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Bible Commentaries

Chuck Smith Bible Commentary

Ecclesiastes 7

 

 

Verses 1-29

Tonight we want to return again to the book of Ecclesiastes beginning with chapter7. And as we return to the book of Ecclesiastes, again, it is important that we make note of the fact that the book of Ecclesiastes was written by Solomon in his later years. After he had assiduously pursued to find the purpose and meaning of life in so many different things: in wisdom, in wealth, in fame, in building, in pleasures. And after his pursuit, which carried him into every area and experience of life, he came up with the conclusion that life is empty and frustrating. Solomon made the mistake of searching for purpose in life under the sun. And if your purpose is limited to under the sun, chances are you will come up, as Solomon, with the conclusion that life is a mistake. That it is not worthwhile. That everything is only filled with emptiness and frustration.

But God did not intend for you to live a life under the sun. God intended that you should experience real life in the Son. In First John we read, "And this is the record, that God has given unto us, even eternal life, and this life is in the Son. And he who has the Son has life" ( 1 John 5:11-12 ). There is real life. There is real meaning and purpose to life. When you find the life in Jesus Christ.

The life apart from Him, apart from the spiritual dimension, living a life on the animal plane of a body-conscious experience and a body-conscious level will lead a person to despair even as the philosophies of today have concluded. That man will be led by reason to despair. Life is hopeless. Thus, man must take a leap into the upper story of experience and man must have some kind of a non-reasoned religious experience to save him from the despair of reality. And so the philosophy led man to the point of despair by reason. And then his only suggestion for man is jump out of reason. Become unreasonable. Take a leap of faith into a non-reasoned religious experience in order that you might not despair because life is hopeless. This is the conclusion that Solomon drew after trying everything.

Now as we read the book of Ecclesiastes, it is a book of despair. "Vanity, vanity, all is vanity and vexation of spirit" ( Ecclesiastes 1:14 ). The conclusions that Solomon came to are conclusions of natural, human reasoning apart from God. Therefore, they are not to be taken as doctrinal truths. You are dealing with a man searching for life apart from God and his conclusions are not doctrinal truths. Except that they do bring to you the end result of natural reasoning, but not divine wisdom. So they show you man apart from God and the despair and hopelessness of man apart from God. And the conclusions that are drawn are in that kind of a background. They"re not doctrinal truths, because if you take the step into the spiritual level, you"ll come to a far different conclusion of life.

Back in the book of Deuteronomy when God was giving the law to Moses, and because God could foresee down through time to that particular time in the history of the nation of Israel when they would demand a king, and because God knew that one day they would no longer be satisfied with Him being king over them and would want a king, God incorporated even into the law of Moses400 years before they ever had a king, God incorporated laws for the kings. Because God knew that400 years down the line the people were going to come to Samuel and say, "We want a king like the other nations around us. And because God knew they were going to say that, He incorporated into the law in the book of Deuteronomy laws for kings.

Now it is interesting as we look at the seventeenth chapter of Deuteronomy, as God is setting up the laws for the king, beginning with verse Ecclesiastes 7:14 of the seventeenth chapter of the book of Deuteronomy, the Lord said, "When thou art come unto the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, and shalt possess it, and shalt dwell therein, and shalt say, "I will set a king over me, like as all the nations that are about me."" And that"s exactly what they said to Samuel, "Set us up a king over us that we might be like the other nations."

Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the Lord thy God shall choose. One from among your brothers shalt thou set king over thee. Thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother. But he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses. Forasmuch as the Lord hath said unto you, ye shall henceforth return no more that way. Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away. Neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold. And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites. And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life, that he may learn the fear the Lord his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them. That his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left. To the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel ( Deuteronomy 17:14-20 ).

But verse Ecclesiastes 7:17 , "Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away."

It seems prosaic to declare God understands human nature. And God"s laws are written for our admonition, and they weren"t written in vain. "When you set up a king, one thing a king isn"t to do, he"s not to multiply wives lest they turn his heart away."

Now let"s turn to First Kings, chapter10. As we are reading of Solomon, remember he wasn"t to multiply gold unto himself or silver or horses, but as we read in verse Ecclesiastes 7:14 ,

Now the weight of gold that came to Solomon in one year was six hundred and sixty-six talents. He had traffic of spice merchants, and of all the kings of Arabia. He made two hundred targets of beaten gold; six hundred shekels of gold went to one target. And he made three hundred shields of beaten gold; three pounds of gold went into one shield. And the king put them in the house of the forest of Lebanon. Moreover, he made a great throne of ivory, who overlaid it with the best gold. [Down in verse Ecclesiastes 7:21 ,] All of the drinking vessels were of gold, the vessels of the house of the forest of Lebanon were of pure gold. None were of silver, for silver was counted as nothing in the days of Solomon. [Verse Ecclesiastes 7:27 ,] And the king made silver to be in Jerusalem as stones, and cedars to be as the sycamore trees in the valley, for the abundance. And Solomon had brought horses out of Egypt ( 1 Kings 10:14-19 , 1 Kings 10:21 , 1 Kings 10:27 , 1 Kings 10:28 ).

He"s not to multiply horses, not to go back to Egypt. Solomon"s so far getting an F for the course.

And as we get into chapter11 ,

But king Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites, and of the nations concerning which the LORD said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall not go in to them, neither shall they come in unto you: for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods: Solomon clave unto these in love. And he had seven hundred wives, [He"s not to multiply wives, oh. Flunk him.] three hundred concubines: [And what does it say?] and his wives turned away his heart ( 1 Kings 11:1-3 ).

Four hundred years earlier God had warned about this very thing. God had forbidden this very thing with the warning, lest they turn his heart away. Solomon thought he could beat God. He thought he knew better than God. He thought he knew better than the law of God. But you don"t.

God knows your human nature better than you know it yourself. And God has given laws to protect you. For God knows what the consequence of the violation of these laws will be.

For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after [the pagan gods of] Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, the Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. Solomon did evil in the sight of the LORD, and went not fully after the LORD, as did David his father. Then did Solomon build a high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, in the hill that is before Jerusalem ( 1 Kings 11:4-7 ).

Actually it"s on the, if you"ve been over to Jerusalem that hill that goes on up to the Mount of Olives down at the area of Gihon Springs. That is the hill where he built all of these and it"s in the sight of all Jerusalem. It"s right across the valley. It"s in the sight of all Jerusalem. He began to build these pagan temples, a place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, and for Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon. "And also likewise did he for all his strange wives, which burnt incense and sacrificed unto their gods" ( 1 Kings 11:8 ).

So every time he married a wife from some different area, he"d build a temple for her so she could go over and burn incense to her god right across the hill where all of Israel could see.

So Solomon had turned his heart away from God, and in turning his heart away from God, he lost the meaning of life and the purpose of life. And now he is an old man and he is writing of his experience. The consciousness of the greatness of Jehovah, God of Israel, has passed from his mind. And he"s trying to find life apart from God. And he finds that life apart from God is nothing but emptiness. Therefore, you cannot take as scriptural doctrine the conclusions that Solomon came to in regards to life and death, because he is reasoning, this is the reasoning of man apart from God and you need to look at the book of Ecclesiastes as that.

Human wisdom, perhaps in its highest expression, yet apart from God is foolish. As God said in Romans, chapter1 , "Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools" ( Romans 1:22 ). And any time you in your human wisdom seek to find a purpose of life apart from God, it"s foolish. Your wisdom has led you to foolishness.

Now chapter7 of Ecclesiastes is a series of proverbs and, of course, Solomon was filled with proverbs. We just have completed the book of Proverbs of which the majority were written by Solomon, and in chapter7 he does go into another series of proverbs, sort of unrelated again to each other, but just little sayings of human wisdom.

A good name is better than precious ointment ( Ecclesiastes 7:1 );

Better to have a good name than to have good perfume.

and the day of death than the day of one"s biRuth ( Ecclesiastes 7:1 ).

Now that sounds pretty much in despair, doesn"t it? "Oh, the day of a person"s death is better than the day of his birth." That"s one who has become cynical because he has sought to find life apart from Jesus Christ. And in that case, it may be true. But living with Christ is a glorious life.

It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart. Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of merriment ( Ecclesiastes 7:2-4 ).

So he has taken a very jaundice view of life, a very jaundice view of pleasure, of joy, because apart from the Lord it is all emptiness. It is all a sham. And because he was seeking it apart from God, he experienced the emptiness of it, and thus, he became a bitter old man. Bitter with life.

It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools. For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool: it"s just emptiness. Surely oppression makes a wise man mad; and a gift destroys the heart. Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof: and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit. Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger rests in the bosom of fools. Say not thou, What is the cause that the former days were better than these? for thou dost not inquire wisely concerning this ( Ecclesiastes 7:5-10 ).

You always hear them talk about the good old days. They say that"s not always so true. The good old days when we didn"t, when you women didn"t have automatic dishwashers and vacuum cleaners, and wall-to-wall carpeting in your house, supermarkets down the block. You all grew your own gardens. Ground your own flour. Used the scrub board. Oh, the good old days. No, we have it pretty nice. We always look back, though, and we think about the days of our youth when Orange County wasn"t crowded, when it was full of orange trees instead of subdivisions. But there are advantages both ways.

Wisdom is good with an inheritance: and by it there is profit to them that see the sun. For wisdom is a defense, and money is a defense: but the excellency of knowledge is, that wisdom gives life to those that have it ( Ecclesiastes 7:11-12 ).

Money"s good, but wisdom will give life to those that have wisdom.

Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight, which he hath made crooked? ( Ecclesiastes 7:13 )

Who can actually do anything against the work of God? We"re powerless and helpless against the work of God.

In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: God also hath set the one over against the other, to the end that a man should find nothing after him. All things have I seen in the days of my vanity: there is a just man that perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man that prolongs his life in his wickedness ( Ecclesiastes 7:14-15 ).

I"ve observed this. There have been good men who perished, died young in their righteousness. There were wicked men who lived many years. Therefore, his conclusion. Now it"s not scriptural, it"s not biblical. I mean, it"s not in the sense, it"s not godly. Human looking at life. Seeing that righteous man died young and a sinner lived to be a D.O.M., became a dirty old man, he came to this conclusion. Truly just pure human wisdom.

Don"t be overly righteous ( Ecclesiastes 7:16 );

Don"t get too involved in righteousness.

neither make thyself over wise: why should you destroy yourself? ( Ecclesiastes 7:16 )

Now it"s a wrong conclusion. The righteous don"t always die young. There are some beautiful old saints of God. But don"t be overly righteous. Why should you kick off soon? Also,

Don"t be overly wicked ( Ecclesiastes 7:17 ),

Be moderately wicked.

neither be thou foolish: why should you die before your time? ( Ecclesiastes 7:17 )

So purely human type of reasoning of life.

It is good that you should take hold of this; yes, also from this withdraw not thine hand: for he that feareth God shall come forth of them all. Wisdom strengthens the wise more than ten mighty men which are in the city. For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not ( Ecclesiastes 7:18-20 ).

Now, in this he was correct. The Bible said, "There is none righteous, no, not one" ( Romans 3:10 ). The Bible says, "All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" ( Romans 3:23 ). A human observation that is correct.

Also take no heed unto all words that are spoken; lest thou hear your servant curse thee ( Ecclesiastes 7:21 ):

They say that an eavesdropper rarely hears anything good about himself. You know, you"re that kind of person that"s always trying to eavesdrop on other"s conversations. And so he"s sort of warning you against that. Don"t take heed; don"t try to listen to what they say. You"re going to find out they"re cursing you.

For [you know how that] oftentimes in your own heart that you have likewise cursed others. All this have I proved by wisdom ( Ecclesiastes 7:22 , Ecclesiastes 7:23 ):

Not by God, I proved it by wisdom. But the wisdom of man, the scriptures said, is "foolishness with God" ( 1 Corinthians 3:19 ).

I said, I will be wise; but it was far from me. That which is afar off, and exceeding deep, who can find it out? I applied my heart to know, and to search, and to seek out wisdom, and the reason of things, and to know the wickedness of folly, even the foolishness and madness: And I find more bitter than death the woman, whose heart is snares and nets, and her hands as bands: whoso pleases God shall escape from her; but the sinner will be caught by her. Behold, this have I found, saith the Preacher ( Ecclesiastes 7:23-27 ).

Or the debater, or the word... it was translated into the Septuagint ecclesia, the assembler.

one by one, to find out the account; Which yet my soul seeketh, but I find not: one man among a thousand have I found; but a woman among all those have I not found ( Ecclesiastes 7:27-28 ).

So in all his thousand wives he did not find a decent one. Now, he did find one man out of a thousand. So men have a little better record as far as Solomon is concerned. But you might, of course, also observe he didn"t marry any men and you don"t really know a person till you marry them. But if he was, you know... people, it"s interesting people seem to repeat mistakes, and you find a person who has been married five, six, seven times. It really can"t be that the other person was wrong all the time. You say, "Well, it might be. It might be the person is just a, who has been married that many times is just a poor judge of character." And they"re following a pattern because we often do. We married the same kind of person. And always you think, "Oh, the second time around, you know, I"ll be wiser, make better choices and all." But we are bound by certain patterns and if, of course, you get a godly, righteous woman, her price is "far above rubies" ( Proverbs 31:10 ). And you"ll find one in a thousand every time. You find one who loves the Lord. How glorious it is, how beautiful it is to have a wife who loves God, who calls upon the Lord. What a blessing, what an asset they are to our lives.

Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions ( Ecclesiastes 7:29 ).

God made us straight, but boy, how we have searched otherwise. "

 


Copyright Statement
Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.

Bibliography Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 7:4". "Chuck Smith Bible Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/csc/ecclesiastes-7.html. 2014.

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