Ecclesiastes Chapter 9 Saturday, Jul 30 2016 

Chapter 9

9.1-6 death. Solomon addresses the hebel of death. Of all the musings and contemplations of Solomon, death is the greatest challenge. Death is unknown and knowledge after death is beyond wisdom to plumb it’s depth. There are none to discuss death who have been there and returned. There is a void and a chasm that cannot be crossed. Death is the truest of all hebels. The only solution Solomon offers is to stay alive. He surmises any life is better than death. Solomon illustrates this by saying a living dog (despised animal), is better than a dead lion (king of beasts). Ultimately the search for understanding of hebel ends with death. As long as there is life, there is new understanding, knowledge and reward. Life offers continued activity on earth. Life on earth is the only arena of opportunity to accomplish and earn rewards. The grave receives more than the natural body. It also receives dreams, love, hatred, and envy (6). These things also die with the physical body. Many noble but intangible things die with death. Death is the truest of hebels. There is no escape or defense from death. It eventually welcomes the righteous, the wise, the wicked, the good, the clean, the unclean, and all other men into it’s gaping mouth.

9.7-10 love. With the wisp of death hanging in the air, Solomon advises to love your wife. While peering into the unknown he is brought back to what he does have now, here. He returns to the God given answer for hebel. Live joyfully (with a raw appetite) with the wife of whom thou lovest. That is the portion, (the smoothness), of this life. Thy labor (worry, wearing effort of body and mind) is smoothed out by living life today. Solomon uses words like life, eat, drink, and live. These are actions every person can do. The gift of life God gave requires no wealth or wisdom. The simple man can do these things as well as the wise. God accepteth (is pleased), with these works (actions). God approves when we enjoy life. White garments and oil on the head speak of a more comfortable life in the torrid Middle East climate. These things symbolize the pure enjoyment of a well lived life, following the guidance of wisdom, and the fear of God.

9.11-18 value of wisdom. The tragedy of life is men are so busy seeking they never see. The value of wisdom is overlooked. Men are as fishes caught in a net, and as birds caught in a snare. The race, the battle, bread, and riches are unpredictable. Our reaction to these is the essence of hebel. We cannot control the variables of our lives, but with wisdom and the fear of God, hebel fades to insignificance. Solomon illustrates that Kings conquering cities is inferior to wisdom’s influence. Wisdom exceeds strength in value. Wisdom is better than weapons of war. The hebel of our life results when wisdom is not heard and followed. Death, love, and war, are battlefields of hebel. God’s victory to these battles is the gift of living life by wisdom, and the fear of God. The vanity of life disappears in the presence of a life of joy and religious celebration. 

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Ecclesiastes Chapter 8 Friday, Jul 29 2016 

Chapter 8

8.1 inner happiness. Solomon was the wisest man to ever live. He has said he sought to know all things. After wasting many years in pursuit of knowledge, he wants to leave succeeding generations the wisdom to not over pursue anything. Enjoy life, and have balance. He concludes that wisdom gives an inner happiness that makes a man’s face to shine and his boldness and confidence will be noticeable.

8.2-4 kings. The value of wisdom is also on display when in the presence of a king. People were required to take an oath of loyalty to the King when in the King’s presence. Wisdom protects people in the presence of all powerful men who can issue harmful edicts. Daniel and Ezra are an excellent example of this.

8.5-8 time and judgment. Only the wise can discern time, for the tomorrow’s of life are unknown. Man cannot restrain the spirit, or control the day of death, or be released from war, or be free from wickedness, once it has a hold on him. These four areas of life document that man is limited in his dominion over life. Wisdom shines like a pearl on black velvet when placed next to the powerful entities of life. Without wisdom to teach time and judgment, life dissolves into hebel.

8.9-14 fear God. Solomon here defends the fear of God. He has observed that evil men receive honorable burials and are even praised at death. He observes that sometimes the fortunes of the righteous and the wicked seem to be reversed. The righteous get what the evil deserve, and the evil get what the righteous deserve. Solomon never surrenders to this dilemma. He maintains his strong position to believe in the fear of God. He knows it will go well with them that fear God (12). He knows it will not go well with the wicked (13). This and other passages show Solomon is not an old, bitter, frustrated man. He is clear eyed and has seen life in it’s fullness. He is seeing through the distortions of life and clearly seeing that no matter how it looks right now, no matter what evidence seems to point toward hebel, remember to fear God.

8.15-17 mirth. Mirth: exceeding gladness, joy, pleasure, rejoicing. Solomon commends mirth. Commend is to address in a loud tone, to glory, to praise. When faced with the dilemmas and contradictions of life, Solomon says mirth is the answer to confusion and disappointment. Man cannot find out the work done under the sun. Solomon proclaims you can spend a lifetime wondering why someone else is blessed, or you have not gotten your desires. This is futile. It is hebel to try and understand hebel. Solomon spent many sleepless nights trying to understand hebel (16). His conclusion is to scream with joy and gladness over the joy of today. The answer to the frustrations of life and hebel is to praise and glorify God with loud, exceeding, gladness. Mirth is the master of hebel. 

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Ecclesiastes Chapter 7 Thursday, Jul 28 2016 

Chapter 7

7.1-10 good name. A good name proves the presence of wisdom. It is the principals of wisdom that give foundation to a good reputation. The day of death proves our legacy, while the day of birth proves nothing. The house of mourning reminds us of our appointment with God, while laughter makes us forget the present and past. Sorrow makes a man reflect on the brevity of life, therefore it is better. The house of mirth and the laughter of fools is like the crackling of thorns. Solomon is reiterating some of the concepts he wrote in Proverbs. The end of a matter is always better than the beginning. A patient spirit serves better than a proud spirit, for who knows the end of the matter. Anger is true hebel, and to live in the past throws today away. This is a violation of the principal of enjoy life and enjoy today. All yesterdays are gone, never to return, and steal today’s joy when brooded upon.

7.11-18 wisdom and life. It is wisdom that brings profit to an inheritance, not the money itself. Riches without wisdom is an evil or hebel in itself. With wisdom, money is a defense. Wisdom brings happiness in the day of prosperity and the in the day of adversity. The rise and fall of daily emotions can be trusted to wisdom. Wisdom reveals good days are set against bad days by God himself. Wisdom smoothes out life and gives stability to all seasons, high and low. Solomon muses over the just man who perishes in his righteousness, and the wicked man whose life is prolonged. Without wisdom these life conundrums are troublesome. Solomon advises to not be self righteous, or seek to be overly wise. This violates the enjoy life as a gift of God concept he is repeatedly presenting. Do not seek evil, but hold in check your wicked nature. The answer is to live, participate in life, while fearing God. This life formula will bring people through any circumstance.

7.19-29 wisdom and sin. Solomon does not overlook the nature of even good men sinning. The Apostle Paul says in Romans 3.23 all have sinned. This is reflected here in Solomon’s caveat. The inclusiveness of sin includes words spoken by a person, and spoken of a person, by others. Solomon readily admits he gave himself to seek wisdom and the reason of things. He searched for meaning in sin, folly, and madness. The revolving cycle brought him back to hebel, vanity. In his search he saw the bitterness of a woman’s snares. As he counted one by one, there was not one man in a thousand who did not sin. The only life worth living is the life of wisdom. Wisdom smoothes out life. Wisdom medicates life. Wisdom intensifies life and it’s joy. Wisdom mellows life. Wisdom is the greatest gift of God to make life enjoyable. The highest quality of life is delivered by wisdom. Fear God and embrace wisdom. This is the only alternative to hebel.

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Ecclesiastes Chapter 6 Wednesday, Jul 27 2016 

Chapter 6

6.1-2. Prosperity. Prosperity is not always good. Some people lose their spiritual drive when they are blessed with prosperity. Solomon has learned that if you do not keep your spiritual man active toward God, then prosperity can actually be an evil in your life.

6.3-6 ibid. He continues to underscore the importance of the spiritual health above all things. To live and be lost is worse than never living at all. The quality of life continues to be his theme. Life is a gift from God is the canopy he continues to present. The arrival at the grave and the afterlife seem to mesmerize Solomon. It seems as though he cannot shake the unknown after a lifetime of learning about all of life. The moment of death and beyond seem to haunt him with it’s unknown. He circles this moment of unease in his writings again and again. He states what he does know. Life here is to be lived and enjoyed. If you live thousands of years and miss this concept, you have failed.

6.7-9 ibid. Solomon presents a telling point. In the things that matter most, wealth is not an advantage. The fool has the ability to enjoy food as much as the wealthiest man on earth. It is best to enjoy what you have in the present life, rather than dwell on the wandering desire of the future. To sacrifice present satisfaction to the altar of wishful future things is hebel, vanity. 

6.10-12 the cycle of life. Solomon returns to the cycle of life to illustrate the hebel of life. This is a keynote of hebel. Man is too limited to explain all the problems of life. The term “who knoweth” is used four times in Ecclesiastes. This is further supported by the seven times Solomon says “man does not know”. After a lifetime of seeking knowledge in all areas of life, the hebel of life is, we still do not know all things. This is why man is encouraged to enjoy the gift of life while it is available. Life is a shadow, ever changing, ever inching toward the unknown life after death. This is true hebel.

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Ecclesiastes Chapter 5 Tuesday, Jul 26 2016 

Chapter 5

5.1-3 empty religion. Solomon turns his eye to religion. The hebel of religion. Jesus also dealt with these issues, mainly the lack of hearing. Jesus said in Mk 8.18 having ears, ye hear not. Many passages reflect the lack of hearing by religious people. Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Isaiah all speak of this perennial problem. Here Solomon also addresses this problem. The eyes and the ears are an integral part of religion. What you speak and look at, as well as what you absorb into your spirit by sight and hearing determine your spiritual status. It is expedient for people to remove any evil from their sight and hearing. Evil is presented on television, Hollywood movies, modern novels, Internet sites, and other platforms. a Christian must keep their home and mind free of this input of evil. Solomon reminds us here, God sees what we watch and listen to. He then adds the second warning about how we speak. This too can be evil. We must be cautious about evil communications. New Testament writers affirm this for the Christian.

5.4-7 vows. God expects sincere worship and words from his children. Foolish vows should never be made to God. To not pay our vows to God identifies us as a fool. It is simple, pay that which thou has vowed. Be cautious before you make a vow, but once you make it, pay the vow. It is better not to vow at all than to not keep your vows to God.

5.8-9 government. The roaming mental eye of Solomon is viewing all of life. He turns from religion to government. This may be the least surprising hebel of life. The only consolation would be, even government officials have authority over them. Even Kings are subject to a higher power.

5.10-12 Goods. Even the accrual of goods is hebel. He that gets silver wants more. Abundance does not bring contentment. Solomon can attest to this, and feels people need to see this hebel or vanity of goods and abundance. Abundance of goods can actually rob a man of sleep, while the poor sleep with no worry or care. It is the drive for wealth that does not satisfy man. Solomon’s descendant, Jesus Christ, centuries later reaffirms the same conclusion. Luke 12:15; And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. 

5.13-17 wealth. Wealth is easily lost and not a sure foundation for life. He observes no one takes wealth with them past the grave. He states all this is a sore evil (16), a rubbed and worn sad conclusion to life. 

5.18-20 joy of life. Solomon returns to his theme of the hebel of life. He again asserts it is good to eat, drink, and enjoy life. Man is to enjoy his hard work and realize his goods and wealth are a gift from God. A modern day saying would say it this way, “stop and smell the roses”. Solomon is confessing he pushed so hard, to achieve so many things, he missed an important facet of life. Life is designed by God to be enjoyed. Solomon repeatedly says, this is the gift of God. Three thousand years have not tarnished this advice. It is still the greatest advice given to mortal man. Life is a gift from God, enjoy it.

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Ecclesiastes Chapter 4 Monday, Jul 25 2016 

Chapter 4

4.1-3 injustice. Solomon leaves the heart of man and looks at the world at large. He concludes some injustices are worse than death. He muses the unborn are better than those oppressed. The word for oppression, ashuq, and has to do with tyranny. Who can observe tyranny more astutely than a King himself? Ironically more lamented than the oppression, was the absence of anyone to show comfort to the oppressed. This is amazing insight for a man so insulated by worldly comforts and servants. This is a flashback to the moment he understood the Shunnamite girl who loved her shepherd, and the moment he knew who the true mother was between the two harlots. It shows great human insight into empathy.

4.4-6 work. He views the man who works an excessive amount in comparison to the man who works just enough to get by. In the end, both are hebel. It is the contentment of life that gauges the value of work and accomplishment.

4.7-8 the miser. Solomon addresses the one who works alone and never stops to enjoy his labor. The miser is never satisfied with his labor, he always wants more. This causes the miser to bereave his own soul of good. This statement is an early form of the law of diminishing returns. The longer and harder the miser works, the less satisfaction he finds. It violates God’s law to enjoy the fruit of your labor.

4.9-12 the value of two. The echo from Eden sounds, it is not good for man to be alone, Gen 2.18. The enjoyment of labor is doubled by the addition of another. The advantage of help by lifting your fallen companion is stated. The companionship of a mate that brings warmth, and the defense of your companion all defend Eden’s echo. As Solomon’s eye looks to the world, he endorses the echo of Eden.

4.13 Solomon’s epitaph. This is the wisest man in the world enscribing his own epitaph. Infinitely better is a wise and poor child (as he was at Gibeon), than an old and foolish King (as he now was). The simple, pure days of his early kingdom now stand in contrast to a complicated court with one thousand women, and temples to many false Gods. This is truly hebel, vanity of vanities. No verse penned in any of his three books concisely states his life as poignantly.

4.14-16 litany of hebel. Solomon poses that Kings come from prisons, and the privileged fall into poverty. As his eye scans all the castes of life, he remembers he is King by his father’s choice. His brothers were in line for the throne, but his mother petitioned his father while his father was on his deathbed, and he, the son who was second, now resides on the throne. It underlines again the hebel of life. Solomon mirrors Aesop who said “our insignificance is often the cause of our safety”.

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Ecclesiastes Chapter 3 Saturday, Jul 23 2016 

Chapter 3

3.1-8 the seasons. As the writer looks at the overview of life, he uses fourteen pairs of opposites to show the journey of life as a cycle in itself. This passage is a beautiful poetic piece of timeless prose. Every culture and every epoch of man can relate to this passage. While stating that nothing changes, he inserts the cycle of life that is change within no change. To gather stones and then discard stones is an apt illustration of the cycle of life. To be born, to plant, to kill, to break down, to weep, to mourn, to cast away stones, to embrace, to get, to keep, to rend, to keep silence, to love, and ultimately to war, are the shadow of every man’s progressing life. And then the sunset of every life reflects, to die, to pluck up, to heal, to build up, to laugh, to dance, to gather stones, to refrain from embracing, to lose, to cast away, to sew, to speak, to hate, and finally to have peace. The stages and journey of every life can be summed up by this one poetic passage of eastern wisdom. This is the sum, the paradox, and the essence of life.

3.9-15 the profit. The writer returns to the overview of life. Tangible things will fade in satisfaction, intangible things are temporal, so enjoy the life God gives. This is the gift of life, the gift of joy, and ultimately the gift of God to mankind. There is no profit outside this view of life. If you choose to live in this view of life, everything is beautiful. Life is an amazing discovery without limit. The ultimate is for man to rejoice and to do good in this life. To eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of his labor, it is the gift of God. This is the cycle of life God gives to mankind. For this cause, men should fear before God. This advice to fear God will be repeated a total of six times in this book.

3.16-22 the eternal. The writer would be remiss if he ignored the eternal, so he turns his eye to that horizon. He examines the place of judgment. He affirms God will judge these things. Death is the great conqueror of man and beast, and every living thing. The similarity of death ends at the dust, for the spirit of man ascends, while the spirit of beasts decends. Then the cycle is again affirmed, there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his own works, for that is his portion. Who shall bring him to see what shall be after him? The Old Testament says very little about the life after death. Here Solomon openly wonders about it, but hints he believes in it when he speaks of a coming judgment. Ultimately in 12.7, he concludes the spirit of man returns to God. After enjoying this life as the gift of God, there is another life to live for.

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Ecclesiastes Chapter Two Thursday, Jul 21 2016 

Chapter 2

2.1-11 Self indulgence. Solomon pursued many forms of escape that men continue to try today. All mankind eventually ends up at the same mountain peak of disillusion. The long list of escape methods included mirth (pleasure or rejoicing), wine, building projects, accumulating wealth, art, gardens, orchards, trees, pools of water, servants, maidens, great herds of animals, silver, gold, choirs, and women. When he had exhausted these many attempts at lasting fulfillment and contentment, he concluded it was all hebel, vanity, with no lasting pleasure and fulfillment. He accrued more than any man before him. He was great in the sight of all jealous and hungry men. Every single desire of his heart was granted completely. Finally he observed it all like a world conqueror, and realized it is all just more of the same. This conclusion alone makes the book of Ecclesiastes of immense value to all people who will hear. One thousand years later the aged, frail Apostle John will echo this conclusion; for all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, 1 Jn 2.16.

2.12-17 Wisdom. Solomon now records his observation of the intangibles. He lays wisdom and folly side by side. He records that wisdom does indeed exceed folly (foolishness). Then he observes that neither survive the death all men must face. Wisdom is helpful and all men should desire it, but ultimately even wisdom decays into hebel, vanity. This conclusion also is of great benefit to any who will harken. All Solomon had accrued in his life, would be left to someone else. The only things that survive the grave are the things God instructs us to possess.

2.18-26 wisdom more valuable than folly. Solomon concludes that even though wisdom only assists to the grave, wisdom is still a big help. The quality of life for a wise man verses the quality of life for a fool cannot be tabulated. The hours of peace and contentment verses the hours of fear and torment cannot be compared. Wisdom does stop at the grave, but the journey to the grave is immeasurably better with wisdom as your guide. All of life’s accruements are passed to another, but the quality of life while on earth is not to be disdained. Several times Solomon will return to this theme in this book; enjoy life, eat and drink, be satisfied with the reward of your labor. This is what God intends for mankind while on their earthly journey. This is from the hand of God. He is not ranting or prating about life, he is saying live well and enjoy life, that is the best road.
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THE search for the summum bonum, the quest of the Chief Good. Thursday, Jul 7 2016 

The Book of Ecclesiastes

Author: Solomon

Date: Tenth century BC

Theme: The vanity of life

Introduction.

Each of the books included in the sacred Canon are unique. This holds true of Ecclesiastes in a special way. Solomon wrote three books in the Bible. He wrote the Song of Solomon while he was young and had only eighty wives and sixty concubines. In his middle years of life he wrote Proverbs, which is a contrast between two women. One woman is the woman of the street, the seductress. The other woman is Lady wisdom. Then in his fading years of life, he wrote this book, Ecclesiastes. At the end of his life he had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines. He had written one thousand five songs and three thousand proverbs. Ecclesiastes has been called the Sphinx of the Bible, for it is grave, majestic, and mysterious.

Ecclesiastes is unique in sacred Canon. Luke wrote his gospel and the sequel, the book of Acts. John wrote his gospel and his triad of books, and Revelation. The Apostle Paul wrote for for a period of about a decade. Only Solomon wrote books in various stages of life that reflect the changing viewpoint of one man’s life. This, the final book of his life, shows the transition of youth to age. Ecclesiastes is the contrast of youthful dreams to the realization we will all face death and judgment. It is the Hebel of life. Life on earth is empty, transitory, and unsatisfactory.

The Bible is many things, including philosophy. No where is philosophy more on display than in this grand book. The author saw all life had to offer and concluded it is Hebel, empty. At the end of all conclusions, all that matters is God. No man on earth was better qualified to write this perspective than Solomon. God Himself acknowledged Solomon as the wisest man to ever live. He was the richest man on earth during his reign in Jerusalem. His life is without sequel.

Solomon is not a bitter old man as some might present him as. He is not disillusioned. He is a man who had seen more, and experienced more, than any man in history. From his coronation in Gibeon decades before, until this writing, he was the single most qualified man to write on the journey of life. Far from bitter, he is a clear eyed visionary putting the most important subject of every life on planet earth to words of eternal wisdom.

When he concludes his treatise in the final chapter, his deductions are overwhelming, convincing, and eternal. Fear God and keep His commandments, this is the whole duty of man, for God shall bring every work into judgment.

Chapter 1

1.1 the preacher. One who addresses an assembly. The son of David, hence Solomon.

1.2 vanity. This is the key word and the theme of the entire book. The Hebrew word hebel, has been translated many ways, by numerous people. Some meanings have been futility, emptiness, nothingness, and even absurdity. The general gist is that it encompasses no value or profit. It speaks of things transitory or that pass away. The Qoheleth, or preacher, is not saying there is no value in temporal things. He is stating that after a lifetime of living, and seeing many things, all of it is of no value in eternity. The author is speaking of things under the sun, which are temporal things. The casting of vanity over life does not include the fear of God, or even enjoying life. He is simply saying the pursuit of these things is hebel, or vain.

1.3 what profit? The question is what eternal profit? The term under the sun, is used twenty nine times in the book. This term identifies the temporal world.

1.4-11 The cycles of nature testify of this concept of hebel. Nature goes on and on, but man, the diadem of God’s creation passes away. This opening observation is the overall canopy of the book.

1.12-18 Solomon. No other person in history is more qualified than Solomon to make these conclusions. God used Solomon’s earthly successes to speak to the world about hebel, or vanity. Seven times in this writing Solomon says it is vexation of spirit. He is stating the obvious conclusion that this world, and all it can give as a reward, is futility. Solomon’s great wisdom did not unlock life’s ultimate questions. Solomon’s former book, the book of Proverbs, emphasizes the benefits of wisdom. In the closing years of his life he acknowledges wisdom has limitations.