In this passage there is a contrast between two men. The first man works and presumably enjoys the benefits of his work. The second man is lazy and simply looks at the first man’s work with envy. “This also is vanity and grasping for the wind.” Why? Because no one gains anything by just looking at the labor of others and envying them.
This is about as depressed as I’ve heard Solomon so far. He begins by lamenting over the oppressed who have no comforter, and he ends by expressing gratefulness over those who have never even been born.
How low can he get? His sorrow is understandable because it is true that many people are mercilessly oppressed by people more powerful than them. As Solomon said in verse 1, “On the side of their oppressors there is power, but they have no comforter.”
I’m kind of struggling with this passage, but the main idea seems to be found in verse 18: “I said in my heart, ‘Concerning the condition of the sons of men, God tests them, that they may see that they themselves are like animals.'”
What? God tests us to show us that we are like animals?
Building off yesterday’s verse that mentioned God requiring an account of everything that man does, Ecclesiastes 3:16-17 contrasts worldly judgment with God’s judgment. The Preacher says, “Moreover I saw under the sun: In the place of judgment, wickedness was there; and in the place of righteousness, iniquity was there. I said in my heart, ‘God shall judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work.'”
“That which is has already been, and what is to be has already been; and God requires an account of what is past.” The first part of this verse is almost identical to the first half of Ecclesiastes 1:9 and has already been discussed on Day 1 of my study through Ecclesiastes.
But the second half of the verse is significant, especially in the context of chapter three and the entire book: “And God requires an account of what is past.”
It is because He does it. He does it so that we might fear Him. And whatever He does is permanent.
Those are the main ideas that I pick up from the one verse that I am meditating on today.
A lot of what is said in these verses has already been discussed in detail. In verse 9 Solomon asks, “What profit has the worker from that in which he labors?” In verse 10 he says, “I have seen the God-given task with which the sons of men are to be occupied.” Verses 12 and 13 are a repeat of Ecclesiastes 2:24-26 where he says that men should be happy in life and enjoy profit from their labor.
This seems to be one of the more notable and well-known passages of Ecclesiastes. Solomon starts out, “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven…” Verses 2-7 go on to describe how everything in life has it’s appropriate time and place to occur.
It is interesting that the Preacher begins with the reality of life and death in our sin-cursed world: “A time to be born, and a time to die.” Life and death were preeminent in Solomon’s mind at the time. As he neared his death he contemplated his life and all that he had done.
I really like these few verses. Verse 24 says, “Nothing is better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and that his soul should enjoy good in his labor. This also, I saw, was from the hand of God.” Sounds good to me! Eat, drink, and enjoy life while profiting from my labor.
“This also, I saw, was from the hand of God.” Is it true that God’s design for man was to enjoy life and find satisfaction in everything he does? Of course! In Genesis 1:26-28 God created man and told him to be fruitful and multiply and exercise dominion over the earth. Genesis 2:4-8 gives a more detailed description of man’s creation and implies that man has a responsibility to work and enjoy the fruit of his labor (literally).
Ecclesiastes 2:18: “Then I hated all my labor in which I had toiled under the sun, because I must leave it to the man who will come after me.” Wow, it seems like there is both an element of wisdom and and an element of selfishness in that statement. The theme of these next six verses is that of leaving behind your work to someone else.