Study Reference Ecclesiastes Chapter Two
As we begin chapter two, we can see a close resemblance of the previous chapter as it comes to an end. Solomon continues to go down this road of benign negligence in the name of wisdom. In other words, he is determined to find out what drinking, carousing, and pleasures, some possibly sinful such as lustful desires, can produce or not. What seems to be a shameful waste of time, Solomon is out to gain experience of something that could be detrimental to ones soul. Anyone who practices this kind of careless lifestyle can begin to like and appreciate this sought after pleasure. It is a well known fact of life that there is pleasure in sin for a season. Some are even consumed with it. Solomon deems this necessary to know for sure so he can relate better with his fellow man. What is it like to get drunk? What is it like to dance with other men or women that are intoxicated with lustful desires? Did this type of mentality account for Solomon’s 900 or so wives? Did Solomon accumulate wives as to study them and their idolatrous ways so he could make a clinical case study of his findings? Solomon claims he was determined to know the truth of the matter so he can make better decisions and come to better conclusions of the matter. From my way of thinking this in itself is not a show of wisdom, but of folly and foolishness. No good can possibly come out of such acts of character assignation. This mentality makes me wonder what kind of wisdom Solomon possessed. Ungodly and sensual seems to better explain Solomon’s actions and reasoning. In the reality of situations to be experienced, giving oneself over to licentiousness is in itself act of disregard to one’s mind, body, and spirit. To stain one’s mind of perverse and wickedness is only to witness something that isn’t a good practice, detrimental to one’s character. Solomon is about to see for himself how things can get out of hand though thought to be innocent and fun. These scenarios can get embarrassing to a man and his family that witnesses a falling down drunk at a birthday party or music event in which lewdness transpires. Even though, there are many that do practice these things because they feel after all the hard work they have performed, they are due time to let their hair down and have a good time, even if it is just for a short time. I have heard it said many times, “I deserve it!” We will begin to see as we proceed that this is a demonstration of futility and immaturity, to say the least. But, there are those that are determined to plan ahead for extended events for pleasurable, sometimes irresponsible, indulgences, possibly, even to the point of bankrupts by maxing out credit cards. One would think that just by watching others partake in this debauchery would be all the experience they would need to deduce the inexcusable behavior they portray. But as lust and covetousness creeps into the mind, the heart of man conjures up a way to give into it wishes and desires. While laying aside all reason and prudence one might have had in reserve. I feel after all was said and done, Solomon could have gotten a degree with his clinical case study of folly and foolishness. On this subject alone, he was the expert.
“I said in mine heart, Go to now, I will prove thee with mirth, therefore enjoy pleasure: and, behold, this also is vanity. I said of laughter, It is mad: and of mirth, what doeth it? I sought in mine heart to give myself unto wine, yet acquainting mine heart with wisdom; and to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was that good for the sons of men, which they should do under the heaven all the days of their life.” Ecclesiastes 2:1-3
It seems that the next thing to do on Solomon’s agenda is to begin extensive building projects. He commissions great works such as the building of the Temple that his father, David had sought for much of his life. This was to be Solomon’s greatest achievement, but was it? It seems as history reveals that after the events of building the great Temple to Jehovah God was out of the way, Solomon had full reign to build the things he desired and sought pleasure by spending enormous amounts of capitol to please his many idolatrous wives.
“I made me great works; I builded me houses; I planted me vineyards: I made me gardens and orchards, and I planted trees in them of all kind of fruits: I made me pools of water, to water therewith the wood that bringeth forth trees: I got me servants and maidens, and had servants born in my house; also I had great possessions of great and small cattle above all that were in Jerusalem before me: I gathered me also silver and gold, and the peculiar treasure of kings and of the provinces: I gat me men singers and women singers, and the delights of the sons of men, as musical instruments, and that of all sorts. So I was great, and increased more than all that were before me in Jerusalem: also my wisdom remained with me. And whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy; for my heart rejoiced in all my labour: and this was my portion of all my labour.” Ecclesiastes 2:4-10
Solomon makes claim to have done all this himself but in reality, it was all commissioned to others to perform. The point is, sure Solomon financed all this work, but he himself was hardly ever involved with the work outside of the planning department. Isn’t it a fact that the architects, engineers, and financiers, always take the credit from the little man? It is a fact that he commissioned building projects, but I cannot see Solomon mastering the hammer and chisel only to see his talent being portrayed in his skill. He also commissioned great cattle yards, but I cannot see Solomon herding the beasts out of the ranges and into the stockyards standing with the men of low stature covered in the hot and dirty dust. Of course Solomon had others to wait on him and his wives, enough people that eventually started to raise their own families under the same roof as King Solomon. Then there was the problem of boredom on those long hot summer nights in which arose the question, what to do for entertainment? In order to head off the sundry blues, Solomon commissioned an arts, dance, and music guild for their entertainment and pleasure.
I get the jest from reading Solomon’s writings that the joy and pleasure of accomplish was somewhat robbed of Solomon when he stood back and observed his finished projects. No doubt, these works of such grandeur probably could have never been carried out without Solomon’s wealth, but Solomon ended up wanting for more with an insatiable desire for bigger and more extravagant ventures. I feel Solomon missed the whole point of the joys of meaningful labor of the individual God given talents. To see what your hands can do and produce with little resources can bring such joy and satisfy the soul into knowing this work is honest and most likely helpful to others. Such rewards cannot be shared by those who write out the checks except they in turn take all the credit for the finished project. I suppose this gives them bragging rights even though their hands were never sullied.
“Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun. And I turned myself to behold wisdom, and madness, and folly: for what can the man do that cometh after the king? Even that which hath been already done. Then I saw that wisdom excelleth folly, as far as light excelleth darkness.” Ecclesiastes 2:11-13
As Solomon’s heart swelled with pride as he gazed upon the grandiose projects of renowned, sadly enough Solomon’s soul and spirit came up short and wanting. This feeling of emptiness comes across when Solomon exclaims, “all was vanity and vexation of spirit”. We might wander by now, what is the matter with this man? Can he not see for the nose on his face? Can enough ever be enough? Well, you would think so if we were dealing with the average Joe, but we are dealing with a young man that was raised with a silver spoon in his mouth, so to speak. In short, I feel Solomon was somewhat of a spoiled brat, always expecting some surprise at the end of each day. It is almost like his boyish whims fell short in his projects and became mundane in his enthusiasm for his accomplishments.
“The wise man's eyes are in his head; but the fool walketh in darkness: and I myself perceived also that one event happeneth to them all. Then said I in my heart, as it happeneth to the fool, so it happeneth even to me; and why was I then more wise? Then I said in my heart, that this also is vanity. For there is no remembrance of the wise more than of the fool for ever; seeing that which now is in the days to come shall all be forgotten. And how dieth the wise man? As the fool. Therefore I hated life; because the work that is wrought under the sun is grievous unto me: for all is vanity and vexation of spirit. Yea, I hated all my labour which I had taken under the sun: because I should leave it unto the man that shall be after me.” Ecclesiastes 2:14-18
Solomon’s main concern here is that there will be no one as he is to leave the works he accomplished to. His feelings expose the vanity that resided in Solomon’s heart. Solomon feels that anyone that comes after him will not be competent to continue as he has done. In short, the future of the Israelites looks bleak at best and this fact alone has burdened Solomon’s demeanor. It is a pretty rough statement to say that “I hated life”, as Solomon did. But what else could come from a man of this stature? I doubt seriously Solomon ever had to wrestle with a wheelchair everyday of his life, or, was cumbered by prosthesis due to injuries. Yes, I am afraid that Solomon was guilty of ‘looking the gift horse in the mouth’ when it concerned his outlook on life.
We still have to give Solomon credit for his accomplishments no matter how he perceived them. We had to admit, they were pretty stupendous and magnificent to behold. But there is one question I am forced to ask, where are those works of grandeur today? The Egyptian pyramids are still here, Nebuchadnezzar’s old city of Babylon is still with us today and only to mention the Roman Empire influences seen around the world. But what can be said of Solomon’s achievements? The Temple of Solomon is gone and all of Solomon’s treasures with it. In fact, very little of Solomon’s Kingdom of Jerusalem is with us today. Therefore, it becomes laborious to envision just what Solomon was talking about when he had all this work produced. I feel if it wasn’t for recorded history we would never know how grand the works of Solomon ever was.
To look at Solomon from a different angle for a moment, I believe Solomon might have had a vision of the future. It is easy to imagine him standing on his veranda one beautiful sunrise, while overseeing this breath taking panorama. Suddenly and without warning, Solomon felt his heart pierced thru with reality, thus Solomon’s distasteful conclusion that life itself is perdition. God might have given him the vision of the invading armies waiting on Solomon to die. This could have been the warning God used to provoke Solomon to forsake those idols and temples of Idol worship and turn and repent of the evil Solomon had reintroduced by having licentiousness propagated from his many pagan wives.
“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 Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. And 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 an high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, in the hill that is before Jerusalem, and for Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon. And likewise did he for all his strange wives, which burnt incense and sacrificed unto their gods. And the LORD was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the LORD God of Israel, which had appeared unto him twice, and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods: but he kept not that which the LORD commanded.” 1Kings 11:4-10
Have you ever experienced the moment when it dawned in your mind that what you were doing was futile? Well, if you have as I have, we can understand somewhat of what was going on in Solomon’s mind and heart. Maybe it is a good thing for us not to know the future? If we did know, we might not accomplish what we have and find no reason to continue on. On the other hand, insight to what our personal behavior breeds could be all it takes to steer us back into righteousness and uprightness of heart and character. In my experience, there is nothing quite as radical as an honest reality check.
“And who knoweth whether he shall be a wise man or a fool? Yet shall he have rule over all my labour wherein I have laboured, and wherein I have shewed myself wise under the sun. This is also vanity. Therefore I went about to cause my heart to despair of all the labour which I took under the sun. For there is a man whose labour is in wisdom, and in knowledge, and in equity; yet to a man that hath not laboured therein shall he leave it for his portion. This also is vanity and a great evil. For what hath man of all his labour, and of the vexation of his heart, wherein he hath laboured under the sun? For all his days are sorrows, and his travail grief; yea, his heart taketh not rest in the night. This is also vanity. There is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour. This also I saw, that it was from the hand of God. For who can eat, or who else can hasten hereunto, more than I? For God giveth to a man that is good in his sight wisdom, and knowledge, and joy: but to the sinner he giveth travail, to gather and to heap up, that he may give to him that is good before God. This also is vanity and vexation of spirit.” Ecclesiastes 2:19-26
I am inclined to reason that if Solomon had a real fear and reverence of Almighty God, he probably would have never performed these idolatrous practices. This idolatry is proof enough for me to see that Solomon really didn’t fear God even though he has proclaimed this as a fact. Real fear of God produces actions laced with caution and wariness. To be truthful, if Solomon had displayed genuine wisdom from God, he would have steered clear of the folly and foolishness. Anyone with any real wisdom knows that foolishness and folly is wasteful with one’s resources that were not easy to obtain to begin with. It proves that a worldly education and wisdom with Godly fear, are two completely different things to possess. Who in their right mind would squander what it took so long and hard to bring into existence and add to their character. Unless, they are careless with their resources that really belong to others who have invested in your ventures and believe in you? We have to remember, Solomon’s wealth and stature didn’t come from his own works, but the hard work of others. Every man and woman in Israel had invested in the promotion of their King. So, Solomon looking for answers to silly questions, he really could not afford to know, actually squandered his treasury by seeking out pleasure at the expense of his constituents. Much like our own government today, nothing really ever changes in this old world. Why should Solomon be any different from any other man who has an over abundance of resources at hand and too much time lounging, looking for ways to spend it? It seems his many wives with their idolatrous practices would have gladly taken care of that area.
In conclusion, Solomon’s soul is not as innocent as he would like to think of himself and harbors sin. He cannot capitalize on the greatness of God but only of the greatness of himself. An innocent heart thrives on love and simplicity, but a guilty heart is motivated by a plethora of human emotions that without restraint can ruin a man and render him void of discernment. As for that man who has an education of the highest degree but is void of experience, so is that man who possesses so called wisdom that is void of the fear of God. Both are shallow in spirit and wells without water.