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Saturday, July 13th, 2024
the Week of Proper 9 / Ordinary 14
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Bible Commentaries
Ecclesiastes 7

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Verses 1-6


With Ecclesiastes 7, a new section begins in this book. We can see this when we look at the form in which the Preacher in the first part of this chapter, Ecclesiastes 7:1-2 Chronicles :, expresses his observations. He does so in a form of so-called “better … than” proverbs, a form we also find in the book of Proverbs (Proverbs 12:9; Proverbs 15:16-Esther :Proverbs 17:1).

We have to learn what really matters in life. This means that we know how to distinguish the better or the more excellent things from what may be good, but is still of inferior quality to the better (Philippians 1:10). This distinction is best seen when we look at the end of a case. Therefore, it is wise to keep an eye on the end of everything we do, both with ourselves and with others (Hebrews 13:7).

Look for example at the end of the rich man and the poor Lazarus (Luke 16:19-Obadiah :). In the same way, today’s beautiful Babylon, which is the roman catholic church, does not show its true nature. We see its true nature at its end, when judgment comes on it (Revelation 17:1-Job :; Revelation 18:1-Jeremiah :). In view of this, and also of ourselves, this may be our prayer: “LORD, make me to know my end, And what is the measure of my days; Let me know how transient I am” (Psalms 39:4).

‘Better … Than’ Observations

In Israel, a name means a lot more than a name tag or a label. A name expresses how a person is, his personality and character. “A good name” (Ecclesiastes 7:1) is given after a period of time and based on a certain behavior. That good name remains even after death. The smell of “good oil” is only temporary, although the smell is pleasant for the time it lingers. It is not about good versus bad, but about better versus good. Better here has the meaning of more useful, of having more benefit.

The Name of the Lord Jesus is “an ointment poured forth” of which the fragrance remains forever (Song of Solomon 1:3, Darby Translation). The good name of Mary remains in connection with her act of anointing the Savior (Matthew 26:13).

That the day of a person’s death is better than the day of his birth is only true if Christ is not involved. For those who know Christ, to be with Christ, or to depart, is “very much better” (Philippians 1:23), but life with and for Him is also of great significance. The Preacher speaks of this perception as being done under the sun, without looking behind the horizon. He looks at life on earth without considering the truth that “it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” of God on the committed sins (Hebrews 9:27).

The confrontation with death, which a funeral always brings, is useful because it is precisely then that the reality of man’s fragile and transitory existence becomes manifest (Ecclesiastes 7:2). Death leads us to think about life. A funeral also makes us think about that of our own. We can learn more from the day of a person’s death than from the day of his birth.

A feast at a birth and the feastings in life are not necessarily wrong, but they do not make us serious. Festive occasions are not the most suitable occasions to reflect on the seriousness of life. The excitement prevails. At sad events the mood is thoughtful and one is more inclined to think about the meaning of life. Then we will get to pray with Moses: “So teach us to number our days; That we may present to You a heart of wisdom” (Psalms 90:12).

At a funeral we are determined by the inescapable reality that death is “the end of every man” in his existence on earth. Sooner or later every man will have to deal with it irrevocably. It is extremely stupid to close the eyes to it. The Preacher points out that the living must take it to heart. Do something with that reality that will affect you too one day. Man should not live thoughtlessly as if his life on earth will never end. As long as he lives, he should focus his thoughts on that.

To the house of mourning and death belongs sorrow and not laughter (Ecclesiastes 7:3). Here it is about the right state of mind at the thought of the fragility of existence. People do not want to be sad. Life should be joyful. People do not want to be confronted with pessimism. Everything must be wonderful. It is the masquerade of man who does not want to offer any space for grief because that puts a damper on the cherished feeling of happiness.

What really is going on in the heart is seen more clearly with a sad face as a result of inner sorrow than with the mask of the smile that often hides a lot of misery. That it goes well with the heart, means that grief makes the inner life better suited in order to arrive at the right judgment about life. That is the result when death is looked at in the eye.

Outward sadness and inner joy can go hand in hand in the life of the believer. Paul says: “As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10). He is sad because of the outward circumstances, but always rejoicing because the Lord is always present. That means God is not an enemy of joy. He calls His own to rejoice, but in Him (Philippians 4:4) and before Him (Deuteronomy 12:12).

Without Him there is no real joy under the sun, but only a surrogate of it. People get the giggles with a comedian’s play on words or also because of his biting satire about the most sacred things. How wicked is the heart of those men.

The wise understands that grief has a blessing in it (Ecclesiastes 7:4). Therefore his mind (literally: heart) is “in a house of mourning”. He does not have to be there physically, but he lives in the awareness of the finite nature of the existence of man on earth. The heart is the center of one’s existence, the place where considerations are taking place. The wise man will think about death. He allows those thoughts and worries about it; he is not running from it.

The fool seeks only pleasure; that is what his heart is after, that is what he is looking for. You can find him in all kind of places where there is something to celebrate, where it is fun to be, where there is no pessimism, but where you can have a good laugh about the jokes that are told. He is blind to spiritual matters. The pleasure of the world results in God being forgotten or even rejected.

The previous observations about grief because of death and about joy that denies grief in fact mean the “rebuke of a wise man” (Ecclesiastes 7:5).The Preacher who has grown wise, has passed on what really matters in life and that is death. If we listen to his words and take them to heart, it will be of great benefit to us. It is better that we humiliate ourselves now and go into the ‘house of mourning’ so that our hearts can be exalted in the long run, than the other way around.

If we want to be serious about God’s plan in our lives, we have to deal with wise people who want to help us live our lives in the most valuable way possible. They cannot take away all our grief or solve all our questions and problems, but they can give us clues on how to deal with them.

Listening to the song of the fools is done to override grief and death. The fool does not talk about such sad things, and if he does, it is to make fun of them. The comedians can offer entertainment and laughter for a moment to forget the sorrow for a moment, but their talk does not make any sense and does not give any support for life.

What fools have to offer is like thorn bushes burning: you hear a momentary crackling noise, you see fire for a moment and you feel a gust of heat, but it is all extremely short-lived (Ecclesiastes 7:6). The fire flares up for a few seconds and is out again. The crackling of the thorn bushes has no effect on the cooking pot hanging above it. It is foolish to think that the pot will come to the boil, because that takes a good and long burning fire. Thorns do not even make the pot warm.

So it is with the laughter of the fool. It is vehement and short and disappears quickly, without leaving any impression. Whoever thinks he can keep death at a distance with laughter is really foolish. The Preacher concludes that the fool’s laughter is “futility”, empty, without effect.

How many people there are who should be called fools because they mainly pursue things that only bring some outward laughter, while being blind to the essentials of life. Man is a poor judge of what has real and lasting value.

Verses 7-10

Consider the End of a Matter

In Ecclesiastes 7:7 the teaching about judging what really gives meaning to life continues. The word “for” seems to indicate that. The aspect of misuse of power is added to the previously mentioned. A wise man who exercises power by oppressing someone else for personal gain becomes a fool or a madman. He loses sight of reality and is only concerned with life here and now. He does not think about the future and certainly not about death.

Besides oppression, accepting or giving a bribe is also a tried and tested means of favoring oneself. The heart of the wise who lowers himself to such a practice is corrupt. His heart is not in the house of mourning, but in the house feasting. The wise who misuses his power or allows himself to be bribed, or bribes others, acts like a wicked man (Proverbs 17:23). He judges the present value of mortal goods in a way that leads him to use even injustice to gain possession of them. For that he sacrifices his good name as a wise man.

At the “beginning” of a matter it is not clear how it will develop (Ecclesiastes 7:8). Only at “the end of a matter” it can be determined what its usefulness and value have been. It is therefore important to wait with the judgment of a matter until the end is known, because then the value can be determined.

“Patience of spirit” will wait and see how a matter develops, while “haughtiness of spirit” full of swagger claims to know its exact course. The haughty one forgets the end and claims to know everything. The one is characterized by patience, the other by impatience. Patience is an aspect of humility; impatience indicates the proud anger about the ways of God with man.

In connection with Ecclesiastes 7:7 we can say that those who are patient will wait patiently for the end or outcome of a trial. He will not seize forward by oppression or by using a bribe gift.

The end of life only provides reliable information about the value of life. If the end of life is good, the whole life is good, even if it was not a ‘beautiful’ life. If the end is bad, even the most successful life has become bad.

Ecclesiastes 7:9 connects directly to Ecclesiastes 7:8. The Preacher warns against anger about the course of a matter. Patience can be tested and then there is the danger of anger in the heart. This happens when we blame human factors for the delay in the development of a matter. If we are oppressed unjustly or feel that we are being tried unjustly, anger can arise in our minds. Maybe we do not even express it, but in our inner being we are eaten away by anger.

The Preacher says that the bosom of fools is the residence of anger. He who allows anger to take residence in his inner man, making it to be part of his personality, becomes a fool. Anger can also arise when we receive undeserved treatment or are victims of misplaced behavior. In this context it is about unjust oppression or a test.

In Ecclesiastes 7:9 a person is angry because he is not patient and also not satisfied with his circumstances. The question that he asks in Ecclesiastes 7:10, does not arise out of curiosity, but out of frustration. With him it is about making a comparison of his days, the circumstances in which he finds himself, with those of the former days, wondering why the former days were better. In fact he is calling God to account, he is demanding an explanation of His dealings with him. Such people are the “grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts” (Jd 1:16).

It does not testify of wisdom to ask such questions; it shows ignorance about the past and about man, who was as sinful then as he is now. The Preacher already said in the beginning of this book that which has been is that which will be, so there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9). The days have always been evil because of sin by man (Ephesians 5:16). Therefore it is pointless to go deeper into it also. The Israelites desired to go back to Egypt out of dissatisfaction with their stay in the wilderness. They preferred their stay in slavery in Egypt above their stay in the wilderness with God. This was because they assumed that God wanted them to perish.

Whoever asks the question “why is it that” overlooks the fact that evil used to be there too, albeit in other manifestations. The glorification of the past is foolishness, for then it is also overlooked that God does not change (Malachi 3:6), and that the support of the Lord remains available to the believer at all times (Hebrews 13:8). Paul forgot what lay behind him and reached forward to what lay ahead because Christ filled his field of vision (Philippians 3:13). It is about the present and listening to the voice of the Lord.

Verses 11-12

The Advantage of Wisdom

In Ecclesiastes 7:11 the Preacher speaks about the proper use of wisdom against the lack of wisdom in Ecclesiastes 7:10. “Wisdom” must prove itself, it must be reflected. The Preacher therefore, relates “an inheritance” to wisdom, for wisdom especially does justice in the way an inheritance is managed.

To the combination “wisdom” and “money” another aspect is added in Ecclesiastes 7:12: they both give “protection” (Psalms 91:2; Isaiah 30:2). Yet the possession of knowledge that is inherent in wisdom is beyond the possession of money. Money brings no man into the favor of God and gives no man life. Therefore knowledge surpasses the possession of money, for knowledge is related to a “wisdom that preserves the lives of its possessors”.

There is no other knowledge that gives us life than the knowledge of the Father and the Son. (John 17:3). The wisdom, which is the Lord Jesus, preserves life. He who finds Him, finds life; he who has Him, has life (Proverbs 8:35; 1 John 5:12).

Verses 13-14

Consider the Work of God

He who is wise under the sun, will consider “the work of God” (Ecclesiastes 7:13). He will notice that it is impossible to change anything that He has determined. In former days (verse10) He acted according to the same principles as He does today. The Preacher specifically points out that nobody can straighten what God “has bent”. Everything is submitted to God’s will, even the things that He has bent.

This section deals with the fact that He in His sovereignty has connected consequences to sin, which He does not undo. It is important to receive everything out of God’s hand the way it is given to us, for we cannot change anything about it (Ecclesiastes 1:15). Like that, He “thwarts the way of the wicked” (Psalms 146:9). A wicked person is not able to go the right way. A way of sin is always a crooked way. That is how God ordained it and we shall see that when we accurately consider God’s work.

He who considers the work of God, will understand that God gives both the good and evil (Ecclesiastes 7:14; Job 2:10; Isaiah 45:7). In a “day of prosperity” we can enjoy the good of that day. But when we are confronted with a “day of adversity”, we do well by considering this day to be given to us by God as well.

In the verses previous to this we have seen that we should not be upset when things do not go the way we may have desired. We can find rest in the thought that everything comes out of the same Fatherly hand of God and that He has a purpose for it. Both prosperity and adversity has its usefulness. Keeping that in mind will prevent us from grumbling and criticizing God.

The continuous change of days of prosperity and of adversity preserves us in dependence on Him. We do not know what kind of days are to come in the future. God has determined it like that, “so that man will not discover anything [that will be] after him”, for man is just man and not God. We do not know the future events and therefore have no power over them.

It is good that we do not know what will happen tomorrow. The awareness and acceptance of that relates to our trust in God. If we trust Him, we shall trust in the word of the Lord Jesus, Who says that we should “not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34).

It is not useful at all to worry about what can happen tomorrow. We have enough trouble in the day we experience now. We need not to worry now already about what could possibly happen to us tomorrow. When tomorrow comes, the trouble might have already disappeared. And if the trouble is still there, then God will be there too.

Verses 15-18

Righteous and Wicked

With Ecclesiastes 7:15 a new section begins about righteousness and wickedness, which both are observed by the Preacher about which he shares his testimony with us. What he has seen, brings him to the pronouncement “during my lifetime of futility” (Ecclesiastes 7:15). It makes him aware once again how fragile his existence is.

He speaks about “a righteous man” to whom something happens that one would not expect at all. One would expect that he lives long, but the opposite happens; he perishes “in his righteousness”. He also speaks about a wicked man to whom something happens that one would not expect at all. One would expect that he perishes in his wickedness, but the opposite happens: he prolongs his life “in his wickedness”. This is the thing that you call ‘bent’ (Ecclesiastes 7:13).

What the Preacher says is representative of a series of similar cases. It is about perishing in spite of righteousness and staying alive in spite of wickedness. The standard is that righteousness corresponds to the promise of a long life and that wickedness leads to a short life. However, there are exceptions. This has to do with the way that God reigns. In His government it is possible that on the earth, the evil wins and the good is punished. But in the end the good will win and the evil will be punished. These are exercises for having patience of spirit (Ecclesiastes 7:8).

The righteous man may wrestle with this ‘bentness (crookedness)’ (Job 21:7; Psalms 73:3-2 Kings :; Habakkuk 1:4; Habakkuk 1:13). It is also something that can make one get upset when wicked people often manage to protect themselves against the sword of righteousness by fraud and violence. Sometimes they even get protection from their own government when there is no extradition agreement with the country where the crimes have been committed. Many war criminals stayed out of jail in this way and have therefore reached an advanced age.

Naboth was a righteous man who was killed, while a wicked woman like Jezebel stayed alive. We see the same wit Abel and Cain. And what about the many who in the course of church history were murdered because of their faithfulness to God and His Word. Above all, we see it with the Lord Jesus, the Righteous One above all. He was murdered in the midst of His days, while He had done nothing but righteousness.

The believer wants to learn to take life out of God’s hand just as it is. He tries not to solve the mystery of life himself. He finds rest in considering the work of God. In that way he learns that the disasters that happen to him, will shape him for the future kingdom, while the wicked man’s prosperity makes him ripe for the coming judgment.

The observation of Ecclesiastes 7:15 leads us to the conclusion of Ecclesiastes 7:16 which comes as an advice. With that we have to keep in mind that God is not thought of. It is the conclusion of the down-to-earth thinking of man in this world who wants to live from his own conviction. From that point of view, it is smart not to pretend to be too righteous and not to become a moralist, because then people will only hate you and it is your own fault if you lose all pleasure in life.

Also with pedantry, you have to be careful. That is what it is about, which appears from the word “overly”. Do not claim to have all wisdom. The people that you are dealing with on a daily basis will not accept that. You will be out in no time. The people around you will see right through your imagined wisdom and will be finished with you completely. It is devastating to your functioning and you will be banned, you will put on a dead end.

In Ecclesiastes 7:16 it is about how a person sees himself, how he is in his own eyes and how he presents himself. The Pharisees are a model of this kind of people. They presented themselves like that. They were very righteous in their own eyes and they also wanted to look like that to other people. Because they pretended to be so righteous, destruction came upon them, which the Lord spoke about them (Matthew 23:28; Matthew 5:20).

Although Ecclesiastes 7:16 is not some advice for the righteous one – he desires to be just and wise, but only as God wants him to be – it includes a general warning for him that he has to be careful not to fall into extremes. We can be so convinced that we are right and allow ourselves to be carried away by our sense of righteousness that we overestimate ourselves in our judgment and thereby destroy ourselves. That could imply that we will be all alone, outside of the community. It can also imply that due to our conceptions, we call destruction upon ourselves, which others bring upon us because they are tormented by our arrogance (cf. Revelation 17:15-Job :).

In this verse it is about taking a place that is inappropriate. It is arrogance, a pretension (cf. Numbers 16:18; 2 Samuel 13:5). It is playing the righteous one, it is about somebody boasting to be someone he is not (Matthew 23:7). We can pretend to be holier than we are, for example by fasting and chastising ourselves or go on a pilgrimage. If our outward behavior is to convince others of our piety and if that is our focus, we destroy ourselves. It is an excessive effort to prove we are right in judging things.

Modesty fits in our attitude. We should not think more highly than what is written (Romans 12:3; Romans 12:16; 1 Corinthians 4:6). We should not take this warning as a relativization of what is righteous and wise. It is a warning for our practice in connection to an attitude which radiates that we are the standard of what is righteous and wise. We can and ought to be convinced of what is right, but must handle it carefully.

It does not mean that we should become slack in our practice and compromise at the expense of truth and justice. We do not need to chase every evil and have an opinion about everything. We should not present ourselves as critics to disapprove of everything that is said and done and not interfere in other people’s affairs as if we know everything and can do everything. If we do that we make a caricature of righteousness and wisdom.

Ecclesiastes 7:17 is the opposite of Ecclesiastes 7:16. Ecclesiastes 7:16 is warning for self-exaltation, Ecclesiastes 7:17 warns us not to lower ourselves to the level of the world. The Preacher does not say that a little bit of wickedness or foolishness is not a problem, but he points to the capitulation to evil. It is the acceptance of some wickedness and foolishness, as long as it is within the borders that are acceptable for most people. If both parties agree, it should be accepted.

That what is wicked and foolish, becomes more and more the standard in society. One should not exaggerate too much and not behave too wickedly and too foolishly. That is how you get the most out of it. This attitude of life is reflected in the mixing of a little bit of good with a little bit of evil and in making compromises. This is how one is able to keep it up for a long time and stay good friends with everyone. This is having your cake and eating it too, living two lifestyles.

If one chooses the side of wickedness and foolishness, then there is a great chance that he will die before his time, meaning that he will not die of old age, but at an age you would not expect. If we allow God to be involved, we know that the time to die is determined by Him (Job 14:5). We cannot prolong our lives (Matthew 6:27).

At the same time God knows how to give the foolish actions of man a place in His purpose. He can bring ruin over us soon and shorten our lifespan if we live wickedly and foolishly (Psalms 55:23). That can happen for example, by living a lifestyle that affects our health, such as drugs, and sex outside marriage, or by committing a murder resulting in the death penalty.

The advice of Ecclesiastes 7:18 corresponds to the advices of the two previous verses. It is a kind of summary advice to do what is “good”. It is good to grasp “one thing”, that is to stick to the warning not to fall into extremes. It is also good not to let go of “the other”, that is what the last line of Ecclesiastes 7:18 says: fear God.

To fear God means living in reverence and awe of Him. Whoever follows this ‘good’ advice, “comes forth with both of them”. This means that we are only saved from falling into extremes if we fear God. As a result, we are also kept from the related consequences mentioned in the two previous verses: ruining ourselves and dying before our time.

The wise walks on the middle road between the two extremes: not in his own righteousness and not in wickedness. He knows how to walk between legalism and indifference. This can only be accomplished if God is feared. The fear of God keeps us from the extremes of own righteousness on the one hand and wickedness on the other hand (Proverbs 3:7). The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. The fear of God results in humility and mistrusting our own wisdom. He who fears God fears sin and shuns foolishness.

Verses 19-22

Wisdom Strengthens and Leads to Self-Knowledge

After his warning for wanting to be ‘excessively righteous’ (Ecclesiastes 7:16), the Preacher points out the value of true wisdom in Ecclesiastes 7:19. Wisdom strengthens to live in the city despite all the problems and dangers to which living in a city can be exposed. Wisdom strengthens more than the collective power of ten rulers. These men may have the power, but when there is no wisdom they lead the city to destruction, for they are sinful men and only seek their own advantage.

The value of wisdom lies in the consciousness that God directs everything. The wise man is not led by the circumstances. Of course he has to deal with the circumstances, but he knows that they are in God’s hand. Rulers trust in their own wisdom and power, in order to protect the city against evil – which can come from both the inside and the outside – with their own interest as a motivation. Therefore they will not be successful and they will lose the fight. A man with wisdom has more advantage for the defense of a city than ten rulers without wisdom (Proverbs 21:22; Proverbs 24:5).

For the believer, Christ is both the wisdom of God and the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:24). He who lives with Him, learns how to be “content in whatever the circumstances” he is, as Paul has learned it (Philippians 4:11-2 Kings :). As a result of that he can say: “I can do all things through Him Who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

In Ecclesiastes 7:20 he says the same as what Solomon said in his prayer at the dedication of the temple (1 Kings 8:46; Proverbs 20:9). Now he has learnt from bitter experience, he comes to the same conclusion. He emphasizes here, in connection to the previous verse, the sinful state of the rulers, but at the same time he makes it a general matter by speaking about “there is not a righteous man on earth”.

No one is so righteous in the practice of his life that he does only good without having any sin attached to what he does. The only exception is the Lord Jesus. He has done good without sinning. Peter, Paul and John testify in their letters of the absolute absence of sin in Him: “who committed no sin”, “who knew no sin”, “in Him there is no sin” (1 Peter 2:22; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 John 3:5).

By this remark the Preacher reminds us of not to overstate our achievements and not to be disparaging about those of others. We need to consider that we do not live perfectly righteous and are not completely selfless. It is impossible for a man to do anything without taking some credit for himself. Only if the believer lets himself to be led by the Spirit he is able to do good without sin.

The sinfulness of man, which is stated in the previous verse, is manifested primarily in what he says (Ecclesiastes 7:21; James 3:2). The Preacher points out that we should not take seriously “all the words which are spoken” by man in general. He means to say, that we should not want to know everything about what people say about us (Psalms 38:13-2 Chronicles :; 1 Samuel 24:10). When people speak good of us, we become arrogant; when one speaks evil of us, we become angry and possibly vengeful.

We should not believe everything we hear, either. If we already hear it, it is wise not to always take what someone else says seriously. Those who always take everything that people say seriously, are asking for disappointment and disillusionment. We see clear examples of this in politics. In election time, people want to distinguish themselves from others and say that it is unthinkable to govern with a certain political party. When it really comes to governing, a twist is given to those words and it turns out that it is still possible to govern with a party that people did not like at first.

By not being too curious about what one thinks of us, we can protect ourselves from people’s remarks about us that are not flattering. The boss does not have to place microphones all over the place to know how his staff thinks about him. He has to be aware that he is not without sin and that there will be something wrong with him. The sickly urge of ‘wanting to know everything’, even the things you do not need to know, is in fact pride and lack of self-knowledge. Let’s make sure we have the approval of God and our conscience, then we do not have to worry about what people say about us.

If others curse us, rightly or wrongly, wisdom will remind us of our own mistakes and flaws (Ecclesiastes 7:22). What would happen to us if we were given the punishment we had deserved for every wrongful word about someone else? We have to realize that we ourselves have hurt others because of what we said. I have committed the same sins or similar sins that I condemn in others (Romans 2:1; Titus 3:2-Leviticus :; Matthew 7:1-Leviticus :; James 3:1-Exodus :).

If something comes to our mind in this context that we have cursed someone, that is to say we wished him evil, and have not yet confessed it, we must confess it. That does not have to be to the person about whom we have spoken evil to someone else, but we have to do it before the Lord and the other person to whom we said that evil.

When people talk about us, we do not have to get angry or sad about it. It is better that we humble ourselves about it and become small, because we have often done it ourselves, in our hearts, in our minds or with our tongues. As noted above, we will, if all is well, have judged it and removed it (1 Peter 2:1; Colossians 3:8).

Verses 23-25

True Wisdom Remains at Distance

The Preacher admits that his wisdom has failed him to become wise. He honestly acknowledges it: the search for true wisdom has yielded nothing. With all his wisdom – he is the wisest man on earth – he “tested all this” (Ecclesiastes 7:23; Ecclesiastes 1:13). “All this” is all that he has shared with us in the previous section (Ecclesiastes 2:1-7:22). His research was aimed at gaining insight into the true meaning and determining the permanent value of all mankind’s labor on earth.

He has only been able to discover in his wisdom that the world is full of vanity and that this knowledge does not give his heart peace and joy. He has not come any further. True wisdom, he realizes, has remained far beyond his reach. Many people do not look for wisdom because they are not wise. That is why they never become wise. Solomon is wise and has searched for it, profound and broad, but he has not found it either. Wisdom lies far beyond the knowledge of man.

“What has been” (Ecclesiastes 7:24), is not only what exists, but also the way something has been formed by God. Who was present at the creation? Who can comprehend what God has caused to exist and who can understand how He sustains all things that He has created? Man cannot gain insight in this by human research, for the wisdom that lies in all things that God has created, is “exceedingly mysterious”, or in other words unfathomably deep. Every honest philosopher and scientist will admit that no one can “discover it”.

The Preacher could not reach wisdom. He comes to the conclusion that he knows nothing and that the more he knows what there is to know, the more aware he is of how little he knows. He is confronted with the mysteries of God. They are unfathomable (Job 11:7-Ruth :; Job 28:12-Song of Solomon :).

God tells us what “has been remote”, in a distant past, when He created heaven and earth. He tells us that in His Word. There we can “find it” (Genesis 1:1; Hebrews 11:3) and not with the scientists that want to make us believe that they have found the solution in the evolution theory. For us it is true that the Word is near (Deuteronomy 30:14) and that the Spirit explains it to us (1 Corinthians 2:13). Yet, at the same time a lot of things remain inconceivable to us, for who can verify God (Romans 11:33)?

The Preacher has not only desired to become wise (Ecclesiastes 7:23), but he has not denied himself any effort for it either (Ecclesiastes 7:25). He has tried everything and searched everywhere. He was already wiser than any man. However, that did not make him lazy, but all the more zealous to learn the true wisdom. Not only did he want to know the essence of the things on the surface, but he also wanted to find out what lies beyond the perceptivity, the motives. His dedication is described in different ways, which indicates how much he has been busy with it.

The only conclusion to which all his intensive research has brought him is that everything is permeated with “evil” and “foolishness” with the ultimate result of “madness”. Man therefore remains removed from God’s plan and produces nothing of real and lasting value.

Our ‘research work’ ought to be focused on Christ. Our life should be about looking at Him from all sides and investigating Him in all His actions and ways. Then we also see man’s wickedness and folly, for Christ sheds His light on every man, for which we will be kept. We come to an entirely different conclusion and that is that in Christ “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden” (Colossians 2:3).

Verses 26-29

Found and Not Found

The Preacher has discovered that wickedness is foolish and that foolishness is madness (Ecclesiastes 7:25). He not only observed this, but also experienced it himself by making wrong relationships with his many wives. He speaks about it with a deep awareness of its bitterness. Death as the wages of sin is bitter (1 Samuel 15:32), but the sin of fornication is even “more bitter than death” (Ecclesiastes 7:26; Proverbs 5:9; Proverbs 5:11).

The Preacher does not speak of all women – women in general – but about “the woman whose heart is snares” and who seeks to tempt to unfaithfulness (cf. Ecclesiastes 9:9; Proverbs 18:22). From his own example, it appears that not only women can mislead men, but that also men can be captured by their lusts through the woman setting snares and nets for him. He is chained by his lusts (Proverbs 5:22-Isaiah :) and captured by her, because he is no longer pleasing in the sight of God; in other words no longer walking with Him.

Solomon uses many words to describe the wicked nature of such a woman. He compares the heart of the woman with “snares and nets”; “her hands are chains”, which indicates that she handcuffs those whom she grasps with her hands, out of which there is no way of escape.

The temptation of illicit sexual intercourse is the greatest temptation ever for numerous men, great in extent and great in depth. Whoever is captured by it, is the most deplorable man. “Flee immorality. Every [other] sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body” (1 Corinthians 6:18).

“Who is pleasing to God”, means the man that God sees in Christ and who walks with Him. Such a man pleases God as Enoch did (Hebrews 11:5), and escapes the temptations of such a woman. That is the only way to escape from her. The danger to fall prey to this woman is so enormous that a person is only kept from her by God’s grace and mercy. Whoever goes outside God’s mercy will inevitably fall into her hands.

This clearly shows that no man should cherish the foolish thought that it will not happen to him. The judgment on the futility of man is again confirmed here. He who is kept, must confess that God is the One Who kept him. At the same time, God only keeps those who with an intention of the heart keep the evil at a distance. Joseph was such a man (Genesis 39:2-Leviticus :). He walked in fellowship with God and refused to sin against Him (Genesis 39:9).

The beginning of Ecclesiastes 7:27 corresponds to the previous verse, but is also applicable to everything that the Preacher has searched. Through all his research work for wisdom, whereby he combined things – adding “one thing to another” –, Solomon arrived at the corruptness of human nature, both of man and woman. He made that discovery, “I have discovered this”. He says this as the “Preacher”, with which he underlines the truth of what he says.

He has done everything “to find an explanation”, to come to a final conclusion within it the mystery of a meaningful life. In Ecclesiastes 7:28 he says that he has not found that conclusion yet. It is not about what he has found, but what he has not found and what he is still seeking.

Yet, there is something he found among men: “one man among a thousand”. In the light of the corrupted nature of man, which he stated in Ecclesiastes 7:26, the interpretation should be that a righteous man is a rarity (cf. Psalms 12:1). In the light of the New Testament we see that the one Man Who is different, Who is the exception among a thousand, is no one else that Christ (Job 33:23).

The presence of women among a thousand is quite miserable: he could not find a single one. Solomon could not find a single woman among his thousand wives, who could satisfy his heart.

After this judgment that the Preacher passed on the human race in Ecclesiastes 7:28, where he did not find what he was looking for, he adds something he did find (Ecclesiastes 7:29). By the word ‘behold’, the attention is drawn to what he has found and invites everyone to take part in it. Solomon arrives at the cause of the original corruption: sin comes forth from the fall of man and not from God, for God has “made men upright”.

The blame of the general corruption does not lie with God, but with man. God has “made men upright”, but man went the wrong way. ‘Upright’ is not sinful or neutral, but describes the condition of the heart that is faithful and obedient. Man is created after God’s image and likeness, but fell into sin (Genesis 3:1-Judges :; Romans 5:12).

Man does not want to know about that and has been searching out many devices for excuses for his sin since Adam and Eve. Seeking has the meaning of fabricating. Admitting is not to be found, but looking for excuses, blaming others, which has already started right after the fall (Genesis 3:12-1 Chronicles :).The problems are acknowledged sometimes, but the solution is sought in the improvement of behavior by courses and trainings and such. In that way the problem will never be solved and God’s solution for this problem is ignored, which is: the gift of His Son.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Ecclesiastes 7". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/ecclesiastes-7.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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