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5:1-10:20 MAKE THE MOST OF LIFE’S FRUSTRATIONS
Advice about religion (5:1-7)
Among the many affairs of everyday life that the writer deals with is the matter of religious practices. First he warns that the offering of sacrifices is useless if the worshippers have no desire to listen to God’s word or obey it (5:1). Those thinking of making vows must consider their vows carefully before telling them to God. Too many words may lead to foolish vows, just as too much work can produce bad dreams (2-3).
People are not forced to make vows, but having made them they must do as they have promised. If they break their vows, it is useless to make excuses to the temple officials. That will not help the offenders escape the chastisement of God (4-6). Therefore, the writer reminds his readers again to avoid silly thoughts and foolish speech, and above all to fear God (7).
Advice about money (5:8-6:12)
Greed for money is a common social evil and the cause of much suffering. Because of such greed, government officials exploit poor farmers. Each official makes sure he takes as much money as he can, so that after he has passed some of it on to those above him who protect him, he has enough left for himself. As for the farmers, besides losing their profits to corrupt officials, they must also give some of their harvest as a tax to the king (8-9).
Prosperity does not satisfy, because the more people have, the more they want. The rich may lie awake at night worrying about their money, while labourers sleep soundly (10-12). Another frustration for the rich is that they may lose all their money in an unsuccessful business deal. In the end they have nothing to pass on to their children in spite of a lifetime of hard work (13-17). Life is short, and people should use the possessions and the work God has given them to bring themselves enjoyment, not trouble. This is God’s will (18-20).
Two further examples illustrate the deceitfulness of riches. People may have wealth but not be able to enjoy it. Then, when they die, the benefits of their wealth are enjoyed by others, who may not even be relatives (6:1-3). Others may have everything that enables them to enjoy their wealth but they refuse to. They might live to a great age, but die in misery and are forgotten. A baby born dead, never having seen the world’s light, is better off than such people (4-6).
No matter how much people have, they are never satisfied. Why, then, do they waste time and effort trying to improve themselves? They would do better to find enjoyment in what they have than always to want something else (7-9). After all, they cannot change what God has determined. Neither can they argue with God. They do not know what is best for them in this short life, nor do they know what will happen after they die (10-12).
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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 5". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12