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An Argument of the Book of Ecclesiastes

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MESSAGE STATEMENT:1

The futility of life need not lead people to despair because God has given good gifts for them to enjoy as well as purpose in life through fearing and obeying him

I. FIRST DISCOURSE: Solomon affirms that all of life leads to futility in itself, yet man is to enjoy the goodness therein because that is from God 1:1--2:26

A. Introduction--General Thesis: Solomon, the king of Israel, proclaims that life is brief, short, empty and meaningless 1:1-2

1. These are the words of Solomon, king of Israel, as he addresses an assembly (the Professor) 1:1

2. Solomon proclaims his overall thesis that everything in life is brief, short, empty and meaningless2 1:2

B. General Thesis Supported Through an Examination of Work and Wisdom:3 Solomon generally and then specifically examines work and wisdom (in a cyclic fashion) to support his thesis that all of life is meaningless 1:3--2:23

1. Work I-- Has No Advantage: There is no advantage to work from earth’s perspective because of the cycles of life which entrap people and because of the lack of fulfillment in doing anything 1:3-11

a. Question: Solomon asks the question, “From earth’s perspective is there any advantage to a person in all of one’s work?” 1:3

b. Answer I--None in View of Life-Cycles: Solomon answers that there is no advantage for one to work from earth’s perspective because everyone is caught in the unending and unalterable cycles of life4 1:4-7

1) There is no advantage for one to work from earth’s perspective because people come and pass while the earth goes on 1:4

2) There is no advantage for one to work from earth’s perspective because the cycles of sunrise and sunset are unending 1:5

3) There is no advantage for one to work from earth’s perspective because the movement of the wind is constantly repetitive 1:6

4) There is no advantage for one to work from earth’s perspective because the cycles of water are repetitive and unending 1:7

c. Answer II--None in View of the Lack of Fulfillment in Life: Solomon answers that there is no advantage for one to work from earth’s perspective because everyone is never satisfied, everyone only repeats others, and no one will be remembered 1:8-11

1) Never Satisfied: There is no advantage for one to work from earth’s perspective because everything is wearisome since one can never say, see or hear enough--there is no satisfaction 1:8

2) Nothing New: There is no advantage for one to work from earth’s perspective because one’s work will never result in anything new, but only that which has been 1:9-10

3) Not Remembered: There is no advantage for one to work from earth’s perspective because no one will remember anyone in the future 1:11

2. Wisdom I--Leads to Emptiness, Frustration and Pain: Solomon affirms that by increasing in wisdom he did not find fulfillment, but the emptiness of work, the certainty of design, and the pain of awareness 1:12-18

a. Wisdom Sees Work As an Affliction: In all of his wisdom King Solomon examined all that people do and concluded that work is an affliction5 from God because it all is an emptiness6 1:12-14

b. Wisdom Sees Unalterable Life: In all of his wisdom King Solomon saw that there are broad strokes of life which cannot be altered in terms of sin and need7 1:15

c. Wisdom Sees the Pain in Life: In all of his wisdom King Solomon saw that acquiring skill in life is also empty because with understanding comes mental pain 1:16-18

3. Work II--Preferable to Pleasure, but Empty: In the pursuit of pleasure and hard work Solomon found the latter to be preferable, but both to be empty in and of themselves 2:1-11

a. Pleasure and Folly are Empty: Examining pleasure and folly, Solomon concluded that such activity, for itself, is empty and should be abandoned for doing things in life 2:1-3

1) An Empty Pursuit: Solomon affirms that pleasure and folly show themselves to be empty as a pursuit of life 2:1

2) An Aid to Look for What Was Good: Solomon affirms that pleasure and folly helped him to look for what was good to do with his life 2:2-3

b. Achievement Is Empty: Although Solomon pursued hard work and the acquiring of things over folly, he found that those achievements also left him empty 2:4-11

1) Solomon Achieved: Solomon enlarged his works 2:4-10

a) He built houses 2:4a

b) He planted vineyards, gardens, parks, and trees 2:4b-5

c) He made ponds 2:6

d) He had slaves 2:7a

e) He had flocks and herds 2:7b

f) He had riches 2:8a

g) He had concubines for personal pleasure and status as king 2:8b-9a

h) He increased in knowledge 2:9b

i) He acquired all that he desired 2:10

2) Achievement Brought Emptiness: Solomon saw emptiness (no advantage or profit) in all of his work under the sun 2:11

4. Wisdom II--Death Makes the Choice of Wisdom Over Folly Meaningless: In examining wisdom and folly Solomon affirms that the former (wisdom) is preferable, but not ultimately fulfilling since death is the end of both the fool and the wise 2:12-16

a. Wisdom Exceeds Folly: In examining wisdom and folly Solomon concluded that wisdom was far better than folly since it gives direction for life 2:12-13a

b. Wisdom is Empty in View of Death: Solomon concludes, nevertheless, that wisdom is empty as a sole pursuit because death8 will meet and destroy both the wise and the foolish 2:13b-16

5. Work--Conclusion: Solomon concludes that work is empty and life is to be hated because it only leads to grief (evil) in that others may later squander your fruits, therefore, only pain and preoccupation exist from work now 2:17-23

a. Hated Life: Solomon concluded that he hated life because his work was grievous9 being empty 2:17

b. Good Results May Be Squandered: Solomon hated the results of work because they may well be squandered by the next generation and thus only were pain and preoccupation now 2:18-23

1) Hands of a Fool: Solomon hated10 the results of his labor because ultimately it may go into the hands of a fool thereby being an increasing evil 2:18-21

2) Pain and Preoccupation: Solomon hated his work because it really yielded empty pain11 and preoccupation 2:22-23

C. Perspective to General Thesis: Solomon proclaimed that when one recognizes that God’s hand is responsible for one’s life--giving meaning and provision for His own rather than loss for the godless--one can affirm that both pleasures and work are good12 2:24-26

1. Pleasure and Work are Good: Recognizing that the hand of God is responsible for one’s life, Solomon contradicts his former statements and affirms that pleasure and work are both good 2:24

2. Apart From God is Despair: The reason one can enjoy life when one sees that God’s hand is involved is because without Him life is meaningless and full of despair 2:25

3. Provision Through the Godless: The reason one can enjoy life when one sees that God’s hand is involved is because ultimately He provides for His own through the godless whose work turns into emptiness without Him 2:26

II. SECOND DISCOURSE: Solomon affirms that although God has appointed contradictory/polar times in life, one can enjoy life when one uses the logical tensions (or appointed, contradictory times) to stir one’s eternal aspect so that one looks to God as the giver of life 3:1-22

A. The Problem: Solomon affirms that everything, including events and experiences which seem to be contradictory, has an appointed time 3:1-8

1. Everything13 in heaven has an appointed time14 3:1

2. There are appointed moments15 for all of the seemingly polarized events and experiences under heaven16 3:2-8

a. Life to Death: There is a time to begin and to conclude life 3:2

1) There is a time to give birth and to die 3:2a

2) There is a time to plant and to uproot what is planted 3:2b

b. Death to Rebuild: There is a time to destroy and restore life 3:3

1) There is a time to kill17 and a time to heal18 3:3a

2) There is a time to tear down (break through) and to build up 3:3b

c. Mourning to Happiness: There is a time to mourn and to be light hearted 3:4

1) There is a time to weep and a time to laugh 3:4a

2) There is a time to mourn19 and to dance20

d. Keep and Let Go: There is a time to keep and to let go 3:5

1) There is a time to throw stones away and to gather stones together 3:5a

2) There is a time to embrace21 and to abstain from embracing 3:5b

e. Hold To and Give Up: There is a time to hope and to give up hope 3:6

1) There is a time to search22 and to give up as lost23 3:6a

2) There is a time to keep24 and to throw away 3:6b

f. Divide and Unify: There is a time to breed unity and to address difference 3:7

1) There is a time to tear apart25 and to sew together26 3:7a

2) There is a time to be silent27 and to speak 3:7b

g. Strife and Rest: There is a time to be in favor or, and to be opposed to 3:8

1) There is a time to love (as with a friend) and to hate (as with an enemy)28 3:8a

2) There is a time for wary and of peace 3:8b

B. General Solution: Although the appointments of life may point to despair in striving, meaning for life may be found if one follows the eternal drive within oneself to recognize God as the giver of life 3:9-21

1. A Logical Question: Because of the appointed times, which include good and bad, Solomon asks if there is any profit for someone who toils at life 3:9

2. A Logical Solution: Since life is appointed well one can live with joy and meaning as one follows one’s eternal drive and recognizes life as a gift of God 3:10-21

a. A Desire to Go Beyond Boundaries: Solomon has seen that which God has given people to occupy themselves with, namely, that everything has a an excellent, fixed time and that there is also the sense within people that life should go beyond its boundaries29 3:10-11a

b. Man Cannot Go Beyond the Boundaries: Even though people have a sense for eternity within themselves, there is no way for them to extend beyond the cycles in-and-of themselves 3:11b

c. Solomon concludes that profit in life comes from viewing life as a gift from God with which to rejoice, do good and enjoy 3:12-13

C. Specific Problem: Solomon affirms that man is forced to turn from himself to God when he realizes that He controls events, is the source of morality and gives any meaning to the equalizer of death 3:14-21

1. God Controls Events: The times of life are unalterably set so that people will reverently turn from themselves to God 3:14

2. God Forces Man to Turn to Him: Man is forced to turn from himself to God when he realizes that the experiences of life are unalterable, man will be judged by God’s morality, and God is the only hope in death 3:15-21

a. A Sovereign Design: There is nothing that one can do to change matters of life because with God it is as though everything has already occurred 3:15

b. A Time for Judgment: Although wrong seems to triumph without resistance now, God has appointed a time for all people to be accountable--outside of time 3:16-17

c. Hope in Death: God has placed the sever obstacle of death before man so that he would recognize his shared finiteness with animals and turn from himself to God 3:18-21

1) Man’s Finite Estate: God has placed a sever test in the life of man so that he will know his finite nature with animals in the physical world 3:18

2) People do not show any superiority to animals at the end of their lives because both die, both return to the dirt from which they came, and one does not know what occurs afterward 3:19-21

D. Specific Solution: The reason one should be happy in one’s appointed activities is because there is no future beyond them apart from God 3:22

1. Statement: One should be happy in one’s appointed activities 3:22a

2. Reason: The reason one should be happy in one’s appointed activities is because there is no future beyond them outside of God 3:22b

III. THIRD DISCOURSE: Solomon affirms that life can be enjoyed rather than fearfully protected and despaired of when one knows God as the One who gives life 4:1--5:20

A. The Fear that Brings Despair in Life: Solomon describes those things which bring despair in life as: the power of oppressors, the single-mindedness of work, the insecurity of status, the fury of religion and the self-sufficiency of material gains which will ultimately be lost 4:1--5:17

1. Oppressors and the Oppressed: When Solomon examines the unjust state of oppressors who have power and the helplessness of the oppressed, he concludes that living is the worst of all possible states 4:1-3

a. The Power of Oppressors and Helplessness of the Oppressed: Solomon examined all of the acts of oppression on earth and saw that the oppressors had power on their side to perform injustice while the oppressed were not helped (or comforted) 4:1

b. Conclusion--It’s Better Not To Exist: Solomon concluded from the oppression that those who are dead or have never existed are better-off than those who are alive 4:2-3

2. The Single-mindedness of Work: Solomon Affirms that to be driven in work, especially for oneself, is a great emptiness because people are designed for one another 4:4-12

a. The Balance of Work: Even though work can be a consuming contest fueled out of fear, it is not helpful to give-up, but to balance work and leisure 4:4-6

1) Work is an empty contest between people 4:4

2) Some abandon the contest and die 4:5

3) It is better to balance work and rest than to overwork 4:6

b. The Balance of One Another: There is a great emptiness in approaching life only for oneself because people are designed to need one another 4:7-12

1) The vanity of life on earth is universal 4:7

2) To work and deprive oneself, for only oneself, is an evil in the end 4:8

3) People are designed to be interdependent upon one another 4:9-12

a) Two can produce more than one can 4:9

b) Two can help each other in trouble 4:10-12

(1) One can lift the other who falls 4:10

(2) Two can keep each other warm30 4:11

(3) Two or more can stand an attack31 4:12

3. The Insecurity of Status: Solomon affirms that in view of the shrewdness of youth and the fickleness of people it is empty to depend upon status for security in life 4:13-16

a. Poor Can Replace a King: A poor but wise youth can replace a confirmed but foolish king as king 4:13-14

b. Public opinion switches so much that the wise lad will too be replaced by another since position is ultimately emptiness 4:15-16

4. The Fury of Religion: Since one’s religious fury may be empty resulting in painful consequences, one should be of those who fear God rather than men 5:1-7

a. Humbly Come Before God: As one approaches God, one should consider what He has for him rather than what one has in poverty for God since the latter is evil 5:1-3

1) Statement: When one comes to the house of God, one should be careful to come as a listener rather than as one who foolishly thinks that he has something to offer God--the latter is evil 5:1

2) Do Not Be Thoughtless: As one considers who God is and who he is, one should not be thoughtless before Him in activity 5:2

3) Limit Activity: One should limit one’s activity to that which has understanding rather than that which is busy but empty 5:3

b. Empty Religious Activity/Fearing God: One must not be someone who enters into empty religious activity, but who truly fears God 5:5-7

1) Pay Promises: One should pay promises that one makes to God 5:4

2) Reason: It is better to say nothing than to make an empty promise to God because there are consequences to empty words 5:5-7a

3) Conclusion: One should fear God 5:7b

5. Self-Sufficiency and Material Gain: As one guards against corrupt authority by striving to be self-sufficient, one finds that one’s protection in material gain becomes their undoing 5:8-17

a. The Corruption of Authority: There is no reason to be astonished over oppression of the upright since corruption exists throughout levels of power and the one in charge rarely addresses it 5:8-9

b. Emptiness of Material Gain: There is an emptiness in believing that material gains will satisfy oneself 5:10

c. The Cost of Material Gains: All material gains do is cost one even more, give less good rest, and frustrate one when one looses them or dies without them 5:11-17

1) More In = More Out: The more that comes in, the more goes out giving the owner the only advantage of keeping an eye on his possessions 5:11

2) Less Work = Less Rest: The less one works, the less one can rest 5:12

3) Hording Leads to Loss: Hording material gain for protection leads to vulnerability, hurt and ultimate loss because one may loose it someday or because one will die without out it 5:13-17

B. The Perspective That Brings Joy In Life: Solomon affirms that life becomes something which can be enjoyed when God is known to be the giver of its fruit and labor 5:18-20

1. Life and Labor: Solomon sees life and labor as rewards to enjoy in life because they are gifts32 from God 5:18

2. Riches and Wealth: Riches and wealth are not to be worried over, but enjoyed as gifts for that purpose from God 5:19

3. Enjoying Life: Knowing God enables one to not be consumed with fear over one’s life, but to enjoy life with gladness of heart 5:20

IV. FOURTH DISCOURSE: Even though there are many futile aspects to life from a natural viewpoint, a divine viewpoint enables one to enjoy life, to prefer it to death, to use it for the benefit of others, and to live with a fear of God and in obedience to His word knowing that there will be a future judgment 6:1--12:14

A. A Natural View of Life: While the natural vantage point of man sees calamity as that which causes man to be hopeless, there is resolution which enables man to enjoy life when he recognizes that difficulties are designed to turn people from their own self-made explanations of meaning to a dependence upon (fear of) God 6:1--7:29

1. The Hopelessness of Man: From a natural vantage-point life is an empty hopelessness because in God’s unalterable, determined plan calamity is allowed to fall on people so as to prevent them from experiencing fullness in life 6:1-12

a. God Allows Calamity: As one examines the natural events of life, it seems to be meaningless in that God allows calamity to fall upon people to prevent them from the fullness in life 6:1-9

1) Broad Observation: Solomon affirms that there is a prevalent evil in life which touches people 6:1

2) Thesis Stated: Solomon affirms that the evil he has seen is that God will enrich a person and then not enable them to enjoy those riches 6:2

3) A Conclusion: Solomon thus concludes that life seems to be meaningless and not worth striving for or living since one is never allowed to find satisfaction in life 6:3-9

a) Better Not to Have Lived: It is better to have never entered into life than to have much and never be able to be satisfied 6:3-5

b) Success Is Meaningless: When one lacks fulfillment, then extended life, superior achievement, and the acquiring of material is meaningless 6:6-9

(1) Extended Time: More time for life is not meaningful if there is never any fulfillment--only loss in death 6:6

(2) Extended Work: Since work never satisfies there is no real advantage over those who do not strive 6:7-8

(3) One’s Desires: Although things appear to be superior to one’s lifetime desires (what one gets) they are emptiness 6:9

b. Man’s Experience is Determined: From the vantage point of man, there is not much hope because his experience is unalterably determined by God 6:10-12

1) Cannot Do Anything: Mankind is at a great disadvantage in that he is unable to do anything to change God’s determined experience for him 6:10-11

2) Not Much Hope: Because of the determining hand of God there is not much hope for man from his vantage point 6:12

2. The Resolution of Difficulties: The struggle of futility in the difficulties that come upon the wise in life is only resolved by using those difficulties to drive one to fearing God rather than searching for more diverse answers 7:1--27

a. Difficulties Enrich: The value of difficulties is described variously as that which enrich rather than destroys a person 7:1-6a

1) Difficult vs. Festive Experiences: Value in life is derived from the difficult yet forging experiences rather than from natural and festive ones 7:1

2) Funeral vs. Party: The value of a funeral which supersedes a party is that those who are living think about their mortality 7:2

3) Sorrow vs. Laughter: The experience of sorrow enables a person to really know the essence of happiness 7:3

4) Death vs. Pleasure: When one deals with the issue of death, one becomes wiser than if one always escaped through pleasure 7:4

5) Rebuke vs. Praise: Constructive criticism from someone who cares and knows is better than empty praise that will quickly abandon 7:5-6a

b. Unwise Choices Under Difficulty: Nevertheless, there seems to be futility in all of the good that difficulty can provide because people are still corruptible with oppression or strong temptation 7:6b-7

c. Consequences of Unwise Living: To not be wise or have skill at life is to be at a great disadvantage in life 7:8-12

1) Patience vs. Arrogance: It is better to patiently endure than to arrogantly begin 7:8

2) Anger vs. Resolution: When one harbors unresolved anger, one demonstrates their inability to deal wisely with their life 7:9

3) Past vs. Present: To dwell on the superiority of the past is to not deal skillfully with today 7:10

4) Money vs. Wisdom: Although money can provide a type of protection, wisdom supersedes it because it enables one to deal with all of his experiences 7:11-12

d. A Wise Choice Under Difficulties: One is not able to face life through one’s own attempts at goodness but when one recognizes that God’s design has placed difficulty into one’s life to draw them to Himself 7:13-22

1) Thesis: When one accurately considers the unalterable design God has given to life, one can enjoy prosperity and use adversity to draw him to God 7:13-14

2) Extremes vs. Fear: While extremes for goodness or evil will harm one’s life, fearing God will enable one to be good and to live life 7:15-18

a) The Inversion of Justice: Life is frustrating because the upright perish and the evil are prolonged 7:15

b) The Excess of Wisdom: For one to alienate oneself for wisdom and righteousness is for one to ruin their life 7:16

c) The Excess of Evil: To be evil and foolish is to lose one’s life 7:17

d) The Place of Fear: To be someone who fears God is to be able to be upright and to live with the knowledge that one is good and evil 7:18-22

(1) Statement: It is good to hold on to righteousness and to also be aware of one’s evil because this leads to a fear of God 7:18

(2) Illustration: Although Wisdom and righteousness are helpful, no one is completely pure 7:19-22

e. Only Fear Satisfies: Except for fearing God, all attempts at explaining life lead to the trappings of despair because mankind’s tendency is to seek that which is against God’s upright design for him 7:23-27

1) The Failure of Human Attempts: All of man’s attempts of skillfully explaining life fall short of the mysteries before him 7:23-24

2) The Deliverance of Fear: In examining life Solomon discovered that only the one who fears God can escape the painful trappings of life 7:25-26

3) The Tendency of Mankind: In examining life Solomon found that man’s bent as a race is to seek that which is against God’s upright design for them 7:27-29

B. God’s Vantage-Point of Life: God’s vantage point in life enables people to divert natural, angry, tendencies of fighting an evil system with evil to actions and enjoyment of good because one understands that God will sovereignly deal with evil 8:1-15

1. Principle: Solomon affirms that wisdom is a great attribute because it gives perspective to the hurts which one faces 8:1

2. Example of the Principle: Because of a person’s commitment to God, one should obey the governmental authority over him and not quickly rebel so as to incur the government’s sovereign retaliation 8:2-4

a. Obey Those In Authority: Because of one’s commitment to God, one should obey the rules of those in authority over them33 8:2

b. The King Will Retaliate: It is not wise to rebel against the governmental authority (in a rash) because they have a sovereign power to retaliate 8:3-4

3. Explanation of the Principle: Although one is tempted to fight and despair in an evil system because of its great injustices, as a God-fearer one can do right and enjoy good knowing that God will sovereignly deal with evil 8:5-15

a. Do What is Right and Trust God: When one is faced with difficulty during a hurtful reign, one should protect oneself by doing what is right and trusting God to bring about eventful change 8:5-8

1) Protect One’s Self with Obedience and Trust: One can protect himself by doing what is right and trusting in God’s oversight for appropriate change 8:5

a) Do What is Commanded: One will not experience trouble if one does what he is commanded to do by the government 8:5a

b) Know that God will Provide Change: One is able to patiently do what is commanded of him because he knows that God will provide a proper time and way of change 8:5b

2) Change Through Events: God provides for appropriate change during a hurtful reign through natural unavoidable events 8:6-8

a) Principle: God provides a proper time and procedure for every desire when one is faced with difficulty 8:6

b) Means: Ways in which God works to provide times and provisions for change are often through natural, unavoidable events 8:7-8

(1) The Unforeseen of Tomorrow: Since no one can foresee what will occur tomorrow, no one can protect even a government from that which lies before it 8:7

(2) Natural Disaster, Death, War, Evil: There is no government which can protect itself from natural disaster, the death of its leaders, the effects of war, or the fruit of its own evil 8:8

b. Naturally Speaking Wicked Never Seem to Pay for Evil: Examining life from a natural vantage point leads to frustration because the wicked never fully pay for their evil and this incites more evil 8:9-11

1) A Natural Viewpoint: Solomon looks once again from the natural vantage point at the expression of authority by men over men 8:9

2) No Lasting Consequence for Evil: One frustration about those who are wicked is that there is no lasting consequence which they must bare for their evil 8:10

3) Slow Process Increases Evildoers: One frustration about corrupt authority is that a slow process of justice only increases the number of those who do evil 8:11

c. Supernaturally Speaking God Has Oversight: Although life from a natural vantage point seems to be out of control and replete with injustices, one should enjoy it as a God-fearer who understands His oversight 8:12-15

1) Fear God in the Face of Evil: It is better to live a life that fears God, even though those who do evil seem to prosper, because those who are wicked will be held accountable by God 8:12-13

a) Be Restrained by the Fear of God: Even though those who do evil seem to prosper, it is better to live a life restrained by the fear of God 8:12

b) The Rebellious Will Give Account: God will require those who rebel against Him to give an account for their lives 8:13

2) Wicked Seem to Prosper: Life from a natural vantage point is frustrating because the wicked seem to prosper while the good are recipients of problems 8:14

3) Enjoy the Good from God: Although life is replete with injustices one can enjoy that which is good as one remembers that God is its giver and guardian 8:15

C. Life Is Preferable to Death: Although there is no explanation, apart from God, for the hurtful, capricious nature of life, it is still preferable to death because God has designed it alone to be enjoyed and used for the benefit of others 8:16--9:18

1. Life Is Unexplainable Apart from God: Because one does not receive from life what one puts into life, it is impossible to explain the experiences of life outside of the hand of God 8:16--9:1

a. Life Cannot Be Thoroughly Known: No matter how wise, diligent, or hard-working one is to explain life which God has given to man, its unifying principle cannot be known 8:16-17

b. God Holds Life: The experiences of life are in the hand of God and not appropriately awaiting those who “are” or “act” in a certain way 9:1

2. The Universality of Death: Death is a fate which awaits everyone, even those who pursue evil and deserve worse 9:2-3

a. Death Awaits All: Death is a fate which awaits every person no matter how he stands in relation to God 9:2

b. Those Who Do Evil Only Die: It is especially evil that those who specialize in doing wrong receive exactly the same as all others in that they only die 9:3

3. Live is Advantageous: Life is more advantageous than death because the living are still able to enjoy life and especially impact the lives of those around them 9:4-10

a. Living Mark Life: Because the dead, even though once great are no longer able to make any mark upon life, the living are at a great advantage 9:4-6

1) Living Have Hope: Just as a living dog can do more than the king of animals--the lion34--who is dead, so is it true that as long as one is alive there is hope35 9:4

2) Living Affect Life: Even though the living can foresee their eventual death, they are at an advantage over the dead because they can no longer make any affect upon life 9:5-6

a) Living Can Do Things: Even though the living can foresee their death they are at an advantage by virtue of what they can do 9:5a

b) Dead Cannot Do Things: The dead are at a disadvantage to the living because of what they can no longer do with mankind 9:5b-6

(1) No Future: The dead have no future to look toward36 9:5b

(2) No Reward from Men: The dead have no further reward to receive by men since they are forgotten 9:5c

(3) Passion is Expended: The dead have expended all of their passion for life and are no longer effective 9:6a

(4) No Effect on Life: The dead no longer have an ability to affective life on earth 9:6b

b. Life Has Refuge: God has designed life to have enough refuge to be enjoyed while one strives hard to do the tasks God has given one in the time available 9:7-10

1) The Good of Life Is a Refuge: One should enjoy the good aspects of life (fruit, parties, partners) because God has designed them as a refuge with toil 9:7-9

a) Enjoy The Good Fruits of Life: The living should enjoy the fruits of life as approved gifts of God 9:7

b) Enjoy the Festivity of Life: The living should enjoy the festivity of life37 9:8

c) Enjoy the Partnership of a Mate: The living should enjoy the partnership of a mate in life because God has given this person to be a refuge in the midst of toil 9:9

2) Use Life to Do One’s Tasks: One must use their life to do the tasks before them because this is the only time one has 9:10

4. Wisdom Is a Source for Life: Even though the experiences of a person’s life may be capriciously hurtful to any individual, one’s skill in life will be a source of life for many 9:11-18

a. Time and Chance: There is not a natural cause-and-effect relationship to life because all are subject to the limitations of time and the capriciousness of chance 9:11

b. Time and Turmoil: Time seems to capriciously throw men into turmoil just like helpless animals in a trap 9:12

c. Wisdom Can Provide Life: Although skill for living may be capriciously despised or hurt by evil, it can be used to provide life for many38 9:13-18

D. Live in the Fear of God: Because of the affects of folly, the advantages of wisdom and the futility of life, one must live life today in the context of fearing God and following His word because that will be the measurement by which he will evaluate all men 10:1--12:14

1. Bad Choices Lead to Harm:39 Solomon affirms that foolish, sinful youthful choices lead to personal and public harm in life 10:1-20

a. Evil vs. Perfume: Foolish evil greatly overrides the perfume of one’s life 10:1

b. The Leading of Choices: In common areas of life foolish choices are observable in that they lead in the opposite way of wisdom 10:2-3

c. Wisdom and Anger: Wisdom handles the anger of the powerful effectively 10:4

d. Folly and the Order of Life: Folly overturns the effective order of life40 10:5-7

e. Dangers and Folly: Because there are dangers inherent in all aspects of life, to not apply wisdom is to experience destruction41 10:8-11

f. Foolish Words are Destructive: Unlike the words of life from a wise person, the abundance of foolish words are destructive 10:12-14

g. The Fool Lacks Direction: The fool gets lost in the overwhelming task and is unable to reach a city 10:15

h. Neglect of Duty Effects Many: The neglect of duty by a youthful, foolish leader (unlike the wise) leads to loss for many 10:16-19

i. The Foolishness of Private Criticism: It is foolish to only criticize in private because word will reach its object 10:20

2. Wisdom Pursues Life with Perspective: Solomon affirms that wisdom pursues life in a skillful way all the while knowing of its capricious futility which acquires meaning before God who will evaluate all men 11:1-10

a. Wise Financial Planning: Wise financial planning protects against the capricious disasters of life 11:1-2

b. Making the Most of Life: It is wise to not become immobilized by the uncertainties of life, but by entrusting them to God to make the most of today’s opportunities of life 11:3-6

1) Events Beyond Control: Some things are going to occur which are beyond one’s control 11:3

2) An Over-Concern: One can become obsessed with watching the uncontrollable events of life to the point of inactivity 11:4

3) Perspective in Sovereignty: One can recognize that the uncontrollable in life is in the hand of God42 and therefore, do all that one can with the opportunities which one has 11:5-6

3. Pursue God While One Can: Solomon affirms that before life is too difficult, one must pursue God by placing all one does within the context of the “fear of God” and “obedience to His word” because He will evaluate men by these things 12:1-14

a. Life is Brief: Life must be pursued in its brevity with the perspective of its futility and one’s accountability before God 11:7-10

1) Light and Darkness: One must enjoy the beauty and light of youth in the perspective of the certain darkness which is to come 11:7-8

2) Strength and Weakness: One is to enjoy and pursue life with the strength of youth43 in the perspective of accountability before God44 11:9

3) Deal With Bitterness: In view of one’s physical limitations and the sovereign oversight of God one must check one’s bitterness and pursue the moments of life before them 11:10

b. Consider God in One’s Youth: Solomon affirms that God is to be considered during the days of one’s vitality or else one will find the certain evil before them to be too overwhelming to think clearly 12:1

c. Consideration Later Is Difficult: If one does not consider God while one’s strength is with them, the certain darkness before them will overwhelm them to conclude that all in life is empty 12:2-8

1) Stumbling Blocks to a Later Consideration: The storms of life, the loss of strength, the physical decline of one’s body, and death itself will prevent one from seeing God clearly at a later time 12:2-5

2) The Conclusion of a Later Decision: The certain, terrifying cataclysmic events before one will prove to be too late for one to consider God, but only to conclude that life is meaningless 12:6-8

d. God’s Wise Direction: Although there are many sources for direction in life, God’s wise direction is to fear Him and to follow His word because everyone will be evaluated by these things 12:9-14

1) God’s Words for Man: God has worked through wise leaders to communicate skill for life that will spur and make firm a person’s life--for life 12:9-11

2) Man’s Words for Man: All of the works outside of God’s revelation are wearying as they are but variations on a theme 12:12

3) The Final Word of Wisdom: The final word, or insight for living, is to fear God and then follow His word because God will evaluate all people upon these criteria 12:13-14


1 Solomon begins his book in a completely negative tone concerning the futility of all life and carries this them throughout the book. But as the book continues glimmers of hope begin to shine through concerning the goodness of God which may be seen in the midst of futility and of how this goodness may be enjoyed. As the book develops it concentrates more and more upon the solution to the futility which surrounds mankind until it concludes with how it is that man can find purpose in life through the God who gives life rather than through life itself. The book completely flip-flops from a tone of despair to one of meaning in the midst of the capricious nature of life.

Chapters 1--5 (or the first three discourses) assert that futility exists in every aspect of life, yet mankind can enjoy the goodness which exists because it is from God. These units seem to move back and forth between the futility of life and the enjoyment which man can have through God's gifts. In the midst of despair Solomon always concludes with a positive outlook with respect to God and His provisions for this life. Both sides of Solomon's observations are true and yet it seems that as Solomon continues to write there is a progression toward the solution to the futilities in life.

Chapters 6:1--12:12 naturally follow the progression of the argument as they more fully assert that man should pursue that which is good and wise in order to deal with the futility of life. Solomon has been testifying of the good gifts which God gives in the previous section and now his view turns from a passive one to an active one. Since God's gifts are good, they are also worth pursuing even though acquiring them, in themselves, does not lead to fulfillment; there is value in pursuing such things as wisdom rather than folly for they enable a person to better deal with the futility which is in life.

In 12:13-14 Solomon conclusively asserts that the solution to man's futility in life lies in his service to God rather than himself. Although up until now Solomon has been dealing with temporal solutions to temporal problems concerning the futility of life on earth, now he steps into his ultimate conclusion for dealing with these temporal problems and it is based upon an eternal Being, God, and His actions outside of the temporal, the judgment. Solomon concludes that there is fulfillment in life, but it must come from serving God and not one's-self just as all enjoyment in life must come from God rather than men or circumstances.

In this statement Solomon has not denied man's ability or circumstances, but has given perspective and a purpose in both areas of life. With this perspective man can face difficult circumstances and work hard knowing that all is for God and out of the fear of God with a future evaluation to come at the day of judgment.

2 The phrase vanity of vanities ( mylbh lbh ) describes supreme emptiness, purposelessness, and meaninglessness. It is used of a vapor or breath and may be an allusion (play on) the name of the second son of Adam, Abel ( lbh ) who obeyed God but whose life ended quickly (Gen. 4:2,4,8,9,21). Not only was his life short, but it was purposelessly wiped-out.

3 This examination is done in a cyclic fashion as a literary technique to emphasize his point. He discusses work, then wisdom, then work, then wisdom, then work again. This interchange drives home his point, and is part of his message as well--the cycles of life (work, wisdom, work, wisdom, work) are meaningless. There is also a movement from a general analysis to a more specific analysis of each of the two categories (work and wisdom).

4 In what follows Solomon is emphasizing that many beginnings double back, many journeys end where they began.

5 The term is ur) meaning evil, painful, or sad.

6 Literally, emptiness and striving (taking pleasure, or aiming) after the wind.

7 Sin in life (the crooked cannot be straightened or put right) and there are indefinite numbers lacking. There are too many pieces which are missing in life.

8 As one speaking from a natural viewpoint, Solomon identifies death as fate, an accident or chance through his use of the words fate and befall. This emphasizes the capricious nature of death.

9 Evil, ur, cf. 1:13.

10 Solomon literally turned to despair, or no hope ( vay; 2:20).

11 Emotional and physical pain and even anger caused by mistreatment.

12 In other words meaning in life is not in life, but in the God who gives life. Life is not a puzzle, but an incomprehensible gift to be enjoyed under God. While life appears to be futile, frustrating and empty from a natural viewpoint, there is meaning, perspective and purpose found in the superintending hand of God!

13 The term is lK)l to all.

14 The term is /mz meaning a definite time, a set date (cf. Neh. 2:6; Est. 9:27)

15 This term is tu@ describing a moment (Gen. 21:22), and an appropriate or suitable moment (Prov. 15:23, A man has joy in an apt answer, and how delightful is a [his] timely [ otub ] word).

16 The term for event is Xp#j@ with the sense of delightful and desirable (cf. Prov. 31:13, She looks for wool and flax, and works with her hands in delight [ Jpjb ]).

17 The term describes murder, ruin, slaying ( gr^h* ; see Ex. 2:14; Gen. 4:8; 21:14).

18 This term especially has national healing in view.

19 Wail, lament as with death (cf. Mi. 1:8).

20 To skip as with children.

21 To clasp or hold to (Lam. 4:5; Prov. 4:8). Probably this is the meaning not the romantic view in light of the parallelism.

22 Seek to find because there is hope.

23 As one might lose a flock. Once gives up because it is lost.

24 Or store-up as with food.

25 As in rending a garment--a symbolic act of mourning or bad news.

26 To work to restore dignity (cf. Gen. 3:7; Ezk. 13:18).

27 That is to overlook (Is. 65:6; Ps. 28:1).

28 See Genesis 26:27.

29 Literally, He has set eternity ( <l*u)h* --a long duration both past and forward) in their hearts.

30 This imagery is speaking of Mid-East travelers.

31 This is the strength of a church, family, or a partnership.

32 Literally, one's portion.

33 Compare other NT passages on this theme (Rom. 13:1-5; Titus 3:1; 1 Pet. 2:13-18).

34 Proverbs 30:30.

35 In other words it is better to be alive and dishonored than to be honored and dead.

36 This portion of the verse, the dead do not know anything does not teach soul sleep. Solomon is speaking of life under the sun.

37 The descriptions are the opposite of mournful grief (2 Sam. 12:20).

38 See 2 Samuel 20:16-22 for a possible historical allusion with Joab at Abel beth-maacah.

39 This unit is like a Grand Finally at a fireworks display. There is a little of everything from the book represented here thus far, and some new thoughts in rapid succession. There is also some focus on the major theme that human effort is futile because: (1) results in life are not permanent, therefore, one's ability to enjoy life is insecure [1--6], and (2) one does not know what lies before them [6--11].

40 Position is not based upon merit.

41 Fools do not see impending dangers.

42 Solomon is affirming that there is much that we do not know about God's way, but we do know that God has a way.

43 The term is actually rjb which in its verb form actually describes choice. In its participle it is descriptive of a chooser, one who chooses. The point is that young people are still able to make choices in life.

44 Solomon is urging his young readers to pay close attention to what their heart knows is true and to all their eyes observe. God will not make us do right. He allows choice. But with responsibility comes accountability. Listen to your heart! Evaluate what you see!

Related Topics: Introductions, Arguments, Outlines