Solomon’s reflections on his life, Ecclesiastes, are surprisingly dark. We might be surprised that such an accomplished, wealthy, and famous man might experience such emptiness and disappointment.
After all, his list of achievements is long. He built the temple to God his father, David, had longed to build. He had incredible wisdom that brought him widespread fame. His reign was a time of unusual peace when foreign nations paid tribute to Israel. He had the opportunity and means to indulge every pleasure, curiosity and whim.
When he measure this against the scale of eternity, he found all these accomplishments, all the things he learned, built and experienced, to be worthless. “Vanity” is the word you’ll find repeated in most translations. The wealth amassed over a lifetime passes on to others. Great structures crumble; if they last centuries, their builders are forgotten. Pleasures are fleeting. We all die, and what we do isn’t worth much. Solomon is frank about his disappointment and frustration, “All is vanity.”
How can someone live in such a world? God made the world, and His creation is not devoid of good. In the later chapters of the book, Solomon encourages people to fear God, do their best, and enjoy the simple pleasures of life. He looks around and finds people who eat and drink, enjoy their families, and work hard at something productive. He sees that it is good. It may not last, but it is still good, and people should enjoy life.
Between the lamentations of the early chapters and the conclusion, there is a collection of proverbs. Wisdom is valuable. A wise person will do more good, enjoy more and better pleasure, and avoid a lot of pain.
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