-Solomon continues with his personal experience, which far surpassed in its accomplishments just about everyone else in human history as to having resources and applying knowledge to situations. Solomon had the brains, the faith, the sex appeal, and the riches that any mortal would crave. Yet, he was finding himself lacking. He selfishly seeks out pleasure as this chapter gets under way. His pursuit was to enjoy himself, but it too was futility and accomplished nothing from his perspective. Laughter couldn’t help either. To him it became “madness.” He even explored with his mind how to stimulate his body with “wine” while his mind was otherwise stable and wise. He discovered how to take hold of “folly” to the point of trying to understand what good there was for the sons of men to do on earth for the few years of their short lives. For himself, he: enlarged his works, built houses, planted vineyards, made gardens, made parks, planted fruit trees, made ponds of water to irrigate a forest of growing trees, bought both genders of slaves and had homeborn slaves, and possessed flocks and herds larger than all those who preceded him in Jerusalem. In addition, he collected vast amounts of silver and gold, and the treasures of kings and provinces (military prowess). He provided for himself male and female singers for entertainment and the pleasures of men—many concubines. He was great and increased more than all before him in Jerusalem. Not only that, his wisdom stood by him. All that his eyes desired, he did not refuse. Hedonism become an idol in his life. He did not withhold his heart from any pleasure of man whatsoever. His heart was pleased, to an extent, because of all his hard work, and he rewarded himself handsomely for his labor. But, in the end, Solomon observed that all this wanton luxury and ceaseless activity, which he had done, was considered “vanity (futility)” and “striving after the wind.” To him, at this time, there was no profit under the sun (Ecclesiastes 2:1-11). Things, built on the kingdom of man rather than the Kingdom of God, were ultimately fruitless.
-So, Solomon turned his attention to consider wisdom, madness, and folly in respect to what would happen to his estate once he had departed earth. To him, everything that had been done would simply repeat itself. He saw that wisdom did exceed folly, as he had so often stated in earlier manuscripts of the Proverbs, just like light exceeds darkness. Darkness cannot stop light. Light penetrates the darkness and eradicates it. Meditate on this correlation with wisdom conquering folly. Good stuff. Fools continue to walk in darkness, while the wise examine themselves constantly. Yet, the Preacher saw that they both suffered the same fate in this natural world, death. With this simplistic view of the temporal order only, it seemed that wisdom led to the same results as foolery. The wise man would be forgotten in time, just like the foolish man. This led to exasperation on the part of Solomon as he reasoned this from a carnal perspective, and he ended up hating life with the toiling work that was grievous, futile, and striving after the wind (Ecclesiastes 2:12-17).
-He laments further the futility of his labor, since he doesn’t know whether his posterity will be left to a wise man or a fool. They, not he, would control the fruit of his labor, and he believed this to be vanity. What was at stake was his legacy, and he was uncertain, perhaps because he had become derelict in his fatherly responsibilities, that the baton he passed on would be carried well. Therefore, he “completely despaired” of all the intense work of his hands in building, again, his own kingdom. He saw the temporary nature of mankind as a great evil under the sun. This was a consequence of sin and the depravity of mankind, which leads to frustration. The task of labor is painful and grievous, and the stress of it leaves one with no rest, even in the night. It is vanity and a result of the curse (Genesis 3:17-19). This led to a hedonistic (shall we say epicurean?) response from a worn-out king, “There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink and tell himself that is labor is good.” However, he did note that he saw, this satisfaction and turmoil all wrapped into one tight package, was from the Hand of God and that none could have enjoyment without Him. To the people that are good in His sight, He has given “wisdom and knowledge and joy,” but to the sinner He has given the task of “gathering and collecting” in order to give to the good people. In Solomon’s natural state of mind, this too was “vanity and striving after the wind (Ecclesiastes 2:18-26).”
-*Application* We are to serve the LORD in our generation and do our best to raise up another generation that will carry the mantle of spreading the Kingdom of God in a powerful way. Biblical examples of doing well in that regard are Moses, David, and Paul (Deuteronomy 6:4-7, Acts 13:36, 1 Timothy 1:2, Titus 1:4). Joshua, Solomon, and others neglected some of these responsibilities in properly training up their posterity and passing the baton on to the next generation. It is an important truth to consider today. Otherwise, left to our own devices because of the nature of this world, all will be vanity and striving after the wind. Build the enduring Kingdom of God, not the temporal kingdom of man.
Verses to Memorize: Ecclesiastes 2:13, 24-25