This is Ecclesiastes 6
1There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, and it is common among men:
2 A man to whom God hath given riches, wealth, and honor, so that he wanteth nothing for his soul of all that he desireth, yet God giveth him not power to eat thereof, but a stranger eateth it: this is vanity, and it is an evil disease.
When a person receives wealth, possessions and honor, many people do not respect that person. Instead, they try to work out how they themselves can benefit from that wealth, those possessions, or that honor.
A rich man’s enemies often pretend to be his friends. They can start to borrow things that they will never return. They can do business with him for their own advantage. They can look after his property in a manner that benefits themselves but not him. They can give him too much wine to drink, then urge him to make unwise promises to them.
Other thieves pretend nothing. They make schemes to rob the man. They would gladly murder him in order to get just a small amount of his wealth.
People believe that wealth, possessions and honor are some of the best things that anyone can possess. They will do almost anything to get these things. They believe that these things will give them what they want in life.
But Solomon has told us about a man who had all these things. They were God’s gift to him; he did not even have to work hard to get them. If wealth, possessions and honor really could give a person a good life, then this man would have a good life.
We do not know why God did not allow the man to benefit from these things. Perhaps it was to show the man that he must not trust in his wealth, possessions and honor but in the Lord Himself . Such things belong in this world only; they cannot help us after our deaths. Only trust in God benefits us both in this life and after death.
3 If a man beget an hundred children, and live many years, so that the days of his years be many, and his soul be not filled with good, and also that he have no burial; I say, that an untimely birth is better than he.
4 For he cometh in with vanity, and departeth in darkness, and his name shall be covered with darkness.
5 Moreover he hath not seen the sun, nor known any thing: this hath more rest than the other.
6 Yea, though he live a thousand years twice told, yet hath he seen no good: do not all go to one place?
Solomon is showing us how wrong popular opinions can be. People used to say that a man with many sons had a successful life. They still do say that a long life must be a good life. And in the grave, people said that a man ’rested with his fathers’ for example, (1 Kings 16:6) “6 So Baasha slept with his fathers, and was buried in Tirzah: and Elah his son reigned in his stead.”
So, Solomon tells a story about a man who seemed to have a good life. He had many children. He lived longer than anyone can imagine. But then he died and the truth about his life became clear.
The man’s many children did not care enough about that man even to bury him. That would mean that wild dogs or birds would tear his body apart (1 Kings 16:4) “4 Him that dieth of Baasha in the city shall the dogs eat; and him that dieth of his in the fields shall the fowls of the air eat.”
The only reason why the family did not care about the body was that it had no value. But such a family will fight like dogs for that man’s possessions! It was a terrible end to what seemed an honorable life.
Of course people could not say that such a man ‘rested’. During his life, the man would not rest if he saw such things! It seems even worse because these terrible things happened in public. When an unborn child dies, its whole life has happened in secret. That child never achieves any of the things that people consider great, good or honorable in this world. The child simply passes from life to death and the spirit returns to Heaven.
And that, of course, is what happens to all people, they die. Whether in a proper grave or not, their bodies return to the dust of the earth (Ecclesiastes 3:20) “20 All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.”
But it is different for their spirits. They must get on their knees in front of Jesus Christ , who is their judge. (Ecclesiastes 3:17); 17 I said in mine heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked: for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work.” (Ecclesiastes 3:21); “21 Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?”
“19 There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:
20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,
21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.
25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.
26 And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.
27 Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house:
28 For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
29 Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.
30 And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.”
31 And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.
7 All the labour of man is for his mouth, and yet the appetite is not filled.
8 For what hath the wise more than the fool? what hath the poor, that knoweth to walk before the living?
9 Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the desire: this is also vanity and vexation of spirit.
All the labour of man is for his mouth, and yet the appetite is not filled.
Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the desire: this is also vanity and vexation of spirit.
Appetite means desire for food. However, these verses are about something that is much more important than food. In the original language, the word for ‘desire’ or ‘appetite’ in these verses is the same word that we usually translate: ‘spirit’.
The soul is the real person. It is from our soul – not our body – that our most important desires come. For example, our body needs food, so we feel hunger. But our soul needs a right relationship with God, and our soul cannot rest without him.
People work hard for their food, but food cannot satisfy the soul’s desire. That is why the wise person and the fool alike cannot find satisfaction without God. In this most important matter, the wisest person has no advantage. Careful study and thought do not give anyone a right relationship with God.
A poor person can hide the fact that he is poor. He can pretend that he is not hungry. People may believe him, but his own soul will still not find any satisfaction.
It is better to be content with the things that we have. Everyone knows that. But the things that we can see in this world cannot satisfy our soul. So the soul remains without rest, and people remain in a desperate state without God. And there is no remedy in this world.
But there is a remedy in God’s promises. A person who trusts Christ will find rest for his soul. Jesus promised that in (Matthew 11:29) “29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”
See also (John 6:27) “27 Labor not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.”
and (Psalm 62:1) “1 Truly my soul waiteth upon God: from him cometh my salvation.”
10 That which hath been is named already, and it is known that it is man: neither may he contend with him that is mightier than he.
11 Seeing there be many things that increase vanity, what is man the better?
12 For who knoweth what is good for man in this life, all the days of his vain life which he spendeth as a shadow? for who can tell a man what shall be after him under the sun?
In Ecclesiastes 6:10, the author seems to ask: ‘Who is this? What kind of person would try to argue against God, who made him? (Job 40:2) “2 Shall he that contendeth with the Almighty instruct him? He that reproveth God, let him answer it.”
Since the beginning, we have known the answer: this is ADAM. Adam, of course, was the name of the first man. In the language called Hebrew, it became a general word for all people. The word reminds us about the origin of man, whom God created from the dust of the earth (Genesis 2:7) “7 And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”
And it reminds us about the weakness of all people, who at death must return to the earth (Genesis 3:19) “19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”
Although they are so weak, people constantly argue against God. They argue that His judgements about their lives is not correct. They argue that God should approve of them because of their efforts. But all their efforts in this world only show how weak they are. And all their arguments only prove how wrong they are.
With this thought, Solomon begins the second part of the Book of Ecclesiastes. He has said enough about the weakness of people’s efforts to please God by their own works. He has proved that riches, honor and a long life do not really satisfy anyone.
Now, he will try to answer the question at the beginning of Ecclesiastes 6:12. In this world, a person’s life is short and weak (Psalm 90) “1 Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations.
2 Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.
3 Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men.
4 For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.
5 Thou carriest them away as with a flood; they are as a sleep: in the morning they are like grass which groweth up.
6 In the morning it flourisheth, and groweth up; in the evening it is cut down, and withereth.
7 For we are consumed by thine anger, and by thy wrath are we troubled.
8 Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance.
9 For all our days are passed away in thy wrath: we spend our years as a tale that is told.
10 The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.
11 Who knoweth the power of thine anger? Even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath.
12 So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.
13 Return, O Lord, how long? And let it repent thee concerning thy servants.
14 O satisfy us early with thy mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
15 Make us glad according to the days wherein thou hast afflicted us, and the years wherein we have seen evil.
16 Let thy work appear unto thy servants, and thy glory unto their children.
17 And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.”
Nobody can control what will happen in the world after their death. So, what should people do during their lives? It is Solomon’s desire to show the proper way for people to live. He will try to answer his question by careful study of people’s behavior in this world.
I will be posting the 12 chapters of the Book of Ecclesiastes one chapter at a time on my blog. Look on the blog for new postings of new chapters as I post them. I am using bold text for the Word of God from the King James Version Bible as it is written. I will use italic for my commentary below the chapters and verses from the book of Ecclesiastes, This commentary is how I help people understand what is written in the Bible.
All glory to God
His humble servant Lee M Buchanan