Our reading today begins in Ecclesiastes 5 where Solomon again adds some wisdom sayings to his book. Solomon takes much of what we saw in Proverbs and applies it to our dealings with God. Solomon begins with a reminder that the wise take instruction, this time from God Himself (5:1). He then speaks against speaking rashly, but this time he applies to what we vow to God (vv. 2-7). A hasty promise to God is the worst kind of foolishness (vv. 2-3). The fool not only makes a rash vow, but fails to keep it (vv. 4-5). Remember, we are led by our own words into folly or wisdom (v. 6). He ends with his familiar call to fear God (v. 7).
Solomon may turn a little autobiographical again beginning in verse 8. He speaks of oppression of the poor (v. 8). Remember, we saw how Solomon tended to ignore everything but his grand building plans and even put his own people to forced labor (1 Kings 7 and 5:13). But Solomon knows he answers to a higher power. Wisdom for a ruler is to provide for his people (v. 9). Verses 10-12 may be some self-reflection on Solomon’s part. All his good brought him no happiness or rest. Verse 13 may be some self-condemnation. Verse 14 may be speaking metaphorically of spiritual matters. Solomon knew he would leave his son no spiritual inheritance. Verses 15-17 are another lament over a wasted life (see 2:20-21). Verses 18-20 speaks of those from 1:13-14 and calls them to the wisdom of 3:9-13.
Chapter 6 continues the train of thought from chapter 5. God blesses the wicked along with the righteous, but the difference is that the wicked cannot enjoy the blessings (6:1-2). Verses 3-6 speak of the futility of living “the good life” from an earthly point of view, no matter how “good” and no matter how long the life. Verse 7 reminds us that earthly treasures never satisfy, and verse 8 that worldly wisdom is no better than folly. Verses 10 again speak of the emptiness of life apart from God. There is only despair.
Chapter 7 offers some more wisdom sayings. Solomon speaks of the importance of a good reputation (see Prov 22:1). But we can see the desperation of one living under the sun: death is a sweet relief from life (v. 1b-4). In fact, it is to be preferred. Verse 5 is a familiar bit of wisdom, with verse 6 adding the futility of foolishness. Verse 9 also offers a familiar warning. Verse 10 speaks of the dissatisfaction of the fool. Verses 11-12 speak of Godly wisdom, as evidenced by verse 13. Verses 14-16 speak again of the futility of life under the sun. The fool and the wise both receive the same “good” and the same “bad” from God, so why be wise? But then Solomon makes the opposing point (vv. 17-18): under heaven (life with God) is about more than the “good” and “bad” of this life.
Verses 20-29 speak of the condition of fallen man. What worldly wisdom misses in all this “good” and “bad” talk is that nobody deserves good, because none of us are good (see Rom 3:9-18). We all sin (v. 20). We all take to heart what is said about us, but go and say it about others (vv. 21-22). Godly wisdom cannot be found by our own efforts (vv. 23-24). The “woman” in verse 26 is the adulteress (sin – see Prov 7). Verse 28 talks about the Fall and its affect on all of mankind.
Solomon may again be autobiographical in 8:2-9. The (almost) absolute power of the king results in wickedness. Verses 10-13 speak of the futility of life under the sun. This is true of those without God. Even for those with God, this life is neither absolute nor “fair” from any worldly perspective. But for those who fear God, what we value is beyond this life (v. 12). It will only get worse in the world to come for the wicked. Verses 14-15 repeat (again) the pointlessness of everything for those who live in God’s world as if there was no God. The chapter ends by speaking of the futility of worldly wisdom. Remember, fear of the Lord is the beginning of true knowledge (Prov 1:7).