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Bible Commentaries

Bell's Commentary on the Bible

Ecclesiastes 7

Verses 1-14

  1. Title: MORE BETTER (1-14)
    1. What’s your view on suffering, pain, sorrow, adversity, or hardships?
      1. Some seek to escape it, others to despise it...we need to find the value of it.
      2. Do you learn more about God during difficult times or during happy times?
      3. Do you try to avoid sorrow & suffering at all costs?
    2. Suffering & adversity are not necessarily signs of Gods disfavor. In fact, adversity is often a greater good than that of prosperity.
    3. Eccl. 6:12 asked, What is good for man in life?
      1. It is a hook on which a string of Proverbs are hung. Kaiser
      2. Note: Good (1,11,18,20) and better (1,2,3,5,8,10).
      3. Let’s remember, the better life involves some bitter things. But…The bitter things can make life better.
    4. Solomon uses various proverbs w/similar sounding words (Hebrew).
      1. A figure of speech called paronomasia (pun/play on words).
      2. (vs.1) Name = shem. Perfume = shemen
      3. (vs.5,6) Song = shir. Pot = sir. Thorns = sirim [eg, as the noise of nettles under the kettles]
    5. A Good Reputation is better than Expensive Perfume (1a)
      1. A good name (reputation) is a fragrance that reaches far beyond its owner.
      2. Actually precious ointment was olive oil or good oil.
        1. In the ancient world, an abundance of oil was a sign of wealth.
      3. After the American Civil War the managers of the infamous Louisiana Lottery approached Robert E. Lee and asked if he’d let them use his name in their scheme. They promised that if he did he would become rich. Astounded, Lee straightened up, buttoned his gray coat, and shouted,“Gentlemen, I lost my home in the war. I lost my fortune in the war. I lost everything except my name. My name is not for sale, and if you fellows don’t get out of here, I’ll break this crutch over your heads.”
    6. Your Death-day is better than Your Birthday (1b)
      1. Solomon was not contrasting birth & death because you can’t die unless you had been born.
        1. He was contrasting 2 significant days in human experience. The day you receive your name and the day you show up in the obituary column.
        2. The life lived between those two events will determine whether that name leaves behind a lovely fragrance or a foul stench.
          1. How do you smell today?
      2. Every man has 3 names: one his father and mother gave him, one what others call him, and one he acquires himself.
        1. Prov.10:7 The memory of the righteous is blessed, But the name of the wicked will rot
        2. Mary of Bethany anointed the Lord Jesus with expensive perfume & its fragrance filled the house. Jesus told her that her name would be honored throughout the world, and it is. Warren Wiersbe
        3. Judas Iscariot sold the Lord Jesus into the hands of the enemy, And his name is generally despised. Judas was born and given the good name Judah which means praise. By the time Jesus died, he turned that honorable name into something shameful.
      3. We will all have on our headstone 2 dates & a dash in between...and it’s the dash that matters. Recognize your mortality.
      4. What does your name mean? Are you living up to its meaning?
        1. Bummer for Mahlon & Chilion = Sickly & Pining.
    7. Funerals are better than Feasts (2)
      1. Solomon isn’t getting morbid on us, he’s not saying let’s go hang out at a funeral home or at Murrieta cemetery.
        1. He answers why he makes this statement, after the word for.
      2. The most positive side of doing memorial services is that I believe God gets most everyone’s undivided attention regarding life & death.
        1. Most people don’t even think about their death.
        2. But it is helpful…why? It reminds us there is still time to change, time to examine, time to confess, time to forgive, & time to plan ahead.
      3. Jesus said, Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
    8. Sorrow is better than Laughter (3,4)
      1. Sorrow can teach us lessons that will not be learned any other way.
      2. The Wizard in The Wizard of Oz says to the Tin Man, "Hearts will never be practical until they are made unbreakable."
        1. We know that quite the opposite is true. The hearts that are fragile is what makes them practical.
      3. In sorrow, remember 2 things: [1] There is a lesson to be learned. [2] There is a work to be accomplished.
        1. Ask: What might be some of those lessons to be learned? (patience, long suffering)
    9. Being Criticized by a Wise Person is better than being Praised by a Fool (5,6)
      1. Don’t you hate when you know when someone is simply trying to flatter you & you know they don’t mean it?
        1. Would you rather feel good or know the truth?
      2. Prv.27:6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful
      3. (6) Sound/crackling of thorns - Just as thorns burn quickly and provide little heat, foolish laughter is short-lived and accomplishes little.
        1. Produces a lot of noise, draws attention, bursts quickly into flame, however it gives off no lasting heat.
    10. Easy Routes become Expensive detours (7)
      1. Bribery appears to be a quick way to get things done, but it only turns a wise man into a fool & encourages the corruption already in the heart. Far better that we wait patiently (8) & humbly (8) for God to work out His will, than that we get angry and demand our own way (9).
        1. Joseph began as a slave but ended up a sovereign.
        2. God saves the best wine for last. Satan usually starts with the best as bait, then pretty soon has his victim caught in his snare.
      2. They say money talks. How much can you be bought for?
        1. Bribes are given to hurt those who tell the truth & help those who oppose it.
        2. Some say everyone has a price, but those who are truly wise cannot be bought at any price.
    11. Finishing is better than Starting (8a) Working out :)
      1. By faith see what the end will be, and with patience expect it.
        1. Better was the end of Moses’s treaty with Pharaoh, when Israel was brought forth with triumph, than the beginning of it, when the trial of bricks was doubled and every thing looked discouraging.
    12. Patience is better than Pride (8b)
      1. Hudson Taylor said, As a rule, prayer is answered and funds come in, but if we are kept waiting, the spiritual blessing that is the outcome is far more precious than exemption from the trial.
      2. Story: I was once given some weed killer to spray on my back hill. I thought, more was better & faster (if a little weed killer killed the weeds in about a week I thought more weed killer would kill them in a couple days). Well it killed them really quick…but only on the surface (It only burnt the top & didn’t drink it down to the roots).
        1. Moral of the story: No patience, worked into waiting about a month for them to all grow back, to be able to spray again & do it the right way.
    13. Living for Today is better than Living in the Past (10)
      1. Oh the good ol days - It has been said, The good old days are the combination of a bad memory & a good imagination.
        1. ​​​​​​​Don’t live in the past, decide to live for today.
      2. The Roman poet Horace said, carpe diem, seize the day!
        1. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t learn from the past or prepare for the future.
        2. It means that we must live today in the will of God and not be paralyzed by yesterday or hypnotized by tomorrow.
        3. Joseph Hilaire Belloc (Victorian Essayist) said, while you were dreaming of the future or regretting the past, the present, which is all you have, slips from you and is gone.
    14. Wisdom is better than Wealth (11,12)
      1. Wisdom is good with (or added to) a generous inheritance.
        1. Money can lose its value, true wisdom keeps its value.
        2. Example: A person who has money with no wisdom will only waste his fortune. The person who has wisdom will know how to get & use money.
      2. Wisdom is like a defense/shelter (a protective shade). It gives greater protection than money.
    15. When Crooked is better than Straight (13)
      1. This echoes the earlier proclamation that God makes everything good or appropriate in its time. (see 3:14)
      2. An ol’ preacher said, Learn to cooperate with the inevitable.
      3. Notice the way God does things; then fall into line. Even when His way looks twisted & ugly?…even then.
      4. Read Job’s response to Zophar. Job 12:13-25
    16. Adversity and Prosperity, are Appointed by God (14)
      1. When prospering be thankful & rejoice. When in adversity consider the goodness of God & the comprehensiveness of His plan for you.
      2. He knows exactly how much & how long is best. [His hand is on the thermostat...His eye is on the thermometer]
        1. Paul learned, I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. Phil.4:12
          1. We need to learn how to profit from both pain & pleasure.
      3. Man can find out nothing that will come after him - God’s work is ultimately unknowable.

Verses 15-29

  1. Intro:
    1. Listen in on a very old mans wisdom. He has been through a lot. Studied much. Experienced women, wealth, & the world...basically, he’s seen it all!
  2. I’VE SEEN IT ALL (15-20)
    1. (15b) David answers this in Psalm 37 as Asaph does in Ps. 73.
    2. But I love God’s answer when Jeremiah asked it in (12:1-5) Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why are those happy who deal so treacherously? (1)
    3. Jeremiah struggles w/a couple problems. He was troubled…but teachable.
    4. His 3 questions?
      1. (1b) Why does the way of the wicked prosper?
        1. Why does a Holy God permit false prophets & unfaithful priests to prosper, while he, a faithful servant of God, was treated as a sacrificial Lamb?
        2. This has been asked by many...Job, Asaph, Hab, Mal, Jer., by you & me.
      2. (1c) Why are those happy who deal so treacherously? Why are evil people so happy? NLT
      3. (4a) How long will the land mourn/lie parched?
    5. Jeremiah gives his suggested answer in vs.3...Make your sheep into roasted mutton or lamb chops. Then GOD gives His answer (read 5)
      1. Definitely not what Jeremiah expected...God’s focus wasn’t on the wicked but on His servant Jeremiah.
    6. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​We usually ask, like Jeremiah, How can I get out of this? Instead of, what can I get out of this?
    7. God’s servants don’t live by explanations but by promises.
      1. Explanations satisfy curiosity, and make us smarter but do not heal.
      2. Laying hold of Promises build character & make us better servants.
        1. God’s promises are checks to be cashed, not mere motto’s to hang on our wall.(Vance)
    8. God’s answers are never philosophical but pastoral.
      1. They rebuke us, re-orientate us, or reassure us.
    9. God reveals 2 important truths:
      1. Godly service isn’t easy (5a)
        1. It’s like running a race. Hard work, mental & physical, sweat & nerves.
      2. Godly service becomes harder (5b,6)
        1. You’ve been running w/the footman (living in the land of peace/Jerusalem). The horses are coming (the thickets of the Jordan).
        2. It will move from an outside attack to inside his own family(6). The pace just quickened.
    10. Each new challenge will help develop our faith & help us to grow.
      1. The question isn’t How long? (4) but How will you compete? How will you do?
      2. Hugh Black (Scottish Preacher) said about Jeremiah, He needed to be braced not pampered.
      3. ​​​​​​​Remember, God is concerned with the development within us, not just the difficulties around us.
        1. Stay in the Race – Accept new challenges – Mature in the Lord.
    11. (16-18) What’s this saying? Is it a warning against extremism? No. Is it saying play it safe & have the best of both worlds? No.
      1. It’s not saying, don’t be too holy, don’t be too wicked…just sin to a moderate degree.
      2. It is not cautioning against possessing too much real righteousness.
      3. The tense of the verbs in Hebrew give the meaning, do not claim to be righteous & wise.
        1. ​​​​​​​You are still on the way & have not arrived yet…
        2. As Paul said, Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Phil.3:12-14
      4. That’s why God balances our life w/trials & triumphs – to keep you from getting proud & set in your ways.
      5. So, he was condemning the self-righteousness of the hypocrite & false wisdom of the proud, & he warned that the sins led to destruction (16b) & death (17b).
        1. 1 Cor.1:30 But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God; and righteousness and sanctification and redemption.
        2. Jesus is both Rt & Wisdom to the believer, don’t try to manufacture these yourself.
        3. Also note: do not be overly righteous (16) ...must line up w/vs.20.
    12. (18) Grasp both true righteousness & true wisdom.
      1. How? Walk in the fear of God (18b)
    13. (19) Power from w/in is needed more than advice from w/o.
      1. Oliver Wendell Holmes said, A moment's insight is sometimes worth a life's experience.
      2. Swindoll defined wisdom as, The God-given ability to see life w/rare objectivity & to handle life w/rare stability.
    14. (20) G. K. Chesterton, philosopher/theologian, was once asked, What do you think of civilization? Chesterton said, I think it's a great idea. Why doesn't somebody start one.
      1. Later on, after seeing a series of articles on "What's Wrong with the World?" Chesterton sent a short letter to the editor. "Dear Sir: Regarding your article 'What's Wrong with the World?' I am. Yours truly, G. K. Chesterton."
      2. All are guilty before God
        1. Ps. 14:3 They have all turned aside, They have together become corrupt; There is none who does good, No, not one.
        2. Ps.16:2 O my soul, you have said to the LORD, You are my Lord, My goodness is nothing apart from You.
    15. We are all guilty of the sin of commission (commit sin) but we are all also guilty of omission (from omit, forget to do). eg. [I had bitterness in my heart for someone vs I didn’t show them love]
  3. EAR PLUGS (21,22)
    1. ​​​​​​​(21) Spurgeon told his students that they“ought to keep one blind eye & one deaf ear. You cannot stop people’s tongues & therefore the best thing to do is stop your own ears & never mind what is spoken.”
      1. ​​​​​​​Who is more at fault in gossip, the talker or the listener.
      2. It not only takes two to fight, it takes two to gossip also. (and tango)
      3. Great minds talk about ideas; mediocre minds talk about things; small minds talk about other people.
      4. Satan may want to use criticism as a weapon to batter us; but if we let Him God can use it as a tool to build us.
      5. Look beyond the critic!
    2. (22) Many times...we have cursed others ourselves - We are all multiple offenders.
  4. INACCESSIBILITY OF WISDOM (23-26)
    1. ​​​​​​​(23) But it was far from me - Even Solomon, in all his God-given wisdom, could not understand all that exists.
      1. This wise man knows, that he does not know…and this is what helps to make him wise.
    2. (26) Solomon had been snared by so many women...he ought to know! Takes one to know one.
      1. ​​​​​​​Didn’t he go after them? (yes his fault…but he thought he was stronger & smarter than to get snared into her trap of idolatry)
      2. So how do you flee from her? Fear God(18)& seek to please Him (26b)
  5. THE SINFULNESS OF MAN (27-29)
    1. ​​​​​​​(28b) 1 man in a 1000 - This isn’t a literal statement, rather, an expression of the limitation of human righteousness (see vs.20). Wisdom was scarce.
    2. Not one woman… This sounds like Solomonic Chauvinism. It wasn’t that women were less intelligent
      1. He spoke highly of women. An excellent wife is the crown of her husband (Prov.12:4). He who finds a wife finds a good thing (Prov.18:22). A prudent wife is from the LORD (Prov.19:14). Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies (Prov 31:10-end). Song of Sol & in Prov. 8 he personifies wisdom as a woman.
      2. Women in that day did not have the freedom, nor the status, to have learning equal to a man.
    3. (29) This only I have found (6x’s/find or found)…the whole human race is bound by sin.
      1. God made man/Adam upright/morally good – but he disobeyed, fell and now all men are sinners who seek out many schemes.
      2. But the good news...though we are more sinful & flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe; yet at the very same time we are more loved & accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.
Copyright Statement
These files are the property of Brian Bell.
Text Courtesy of Calvary Chapel of Murrieta. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Bell, Brian. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 7". "Bell's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cbb/ecclesiastes-7.html. 2017.