After painting the realism of a world groaning under the common curse, and the failure of man’s labor to produce the royal temple of the King, Solomon moved to this major section (3:9-6:7) in which he calls the wise to work in reverence before God and to enjoy the gift of joy God gives the redeemed. He calls the reader to satisfaction and covenant faithfulness. The development moves from his call for satisfaction, to covenant keeping, and back to life filled with the joy that comes from God.
A Dissatisfaction (3:22-4:16)
B Unfulfilled Plans (5:1-7)
A’ Dissatisfaction (5:8-6:7)
The A’ part is clearly one of the most overt exhortations in the book for the redeemed to enjoy God’s gift to be content in their labor and enjoy life. This is quite different that the way of the world. He breaks the contrast down:
A Never Satisfied (5:8-12)
B Grievous Evil (5:13-17)
C Satisfaction (6:18-20)
B' Grievous Evil (6:1-6)
A' Never Satisfied (6:7)
Solomon warns the believer not to be shocked at the injustice he sees. He writes,
“8 If you see oppression of the poor and violent perverting of justice and righteousness in the province, do not be astonished. For a high official guards over a high official, and a high official over them. 9 And profit of the land is for all. A king served by a field. 10 He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver and he who loves abundance will not with increase. This also is vanity. 11 In increasing goods, the ones who eat them also increase. And what profit to the owners except to see with their eyes? 12 The laboring man’s sleep is sweet, whether he eats little or much; and the satiety to the rich will not give rest to him to sleep” (Ecc 5:8-12)
Man was made for eternity, and he awaits the final judgment. Without hope, he grabs for glory now, even robbing from the poor to get something! The oppression that robs justice is just a reflection of the broken state of man. Even those in official positions to rule pervert justice and rule in unrighteousness. It goes all the way to the top. But even the power grab for wealth does not satisfy. He never has enough. No matter how much he siphons off or controls, he still does not have what he was made for. It is vanity. The amounts of wealth may increase, and so does the size of his retinue, but all he really does is see more! Even his lavish dinners that satiate his palate do not satisfy his heart; he still has no rest. Meanwhile the poor righteous who have worked an honest days work, sleep soundly whether he has had a lot or a little to eat.
The powerful, the wealthy, suffer the sorrow of a broken world. Solomon illustrates the point,
“13 There is a grievous evil I have seen under the sun: wealth guarded to his owner to his pain 14 and that wealth vanishes in misfortune. And he fathered a son and nothing in his hand. 15 As he came from womb, naked he will return to go as he came and he will take nothing from his labor which he will carry away in his hand. 16 This also is a grievous evil: as he came so he will go. And what profit to him who labored to the wind? 17 Also, all his days he eats in darkness in much vexation, sickness, and anger” (Ecc 5:13-17)
He describes a man who works hard and gains much wealth which he hoards. But something unfortunate happens and the wealth is gone! He has a son, but nothing to leave him. He came without anything; he will die with empty hands. He labored for the wind, for what would never deliver. He came with nothing, he left nothing, and he took nothing. For what? Just a life filled with darkness, a vexed soul, bitter, cynical, afflicted. His wealth did not deliver him.
But there is another life. Solomon writes,
“18 Behold what I have seen good: beautiful to eat and drink and enjoy good in all his labor in which he labors under the sun the number of days his life which God has given to him for it is portion. 19 Also, every Adamite which God has given riches and wealth and power to eat of it, and to receive his portion and to rejoice in his labor – this is God’s gift! 20 For he will not much remember the days of his life because God occupies him in joy of his heart” (Ecc 5:18-20).
It is a beautiful life, a good thing to see. He describes the man who eats and drinks, and enjoys the good in all his work even in this broken world. This man recognizes that it is the life God has given him here, his portion. In faith this man receives the blessings God has given in hope of the eschatological blessings to come. This life is not the all that it is for the unbeliever; he awaits the day of glory. And now he is occupied with the joy God gives. This faith, this joy, this living, is not something natural to this broken world. It is God’s gift, the Holy Spirit.
This gift stands in stark contrast to this world’s common curse. He writes,
“1 There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, and it is great on Adamites: 2 a man to whom God gives wealth, riches, and honor and he lacks nothing to his soul from all he desires, and God does not give him to eat of it but a foreigner consumes it. This is vanity and a great affliction. 3 If a man fathers a hundred children and lives many years and many days of his years and his soul is not satisfied with the good and also he has no burial, I say a stillborn child is better off than he. 4 For it came in vanity and darkness goes his name is covered. 5 Also, it has not seen the sun or known; this one has more rest than this man. 6 If he lives a thousand years twice but has not seen good, do not all go to the one place” (Ecc 6:1-6)?
God gives a man everything he wants, but does not give him the heart to enjoy it and through misfortune a stranger consumes all he worked for. Solomon continues. Even if a man is greatly blessed with a hundred children and a long life to be with his children and their children, but he doesn’t have a heart to enjoy and be satisfied, and from misfortune doesn’t have a proper burial, what miserable life! A stillborn child knows less misery! Doesn’t matter how long he lives, even 2,000 years, but he dies! For what?
Solomon concludes where he started. There is never enough to satisfy the soul. He writes,
“All the labor of an Adamite is for his mouth, and yet the soul is not satisfied” (Ecc 6:7).
The contented heart doesn’t rest in wealth, abundance, or number of children and grandchildren. The satisfied heart rests in God’s blessings and in faith in His enduring work in which he will glory in everlasting sabbath rest.
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Unless otherwise noted Scripture quotations are from NASB. Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995, 2020 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org
trans. indicates my translation
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