1 I said in mine lev [heart], Come now, I will test thee with simchah [mirth], therefore enjoy tov [pleasure]; and, hinei [behold], this also is hevel [vanity].
There are pleasures in the world
There is recognition, entertainment, society, merry-making, and honour for those whom the world loves, and these things make the time speed pleasantly away.
Even for those that the world does not love, there are many pleasures provided, if people like to go in the way of them. There is a gratification to the natural mind in going with the multitude in the ways of pleasure. There is always a fascination about the thing, especially if it is "respectable," and engaged in as something about which the lovers of pleasure can say there is "no harm" in it.
The temptation to give in to this kind of seduction is liable to be felt in the loneliness, endurance and self-denial that belong to the present walk of fellowship with Christ. The temptation is especially felt by the young, who have not yet realized the hollow character of all the ways of man. They need especially to be warned, and if they are wise, they will listen.
There are two strong reasons why they should listen -- always pre-supposing that they have earnestly made Christ their portion, and not taken up with him merely because friends have done so. There are two things which make it impossible for those, whether old or young, who desire the approbation of Christ at his coming to indulge in the pleasures of the world, whether in the form of the ball-room, concert-hall, theatre, or any of the other devices which sinners have invented for the whiling away of their heavy hours.
The first is, these things are hurtful to the new man formed within them by the word: they check the fructification of the seed of the word. They hang a heavy weight on the spiritual racer: they help the sin which doth already too easily beset us: they tend to hold the mind in a carnal sympathy, and to keep at a distance the things of God.
They make us feel one with the world, which is God's enemy. They are therefore a hindrance. They do not help us to Christ, but they rather widen the distance between us and him. Who has not at one time or other experienced the mental blank -- the spiritual desolation -- caused by the peculiar mental excitement called "pleasure"?
Therefore on the score of spiritual expedience, spiritual men and women (and none others are the children of God) should never be found in the paths of pleasure-seeking. They should be found taking care of the seed of the word that has been sown in their hearts. To follow pleasure is as if a man should water his garden with vinegar or lime water. Let him water it rather with the pure water of the word, and manure it with those self-restraints and sobrieties which will make it healthful and strong and vigorous.
Bro Roberts - Danger, Seasons 1: 37
1 I said in mine lev [heart], Come now, I will test thee with simchah [mirth], therefore enjoy tov [pleasure]; and, hinei [behold], this also is hevel [vanity].
2 I said of laughter, It is mad; and of simchah [mirth] , What doeth it accomplish?
3 I searched in mine lev [heart] to draw my basar on with yayin [to give myself unto wine], my mind guiding me with chochmah [wisdom] ; and to lay hold on sichlut (folly), till I might see what was tov for bnei haAdam [the sons of men], which they should do under Shomayim [the heaven] all the (few) days of their life.
Is pleasure the answer? He said: "I will try everything - every excess of sensation, indulgence, and excitement."
What did he find? It was madness and folly. It mocked him with empty disillusionment. There was no real happiness, no satisfaction. *
4 I made me great works; I builded me houses; I planted me vineyards:
5 I made me gardens and orchards, and I planted trees in them of all kind of fruits:
6 I made me pools of water, to water therewith the wood that bringeth forth trees:
7 I got me servants and maidens, and had servants born in my house; also I had great possessions of great and small cattle above all that were in Jerusalem before me:
8 I gathered me also silver and gold, and the peculiar treasure of kings and of the provinces: I gat me men singers and women singers, and the delights of the sons of men, as musical instruments, and that of all sorts.
9 So I was great, and increased [excelled] more than all that were before me in Jerusalem [Yerushalayim]: also my wisdom [chochmah] remained with me.
All was done in a purposeful, calculated effort to find the true meaning and value of life. But all was vanity. *
v 2-9. Here is the evidence that Solomon is the preacher of Ecclesiastes. His reign being the wisest, most peaceful and prosperous "more than all that were before him" or until now. Typifying the reign of the Lord Yahoshua "who shall rule in the spirit of Yahweh" (Is 11)
Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. (Is 9: 7)
10 And whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy; for my heart rejoiced in all my labour: and this was my portion of all my labour.
11 Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.
12 And I turned myself to behold [consider] wisdom [chochmah], and madness [holelot], and folly [sichlut]: for what can the man [adam] do that cometh after the king [HaMelech]? Even that which hath been already done.
13 Then I saw that wisdom [chochmah] excelleth folly [sichlut], as far as light [ohr] excelleth darkness [choshech].
Now, who can hope to have a better opportunity of testing this matter than Solomon? As he says,
"What can the man do that cometh after the king?" [v12]
If wisdom is sorrow, is it better to be just stupid and contented like the cattle of the field, without the capacity to wonder about life's meaning?
No. That, too, is not the answer. He could clearly see, throughout it all *
"I Saw That Wisdom Excelleth Folly" (Ecc. 2:13)
THE Proverbs are all about wisdom and folly: the infinite beauty of wisdom, and the tragic foolishness of folly.
Perhaps this is one of the biggest lessons we have to learn, and self-changes we have to make.
Once "in the Truth," few of us are in great danger of what we would call "wickedness"; but ALL of us are naturally very, very prone to folly. It takes many forms.
All natural thinking is folly.
Anything light or childish or silly or "funny" or selfish or unkind or fleshly or worldly-in short, anything below the ideal level to which we strive, of perfect unity and harmony with the Divine Mind-is folly. May God in His love grant us the inestimable blessing of increasingly perceiving and overcoming our follies and growing out of them - up and into full spiritual wisdom and maturity.
Bro Growcott - Search Me O God
14 The wise man's eyes are in his head; but the fool walketh in darkness: and I myself perceived also that one event happeneth to them all.
15 Then said I in my heart, As it happeneth to the fool, so it happeneth even to me; and why was I then more wise? Then I said in my heart, that this also is vanity.
16 For there is no remembrance [zichron] of the wise [chacham] more than of the fool [no less the kesil remains] for ever [l'olam]; seeing that which now is in the days to come [that in hayamim haba'im (the days to come)] shall all be forgotten. And how dieth the wise man [chacham]? as the fool [just like the kesil?].
All end up the same, the wise and the fool both come to the same final end in the grave. *
17 Therefore I hated life [HaChayyim]; because the work [ma'aseh] that is wrought under the sun [shemesh] is grievous unto me: for all is vanity [hevel] and vexation of spirit [chasing after ruach].
What good is there in anything? *
18 Yea, I hated all my labour which I had taken under the sun: because I should leave it unto the man that shall be after me.
19 And who knoweth whether he shall be a wise man or a fool? yet shall he have rule over all my labour wherein I have laboured, and wherein I have shewed myself wise under the sun. This is also vanity.
20 Therefore I went about to cause my heart to despair of all the labour which I took under the sun.
21 For there is a man whose labour is in wisdom, and in knowledge, and in equity; yet to a man that hath not laboured therein shall he leave it for his portion. This also is vanity and a great evil.
It is pleasant to have the smile and countenance of neighbours; it is pleasant to have plenty in hand; it is pleasant to have the friendship and honour of the world; and, therefore, men are liable to be insensibly governed by these things in the ordering of their lives, and to yield but a cold response to the demands of wisdom -- demands which, in many cases, are inconsistent with these pleasures, and mortifying to the natural man in general.
The result of listening to these seductions will certainly be shame and death. This is revealed; and though men in prosperity may disregard the still small voice of wisdom, they will be compelled to listen at another time, when their surroundings will be those of desolation and consternation.
Profane talkers speak of the Nemesis that follows in the wake of human action. There is no Nemesis like the Word of God, spoken now in quietness and love. It will yet rend the foundation of wickedness with destructive earthquake. It will subvert all the kingdoms of the world with a violence before which fleets and armies will be as nothing, and which will cause even the children of pride to lament with a pitiful wail when they see their houses in ruins before the hurricane of divine vengeance.
Not that which is pleasant to be done, but that which is wise to be done, will be the motto of every true member of the house of Christ. And that which is wise to be done is that which God has commanded; because obedience to His commandments only, will bring honour and life at the last.
And what He has commanded is that which is written in the Scriptures of truth. Our anxiety, therefore, is to know, and remember, and hold fast, and honour, and constantly meditate upon, and do the things that are written therein. There is no other path of wisdom but this. In any other way vanity is the vexatious accompaniment, and death the end of the journey.
Bro Roberts - Light and Darkness
22 For what hath man [adam] of [for] all his labour [amal], and of the vexation [striving] of his heart [lev], wherein he hath laboured under the sun [shemesh]?
It is true that death is the penalty of sin, but it is not the only penalty. Suffering is part of the penalty. You may see this when you consider:
1. That the world is not only a dying world, but a suffering world;
2. That the Edenic sentence not only imposed death, but a curse on the ground: "sorrow" to Adam, while he "ate of it all the days of his life;"
3. That the curse of the law on Israel was not only death but the dreadful calamities detailed so numerously in Deut. xxviii.
Lastly, in the final redemption, the proclamation is not only "no more death," but "no more curse, no more pain."
Consequently, the inconsistency which strikes you in there being "many or few stripes" of suffering before death is inflicted at the judgment seat, is an inconsistency that does not belong to the subject, but to a momentary misapprehension on the part of the reader.
The Christadelphian, Oct 1896
23 For all his days [yamim] are sorrows [machovim], and his travail [ ka'as] grief; yea, his heart [lev] taketh not rest in the night [balailah]. This is also vanity [hevel].
Verses 17-23 are the expression of a complete revulsion against life itself. Nothing is worthwhile at all. It is better never to have been born.
Every aspect of natural human life from the highest and most noble and most worthy right down to the lowest and most abused is alike vanity and mockery when analysed through to its final end.
Have we not seen how the highest accomplishments and labour of one generation are abused and abased by the next?
Think of the wonderful inventions of the past one hundred years. Have they made man better? Is he using them for worldwide good, or for evil, selfish ends?
Every development of the past one hundred years -- which could have made the whole earth a practical paradise -- is rather being prostituted to the superhuman effort to build up colossal means of domination and mass destruction...
How much more true and forceful are the Preacher's words in the present generation than they have ever been before!
He has reached the climax of his analysis of all that is human and natural. *
24 There is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour. This also I saw, that it was from the hand of Elohim.
Chapter 2, verses 4-11, he says he tried every form of acquisition and self-gratification-vast building projects, beautiful gardens, orchards, lakes, groves-beautiful, ideal surroundings, hosts of servants to fill every whim and desire - silver, gold, cattle, treasures, entertainers, beautiful music. He tried it all, and found it all meaningless and unsatisfying. Happiness and satisfaction constantly eluded him and seemed to mock him.
He could see, verses 12-16, that wisdom was infinitely better than folly, but still it brought no happiness, and it led only to the same still cold grave.
"Therefore (verse 17, chapter 2) I hated life."
I hated all my vast labours for they just mocked the brevity of my life. I must leave everything behind (verse 18). He sums up man's natural course in verse 23,
"For all his days are sorrow...his heart taketh not rest in the night."
He is speaking of the thoughtful man, pursuing the meaning of life. There is no true rest; nothing permanently satisfies.
Verse 24-26, he introduces for the first time the idea of God. He now presents his main theme: All good must be from and in God. Verse 26 - "God giveth." There is the key.
"God giveth to a man that is good in His sight wisdom, and knowledge, and joy: but to the sinner he giveth travail."
God rigidly controls joy and happiness - it is only for those who are His. To seek it anywhere else, but in Him, is stupidity and madness.
Bro Growcott - Fear God and Keep His Commandments
24 There is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour. This also I saw, that it was from the hand of elohim.
25 For who can eat, or who else can hasten hereunto, more than I?
26 For Elohim giveth to a man [the adam] that is good in his sight wisdom [chochmah], and knowledge [da'as], and joy [simchah]: but to the sinner [choteh] he giveth travail, to gather and to heap [storing] up, that he may give to him that is good before [that pleases] elohim. This also is vanity [hevel] and vexation of spirit [chasing after ruach].
A new theme. He brings God into the picture, and from here on we start to see meaning in the picture. We stand farther back for a broader view, and what has seemed to be but an endless, hopeless, meaningless repetition of futility, begins to manifest form, and order, and purpose, and development.
"There is nothing better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour.
"This also I saw, that it was from the hand of God."
We must try to get the basic meaning of this, for he repeats this theme many times throughout the book. It is the underlying message -- to rejoice in what God has provided, and to rejoice in one's labour for God.
Paul, from his dark prison cell, emphasizes this deep, basic theme of godly living throughout his message of comfort to the brethren at Philippi (4:4):
"Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoicel"
The expression "to eat and drink" is sometimes used of thoughtless indulgence in the present, as:
"Let us eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die."
But it has a better and deeper meaning, which we believe is the meaning here. That meaning is a contentment and rejoicing in God for the basic simplicities of life, contrasted to pride and seeking great things.
This is illustrated very clearly in God's words through Jeremiah to Jehoiakim, the wicked son of the good king Josiah (22:15):
"Shalt thou reign, because thou closest thyself in cedar? Did not thy father EAT AND DRINK, and do judgment and justice, and then it was well with him... but THINE eyes and thine heart are not but for thy covetousness."
The words of Nehemiah, too, help us to perceive the meaning of "eating and drinking" as related to contentment and rejoicing in God's goodness. He says (Neh. 8:9-10):
"Mourn not, nor weep. . . eat the fat, and drink the sweet ... for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry, for the JOY OF THE LORD is your strength."
This is the meaning of the first half of Ecclesiastes' simple, two-fold creed of life -- contentment and rejoicing in God, because rejoicing is a mighty power for good -- a mighty power for the purifying and softening and sweetening of the character.
As soon as we allow the pressures and problems of the present to dislodge us from this haven of strength, we begin to flounder and sink.
"THE JOY OF THE LORD IS YOUR STRENGTH."
An essential part of this same picture, and built upon this literal aspect of rejoicing in the basic provisions of God's goodness, is the figure of the eating and drinking of the marvelous feast of God's revealed Word and thus growing in spiritual grace and knowledge, which Job says he considered more important than his necessary food.
The second half of this creed of life is equally important:
"That he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour."
Labour is not in itself the curse. The curse was the sorrow and hardship and handicap under which man was condemned to labour because of sin. Labour itself is good. Labour is the purpose of life. Jesus said:
"My Father worketh hitherto, and I work" (Jn. 5:17).
Paul exhorted the brethren to (Phil. 2:12). "Work out your salvation." To be: "Always abounding in the work of the Lord."
"Workmen that need not to be ashamed." "Workers together with God."
But the Preacher's principal point is rejoicing in labour, enjoying it, thankful of the opportunity and ability of doing it.
It is only the cheerful giver that God loves (2 Cor. 9:7). Anything done or given grudgingly or self-pityingly lacks the pure oil of rejoicing that was required to make a sacrifice acceptable to God.
The manna in the wilderness -- the spiritual food -- had the taste of fresh oil (Num. 11:8), because God's mercies are "new every morning" (Lam. 3:23). A joyful recognition of God's goodness must be the spirit with which we greet each new day.
The Preacher does not define the labour, because he is just giving the general principle here, but it includes every activity of the well-ordered life, for everything that is done should be done with rejoicing as unto the Lord (Eph. 6:5-8; Col. 3:23).
"For God giveth to a man that is good in His sight wisdom and knowledge and joy" (v. 26).
All good is of God. The introduction of God changes the picture from futility to rejoicing. Man can accumulate wisdom and knowledge in the natural sense of which the Preacher has spoken earlier, but only God can give it life and meaning with the great gift of joy. *
*This Is The Whole Man - Brother Growcott