I'm waiting on a commentary for II Kings before I move on with the chronological study. So I thought I would take a detour through Ecclesiastes. I had planned to read this with all of the other David and Solomon reading; but the failed attempt at Psalms stopped that plan.
Introduction to Ecclesiastes
Ryrie Study Bible
The title is basically translated as "preacher" but comes from the word "assembly".
The Jewish tradition is that Solomon was the author. Starting with Martin Luther, many believe it was written after the exile and Solomon was used as a main character. The author never explicitly notes that he is Solomon, but what he does describe couldn't be anyone else. Son of David, massive building projects, wealth, pleasure...etc.
NIV Chronological Bible
This introduction refers to the book's secular worldview and points out that the orthodox faith doesn't show up until the end.
This intro also questions the authorship of Solomon and states that it might be him; but again, the later writing style brings that into question.
This translates the book title to "teacher", but also states that the direct translation of the Hebrew title is "leader of the assembly."
In his guest intro, Ken Baugh notes that dissatisfaction is a part of life. And as such, it cannot be cured by life. Contentment and satisfaction will have to come from the Lord. He gives three principles for finding that satisfaction in life from the Lord:
- Coming to terms with the fact that everything I have is a gift from the Lord. And those gifts aren't intended to satisfy you. They are for His good works. If you try to use them for yourself, they will leave you hollow.
- Noticing and help meet the needs of others. Not keeping all of God's gift to us for ourselves.
- Trusting God in times of distress will leave you more satisfied than trying to handle distress in the world.
Vanity of vanities! Vanity is also translated "meaningless" or "vapor".
v. 3 What advantage does man have in all of his work, which he does under the sun?
Great first question. We want our work to mean something. We want intrinsic value. I have worth because of who I am and what I have done.
Nope. Your don't.
And THAT is a hard pill to swallow.
I repeatedly struggle with this concept. I want to be funny or smart or valuable for what I know or can do...but none of those things are mine. I was given every talent I have. Every good thing came from God. For His good works not mine. So not only do I not have independent worth; I really don't have control.
But the truth is so much better. We are created for a purpose. For good works planned just for us. Not because of our value; but because of His.
Starting in verse 4 he describes cycles in nature that demonstrate the fruitlessness of it all.
- generations come and then pass.
- sun rises and sets
- winds blow
- rain falls but the sea is never full
Then in verse 8 he explains how wearisome this is. Unsatisfying to see and hear this stuff
So there is nothing new under the sun.Ecclesiastes 1: 9b
I don't understand why this has to be a demonstration of futility. It's a demonstration of God's faithfulness. To keep the wind blowing, water flowing, generations able to bring on new generations. I see that it can be seen in the light of futility; but it doesn't have to., Those same facts show that He is faithful while working His plan.
In verse 13 he falls into self pity by describing the task of seeking wisdom as a grievous task.
It reminds me of my friend who became a counselor and discovered we're all crazy. We all have stuff that makes us a little bit wacky. And it sent her into an existential crisis. She came to think of herself as the last sane person. But having know her most of her life; I knew she was a batty as the rest of us.
It's Solomon's arrogance that leaves him depressed. If he walked in God's light with all of the gifts he'd been given; he would rejoice.
I like the idea that this is someone playing the role of Solomon after the exile. Saturday Night Live Solomon. Over the top. Because he is intolerably arrogant and self-pitying.
Life is not in vain in the Lord.
Key words and phrases:
- Vanity of vanities- used 38 times. vapor and futility
- Under the sun- used 29 times- show focus of man not from God above the sun.
- Profit- used 10 times Used nowhere else in the New Testament. means surplus or gain.
- Labor- used 23 times. It means to toil to exhaustion with no satisfaction. Yikes.
- man- used 49 times speaking of man made from the earth
- evil- same word translated into various English word, used 31 times
- joy- this an it's similar words are used 17 times to make the point; even though life if evil and futile- don't be pessimistic- but enjoy the life you have been given
- wisdom/folly- used 32 times to reference fools and folly and 54 to wisdom
- God- used 40 times and always Elohim, never Jehovah
Whatever we think we want; Solomon had. He had it all and did it all. and found it all fruitless. He was the life lab that we can refer to and find out if what we "really" want would bring us what we think we "really" want.
God and God alone provides what we need and what can gives us proud and authentic satisfaction.
If it was written by Solomon, no wonder he was so grim and unsatisfied. He knew the Lord personally and had been richly blessed by him his whole life...and then he walked away from the Lord. He must not have seen it as he wandered away; but the darkness, in contrast to the world he had been living in in, had to be so oppressive.
Solomon tries to defend his grim worldview by pointing out the cycles in nature, earth, sun, wind, water...I saw those as the faithfulness of God. Wiersbe had another good take. Those cycles are only monotonous and grim if that world did not also have a God that broke the cycle when His people prayed and such. It's His world. He can intervene how and when He wants.
The "preacher" took the role of scientist, historian, and philosopher and find life wanting...Life apart from God, as seen in any other light, leads to despair. But with God, there is life and light.