The Theology of Ecclesiastes (2)


We saw yesterday that Solomon acknowledged the Creator’s existence and saw himself as a beast before God. Today, we’ll consider what Solomon though of God’s purpose for man.

Bible Reading

(Ecc 7:29) Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.

(Ecc 12:7) Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.

(Ecc 1:13) And I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven: this sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith.

(Ecc 3:10) I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it. (Ecc 3:11) He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.

(Ecc 7:14) In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: God also hath set the one over against the other, to the end that man should find nothing after him.

God Made Man Upright

Solomon didn’t blame God for man’s corruption. He believed that God made man upright. It was man who sought out many inventions. Inventions isn’t speaking of the clever creation of useful tools. The word is usually used in a bad sense in the Bible. It speaks of man’s creative persuit of evil (Psa 99:8; Psa 106:29,39).

The Spirit Shall Return to God – or Not?

Solomon said that God made man a spiritual being. In today’s reading, you saw the passage where Solomon claimed that man’s spirit returned to God after death. He made that statement at the end of his quest, but I think he questioned that claim earlier. He asks, skeptically “Who knows if man’s spirit goes up?”:

Ecc 3:19-21 For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity. (20) All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again. (21) Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?

Note: If you search the commentaries, you’ll find that many writers put a positive spin on this passage. They claim that Solomon was actualy saying that man’s spirit does go up. I agree with Keil & Delitzsch’s Commentary on the Old Testament, though, that:

“…thus rendered the question does not accord with the connection, which requires a sceptical question…”

For the child of God, death results in the spirit going into the immediate presence of God:

2Co 5:8 We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.

This Sore Travail

Solomon describes life as a sore travail, a burdensome journey that man trudges through until the happy day of death arrives to end his toil. This certainly doesn’t line up with the New Testament description of life in Christ.

Joh 10:10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

Rom 8:35-39 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? (36) As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. (37) Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. (38) For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, (39) Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

So, while the Bible does tell us we will have struggles in this life, it also tells us we can rise above life’s trials and live as joyful winners in this world.

What About You?

  • Do you see yourself as a sinner, who has fallen short of what God created you to be?
  • Do you understand that you can be victorious in life and rise above the emptiness and burdens through faith in Christ?

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