“In all times, your garments will be white, and there will be no lack of oil on your head” (Ecc 9:8).
In this third section of the book, Solomon does more than hint at the Gospel hope that drives his writing. He is not contained by the typological kingdom in which he rules, nor subdued by the curse common to man. There is a judgment day coming that will adjudicate all the wrongs, and display the righteousness of the wise.
In the centerpiece of this third section (6:9-11:7), Solomon calls for the wise to enjoy life in this cursed world in hope of the judgment to come. Though he cannot fathom what God is doing, yet in God’s work is his hope.
Waiting Judgment (8:9-9:10)
A Coming Judgment (8:8-14)
B Enjoy (8:15)
C God Incomprehensible (8:16-17)
A Coming Judgment (9:1-6)
B Enjoy (9:7-10)
Solomon starts the central piece of the third section,
“9 I saw all this and gave to my heart to every deed that is done under the sun, a time in which an Adamite rules over an Adamite to his own evil. 10 So then, I saw the wicked buried, and they go and leave from the holy place, and they were forgotten in the city where they did so. This also is vanity. 11 Because the decree is not done speedily against an evil deed, therefore the heart of the sons of Adam is filled in them to do evil. 12 Though a sinner does evil a hundred times and his days are prolonged, yet also I know that it will be good to those who fear God who fear before Him. 13 And it will not be good to the wicked and He will not prolong days as a shade, because he does not fear before God. 14 There is a vanity which is done on the earth: that there are righteous men who it happens according to the deeds of the wicked, there are wicked to whom it happens according to the work of the righteous. I said, this also is vanity” (Ecc 8:9-14).
No one knows the future, nor can any restrain the wind. He does not have control over the day of his death. And the wicked are in bondage like an enlisted man in war. He will not be discharged. But the righteous will know no evil thing; he lives humbly in God’s grace.
He has seen the wicked come and go with seeming impunity. They oppress other men, and then go to the temple and leave as though they were righteous. They live; they die. And life goes on, no one remembering or calling them to account for their evil. This failure to hold them accountable just results in men being filled with more and more evil. But even in the face of the apparent evidence to the contrary, Solomon knows that there is a judgment. In that judgment it will go well for the wise, and it will not go well for the wicked. In that judgment, God will not prolong the days under a protective shade. This world is not an indication of the final day. Yes, here, what happens to the righteous is what the wicked should get, and what happens to the wicked is what the righteous should get. But there is a day beyond life under the sun. It is delayed because God is not yet giving the wicked what he deserves, but in this day of common curse, there is also common blessing, that the wicked might be brought to repentance and not come into judgment on that final day.
“15 And I commended the joy because there is nothing good to a man under the sun than to eat and drink and rejoice, for it will be joined to him in his labor days of his life which God has given to him under the sun” (Ecc 8:15).
Though the wise does not yet enjoy the eternal Kingdom of the King in Sabbath glory, he lives in assured hope of that day. Eve’s champion will make it so; Abraham’s greater Isaac will bring it to pass; Job’s Redeemer will come. Solomon’s faith is informed by the Gospel promises embedded in the Old Covenant Scriptures. So he calls the believer to a life filled with joy: eat and drink and rejoice. This hope is “joined” to him in his labors even here in this life God has given him under the sun.
Solomon declares the foundation of his hope,
“16 When I gave my heart to know wisdom and to see the task that is done on the earth; for also, day and night, one sees no sleep in his eyes. 17 And I saw all the work of God that the Adamite cannot find out the work which is done under the sun. For though an Adamite labors to seek, and he will not find; and also, though a wise man will speak to know, he will not be able to find” (Ecc 8:16-17).
What God is doing is beautiful (Ecc 3:11) and enduring (Ecc 3:14), and it is unfathomable! No man, no matter how much sleep he loses, can find out what God is doing and why things happen the way they do under the sun.
But God has revealed that there is more than what is seen under the sun. Solomon writes,
“1 For all this I put in my heart to examine all this, that the righteous and the wise and their works are in God’s hand. Also love or hatred, the Adamite do not know all before them. 2 The all which to all happens one to the righteous and to the wicked, to the good and the clean, and to the unclean, and to him who sacrifices, and to him who does not sacrifice. As the good, as the sinner, he that takes an oath as who fears an oath. 3 This is an evil in all that is done under the sun. For one happens to all, and also the heart of the sons of Adam are full of evil and madness is in their heart in their lives, and after that to the dead. 4 For who that is chosen among all the Adamites there is hope; for a living dog is good than a dead lion. 5 For the living know that they will die, and the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for their memory is forgotten. 6 Also their love and their hatred and their envy have also perished, and no portion to them again forever in all which is done under the sun” (Ecc 9:1-6).
What happens to the righteous and the wise is in God’s hand. The wise and wicked both die in this life; it doesn’t matter whether he has made a vow or offered a sacrifice. Both are subject to this day of common curse. In this day, the fallen sons of Adam are filled with evil. But while they live, there is still hope that they might be redeemed. While they live, they know they will die, but after they die, there is nothing more for them than the reward of what they had in life, and they are forgotten, in the dust. No more portion to them forever. But while they live, there is hope of redemption. The writer to the Hebrews encapsulates the thought,
“And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” (Heb 9:27 NASB).
So while the believer is secure in the hand of God, though the blessings and curses of life make it seem indistinguishable from the wicked, the righteous see that God is redeeming the wicked!
In this day of redemption, secure in the hand of God, Solomon implores the wise,
“7 Go eat in joy your bread and drink in good heart your wine, for God has already accepted your works! 8 In all times, your garments will be white, and there will be no lack of oil on your head. 9 See life with the wife whom you love all the days of your vain life which He gave to you under the sun, all your days of vanity, for it is your portion in life, and in labor which you labor under the sun. 10 All which your hand finds to do, do, for no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going” (Ecc 9:7-10).
Solomon calls for the wise to live in joy, for “God has already accepted your works!” Though the judgment day is yet to come, Solomon calls them “righteous.” Their righteousness is not based on their works, but because of their righteousness, God has accepted their works ALREADY. Solomon is not writing Ecclesiastes as though it could be divorced from the Gospel promised to Adam and Eve, the foundation of Job’s hope, the promise on which Abraham was counted righteous. Verse 8 is so bold, the translators have universally shied away from letting Solomon speak. Solomon is not commanding the wise to dress in white! He does not use the imperative. Solomon is encouraging the righteous to live as the redeemed. Because of the Gospel forgiveness and righteousness the wise has, Solomon says “It doesn’t matter what is happening, your garments are white! You are the redeemed of the Lord, your head will never lack the anointing oil of God’s blessing. Already, God has accepted your labors!” So live with your wife, and enjoy the days God has given you. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it. This is your life. This is the time to live in joy and humble confidence.
This doesn’t change the reality of the bent cursed world in which the wise live.
Folly’s Power (9:11-10:7)
This is a world filled with seeming inequities. Solomon writes,
“11 I turned and saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift, and the battle is not to the mighty warrior, and bread is not to the wise, and riches are not to the intelligent, and favor is not to the knowledgeable. For time and chance happen to them all. 12 For also, the Adamite does not know his time. Like fish caught in an evil net, and like birds seized in a snare, so the sons of Adam are entrapped to an evil time when is suddenly falls on them” (Ecc 9:11-12).
Things are not yet made right. The fastest don’t always win the race. The mightiest warrior doesn’t always win the battle. The wise are not often recognized and given the bread for which they did the work. Fools are given lavish salaries, and favor goes to the ignorant. It is a broken world and no one can figure it out. But there is a time in which the sons of Adam are faced with the sudden reality of their end.
A Wisdom’s Power (9:13-18)
B Folly is Overpowering (9:18-10:3)
A Folly Rulers (10:4-7)
“13 Also I saw this: wisdom under the sun, and it was great to me. 14 A little city and with few men in it, and a great king came upon it and besieged it and built great siege-works against it. 15 And it found a poor wise man in it, and he delivered the city in his wisdom, and no man remembered that poor man. 16 And I said, 'Good wisdom rather than might, and wisdom of the poor is despised, and his words are not heard. 17 Words of the wise heard in quiet rather than the outcry of a ruler of fools. 18 Good wisdom than weapons of war…'” (Ecc 9:13-18).
Solomon has seen the power and greatness of wisdom. A wise man can deliver a city. But that doesn’t mean this world recognizes wisdom. But wisdom is good; not weapons of war.
Folly is real and destructive. He finishes the thought,
“18 …and one sinner destroys much good. 10:1 Dead flies cause a perfumer’s ointment stink; a little folly to one respected for wisdom and honor. 2 A wise man’s heart to the right hand, and heart of a fool to his left. 3 And also when a fool walks in the way, he lacks walking to heart, and speaks to everyone he is a fool” Ecc 9:18-10:3).
Wisdom is powerful, but folly is too.
The wise understands how to live in a world of folly. Solomon writes,
“4 If the spirit of the ruler rises against you, do not yield your post, for healing yields great sins. 5 There is an evil I saw under the sun: an error proceeding from before the ruler. 6 Folly is bestowed in a high place, and the rich sit in a low place. 7 I saw servants on horses, and princes walk like servants on the ground (Ecc 10:4-7).
The ruler is against you. Solomon tells the wise man not to give up his responsibilities but to bring the healing that causes even great sins to yield. The pun is on the double meaning of “yield.” He tells the wise not to “yield,” give up, but to bring the healing that causes great sins to give up, “yields great sins.” The wise are among the foolish to bring wisdom and healing, redemption. There is a lot of healing needed, for it is a world where folly sits in high places and servants ride horseback while those truly rich, truly sons of the Kingdom, are in low places and walk on the ground.
What is Good for Man (10:8-11:6)
Solomon concludes the third section of the book with a final call to wisdom.
A Avoid (10:8-14a)
B No One Knows (10:14)
A Avoid (10:15-11:4)
B No One Knows (11:5)
A Avoid (11:6)
There are things to avoid. He writes,
“8 He who digs a pit will fall in it and a serpent will bite whoever breaks through a wall. 9 He who quarries stones will be hurt in them, and he who splits wood will be endangered in it. 10 If the ax is dull and he does not sharpen the face, he must use more strength, and wisdom gives success. 11 If a serpent bites when not charmed, no advantage to the owner of the tongue. 12 Words of a wise man’s mouth are gracious, and the lips of a fool swallow himself. 13 The beginning of the words of his mouth and the end of his mouth is evil madness. 14 And a fool multiplies words…” (Ecc 10:8-14)
Just like the wise are careful when they dig a pit or breach a wall, because of the possible dangers. Or as one knows that you can get hurt quarrying stones or splitting wood, and so you work with care, so wisdom gives success in the endeavors of life. Just because you have wisdom, doesn’t mean it will do you any good if you don’t use it! The snake charmer has no benefit if he doesn’t charm the snake! So, let the wise guard his words that they are gracious. The fool’s words destroy the fool.
Solomon then reminds the wise to live humbly before God,
“14 No Adamite knows what will be, and who can tell him what will be after him” (Ecc 10:14).
He continues the warnings the wise heed,
“15 Labor of the fool wearies him, for he does not know how to go to the city. 16 Woe to you, land when your king is a child, and your princes feast in the morning. 17 Blessed are you, land when your king is the son of nobles, and your princes feast at the proper time, for strength, and not for drunkenness. 18 In laziness the rafters sag, and in the idleness of hands the house leaks. 19 Bread is made for laughter, and wine gladdens, and money answers all. 20 Also do not curse the king in your thought, and in your inner bedroom do not curse the rich, for a bird of the heavens might carry the voice, and the bird tell the word. 11:1 Cast your bread on the waters for after many days you will find it. 2 Give a portion to seven, and also to eight, for you do not know what evil will be on the earth. 3 If clouds are full of rain, they will empty upon the earth, and if a tree falls in the south and if place tree falls in north, there it will fall. 4 He who guards the wind will not sow, and he who watches the clouds will not reap” (Ecc 10:15-11:4).
The fool is tired at the even the thought of knowing how to get to town. But there are real consequences to folly. Cursed is the town who is ruled by an immature child, whose princes party all the time. Such a town is blessed to have a well bread king who rules in wisdom. The lazy fool’s house falls apart. He thinks that he has bread so he can have a good time, and wine to be happy, and most of all the money that would answer all his problems. He exhorts the wise not to curse the king. The wise work in expectation of return. He is generous. He knows that rain clouds rain and trees fall. He doesn’t guard the wind instead of planting, and he doesn’t stand around watching clouds instead of reaping.
Again, he reminds the wise that God’s ways are inscrutable,
“5 As you do not know the way of the wind, and how bones form in the womb of the pregnant woman, so you do not know the works of God who makes everything” (Ecc 11:5)!
No one knows where the wind will blow. The formation of bones in the womb amazes. So the wise lives humbly before God.
“6 In the morning sow your seed and in the evening do not withhold your hand, for you do not know where this will prosper, this or this, or the two as one will be good” (Ecc 11:6).
Work in humility. You do not know what will pay. It may be that project, or that one, or both!
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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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