13 Then I saw that wisdom excels folly as light excels darkness.
- Even though he did not find the pursuit of wisdom to be man's principle goal in life, he did recognize the superiority of
wisdom over foolishness.
- He has a lot of good things to say about wisdom in his book.
- We should study and work to have a certain amount of wisdom, but that should not be our chief goal.
2:14 The wise man's eyes are in his head, but the fool walks in darkness. Yet I myself perceived that the same event
happens to them all.
- Thus, the wise man makes use of his eyes and walks in light.
- The fool makes no use of his abilities and walks in darkness.
- "Yet I myself perceived that one event happens to them all." - He now adds something that is very perplexing to him:
"death" as shown in the context.
- As one grows older, death becomes even more of a reality to him.
- To most young people, death is something so far off in the future, they don't need to be concerned about it.
2:15 So I said in my heart, "As it happens to the fool, it also happens to me, and why was I then more wise?" Then I
said in my heart, "This also is vanity."
- "Why was I then more wise?" - Is the one who carefully cultivates wisdom, exempted from dying?
- When looking for the chief good in life, we must keep "death" in mind.
- If we don't consider it, and prepare for it, when our times comes we will realize how foolish we have been.
- All the other things we have strived so hard to accomplish will mean nothing, and we will hate our wasted life.
2:16 For there is no more remembrance of the wise than of the fool forever, since all that now is will be forgotten in
the days to come. And how does a wise man die? As the fool!
- How many great wise men of the ancient Egyptian world can you name?
- A man works himself to death to be a great wise man, but one generation later, he's not even remembered. What a
2:17 Therefore I hated life because the work that was done under the sun was distressing to me, for all is vanity and
grasping for the wind.
- He hated it because it was a great grievous toil for nothing.
- Everything done under the sun seemed empty to him.
Chart #7 - The Proof of Its Vanity
(Additional notes are in parenthesis).
Sensual pleasures make promises that are vain.
(It doesn't matter if the alluring thrill is alcohol, drugs, sex, or whatever. Such pleasures never deliver the happiness and
satisfaction they promise).
Sensual pleasures offer to open our eyes, but in reality they blind us.
(Some claim that if we follow our urges and lusts, a whole new world of incredible pleasure will unfold. However, what
actually happens is that a lifestyle of self-gratification leads us away from the truly important things).
Sensual pleasures disillusion us, making us cover-up artists.
(Rather than admitting that their endeavors have been futile, they con themselves into a hypocritical cover-up, pretending to
have found true happiness and satisfaction. All that worldly people who are chasing the wind have is: good feelings that
don't last, hypocrisy, and blindness to what's truly important).
Here is a good example of this world's futility from an unknown author:
"My journey through the darkness has only accelerated. I have become adept at inventing counterfeit lights-bright-colored,
flashing lights, pseudo rainbows, artificial sunsets, celluloid stars. More recently I discovered that God is dead, anyway. I am
a product of organic evolution, a cosmic accident, a unique moment in a mysterious 30-billion-year process. It is an
adventure filled with suspense-and cruelty and meaninglessness. And though I do not know what is ahead, never fear, I am
on my way! Even today, after reading the morning news and the latest issue of Time Magazine, and even though I
acknowledge countless gallons of human tears, the endless cycle of agonizing tragedy, I, along with the world's majority,
maintain that Adam made the right decision. Even as I swallow my tranquilizers, rush to my psychiatrist, take that extra
drink, endure my third divorce, and watch my children reject all the ideals I tried to pass on-I still say there is hope."
In a world of confusion, darkness, depression, sorrow, and despair, Christ is our only answer. Col. 1:27
The writer now adds two more things to his list - Chart #8
All Is Vanity & Like Chasing the Wind
Wisdom - 1:17-18
Mirth & Pleasure, Madness & Folly - 1:17; 2:1-2
Wine - 2:3
Building Projects - 2:4-6; 1 Kings 4-10; 2 Chron. 2-9 (Houses, plants, parks, pools, etc.)
Possessions - 2:7-8; 1 Kings 10:1-8; 2 Chron. 9:13-28 (Slaves, animals, singers, wives, etc.)
Laboring in order to leave an inheritance to one's children - 2:17-21
Labor and grievous work - 2:22-23
Brazil is home to a vine plant which forest-dwellers call the "murderer." At first the murderer's slender stem creeps along the
ground, but once it meets a vigorous tree, it cleaves to it and begins to climb it. As it climbs it sends out arm-like tentacles
that continue to grow larger and clasp tighter. Within time the once lively tree is killed by the murderer which has
completely smothered and strangled it. The murderer, from the summit of the strangled tree, as if in triumph, shoots out a
huge, flowery head from which it scatters seed to repeat its work of death all over again.
Like the murderer vine, the things mentioned by the writer of Ecclesiastes can choke and smother the spiritual life of a
Christian. Let us be on guard less we, too, are choked and strangled by the things of this world.
2:18 Then I hated all my labor in which I had toiled under the sun, because I must leave it to the man who will come
- Some parents work hard all their lives in order to leave a great inheritance to their children.
- Very seldom do their children appreciate it.
- For them to leave a spiritual heritage is of far greater value.
2:19 And who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will rule over all my labor in which I toiled and in
which I have shown myself wise under the sun. This also is vanity.
- His own son, Rehoboam, was foolish in choosing the wrong advice. 1 Kings 12:6-14
- Many children squander all that was left by their parents. Thus, the inheritance did them more harm than good.
- "This also is vanity." It is all useless and vain.
- To leave off the higher values is vain and results in vanity sooner or later.
2:20 Therefore I turned my heart and despaired of all the labor in which I had toiled under the sun.
- Again, we see his despair. In other words, "What's the use?" "For what am I striving?"
- Many bury themselves in their work (workaholics) only later to find themselves unhappy and dissatisfied.
- The one who strives after the higher values has no such despair.
2:21 For there is a man whose labor is with wisdom, knowledge, and skill; yet he must leave his heritage to a man
who has not labored for it. This also is vanity and a great evil.
- He has labored for wisdom, knowledge, and skill, but he must leave it to a man who has not labored in wisdom,
knowledge, and skill.
- What does one gain (of true worth) to labor and toil his whole life away in order to leave it to his children?
- It is not wrong for parents to save for their children (2 Cor. 12:14), but to make that their main objective in life is
2:22 For what has man for all his labor, and for the striving of his heart with which he has toiled under the sun?
- The answer to his questions, of course, is: "Nothing."
- When one makes his work his chief goal in life, instead of happiness, security, and satisfaction, he will have what's
in verses 23.
2:23 For all his days are sorrowful, and his work burdensome; even in the night his heart takes no rest. This also is
- He has no rest at night. Eccl. 5:12; Psalm 127:2
- Better is a little with righteousness. Eccl. 4:6; Prov. 15:16; 16:8; 17:1
- A quiet and peaceful life suggests trust and dependence upon God.
- To be overly interested in the things of this world can do us much harm. Luke 8:14
2:24 Nothing is better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and that his soul should enjoy good in his labor.
This also, I saw, was from the hand of God.
- See Chart #6.
- He often draws this same conclusion. The best thing for man to do is to be happy and enjoy life.
- "From the hand of God" - Finding and understanding true enjoyment often depends on a higher source than man.
- To be happy is a blessing from God. God wants us to be happy. This gives the Christian a good outlook on life.
- Of course, this suggestion is not good for those who already spend too much time and money on pleasure.
2:25 For who can eat, or who can have enjoyment, more than I?
- If Solomon with all his advantages and accomplishments ended only in despair, what makes us think that the common,
average man could do better?
- Pursuing the course of this world will end in despair for us.
2:26 For God gives wisdom and knowledge and joy to a man who is good in His sight; but to the sinner He gives the
work of gathering and collecting, that he may give to him who is good before God. This also is vanity and grasping
for the wind.
- Lasting happiness and joy comes from God to those who serve God. Phil. 4:6-7
- Sinners have more despair and sorrow because they don't know what's good in life.
- "That he may give to him who is good before God" - The blessings will eventually come to the good.
- "This also is vanity and grasping for the wind" - For example, for the sinner to heap up so that it will eventually come to
the good is great vanity on the part of the sinner.
In chapter 3, the preacher, from several general observations, continues to seek for man's chief good. He shows his belief in
an overruling providence. Man does nothing unless it is God's will and God's time for it. For example, man may boast of
doing this or that, but he can do nothing unless God permits it. Man must keep God before him at all times. James 4:13-16;
3:1 To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven:
- It is good to view this section from the viewpoint of God's providence; although, some of the things which are mentioned
in his list, we can control ourselves.
- God has a set time for many things. Psalm 102:13; John 7:30
- Chart #9 - God Has a Time & Purpose for Everything
(Note: This chart looks especially good when designed with a "script" font and each line spaced as in many modern versions
of the Bible).
1 To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven:
2 A time to be born,
And a time to die;
A time to plant,
And a time to pluck what is planted;
3 A time to kill,
And a time to heal;
A time to break down,
And a time to build up;
4 A time to weep,
And a time to laugh;
A time to mourn,
And a time to dance;
5 A time to cast away stones,
And a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace,
And a time to refrain from embracing;
6 A time to gain,
And a time to lose;
A time to keep,
And a time to throw away;
7 A time to tear,
And a time to sew;
A time to keep silence,
And a time to speak;
8 A time to love,
And a time to hate;
A time of war,
And a time of peace.
3:2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck what is planted;
- God probably has more control over births and deaths than we would like to think.
- We must follow God's rules which He set in the plant world; e.g., planting and harvesting.
3:3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
- God still rules in the kingdoms of men; e.g., with reference to wars and the healing from wars.
- In many things, we will never know His purpose. Deut. 29:29; Acts 1:7
- For example, God determined when the walls of Jerusalem should have been rebuilt.
3:4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
- God give occasions in life for these things. God has appointed the good as well as the bad. Eccl. 7:14
- In his book Open the Door Wide to Happy Living, T. Huffman Harris told of a young man named Eddie who
became tired of life, and decided to leap from a bridge into a turbulent river. Jim, a total stranger, saw Eddie being
swept downstream and plunged into the water in an effort to save him. Eddie, a good swimmer, noticed the man
floundering desperately in the strong current, and knew that without his help he would drown. Something stirred
within the heart of Eddie. With all of his strength, he swam over to the man and rescued him. Saving the stranger,
who had attempted to save him, brought new hope and meaning to Eddie's life.
- Let us not drown ourselves with the "self-pity attitude" or the "poor-me sentiment," but through love serve one
another. Gal. 5:13
3:5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from
- There is a certain amount of joy and sorrow in everyone's life.
3:6 A time to gain, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
- Much depends on the providence of God; God has His times and seasons.
3:7 A time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
- James 1:19; Prov. 29:11
3:8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
- The New Testament of Jesus Christ is in many ways a better covenant than the old one. Heb. 8:6
- We are not to hate. We are to love even our enemies. Matt. 5:44
In this section (3:9-22), he is still showing the vanity of earthly things from general observations in life.
3:9 What profit has the worker from that in which he labors?
- Thus, he is still pursuing the same theme.
3:10 I have seen the God-given task with which the sons of men are to be occupied.
- He speaks as in 1:13 on wisdom, but here looks at various things men do.
- Chart #10 - God-Given Tasks For Sons of Men
God has a time and purpose for everything.
God makes everything beautiful in its time.
God makes man curious about eternity.
God makes His works unfathomable for man.
God gives man the ability to rejoice and do good.
God gives man the capacity to enjoy the good of his labor.
God performs works that are permanent and perfect.
God cultivates our respect for Him.
God brings things about in fixed cycles.
God has a purpose regarding injustice and iniquity.
3:11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can
find out the work that God does from beginning to end.
- "Beautiful" - Can also be translated, "fitting" or "appropriate."
- This reminds us of the phrase, "...And God saw that it was good." (Gen. 1).
- Even so-called evil things (hurricanes, earthquakes, forest fires, etc.), God uses to accomplish His purposes.
- "Also, He has put eternity in their hearts" - The word for "eternity" is translated in many different ways, the most
common of which are "ever" and "everlasting."
- God caused men to be interested in His things; e.g., eternity, His world of creation.
- Man will labor and toil to find out more about it.
- Man's abilities are limited. There are many things about God's works that man will never know.
- Our finite minds cannot comprehend what God is bringing to pass in His wonderful works.
- Those who speak against God in adversity should learn to trust His providence.
- We need to trust the wisdom and sovereignty of God.
3:12-13 I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, and also that every man
should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor; it is the gift of God.
- "I know that nothing is better" - "I know that there is no good in them." (KJV).
- When man tries to rectify what is above his power, it will only serve to embitter his life.
- Thus, man would do better just to enjoy life.
- "It is the gift of God" - It is God's gift to man. It is good for us to remember this. James 1:17
- In accepting things as a gift from his Creator, even in an evil world, man is able to see good in his life.
3:14 I know that whatever God does, It shall be forever. Nothing can be added to it, and nothing taken from it. God
does it, that men should fear before Him.
- Whatever God does, unlike that done by man, is perfect and cannot be improved upon by man.
- Acknowledging God's enduring and perfect works becomes grounds for reverence and respect for Him.
- The theme, "the fear of God," also appears in 5:7; 8:12, 13; 12:13.
- Man's works, when compared to God's, are far inferior. 1 Cor. 3:19
- Man, therefore, should fear the Lord and make the best use of the blessings given to him.
- After reading twenty books on nutrition, I have found that the very best food for man is fruits and vegetables in
their natural state. In other words, if you want the best food you possibly can eat, it's raw fruits and vegetables. If
there is anything of any value in vitamins, man has to get it from the fruits and vegetables. Question: "Can man
improve upon what God has made?"
3:15 That which is has already been, and what is to be has already been; and God requires an account of what is
- The things that exist now will continue so long as the earth remains; e.g., of the physical elements that make up this
- "And God requires an account of what is past" - "God seeketh again that which is passed away." (ASV). "God makes the
same things happen again and again." (NCV).
- There is great balance of cycles with the things of God. He makes things return again in their proper order.
- The succession of events is ordered by God's laws, and He brings them about in fixed cycles.
3:16 Moreover I saw under the sun: In the place of judgment, wickedness was there; and in the place of
righteousness, iniquity was there.
The writer continues to interweave several different thoughts and quickly changes from one thought to another; yet, all of
his thoughts are working toward a central theme.
- Some of the great preachers of the pass preached in this fashion. At first, it would appear that their lesson had no
purpose, just a lot of rambling; but, at the end, one could see how all the points fit together to teach some
- So it is here, the writer keeps bringing in various ideas and repeats certain thoughts, but at the end, he will have
proven his conclusion. Eccl. 12:13-14; Matt. 6:33.
- There is much wickedness and injustice in the world, and it opposes all plans for happiness here.
- Evil in government is no new thing; thus, we should not get so overly concerned about it that we loose our
objective in life.
Chart #11 - What Purpose Does Injustice Have?
- God will ultimately deal with the matter (3:16-17).
- Realize that injustice reveals man's beast-like behavior (3:18).
- Death, an overshadowing reality (3:19-22).
- Hope beyond injustice:
- What is your unjust disadvantage? Application: (3:22a).
- We must replace destructive self-pity with active courage.
- Our example will have an impact on others.
3:17 I said in my heart, "God shall judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time there for every purpose
and for every work."
- God will judge the righteous and the wicked.
- God's judgment is another theme in Solomon's message. Eccl. 11:9; 12:14
- Often the word "judgment" is not used, but the writer keeps divine retribution before us.
- God may not judge the wicked as soon as we might like, but he will ultimately deal with the matter.
- God lets things happen that He might test man.
- God has for every undertaking and every work a fixed time. Eccl. 8:11-13
- If judgment instantly followed every sin, there would be no range of free will, faith, and obedience.
3:18 I said in my heart, "Concerning the condition of the sons of men, God tests them, that they may see that they
themselves are like animals."
- God does not bring an immediate judgment on man for his evil so that man will have time to see what type of being he
- God tests men and causes them to see their own limitations and weaknesses.
- We should recognize that all are under divine sovereignty and providence and make the best of life here.
3:19 For what happens to the sons of men also happens to animals; one thing befalls them: as one dies, so dies the
other. Surely, they all have one breath; man has no advantage over animals, for all is vanity.
The writer adds verses 19-21 to show that men are like beasts in that both die. Death was an overshadowing reality to our
- Taken out of context, one can teach all kinds of weird ideas.
- Materialists like this verse because it seems to be teaching that man is wholly mortal.
- However, the writer in context is still considering things from an earthly standpoint.
- There is a tremendous difference between man and beasts, but there are also many similarities.
- "No advantage over animals" - From the earthly standpoint, both die.
- When we leave out the spiritual values, man is absolutely in the same category as the beasts.
3:20 All go to one place: all are from the dust, and all return to dust.
- He is speaking here of the body. Gen. 3:19 was not said of the soul.
- The ultimate fate of man and beast is to die. Solomon isn't looking at eternal destinies, but rather at what all
earthly flesh shares in common.
- The following verse corrects any misapprehension about this verse.
3:21 Who knows the spirit of the sons of men, which goes upward, and the spirit of the animal, which goes down to
- Skeptics say that the preacher was a man struggling in a maze of doubt. I don't think so!
- "Who knows" is used in the sense of seeing, observing. No one can see the spirit of man go upward.
- The verse shows that the spirit of man ascends (it belongs to the heavenly), whereas the spirit of the beast
descends (it belongs to the earthly). Eccl. 12:7
- "Spirit" is one of those words like "soul" which has a long list of definitions. It includes "breath," "wind," "spirit," etc.
- In the KJV it is translated "spirit" 232 times, "wind" 92 times, and "breath" 27 times. The context determines the
- False teachers capitalize on this in order to teach their doctrines; e.g., they isolate one meaning (definition) to the
exclusion of all others.
3:22 So I perceived that nothing is better than that a man should rejoice in his own works, for that is his heritage.
For who can bring him to see what will happen after him?
- He is not saying that man should live for this world only, but a proper use of his works must be made now (in this life),
for it cannot be done later (in the next life).
- "For who can bring him to see" - The answer to his questions is: "None" as in Eccl. 9:5-6.
- Once again, death becomes the overshadowing reality. Heb. 9:27
This chart summarizes what we have studied up to this point and adds a few thoughts.
Chart #12 - A Futile Life of Few Years
- The Despaired Philosopher
- The Funny Clown
- The Pleasure Mad
- The Energetic Builder
- The Industrious Worker
- The Unjust Society
(These will be added to our list as we continue our study).
- The Oppressed Victim
- The Reclusive Worker
- The Disillusioned Ruler
- The Popularity Seeker
(It is All a Struggle of Anguish & Pain).
(It Compels Us to Come to Terms with Reality).
(It Causes Us to Look toward Higher Values).
Chart #13 - A Realistic Appraisal
- Oppressive conditions (4:1-3).
- Envious of possessions (4:4-6).
- Personal futility (4:7-8)
- A relevant parable (Luke 12:13-21).
- Some applications:
- Are you telling yourself the truth about possessions?
- Are you heeding God's warnings about priorities?
4:1 Then I returned and considered all the oppression that is done under the sun: and look! The tears of the
oppressed, but they have no comforter; on the side of their oppressors there is power, but they have no comforter.
- Our writer now describes how vanity is shown by the sad lot of the oppressed.
- The power (authority, force) lies on the side of the oppressor.
- It is sad that the oppressed have many tears and there is no one to comfort them.
4:2 Therefore I praised the dead who were already dead, more than the living who are still alive.
- He seems to be in despair because of all the wickedness he sees.
- He praised the dead more than the living.
- Job felt the same because of his bitterness. Job 3:11-22
- We can especially "praise the dead more than the living" if they had lived a righteous life. Eccl. 7:1; Rev. 14:13
- Often when people have physical pain and/or circumstances so terrible that they prefer death, they are looking only
from the earthly standpoint.
- Far many, eternal torment will be exceedingly much worse.
4:3 Yet, better than both is he who has never existed, who has not seen the evil work that is done under the sun.
- "Better than both" - Better than both the living and the dead is the one who never existed.
- Jesus made the statement regarding Judas that it was better if he had not been born. Matt. 26:24
- This would be true of any person who goes to eternal torment.
- Again, the writer of Ecclesiastes seems to be in despair because of the oppression which he sees.
- These sufferings make life here on earth full of vanity and futility.
4:4 Again, I saw that for all toil and every skillful work a man is envied by his neighbor. This also is vanity and
grasping for the wind.
- There are a lot of evils associated with "all toil and every skillful work."
- If one is successful and prospers because of his hard work, he is envied by his neighbor.
- Also, a lot of things people try to do and obtain is because he is envious of his neighbor.
- In other words, his neighbor has them and, thus, he wants them.
- We need to consider how empty and vain all this truly is, and rise above it. Heb. 13:5-6
4:5 The fool folds his hands and consumes his own flesh.
- This is the other extreme.
- "Fold his hands" - This is an expression used regarding the lazy. Prov. 24:33-34; 6:6-11
- "Consumes his own flesh" - He destroys himself.
- He strongly desires, but won't put forth the effort to obtain what he desires. Prov. 21:25-26
4:6 Better is a handful with quietness than both hands full, together with toil and grasping for the wind.
- Notice that he now adds Proverbs to his teaching in this book.
- "Better is a handful with quietness" - Prov. 15:16-17; 16:8; 17:1
- Because of covetousness, we often want more.
- A quite, peaceful, happy, contented life is of great value, far greater than the life that most people live today.
4:7 Then I returned, and I saw vanity under the sun:
- Again, he went goes to viewing things under the sun.
- He again carefully analyzes all the vain things going on here on earth.
- The toil and struggle for satisfaction and happiness on the part of most people in temporal things will prove empty and
disappointing in the end.
4:8 There is one alone, without companion: he has neither son nor brother. Yet there is no end to all his labors, nor
is his eye satisfied with riches. But he never asks, "For whom do I toil and deprive myself of good?" This also is
vanity and a grave misfortune.
- It is vanity for one to work himself to death and deprive himself of good.
- People who get ulcers, have heart attacks, or nervous breakdowns, etc., often learn this lesson.
- Some are blessed with a "wake-up call" and they change their lives for good.
- If he has no one to share the good of his labor with (neither son nor brother), why does he keep up his endless toil and
deprive himself of good?
- Many never stop to think or consider, "Why am I doing this?"
- This is especially true in spiritual things.
- "A grave misfortune" - It is a hard, wearisome, tedious travail for nothing.
In Eccl. 4:9-12, the writer teaches that "two are better than one." By applying his advice, along with other Biblical
principles, we learn the cure for loneliness.
Chart #14 - One Plus One Equals Survival
- Some Common Cries of the Lonely.
- "Why don't people love me and help me with my problems?"
- "If only others realized how difficult things are!"
- "Nobody really cares; I'm all alone in this!"
- Some Survival Counsel for the Lonely.
- "Two are better than one."
- "Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their labor."
- Some reasons two are better than one.
- One provides encouragement when the other is weak.
- One gives support when the other is vulnerable.
- One supplies protection when the other is attacked.
- Some Biblical Examples.
- Naomi and Ruth. (Companions build bridges of hope and reassurance).
- Elijah and Elisha. (Companions help calm the troubled waters).
- David and Jonathan. (Companions take our part when others try to take us apart).
- Jesus and John. (Companions help us to grow in the grace of God).
4:9 Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor.
- He emphasizes the advantages of companionship over solitude.
- God stated this in the very beginning. Gen. 2:18
- Man is basically a socialable being.
- We really cannot enjoy life to its fullest as loners.
- People were created to need other people; we cannot fill that need from within ourselves.
4:10 For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to
help him up.
- The writer is not just addressing marriage here, but is including all kinds of companionships. It is better to share our life
with another person rather than "go it alone."
- The right kind of friends and companions are very beneficial.
- The local church is God's temporary arrangement which He ordained for the good of his children while they live
here on earth.
- When this world ends, the local church will no longer exist.
4:11 Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; but how can one be warm alone?
- Think of how well this applies to husband and wife.
- A family moved from a small house into a new large one which had bedrooms for each of the children. The
youngest daughter was telling someone how wonderful it was for everyone to have their own bedroom. She then
said, with great sadness, "But we still don't have a bedroom for mom; she's still stuck with dad."
- Also, there are many stories of people who have been stranded in the cold, but who hovered together and kept from
4:12 Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly
- Two can usually withstand one. Psalm 127:5
- We can apply this thought concerning the sending of preachers into hard places. Luke 10:1; Acts 13:2-3; 18:5
- "And a threefold cord is not quickly broken" - Strong ropes are made up of small strands. The small strands working
together make a strong unit.
- We can apply this thought to unity. "United we stand; divided we fall." John 13:35 ; Psalm 133:1
Chart #15 - The Vanity of High Station
- Solomon tells a little story.
- Here is a poor child. He comes out of prison to become king. For a while he enjoys popularity with the multitudes.
However, the time soon comes when he has no more popularity than the old and foolish king who preceded him.
- The land is better off with a lad who is wise than with a king who has become foolish and no longer accepts advice
or counsel. vs. 13
- He rises from unlikely circumstances to become king and supplants the one who already had control. vs. 14
- The people were with their new king. vs. 15
- In one breath one reads of the multitude thronging to his side and singing his praises, and in the next, they
are no longer happy or satisfied with his rule. vs. 16
- He declares, "Surely, this, too, is vanity!"
4:13 Better a poor and wise youth than an old and foolish king who will be admonished no more.
- This is also true of anyone who will no longer be admonished. Prov. 9:8-9; 26:12,16
- A poor and wise child can be a great asset to the Lord's church.
4:14 For he comes out of prison to be king, although he was born poor in his kingdom.
- He should remember his roots, and be grateful for his blessings.
4:15 I saw all the living who walk under the sun; they were with the second youth who stands in his place.
- The "second youth" probably stands for the next one to reign after the king, or the next generation.
- In his observations of people and conditions, he considered more than one generation.
4:16 There was no end of all the people over whom he was made king; yet those who come afterward will not rejoice
in him. Surely this also is vanity and grasping for the wind.
- "No end of all the people" - There was an exceedingly large population in the days of Solomon.
- Consider the billions who now live on earth.
- "Yet those who come afterward will not rejoice in him" - One's popularity is soon lost.
- Many people's goal in life is to be popular and obtain notoriety. If they can't do it through good means, they will
do it through an evil way.
- There is much vanity in trying to obtain popularity and notoriety among men.
- This vain world wants to be rich and famous, but those things have no value for the soul.
5:1 Walk prudently when you go to the house of God; and draw near to hear rather than to give the sacrifice of
fools, for they do not know that they do evil.
He now adds a few more things to his list.
Chart #16 - The Futile Life of Few Years
-- The Despaired Philosopher
-- The Funny Clown
-- The Pleasure Mad
-- The Energetic Builder
-- The Industrious Worker
-- The Unjust Society
-- The Oppressed Victim
-- The Reclusive Worker
-- The Disillusioned Ruler
-- The Popularity Seeker
-- The False Worshiper
-- The Unsatisfied Acquirer
(It's All a Struggle of Anguish and Pain)
(It Compels Us to Come to Terms with Reality)
(It Causes Us to Look toward Higher Values)
Chart #17 - Acceptable Worship (Eccl. 5:1-7)
- Watch your step; listen well; avoid foolish worship. Vs. 1
- Watch rash and hastily uttered statements; God is above all. Vs. 2
- Stop daydreaming; stop chattering; fear God. Vss. 3, 7
- If you make a commitment, keep it. Vss. 4-5
- Don't promise now and excuse yourself later.
- Why welcome or invite the disfavor of God? Vs. 6
- "Walk prudently" - "Keep thy foot" (KJV). We would say, "Watch your step."
- Be careful in what you do when you go to worship.
- "Draw near to hear" - The listener has a fearful responsibility in his worship.
- "The sacrifice of fools, for they do not know what they do." - Fools just give any type of performance in the name of
- One is a fool when he engages in an unauthorized practice. Much in worship today is nothing but ceremonial
traditions of men.
- Regarding "the sacrifice of fools," see Prov. 15:8; 21:3; 1 Sam. 15:22; Psalm 51:16-17.
5:2 Do not be rash with your mouth, and let not your heart utter anything hastily before God. For God is in heaven,
and you on earth; therefore let your words be few.
- "Do not be rash with your mouth" - Be careful to not make rash (reckless, unwise) statements in your utterances before
- "Let not your heart utter anything hastily before God." - One should not be unduly hasty in what he says before God;
e.g., in his prayers.
- "For God is in heaven" - We need to understand our place. God is an awesome God who must be revered and feared.
- God ought to be approached with carefully weighed words by His frail creatures on earth.
5:3 For a dream comes through much activity, and a fool's voice is known by his many words.
- Excessive activity (much industry, business, and labor) will so weigh on one's mind that he will dream about it.
- Those who talk too much will make a fool out of themselves eventually. Eccl. 10:12-15
- We must give careful thought to what we say to God in our prayers.
- We must avoid vain repetitions. Matt. 6:7
- We must always pray with reverence and respect. Matt. 6:9
5:4 When you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it; for He has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you have vowed;
- A "vow" is "a solemn promise, pledge, or personal commitment." (Webster)
- Vows were not commanded, but were allowed on a personal basis and were so regulated. Deut. 23:21-23; Num.
- In the New Testament, we are commanded to not swear or take oaths. Matt. 5:33-37; James 5:12
- "For He has no pleasure in fools." - God would have no pleasure in the one who makes a solemn promise to Him and
fails to keep it.
5:5 Better not to vow than to vow and not pay.
- Common sense would also attest to this.
- Remember Jephthah's rash vow. Judges 11.
5:6 Do not let your mouth cause your flesh to sin, nor say before the messenger of God that it was an error. Why
should God be angry at your excuse and destroy the work of your hands?
- Don't over promise yourself, for when you can't repay, it causes sin.
- "The messenger of God" - This probably refers to the priest, before whom the violation of a vow had to be confessed.
Lev. 5:4-6; Mal. 2:7
- Don't over-promise yourself and then say, "It was an error."
- Why welcome or invite the disfavor of God?
- All promises to God have serious implications.
5:7 For in the multitude of dreams and many words there is also vanity. But fear God.
- Do not live in a world of dreams, fantasies, and empty words. Be realistic, be sober. 1 Thess. 5:6; Titus 2:2-6; 2 Pet.
1:13; 4:7; 5:8
- "Sober" means "to be calm, serious, collected in spirit." (Thayer)
- "But fear God." - In all things we must keep our place, and respect our Maker.
- Worship, speech, and promises which have no forethought stem from a lack of respect and reverence for God.
Chart #18 - Words of Wisdom To All (Eccl. 5:8-12)
- Those who oppress the poor must answer to officials in higher positions than themselves. Vs. 8
- The profit of the land is for all. Vs. 9
- Greed and materialism have no satisfying limits. Vs. 10
- With increased money and possessions comes an accelerated number of people and worries. Vss. 10-11
- More money, more people; more people, more worries; more worries, less sleep.
5:8 If you see the oppression of the poor, and the violent perversion of justice and righteousness in a province, do
not marvel at the matter; for high official watches over high official, and higher officials are over them.
- Those powerful people who oppress the poor must answer to officials in more powerful positions than themselves.
- Furthermore, there is a God who watches and cares; He will arise at the proper time. Psalm 12:5; 37:1-2; Prov.
22:22-23; James 5:4
- He is not saying that we should completely ignore evil. However, many think that the main objective in life should be the
correcting of certain social ills. This also is vanity.
5:9 Moreover the profit of the land is for all; even the king is served from the field.
- The basic blessings of life are freely given to all by our Creator. James 1:17
- A poor individual can have a garden of his own and eat like a king.
- We all are dependent on the plants to sustain physical life.
5:10 He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver; nor he who loves abundance, with increase. This also is
- Greed and materialism have no satisfying limits.
- Truly, "The more they get; the more they want."
- There are many evils associated with love of money and/or what money can buy. 1 Tim. 6:9-10
5:11 When goods increase, they increase who eat them; so what profit have the owners except to see them with their
- When someone employs a number of helpers to increase his production, as is often he case, there are only more to eat up
- In others words, when one's production increases, his expenses increase.
- "So what profit have the owners except to see them with their eyes?"
- The American way is often, as someone said, "I started a business with only a few dollars, but now I'm a million
dollars in debt."
- This is true of far more than those who are actually successful in starting and/or running a business.
5:12 The sleep of a laboring man is sweet, whether he eats little or much; but the abundance of the rich will not
permit him to sleep.
- "The sleep of a laboring man is sweet" - Psalm 4:8; 127:2; Prov. 3:24; Acts 12:6
- The laboring people who are contented with the simple things of life, who work hard for their necessities and are
grateful for them, are certainly more pleasing to God than the rich who spend their time in pursuing riches.
- "But the abundance of the rich will not permit him to sleep." - His riches bring worries of all kinds. He is fearful of losing
Chart #19 - Grievous Evils to Remember (Eccl. 5:13-17)
- Riches can be to one's hurt. Vs. 13
- They can be lost no matter how tightly one tries to hang on to them. Vs. 14
- We brought nothing into this world and we will carry nothing out. Vs. 15
- We can only take the spiritual with us. 2 Tim. 1:12; 1 Tim. 6:17-19; Matt. 6:19-21
- It is foolish for one to wear himself out gathering possessions which he will not take with him. Vss. 16-17
- All of his days he has much sorrow, sickness, and anger - especially when he devotes all of his time, strength, and
energy to pursuing things of this world.
5:13 There is a severe evil which I have seen under the sun: riches kept for their owner to his hurt.
- Many place affections on their riches, and live in poverty rather than using them.
- Some have riches, but are not able to enjoy them. Eccl. 6:2
- Also, many allow their riches to destroy their souls.
- James describes those whose wealth will witness against them at the judgment. James 5:1-6
- The rich young ruler allowed wealth to hinder him from following the Lord. Mark 10:17-31
5:14 But those riches perish through misfortune; when he begets a son, there is nothing in his hand.
- Wealth can be quickly lost. Prov. 23:5
- "When he begets a son, there is nothing in his hand." - He had thought that by well-guarded wealth he has secured the
future for his son, but now he must leave him empty handed.
- Through misfortune, his son is born to be the heir of poverty.
5:15 As he came from his mother's womb, naked shall he return, to go as he came; and he shall take nothing from
his labor which he may carry away in his hand.
- Everyone is physically bankrupt at death. Job 1:21; Psalm 49:16-17; 1 Tim. 6:7
- The only thing we will take with us is our heavenly treasures. Matt. 6:19-20; Luke 12:33; 1 Tim. 6:17-19; 2 Tim. 1:12
5:16 And this also is a severe evil; just exactly as he came, so shall he go. And what profit has he who has labored
for the wind?
- "A severe evil" - He is not criticizing God's ways for humanity, but is showing that it is foolish for one to wear himself
out gathering wealth which he is not able to take with him.
- "And what profit has he who labored for the wind?" - Answer: "None, so far as this world is concerned.
5:17 All his days he also eats in darkness, and he has much sorrow and sickness and anger.
- This is especially true when one devotes all of his time and strength to pursuing the things of this world.
- All of us will have some "sorrow, sickness, and anger," even with a life devoted to God; but even more so, to
those who's chief goal is to have wealth.
5:18 Here is what I have seen: It is good and fitting for one to eat and drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labor in
which he toils under the sun all the days of his life which God gives him; for it is his heritage.
- "Here is what I have seen." - His conclusion is stated after considering the vanity of hoarding wealth.
- "To enjoy the good" - Thus, he again gives exhortation to enjoy the fruits of one's labor.
- It is wonderful, pleasant, and proper for one to enjoy, with moderation and contentment, that which God gives.
- "For it is heritage." - Thus, as has often been shown, God wants man to enjoy life.
- Man not only has a right, but God wants him to enjoy the fruits of his labor during his short pilgrimage here on
5:19 As for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, and given him power to eat of it, to receive his
heritage and rejoice in his labor; this is the gift of God.
- Some, through covetousness and greed, miss the joy God intended for man.
- The one, who through no evil means, acquires riches and wealth, and enjoys them, must consider them as a gift from
- This one has truly been blessed by God.
- All of us have been blessed in various ways and we need to be thankful.
5:20 For he will not dwell unduly on the days of his life, because God keeps him busy with the joy of his heart.
- This enjoyment that God gives man helps him to forget the dark, unhappy side of life.
- We should be happy and make the best of our few years here on earth.
- It is a wonderful thing to discover God's answer for living.
6:1 There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, and it is common among men:
- In this chapter, he continues to show the vanity of all worldly pursuits.
- He continues to state the sad evils which cling to wealth.
Chart #21 - Enlargement of a Common Portrait
- Given riches, wealth & honor
(God does not give power to enjoy)
- Begets many children, lives many years
(His soul is not satisfied with goodness; he has no burial)
- Even if he lives 2,000 years
(But he has not seen goodness)
A STILLBORN CHILD IS BETTER THAN HE
Enlargement of a Self Portrait
Are you a victim of this evil under the sun?
Why not lay claim to joy, peace and happiness?
Do you constantly keep in mind that we are all headed to the same place?
6:2 A man to whom God has given riches and wealth and honor, so that he lacks nothing for himself of all he
desires; yet God does not give him power to eat of it, but a foreigner consumes it. This is vanity, and it is an evil
- God has not only given him riches and wealth, but "honor," e.g., a place of respect in his community.
- Even though he has all that his heart desires, he is not enjoying it.
- The possessions, plus the ability and opportunity to enjoy, are the gift of God.
- "But a foreigner consumes it." - One not in the family, perhaps a servant, is the one who is enjoying it.
- Many are happy without wealth, but few are happy with wealth they cannot use.
- "An evil affliction" - It is an evil affliction (disease, curse) for one to have wealth and honor and another, not he, enjoys it.
- There are many things of this world which people think will fulfill their lives, but in the end they prove to be
6:3 If a man begets a hundred children and lives many years, so that the days of his years are many, but his soul is
not satisfied with goodness, or indeed he has no burial, I say that a stillborn child is better than he;
- Even if he has many children, and lives many years, but gets no good out of life, what advantage is it?
- These additional blessings will not produce the joy for which he is looking.
- "Indeed he has no burial" - It is a dishonor among all cultures to not have a decent burial.
- "A stillborn child is better than he" - This points to what David and Jesus said. 2 Sam. 12:23; Luke 18:16
- Also, it points to the fact that one has a soul (is a person) before he is born; thus, showing that abortion is sinful.
6:4 for it comes in vanity and departs in darkness, and its name is covered with darkness.
- The premature infant never saw the sun, but he also never saw the empty turmoil experienced by man.
6:5 Though it has not seen the sun or known anything, this has more rest than that man,
- This, again, indicates that the infant who dies goes to the place of rest.
6:6 even if he lives a thousand years twice; but has not seen goodness. Do not all go to one place?
- "One place" - This refers again to the grave, the death of the body.
- Though he lives 2,000 years, he will finally come to his death and leave all earthly goods behind.
6:7 All the labor of man is for his mouth, and yet the soul is not satisfied.
Chart #22 - A Few Added Details
Intensified labor does not bring satisfaction to man's vain life. 6:7
No individual has "more" than another person. 6:8
It's better to be content with what we have than to crave what we don't have. 6:9
One must realize that he is just a human being the same as other human beings. God is sovereign. 6:10
The more one seeks for the chief good out of things here, the more he increases failure. 6:11
Mere men do not know what the chief good in life is. They don't know what's in the future. 6:12
Details In the Self Portrait
Are you trying to find "the chief good" by working hard?
Aren't we all human beings headed to the same destination?
Isn't it better to enjoy the present good than to vainly desire more good?
Men are inconsistent, weak, unfaithful, and limited in knowledge. God is consistent, mighty, faithful, and all-knowing.
Shall we continue to be frustrated, bewildered, and disillusioned about life?
We must listen to God.
- "All the labor of man is for his mouth, and yet the soul is not satisfied." - Man earnestly struggles for something which
will never be satisfied.
- Man's basic purpose for laboring is to feed himself, and he will never find an end to this struggle.
- Again, he paints a picture of uselessness and emptiness.
- It is also true of every appetite of man. Regardless of what he might enjoy; he still desires more, and is
6:8 For what more has the wise man than the fool? What does the poor man have, who knows how to walk before
- He wants the answer, "Nothing." - They both have the same unsatisfied appetites.
- They both are headed to the same destination, the death of the body.
- "Who knows how to walk before the living" - For example, the poor man knows how to maintain a social position, but
what good is it?
- He, too, has the same unsatisfied appetites as the rich man.
6:9 Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of desire. This also is vanity and grasping for the wind.
- His words are similar to the old saying, "One bird in the hand is better than two in the bush."
- It is better to be content with what we have than to crave things we don't have.
- It is better to enjoy the present good than to vainly desire more good.
- One should make the most of his present situation, rather than having wandering desire for that which probably will never
- The chasing of rainbows is vanity and grasping for the wind.
6:10 Whatever one is, he has been named already, for it is known that he is man; and he cannot contend with Him
who is mightier than he.
- The nature of man does not change.
- Man's ability to speak long and loud does not change his nature.
- A man must know that he is just a man, the same as other men.
- He should never lift himself up so as to contend with God. Job 9:32; Rom. 9:20
- Job demanded a hearing with God, but when God appeared and asked him many hard questions, he abhored
himself and repented. Job 42:1-6
- Finite man can never contend against the infinite God.
6:11 Since there are many things that increase vanity, how is man the better?
- The more he seeks for the chief good out of the things here on earth, the more he increases his failure.
- "How is man the better?" - How are the many endeavors of this life an advantage to man?
- How do they benefit the one who is living for them alone?
6:12 For who knows what is good for man in life, all the days of his vain life which he passes like a shadow? Who
can tell a man what will happen after him under the sun?
- Again, he is looking at things from the earthly standpoint.
- Human beings do not have the answer as to what is best for man in life. They only think they do.
- "He passes like a shadow" - "Passing like a shadow" is a Biblical expression for the brief, transitory, fleeting nature of
one's earthly life.
- Since man does not know what's in the future, he should listen to God.
- Inasmuch as we do not know the future, we cannot adequately judge regarding God's providential management of
the affairs of men.
- Man should submit to God and enjoy with moderation the good which God has given him.
7:1 A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of one's birth;
- Chapter 7 begins a rather long section of lessons taught by Proverbs. He is still pursuing his quest for the chief good.
Chart #23 - A Change in Scenery - Proverbs
Bible Proverbs - "Practical words of wisdom dealing with every aspect of living a God-fearing life."
- Contrastive couplets. Proverbs that fall under this category are composed to two parts that are usually connected with
the terms but or nevertheless. Here are some examples:
"A wise son heeds his father's instruction, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke." (Prov. 13:1)
"By pride comes only contention, but with the well advised is wisdom." (Prov. 13:10)
- Completive couplets. This type of proverb brings two similar or parallel thoughts together with the words and or so.
"The heart knows its own bitterness, and a stranger does not share its joy." (Prov. 14:10)
"Even in laughter the heart may sorrow, and the end of mirth may be grief." (Prov. 14:13)
- Comparative couplets. These proverbs link two ideas with the terms better/than or like/so.
"It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise than for a man to hear the song of fools. (Eccl. 7:5)
"As cold water to a weary soul, so is good news from a far country." (Prov. 25:25)
- "A good name is better" - Prov. 22:1; Eccl. 10:1; 1 Tim. 6:6
- "The day of one's death, than the day of one's birth." - Worldly people rejoice at a birth and mourn at a death.
- "Better is the day of one's death" is especially true of the Christian who has lived a godly life. Rev. 14:13; Psalm
7:2 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 take it to heart.
- It is better to go to a funeral than to go to a party.
- There is no lasting value in going to the house of feasting.
- "And the living will take it to heart" - It vividly reminds him that he, too, will die.
- It will cause him to seriously consider his end.
The following charts, hopefully, will help us keep our minds focused on the verses.
Chart #24 - Wise Counsel #1
"A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of one's birth." 7:1
"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 take it to heart." 7:2
"Sorrow is better than laughter, for by a sad countenance the heart is made better." 7:3
"The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth." 7:4
"It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise than for a man to hear the song of fools." 7:5
"For like the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool. This also is vanity." 7:6
"Surely oppression destroys a wise man's reason, and a bribe debases the heart." 7:7
7:3 Sorrow is better than laughter, for by a sad countenance the heart is made better.
- The word "sorrow" can also be translated "anger" or "indignation."
- The word "sorrow" best fits his comments in the latter part of the verse.
- "By a sad countenance the heart is made better." - Repentance is implied because his sadness results in his heart being
made happy. 2 Cor. 7:9-10; James 4:8-10
7:4 The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.
- Death is never far removed from the mind of our writer, neither should it be from us.
- The fool is interested only in pleasure. The reverses is true also: "Those who are interested only in pleasure are fools."
7:5 It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise than for a man to hear the song of fools.
- Psalm 141:5; Prov. 9:8-9; 12:1; 17:10; 27:5-6
- Many do not appreciate when others try to show them their sin or error. They hate, even despise, others who show
them to be wrong.
- "Song of fools" - The praise and flattery of fools is senseless, useless, and void of spiritual benefit.
7:6 For like the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool. This also is vanity.
- When thorns or twigs are burned, they make a lot of noise, but give very little heat.
- Likewise, the laughter of the fool is loud, meaningless, and has no lasting value.
- In contrast, logs burn making very little noise, but give much comfort.
- "This also is vanity." - He has considered, and effectually continues to do so, the futility and emptiness of all earthly
pursuits and endeavors.
7:7 Surely oppression destroys a wise man's reason, and a bribe debases the heart.
- The wise cannot understand why people oppress one another.
- "A bribe debases the heart." - A good person hates to receive a gift that he doesn't deserve.
- Those who accept bribes know in their hearts that they are hypocrites.
Chart #25 - Wise Counsel #2
"The end of a thing is better than its beginning, and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit." 7:8
"Do not hasten in your spirit to be angry, for anger rests in the bosom of fools." 7:9
"Do not say, `Why were the former days better than these?' For you do not inquire wisely concerning this." 7:10
7:8 The end of a thing is better than its beginning; the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.
- It is better to look back on an accomplishment than to look forward to a new project.
- "The patient in spirit is better" - James 1:4; 1 Pet. 5:5
- The patient will wait to see how things develop before any foolish moves are made. 1 Kings 20:11
7:9 Do not hasten in your spirit to be angry, for anger rests in the bosom of fools.
- A quick temper is the earmark of a fool. James 1:19-20
- It is human nature, (an evil even in very small children), to be angered quickly, but true Christians learn to control anger.
Mark 3:5; Eph. 4:26
- They learn to use it to their advantage; e.g., in combating sin and error.
7:10 Do not say, "Why were the former days better than these?" For you do not inquire wisely concerning this.
- Every age has its bright and dark sides. The tendency is to forget the evils of the past, and to think they were better.
- In many ways "the good old days" were not all that good.
- We must make the best of our situation as it is now.
Chart #26 - What Wisdom? Academic achievements?
Let us lay claim to God's wisdom. (1 Cor. 1:30; Col. 2:3; 1 Cor. 2:6-7).
God gives us wisdom so that we can view life objectively and handle it rightly.Regarding balance: Is wisdom guarding me
Regarding strength: Is wisdom keeping me stable?
Regarding insight: Is wisdom clearing my mind to see what is important in life?
Regarding the practical: Do I have wisdom regarding everyday practical living?
7:11 Wisdom is good with an inheritance, and profitable to those who see the sun.
- "Good with an inheritance" - "Good as an inheritance" (Footnote). The original Hebrew permits both of these
- He has many good things to say about wisdom in the following verses.
- The spiritual inheritance of instruction in divine wisdom is the best that one can receive or give.
7:12 For wisdom is a defense as money is a defense, but the excellence of knowledge is that wisdom gives life to those
who have it.
- "Defense" - A means or method of defending or resisting.
- Just as there is power in money, there is also power in wisdom.
- For example, if one has cash to pay for something, he has much greater bargaining power.
- "But the excellence of knowledge" - This is why knowledge is favorable and important.
- "Wisdom gives life" - It preserves life; makes life better here.
- It helps find spiritual life, which is the excellency of knowledge.
Chart #27 - Consider the Work of God:
- There are a lot of things man cannot change. 7:13
- God causes all individuals to go through the school of life. 7:14
7:13 Consider the work of God; for who can make straight what He has made crooked?
- When man carefully and honestly considers various aspects of his life, he sees that he is totally dependent on God. Acts
- Man must eat, sleep, breath, etc. and without these, he perishes.
- There are a lot of things which men cannot change. Job 9:12; 34:29; Isa. 14:27
7:14 In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: surely God has appointed the one as
well as the other, so that man can find out nothing that will come after him.
- "God has appointed the one as well as the other" - God causes all people to experience the good and evil things of this
- He wants all of us to pass through the same school of life.
- "So that man can find out nothing that will come after him." - When one dies, he understands that there is nothing
outstanding which he has not experienced.
- Thus, we all are basically equal in our relation to this life and God.
Chart #28 - Things He Has Seen in His Days of Vanity:
- Inequities - 7:15
- Extremist - 7:16-17
- Fear of God is the way of escape - 7:18
- Relying on wisdom is better than relying on men - 7:19-20
7:15 I have seen everything in my days of vanity: there is a just man who perishes in his righteousness, and there is
a wicked man who prolongs life in his wickedness.
- One of the perplexing things in life.
- Our writer knows it shall not be well with the wicked in the end. Eccl. 8:12-13
- King David wrote a rather long Psalm (Psalm 37) showing that we should not be envious of evil doers.
- Christians must never be discouraged, God will make all things right in the end.
7:16 Do not be overly righteous, nor be overly wise: why should you destroy yourself?
- One can be overly righteous in two ways:
- He can be self-righteous. Luke 18:10-14
- He can take too much upon himself and destroy his health.
- "Overly wise" - A wisdom that promotes pride is an exaggerated wisdom. Isa. 5:21
- 1 Cor. 8:1 says, "Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies."
7:17 Do not be overly wicked, nor be foolish: why should you die before your time?
- He is not recommending a certain moderation of wickedness.
- God does not encourage the slightest degree of wickedness.
- Our writer, as he has always done in his book, is looking at wickedness from the worldly standpoint.
- Even the one who doesn't claim to be righteous, should not be overly wicked.
- One can shorten his time for death; e.g., by smoking.
7:18 It is good that you grasp this, and also not remove your hand from the other; for he who fears God will escape
- He emphasizes how important it is for us to grasp his point about fearing God.
- "Will escape them all" - "Shall come forth with both of them" (NASV); e.g., with both righteousness and wisdom.
- There are manifold blessings in fearing God. Prov. 10:27; 14:26-27; 16:6; 19:23; 22:4; 1 Pet. 3:10-12
- An application question: "What does one have when he does not fear God?"
7:19 Wisdom strengthens the wise more than ten rulers of the city.
- Some have used this to sustain the later date; e.g., "ten rulers often ruled Hellenistic towns."
- However, it represents "completeness." Wisdom is better than the accumulated strength of ten men. Prov. 21:11;
7:20 For there is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin.
- Rom. 3:12, 23
- Wisdom eliminates the evils of self-righteousness. We all are sinners and in need of God's grace.
Chart #29 - The Insights Wisdom Offers:
- People often say things they don't mean. 7:21-22
- Man cannot know everything. 7:23-25
- There is nothing more bitter than an evil woman. 7:26
- A "good" person is hard to find. 7:27-28
- Wicked people are plentiful. 7:29
7:21 Also do not take to heart everything people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you.
- It is foolish to pursue every tidbit of information.
- To be suspicious of evil is not love. 1 Cor. 13:4-8
- There are a lot of things we should keep to ourselves.
- If it comes to a head, deal with it, but until then, it is better to ignore it.
7:22 For many times, also, your own heart has known that even you have cursed others.
- Consider your own weaknesses; don't expect more out of others than you do yourself.
- People often say things they don't mean, and it would be better to ignore it rather than stirring up trouble about it.
- People often murmur against a teacher. The teacher in many cases should take it with a grain of salt. He shouldn't
let petty complaints discourage him.
- When questioned about a matter that has come to light, make a rigid stand for truth.
7:23 All this I have proved by wisdom. I said, "I will be wise"; but it was far from me.
- "All this" - Everything in his book had been tested by his wisdom.
- "But it was far from me." - Man is very limited by his wisdom. The more one studies and seeks after wisdom, the more he
- Also, he quickly forgets what he has learned.
7:24 As for that which is far off and exceedingly deep, who can find it out?
- See also Eccl. 8:17.
- The deepest problems and highest questions remain unanswered by man's own wisdom. For example, "Where did
we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going?"
- Man has the answers through divine revelation.
- The Bible holds numerous answers to what would otherwise be perplexing riddles.
- What many people diligently seek to discover, the Christian already knows.
7:25 I applied my heart to know, to search and seek out wisdom and the reason of things, to know the wickedness of
folly, even of foolishness and madness.
- This is not a new quest. Eccl. 1:17; 2:3,12
- He wants to know the "why" behind the behavior of men.
- Some people think that a reckless, wicked life is the course to follow.
- Our writer has examined such and found it to be exceedingly vain.
7:26 And I find more bitter than death the woman whose heart is snares and nets, whose hands are fetters. He who
pleases God shall escape from her, but the sinner shall be trapped by her.
- An evil, adulterous woman can do a lot of damage to the men she ensnares. The righteous, however, are not destroyed by
- Much is said about evil women in the book of Proverbs. Prov. 5:3-4; 6:24-26, 32; 7:6-27; 12:4; 30:20
- Much is also said about good women in the book of Proverbs. Prov. 11:16; 12:4a; 14:1; 31:10-31
7:27-28 "Here is what I have found," says the Preacher, "Adding one thing to the other to find out the reason,
which my soul still seeks but I cannot find: one man among a thousand I have found, but a woman among all these I
have not found.
- From his own observations, he discovered fewer wise women than men.
- He found one wise men in a thousand, but not one good woman.
- This thought best fits Solomon's life and, again, shows him to be the writer of the book.
- He had a thousand women (1 Kings 11:1-3), but he didn't find a wise woman among all of them.
- He would have done a lot better by finding one godly woman and marrying her and none other. Neh. 13:26
- His conclusion was that wise, righteous people are scarce.
7:29 Truly, this only I have found: that God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes."
- "Truly" - "Lo" or "Behold." Again, he wants our attention on this.
- "Upright" - Man was made in God's own image, but man doesn't measure up to his prototype.
- "Many schemes" - Many "inventions" or "devices."
- In contrast to "upright," it implies evil devices.
- Men in general are evil. Gen. 6:5; Rom. 1:28-31
- He has been, and continues to be, diligent in devising many ways of committing sin; e.g., sexual sins,
- Man's evil is not a result of some arbitrary decree of God, but is a result of his own free will to choose to be
8:1 Who is like a wise man? And who knows the interpretation of a thing? A man's wisdom makes his face shine,
and the sternness of his face is changed.
Chart #30 - Who is a Wise Person?
- A cheerful disposition. 8:1
- Loyalty. 8:2-3
- A discreet mouth. 8:4
- Keen judgment. 8:5-7
- He knows that he will die. 8:8
- "And who knows the interpretation of a thing?" - He is still pursuing his theme from natural observations and experiences
- "Face shine" - He has a cheerful heart and his face reflects it.
- "The sternness of his face is changed" - As he grows in wisdom, he has more confidence in himself, and this, too, is
reflected in his countenance.
8:2 I say, "Keep the king's commandment for the sake of your oath to God.
- There has been some question whether this refers to God or to the earthly king. The context here best applies to the
- "For the sake of your oath to God" - This refers to their swearing loyalty to the king. 2 Sam. 5:3; 1 Chron. 29:24; 2
- Their oath was made before the highest authority.
8:3 "Do not be hasty to go from his presence. Do not take your stand for an evil thing, for he does whatever pleases
- See also Eccl. 10:4. Fleeing implies guilt.
- "For he does whatever pleases him." - Thus, at times the earthly king may be wrong.
- Don't stand in an evil thing, no matter who commands or condones it. Acts 5:29
- Another idea regarding the expression, "for he does whatever pleases him" is that he will inflict whatever
punishment he wishes; e.g., to those who stand for an evil thing.
8:4 Where the word of a king is, there is power; and who may say to him, "What are you doing?"
- The kings in those ancient times had much power and authority.
- No one, especially an ordinary person, had a right to question the king's actions.
8:5 He who keeps his command will experience nothing harmful; and a wise man's heart discerns both time and
- He is not giving an all-inclusive approval of all activities of the king.
- There was a much closer correlation between the king's laws and God's laws in the days of David and Solomon.
- "Will experience nothing harmful" - He experiences good, not harm, when he does those things required by the king
which were also required by God.
- "A wise man's heart discerns both time and judgment" - See also Heb. 5:14.
- He understands the times (1 Chron. 12:32), and is able to render righteous judgment (John 7:24).
- Also, he recognizes that a time is coming for the final judgment.
8:6 Because for every matter there is a time and judgment, though the misery of man increases greatly.
- God has a purpose for everything, and all matters are in His hands.
- "Though the misery of man increases greatly" - Things can quickly change for the worse in man's earthly life.
- It is only natural for mankind to want to be relieved from distress and suffering, but he should patiently wait for
the time when God will relieve the situation.
8:7 For he does not know what will happen; so who can tell him when it will occur?
- Man does not know what's out in the future.
- No one can accurately predict what will occur in the future.
8:8 No one has power over the spirit to retain the spirit, and no one has power in the day of death. There is no
release from that war, and wickedness will not deliver those who are given to it.
- No one can keep the spirit from eventually departing from the body. James 2:26
- "No release from that war" - From the war of retaining the spirit in death. It is a war that all man will lose.
- "And wickedness will not deliver those who are given to it." - Some are so foolish and gullible as to think that
wickedness can deliver them.
- Wickedness can't deliver anyone from anything.
- Those who are given to wickedness will fall in the end.
8:9 All this I have seen, and applied my heart to every work that is done under the sun: there is a time in which one
man rules over another to his own hurt.
- To rule over others is usually the best situation, but not always.
- Many seek public offices which provide hardly any pay just for the recognition and praise of men. This, too, is
empty and vain.
Chart #31 - Works Done Under The Sun:
- Some rule to their own hurt. 8:9
- After death the wicked are also soon forgotten. 8:10
- There is more evil when punishment is not executed quickly. 8:11
- Though it might seem well with the wicked, it shall not be. 8:12-13
- The misfortunes of life come to all. 8:14
- Thus, enjoy life, because enjoyment does not prove anything about one's condition. 8:15
- Man will never know all the work of God. 8:16-17
8:10 Then I saw the wicked buried, who had come and gone from the place of holiness, and they were forgotten in
the city where they had so done. This also is vanity.
- A hypocritical worship and a hypocritical burial are very empty.
- Many want notoriety and will go to any extreme to get it (e.g., extreme wickedness), but they, too, are soon
forgotten. Thus, consider the vanity of their evil pursuit.
- Our relation to God is all that counts.
8:11 Because the 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.
- "Sentence against an evil work" - This refers to specifying the punishment to be inflicted on those who commit evil and
so imposing it.
- If the wicked were punished quickly, there would be less wickedness.
- When punishment is not executed quickly, or none at all, there is more and more evil.
- The Christian, of course, knows that all will answer to a higher power.
8:12 Though a sinner does evil a hundred times, and his days are prolonged, yet I surely know that it will be well
with those who fear God, who fear before Him.
- When a sinner goes unpunished in his evil, and lives a long life, we shouldn't be envious, or allow such to discourage us.
- Regardless of outward actions and appearances, the sinner does not have the approval of God, nor does his
supposed blessings mean that God approves of his evil deeds.
8:13 But it will not be well with the wicked; nor will he prolong his days, which are as a shadow, because he does
not fear before God.
- God will make all things right eventually.
- "As a shadow" - This is one of many expressions in the Bible for the brevity of life. Job 14:2; Eccl. 6:12
- "Because he does not fear before God." - This is the vital distinction which sets men apart from one another, both now
and in eternity. Eccl. 3:14; 5:7; 7:18; 12:13-14
- Fearing God is profitable for the good life here, and in the end, eternal life.
Our writer continues to examine every aspect of life and shows its futility and emptiness. Here are some familiar
philosophies of life which do not work.
Chart #32 - Familiar Philosophies That Do Not Work:
- Materialism. ("Possessions satisfy - supply yourself").
- Hedonism. ("Life is a ball - enjoy yourself").
- Humanism. ("Humanity is glorious - exalt yourself").
- Fatalism. ("The game is fixed - resign yourself").
8:14 There is a vanity which occurs on earth, that there are just men to whom it happens according to the work of
the wicked; again, there are wicked men to whom it happens according to the work of the righteous. I said that this
also is vanity.
- Since the misfortunes and blessings of this world come to both the wicked and the good, there is nothing which can be
proved by them.
- We should not let this fact be a stumbling block to us.
- The experiencing of both misfortunes and blessings does not prove anything concerning one's character, but how
one reacts to them certainly does; e.g., Job.
- "I said that this also is vanity." - This is another of the perplexing things of life.
8:15 So I commended enjoyment, because a man has nothing better under the sun than to eat, drink, and be merry;
for this will remain with him in his labor all the days of his life which God gives him under the sun.
- "So I commended enjoyment" - Since enjoyment does not prove anything about one's character, we should enjoy life.
- Since the things which happen to us (whether good or bad) do not prove that we are righteous or wicked, we
should make the most of life here; e.g., enjoy life - eat, drink, and be merry.
- He is not encouraging enjoyment to the abandonment of service to God, but he wants man to enjoy that which
God has given him.
8:16 When I applied my heart to know wisdom and to see the business that is done on earth, even though one sees
no sleep day or night,
- "To see the business that is done on earth" - Again, this is not a new endeavor by our writer. Eccl. 1:13
- Many are so involved in this world's activities, especially in business enterprises, they don't have time to sleep.
- Thus, they are destroying their health.
- What profit is it for one to literally "work himself to death?"
8:17 then I saw all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun. For though a
man labors to discover it, yet he will not find it; moreover, though a wise man attempts to know it, he will not be
able to find it.
- The highest problems and most perplexing questions remain unsolved. Rom. 11:33
- Only by God's revelation does man have the answers. Eph. 3:3-5
- Man often thinks he has all the answers, but in reality his wisdom is often empty and worthless.
9:1 For I considered all this in my heart, so that I could declare it all: that the righteous and the wise and their
works are in the hand of God. People know neither love nor hatred by anything they see before them.
Chart #33 - An Alternate Philosophy That Does Work:
- The Sovereign Hand of God. 9:1
- The Absolute Certainty of Death. 9:2-3a
- The Evil and Insanity of the Human Heart. 9:3b
- Genuine Hope for the Living. 9:4-6
- "Their works are in the hand of God" - Again, man's utter dependance upon God is the emphasis of the verse, and of the
- Even the objects and depths of love and hatred are beyond the grasp of man. He must depend upon the wisdom of God.
- There in nothing in this life which fully defines and explains the strong emotions of "love" and "hatred."
9:2 All things come alike to all: one event happens to the righteous and the wicked; to the good, the clean, and the
unclean; to him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice. As is the good, so is the sinner; he who takes an oath
as he who fears an oath.
- All people are caught up in the interplay of life's struggles.
- The circumstances of life, the blessings and curses, fall upon man without discriminating between the good and the
- "One event" - Again, he keeps that "one event" (death) before us.
- We would do well to consider it and prepare for it.
9:3 This is an evil in all that is done under the sun: that one thing happens to all. Truly the hearts of the sons of men
are full of evil; madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead.
- Since that "one thing" happens to all, some choose to live wickedly and enjoy every sensual pleasure.
- Such is a life without faith in God.
- "Truly the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil" - Generally speaking, most people are evil. Gen. 6:5-6; Rom. 1:28-31
- Some societies are more wicked than others.
- "Madness is in their hearts while they live" - Jer. 17:9; Matt. 15:19-20; Prov. 4:23; 2 Cor. 10:5
- "And after that they go to the dead" - The record of most people is simply a life wasted in wickedness with death as the
- Eternal destruction then awaits them. 2 Thess. 1:6-9
9:4 But for him who is joined to all the living there is hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion.
- There is hope as long as one is alive.
- He may hear the gospel and obey it.
- The lowest of creatures living are more desirable than the noblest dead.
9:5 For the living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the
memory of them is forgotten.
- Since we know we will die, it should order our lives to please God.
- "But the dead know nothing" - They know nothing so far as this earth is concerned. The expression "under the sun" (9:3,
6, 9,11,13) shows that he is referring to things regarding this earthly life.
- After one dies, he has no more knowledge of what's going on here on earth.
- Jehovah's Witnesses use this verse to teach that man does not have an immortal spirit.
- Their interpretation contradicts Eccl. 12:7, not to mention a host of N.T. passages.
- If nothing is known (no existence) after death, (as they teach), neither is there a reward after death.
- "They have no more reward" - The word "reward" is translated "portion" in Eccl. 2:10.
- All his words encouraging enjoyment (2:24; 3:12-13, 22; 5:18; 8:15; 9:9) are for this life.
- "The memory of them is forgotten." - As before, to be remembered by the subsequent generations is not the chief goal.
- Man's purpose in life is not to gain fame and notoriety.
- The memory of most people who have died is soon forgotten by the majority.
9:6 Also their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished; nevermore will they have a share in anything
done under the sun.
- Again, after one dies, all his earthly emotions and endeavors cease.
- If something is to be done, it must be done now, in this life. John 9:4; 2 Cor. 6:2
- There will not be another chance after death. Eccl. 9:10; Heb. 9:27
- "Under the sun" - Again, this shows that he is referring to things here, in this world, and in this life.
9:7 Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart; for God has already accepted your works.
Chart #34 - Great Counsel On How To Live:
- Live Happily Wherever You Are. 9:7-8
- Enjoy Your Spouse. 9:9
- Be Diligent While There Is Opportunity. 9:10
- Again, it is the will of God that we enjoy life. We should be happy, and "rejoice in the Lord always." Phil. 4:4
- "Drink your wine with a merry heart" - This must be understood to refer to the juice of the grape in all of its states.
- It was a blessing to enjoy the new grape juice at harvest time. Isa. 16:10
- There are passages in both Testaments which condemn the drinking of intoxicating beverages. Prov. 20:1;
23:29-35; 1 Pet. 4:3
- "For God has already accepted your works." - "For God now accepteth thy works" (KJV).
- In other words, God approves these activities; e.g., enjoying the fruits of your labors.
9:8 Let your garments always be white, and let your head lack no oil.
- "Garments always be white" - This is set in contrast to the black robes of mourning.
- "Let your head lack no oil." - Prov. 27:9
- This verse is an similar to old Irish prayer that says:
"May the road rise up to meet you,
The wind be always at your back,
The sun shine warm upon your face,
The rain fall soft upon your fields,
And until we meet again, may God
hold you in the hollow of His hand."
9:9 Live joyfully with the wife whom you love all the days of your vain life which He has given you under the sun,
all your days of vanity; for that is your portion in life, and in the labor which you perform under the sun.
- God instituted marriage for the good and happiness of mankind. It is God's gift to man. Prov. 18:22
- God wants us to enjoy life. Most of us work hard for our money and God wants us to use a proper portion of it to enjoy
- Through God's wisdom and ways, we have the best life here, and eternal life in the end. Mark 10:30; 1 Tim. 4:6
9:10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom
in the grave where you are going.
- "Do it with your might" - Children of God are to be diligent, ambitious, and industrious.
- "No work...in the grave" - One cannot redeem lost opportunities in the grave.
- Either it is accomplished within the limits of this life, or it is not accomplished at all.
- There is no second chance after death.
9:11 I returned and saw under the sun that; the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the
wise, nor riches to men of understanding, nor favor to men of skill; but time and chance happen to them all.
Chart #35 - More "Under The Sun" Counsel:
- We all are creatures of circumstance. 9:11
- Evil times can come quickly. 9:12
- The poor wise person was not remembered; yet, wisdom is better. 9:13-18
- "The race is not to the swift" - Circumstances sometimes have control over a man and prevent him from receiving what
his abilities deserve or what he is capable of achieving.
- Sometimes the opposite of the expected is produced.
- "But time and chance happen to them all." - There are many unexpected events in life.
- All things depend on time and circumstance, which lie beyond the control of man.
9:12 For man also does not know his time: like fish taken in a cruel net, like birds caught in a snare, so the sons of
men are snared in an evil time, when it falls suddenly upon them.
- "Does not know his time" - He does not know what lies immediately ahead of him, nor his time for death. Luke 21:34-36
- Unexpected events suddenly fall upon him and catch him unexpectedly.
- An example of this is the fatal wounding of Ahab by an arrow which was not aimed at him. 2 Chron. 18:33-34
- Children think their parents are paranoid when they don't want them to run to a store at night.
- They don't understand the evils and dangers in this world.
9:13 This wisdom I have also seen under the sun, and it seemed great to me:
- "Under the sun" - Again, he is considering wisdom from an earthly standpoint, and not that which can be learned through
9:14 There was a little city with few men in it; and a great king came against it, besieged it, and built great snares
- "Built great snares around it" - "Built great bulwarks against it." (KJV)
- They build embankments, mounds, or high wooden towers in order to go over the wall and take the city.
9:15 Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city. Yet no one remembered
that same poor man.
- They were forced to listen to the poor man at this time.
- "By his wisdom delivered the city." - We are not told how he did it.
- An example of deliverance is given in 2 Sam. 20:14-22.
- The poor man was not remembered because he was poor.
- Another of the vanities of most people is that they don't appreciate their blessings.
9:16 Then I said: "Wisdom is better than strength. Nevertheless the poor man's wisdom is despised, and his words
are not heard.
- "Wisdom is better than strength" - In spite of how they treated the poor man, wisdom is still a precious possession.
- "Nevertheless the poor man's wisdom is despised, and his words not heard." - They were not grateful for his advice which
saved the city. Prov. 21:22-23
- Wisdom going unrewarded is another vanity among mankind.
9:17 Words of the wise, spoken quietly, should be heard rather than the shout of a ruler of fools.
- Consider the example of Jesus. Matt. 12:15-21
9:18 Wisdom is better than weapons of war; but one sinner destroys much good."
- "Wisdom is better than weapons of war" - "The pen is mightier that the sword."
- "But one sinner destroys much good." - Consider the example of Achan. Joshua 7:1,10-12
- It often occurs in the church. 1 Cor. 5:6
- Wise counsel and leading can be destroyed by one who leads and influences others to go in the opposite
10:1 Dead flies putrefy the perfumer's ointment, and cause it to give off a foul odor; so does a little folly to one
respected for wisdom and honor.
Chart # 36 - The Applications of Wisdom:
- Avoid even a little folly. 10:1
- The wise have their hearts in the right place. 10:2
- The fool lacks wisdom even in the simplest of acts. 10:3
- Steadfastness and composure appeases great offenses. 10:4
- "So does a little folly" - Because it is in contrast with such a man's general behavior.
- For example, one hour's eclipse of the sun attracts more attention than the sun's bright shining for years.
- A man's reputation can be destroyed by his sinful acts.
- Consider President Clinton and his affair with Monica Louinski.
- Sometimes preachers destroy theor reputations by their immorality.
10:2 A wise man's heart is at his right hand, but a fool's heart at his left.
- So far as authority and placement is concerned, the right side is more favorable. Matt. 25:31-33, 41; Luke 1:11; Acts
- "A wise man's heart directs him toward the right, but the foolish man's heart directs him toward the left." (NASV)
- One might say, "his heart is in the right place," meaning "his intentions are good," or, "his heart is directing him
- The wise person's judgment leads him in the right direction, whereas the fool's judgment often leads him
10:3 Even when a fool walks along the way, he lacks wisdom, and he shows everyone that he is a fool.
- The wise man has the kind of behavior which does not attract attention to himself.
- "Even when a fool walks along the way, he lacks wisdom" - In the simplest of acts, he gives evidence of being a fool.
- "Action speaks louder than words."
- "He lacks wisdom" - "His wisdom faileth him" (KJV).
- If he had acquired wisdom, he would manifest it. However, since he has not sought to gain wisdom, his words and
actions reveal that he has no wisdom.
- "And he shows everyone that he is a fool." - "And he saith to everyone that he is a fool." (KJV).
- On any matter of importance, he excuses himself by saying to everyone that he doesn't know.
- Thus, he does not take a stand for anything because he doesn't know how to take a stand.
10:4 If the spirit of the ruler rises against you, do not leave your post; for conciliation pacifies great offenses.
- One could easily be assumed guilty or accused of guilt if he leaves.
- "For conciliation pacifies great offenses." - "For composure allays great offences." (NASV). Prov. 25:15
- Pacifies" - "To appease anger of agitation." (Webster).
- When someone is angry with you, make a stand for what you believe, but do it with calmness of spirit.
- It is exceedingly unwise to answer wrath with wrath.
10:5-6 There is an evil I have seen under the sun, as an error proceeding from the ruler: Folly is set in great dignity,
while the rich sit in a lowly place.
Chart #37 - Evils Under the Sun:
- Rulers exalting the unworthy and holding down the worthy. 10:5-7
- Consider the manifold dangers in many undertakings: 10:8-9
- Digging a pit - - - - Falling into the pit
- Breaking through a wall - - - - Bitten by a snake
- Quarrying stones - - - - Hurt by stones
- Cutting wood - - - - Endangered by it
- "Proceeding from the ruler" - He refers to the mistake of rulers exalting unworthy people to high position while holding
worthy ones in low places.
- His thoughts are directed against favoritism and partiality which is often manifested in many governments.
- When unqualified or unworthy individuals are appointed to positions of authority, the social order is in trouble.
10:7 I have seen servants on horses, while princes walk on the ground like servants.
- See also Prov. 19:10.
- Christians often fail in this as well.
- The wisdom and experience of older members is often placed below that of the younger.
- Some are often exalted to high regard, but in truth wholly unworthy of it.
- Elders who rule well should be counted worthy of double honor. 1 Tim. 5:17
10:8 He who digs a pit will fall into it, and whoever breaks through a wall will be bitten by a serpent.
- There are manifold dangers in every earthly undertaking. Caution and wisdom are needed.
- See Prov. 26:27; 28:10.
- "Breaks through a wall" - "Breaketh an hedge." We learn from the Bible that in ancient times "hedges" were used as
fences. Matt. 21:33
- A hedge or fence row is a good place for a snake to be hiding.
10:9 He who quarries stones may be hurt by them, and he who splits wood may be endangered by it.
- One doesn't need to work long in a stone quarry or logging camp to see the dangers involved.
- A brother who ran a sawmill was once asked, "Are you afraid of that huge saw blade?"
- The inquirer expected the answer, "No," but the brother replied, "Certainly, I'm afraid of it. If I weren't, I'd
been dead a long time ago."
10:10 If the ax is dull, and one does not sharpen the edge, then he must use more strength;
but wisdom brings success.
- There is a similar illustration regarding Bible study which says, "The woodsmen who sharpens his ax is not wasting his
time, nor is the one who sharpens his knowledge on the Word of God before he attempts to teach."
- "But wisdom brings success." - Applying wisdom will bring success in manifold endeavors in this life; e.g., sharpen the ax
or the chain on the chain saw before you cut wood.
- Wisdom is valuable in protecting against the manifold dangers and difficulties which are in every undertaking.
- Wisdom pays dividends for one's labors both for the energy exerted and the amount of work accomplished.
Chart # 38 - The Advantages of Wisdom:
- Wisdom prepares the way for success. 10:10
- A serpent is dangerous and so is the one who is full of words. 10:11
- The words of the wise are kind and good. 10:12a
10:11 A serpent may bite when it is not charmed; the babbler is no different.
- The serpent is a dangerous creature. You don't need to use some kind of special persuasion to cause it to bite.
- Some snakes are territorial (e.g., the water moccasin), and will attack animals (or humans) who intrude upon their
- Just as a poisonous snake can do much harm, so can the gossiper or slanderer.
10:12 The words of a wise man's mouth are gracious, but the lips of a fool shall swallow him up;
Chart #39 - The Characteristics of Fools:
- They are full of harmful speech. 10:12b-14a
- They cannot know the future. 10:14b
- They weary themselves as well as others. 10:15
- "The words...gracious" - Kind, not evil or harsh. Col. 4:6
- "Shall swallow him up" - He will be consumed or destroyed by his own words. Prov. 18:7
10:13 The words of his mouth begin with foolishness, and the end of his talk is raving madness.
- "Foolishness" - Prov. 12:23
- "Raving madness" - Mischievous madness" (KJV). Prov. 10:23
10:14 A fool also multiplies words. No man knows what is to be; who can tell him what will be after him?
- "Multiplies words" - "Full of words" - Prov. 29:11
- No one can predict future events with any certainty.
- Usually when a person predicts it accurately, he has been lucky rather than wise.
10:15 The labor of fools wearies them, for they do not even know how to go to the city!
- "Wearies them" - "Wearieth every one" (KJV).
- There are some in management or leadership who do not know what they are doing; thus, they become a burden
to all who are under them.
- "Do not even know how to go to the city!" - This is probably a proverbial statement showing how stupid the fool really
- He exalts himself as though he can enlighten everyone, but in reality he couldn't even find the open road which
leads into the city.
10:16-17 Woe to you, O land, when your king is a child, and your princes feast in the morning! Blessed are you, O
land, when your king is the son of nobles, and your princes feast at the proper time; for strength and not for
Chart #40 - More Great Words of Wisdom:
- Society is blessed when rulers are well qualified and respected. 10:16-17
- Laziness brings waste and destruction. 10:18
- Some things bring enjoyment along life's way. 10:19
- Carefully watch what you say. 10:20
- Use wisdom in giving. 11:1-2
- Take advantage of your opportunities. 11:3-4
- There are many things we will never know. 11:5-6
- Life has its enjoyment as well as its darkness. 11:7-8
- "When your king is a child" - This refers to inexperienced, immature, incapable rulers.
- "When your king is the son of nobles" - The land is blessed when rulers are well trained, qualified, and respected.
- When a young man starts preaching when he is twelve years old, he can be well qualified by the age of twenty.
- Some at a much greater age, are not as qualified as this young man.
- "Princes feast in the morning!" - "Princes eat in the morning!" (KJV)
- They eat, literally, "out of due season," as opposed to the "proper time."
- Thus, they eat and drink not for strength, but for gluttony and drunkenness. Isa. 5:11-12
- The land is in trouble when the princes are partying all the time.
- Likewise, the church is in trouble when the leaders are given over to social activities.
10:18 Because of laziness the building decays, and through idleness of hands the house leaks.
- It is important to fix a roof, because a leak will do much damage in a short amount of time.
- Laziness brings waste and destruction, both in the physical and spiritual realm. Prov. 6:6-11; 10:4; 12:14; 13:4;
10:19 A feast is made for laughter, and wine makes merry; but money answers everything.
- Some things bring enjoyment along life's way. Psalm 104:15
- As was stated regarding Eccl. 9:7, "wine" must be understood to refer to the juice of the grape in all of its states.
- The mild wines they had back then are not to be compared to the strong wines of today.
- Even their mild wines were not to be taken to excess. Eph. 5:18
- 1 Tim. 3:8 and Titus 2:3 says, "Not given to much wine."
- There are passages in both Testaments which condemn the drinking of "strong drinks" or highly intoxicating
beverages. Prov. 20:1; 23:29-35; 1 Pet. 4:3
- "Money answers everything" - There is power behind money. Money is helpful when used in the right way.
- The love of money is the root of all evil. 1 Tim. 6:10
10:20 Do not curse the king, even in your thought; do not curse the rich, even in your bedroom; for a bird of the air
may carry your voice, and a bird in flight may tell the matter.
- "Do not curse the king, even in your thought" - "Cursing of the king" carried severe penalty back in those days.
- We must guard against evil thoughts. Luke 6:45; 2 Cor. 10:4-5
- "Do not curse the rich, even in your bedroom" - Some way or another it will be carried to the one against whom it was
- We should keep our petty complaints to ourselves. Parents do much harm when they complain about brethren
before their children.
- We should never say anything against anyone which we would not say to them.
- Some think that it is not wrong to speak evil of someone when it is true. However, the Scriptures teach otherwise.
1 Pet. 2:1; Eph. 4:31; Titus 3:2; James 4:11
11:1 Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days.
- "Cast thy bread" - Again, this verse is probably a proverbial statement which teaches that if we give to others, they will
give to us. Luke 6:38
- "The ship returns to bless those who send it forth." 1 Kings 9:26-28; Prov. 31:14
11:2 Give a serving to seven, and also to eight, for you do not know what evil will be on the earth.
- There was an old saying, "Don't put all your eggs in one basket," meaning, "If you dropped the one basket, all of your
eggs would be broken."
- We need to help more than one needy person because that one might misuse it.
- Churches need to support more than one preacher. The funds have, at times, been misused.
11:3 If the clouds are full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth; and if a tree falls to the south or the north,
in the place where the tree falls, there it shall lie.
- He mentions two natural consequences which illustrate that good must be done while there is opportunity.
- Circumstances can change and cut off the opportunity.
- Like clouds full of rain and like a tree that falls, many evils on the earth cannot be averted; thus, do good and serve
God as the opportunity avails itself.
- Jesus' words have a sense of urgency for doing what we can now. John 9:4
11:4 He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap.
- The farmer who if fearful that it might be too windy to sow his seed, or it looks too much like rain to harvest his crops,
will never accomplish what he needs to do.
- Likewise, if we are waiting for a perfect situation before we begin, we will never do anything.
- One who is full of excuses will never accomplish anything. He will never do what he ought to do.
11:5 As you do not know what is the way of the wind, or how the bones grow in the womb of her who is with child,
so you do not know the works of God who makes everything.
- "How the bones grow in the womb" - There remain many mysteries that baffles man, even the most intelligent in the
world. Psalm 139:13-16
- As one does not know these things, he does not know the operation of God's providence in this world.
- In context, he shows the importance of doing good, regardless of earthward appearances or indications.
- For example, we should preach the word in season and out of season. 2 Tim. 4:2
- Following outward appearances might cause us to fail to reach some soul with the gospel.
11:6 In the morning sow your seed, and in the evening do not withhold your hand; for you do not know which will
prosper, either this or that, or whether both alike will be good.
- Instead of waiting for exact, favorable conditions, one should continue to be diligent, knowing that God's natural order
will take its course.
- Often, man does not know what's best to do, but if he continues to serve the Lord, things will work out well in the end.
- Remember to say, "If the Lord wills," in all that we plan and hope to accomplish. James 4:13-15
11:7 Truly the light is sweet, and it is pleasant for the eyes to behold the sun;
- Many of the simplest things in life are great blessings from God.
- "To behold the sun" - There is a basic joy in living; it's great to be alive.
11:8 But if a man lives many years and rejoices in them all, yet let him remember the days of darkness, for they will
be many. All that is coming is vanity.
- Everyone should remember that we will have a certain amount of adversity in life.
- When adversity comes, we need to accept it as part of life, just as we accept enjoyment as part of life.
- The Christian shouldn't crumble and lose his faith when adversity comes. 1 Pet. 4:12-13; Matt. 13:20-23
- "All that is coming is vanity." - A multitude of vanities will continue to exist in the years to come.
- See Chart #16 - The vanities which were prevalent then, prevail now, and will continue in the future.
11:9 Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth; walk in the ways
of your heart, and in the sight of your eyes; but know that for all these God will bring you into judgment.
Chart #41 - The three "R" words of youth
9 Rejoice, O young man, in your youth,
And let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth;
Walk in the ways of your heart,
And in the sight of your eyes;
But know that for all these
God will bring you into judgment.
10 Therefore remove sorrow from your heart,
And put away evil from your flesh,
For childhood and youth are vanity.
1 Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth,
Before the difficult days come,
And the years draw near when you say,
"I have no pleasure in them":
- "Rejoice, O young man..." - There are two possible ideas regarding this verse.
- The first idea is that he is arguing an extreme in order to keep young people from it.
- In other words, he is saying, "Go on and sow your will oats, have a good time, and walk in the ways of
your heart, but know of a certainty that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.
- Therefore, as in verse 10, "Put away evil from your flesh.
- The second possible meaning is that he is exhorting the young people to rejoice and to enjoy their youth, but
remembering everything they do will some day be brought into judgment.
- In other words, enjoy youth, but be careful not to carry it to the extremes of sin.
- The first idea fits the wording; however, the second seems to be more in keeping with his thoughts throughout the book.
11:10 Therefore remove sorrow from your heart, and put away evil from your flesh, for childhood and youth are
- Certainly, any mature person will admit that "childhood and youth" were "vanity" when they consider the things they
were guilty of doing when they were young.
- How many of us, at times, have wished that we could start life all over again with the knowledge we have now?
- Thus, he encourages young people to enjoy life, but they should remove evil because God will hold them accountable for
12:1 Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, before the difficult days come, and the years draw
near when you say, "I have no pleasure in them":
- Thus, young people should not forget their obligations to their Creator.
- Young people should serve God with the zeal and strength of youth.
- Some people think they can wait until they are old to do God's will.
- Young people should remember their Creator before the difficult days and years come when they have no pleasure in
those periods of existence.
- The expression "years draw near" refers to the later years in life as shown in verses 3-5.
12:2 While the sun and the light, the moon and the stars, are not darkened, and the clouds do not return after the
- Again, this refers to days of adversity.
- Young people should remember their Creator before these days come.
- A dark and cloudy day is a day of misfortune. Joel 2:2-13; Zeph. 1:15
12:3 In the day when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men bow down; when the grinders cease
because they are few, and those that look through the windows grow dim;
- Verses 3-7 beautifully describe the last days of old age under various images and metaphors.
See Chart #42 - A description of Old Age
- "Keepers of the house tremble" - Refers to one's arms and hands.
- "The strong men bow down" - Legs and back.
- "The grinders cease because they are few" - Teeth.
- "Those that look through the windows grow dim" - Eyes.
- "When the doors are shut in the streets, and the sound of the grinding is low" - Ears.
- "When one rises up at the sound of a bird" - Light sleepers.
- "All the daughters of music are brought low" - Empty sounds.
- "They are afraid of height, and terrors in the way" - Afraid of heights, and obstacles in their way.
- "When the almond tree blossoms" - White hair.
- "The grasshopper is a burden" - Small things annoy.
- "And desire fails" - Appetites and desires cease.
12:4 When the doors are shut in the streets, and the sound of grinding is low; when one rises up at the sound of a
bird, and all the daughters of music are brought low;
- He continues his images of old age.
- "When the doors are shut in the streets, and the sound of grinding is low" - Probably, these two expressions refer
to complete loss and/or partial loss of hearing.
- "When one rises up at the sound of a bird" - Light sleepers. Every noise disturbs their rest; e.g., they are awakened
out of sleep by a bird chirping.
- "All the daughters of music are brought low" - Empty sounds. All music and song appears like common chattering.
12:5 Also they are afraid of height, and of terrors in the way; when the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper is a
burden, and desire fails. For man goes to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets.
- "Afraid of height" - A little hill appears as a high mountain. Their energy and legs fail them when they attempt to go to
any high place.
- "Terrors in the way" - A damp road is like slick ice, a graveled path contains obstacles one might stumble over, and steps
appear as steep ledges.
- "When the almond tree blossoms" - White hair. When the almond tree blooms, white blossoms completely cover it.
- "The grasshopper is a burden" - This perhaps means that small insects burden them. The hopping and chirping of the
grasshopper burdens them, and the fly on the wall annoys them.
- "And desire fails" - This refers to the decay of all physical appetites and desires.
- "For man goes to his eternal home" - All men will end up in either everlasting punishment or everlasting life. Matt. 25:46
- "The mourners go about the streets" - This refers to the professional mourners which they had in those days. Jer. 9:17;
Matt. 9:23-24; Mark 5:38
- The mourners were already gathering because the death of the old one was near.
12:6 Remember your Creator before the silver cord is loosed, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher shattered
at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the well.
- In this verse are four figurative expressions which refer to one's death.
- Certainly, one should remember his obligations to his Creator before his death.
12:7 Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.
- The duel nature of man is clearly shown by this verse.
- God formed man's body out of the dust of the ground, and when it dies, it returns back to the dust. Gen. 2:7; 3:19
- God formed the spirit of man within him, and when man's body dies, the spirit separates from the body and returns
to God. Zech. 12:1; James 2:26
- Other passages show that we are the offspring of God, and at death, our spirit departs. Acts 17:28; Heb. 12:9; Gen.
35:18; 1 Kings 17:21-22; Psalm 90:10
12:8 "Vanity of vanities," says the Preacher, "All is vanity."
- Thus, the book closes as he had opened it. Eccl. 1:2
- He has amply demonstrated the vanity and futility of all earthly pursuits.
- Everything in life is vanity and like chasing the wind when viewed from this world's standpoint.
12:9-10 And moreover, because the Preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yes, he pondered and
sought out and set in order many proverbs. The Preacher sought to find acceptable words; and what was written
was upright; words of truth.
- This is the author's identification of himself.
- He was a wise man who diligently sought after and delivered wisdom - words which were acceptable, upright, and
- As we have seen by examining his book, he was a wise teacher.
12:11 The words of the wise are like goads, and the words of scholars are like well-driven nails, given by one
- "Goads" were used to urge forward and prod along the oxen. The words of the wise prod us along and encourage us.
- "Like well-driven nails" - "As nails well fastened are the words of the masters of assemblies, which are given from one
- As well-driven nails fasten the planks of wood, the words of scholars establish and strengthen us.
- The "one shepherd" here probably refers to the one speaker or teacher of an assembly rather than to Jehovah.
12:12 And further, my son, be admonished by these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is
wearisome to the flesh.
- One can easily be too excessive (an extremist) in the writing or studying of books. Most of the writing and studying of
books is a true waste of time.
- To convert one soul to the Lord is far more important than the writing or studying of many books.
12:13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man's all.
- "Of the whole matter" - Thus, he now gives his grand conclusion of everything he has considered.
- "Fear God and keep His commandments" - This is the most important thing in the gospel age as well.
- "For this is man's all" - "For this is the whole duty of man." (KJV, ASV, RSV, NIV).
- In most translations, the word "duty" is italicized, showing that it is not in the original.
- Thus, our writer is saying that fearing God and keeping His commandments is the whole of man. It is man's
complete purpose and reason for existence.
12:14 For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil.
- This is sufficient reason for fearing God and keeping His commandments - because we will give account to our Creator. 2
Cor. 5:10; Rom. 14:10-12; Rev. 20:12
- Thus, after carefully considering all earthly pursuits and undertakings, analyzing them through experience and wisdom, he
closes with what should be every person's main goal and quest in life.
- Personal application: Let us must make "fearing God and keeping His commandments" the primary concern and chief
goal in our lives.