Ecclesiastes 2:12-17 – “I turned to consider” that is he considered things from a different perspective. Solomon considers wisdom and wealth in the light of the certainty of death. What good is it to be wisdom and wealth if you’re going to die and leave everything behind? Facing death is a constant theme in this letter. If there is anything certain under the sun it is death (in his case he didn’t need to consider taxes).
The French philosopher wrote “Philosophy is no other thing than for a man to prepare himself to death.” A person is truly prepared to live when is fully prepared to die. Since both the wise man and the fool will die, what is the value of wisdom? For one thing, we can leave our wisdom for the guidance of the next generation; but how can we be sure they will value it or follow it? “. In spite of the fact that all men must die, wisdom is still of greater value than folly.
Nobody who follows in Solomon’s steps will ever have greater opportunities than he had for combining wisdom and wealth. From Ecclesiastes 2:18-19 this is likely referring to Rehoboam, whose actions divided the kingdom (1 Kings 12). All of this contributes to Solomon’s appraisal that it is vanity or futile. Both the wise man and the fool die, and both are forgotten (Ecclesiastes 2:16). “So I hated life!” It all seems so futile. Yet to the Believer who is not living for himself but rather for the Lord we understand that we are servants of our master. The King who is master of all and servant of none unless he is aware of his service to God would come to such a conclusion. Later Solomon does come to this conclusion and ends his observations that apart from that perspective life truly has no meaning.
Ecclesiastes 2:18-23 – Life was not the only thing Solomon found to be futile; he also viewed all his work with a certain disdain. He saw his work as meaningless which further filled him with despair. All his labor would not remain. He had no control over how it would be used after his death (Psalm 49:10). The person who inherited it, who had not had to work for it would not appreciate it since it was unearned and squander it. Finally Solomon hated his work because he would not be able to enjoy the fruit of his labor (Ecclesiastes 2:21-23).
If all we do is think about our wealth and worry about what will happen to it, we will make our lives miserable. We do all the work and then leave the wealth to somebody who didn’t even work for it (Ecclesiastes 2:21). Is that fair? We spend days in travail and grief and have many sleepless nights, yet our heirs never experience any of this. It all seems so futile. “What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labors under the sun?” (Ecclesiastes 2:22) At this point, Solomon appears to be very pessimistic, but he doesn’t remain that way very long. At the close of his observations in this book he comes to full faith and understanding of what his call in life truly is.
Ecclesiastes 2:24-26 – There are six times in this letter that Solomon comes to the conclusion on the importance of accepting life as God’s gift and enjoying it in God’s will Ecclesiastes 3:12-15, 3:22; 5:18-20; 8:15; 9:7-10; 11:9-10. Solomon is not teaching the world-view of “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die” which is pessimism not trust and obedience to God we also find this in the New Covenant as well 1 Timothy 6:17.
Solomon is teaching that not only blessings are from God, but also the enjoyment of those blessings in Ecclesiastes 2:24. Ecclesiastes is part of the traditional readings on the Feast of Tabernacles because it is the time of rejoicing over God’s abundant provision, the Biblical Thanksgiving. On the other hand a sinful or rebellious person may have all kinds of riches, but can never truly enjoy them because he has left God out of his life. In fact, his riches may finally end up going to the righteous (Proverbs 13:22).
This is what happened to Israel when they left Egypt (Exodus 3:22; 12:36). This completes the first section of Ecclesiastes in which he outlines the problems he is seeking to understand. When God is not in a life then life is not really worth living because of the monotony of life (Ecclesiastes 1:4-11), the emptiness of wisdom (Ecclesiastes 1:12-18), the intellectuality of wealth (Ecclesiastes 2:12-23). But when you bring God into your life then all there is meaning.
If we rejoice in the gifts, but forget the Giver, then we are idolaters. In the next 8 chapters, Solomon will consider each of these four areas. At the end of each he will say, “Enjoy life and be thankful to God!”. Chuck Coulson said “Life isn’t like a book,” it isn’t logical, or sensible, or orderly. Life is a mess most of the time. And theology must be lived in the midst of that mess.” Solomon helps have a theology that will provide us with understanding that will help us understand and live the life that God has given us.