The Book of Ecclesiastes
James J. Barker

Lesson 10



  1. The Scofield Bible says the theme of Ecclesiastes is “All is vanity” (cf. 1:2).  For Ecclesiastes 9, Scofield says, “The unfolding (of the theme) continued: in view of the world’s wrong standard of values.”
  2. The key phrase, “under the sun,” appears 34 times in the book of Ecclesiastes, and is found six times here in chapter 9.
  3. The phrase “under the sun” is one of the keys to understanding the book.  It means that man’s search for truth is often limited to this world and to this life.
  4. When reading the book of Ecclesiastes, this key phrase, “under the sun,” should be constantly kept in mind.  Otherwise, some verses in the book of Ecclesiastes will seem to contradict the rest of Scripture.
  5. If the phrase, “under the sun,” is not properly understood, the book of Ecclesiastes will seem to advocate strange teachings.  The famous atheist Voltaire liked to quote verses from Ecclesiastes. False religious cults also refer to it. They are adept in twisting Scripture out of context.
  6. For example, they pull out verses, which deal with death and the afterlife, to deny the doctrine of the eternal damnation of the wicked (cf. 9:10 and Scofield’s notes, p. 702).
  7. This chapter deals extensively with the mysteries of life and death.  Much of it is from the perspective of the man “under the sun.”
  8. Merrill Unger wrote that, “God makes no trenchant distinction between the good and the bad (the sinner) in His providential working in a world of vanity.  But the mystery is that God is working through these providences with a far-reaching purpose (cf. II Cor. 12:9, 10)” (Unger’s Commentary on the OT).
  9. I have entitled tonight’s message, “The Mysteries of Divine Providence.”



  1. Ecclesiastes 9 begins with an important declaration.  We are all in the hands of God (9:1).
  2. Then Solomon says something we would expect from a man “under the sun.”  “No man knoweth either love or hatred by all that is before them” (9:1b).
  3. Humanly speaking, this may seem to be true.  But the Bible says, “We love him, because He first loved us” (I John 4:19).
  4. Regarding the problem of death, King Solomon says, “All things come (or “happen”) alike to all: there is one event to the righteous, and to the wicked…” (9:2).
  5. The word “event” (9:2) means “outcome.”  It does not mean “fate” (NASB).  “Fate” is a heathen concept, and is contrary to the Bible.
  6. The Bible teaches that God knows the future, but it does not teach that everything is predetermined.
  7. In verse 2, Solomon deals with the apparent unfairness of death.  It is difficult for us to understand why wicked sinners should share the same “one event” with the righteous.
  8. But the “one event” referred to in verses 2 and 3 is the grave (cf. verse 10).  This is what we observe here “under the sun” (9:3, 6, 9, 11, 13).
  9. Solomon is not speaking here of what happens after death (cf. 9:4- 10).   He does deal with the subject of judgment elsewhere (cf. (Eccl. 3:17; 11:9; 12:13, 14).
  10. We all share a common destiny on earth (the grave), but we do not all share a common destiny in eternity (heaven or hell).
  11. There is an old saying, “While there is life, there is hope.”  This is similar to Ecclesiastes 9:4.   Matthew Henry said, “The meanest beggar alive has that comfort of this world and does that service to it which the greatest prince, when he is dead, is utterly incapable of.”
  12. Death terminates all our opportunities in this world (9:5) – “under the sun.”  Now is the time to serve God, to work, and to enjoy life. All these opportunities will end at death (9:10).
  13. Our Lord said in John 9:4, “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.”
  14. The hymnwriter wrote:

    “Work, for the night is coming;
    Work through the morning hours;
    Work while the dew is sparkling;
    Work ‘mid springing flowers;
    Work while the day grows brighter,
    Under the glowing sun;
    Work for the night is coming,
    When man’s work is done” -- Anna Coghill.

  15. Lost sinners (e.g., Donald Trump) make great efforts to make themselves famous, but after they die they are soon forgotten (9:5b). “Their inward thought is, that their houses shall continue for ever, and their dwelling places to all generations; they call their lands after their own names.  Nevertheless man being in honour abideth not: he is like the beasts that perish” (Psalm 49:11, 12).
  16. While we are here in this world, God has given us food and drink, home and marriage, and many other enjoyments.  First Timothy 6:17 says, “God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy.”  This is one of the great themes of the book of Ecclesiastes (9:7-9; cf. 2:24; 3:12-14, 22; 5:18-20; 8:15; 11:9).



  1. “But time and chance happeneth to them all” (9:11).  “For man also knoweth not his time…” (9:12).
  2. Regarding Ecclesiastes 9:11, one preacher said, “Who was swifter than Asahel, who fell needlessly, smitten by the butt end of Abner’s spear (II Sam. 2:22, 23)?  Who was stronger than Samson, but who was weaker before women (Judges 16:19)?  Who was wiser than Solomon, but who was more indulgent in sin (I Kings 11:1-25)?  Who was more discerning than Ahithophel, but who was so easily supplanted by Hushai and his foolish counsel (II Sam. 16:23; 17:5-14)?  Who was more learned in all the ways of the Egyptians than Moses, yet who also preempted every agency of justice in rushing into murder (Exodus 2:11-15; Acts 7:22)?” (Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., Ecclesiastes: Total Life).
  3. Asahel, Samson, Ahithophel, and many others in the Bible learned that “the sons of men (are) snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them” (9:12).
  4. None of us knows when we will leave this world, so we must live for God and be prepared to meet Him at any time.



  1. Ecclesiastes 9 concludes with an interesting parable.   A “poor wise man” delivered the little city, “yet no man remembered that same poor man” (9:15).
  2. Even though the wise man was “despised” by the “fools” (9:16-18), Solomon concluded that “wisdom is better than strength” (9:16).
  3. “The words of wise men are heard in quiet more than the cry of him that ruleth among fools” (9:17).  Often it is difficult to hear the words of the wised man because of all the noise and clamor of fools.
  4. “Wisdom is better than weapons of war: but one sinner destroyeth much good” (9:18).



  1. As I was preparing the end of this message, I was reminded of the email report I received today from one of our missionaries in Bolivia.
  2. The “one sinner” (9:18) could refer to the communist president of Bolivia, Evo Morales.  Or perhaps Mr. Morales’ friend and advisor, Hugo Chávez.
  3. Certainly these men are they that “ruleth among fools” (9:17).

<< Back                                       Next >>