Ecclesiastes 6:1-2 This passage continues observations on the emptiness or vanity of materialism. Solomon is writing as a Believer who has pursued happiness and fulfillment apart from God and the difference it makes to live in the fear and reverence of God. In these first two verses he lays down some important perspectives to have in understanding the way to find true life in a fallen world. First of all is understanding that God is the provider of all good things which he cited at the end of the previous chapter.
Solomon had not sought wealth, but only asked God for wisdom and knowledge, yet God had made him rich (2 Chronicles 1:11-12). He acknowledges this in Proverbs 3:13-18 where he links his riches with righteousness (Ecclesiastes 6:18), and recognizes the source (Proverbs 22:4). But, somewhere he had forgotten this. We are all prone to wander as they hymn goes “prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.”
A second principle also cited earlier is that the ability to enjoy the good things God has given also come from Him. But in Ecclesiastes 6:2 he speaks of that ability being removed by God and those riches being enjoyed by a stranger. We are not told why but the Jewish targum (a paraphrase or interpretation of the Old Testament) cites the reason as the man: ‘But the Lord has not given him power, on account of sin, to enjoy it.’
Solomon and through Him the Divine author instead points to God’s sovereignty in this “yet God does not give him power to enjoy them”. Who is responsible the man, or God? or both? In the case of Job, a wealthy man loses everything. There we see that.
Satan is the cause, yet Job attributes it, without complaint, to the sovereign will of God: ‘The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord’ (Job 1:21). How are these three causes reconciled? Calvin teaches ‘The Lord designs to exercise the patience of Job through the trials while Satan’s plan is to drive him to despair; while those guilty of attacking him are willfully doing evil … there is no inconsistency in attributing the same act to God, to reveal the various acts of those opposed to God and yet His spotless righteousness shines forth.
Ecclesiastes 6:3-6 – Solomon illustrates what he has just said using the example of a man who would have been better off if he had not been born. A large family and a long life was then and today as well, considered to be typical signs of God’s favor as Scripture cites (Genesis 25:8; 35:9; Job 42:17; Psalm 127:1-3, Proverbs 3:2).
But that blessing, without God in your life who gives the ability to rejoice in it is no real blessing at all. He illustrates this by comparing a man who is very old and a stillborn child! Both will die The unborn child is better off than the man who has lived a long life as Warren Wiersbe put it, ‘What good is it for me to add years to my life if I don’t add life to my years?’
Job considers this sort of thing as well: Job 3:11-19 “Why did I not perish at birth, and die as I came from the womb? Why were there knees to receive me and breasts that I might be nursed? For now I would be lying down in peace; I would be asleep and at rest with kings and counselors of the earth, who built for themselves places now lying in ruins, with rulers who had gold, who filled their houses with silver.
Or why was I not hidden in the ground like a stillborn child, like an infant who never saw the light of day? There the wicked cease from turmoil, and there the weary are at rest. Captives also enjoy their ease; they no longer hear the slave driver’s shout. The small and the great are there, and the slave is freed from his master.
Ecclesiastes 6:7-9 Solomon speaks about the need to work both rich and poor have the desire to work. But Solomon describes how neither one of them is fully satisfied. If life consists only in working and eating, then we are being controlled by our appetites and that almost puts us on the same level as animals. We who are made in the image of God will not really find life unless we live for the One who created us. It was Pascal who said that man was created with a vacuum that only God can fill. Yeshua said what is the source of in Mark 8:34-37
Both questions in Ecclesiastes 6:8 are answered by “None!” If all you do is live to satisfy your desires, then the wise man has no advantage over the fool, nor does the poor man have any advantage trying to better his lot in life and learning to get along with the rich. Solomon is not suggesting that one shouldn’t attempt to do all you can to improve their life with education or other ways that can advance their situations. He is only saying that these things of themselves do not make life better. We need something greater to live for.
In Ecclesiastes 6:9 Solomon is saying, “It’s better to have little and enjoy it than to dream about much and never attain it.” If live only to satisfy ourselves we will be miserable but if we give our lives to God and esteem others as more important than ourselves we will find real satisfaction. If we think all of our work and efforts will automatically bring satisfaction, we are wrong. True satisfaction comes when we do the will of God from the heart (Ephesians 6:6).
“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to accomplish His work” (John 4:34). Being in the will and delighting in the will of God will bring greater riches than material wealth. We don’t really know exactly what God’s will is for our lives until we do God’s will as revealed to us in His Word as we are led by His Spirit and then as we accept His plan for our lives, receive His gifts with thanksgiving we will truly enjoy each day as He gives us. “ Psalm 16:11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Ecclesiastes 6:10-12 We like to define things so that we can better understand them and control them. We name diseases and conditions in the world like global warming. In some cases we have seen great breakthroughs as a result of this but we must always acknowledge man may propose but God will have the last say. The sovereign Word of God is creative and powerful. God spoke, and brought everything into being.
‘God said’ occurs ten times in Genesis 1. We find this in the New Covenant as well (Hebrews 1:1-2; 4:12; Matthew 8:8). God tells us through Isaiah that his Word shall ‘accomplish what I please’ (Isaiah 55:11). In v 10 Solomon uses the Hebrew word “adam” to indicate that he is referring to the naming of man by God, when he says that we are dust (Psalm 103:14; Ecclesiastes 3:20).
God knows all before hand for it is part of His foreknowledge. Jeremiah, Nathaniel as well as us were known by God long before we were born (Jeremiah 1:5; John 1:48-49). For God’s children this is a great assurance as Psalm 139 reminds us. We tend to forget that God knows and sees all. So Solomon advises that it is futile to argue with Him who is mightier than us. Paul makes the same kind of statement in Romans 10 while quoting Isaiah “who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” ’ (Isaiah 45:9-12).
Ecclesiastes 6:11 is a reminder that our many words, arguments and justifications carry no weight with God and in most cases our fellow man. The NIV gives us a different perspective ‘The more the words, the less the meaning, and how does that profit anyone? This give us a picture of man’s attempts to lift himself up and it affects nothing which is generally the way of talk.
Ecclesiastes 6:12 reminds us that only God knows what will be and how it will be. The future is beyond our knowledge and understanding. Men turn to astrologers and numerologists, while others look to make decisions on the turn of a Tarot card all in a futile attempt to discern what the future holds and profit from that knowledge. Solomon calls that vanity as well. Our destiny lies in the hand of a sovereign God.
Solomon’s words seem to know what has caused him grief and sorrow and seems to be waring us not to follow the path he walked so that we might not make the same mistakes. This is the warning that Paul gave to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 10. It is chasing after the wind.
Solomon has discussed that life is not worth living and the monotony of life (Ecclesiastes 3:1-5:9) and the futility of wealth (Ecclesiastes 5:10-6:12). He has discovered that life “under the sun” can be monotonous and empty, but it need not be if we include God in our lives. Life is God’s gift to us, and we need to rejoice in all that He gives us and enjoy it while we can.