7.1-29 – Proverbial sayings and the problem of wisdom – Verses 1-10 – A series of proverbs arranged in a “better than” comparisons concerning wisdom and folly. Wisdom recognizes the only thing certain is death. Fools focus on illusory pleasures of laughter and feasting. (7.1 = Until a man dies, there is always danger he may forfeit his good name. 7.3 = empty revelry precludes real happiness.) Finally it is unwise to spend time longing for the better days that are now past, if indeed they were better.
7.11-29 – These are reflections on the power of wisdom and the punishment of the sinner. Verse 15 – Reward and punishment to not always work as they should for righteous and wicked people. Verse 20 - Righteous humans, who are equated with the wise are not immune from sin. Verse 21-22 - Warnings are given against too much reliance on the opinions of others.
7.16-18- These verses seem to express the thought of moderation in all things.
7.18-28 – Human wisdom teaches the limits of what that wisdom can know, and therefore the need for moderate, balanced behavior which the writer connects to the fear of God. The writer uses the image of the woman who waits to entrap the unwary or foolish sinner.
In scripture, a woman can sometimes be a type of false religion or teaching—ref: “the woman riding the beast, the great harlot.”
Ancient Jewish sages felt wisdom’s focus on the end of life was to be celebrated because only then can a human know and have realized his intellectual and spiritual potential. Life has many troubles and experiences but through it all the wise man will find trust in God.
8.1-17 – More wisdom and its limits – This chapter discusses both positive and pessimistic statements and thoughts about wisdom. The Hebrew word for wisdom throughout the book of Ecclesiastics is Strong’s 2451 = wisdom, skill, learning; this can refer to skill in life, trade, war, or spiritual things.
8.1-5 – As believers in Yeshua these first six verses should have clear meaning.
8.6-9 - Command or power is the domain of the king (Yeshua) to whom every knee shall bow. None of us can hang unto our “life breath” as death is our end. Finally, how to we use our power or authority—for harm or good?
8.9-15 – Treatment of the good and the wicked. The writer expresses the tension between his conviction that the good are rewarded and the wicked punished and his observation that in reality this is not always the case. His conclusion is his favorite saying: Hevel = Vanity, futility. His conclusion is to enjoy your toil and wealth all the days God grants.
8.16-17 – His recommendation then is that human wisdom is incapable of totally understanding God’s divine activity and ways in this world. In other words, we should yield to God’s wisdom and become obedient to Him.
9.1-12 – Death is the final equalizer – I have used these verses along with others to determine what the Bible says about death and our sleeping in the grave awaiting to hear His voice (John 5.25) and resurrect from the dead.
9.1-6 – The theme is death for all humans regardless of anything else. Being alive is better than being dead because the dead (in Sheol = the grave) know nothing. (The dead are asleep according to the Bible; ref: 1 Thess 4.15 and John 11.11).
9.7-12 – Enjoy life while you have it. The writer connects this with symbols of purity, a white garment, and a head anointed with oil (white garment = righteousness of the saints; oil = gladness and anointing of God). We should be ready for death because we are in Christ.
Having a wife to love, just as Christ loves the church, brings great pleasure in life. This differs from the negative view in 7.26-28. We are the Bride of Christ…when we fall away we can become as an adulteress wife (ref: Hosea).
Trouble comes to all humans regardless of status. It often comes without warning. Where do we put our trust at this time?
9.13-18 – Wisdom is problematic – The challenge of living in the face of death brings the writer back to theme of wisdom and its limits. He uses a parable to make his point. He asserts the potential value of wisdom over royalty and military prowess, and yet admits the vulnerability of that wisdom and its effectiveness in relation to human neglect and sin.
10.1-20 – Maxims on wisdom and folly – Comparing how wisdom can be undone by just a little folly. Some themes in this chapter: Verse two may show the difference between Republicans and Democrats…Ha!
10.8-11 - Maxims that is born of experience shows there are rules in the world that dictate certain actions, will bring consequences.
10.12-14 – The above is extended showing the contrast between a wise man’s measured speech and the favor it brings him, against the fool’s uncontrolled prattling and its disastrous results.
10.16-20 – Leadership is contrasted between wise and foolish leaders. Those who govern with propriety and restraint with those who act as simple untested young children. Finally, measure your words carefully.
11.1-10 - Seize the day, for the future is dark and uncertain.
11.1-6- The initial advice about casting bread was understood by rabbinic sages as meaning to act generously to others because it may be returned in your time of misfortune. I find “giving a portion to seven or eight” as being prophetic. Seven is the number of completion and perfection, while eight is symbolic of the 8th day of Sukkot when the Bride and Groom spend an extra day intimately together. In other words be generous all the time.
Even if humans know that clouds bring rain and trees fall, they cannot predict when these events will occur. Anyone spending too much time trying to figure it all out will not get on with basic planting and reaping duties—they will be wasting precious time. So sow and till because we don’t know the future and should not fret about it.
11.7-8 – Seize the day and enjoy the sweetness of light of day because the day is coming when you will die—nothingness. Death is the grave, dust to dust, no hope—unless you believe in resurrection from the dead!
11.9-10 – The writer advises the young to enjoy life while they are young. I remember many older people telling me that when I was growing up! The writer here advises to enjoy life the correct way because God will judged by God. The writer’s hope in the possibility of divine judgment hints at a belief in resurrection at a future date.
12.1-8 – The terrors of old age – A contrast with the previous chapter of the pleasures of youth. That the writer ends on the dark note of old age is no accident, it reaffirms the transitory nature of life with no certainty that has been stated throughout the book.
12.1-5 – Darkness is compared to old age which envelopes the light of vigorous life of youth. The darkness is connected with various vocations of human activity that begin to fade as a person ages. This is connected to nature and various creatures and their decline or expression of fear at the approaching darkness. The rabbinic sages compared this to parts of the body in rapid deterioration.
12.5b-7 – The imagery clearly points to human death and the return of each body to dust. Significantly each human “life-breath” will return to God who gave it.
Again, here I see significant information on what happens to us when we die (ref: this blog Rev 20-Eternal Life based upon Resurrection of the Dead 2/3/16).
12.9-14 –Editorial Reflections – An epilogue. The verses identify the writer as a sage and describe his activity of teaching by means of wise sayings. The Jewish people look upon the Shepherd as being Moses while Christians would see Jesus.
It is not desirable to add anything more says the writer. Fear God and keep His commandments he advises. The reason being that God will bring every action, even if kept hidden, into judgment whether for good or ill.
In the past I found it difficult to understand the book of Ecclesiastes. It was so negative and dark, how could someone like King Solomon write it? Now I see the book in a much different light.
Scriptures says King Solomon had many wives which led him to idolatry and apostasy (1 Kings 11). This would account for his negative views in Ecclesiastes. He was experiencing the despair of a man who had strayed from His God.
In reality the book describes exactly the way humans think about and consider the mysteries of this life. Without faith in God things appear very bleak. We, as believers in Yeshaua ha Mashiach, have salvation and hope. We believe that we will be resurrected from the dead into eternal life with YHVH. This is a great future.
Even Paul the Apostle said: “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” I Corinthians 15.19 Paul saw the glorious life ahead!