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Personal Reflections on Ecclesiastes

By John R. Neal
The book of Ecclesiastes is one of my most favorite books in all of the Old Testament. This course on the study of the Wisdom Literature has

caused me to appreciate this Solomonic book even more. One finds in the tenth century life of Solomon not unlike the lives of people today; there are folks in America who are looking for love and happiness in all of the wrong places. Sadly, even Christians get caught up in this rat race. Solomon starts out in chapter one by talking about the futility of earthly pursuits apart from God (Eccl. 1:2-11). The book speaks of his search for wisdom and true

happiness (1:12-18), albeit apart from God. Any search for wisdom done under the sun is vanity and striving after the wind (1:14). Solomon

thought his great wisdom would lead to happiness, but instead led to madness and increasing pain (1:17-18). Solomon tries to find satisfaction through possessions or stuff (buying and building things). In Eccl. 2:1-8, Solomon lists the many things he acquired to bring happiness to his life (gardens, servants, cattle, and riches). His attitude for acquiring more and more in Eccl. 2:10 sums up the life of some of the most famous people in the history of our country (Elvis Presley in particular): And all that my eyes desired I did not refuse them (vs. 10).

Instead of finding happiness, he again only found futility (vs. 10-11). Solomon also seems to asks if there is any purpose in excelling in wisdom as opposed to folly (2:12-13). While wisdom is superior to folly like light excels above darkness, yet the end result of the wise man and the fool is the same (they both die, vs. 14). Is there any use to acquiring knowledge when no one will remember you (any more than remembering the fool)

when you are gone (vs. 15)? Solomon began to despise his life and work under the sun, for he found this to be futile. There seems to be no good reason in building up wisdom and leaving a legacy for an heir who may not have worked for their inheritance (Eccl. 2:1822). There never seems to be enough money or income for Solomons

generation (any more than for the 21st century generation). The more we get, the more we want (Eccl. 5:11). We come into the world naked and this is the way we will leave (5:15). You never see a hearse pulling a U-Haul

trailer to the cemetery (to paraphrase Solomons words in 5:15). One thing Solomon enjoys is eating and drinking the fruit of ones labors (vs. 18). While there is some good or benefit in enjoying the food we grow, the fruits of our labor, mans mouth is never satisfied (6:7). Some things in life dont make sense. There are those who are

righteous who perish in their righteousness, and others who like wickedly yet continue to live (7:15). This reminds us of the old adage of why do only the good die young? Solomon also talks about a series of contrasts or

dichotomies in life (Eccl. 7:1-14).

A good name is better than a good

ointment, And the day of ones death is better than the day of ones birth (7:1). Better to go to a house of morning/Than to go to a house of feasting (7:2). It is better to go to the rebuke to a wise man/Than for one to listen

to the song of fools (7:5). The end of a matter is better than its beginning; Patience of spirit is better than haughtiness of spirit (7:8). Solomon is trying to get to the core of what matters in life. On the surface, birth seems better than death (yet when one considers that after birth you only have the promise of sorrow and death, then death is far greater especially for the child of God). While some may see in Ecclesiastes a pessimistic outlook on life, one only has to remember that the wisdom that Solomon speaks of keeps a man from the snares of a womans net (7:26). The wisdom of God teaches us to be industrious and not idle (Eccl. 9:10), to sow today and not wait till tomorrow for we do not know what tomorrow holds (Eccl. 11:6), and to keep the kings commands (Eccl. 8:2), and even our vows that we make (Eccl. 5:1-9). The wisdom that we read of in Ecclesiastes impresses upon us to Remember our Creator in the days of our youth (Eccl. 12:1). If we wait too long, we will never find time to serve Him! The key to understanding

the whole book is found in Eccl. 12:13-14: fear God and keep His commandments. This concept of fearing God ties this book in with the fear of the Lord found throughout Proverbs. We are to live our life with eternity in mind; there is coming a day of judgment, Solomon tells us. 3

The book of Ecclesiastes contrasts two ways of life: the way of wisdom that leads one to fearing God and leading a productive life on earth, and the way that strives after the wind, the life under the sun. The only way we can make sense of life and find meaning or purpose is by serving God. True

wisdom teaches us that this life is not all there is (if that were true, then we could live any way we wanted to). Because of the hereafter, what we do in the here and now matters. Solomon concludes this book by reminding us to

live every day with eternity in mind. This book can only make sense when we realize that God makes living in this fallen world make sense.