Ecclesiastes -- Almost Everything Is
Vanity and Meaningless

Dan Corner

The Book of Ecclesiastes Explained

Ecclesiastes is one of the strangest books in the bible. Ecclesiastes was authored by an unnamed king (1:12), who was also the son of David (1:1) and had more wisdom than all others who ruled over Jerusalem before him (1:16,17 cf. 1 Kings 3:12). Hence, he must have been Solomon.

Solomon's life as king started out spiritual strong (2 Chronicles 7; 1 Kings 3:5-14), but ended tragically as an idolater at heart (1 Kings 11:1-9 cf. Ezek. 33:18). There is no biblical evidence that Solomon ever repented and returned to salvation. Apparently, somewhere between those two extreme points in his life is when Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes, which might explain the strange verses.

Solomon's Frequent Secular Views
Expressed In Ecclesiastes

What you might hear from the godless is often expressed in Ecclesiastes, as you will see. Solomon wrote:
A feast is made for laughter, and wine makes life merry, but money is the answer for everything. (Eccl 10:19)
Comment: Shocking isn't it? That sounds like it could be an endorsement for drinking alcohol and with it drunkenness, which is condemned (Prov. 23:31,32; 1 Cor. 6:9,10; etc.) and exalting money to an idolatrous pinnacle. Such teaching could easily lead to greed, which is idolatry (Col. 3:5) Such an opinion of money is never expressed in the New Testament. In fact, Ecc. 10:19 parallels the near-sighted dark view of life, often expressed, throughout Ecclesiastes. In contrast, Jesus taught this about material wealth:
And he told them this parable: "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.' "Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry." "But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?' "This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God." (Luke 12:16-21)
Paul wrote:
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. (1 Tim 6:6-11)
Is Ecc.10:19 guidance for us to live by? Just the opposite is shown with the fool Jesus denounced in Luke 12. His attitude was also eat, drink and be merry like Solomon's. See Ecc. 2:24; 3:13; 5:18 and 8:15. Obviously, something is very strange in Ecclesiastes:

"Meaningless! Meaningless!" says the Teacher. "Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless." (Eccl 1:2)
Comment: Not everything done in this life is meaningless or in vain:
Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (1 Cor 15:58)
God's word clearly says the Christian's labor in the Lord is not in vain. Back to Ecclesiastes with this:
Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun-- all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun. (Eccl 9:9)
Comment: Again, are we just to enjoy this meaningless life and not deny self and obey God (Lk. 9:23; 1 Jn. 2:3,4)? Didn't Jesus teach how the pleasures of this life can choke out potential fruitfulness (Luke 8:14)? Folks, this is the time of spiritual testing for us all (James 1:12). What we do with the Lord Jesus and his words now is the main issue (Acts 20:21; 1 John 5:12; Lk. 8:21; etc.) and will influence us throughout eternity.
A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, (Eccl 2:24)
Comment: Again, how strange and contrary to the New Testament, which shows laboring, as a faithful slave of righteousness, is what Christians are to do (1 Cor. 3:8; 15:58; etc.). The spiritually fruitless tree gets cut down (Luke 13:6-9) and even the fruitless branch in Christ get cut off by the Father and thrown into the fire (John 15:1-6). Faithfully serving God is the epitome of a successful life (Rom. 12:11). The examples of the early disciples in Acts shows the same. Solomon continues on with:
So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. (Eccl 2:17)
Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun. (Eccl 2:11)
Comment: At that point in Solomon's life, he apparently thought all that his hands had done, which would have to include building the Temple of God he had erected, was meaningless. Imagine a change of heart like that.
I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. (Eccl 3:12)
Comment: What if the so-called good is not considered such in God's eyes? Earthly happiness has nothing to do with the best life to live. God will grant joy and peace, if we are in his will serving him. To have earthly happiness as your goal is to ignore the Christian life of following Jesus to the end, no matter what.
That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil--this is the gift of God. (Eccl 3:13)
Comment: No such gift of God is stated anywhere like that. Man's satisfaction means nothing or close to it. God's approval means everything, as shown in the Parable of the Talents. Then Solomon wrote this:
Whatever is has already been, and what will be has been before; and God will call the past to account. (Eccl 3:15)
Comment: The future great tribulation period will be great distress unlike at any other time in human history, past or future, according to Jesus (Mk. 13:19). So the first part of Ecc. 3:15 is clearly wrong. Also, the part what will be has been before is also shown to be wrong because the world will never be destroyed by flood waters again, as promised to Noah (Gen. 9:15,16).
Man's fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath ; man has no advantage over the animal. Everything is meaningless. (Eccl 3:19)
Comment: Physical death and this temporal life only is Solomon's focus there. Hence, man has no advantage over an animal, but that is not all:
So I saw that there is nothing better for a man than to enjoy his work, because that is his lot. For who can bring him to see what will happen after him? (Eccl 3:22)
And I declared that the dead, who had already died, are happier than the living, who are still alive. But better than both is he who has not yet been, who has not seen the evil that is done under the sun. (Eccl 4:2,3)
Comment: People who have died in their sins are certainly not happy (Jude 7; etc.). Solomon's view of life remains empty and shallow:
Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him--for this is his lot. (Eccl 5:18)
For who knows what is good for a man in life, during the few and meaningless days he passes through like a shadow? Who can tell him what will happen under the sun after he is gone? (Eccl 6:12)
Comment: The words under the sun shows Solomon is referring to this temporal life only. Moreover, God can tell us what is good for a man, as expressed in the precious words of life given by Jesus and his apostles. Two examples are:
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Mat 11:28-30)
The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest IF we do not give up. (Gal 6:8,9)
Then Solomon clashes with God's word again:
A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of death better than the day of birth. (Eccl 7:1)
Comment: Without question, the death of Judas Iscariot was horribly tragic and not better than his birth:
The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born. (Mark 14:21)
After all of that, then Solomon shocks all Christians with this:
Do not be overrighteous, neither be overwise-- why destroy yourself? Do not be overwicked, and do not be a fool-- why die before your time? (Eccl 7:16,17)
Comment: That sounds like it might be a type of lukewarmness, which Jesus condemned (Rev. 3:15,16). Is that possible? So was Paul wrong to be so zealous and righteously faithful to God in his labors (2 Cor. 6:4-10; etc.)? Never. Is it wrong for us to run our race to win first prize (1 Cor. 9:24-27)? Perish the thought.

Solomon is shockingly endorsing a life somewhere between being extremely righteous and extremely wicked. Apparently, being somewhat wicked is okay. As usual, physical death is the focus there. Then we have this gem:

I find more bitter than death the woman who is a snare, whose heart is a trap and whose hands are chains. The man who pleases God will escape her, but the sinner she will ensnare. (Eccl 7:26)
Comment: Could that reflect Solomon's own heart turning away from God because of his pagan wives (1 Kings 11:4-6)? Maybe he was speaking of what he thought might occur or was at that moment taking place? In the end, his pagan wives did become a lethal spiritual snare to Solomon, while he held fast to them in love. The end of Ecc. 7:26 implies Solomon himself would become a sinner. Then we have this:
Although a sinner does evil a hundred times and may lengthen his life, still I know that it will be well for those who fear God, who fear Him openly. (Eccl 8:12, NASB)
Comment: This is where Solomon now flip flops. That is better, but not enough. Cornelius was God fearing, generous to the poor and prayed to God regularly (Acts 10:1,2), yet was unsaved (which becomes apparent in Acts 11:14)! Cornelius needed to hear about placing his personal faith in Jesus, as stated in Acts 10:43. Then Solomon seems to flip flop the other way very soon afterwards:
So I commend the enjoyment of life, because nothing is better for a man under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany him in his work all the days of the life God has given him under the sun. (Eccl 8:15)
Comment: How different Paul's writings are in view of the resurrection, which violently clashes with Solomon again:
If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus for merely human reasons, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die." (1 Cor 15:32)
Back to Solomon again:
For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even the memory of them is forgotten. (Eccl 9:5)
Comment: That is a key verse for the Jehovah's Witnesses, Seven Day Adventist and others for their unscriptural soul sleep doctrine. Solomon's focus is this earthly life only, for he wrote about the dead who know nothing and also have no future reward, that is, in this earthly life before God's judgment. The physically dead body knows nothing, as it rots away in the grave. Again, such a dead person has no further reward here anymore. Moreover, we all can also find issue with Ecc. 9:5 with our departed deceased loved ones, whom we will never forget in this lifetime.

Soul Sleep Refuted

Jesus actually spoke with two literal men from the Old Testament -- Moses and Elijah (Mt. 17:1-8; Luke 9:30-36). Moses had already died physically (Deut. 34:7), while Elijah was whirled away in a chariot of fire (2 Kings 2:1 cf. v. 11). The point is: Moses wasn't in an unconscious state of soul sleep awaiting the resurrection. He was mentally alert and conversing with Jesus. Also, Elijah never died! So he was as conscious as Moses and we are now. Their conversation with Jesus really occurred and it was about Jesus' departure -- his physical death (Mt. 17:3; Luke 9:31).

Then we have another blow to soul sleep with what Jesus said here:

Now about the dead rising--have you not read in the book of Moses, in the account of the bush, how God said to him, 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken! (Mark 12:26,27)
Though Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were already dead, when Moses hear those words (see Ex. 3:6), God stated he is the God of the living referring to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They were conscious, and aware, as Moses was.

Furthermore, in Revelation, under heaven's altar were slain souls, who where speaking, given white robes and told to wait (Rev. 6:9-11). They also were obviously not unconscious. Yet, another similar passage is this one:

Then one of the elders asked me, "These in white robes--who are they, and where did they come from?" I answered, "Sir, you know." And he said, "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, "they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. (Rev 7:13-15)
The elder showed John the future great tribulation saints in heaven, who were wearing white robes and serving God day and night in his temple. You can't serve God unless you are conscious and aware. They were just as conscious, aware and alive as God and Jesus, who John also saw in his vision. Here are even more problems for soul sleep proponents:

In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire. (Jude 7)
That verse both refutes soul sleep and annihilation of the wicked dead. How? Because the Sodomites who were killed with burning sulfur raining down upon them (Gen. 19), which was approximately 2,000 years before Jude wrote that passage were still suffering. For them to be suffering pain in eternal fire shows they were conscious and therefore there was no soul sleep for them either. Jude 7 is another blow to both the Seven Day Adventist and Jehovah's Witness doctrines of soul sleep and annihilation! Here is yet another passage showing the similar truth:
For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water" (1 Pet 3:18-20).
That shows Jesus actually preached, after he died for our sins and before his bodily resurrection, to the spirits in prison who were destroyed during the Great Flood. That implies the ones Jesus preached to were fully conscious and not in a soul sleep state not knowing anything, which would have been futile to preach to them had they.

Furthermore, all the New Testament truths describing death for the righteous are ignored or misapplied by soul sleep proponents. Scriptures like Phil. 1:21-23; 2 Cor. 5:8; Luke 23:43 and especially Luke 16:19-31, which is not a parable. In Luke 16:19-31, Jesus mentions real literal people, who were not unconscious after their physical death, but instead in comfort or fiery torment. The Rich Man and Lazarus teaching is one of the most stirring passages in the whole bible about the afterlife!

Solomon's Rare Good Counsel

Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil. (Eccl 12:13,14)
Comment: That passage seems completely out of place to the rest of Ecclesiastes. I'm sure many have wondered about it over the years. There Solomon seems to flip flop again. He teaches to fear God and keep his commandments and even mentions the future judgment.

Hence, Ecclesiastes is a hard book to understand, since it most often reflects and recommends the spiritually blinded view of man, with little exception. To emphasis Ecclesiastes for the soul sleep doctrine is to be grossly misled. It doesn't parallel the rest of scripture, especially from the New Testament.

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