Ecclesiastes 12 – The Conclusion of The Matter
Video for Ecclesiastes 12:
A. Life in light of eternity.
1. (11:9-11:10) Even in youth, remember that judgment will one day come.
Rejoice, O young man, in your youth,
And let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth;
Walk in the ways of your heart,
And in the sight of your eyes;
But know that for all these
God will bring you into judgment.
Therefore remove sorrow from your heart,
And put away evil from your flesh,
For childhood and youth are vanity.
a. Rejoice, O young man, in your youth: Perhaps this argued that Solomon now looked back from old age to the days of his youth, before an under the sun premise took a toll upon his life and mind. He hoped for better for his young readers.
i. Morgan, on the last portion of the book, beginning at 11:9: “Its first word, like the first word in the Manifesto of the King in later days, indicates the true thought and desire of God for man: ‘Rejoice.’”
ii. This also indicates that in his conclusion, Solomon saw clearly that there was a place in youth (though not only there) in the legitimate pleasures and satisfactions of life. If the meaning of life was not found in the pursuit of pleasure (as in Ecclesiastes 2:10-11), it is also not found in asceticism and self-denial for its own sake.
iii. If we accept the truth of the next few lines; that there is more to life than what we can see – that there is an eternity and an eternal God to reckon with – then the legitimate pleasures of life can be enjoyed in the best sense. One doesn’t try to find meaning in those pleasures, but simply some good seasoning for a life that finds its meaning in eternity and the eternal God.
iv. “In this frame of mind we can now turn to the delights of life … not as if they were opiates to tranquillize us, but as invigorating gifts of God.” (Kidner)
v. “Rab, a Jewish teacher of the third century A.D., commented, ‘Man will have to give account for all that he saw and did not enjoy.’” (Wright)
b. Walk in the ways of your heart, and in the sight of your eyes; but know that for all these God will bring you into judgment: Here the Preacher comes to the answer of his premise and his book. One may live according to their heart and by what they see; but they should not think that their own heart or eyes will be their judge. There is a God in heaven who will bring all your life and works into judgment.
i. “The statement is brief, for he knew nothing more than the fact, and could add nothing to it.” (Deane)
ii. Here is the antidote and antithesis of the under the sun premise. Life is lived not only for this life but also for eternity, knowing that good will be rewarded and evil will be condemned perfectly by the God who will bring you into judgment. Literally, Solomon spoke of the judgment, referring to our great accountability before God.
iii. “His judicial activity is not ‘the type of the blindfold maiden holding a balance in her hand’ nor ‘the cold neutrality of an impartial judge’, but is rather the consuming energy in which God must bring about ‘right’.” (Eaton) This makes everything full of meaning.
c. Therefore remove sorrow from your heart: Living in light of eternity and the eternal God gives us hope for this life, not only for the life to come. It will remove sorrow from the heart.
i. The Apostle Paul knew this eternal perspective banished sorrow from the heart and later wrote, Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 15:58)
ii. Without this premise of eternity and the eternal God, life is vain and meaningless. The Apostle Paul understood this: If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable (1 Corinthians 15:19).
d. And put away evil from your flesh: Living in light of eternity and the eternal God also is an incentive to live a holy, godly life in our days on earth. We know that our good will be rewarded and blessed; not only in this life, but also in the life to come.
e. For childhood and youth are vanity: In an under the sun premise, childhood and youth are all that matter. This isn’t true when we live in light of eternity and the eternal God.
2. (12:1) The value of remembering God and eternity in youth.
Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth,
Before the difficult days come,
And the years draw near when you say,
“I have no pleasure in them”:
a. Remember now your Creator: The idea of the Creator is important. This is the first mention of God as Creator. To this point the Preacher worked hard to ignore the eternal God one must stand before in the future; yet he also refused to think about the Creator God who existed before he did. This self-imposed ignorance relieved the sense of accountability before the Creator, which still must be accounted for in the life to come.
i. “Creator is a plural form in Hebrew, suggesting greatness of majesty.” (Eaton)
b. Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth: Solomon knew that youth are often those most likely to discount the reality of eternity and the eternal God. This is natural, but regrettable, in youth – they are often the most difficult to convince that this life is merely a brief prelude to eternity.
i. Adam Clarke suggested several practical and important points to draw from this exhortation, among them:
· You are not your own; you have no right to yourself. God made you; He is your Creator.
· Remember Him; consider that He is your Creator.
· Remember Him in your youth; do not fail to give God the first and the best.
ii. “The Preacher here exhorts them to remember God betimes, to gather manna in the morning of their lives, to present the first-fruits to God.” (Trapp)
iii. “As in youth all the powers are more active and vigorous, so they are capable of superior enjoyments. Faith, hope, and love, will be in their best tenor, their greatest vigour, and in their least encumbered state. And it will be easier for you to believe, hope, pray, love, obey, and bear your cross, than it can be in old age and decrepitude.” (Clarke)
c. Before the difficult days come, and the years draw near when you say, “I have no pleasure in them”: The Preacher advised young people to remember God and eternity before they suffered greatly by subjecting themselves to an under the sun premise and all the meaninglessness associated with it.
3. (2-5) A poetic description of advancing age.
While the sun and the light,
The moon and the stars,
Are not darkened,
And the clouds do not return after the rain;
In the day when the keepers of the house tremble,
And the strong men bow down;
When the grinders cease because they are few,
And those that look through the windows grow dim;
When the doors are shut in the streets,
And the sound of grinding is low;
When one rises up at the sound of a bird,
And all the daughters of music are brought low.
Also they are afraid of height,
And of terrors in the way;
When the almond tree blossoms,
The grasshopper is a burden,
And desire fails.
For man goes to his eternal home,
And the mourners go about the streets.
a. While the sun and the light, the moon and the stars, are not darkened: Most agree that what follows here is a poetic description of the effects of advancing age.
· The arms and hands that keep the body now begin to tremble (the keepers of the house tremble).
· The legs and knees begin to sag (the strong men bow down).
· Teeth are lost and chewing is more difficult (the grinders cease because they are few).
· The eyes are dimmed (the windows grow dim).
· The ears become weaker and weaker (the sound of grinding is low).
· Sleep becomes more difficult and one is easy wakened (one rises up at the sound of a bird).
· Singing and music are less appreciated (the daughters of music are brought low).
· One becomes more fearful in life (afraid of height, and of terrors in the way).
· The hair becomes white (the almond tree blossoms).
· The once active become weak (the grasshopper is a burden).
· The passions and desires of life weaken and wane (desire fails).
i. Desire fails: “The word rendered ‘desire’ is found nowhere else in the Old Testament and its meaning is disputed.” (Deane) Although, Kidner states: “This is the point of the Hebrew expression, ‘the caper-berry fails’. This berry was highly regarded as a stimulus to appetite and as an aphrodisiac.”
b. For man goes to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets: At the end of man’s advancing age is his eternal home – not the unknown grave and darkness. The Preacher has now set man’s advancing age in connection with eternity, not vanity.
i. We do well to remember that the Old Testament generally does not state the life and condition of man after this life with great certainty. Yet through his diligent searching, the Preacher has come to the right conclusion – that after this life, man goes to his eternal home as the mourners go about the streets.
ii. “So this wonderful book closes with the enunciation of a truth found nowhere else so clearly defined in the Old Testament, and thus opens the way to the clearer light shed upon the awful future by the revelation of the gospel.” (Deane)
4. (6-7) A final plea: Remember God before you go to life beyond the sun.
Remember your Creator before the silver cord is loosed,
Or the golden bowl is broken,
Or the pitcher shattered at the fountain,
Or the wheel broken at the well.
Then the dust will return to the earth as it was,
And the spirit will return to God who gave it.
a. Remember your Creator before the silver cord is loosed: Solomon again pleads with his reader to remember God before this life is over, and he repeated a variety of metaphors to describe the ending of this life.
i. “The image points to the value of life (silver… gold), and the drama in the end of a life whose pieces cannot be put together again.” (Eaton)
b. Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it: This is why it is so important to remember your Creator in this life; because when this life is over, one will answer to the eternal God and to eternity.
B. Conclusion: Eternity and the eternal God make everything matter.
1. (8) A final analysis of life under the sun.
“Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher,
“All is vanity.”
a. Vanity of vanities: By way of contrast, the Preacher returned to his starting point (Ecclesiastes 1:2). Having examined the meaninglessness of life with an under the sun premise (excluding eternity and the eternal God), one must say that life is not only meaningless, but the ultimate in meaninglessness (vanity of vanities).
b. All is vanity: With the under the sun premise, not only is life meaningless, but all is vanity. Nothing has meaning.
i. One man who reflected deeply on the meaning of life – and the price of a life lived without meaning – was a holocaust survivor named Viktor Frankl. His book Man’s Search for Meaning relates some of his war experiences and understanding of life. He wrote:
ii. “This striving to find a meaning in one’s life is the primary motivational force in man.” “I think the meaning of our existence is not invented by ourselves, but rather detected.” (Frankl)
iii. “I turn to the detrimental influence of that feeling of which so many patients complain today, namely, the feeling of the total and ultimately meaninglessness of their lives. They lack the awareness of a meaning worth living for. They are haunted by the experience of their inner emptiness, a void within themselves…. This existential vacuum manifests itself mainly in a state of boredom.” (Frankl)
iv. Frankl warned of the danger of those who live without meaning: “No instinct tells him what he has to do, and no tradition tells him what he ought to do; sometimes he does not even know what he wishes to do. Instead, he either wishes to do what other people do (conformism) or he does what other people wish him to do (totalitarianism).”
v. Frankl was not a Christian and didn’t believe there was any one meaning to life. He thought that each man had his own and it could even change from moment to moment. He thought that the meaning of life could be found in three ways. First, by doing a deed. Second, by experiencing a value. Third, by suffering.
2. (9-12) The Preacher prods us towards true wisdom.
And moreover, because the Preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yes, he pondered and sought out and set in order many proverbs. The Preacher sought to find acceptable words; and what was written was upright—words of truth. The words of the wise are like goads, and the words of scholars are like well-driven nails, given by one Shepherd. And further, my son, be admonished by these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is wearisome to the flesh.
a. Because the Preacher was wise, he still taught the people: The Preacher’s search for knowledge didn’t leave him less wise. He was still a teacher of the people and a writer of proverbs.
b. The words of the wise are like goads, and the words of scholars are like well driven nails: The Preacher kept his confidence in the power of words to teach, challenge, and change people. Special confidence was appropriate in those words given by one Shepherd, even if they came through a wise man or a scholar.
i. The Preacher understood how one should proclaim God’s truth.
· He should teach the people knowledge.
· He should seek to find acceptable words.
· He should seek to bring forth that which is upright – words of truth.
· He should make his words as goads and well-driven nails, with point and direction.
· He should bring forth the words given by one Shepherd.
· He should realize that good study is wearisome to the flesh and be willing to pay that price.
ii. Goads … well-driven nails: “Here then are two more qualities that mark the pointed sayings of the wise: they spur the will and stick in the memory.” (Kidner)
iii. “He realized that pleasing words (lit. ‘words of delight’) have a penetrating effect that slapdash and ill-considered words lack. Second, his words are written uprightly. The two characteristics balance each other. His words are not so pleasing that they cease to be upright.” (Eaton)
iv. “This eloquent man took pains that he might be heard with understanding, with obedience.” (Trapp)
c. Be admonished by these: One should take special care to hear and be admonished by the words of God, given by one Shepherd.
d. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is wearisome to the flesh: The Preacher cautions us to not believe everything we read, for all does not come from the one Shepherd.
i. “We grow addicted to research itself, in love with our own hard questions. An answer would spoil everything.” (Kidner)
ii. “Two thousand years have elapsed since this was written; and since that time some millions of treatises have been added, on all kinds of subjects, to those which have gone before. The press is still groaning under and teeming with books, books innumerable; and no one subject is yet exhausted, notwithstanding all that has been written on it.” (Clarke)
3. (13-14) Conclusion: live as one preparing for judgment and eternity
Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:
Fear God and keep His commandments,
For this is man’s all.
For God will bring every work into judgment,
Including every secret thing,
Whether good or evil.
a. Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: After writing much of the Book of Ecclesiastes from a common but false premise, one that excluded eternal accountability and the God of eternity, now the Preacher concludes, having led us to the conclusion of the whole matter.
b. Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all: Solomon came to understand that it was worth it to obey God, and this obedience both pleased God and fulfilled man’s destiny.
i. “Fear God is a call that puts us in our place, and all other fears, hopes, and admirations in their place.” (Kidner)
ii. “From that to this should be every man’s pilgrimage in this world. We begin at vanity, and never know perfectly that we are vain till we come to fear God and keep his commandments.” (Trapp)
iii. “If it is the ‘beginning of wisdom’ it is also the end, the conclusion; no progress in the believer’s life leaves it behind.” (Eaton)
iv. “This is the only place in Ecclesiastes where the commands of God are mentioned.” (Eaton)
v. The King James Version (and other translations as well) inserted an unhelpful word in Ecclesiastes 12:13, translating For this is the whole duty of man. The word duty does not appear in the Hebrew text, and it has much more the idea of for this is man’s all.
vi. “The last phrase reads literally: ‘For this is the whole of the man.’ Elsewhere in Ecclesiastes, however, the ‘whole of the man’ is a Hebrew idiom for ‘every man’ (cf Ecclesiastes 3:13, 5:19). The sense, therefore, is ‘This applies to everyone’.” (Eaton)
c. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil: This is impossible to say with an under the sun premise; yet it is the root reason why it is wise and good for man to fear God and keep His commandments.
i. There is, and will be, an eternal accounting for everything we do. This is the complete opposite of believing that all is vanity or meaningless; it means that everything has meaning and importance, both for the present and for eternity. “If God cares as much as this, nothing can be pointless.” (Kidner)
ii. Through this book the Preacher carefully thought through (and lived through) a premise commonly held: of life lived without consideration of eternity and the eternal God. After all that, he comes to this conclusion – and challenges all those who continue holding to the premise he held through most all the book. “What would it be like, asks the Preacher, if things were utterly different from what you thought? What if this world is not the ultimate one? What if God exists and is a rewarder of those who seek him?” (Eaton)
iii. As Paul explained, this puts life into perspective: For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven. (2 Corinthians 4:17-5:2)
iv. “This is how the book will end. On this rock we can be destroyed; but it is rock, not quicksand. There is the chance to build.” (Kidner)
v. In the 1930s an Australian alcoholic named Arthur Stace was converted and heard an inspiring sermon on the subject of eternity. The preacher said, “I wish I could shout ETERNITY through all the streets of Sydney!” Stace was so moved that as he left the church he felt an immediate urge to write the word Eternity; he had a piece of chalk in his pocket and bent down and wrote on the pavement. Stace was hardly literate and could barely write his own name legibly; but when he wrote Eternity, he did so in elegant copperplate style script, usually about 2 feet wide on the pavement. He spent the rest of his life – until 1967 – waking each day at about 5:30, praying for an hour or so, then going around Sydney where he felt God led him to write Eternity all over the city. Solomon would have approved of both Arthur Stace and his message: Eternity.
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission
Ecclesiastes 11 – Towards True Wisdom
Video for Ecclesiastes 11:
A. Looking beyond what can be seen.
1. (1-2) Working for a profit that can’t be immediately seen.
Cast your bread upon the waters,
For you will find it after many days.
Give a serving to seven, and also to eight,
For you do not know what evil will be on the earth.
a. Cast your bread upon the waters: This probably refers to a shipping venture that required great patience for the return of the investment. The idea is that it was wise and good to work for a return that could not be immediately seen.
i. “The allusion is to the element of trust in much ancient business. Ships on commercial voyages might be long delayed before any profit resulted.” (Eaton)
ii. Some commentators (Trapp, Clarke, and others) think this speaks of generosity. Cast your bread upon the waters is to them a way of saying, “Give your material things to the needy in a way that might seem wasteful – as wasteful as throwing bread upon the waters, and you will be rewarded.” If this is the sense, the point is much the same: do something now for a reward that cannot be immediately seen.
b. Give a serving to seven, and also to eight, for you do not know what evil will be on the earth: The Preacher counseled generosity and did so in light that the future – though uncertain – must be prepared for. With these ideas he continues to direct us towards the place of true wisdom.
i. “‘Give a portion to seven’ is advice to use all opportunity speculatively, because one does not know what calamities may be ahead, and because it is well to have provided beforehand for such contingencies.” (Morgan)
2. (3-4) Cause, effect, and the limits of analysis.
If the clouds are full of rain,
They empty themselves upon the earth;
And if a tree falls to the south or the north,
In the place where the tree falls, there it shall lie.
He who observes the wind will not sow,
And he who regards the clouds will not reap.
a. If the clouds are full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth: With these proverbs Solomon emphasized the idea of cause and effect. This principle alone directs us toward eternity, because the wickedness or goodness of man in this earthly life is often not answered in this life. The necessary effect from that cause must be realized in eternity.
i. Clouds are designed to be full of rain, and therefore to empty themselves upon the earth. For Spurgeon, this idea of design and what comes from it suggested the work of Jesus for us: “Now, dear heart, if thou believest Christ to be a cloud that is full of rain, for what reason is he full? Why, that he may empty himself upon the earth. There was no need that he should be a man full of sympathy except to sympathize with mourning men and women. There was no need that he should bleed except that he might bleed for you. There was no necessity that he should die except that the power of his death might deliver you from death.”
ii. In the place where the tree falls, there it shall lie: “Jerome’s strange interpretation of the fallen tree has persisted, and some Christians have quoted it out of context. The tree, he said, is the dead person, and his destiny is fixed at death. But while this is true enough, it cannot be proved from this verse.” (Wright)
b. He who observes the wind will not sow: The farmer who is overly analytical about the wind or the clouds will never plant his fields, and thus he will not reap. The Preacher gently pushes us away from an overly analytical approach to life.
i. “If we are always waiting for favouring conditions, we shall resemble the farmer who is ever looking out for perfect weather, and lets the whole autumn pass without one handful of grain reaching the furrows.” (Meyer)
ii. “If we keep on observing circumstances, instead of trusting God, we shall be guilty of disobedience. God bids me sow: I do not sow, because the wind would blow some of my seed away. God bids me reap: I do not reap, because there is a black cloud there, and before I can house the harvest, some of it may be spoiled. I may say what I like; but I am guilty of disobedience.” (Spurgeon)
iii. Spurgeon went on in that sermon (Sowing in the Wind, Reaping Under Clouds) to describe other ways that this attitude sins against God and man. To observe circumstances instead of trusting God shows unbelief, rebellion, foolish fear, and idleness.
B. Moving towards real wisdom, through fits and starts.
1. (5) The limitations of knowledge.
As you do not know what is the way of the wind,
Or how the bones grow in the womb of her who is with child,
So you do not know the works of God who makes everything.
a. As you do not know what is the way of the wind: Solomon again reminds us of the limitations of human knowledge. We don’t know the way of the wind or how the bones grow in the womb of a mother.
i. “Thus at this point in his closing appeal the Preacher simply insists on a fact: certain aspects of God’s working on earth defy explanation. The mystery which shrouds our very origin underlies the whole of reality.” (Eaton)
ii. As Jesus would later say, The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit (John 3:8).
b. So you do not know the works of God who makes everything: In the same way we don’t know the hidden things, we also do not know the works of God in any comprehensive way. The Preacher brings us to a place of humility and submission to God and His works that again pushes us out of the previously entrenched under the sun premise.
2. (6) Sowing seed with more trust than certainty.
In the morning sow your seed,
And in the evening do not withhold your hand;
For you do not know which will prosper,
Either this or that,
Or whether both alike will be good.
a. In the morning sow your seed, and in the evening do not withhold your hand: Using agricultural images, the Preacher tells us to do work of all kinds – the work one would do in the morning, and the work one would do in the evening.
i. “Some commentators have taken Sow your seed to refer to the begetting of children following the Talmud and Midrash, but this is hardly suitable to the context.” (Eaton)
b. For you do not know which will prosper: Solomon again pushes towards an appropriately humble loss of self-confidence. We should give ourselves to all kinds of work because we do not know the results. We know less of the future than we think we do; this shakes the previously assured under the sun premise.
3. (7-8) A final flirtation with the under the sun premise.
Truly the light is sweet,
And it is pleasant for the eyes to behold the sun;
But if a man lives many years
And rejoices in them all,
Yet let him remember the days of darkness,
For they will be many.
All that is coming is vanity.
a. Truly the light is sweet, and it is pleasant for the eyes to behold the sun: After repeatedly arguing from the premise expressed by the phrase under the sun, the Preacher once more expressed the idea before coming to his conclusions in the last chapter of Ecclesiastes.
b. Yet let him remember the days of darkness: The sun gives light, but the under the sun premise seemed to bring the Preacher (and us) into days of darkness; and if lived under that premise, those dark days will be many and there will be much vanity to come.
[See Ecclesiastes 12 commentary for notes on Ecclesiastes 11:9-10.]
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission
Ecclesiastes 10 – Folly and Wisdom
Video for Ecclesiastes 10:
A. The disgrace of foolishness.
1. (1) Foolishness disgraces a wise man’s honor.
Dead flies putrefy the perfumer’s ointment,
And cause it to give off a foul odor;
So does a little folly to one respected for wisdom and honor.
a. Dead flies putrefy the perfumer’s ointment: Solomon here followed a familiar form in stating proverbs. An obvious statement is made: that deadflies spoil a fine ointment and cause it to smell.
i. “This is a metaphorical confirmation of the truth enunciated at the end of the last chapter, ‘One sinner destroyeth much good.’” (Deane)
b. So does a little folly to one respected for wisdom and honor: Even as small dead flies – quite little in proportion to the whole – spoil a fine ointment, so just a little folly spoils the reputation of someone regarded as wise and honorable.
i. “There are endless instances of prizes forfeited and good beginning marred in a single reckless moment – not only by the irresponsible, such as Esau, but by the sorely tried, such as Moses and Aaron.” (Kidner)
ii. The Preacher is beginning to direct his arguments in the intended direction. To use the metaphor of a ship, he has sailed in many different directions to show us the meaninglessness of life. Now, still out of sight of land, he begins to tack his direction towards meaning and truth. Ecclesiastes 10:1 reminds us that even small things have consequences.
2. (2-3) Foolishness can’t be hidden.
A wise man’s heart is at his right hand,
But a fool’s heart at his left.
Even when a fool walks along the way,
He lacks wisdom,
And he shows everyone that he is a fool.
a. A wise man’s heart is at his right hand, but a fool’s heart at his left: Since the right hand was regarded as the side of strength, skill, and favor, the wise man’s heart is known and a strength to him. This is not true of the fool, whose heart is at his left.
i. “‘Right’ and ‘left’ are natural symbols for the strong and good, on the one hand, and for the weak and bad, on the other hand… The Latin word sinister means ‘left.’” (Wright)
ii. “To have one’s heart at his left side is to have the ‘springs of life’ (Proverbs 4:23) located in the realm of practical and spiritual incompetence.” (Eaton)
b. He shows everyone that he is a fool: The foolish man (or woman) has a way of making their folly evident. As Jesus would later say, wisdom is justified by all her children (Luke 7:35). Wisdom and folly become obvious in life.
3. (4-7) Foolishness in high places.
If the spirit of the ruler rises against you,
Do not leave your post;
For conciliation pacifies great offenses.
There is an evil I have seen under the sun,
As an error proceeding from the ruler:
Folly is set in great dignity,
While the rich sit in a lowly place.
I have seen servants on horses,
While princes walk on the ground like servants.
a. If the spirit of the ruler rises against you: The idea seems to be, “Even in a difficult situation, don’t leave your post. Be faithful to your position and you will find that conciliation pacifies great offenses.”
b. Folly is set in dignity … I have seen servants on horses: The Preacher wanted to remind us that not all is fair in this life. Foolish men are promoted or accepted to positions of great leadership. Some lowly men are unwisely exalted (servants on horses) while some noblemen are humbled (princes walk on the ground like servants).
B. Evidence of folly and wisdom.
1. (8-10) Foolishness in action.
He who digs a pit will fall into it,
And whoever breaks through a wall will be bitten by a serpent.
He who quarries stones may be hurt by them,
And he who splits wood may be endangered by it.
If the ax is dull,
And one does not sharpen the edge,
Then he must use more strength;
But wisdom brings success.
a. He who digs a pit will fall into it: Solomon listed several examples of those who did wrong or foolish things and then suffered because of it.
i. “While spoiling his neighbour’s property, he himself may come to greater mischief.” (Clarke)
ii. Alexander Maclaren made a spiritual application of the idea, whoever breaks through a wall will be bitten by a serpent: “Whoso pulls down the wall of temperance, a serpent will bite him. Trembling hands, broken constitutions, ruined reputations, vanished ambitions, wasted lives, poverty, shame, and enfeebled will, death – these are the serpents that bite, in many cases, the transgressor.”
b. If the ax is dull, and one does not sharpen the edge, then he must use more strength; but wisdom brings success: The fool will continue to use a dull ax, instead of being wise and sharpening the edge. The fool doesn’t wisely consider the future, and how wise use of one’s time in the present can make for a much better future.
i. F.B. Meyer made a helpful application to the Christian worker of this by analogy: “There are times with all who work for God, when they are blunt, through much usage …. At all such times let us turn to God and say, ‘Put in more strength. Let thy power be magnified in my weakness. Give more grace, so that thy work shall not suffer’ …. Surely more work is done by a blunt edge and divine power, than by a sharp edge and little power.”
2. (11-14) The babbling talk of the foolish.
A serpent may bite when it is not charmed;
The babbler is no different.
The words of a wise man’s mouth are gracious,
But the lips of a fool shall swallow him up;
The words of his mouth begin with foolishness,
And the end of his talk is raving madness.
A fool also multiplies words.
No man knows what is to be;
Who can tell him what will be after him?
a. A serpent may bite when it is not charmed; the babbler is no different: As dangerous as a biting serpent is the one who talks – babbles – like a fool. Though the words of a wise man’s mouth are gracious, the lips of a fool shall swallow him up.
b. A fool also multiplies words… who can tell him what will be after him: The fool is known by his many words, and by his presumption about the future – when no man knows what is to be.
i. “The word for ‘fool’ here is sakal, which implies a dense, confused thinker.” (Deane)
ii. Previously the Preacher had confidently stated that there is nothing beyond this life, and that this life should be lived with an under the sun premise. He now casts more doubt upon that premise.
3. (15) The fool at work.
The labor of fools wearies them,
For they do not even know how to go to the city!
a. The labor of fools wearies them: The fool has no desire to work; or when they do they quickly become wearied. They can’t see that it is wise to work now in order to prepare for the future.
b. They do not even know how to go to the city: The Preacher continued to subtly back away from his previous under the sun premise. The fool has no sense of direction or goal. They live their life as if it were meaningless, directionless.
i. “The phrase, ‘how to go to the city,’ seems to be a kind of proverbial comparison for anything that is very plain and conspicuous.” (Maclaren)
ii. “In a fine note of sarcasm, this proverb says that a person may be so involved in arguing about the universe that he misses what the ordinary person is concerned about, namely, finding the way home.” (Wright)
iii. “To be ever learning, never arriving, as 2 Timothy 3:7 portrays some people, is to be a trifler who contrives to get lost on even the straightest way to the city. That is folly without even the excuse of ignorance.” (Kidner)
4. (16-20) How foolishness corrupts a nation.
Woe to you, O land, when your king is a child,
And your princes feast in the morning!
Blessed are you, O land, when your king is the son of nobles,
And your princes feast at the proper time—
For strength and not for drunkenness!
Because of laziness the building decays,
And through idleness of hands the house leaks.
A feast is made for laughter,
And wine makes merry;
But money answers everything.
Do not curse the king, even in your thought;
Do not curse the rich, even in your bedroom;
For a bird of the air may carry your voice,
And a bird in flight may tell the matter.
a. Woe to you, O land, when your king is a child: Solomon himself felt that he was but a child when he came to the throne of Israel; therefore, he wisely asked God for the wisdom to lead a great people (1 Kings 3:7-9).
i. “A nation’s first need is a mature leader. RSV is a child refers not to age but to general maturity.” (Eaton)
b. Woe to you, O land … Blessed are you, O land: The Preacher understood that a land was blessed by good, faithful leaders, but cursed under wicked and incompetent leaders.
i. Because of laziness the building decays: “Lazy rulers bring down the great house of the nation, as a lazy householder lets the beams of his house collapse so that the roof sags and lets in the rain.” (Wright)
ii. If Ecclesiastes 10:18 pictures the fall of a nation, the following lines give the reason for fall – leaders who are foolish, selfish, and concerned only for their own pleasure and good.
iii. “They do nothing in order; turn night into day, and day into night; sleep when they should wake, and wake when they should sleep; attending more to chamberings and banquetings, than to the concerns of the state.” (Clarke)
c. A feast is made for laughter, and wine makes merry; but money answers everything: Solomon here spoke in the voice of a wicked, unwise king. Along this line, he counseled his readers to not curse the king lest they be found out.
i. “Kings have long ears, heavy hands; walls also and hedges have ears.” (Trapp)
ii. “ ‘A little bird told me’ is a proverb which appears in a variety of forms and cultures, including Aristophanes’ The Birds and the Hittite Take of Elkuhirsa.” (Eaton)
iii. The thought is suggestive. A king may hear of my wrongdoing and I may suffer because of it, even though I did not know he could learn of it. The same is true of my wrongdoing before God.
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission
Ecclesiastes 9 – The Best Way to Live Under the Sun
Video for Ecclesiastes 9:
A. In light of death, live life and make the best of a bad thing.
1. (1-6) The despair of death: the same thing happens to everyone.
For I considered all this in my heart, so that I could declare it all: that the righteous and the wise and their works are in the hand of God. People know neither love nor hatred by anything they see before them. All things come alike to all:
One event happens to the righteous and the wicked;
To the good, the clean, and the unclean;
To him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice.
As is the good, so is the sinner;
He who takes an oath as he who fears an oath.
This is an evil in all that is done under the sun: that one thing happens to all. Truly the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil; madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead. But for him who is joined to all the living there is hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion.
For the living know that they will die;
But the dead know nothing,
And they have no more reward,
For the memory of them is forgotten.
Also their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished;
Nevermore will they have a share
In anything done under the sun.
a. The righteous and the wise and their works are in the hand of God… All things come alike to all: With his under the sun premise – excluding any sense of eternity or accountability in a life to come – man can know neither love nor hatred by anything they see before them. Creation can tell us God is; it doesn’t tell us very well that God loves us.
i. “We have only to use our eyes without prejudice, according to Psalm 19 and Romans 1:19 ff., to see that there is a powerful and glorious Creator. But it takes more than observation to discover how He is disposed towards us.” (Kidner)
ii. Seeing beyond this under the sun perspective, we can say that we should not measure God’s love by what happens in life. We measure God’s love by what Jesus did at the cross.
ii. The Preacher has once again allowed his thoughts of God’s sovereign power (in the hand of God) to develop into fatalism (all things come alike to all). The thought process may go like this: “I know God rules over all things.” Then, “It seems that the same thing happens to all; all die without real meaning revealed for their life.” Finally, “The all-powerful God means it to be this way.”
b. One event happens to the righteous and the wicked… as is the good, so is the sinner: This develops Solomon’s idea that all share the same destiny in this meaningless life of ours. This is certainly how things appeared to Solomon with his under the sun premise.
c. This is an evil in all that is done under the sun: Speaking from his premise, the Preacher says that all have the same fate, but he does not like it. It’s wrong that one event happens to the righteous and the wicked.
i. “To all appearances, God is just not interested. The things that are supposed to matter most to Him turn out to make no difference – or none that anyone can see – to the way we are disposed of in the end. Moral or immoral, religious or profane, we are all mown down alike.” (Kidner)
d. For him who is joined to all the living there is hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion: This makes perfect sense from an under the sun perspective. If all existence and consciousness end with death, then the only thing that matters is this present life (and therefore nothing really matters).
e. The dead know nothing… Nevermore will they have a share in anything done under the sun: With great poetic effect, Solomon puts forth the belief that all existence and consciousness end with this life.
2. (7-10) With such a view of life and death, joy is only found in the moment.
Go, eat your bread with joy,
And drink your wine with a merry heart;
For God has already accepted your works.
Let your garments always be white,
And let your head lack no oil.
Live joyfully with the wife whom you love all the days of your vain life which He has given you under the sun, all your days of vanity; for that is your portion in life, and in the labor which you perform under the sun.Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going.
a. Go, eat your bread with joy: From outside of his under the sun premise, we see a touch of humor in the Preacher’s analysis. “Life is utterly meaningless, and our common death and destiny prove it to be so. So forget about all I have said and have a good time.” It is small hope given to despairing men and women, but it is the best he can do.
b. For God has already accepted your works: Given the recent emphasis on the sovereign power of God (Ecclesiastes 7:13, 9:1), we sense both fatalism and wishing in this statement. Perhaps the sense is, “God has already accepted your works – I hope; because if He hasn’t, there is nothing you can do about it.”
c. Live joyfully with the wife whom you love all the days of your vain life which He has given you under the sun, all your days of vanity: Clearly, Solomon knew that enjoying the good things at hand in this life – bread, wine, garments, comforts (let your head lack no oil), and a wife whom you love – none of these took away the meaninglessness of life. “Make your vain life a little better,” he counseled.
i. “White garments and anointing oil make life more comfortable in a hot climate.” (Eaton)
ii. “The demands of marriage include the giving of affection (whom you love; cf. Ephesians 5:25), the active quest for enjoyment (Enjoy life, rsv), a life-long (all…your…life) encouragement amid the responsibilities and duties of life (in all your toil at which you toil).” (Eaton)
d. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going: The Preacher continued to give advice meant to make the best of the bad situation of life under the sun.
i. In the 1960s there was a beer commercial where the announcer said something like this: “You only go around once in life, so you’ve got to grab for all the gusto you can.” The ad writers for Schlitz beer could have properly given credit to Solomon for the idea.
ii. We can apply the attitude reflected in Ecclesiastes 9:10 to our present service for God, and do it with your might. “No man ever served God by doing things tomorrow.” (Spurgeon)
iii. “Man was not created to be idle, he was not elected to be idle, he was not redeemed to be idle, he was not quickened to be idle, and he is not sanctified by God’s grace to be idle.” (Spurgeon)
3. (11-12) Time and chance make life under the sun hard to understand.
I returned and saw under the sun that—
The race is not to the swift,
Nor the battle to the strong,
Nor bread to the wise,
Nor riches to men of understanding,
Nor favor to men of skill;
But time and chance happen to them all.
For man also does not know his time:
Like fish taken in a cruel net,
Like birds caught in a snare,
So the sons of men are snared in an evil time,
When it falls suddenly upon them.
a. I returned and saw under the sun that – the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong: Solomon wondered, “If this life is all there is, then why doesn’t this life make more sense?” In a world that made more sense under the sun, then the swift would always win the race and the strong would always win the battle. Yet it doesn’t always work that way.
b. But time and chance happen to them all: The Preacher again struggles against a sense of fatalism. In his somewhat contradictory way, the one who previously proclaimed God’s management of all (Ecclesiastes 7:13 and 9:1) now wondered if it didn’t all happen according to time and chance.
i. “Time and chance are paired, no doubt because they both have a way of taking matters suddenly out of our hands.” (Kidner)
c. The sons of men are snared in an evil time, when it falls suddenly upon them: From his under the sun perspective, it seemed that man was more subject to the whims of time and chance than of a loving, all-powerful God.
B. Unappreciated wisdom.
1. (13-15) Wisdom unrecognized.
This wisdom I have also seen under the sun, and it seemed great to me: There was a little city with few men in it; and a great king came against it, besieged it, and built great snares around it. Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city. Yet no one remembered that same poor man.
a. A poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city: Solomon tells a story about a poor wise man whose wisdom saved a city against the siege of a great king. This seemed great to Solomon; it was a wonderful and significant display of wisdom.
b. Yet no one remembered that same poor man: Under the premise that death ends existence and consciousness for all, Solomon protested that the only lasting meaning this man might have – to be remembered – was taken away. The almost unbelievable fleetingness of fame added to the sense of meaninglessness of life.
i. Men quickly forget, but God never does. He knows those who are His (2 Timothy 2:19). He has a book of remembrance before Him for those that fear the Lord (Malachi 3:16), and their names are written in heaven (Luke 10:20).
2. (16-18) Wisdom thwarted.
Then I said:
“Wisdom is better than strength.
Nevertheless the poor man’s wisdom is despised,
And his words are not heard.
Words of the wise, spoken quietly, should be heard
Rather than the shout of a ruler of fools.
Wisdom is better than weapons of war;
But one sinner destroys much good.”
a. Wisdom is better than strength: The Preacher knew that even though wisdom is not appreciated, and it is ultimately vain, it was still better than strength.
b. Words of the wise, spoken quietly, should be heard rather than the shout of a ruler of fools: Because wisdom is superior, it should be heard above the shouts of the foolish – even though wisdom will often be unappreciated.
i. “The Preacher continues to emphasize the ease with which wisdom is counteracted.” (Eaton)
c. Wisdom is better than weapons of war; but one sinner destroys much good: Wisdom is better – better than strength (weapons of war), better than foolishness – but all the good that wisdom does can quickly be taken away by one sinner who destroys much good.
i. Solomon sensed that it was much easier to destroy than to build. Establishing things by wisdom is much more difficult than destroying them by the work of even one sinner.
ii. “Adam’s sin infected the whole race of man; Achan’s transgression caused Israel’s defeat (Joshua 7:11, 12); Rehoboam’s folly occasioned the great schism (1 Kings 12:16).” (Deane)
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission
Ecclesiastes 8 – Wisdom and Mystery
Video for Ecclesiastes 8:
A. More good advice for life “under the sun.”
1. (1-4) Wisdom in obeying and honoring the king.
Who is like a wise man?
And who knows the interpretation of a thing?
A man’s wisdom makes his face shine,
And the sternness of his face is changed.
I say, “Keep the king’s commandment for the sake of your oath to God. Do not be hasty to go from his presence. Do not take your stand for an evil thing, for he does whatever pleases him.”
Where the word of a king is, there is power;
And who may say to him, “What are you doing?”
a. Who is like a wise man: Solomon searched for a wise man, who knew the interpretation of a thing. Solomon knew that wisdom makes a man happier, even in an under the sun premise (makes his face shine… the sternness of his face is changed).
i. “The shining face generally speaks of favour (cf. Numbers 6:25). Here it speaks of the wise man who is visibly gracious in his demeanour, and (as the next phrase says) whose gentleness is obvious in his facial expression.” (Eaton)
b. Keep the king’s commandment for the sake of your oath to God: The Preacher understood what the Apostle Paul would later write in Romans 13 – that we should obey government authority as part of our obedience to God.
i. We do this primarily not to honor the king or government authority (though this is part of our obligation). Primarily, we honor government authority for the sake of our oath to God. In a New Covenant context, we do it as part of our obedience to God.
ii. “You have sworn obedience to him; keep your oath, for the engagement was made in the presence of God. It appears that the Jewish princes and chiefs took an oath of fidelity to their kings. This appears to have been done to David, 2 Samuel 5:1-3; to Joash, 2 Kings 11:17; and to Solomon, 1 Chronicles 29:24.” (Clarke)
iii. We can agree with Solomon’s advice here, from both an Old Testament and New Testament perspective. Yet one must say that it sounds self-serving coming from Solomon, who was a king himself.
iv. We also recognize that we are always to obey God rather than man if the two contradict (Acts 4:19). “Many passages in the Old Testament witness to the limits which loyalty to God must set on courtly tact and submissiveness.” (Kidner)
c. Where the word of a king is, there is power; and who may say to him, “What are you doing”: This is a reason why it is wise to obey a king. Their power – though sometimes held unrighteously – makes it unwise to fail to keep the king’s commandment or show him respect.
i. This also makes us reflect on our obedience to God as the Great King. “If he be a King, then it is a solemn hazard to your soul if you come short of the least of his commandments. Remember that one treason makes a traitor; one leak sinks a ship; one fly spoils the whole box of ointment. He that bought us with his blood deserves to be obeyed in all things with all our heart, and mind, and soul, and strength.” (Spurgeon)
2. (5-9) Reasons for wise living.
He who keeps his command will experience nothing harmful;
And a wise man’s heart discerns both time and judgment,
Because for every matter there is a time and judgment,
Though the misery of man increases greatly.
For he does not know what will happen;
So who can tell him when it will occur?
No one has power over the spirit to retain the spirit,
And no one has power in the day of death.
There is no release from that war,
And wickedness will not deliver those who are given to it.
All this I have seen, and applied my heart to every work that is done under the sun: There is a time in which one man rules over another to his own hurt.
a. He who keeps his command will experience nothing harmful: Good will come to those who obey and honor the king.
b. Because for every matter there is a time and judgment: Wisdom knows what Solomon first poetically explained in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 – that there is a time and purpose for everything under heaven.
c. Though the misery of man increases greatly. For he does not know what will happen: The Preacher understood that for every matter there is a time and judgment; but he also knew that we don’t know what those times are. A wise man’s heart may discern both time and judgment, but certainly not perfectly; and not all are wise.
i. “The highest wisdom is submission to things as they are… Yet in doing all this there will abide in the heart the recognition of abounding injustice.” (Morgan)
d. No one has power over the spirit to retain the spirit, and no one has power in the day of death: If the lack of wisdom discouraged Solomon in Ecclesiastes 8:6-7, he found the powerlessness of man in the face of death to be yet more despairing. Under the sun, he saw that death allows no winners, and there is no release from that war.
e. All this I have seen… there is a time in which one man rules over another to his own hurt: The Preacher knew that part of man’s misery on this earth was to be ruled by others oppressively.
i. “This may be spoken of rulers generally, who, instead of feeding, fleece the flock; tyrants and oppressors, who come to an untimely end by their mismanagement of the offices of the state. All these things relate to Asiatic despots, and have ever been more applicable to them than to any other sovereigns in the world. They were despotic; they still are so.” (Clarke)
B. Even wisdom doesn’t answer the big questions.
1. (10-13) Why are the deeds of the wicked soon forgotten?
Then I saw the wicked buried, who had come and gone from the place of holiness, and they were forgotten in the city where they had so done. This also is vanity. Because the 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. Though a sinner does evil a hundred times, and his days are prolonged, yet I surely know that it will be well with those who fear God, who fear before Him. But it will not be well with the wicked; nor will he prolong his days, which are as a shadow, because he does not fear before God.
a. I saw the wicked buried… they were forgotten in the city where they had so done: Solomon saw that the wicked die, and their evil is soon forgotten instead of being memorialized in infamy. With his under the sun premise, Solomon despaired that the wicked dead are not punished after death.
i. “I have seen wicked men buried and as their friends returned from the cemetery, having forgotten all the dead man’s evil deeds, these men were praised in the very city where they had committed their crimes!” (Living Bible)
b. Because the 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: If wicked men are often not punished after death, they also are often not punished in this life. All this added to the sense of life’s meaninglessness for Solomon.
i. This also speaks of the hardened response many make to the mercy and forbearance of God toward them. “Man’s godless ingratitude is as deep a mystery as is God’s loving patience. It is strange that, with such constant failure of His love to win, God should still persevere in it.” (Maclaren)
c. I surely know that it will be well with those who fear God, who fear before Him. But it will not be well with the wicked: In context, we can suppose that the Preacher said this as a hope or a wish, rather than with real confidence. He wishes this were true but cannot have confidence that it is while clinging to his under the sun premise.
2. (14) Why do the bad have it good and the good have it bad?
There is a vanity which occurs on earth, that there are just men to whom it happens according to the work of the wicked; again, there are wicked men to whom it happens according to the work of the righteous. I said that this also is vanity.
a. There are just men to whom it happens according to the wicked: Solomon, speaking from his eternity-excluding viewpoint, felt this made life meaningless (vanity). Why do good men and women suffer?
i. This was the great question of the Book of Job, and almost unanswerable apart from a life that appreciates eternity and our accountability in the world beyond.
b. Again, there are wicked men to whom it happens according to the work of the righteous: Perhaps even more of a problem to the Preacher was the question, “Why do wicked men seem to be blessed?” The strength of this question also made life seem meaningless (vanity).
i. One might say that this question is even more troublesome, because in a very real sense, there are no just men, and all can be seen as wicked in some way. Why goodness is shown to the undeserving is a question that looks to the remarkable mercy of God.
3. (15-17) Live for the moment – and know there is more than what you can see.
So I commended enjoyment, because a man has nothing better under the sun than to eat, drink, and be merry; for this will remain with him in his labor all the days of his life which God gives him under the sun.
When I applied my heart to know wisdom and to see the business that is done on earth, even though one sees no sleep day or night, then I saw all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun. For though a man labors to discover it, yet he will not find it; moreover, though a wise man attempts to know it, he will not be able to find it.
a. So I commended enjoyment: With the meaninglessness of life so plain to the Preacher, all he could counsel was to make the best of a bad situation and enjoy life the best way possible.
b. Then I saw all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun: Here Solomon begins to undermine his once-so-certain premise of life lived without an eternal perspective. He recognizes that man cannot find out the work of God in fullness; so what we see does not define what there actually is.
i. The business that is done on earth, even though one sees no sleep day or night: “The very busyness of life worries us into asking where it is taking us, and what it means, if it does mean anything. We hardly need Qoheleth to point out that this is the very question that defeats us.” (Kidner)
ii. He will not be able to find it: “His conclusion is that we must be content not to know everything. Neither hard work (toil), persistent endeavour (seeking), skill or experience (wisdom) will unravel the mystery. Wise men may make excessive claims; they too will be baffled.” (Eaton)
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission
Ecclesiastes 7 – Trying to Find a Better Way
Video for Ecclesiastes 7:
A. Looking at life through better and worse.
1. (1-4) Better in life and death.
A good name is better than precious ointment,
And the day of death than the day of one’s birth;
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 take it to heart.
Sorrow is better than laughter,
For by a sad countenance the heart is made better.
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
But the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.
a. A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death better than the day of one’s birth: At the end of Ecclesiastes 6, the Preacher was in a mournful, discouraged mood as he considered the meaninglessness of life in a world without eternity and accountability in the world beyond. He continued that tone by coupling an obvious truth (a good name is better than precious ointment) with a more startling statement (the day of death better than the day of one’s birth).
i. This comes from the deep and pained sense of meaninglessness that the Preacher suffered under. It made him feel that death was better than life.
ii. “Nothing in the first half of Ecclesiastes 7:1 prepares us for the body-blow of the second half… Instead of reflecting and arguing, he will bombard us with proverbs, with their strong impact and varied angles of attack.” (Kidner)
iii. Even the day of one’s birth is ominous, despite all the hopes and potential in a baby’s birth. Children come into the world uttering the human sound – a scream. “Before ever a child speak, he prophesies, by his tears, of his ensuing sorrows.” (Trapp)
iv. From a New Testament perspective, we have mixed feelings about the Preacher’s outburst, “The day of death better than the day of one’s birth.” On the one hand, the day of death is glorious for the believer – our battle is over, our sorrow is over, our uncertainty is over – and all things are new. On the other hand, we rejoice in the meaning God has given us with this life on earth. We agree with the Apostle Paul in Philippians 1:23: For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.
v. “Death is the end of dying. On the day of the believer’s death dying is for ever done with. The saints who are with God shall never die any more. Life is wrestling, struggling; but death is the end of conflict: it is rest-victory.” (Spurgeon)
vi. “Hence all the ancient fathers called those days wherein the martyrs suffered their birthdays, because they began to live indeed.” (Trapp)
vii. “Consider it spiritually, and, dear brethren, what is a good name? A good name is a name that is written in the Lamb’s book of life, and that is better than the sweetest of all ointments.” (Spurgeon)
b. Better to go to the house of mourning than to the house of feasting: Solomon knew our tendency to simply ignore or wish away death. It is better to be squarely confronted with the reality of death, and the house of mourning is a fine place to take it to heart.
i. It seems that the Preacher has rejected his previous hope of finding the meaning of life in pleasure, accomplishment, and wisdom. Now there is only death, and one should not ignore it. So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:12)
ii. “Some of the old Romish monks always read their Bibles with a candle stuck in a skull. The light from a death’s head may be an awful one, but it is a very profitable one.” (Spurgeon)
c. Sorrow is better than laughter: The Preacher goes against all intuition; who among us would say this? Yet he is determined to sweep away our illusions and wishes about the nature of life in his under the sun premise.
i. Rejecting Solomon’s general premise, we do not believe that sorrow is always better than laughter. We do not reject it because we prefer an illusion or a wish; we do it out of firm confidence in a God to whom we answer in eternity, and who has promised to reward good and punish evil there. Even so – there is often more wisdom in the house of mourning than in the house of mirth.
2. (5-9) Better in wisdom and folly.
It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise
Than for a man to hear the song of fools.
For like the crackling of thorns under a pot,
So is the laughter of the fool.
This also is vanity.
Surely oppression destroys a wise man’s reason,
And a bribe debases the heart.
The end of a thing is better than its beginning;
The patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.
Do not hasten in your spirit to be angry,
For anger rests in the bosom of fools.
a. It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise than for a man to hear the song of fools: The Preacher continues his previous thought, that man finds wisdom in adversity and suffering rather than in ease and comfort. The laughter of the fool is nothing more than a momentary sound, leaving nothing of substance behind.
i. “The pun ‘Like the sound of sirim (thorns) under the sir (pot, cauldron)’ is caught by Moffatt’s Like nettles crackling under kettles. Thorns were a rapidly burning, easily extinguishable fuel in the ancient world.” (Eaton)
ii. “They make a great noise, a great blaze; and are extinguished in a few moments. Such indeed, comparatively, are the joys of life; they are noisy, flashy, and transitory.” (Clarke)
iii. “Their laughter is also fitly compared to thorns, because it chokes good motions, scratcheth the conscience, harbours the vermin of base and baggage lusts.” (Trapp)
b. Surely oppression destroys a wise man’s reason: For all of Solomon’s praise of the instructive role of adversity, he also understood that suffering also had its limit. It could destroy a wise man’s reason.
c. Do not hasten your spirit to be angry: After two proverbs celebrating patience, the Preacher warns us against impatience leading to anger. Living with an under the sun premise may easily make a person impatient and then angry, and anger rests in the bosom of fools.
3. (10-12) Wisdom gives perspective.
Do not say,
“Why were the former days better than these?”
For you do not inquire wisely concerning this.
Wisdom is good with an inheritance,
And profitable to those who see the sun.
For wisdom is a defense as money is a defense,
But the excellence of knowledge is that wisdom gives life to those who have it.
a. Do not say, “Why were the former days better than these”: Solomon understood our tendency to romanticize the past and think that it was better than our current time. He cautioned against it, knowing that the meaninglessness of life with his under the sun premise is not a new phenomenon.
i. “The clear-eyed Qoheleth is the last person to be impressed by this golden haze around the past: he has already declared that one age is very much like another. ‘What has been is what will be… and there is nothing new under the sun’ (Ecclesiastes 1:9).” (Kidner)
ii. “Even Christians sometimes overestimate the early church, the Reformation, or periods of revival. Wise people certainly learn from the past, but they live in the present with all its opportunities.” (Wright)
iii. “In former days men were wicked as they are now, and religion was unfashionable: God also is the same now as he was then; as just, as merciful, as ready to help: and there is no depravity in the age that will excuse your crimes, your follies, and your carelessness.” (Clarke)
b. Wisdom is good with an inheritance, and profitable to those who see the sun: With the Preacher’s premise, the best kind of life is found with wisdom and money (an inheritance). This wisdom – called also excellence of knowledge – gives whatever life can be had in an under the sun world.
4. (13-14) Wisdom in considering God.
Consider the work of God;
For who can make straight what He has made crooked?
In the day of prosperity be joyful,
But in the day of adversity consider:
Surely God has appointed the one as well as the other,
So that man can find out nothing that will come after him.
a. Consider the work of God; for who can make straight what He has made crooked: Understanding the relative place of man to God is important in peaceful acceptance with life under the sun. From the Preacher’s perspective, this has the sense of fatalism.
i. “There is no standing before a lion, no hoisting up a sail in a tempest, no contending with the Almighty.” (Trapp)
b. In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: Solomon counsels us how to take the good and the bad of life into perspective. “Take what life gives you and get along the best you can.”
c. Surely God has appointed the one as well as the other, so that man can find out nothing that will come after him: The Preacher here drifts again toward despair. Considering God’s control of all things leads him to believe that the system is set so that we can know nothing of what is beyond us, of what will come after him.
B. Living a better life under the sun.
1. (15-18) Dangers along the way.
I have seen everything in my days of vanity:
There is a just man who perishes in his righteousness,
And there is a wicked man who prolongs life in his wickedness.
Do not be overly righteous,
Nor be overly wise:
Why should you destroy yourself?
Do not be overly wicked,
Nor be foolish:
Why should you die before your time?
It is good that you grasp this,
And also not remove your hand from the other;
For he who fears God will escape them all.
a. I have seen everything in my days of vanity: Solomon complained that in his meaningless life he has seen the good suffer (a just man who perishes in his righteousness) and the wicked prosper (prolongs his life in his wickedness). Solomon mourns, it isn’t fair.
i. “The first man that died, died for religion. How early did martyrdom come into the world!” (Trapp)
b. Do not be overly righteous, nor be overly wise… do not be overly wicked, nor be foolish: In light of the apparent vanity of life, Solomon here recommended a balanced approach to living. Be righteous, but not too much; be wise, but not too much; be wicked, but not too much; be foolish, but not too much.
i. “Righteousness does not always pay. Wickedness sometimes does. Therefore morality is to be a thing of calculation.” (Morgan)
ii. This is a common approach to life, thinking that everything is good in moderation. This has some truth to it but does not define a wise or good life. We should remember that both Jesus and Paul (as well as many others) were not considered balanced individuals in their day. Their understanding of eternity and accountability made them – in the view of many – unbalanced.
2. (19-22) The need of wisdom.
Wisdom strengthens the wise
More than ten rulers of the city.
For there is not a just man on earth who does good
And does not sin.
Also do not take to heart everything people say,
Lest you hear your servant cursing you.
For many times, also, your own heart has known
That even you have cursed others.
a. Wisdom strengthens the wise: A wise man – even with an under the sun premise – will see and appreciate the value of wisdom, that it gives more strength than ten rulers of the city.
b. There is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin: A wise man understands the sinfulness of man – and his own sinfulness.
c. Do not take to heart everything people say… even you have cursed others: Wisely, the Preacher knew that we tend to take the words of others about us too seriously. People often say unguarded things that are not deeply felt; we say such things about others and would not want them to take to heart what we said.
i. In his book Lectures to My Students, Charles Spurgeon gave a chapter to this verse, which he titled “The Blind Eye and the Deaf Ear.” In that chapter he gave wise advice to pastors and Christian workers that they should sometimes (if not often) simply overlook unkind and thoughtless things others say and do. We would not want to be judged by our worst moments; we should not judge others by theirs.
ii. “The fact that we often speak ill of others should make us less open to take offence at what is said of ourselves, and prepared to expect unfavorable comments.” (Deane)
3. (23-25) Frustration in seeking wisdom.
All this I have proved by wisdom.
I said, “I will be wise”;
But it was far from me.
As for that which is far off and exceedingly deep,
Who can find it out?
I applied my heart to know,
To search and seek out wisdom and the reason of things,
To know the wickedness of folly,
Even of foolishness and madness.
a. All this I have proved by wisdom. I said, “I will be wise”; but it was far from me: As the Preacher gives wise advice for living, he understood that his desire to be wise was not always fulfilled with true wisdom.
i. “The honest admission of failure to find wisdom – of watching it in fact recede with every step one takes, discovering that none of our soundings ever gets to the bottom of things – this is, if not the beginning of wisdom, a good path to that beginning.” (Kidner)
b. I applied my heart to know, to search and seek out wisdom and the reason of things: Given his under the sun premise, his meaningless life could not be made meaningful by the attainment of wisdom.
4. (26-29) Searching for wisdom, the Preacher sees man’s sinfulness.
And I find more bitter than death
The woman whose heart is snares and nets,
Whose hands are fetters.
He who pleases God shall escape from her,
But the sinner shall be trapped by her.
“Here is what I have found,” says the Preacher,
“Adding one thing to the other to find out the reason,
Which my soul still seeks but I cannot find:
One man among a thousand I have found,
But a woman among all these I have not found.
Truly, this only I have found:
That God made man upright,
But they have sought out many schemes.”
a. I find more bitter than death the woman whose heart is snares and nets, whose hands are fetters: In his unsatisfying search for wisdom, Solomon understood that a woman could be a danger and a trap. It was important to not let that happen; he who pleases God shall escape from her.
i. But the sinner shall be trapped by her: “‘In her,’ in the snare which is herself.” (Deane) “The wanton woman, that shame of her sex. A [dog], Moses calls her (Deuteronomy 23:18).” (Trapp)
ii. Knowing Solomon wrote this, it makes us wish we knew more about when Solomon wrote this; at what point in his life. We know from 1 Kings 11:4: For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the LORD his God. Surely, Solomon himself was caught in these snares and nets and fetters.
iii. Those who think that Ecclesiastes is the statement of Solomon’s repentance and evidence that he turned his heart back to the LORD his God, this section is Solomon’s way of saying, “I understood my error and turned from it.” Those who are unsure of Solomon’s repentance will place the writing of Ecclesiastes earlier in his life.
iv. All in all it is a fascinating question, and one (in the mind of this writer) that has no definitive answer: Was Solomon one who pleased God in escaping from this trap, or was he the sinner trapped by her?
b. I cannot find: One man among a thousand I have found. But a woman among all these I have not found: Solomon could find a rare man in a thousand with wisdom; but not even one woman. This speaks more about Solomon’s choice of female companionship than it does about the relative wisdom of men and women.
i. “His fruitless search for a woman he could trust may tell us as much about him and his approach, as about any of his acquaintances.” (Kidner)
ii. “Such as he knew her to be in Oriental courts and homes, denied her proper position, degraded, uneducated, all natural affections crushed or underdeveloped, the plaything of her lord, to be flung aside at any moment. It is not surprising that Koheleth’s impression of the female sex should be unfavorable.” (Deane)
iii. “He found that a harem did not provide the appropriate companion for man. How much better he would have been with one good wife, such as he speaks of in Ecclesiastes 9:9 and Proverbs 31!” (Wright)
c. This only I have found: That God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes: Solomon understood that God made man without sin, but man has – since the time of Adam – sought out many schemes of sin and rebellion against God.
i. We take Solomon’s statement “God made man upright” not to refer to each individual, but to man as he was originally made, to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. “He was created neither sinful, nor neutral, but upright, a word used of the state of the heart which is disposed to faithfulness or obedience.” (Eaton)
ii. “Since futility was not the first word about our world, it no longer has to be the last.” (Kidner)
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission
Ecclesiastes 6 – Wealth Can’t Satisfy
Video for Ecclesiastes 6:
A. The weakness of wealth
1. (1-2) Others can take one’s wealth.
There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, and it is common among men: A man to whom God has given riches and wealth and honor, so that he lacks nothing for himself of all he desires; yet God does not give him power to eat of it, but a foreigner consumes it. This is vanity, and it is an evil affliction.
a. There is an evil which I have seen under the sun: The Preacher still speaks from his under the sun premise.
b. A man to whom God has given riches and wealth and honor, so that he lacks nothing… yet God does not give him power to eat of it, but a foreigner consumes it: Solomon saw the tragedy of those who are given great gifts from God – yet they do not have the opportunity to enjoy what God gives. Solomon understood this to be vanity and an evil affliction.
2. (3-6) The meaninglessness of life that does not go beyond death.
If a man begets a hundred children and lives many years, so that the days of his years are many, but his soul is not satisfied with goodness, or indeed he has no burial, I say that a stillborn child is better than he – for it comes in vanity and departs in darkness, and its name is covered with darkness. Though it has not seen the sun or known anything, this has more rest than that man, even if he lives a thousand years twice – but has not seen goodness. Do not all go to one place?
a. If a man begets a hundred children and lives many years… but his soul is not satisfied with goodness: The Preacher knew that a man could have all the outward signs of a good life – but still not be satisfied with goodness.
i. “One could have the things men dream of – which in Old Testament terms meant children by the score, and years of life by the thousand – and still depart unnoticed, unlamented, and unfulfilled.” (Kidner)
ii. “Like the Mosaic law (cf. Galatians 3:22), the Preacher is slamming every door except the door of faith.” (Eaton)
b. I say that a stillborn child is better than he: This is a bitter statement, the kind we might expect from one who had suffered like Job (Job 3). Yet Solomon – with all his blessings and advantages – felt and knew the same despair of life as Job had. Life seemed so meaningless that he felt it would be better if he had never been born.
i. “To die unburied was the mark of a despised and unmourned end. Better to miscarry at birth than to miscarry throughout life.” (Eaton)
c. Though it has not seen the sun or known anything, this has more rest than that man, even if he lives a thousand years twice – but has not seen goodness: In Solomon’s mind, the stillborn child – tragic as it is – is better off than the man who knows the crushing disappointment of the realization of meaninglessness, even if he lives a thousand years.
d. Do not all go to one place: Solomon writes with his under the sun perspective, and shares much of the Old Testament uncertainty about the afterlife.
B. What good is it all?
1. (7-9) Suffering under dissatisfaction.
All the labor of man is for his mouth,
And yet the soul is not satisfied.
For what more has the wise man than the fool?
What does the poor man have,
Who knows how to walk before the living?
Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of desire.
This also is vanity and grasping for the wind.
a. All the labor of man is for his mouth, and yet the soul is not satisfied: Man works for the very bread he eats, yet it does not satisfy his soul. Solomon sensed what Moses had already said and Jesus later repeated: Man does not live by bread alone (Deuteronomy 8:3, Matthew 3:4).
b. What more has the wise man than the fool: Wisdom itself can’t fill a hungry man’s stomach. For all the superiority of the wise man compared to the fool, they both get hungry. Being wise isn’t as much of an advantage as commonly thought.
i. “The necessaries of life are the same to both, and their condition in life is nearly similar; liable to the same diseases, dissolution, and death.” (Clarke)
c. Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of desire: The Preacher knew that in a world of such uncertainty and absence of meaning, that what one can actually see is always better than what one merely desires.
2. (10-12) The futility of feeling that nothing can make it better.
Whatever one is, he has been named already,
For it is known that he is man;
And he cannot contend with Him who is mightier than he.
Since there are many things that increase vanity,
How is man the better?
For who knows what is good for man in life, all the days of his vain life which he passes like a shadow? Who can tell a man what will happen after him under the sun?
a. Whatever one is, he has been named already: This is a fatalistic view of God’s sovereignty. The idea is that God is completely in control, and whatever one is, it is because the all-powerful God has named it already.
i. “Since God is supreme, he has surely predestined everything and has made man too weak to resist. Reasoning, complaining, and arguing bring no answer and lead to further frustration.” (Wright)
b. He cannot contend with Him who is mightier than he: Solomon’s great frustration is rooted in the understanding that man is man, God is God, and man can never successfully contend with Him who is mightier than he.
i. Many today refuse to know what the Preacher knew. They believe that when they face God (abandoning Solomon’s under the sun premise) they will in fact contend with Him, and tell God a thing or two. Such are seriously and sadly deluded.
ii. “God will have the better of those that contend with him: and his own reason will tell him that it is not fit that God should cast down the bucklers first: and that the deeper a man wades, the more he shall be wet.” (Trapp)
c. Since there are many things that increase vanity, how is man the better: The Preacher felt that life was a game that could not be won. There were too many things that increase vanity that ultimately man would become no better.
i. “Evidently the thought of the preacher is that the more a man possesses under the sun, the more profoundly conscious does he become of the vanity and vexation of it all.” (Morgan)
d. For who knows what is good for man in life: We often think we know what is good for us; but do we really? In the course of a life, which is better: Wealth or poverty? Health or sickness? Fame or obscurity? Many who have what is commonly thought of as good are not the better for it.
e. All the days of his vain life which he passes like a shadow? Who can tell a man what will happen after him under the sun: Solomon looked to life and it seemed vain and a shadow. He looked to death and saw only darkness and uncertainty. To this point there is little relief from the tragedy of meaninglessness of life (and death) under the sun.
i. “So the chapter will wind its way down to a depressing and uncertain finish, well suited to the state of man on his own.” (Kidner)
ii. We can explain Solomon’s lack of knowledge of the afterlife by understanding the principle of 2 Timothy 1:10: that Jesus Christ brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. The understanding of immortality was at best cloudy in the Old Testament but is much clearer in the New Testament. For example, we can say that Jesus knew fully what He was talking about when He described hell and judgment (such as in Matthew 25:41-46). We therefore rely on the New Testament for our understanding of the afterlife, much more than the Old.
iii. We also understand that this does not in any way take away from the truth of the Bible and the Book of Ecclesiastes. What is true is that Solomon actually wrote this and actually believed it (with his under the sun premise); the truth of the statement itself must be evaluated according to the rest of the Bible.
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission
Ecclesiastes 5 – Reverent Worship
Video for Ecclesiastes 5:
A. Worshipping God reverently.
1. (1-3) Come to the house of God more to hear and to obey than to speak.
Walk prudently when you go to the house of God; and draw near to hear rather than to give the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they do evil.
Do not be rash with your mouth,
And let not your heart utter anything hastily before God.
For God is in heaven, and you on earth;
Therefore let your words be few.
For a dream comes through much activity,
And a fool’s voice is known by his many words.
a. Walk prudently when you go to the house of God: Solomon here brings good advice that does not contradict his under the sun premise. Even apart from eternity, it would be wise to honor God and walk prudently when you go to the house of God for the sake of this life alone.
b. Walk prudently when you go to the house of God: The Preacher will explain more of what this means in the coming lines. Yet generally we can say that it means to show care and think about consequences when we come to meet God.
i. “Fruitful and acceptable worship begins before it begins.” (Maclaren)
c. Draw near to hear rather than to give the sacrifice of fools: The sacrifice of fools is the hasty speech mentioned in the next lines. Solomon counsels us to come to the house of God to hear more than to speak without thinking.
i. To hear: “Has the double force in Hebrew which it sometimes has in English: to pay attention and to obey. So this saying is close to the famous words of Samuel, ‘to obey (literally to listen) is better than sacrifice’ (1 Samuel 15:22).” (Kidner)
ii. “They who fall into the faults condemned are ‘fools.’ If that class includes all who mar their worship by such errors, the church which holds them had need to be of huge dimensions; for the faults held up in these ancient words flourish in full luxuriance to-day.” (Maclaren)
iii. Sacrifice: “The zebah was an offering killed in sacrifice and then used for a meal, in contrast to the whole burnt-offering (ola) which was totally consumed in sacrifice. As Delitzsch points out, it is the zebah which could degenerate into thoughtless festivity, or worse.” (Eaton)
d. Do not be rash with your mouth… for God is in heaven, and you on earth; therefore let your words be few: Solomon rightly described the human tendency to speak without thinking before God and others. Even with an under the sun premise, it is foolish to speak too much and hear too little in God’s presence.
i. “When we come before God, our minds are full of our own business rather than with the worship of God. When we talk too much, we usually talk like fools. This can be especially bad in the house of God.” (Wright)
ii. The priests of Baal prayed hard and long on Mount Carmel; Elijah prayed short and sweet, and full of faith to the living God. God heard and beautifully answered Elijah’s prayer (1 Kings 18).
iii. J. Edwin Orr used to advise brief, earnest prayers, especially in prayer meetings. He said that when one prays in a meeting, for his first three minutes everyone prays with him. Should he continue a second three minutes, everyone prays for him. Should he continue for a third three minutes, the others start to pray against him.
iv. “For as it is not the loudness of a preacher’s voice, but the weight and holiness of his matter, and the spirit of the preacher, that moves a wise and intelligent hearer, so it is not the labour of the lips, but the travail of the heart that prevails with God.” (Trapp)
e. A dream comes through much activity, and a fool’s voice is known by his many words: The thought in this line is probably well represented by the Living Bible: “Just as being too busy gives you nightmares, so being a fool makes you a blabbermouth.”
i. “As personal and business cares produce dreams, which are unsubstantial things; so many words produce foolish and empty prayers.” (Wright)
2. (4-7) Keep your vows and fear God.
When you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it;
For He has no pleasure in fools.
Pay what you have vowed—
Better not to vow than to vow and not pay.
Do not let your mouth cause your flesh to sin, nor say before the messenger of God that it was an error. Why should God be angry at your excuse and destroy the work of your hands? For in the multitude of dreams and many words there is also vanity. But fear God.
a. When you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it: Even with an under the sun premise, it is both honorable and wise to honor God by keeping one’s word to Him. It would be better not to vow than to vow and not pay.
i. “God does not take broken vows lightly. A broken vow may incur his judgment upon our endeavours. One who ‘swears to his own hurt and does not change’ pleases God (Psalm 15:4).” (Eaton)
ii. A commonly overlooked and unappreciated sin among God’s people is the sin of broken vows – promising things to God and failing to live up to the vow. Those who honor God:
· Will not be quick to make vows to God.
· Will be serious about fulfilling vows made.
· Will regard broken vows as sins to be confessed and to be repented of.
b. Do not let your mouth cause your flesh to sin, nor say… that it was an error: The Preacher rightly observed that it was important for God’s people to regard their failure to keep vows as a serious matter, and that great effort should be put into keeping vows and not regarding the failure to keep them as simply an “error.”
i. Say before the messenger of God that it was an error: “Hebrew draws no distinction between messenger and angel, so several interpretations are open to us here.” (Eaton)
c. Fear God: Solomon counseled reverence and honor towards God, but in his under the sun perspective the value is found in the here-and-now, not unto eternity.
i. “Most certainly, he that fears God need fear nothing else. Well may an upright soul say to Satan himself, I fear God; and because I fear him, l do not fear thee.” (Clarke)
B. The vanity of wealth and materialism.
1. (8-9) The enduring fact of oppression and injustice.
If you see the oppression of the poor, and the violent perversion of justice and righteousness in a province, do not marvel at the matter; for high official watches over high official, and higher officials are over them.Moreover the profit of the land is for all; even the king is served from the field.
a. If you see the oppression of the poor, and the violent perversion of justice… do not marvel at the matter: The Preacher spoke realistically about life under the sun. There is much oppression and perversion of justice. It should surprise no one.
i. “For all his hatred of injustice, Qoheleth pins no hopes on utopian schemes or on revolution. He knows what is in man.” (Kidner)
b. For high official watches over high official, and higher officials are over them: Solomon was especially aware of how bureaucracies can bring oppression.
c. Moreover the profit of the land is for all; even the king is served from the field: Even with a complex (and possibly corrupt) bureaucracy, everyone depends on what comes from the farmer’s field – even the king. The Preacher seemed to delight in these ironies of life.
i. “Without the field he cannot have supplies for his own house; and, unless agriculture flourish, the necessary expenses of the state cannot be defrayed. Thus, God joins the head and feet together; for while the peasant is protected by the king as executor of the laws, the king himself is dependent on the peasant; as the wealth of the nation is the fruit of the labourer’s toil.” (Clarke)
ii. “Some read it thus: Rex agro servit, The king is a servant to the field.” (Trapp)
2. (10-12) Dissatisfaction in the accumulation of wealth.
He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver;
Nor he who loves abundance, with increase.
This also is vanity.
When goods increase,
They increase who eat them;
So what profit have the owners
Except to see them with their eyes?
The sleep of a laboring man is sweet,
Whether he eats little or much;
But the abundance of the rich will not permit him to sleep.
a. He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver: Of all people, Solomon knew that the gathering of riches did not satisfy. He knew, this also is vanity.
i. “If anything is worse than the addiction money brings, it is the emptiness it leaves. Man, with eternity in his heart, needs better nourishment than this.” (Kidner)
b. When goods increase, they increase who eat them; so what profit have the owners: Solomon knew that as one’s net worth increased, so did one’s expenses – and the expectation of others.
i. “Servants, friends, flatterers, trencher-men, pensioners, and other hangbys that will flock to a rich man, as crows do to a dead carcase, not to defend, but to devour it.” (Trapp)
c. The sleep of the laboring man is sweet… the abundance of the rich will not permit him to sleep: Solomon indulged an envy of the laboring man, who has so much less to worry about. The rich man has greater worries and less sleep.
i. We may suppose that Solomon found little sympathy from the laboring man.
3. (13-17) The uncertainty of wealth.
There is a severe evil which I have seen under the sun:
Riches kept for their owner to his hurt.
But those riches perish through misfortune;
When he begets a son, there is nothing in his hand.
As he came from his mother’s womb, naked shall he return,
To go as he came;
And he shall take nothing from his labor
Which he may carry away in his hand.
And this also is a severe evil—
Just exactly as he came, so shall he go.
And what profit has he who has labored for the wind?
All his days he also eats in darkness,
And he has much sorrow and sickness and anger.
a. A severe evil… riches kept for their owner to his hurt: Solomon then observed that wealth does not bless the life of every wealthy person. Especially those who keep their riches with an ungenerous, clenched fist, they are riches kept for their owner to his hurt.
i. “Rather, preserved by the possessor, hoarded and guarded, only to bring their lord added grief when by some reverse of fortune he loses them, as explained in what follows.” (Deane)
b. But those riches perish through misfortune… he shall take nothing from his labor: This shows further the foolishness of holding on to wealth in an ungenerous way. Wealth can disappear suddenly through misfortune; yet we lose all wealth in death. Solomon knew that despite the burial wishes and customs of the pharaohs, one cannot take their with wealth with them after death.
i. “The riches were suddenly and catastrophically lost, whether in foolish gambling, in a misguided venture, or in a sudden reversal of circumstances.” (Eaton)
c. Just exactly as he came, so shall he go: Solomon understood that great wealth ultimately means nothing under the sun. Man comes with nothing into the world and leaves the same way.
i. The New Testament gives a more hopeful picture, taking us beyond the Preacher’s under the sun premise and telling us that we can lay up treasure in heaven. You can’t take your wealth with you when you die; but you can send it on ahead by generous giving to God’s work.
d. All his days he also eats in darkness, and he has much sorrow and sickness and anger: With a sympathetic touch, Solomon tells us the loneliness, sorrow, and anger there is even for the very wealthy.
4. (18-20) Making the best of a bad situation under the sun.
Here is what I have seen: It is good and fitting for one to eat and drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labor in which he toils under the sun all the days of his life which God gives him; for it is his heritage. As for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, and given him power to eat of it, to receive his heritage and rejoice in his labor – this is the gift of God. For he will not dwell unduly on the days of his life, because God keeps him busy with the joy of his heart.
a. It is good and fitting for one to eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labor in which he toils under the sun: We sense that Solomon – still very much with the premise of under the sun – simply hoped to make the best of a bad situation.
b. As for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth… this is the gift of God: Though the Preacher knew that riches did not bring true meaning to life, he was no fool. He understood that it was better to have wealth than to not have it, and under the sun, one should enjoy both wealth and the capacity to enjoy it as the gift of God.
i. “Indeed, the very care of wealth becomes a reason for restlessness. In view of all these things there is but one attitude, which the preacher advises: Do not hoard anything, but enjoy it.” (Morgan)
c. For he will not dwell unduly on the days of his life, because God keeps him busy with the joy of his heart: This was Solomon’s counsel to the wealthy man who finds no ultimate meaning under the sun. Simply, try not to think about it and keep yourself busy.
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission
Ecclesiastes 4 – Bittersweet Accomplishments
Video for Ecclesiastes 4:
A. The tragedy of oppression.
1. (1) The comfortless oppression of man under the sun.
Then I returned and considered all the oppression that is done under the sun:
And look! The tears of the oppressed,
But they have no comforter—
On the side of their oppressors there is power,
But they have no comforter.
a. I returned and considered all the oppression that is done under the sun: After a brief flirtation with hope, the Preacher once again turned to despair at the end of Ecclesiastes 3 when he considered the problem of injustice. Continuing with that idea, he then considered all the oppression that is done under the sun.
i. “Compassion for the oppressed is common in the Old Testament.” (Eaton)
· Oppression of people by a king (Proverbs 28:16).
· Oppression of a servant by his master (Deuteronomy 24:14).
· Oppression of the poor by the affluent (Proverbs 22:16).
· Oppression of the poor by the bureaucratic (Ecclesiastes 5:8).
· Oppression of the poor by other poor people (Proverbs 28:3).
· Oppression of the alien, the fatherless, and the widow (Jeremiah 7:6; Ezekiel 22:7; Zechariah 7:10).
· Oppression by charging high interest (Ezekiel 22:12, 29).
· Oppression by using false weights and measures (Hosea 12:7).
b. The tears of the oppressed, but they have no comforter: Solomon thought of the painful and tear-filled lives of the oppressed. In an under the sun world – where this life is all there is, men and women give no account for their lives in a world to come – the tears of the oppressed are especially bitter and they have no comforter.
i. “Oh the tears for the oppressed; the tiny children; the terror-stricken fugitives from the Turk, the European trader, and the drunken tyrant of the home! Through all the centuries tears have flowed, enough to float a navy.” (Meyer)
2. (2-3) Because of oppression and sadness, man is better off dead.
Therefore I praised the dead who were already dead,
More than the living who are still alive.
Yet, better than both is he who has never existed,
Who has not seen the evil work that is done under the sun.
a. Therefore I praised the dead who were already dead: The thought of both oppressors and their victims finding no justice in eternity was so bitter to the Preacher that he thought the dead fortunate. In an under the sun world, the dead do not have to think about such painful things.
i. Solomon could only praise the dead this way because at his time he had no certain knowledge of the world to come, and he wrote most of Ecclesiastes with an under the sun premise. If he knew and accepted what happened to the unrighteous dead, he would never say such a thing. “Men, like silly fishes, see one another caught and jerked out of the pond of life but they see not, alas! the fire and the pan into which they are cast that die in their sins.” (Trapp)
ii. The dead who were already dead is an interesting phrase. It implies that there are the dead who are not yet dead – the living dead, so to speak. They walk this earth and have biological life, but their spirit and soul seem dead.
b. Better than both is he who has never existed, who has not seen the evil work that is done under the sun: Solomon took the idea of praising the dead even further, to where he praised he who has never existed. Even the dead were once alive and had to see the evil work that is done under the sun.
i. “There is nothing sadder in the whole book than the wistful glance in Ecclesiastes 4:2-3 at the dead and the unborn, who are spared the sight of so much anguish.” (Kidner)
ii. Jesus Himself said there was one man for whom it would have been better if he had never been born: Judas (Matthew 26:24).
iii. The Preacher’s great despair over the injustice of oppression in an under the sun premise shows the moral necessity of an afterlife and a coming judgment. Jesus told us that it is those who oppress and misuse their power who will ultimately endure punishment, not their victims (Matthew 18:6-7).
B. Bittersweet accomplishments.
1. (4-6) Success often gains the envy of one’s neighbor.
Again, I saw that for all toil and every skillful work a man is envied by his neighbor. This also is vanity and grasping for the wind.
The fool folds his hands
And consumes his own flesh.
Better a handful with quietness
Than both hands full, together with toil and grasping for the wind.
a. For all toil and every skillful work a man is envied by his neighbor: The Preacher thought of those who gain success through toil and skillful work – and how it simply brought envy and sometimes hatred from others. This common jealousy of success made life seem like vanity and grasping for the wind.
i. “For if a man act uprightly and properly in the world, he soon becomes the object of his neighbour’s envy and calumny too. Therefore the encouragement to do good, to act an upright part, is very little. This constitutes a part of the vain and empty system of human life.” (Clarke)
b. The fool folds his hands and consumes his own flesh: Solomon here answered the tendency for those jealous of the success of others to be lazy. Like fools, they fold their hands and do nothing – and so waste away. Yet it wasn’t the success of their neighbor that made them waste away; the foolish, lazy man consumes his own flesh.
i. Consumes his own flesh: “This expression is really equivalent to ‘destroys himself,’ ‘brings ruin upon himself.’” (Deane) A similar thought from a different perspective is found in Psalm 27:2.
c. Better a handful with quietness than both hands full, together with toil and grasping for the wind: The Preacher reflects on the value of contentment. It is better to have less and be content (with quietness) than to have more and constantly be grasping for further success.
i. Solomon weaved some fascinating themes together.
· Hard work and success are good and not to be envied.
· Laziness is wrong and destructive.
· Yet even the one with full hands must learn contentment.
2. (7-8) What good is your success if you can’t pass it on?
Then I returned, and I saw vanity under the sun:
There is one alone, without companion:
He has neither son nor brother.
Yet there is no end to all his labors,
Nor is his eye satisfied with riches.
But he never asks,
“For whom do I toil and deprive myself of good?”
This also is vanity and a grave misfortune.
a. There is one alone, without companion: Solomon thought of a man alone, without family or close friends.
b. Yet there is no end to all his labors, nor is his eye satisfied with riches: The man in Solomon’s thinking works hard and wants to gain more and more.
c. But he never asks, “For whom do I toil and deprive myself of good”: The Preacher thought this unexamined life of hard work and success – without family and friends to share in it all – is vanity and a grave misfortune.
i. The Preacher was entirely correct from an under the sun perspective. Under that premise, there is no such thing as an eternal accomplishment and one does not even have the potential satisfaction of passing one’s accomplishments on to another.
ii. “This picture of lonely, pointless busyness, equally with that of jealous rivalry in Ecclesiastes 4:4, checks any excessive claims we might wish to make for the blessings of hard work.” (Kidner)
3. (9-12) Without a friend, accomplishments are vain.
Two are better than one,
Because they have a good reward for their labor.
For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.
But woe to him who is alone when he falls,
For he has no one to help him up.
Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm;
But how can one be warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him.
And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
a. Two are better than one: In the previous section Solomon thought how even in an under the sun world, living alone made life worse. He continues to develop the same idea, noting that two are better than one and will begin to state the reasons why this is true.
i. “Having looked at the poverty of the ‘loner’, whatever his outward success, we now reflect on something better; and better will be a key word here.” (Kidner)
b. Because they have a good reward for their labor: In a good partnership, two can accomplish more than each one individually. The sum will be greater than the parts.
c. If they fall, one will lift up his companion: When two work and live together they can help each other in difficult times – but woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up. The Preacher understood that everybody needs help, and it is a blessing both to give and to receive help.
d. If two lie down together, they will keep warm; but how can one be warm alone: When two work and live together they can bring comfort to the lives of each other.
e. Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him: When two work and live together, they can bring security and safety to each other. To use a familiar phrase, they can “watch the back” of one another.
i. These four verses show us the great value of human relationships, that two are better than one. Living and working together is a great advantage to living and working alone, and adds these four things to life:
· Productivity (they have a good reward for their labor).
· Help in need (If they fall, one will lift up his companion).
· Comfort in life (they will keep warm).
· Safety and security (two can withstand).
f. A threefold cord is not quickly broken: The Preacher gives a fascinating final line to this section dealing with the goodness of companionship. We might have expected that he would praise the strength of a twofold cord; instead he noted that a threefold cord is not quickly broken. It is commonly understood that the third cord is God Himself, and that a relationship intertwined with God is a threefold cord that is not quickly broken.
i. “The strength of the three-ply cord was proverbial in the ancient world.” (Eaton)
ii. This is commonly applied – and well applied – to the idea of recognizing and embracing God in the marriage relationship. Yet it is possible that, in the context of marriage and family, Solomon had children in mind with the picture of a threefold cord.
4. (13-16) The vanity of fame and its short life.
Better a poor and wise youth
Than an old and foolish king who will be admonished no more.
For he comes out of prison to be king,
Although he was born poor in his kingdom.
I saw all the living who walk under the sun;
They were with the second youth who stands in his place.
There was no end of all the people over whom he was made king;
Yet those who come afterward will not rejoice in him.
Surely this also is vanity and grasping for the wind.
a. Better a poor and wise youth than an old and foolish king who will be admonished no more: The Preacher begins this section with a proverb, observing that it is better to be poor and wise (and young!) than to be old, foolish and have great wealth and status.
b. He comes out of prison to be king: Solomon thought of a second young man, who rose out of misfortune and obscurity to achieve great wealth, status, and fame (there was no end of all the people over whom he was made king).
c. Yet those who come afterward will not rejoice in him: As Solomon thought of this young man who achieved much and became famous, he understood that the fame would be short-lived. Even if it lasted his entire lifetime (which would be rare and remarkable), it would not live on much beyond his own life. With his under the sun premise, this thought brought the familiar conclusion to the Preacher: Surely this also is vanity and grasping for the wind.
i. “He has reached a pinnacle of human glory, only to be stranded there. It is yet another of our human anticlimaxes and ultimately empty achievements.” (Kidner)
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission
Ecclesiastes 3 – The Reign of Time, A Glimmer of Hope
Video for Ecclesiastes 3:
A. God and time.
1. (1-8) A time for every purpose.
To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven:
A time to be born,
And a time to die;
A time to plant,
And a time to pluck what is planted;
A time to kill,
And a time to heal;
A time to break down,
And a time to build up;
A time to weep,
And a time to laugh;
A time to mourn,
And a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones,
And a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace,
And a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to gain,
And a time to lose;
A time to keep,
And a time to throw away;
A time to tear,
And a time to sew;
A time to keep silence,
And a time to speak;
A time to love,
And a time to hate;
A time of war,
And a time of peace.
a. To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: The poetry of this list – describing the different seasons and facets of life – is beautiful. Yet it also casts a dark shadow because it reminds us of the inevitability of trouble and evil, and of the relentless monotony of life.
i. “His ceaseless reiteration of the words, ‘A time… a time… a time,’ are intended to indicate his sense of the monotony of all things, rather than of their variety.” (Morgan)
ii. “The repetition of ‘a time…, and a time…’ begins to be oppressive. Whatever may be our skill and initiative, our real masters seem to be these inexorable seasons: not only those of the calendar, but that tide of events which moves us now to one kind of action which seems fitting, now to another which puts all into reverse.” (Kidner)
b. A time to be born, and a time to die… a time to break down, and a time to build up: A bad facet answers each good facet. The Preacher understood that though there are good things in life, the bad things can’t be escaped.
i. “Birth and death, the boundaries of life under the sun, are mentioned first.” (Wright)
ii. A time to kill: Solomon did not tell us there was a time for murder. “Significantly, the Hebrew word used here for ‘to kill,’ is not the word reserved for murder in the sixth commandment, where premeditation seems to be in view.” (Wright)
iii. A time to dance: The English Puritan commentator John Trapp seemed to be wary of this time to dance. “Here is nothing for mixed immodest dancings…. Where there is dancing, there the devil is, saith a Father: and cannot men be merry unless they have the devil for their playfellow? Dancing, saith another, is a circle, whose centre is the devil, but busily blowing up the fire of lust, as in Herod, that old goat.” (Trapp)
iv. A time to cast away stones: In the ancient world they commonly scattered stones on an enemies’ land to hinder farming.
v. The poetic quality of the list shows that even the tragic, dark aspects of life can be artfully – and powerfully – presented.
vi. This list also shows us the need to take full advantage of the time God gives us (Ephesians 5:16, Colossians 4:5). “Many a man loseth his soul, as Saul did his kingdom, by not discerning his time. Esau came too late; so did the foolish virgins. If the gale of grace be over-past, the gate shut, the drawbridge taken up, there is no possibility of entrance.” (Trapp)
2. (9-11) A glimmer of hope in seeing God as the master of time.
What profit has the worker from that in which he labors? I have seen the God-given task with which the sons of men are to be occupied. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.
a. What profit has the worker from that in which he labors? I have seen the God-given task which the sons of men are to be occupied: The Preacher asked the kind of question he had asked before; but this time he found an answer in the God-given task that God gives to man.
b. He has made everything beautiful in its time: This sense of balance considers the poetic list in the previous section. Solomon thought of the good and bad as they were described and understood that God has made everything beautiful in its time.
c. Also He has put eternity in their hearts: The Preacher understood that man has an awareness and a longing for the eternal, and that God has put this in their hearts. We can say that eternity is in our hearts because we are made in the image of an eternal God.
i. “God made man in his own image; and nothing more surely attests to the greatness of our origin that those faculties of the soul which are capable of yearning for, conceiving, and enjoying the Infinite, the Immortal, and the Divine…. Every appetite in nature and grace has its appropriate satisfaction.” (Meyer)
ii. The well-known missionary and author Don Richardson used the phrase eternity in their hearts to describe the phenomenon of redemptive analogies in most all aboriginal cultures. Almost every culture has traditions, customs, or ways of thinking that reflect basic Biblical truth, and these can be used by missionaries to explain the gospel.
d. Except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end: Though God has given man a longing for and awareness of eternity, God has not revealed very much about His eternal work. This keeps the yearning for eternity alive in the heart of man as a yet-to-be-fulfilled longing.
i. “The Preacher’s vast researches have found nothing in the finite earthly realm which can satisfy the human heart intellectually or practically… This is the nearest he comes to Augustine’s maxim: ‘You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they can find peace in you.’” (Eaton)
3. (12-15) What the Preacher knows.
I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor – it is the gift of God.
I know that whatever God does,
It shall be forever.
Nothing can be added to it,
And nothing taken from it.
God does it, that men should fear before Him.
That which is has already been,
And what is to be has already been;
And God requires an account of what is past.
a. I know that nothing is better for them to rejoice, and to do good in their lives… and enjoy the good of all his labor – it is the gift of God: In light of God’s making everything beautiful and in His gift of eternity in their hearts – then it is wise to receive the good things of this life, and to receive them as the gift of God.
i. I know: This “holds out again hope of an enjoyable life from the hand of God… sees such a life as man’s privilege.” (Eaton)
b. I know that whatever God does, it shall be forever: Here the Preacher escapes – ever so briefly – his under the sun thinking. It is not the mere mention of God that brings the escape; it is also the knowledge that God is eternal and that this matters to us (God does it, that men should fear before Him).
i. I know: This “shows the security of such a life is its divine guarantor… sees such a life… as God’s purpose.” (Eaton)
ii. Eaton sees three aspects of God’s action highlighted in Ecclesiastes 3:14:
· God’s actions are permanent (it shall be forever).
· God’s actions are effective and complete (nothing can be added to it).
· God’s actions are totally secure (nothing taken from it).
iii. “All this leads on the part of man to fear, not a craven terror in the face of the monstrous or the unknown, but rather the opposite, reverence and awesome regard for God.” (Eaton)
c. And God requires an account of what is past: Again, this reflects a brief escape from under the sun thinking. If God judges the heart and deeds of man, then everything has meaning.
i. “God has no abortive enterprises or forgotten men. Once again Qoheleth has shown, in passing, that the despair he describes is not his own, and need not be ours.” (Kidner)
B. Injustice is unanswered by death.
1. (16-17) The problem of injustice and an uneasy assurance of solving this problem.
Moreover I saw under the sun:
In the place of judgment,
Wickedness was there;
And in the place of righteousness,
Iniquity was there.
I said in my heart,
“God shall judge the righteous and the wicked,
For there is a time there for every purpose and for every work.”
a. I saw under the sun: in the place of judgment, wickedness was there: Solomon looked at the world – the here and now world, apart from considering eternity – and saw that there was great evil and injustice. Instead of fair judgment he found wickedness; instead of righteousness he found iniquity.
i. “One of the greatest problems in understanding the total plan of God is that reward and punishment sometimes seem conspicuously absent.” (Wright)
ii. This is a significant problem under the sun. If man does not have to reckon with eternity; if this life is all there is, then many of the wicked and evil people win and many good and righteous people lose. The idea of karma does not consistently work – at least not in this life.
b. I said in my heart, “God shall judge the righteous and the wicked”: The Preacher said – perhaps hoped – that he knew God would judge the righteous and the wicked, and not only in this life. Because there is a time there for every purpose and for every work, God will judge the deeds of man to see if it fit the proper purpose and work.
2. (18-21) The common fate of animals and humans under the sun.
I said in my heart, “Concerning the condition of the sons of men, God tests them, that they may see that they themselves are like animals.” For what happens to the sons of men also happens to animals; one thing befalls them: as one dies, so dies the other. Surely, they all have one breath; man has no advantage over animals, for all is vanity. All go to one place: all are from the dust, and all return to dust. Who knows the spirit of the sons of men, which goes upward, and the spirit of the animal, which goes down to the earth?
a. Concerning the condition of the sons of men… they themselves are like animals: Solomon looked at life among both humans and animals, and also compared their deaths – doing so in under the sun, absent eternity terms. On this basis, he could say that there is little difference in the life and destiny between humans and animals.
i. They themselves are like animals: “The pronoun is repeated emphatically, ‘that they themselves are [like] beasts, they in themselves.’” (Deane)
ii. “In their context these verses say that God makes all sensible people realize that they are as much subject to death as is the animal world.” (Wright)
b. As one dies, so dies the other: The Preacher thought of an animal dying and its body decomposing. Then he thought that by all outward appearance, the same happens to a human body. Therefore, they all have one breath; man has no advantage over animals, for all is vanity.
i. “The distinction between man and beast in annulled by death; the former’s boasted superiority, his power of conceiving and planning, his greatness, skill, strength, cunning, all come under the category of vanity, as they cannot ward off the inevitable blow.” (Deane)
ii. This is no argument for the doctrine of annihilationism, the idea that the unrighteous dead simply cease to exist, either immediately or after some time of punishment. It is no argument for two reasons. First, Solomon spoke here as a man unconvinced of eternity and the meaning it brings to life. Second, we believe what 2 Timothy 1:10 says: that Jesus brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. The understanding of the afterlife is cloudy and uncertain in the Old Testament, but much clearer in the New Testament.
c. Who knows the spirit of the sons of men, which goes upward, and the spirit of the animal, which goes down to the earth: We sense that the Preacher hoped there was a different destiny between people and animals. Yet in his under the sun thinking, there was no real reason to believe it – so, “Who knows”?
i. “What is meant by ‘upward’ and ‘downward’ may be seen by reference to the gnome in Proverbs 15:24, ‘To the wise the way of life goeth upward, that he may depart from Sheol beneath.’” (Deane)
ii. “The Teacher is speaking phenomenologically, i.e., as things appear to the senses.” (Wright)
3. (22) Finding peace under the sun.
So I perceived that nothing is better than that a man should rejoice in his own works, for that is his heritage. For who can bring him to see what will happen after him?
a. So I perceived: It is true that Solomon perceived this, but he did so on the faulty assumptions of under the sun thinking.
b. Nothing is better than that a man should rejoice in his own works… who can bring him to see what will happen after him: After briefly flirting with a confidence in eternity (Ecclesiastes 3:9-15), the Preacher has returned to his under the sun thinking. Under that premise, nothing is better than for a man to accomplish what he can in this world and try – the best he can – not to trouble himself about what will happen after him.
i. In his under the sun thinking, Solomon has an answer for the question, “What will happen after him?” The answer is, nothing – because death ends it all, and therefore ultimately his life has no more significance or meaning than the life of an animal.
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission
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