|<< Ecc 6|
Ecclesiastes 7-12 Listen
A note about Ecclesiastes
We see in chapter 1 verses 1 and 12 that Solomon is the author. He had it all, but nearing the end of his life, he equates personal accomplishments with vanity. As a matter of fact, the word "vanity" is used 33 times, evenly distributed throughout the book in every chapter except chapter 10. Solomon understood that satisfaction in life doesn't come through riches or the accumulation of things or even personal accomplishments. It reminds me of the words of Christ in Matthew 6:33 (see notes), "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." Incidentally, "vanity" here means "emptiness."
I find it interesting, though I'm not sure of its significance, that Solomon never uses the special name, "LORD," in the entire Book of Ecclesiastes. It's the translation of the personal designation for the God of Israel of the Old Testament saints translated from the Hebrew word, "Jehovah" (aka "Yahweh"). He used it 86 times in the Book of Proverbs, but not at all in Ecclesiastes. He, instead, uses the Hebrew word for God, "elohim," a less personal designation for The Creator; that designation for "God" is used 41 times in Ecclesiastes.
1 A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth.
2 It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart.
3 Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better.
4 The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.
5 It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools.
6 For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool: this also is vanity.
7 Surely oppression maketh a wise man mad; and a gift destroyeth the heart.
8 Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof: and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.
9 Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools.
10 Say not thou, What is the cause that the former days were better than these? for thou dost not enquire wisely concerning this.
11 Wisdom is good with an inheritance: and by it there is profit to them that see the sun.
12 For wisdom is a defence, and money is a defence: but the excellency of knowledge is, that wisdom giveth life to them that have it.
13 Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight, which he hath made crooked?
14 In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: God also hath set the one over against the other, to the end that man should find nothing after him.
15 All things have I seen in the days of my vanity: there is a just man that perisheth in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man that prolongeth his life in his wickedness.
16 Be not righteous over much; neither make thyself over wise: why shouldest thou destroy thyself?
17 Be not over much wicked, neither be thou foolish: why shouldest thou die before thy time?
18 It is good that thou shouldest take hold of this; yea, also from this withdraw not thine hand: for he that feareth God shall come forth of them all.
19 Wisdom strengtheneth the wise more than ten mighty men which are in the city.
20 For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.
21 Also take no heed unto all words that are spoken; lest thou hear thy servant curse thee:
22 For oftentimes also thine own heart knoweth that thou thyself likewise hast cursed others.
23 All this have I proved by wisdom: I said, I will be wise; but it was far from me.
24 That which is far off, and exceeding deep, who can find it out?
25 I applied mine heart to know, and to search, and to seek out wisdom, and the reason of things, and to know the wickedness of folly, even of foolishness and madness:
26 And I find more bitter than death the woman, whose heart is snares and nets, and her hands as bands: whoso pleaseth God shall escape from her; but the sinner shall be taken by her.
27 Behold, this have I found, saith the preacher, counting one by one, to find out the account:
28 Which yet my soul seeketh, but I find not: one man among a thousand have I found; but a woman among all those have I not found.
29 Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.
In the first 14 verses, Solomon follows a proverbial style of writing similar to that of the whole book of Proverbs:
Beginning in verse 15, Solomon elaborates. He talks about things he has seen in his life - wicked prospering and righteous not - before he makes a statement that may very well throw you for a loop in verses 16-17:
Be not righteous over much; neither make thyself over wise: why shouldest thou destroy thyself?
Be not over much wicked, neither be thou foolish: why shouldest thou die before thy time?
What does that mean? Before we discuss this, look at verse 7:20 "For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not." Solomon is acknowledging what we know about our Adamic (sin) nature: Everybody has one. Paul said in Galatians 5:17-18 (see notes), "For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law." In every Believer is a struggle between the Holy Spirit inside of us against the old sin nature for control over our lifestyle. The Pharisees in Jesus' day denied the presence of a sin nature. They projected themselves as sinlessly perfect. However, Jesus described them in Matthew 23:37 (see notes) as "whited sepulchers." They forced themselves to do righteous-looking things that, in fact, were not really righteous at all, but only man-made versions of righteous-looking actions. These verses complement his statement in Proverbs 16:25, "There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death." He's not advocating righteousness and wickedness in moderation, but rather discouraging the legalistic practices of Pharisaical-type living and, contrariwise, acknowledging the presence of our struggle with a sin nature. To boast sinless perfection or to deny the presence of a sin nature tugging at us is the practice about which Solomon is undoubtedly speaking here.
Solomon makes some fascinating statements in verses 23-29 about finding wisdom. Here's a man who had lived a life of satisfying his heart's desires; anything he wanted he pursued and got. Yet here he is in his later years with obvious frustration at how fleeting these were. He advocates wisdom, but finds it rare. As a matter of fact, he says only 1 in 1000 are wise among men and no women he knew. It was Solomon's intimate knowledge of 1,000 women that ultimately would divide the Kingdom of Israel into two kingdoms and lead to its fall (he allowed them to continue to worship false gods).
Notice these verses regarding Solomon's wives from I Kings 11 (see notes):
I Kings 11:3 And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart.
I Kings 11:4 For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father.
From his perspective, he really didn't have an association with the "virtuous woman" of Proverbs 31 (see notes), which (it is commonly believed) Solomon himself wrote. He obviously did not classify any of his wives or concubines (interestingly enough, 1000 of them) as wise. It almost seems as though he did a focus group among them to make his determination about this issue. Hey...folks! Don't get riled up; he didn't say there weren't any wise women; he just said he didn't know them. However, we know his dream woman was the woman described in Proverbs 31. From that, we are led to reason that he just hadn't met her among his 1,000 wives and concubines. You know...sometimes you can marry just too much! It should be pointed out, however, that nowhere is it recorded that Solomon ever married a Hebrew woman. He may very well have done so, but it is not recorded. As a matter of fact, his only recorded son, Rehoboam, was the son of an Ammonite woman, and he became Solomon's successor as King of Israel.
Some wise tips (Ecclesiastes 8)
1 Who is as the wise man? and who knoweth the interpretation of a thing? a man’s wisdom maketh his face to shine, and the boldness of his face shall be changed.
2 I counsel thee to keep the king’s commandment, and that in regard of the oath of God.
3 Be not hasty to go out of his sight: stand not in an evil thing; for he doeth whatsoever pleaseth him.
4 Where the word of a king is, there is power: and who may say unto him, What doest thou?
5 Whoso keepeth the commandment shall feel no evil thing: and a wise man’s heart discerneth both time and judgment.
6 Because to every purpose there is time and judgment, therefore the misery of man is great upon him.
7 For he knoweth not that which shall be: for who can tell him when it shall be?
8 There is no man that hath power over the spirit to retain the spirit; neither hath he power in the day of death: and there is no discharge in that war; neither shall wickedness deliver those that are given to it.
9 All this have I seen, and applied my heart unto every work that is done under the sun: there is a time wherein one man ruleth over another to his own hurt.
10 And so I saw the wicked buried, who had come and gone from the place of the holy, and they were forgotten in the city where they had so done: this is also vanity.
11 Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.
12 Though a sinner do evil an hundred times, and his days be prolonged, yet surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him:
13 But it shall not be well with the wicked, neither shall he prolong his days, which are as a shadow; because he feareth not before God.
14 There is a vanity which is done upon the earth; that there be just men, unto whom it happeneth according to the work of the wicked; again, there be wicked men, to whom it happeneth according to the work of the righteous: I said that this also is vanity.
15 Then I commended mirth, because a man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry: for that shall abide with him of his labour the days of his life, which God giveth him under the sun.
16 When I applied mine heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done upon the earth: (for also there is that neither day nor night seeth sleep with his eyes:)
17 Then I beheld all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun: because though a man labour to seek it out, yet he shall not find it; yea further; though a wise man think to know it, yet shall he not be able to find it.
Solomon spends some time talking about walking according to wisdom. To summarize:
More wise tips (Ecclesiastes 9)
1 For all this I considered in my heart even to declare all this, that the righteous, and the wise, and their works, are in the hand of God: no man knoweth either love or hatred by all that is before them.
2 All things come alike to all: there is one event to the righteous, and to the wicked; to the good and to the clean, and to the unclean; to him that sacrificeth, and to him that sacrificeth not: as is the good, so is the sinner; and he that sweareth, as he that feareth an oath.
3 This is an evil among all things that are done under the sun, that there is one event unto all: yea, also the heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live, and after that they go to the dead.
4 For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope: for a living dog is better than a dead lion.
5 For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.
6 Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun.
7 Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works.
8 Let thy garments be always white; and let thy head lack no ointment.
9 Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which he hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity: for that is thy portion in this life, and in thy labour which thou takest under the sun.
10 Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.
11 I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.
12 For man also knoweth not his time: as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare; so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them.
13 This wisdom have I seen also under the sun, and it seemed great unto me:
14 There was a little city, and few men within it; and there came a great king against it, and besieged it, and built great bulwarks against it:
15 Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same poor man.
16 Then said I, Wisdom is better than strength: nevertheless the poor man’s wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard.
17 The words of wise men are heard in quiet more than the cry of him that ruleth among fools.
18 Wisdom is better than weapons of war: but one sinner destroyeth much good.
Solomon continues his comments from chapter 8 regarding a walk according to wisdom. To summarize:
While wisdom is superior and to be sought, Solomon is careful to point out that it often goes unappreciated. People tend to lend their respect to those with riches or strength rather than those who are wise.
More about a fool (Ecclesiastes 10)
1 Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour: so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour.
2 A wise man’s heart is at his right hand; but a fool’s heart at his left.
3 Yea also, when he that is a fool walketh by the way, his wisdom faileth him, and he saith to every one that he is a fool.
4 If the spirit of the ruler rise up against thee, leave not thy place; for yielding pacifieth great offences.
5 There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, as an error which proceedeth from the ruler:
6 Folly is set in great dignity, and the rich sit in low place.
7 I have seen servants upon horses, and princes walking as servants upon the earth.
8 He that diggeth a pit shall fall into it; and whoso breaketh an hedge, a serpent shall bite him.
9 Whoso removeth stones shall be hurt therewith; and he that cleaveth wood shall be endangered thereby.
10 If the iron be blunt, and he do not whet the edge, then must he put to more strength: but wisdom is profitable to direct.
11 Surely the serpent will bite without enchantment; and a babbler is no better.
12 The words of a wise man’s mouth are gracious; but the lips of a fool will swallow up himself.
13 The beginning of the words of his mouth is foolishness: and the end of his talk is mischievous madness.
14 A fool also is full of words: a man cannot tell what shall be; and what shall be after him, who can tell him?
15 The labour of the foolish wearieth every one of them, because he knoweth not how to go to the city.
16 Woe to thee, O land, when thy king is a child, and thy princes eat in the morning!
17 Blessed art thou, O land, when thy king is the son of nobles, and thy princes eat in due season, for strength, and not for drunkenness!
18 By much slothfulness the building decayeth; and through idleness of the hands the house droppeth through.
19 A feast is made for laughter, and wine maketh merry: but money answereth all things.
20 Curse not the king, no not in thy thought; and curse not the rich in thy bedchamber: for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter.
The last three chapters of Ecclesiastes are written largely like proverbs, giving advice on an assortment of issues. He does begin chapter 10 by taking off on the consequences of foolishness. It's difficult to pass verse 1 without comment: "Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour: so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour." How many reputations have been ruined by brief moments of indiscretion? The conduct of fools is the primary theme of this chapter. Solomon spent much ink in the Book of Proverbs as well deriding fools and foolish conduct.
Live deliberately (Ecclesiastes 11)
1 Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.
2 Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth.
3 If the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth: and if the tree fall toward the south, or toward the north, in the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be.
4 He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap.
5 As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all.
6 In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good.
7 Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun:
8 But if a man live many years, and rejoice in them all; yet let him remember the days of darkness; for they shall be many. All that cometh is vanity.
9 Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment.
10 Therefore remove sorrow from thy heart, and put away evil from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity.
Some of the analogies of chapter 11 are a little difficult from which to extract the point - like the bread upon the waters in verse 1. This picture must have had clear meaning based upon the practices of the culture at the time, but the significance is unclear to us. From there, he compares life's pursuits to the laws of nature in the balance of the chapter. Since life's outcomes are uncertain, one should make plans and live deliberately with a mission.
More about a fool (Ecclesiastes 12)
1 Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them;
2 While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain:
3 In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened,
4 And the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of musick shall be brought low;
5 Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets:
6 Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern.
7 Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.
8 Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity.
9 And moreover, because the preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yea, he gave good heed, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs.
10 The preacher sought to find out acceptable words: and that which was written was upright, even words of truth.
11 The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd.
12 And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.
13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.
14 For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.
The point of the comments in chapter 12 is to encourage young people to go ahead and serve God while they are young; don't wait until you are older to do so.
Solomon addresses the issue of judgment in the last two verses of Ecclesiastes:
Ecclesiastes 12:13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.
Ecclesiastes 12:14 For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.
That's a nice conclusion to what many have considered a rather confusing book. Responsibility toward God is seen in verse 13, and the judgment of men by God himself is seen in verse 14. Click here to see the six judgments of God explained.