The Book of Ecclesiastes
James J. Barker
KING SOLOMON’S SEARCH FOR WISDOM
chapters 7 and 8 deal with the importance of wisdom in life. Ecclesiastes, along with Job, the Song
of Solomon, and Proverbs, is one of the Wisdom Books of the Bible.
- According to I Kings 4:30, King “Solomon’s
wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east country, and all the
wisdom of Egypt.”
- The Bible says, “he was wiser than all
men…and his fame was in all nations round about” (I Kings
- “And he spake three thousand proverbs: and
his songs were a thousand and five” (I Kings 4:32).
- We will look at some of these proverbs
- We are to
strive for what is best. Some things are good, but they are not necessarily
God’s best. “Better” is the key
word in the first half of Ecclesiastes 7 (7:1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 10; cf. 4:6,
- Chapter 7 begins with two statements:
good name is better than precious ointment” (7:1a).
b. “and the day
of death than the day of one's birth” (7:1b).
- The first
statement seems obvious. Proverbs
22:1 says, “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches.”
there is a play on words in the original Hebrew: “name” (shem) and
- In Proverbs
10:7, Solomon wrote, “The memory of the just is blessed: but the name of the
wicked shall rot.”
- Even an
unsaved man or woman understands the first part of 7:1, but the second statement
seems rather strange.
- A good name
(i.e., a good reputation) has an important influence (like the sweet smell of a
precious ointment). It is a lasting influence, extending way beyond the day of
his life can be held forth as an example if he had a good testimony while he
- Verse 2 also
seems strange at first glance.
Isn’t Solomon the wise man who wrote, “A merry heart maketh a cheerful
countenance” (Pro. 15:13)?
- “All the days of the afflicted are evil: but he that is of a merry heart
hath a continual feast” (Pro. 15:15).
- “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the
bones” (Pro. 17:22).
- One preacher put it this way: “Laughter can be like medicine that heals
the broken heart, but sorrow can be like nourishing food that strengthens the
inner person” (Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary).
- Our Lord said in Matthew 5:4, “Blessed are they that mourn: for they
shall be comforted.”
- “There is a mellowing that takes place in affliction and sorrow. To be in the presence of sickness or
death has a tendency to bring us quickly to the really crucial issues of life”
(Walter Kaiser, Ecclesiastes: Total Life).
- This theme continues in verses 3—6.
Sorrow is better than foolish laughter and frivolity (e.g., the nonsense
- The apostle Paul said in II Corinthians 6:10, “As sorrowful, yet alway
- Verse 7 deals with bribery, and verses 8 and 9 with patience.
- Our recollections of the “good old days” should not keep us from giving
God our best right now (7:10). We are to strive for what is best, and to ask for God for wisdom (7:10).
GOD’S WISDOM (7:11-25).
- We are to
seek after wisdom (7:11-25). Wisdom
is gained by studying God’s Word.
“The fear of the LORD is the
beginning of wisdom” (Ps. 111:10).
“For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of
his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding” (Pro. 2:6).
“The fear of the LORD is the
beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding” (Pro.
- God is in
control and the wise man will trust God for every thing that happens (7:14,
- King Solomon
is affirming the providence of God and the sovereignty of God. Moderation is called for. There is a
tendency on the part of some Christians to get fanatical and extreme
- According to
the Bible, a “fool” is the person who engages in sinful and immoral
behaviour. Wicked behaviour often
leads to an untimely death (7:17) – even for believers.
verse 20, in his prayer at the dedication of the temple, King Solomon said, “For
there is no man that sinneth not” (I Kings 8:46).
- Wisdom keeps
us humble, and helps us to get along with others (7:21, 22).
- Solomon, the
wisest man on the earth, recognized that ultimate wisdom was still “far” from
him (7:23—25; cf. 3:11b).
- This search
for wisdom also included an understanding the foolishness of sin and unbelief
and even madness (7:25).
describes the woman who ensnares man (7:26). This reminds us of Solomon’s warnings in
Proverbs chapters 2, 5, 6, and 7.
- “To deliver thee from the strange woman, even from the stranger which
flattereth with her words; Which forsaketh the guide of her youth, and
forgetteth the covenant of her God. For her house inclineth unto death, and her
paths unto the dead. None that go
unto her return again, neither take they hold of the paths of life” (Pro.
- In Eccl. 7:28, Solomon even says that he has not found one upright woman
among a thousand. The number
1,000 cannot be coincidental since Solomon had 1,000 wives and concubines (I
- Solomon speaks very highly of women
in Proverbs 31:10—31. “Who can find
a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies” (Pro. 31:10).
- He also speaks highly of a virtuous wife in Pro. 12:4; 14:1; 18:22; and
19:14; as well as the Shulamite woman in the Song of Solomon. So we must compare
Scripture with Scripture.
Solomon’s search for an upright man led him to conclude he was only one in
a thousand (7:28).
- God made
Adam and Eve “upright” (7:29), but they sinned.
- Now because
of man’s fallen, sinful nature, he has fallen far below God’s ideal.