Dave Burnette's Commentary

Ecclesiastes Chapter 2

Written By: God through Inspiration
Penned By: Solomon
Date Penned: (935 BC)
Overview: Wisdom's Lessons from Experience (c 1-12)
Theme: Solomon's Personal Experience (c 1-2)
Message: The King Finds Pleasures Meaningless (v 1-26)

Ecclesiastes 2 Commentary 

(2:1) Life’s Meaning - Solomon conducted his search for life's meaning as an experiment. He first tried pursuing pleasure. He undertook great projects, bought slaves and herds and flocks, amassed wealth, acquired singers, added many women to his harem, and became the greatest person in Jerusalem. But none of these gave him satisfaction: "I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun" (2:11). Some of the pleasures Solomon sought were wrong, and some were worthy; but even the worthy pursuits were futile when he pursued them as an end in themselves. We must look beyond our activities to the reasons we do them and the purposes they fulfill. Is your goal in life to search for meaning or to search for God, who is the giver of all meaning? 

(2:4-6) Building - Solomon had built houses, the temple, a kingdom, and a family (see 1 Kings 3-11). In the course of history, they all would be ruined. In Psalm 127:1, Solomon wrote, "Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain." The book of Ecclesiastes is part of Solomon's testimony to what happens when a kingdom--or any group of people--forgets God. As you examine your projects and goals, what is your starting point, your motivation? If serving, loving, honoring, and glorifying God aren't key factors in what you are doing, it will all be meaningless to you when you reach life's end. 

(2:11) Finding Life’s Meaning - Solomon summarized all his attempts at finding life's meaning as "vexation of spirit" (often translated "chasing the wind"). We feel the wind as it passes, but we can't catch hold of it or keep it. In all our accomplishments, even the big ones, our good feelings are only temporary. Security and self-worth are found not in these accomplishments but far beyond them in the love of God. Think about what you consider worthwhile-where you place your time, energy, and money. Will you one day look back and decide that this, too, was only "chasing the wind"? 

(2:13-16) Life is Futile - Solomon concluded that even if life is futile, it is still better to be wise than foolish, to live with good judgment rather than spend life in ignorance. Seeking wisdom has definite advantages in this life. The wise person, however, will die like anyone else. This thought caused Solomon to say that wisdom, while beneficial in this life, is also ultimately futile. So is there something beyond wisdom that provides answers to life's deepest questions? Because we are limited in our understanding, it is vital that we come to know God, who is infinite and all-knowing. Only he has the answers to life's deepest questions. These are the answers that point to our true purpose and meaning in this life and beyond. 

(2:16) Building Our Lives - Solomon realized that wisdom alone cannot bring eternal life. Wisdom, riches, and personal achievement matter very little after death--and everyone must die. We must build our lives not on perishable pursuits but on the solid foundation of truth and meaning God has already constructed for us, which can only be found in a living relationship with him. Then even if everything we have is taken away, we still will have God, who is all we really need anyway. This foundation is the only thing that will last forever, so we must make sure our lives are attached to it. This is one of the main points of the book of Job (see the introduction to Job). 

(2:16) Our Eternity - Is death the ultimate equalizer of all people, no matter what they have attained in life? While this appears to be true from an earthly perspective, God makes it clear (as Solomon later points out in 12:14) that what we do here has a great impact upon our eternal future. 

(2:17) A Hated life - As king, Solomon had everything a person could want, but here he says that he "hated life." What happened? His marvelous accomplishments had left him sour because he pursued them as a means of personal satisfaction. By itself it is empty because we are alone in the enjoyment we receive. What is your attitude about what you do? If your goal is to only satisfy yourself then you will be empty seeking one thing after another. As Solomon did. If your goal is to serve God and others then you will experience a full life one that won't leave you sour.

(2:18-23) Earthly Gain -Solomon continued to explain that hard work bears no lasting fruit for those who work solely to earn money and gain possessions. Not only will we leave everything behind at death, but we may be leaving it to those who have done nothing to earn it. In addition, it may not be well cared for, and all that we gained may be lost. In fact, Solomon's son, who inherited his throne, immediately made a foolish decision that split the kingdom (see 1 Kings 12). Hard work done with proper motives (caring for your family, serving God) is not wrong. We must work to survive, and, more important, we are responsible for the physical and spiritual well-being of those under our care. But the fruit of hard work done only to satisfy ourselves will be passed on to those who may later lose or spoil it all. Such toil often leads to grief, while serving God leads to everlasting joy. Do you know the real reason you are working so hard? 

(2:24-26) Enjoying Life - Is Solomon recommending we make life a big, irresponsible party? No, he is encouraging us to take pleasure in what we're doing now and to enjoy the good things in life because they come from God's hand. True enjoyment in life comes only as we follow God's guidelines for living. Without him, satisfaction cannot be found. Those who really know how to enjoy life are the ones who take life each day as a gift from God, thanking him for it and serving him in it. Those without God will have no relief from toil and no direction to guide them through life's complications.

Dave Burnette's Life Application

Meaningless Pleasure

Each day we walk through the Bible chapter by chapter making an application of our text to help us grow in the Lord. Many applications can be made from each day's text. Today, we continue in the Book of Ecclesiastes with Chapter 2. In our text today, Solomon finds the pleasures of this world to be meaningless; after having it all and experiencing all that life has to offer, Solomon discovers that true Joy comes from the Lord. In making application, we see that many spend all their time on earth attempting to gain the world's riches, knowledge, or pleasures when the truth is that there is no satisfaction in achieving these earthly treasures. Today, if we are wise, we will discover this same truth that our Joy only comes from the Lord. There is no need to seek pleasure in meaningless "things" when we discover that our Joy comes from the Lord. How about you? Do you seek pleasure in pointless things? Let us learn from today's text to see our Joy cometh from the Lord.


Ecclesiastes 2

Ecclesiastes 2

 1I said in mine heart, Go to now, I will prove thee with mirth, therefore enjoy pleasure: and, behold, this also is vanity.

 2I said of laughter, It is mad: and of mirth, What doeth it?

 3I sought in mine heart to give myself unto wine, yet acquainting mine heart with wisdom; and to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was that good for the sons of men, which they should do under the heaven all the days of their life.

 4I made me great works; I builded me houses; I planted me vineyards:

 5I made me gardens and orchards, and I planted trees in them of all kind of fruits:

 6I made me pools of water, to water therewith the wood that bringeth forth trees:

 7I got me servants and maidens, and had servants born in my house; also I had great possessions of great and small cattle above all that were in Jerusalem before me:

 8I gathered me also silver and gold, and the peculiar treasure of kings and of the provinces: I gat me men singers and women singers, and the delights of the sons of men, as musical instruments, and that of all sorts.

 9So I was great, and increased more than all that were before me in Jerusalem: also my wisdom remained with me.

 10And whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy; for my heart rejoiced in all my labour: and this was my portion of all my labour.

 11Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.

 12And I turned myself to behold wisdom, and madness, and folly: for what can the man do that cometh after the king? even that which hath been already done.

 13Then I saw that wisdom excelleth folly, as far as light excelleth darkness.

 14The wise man's eyes are in his head; but the fool walketh in darkness: and I myself perceived also that one event happeneth to them all.

 15Then said I in my heart, As it happeneth to the fool, so it happeneth even to me; and why was I then more wise? Then I said in my heart, that this also is vanity.

 16For there is no remembrance of the wise more than of the fool for ever; seeing that which now is in the days to come shall all be forgotten. And how dieth the wise man? as the fool.

 17Therefore I hated life; because the work that is wrought under the sun is grievous unto me: for all is vanity and vexation of spirit.

 18Yea, I hated all my labour which I had taken under the sun: because I should leave it unto the man that shall be after me.

 19And who knoweth whether he shall be a wise man or a fool? yet shall he have rule over all my labour wherein I have laboured, and wherein I have shewed myself wise under the sun. This is also vanity.

 20Therefore I went about to cause my heart to despair of all the labour which I took under the sun.

 21For there is a man whose labour is in wisdom, and in knowledge, and in equity; yet to a man that hath not laboured therein shall he leave it for his portion. This also is vanity and a great evil.

 22For what hath man of all his labour, and of the vexation of his heart, wherein he hath laboured under the sun?

 23For all his days are sorrows, and his travail grief; yea, his heart taketh not rest in the night. This is also vanity.

 24There is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour. This also I saw, that it was from the hand of God.

 25For who can eat, or who else can hasten hereunto, more than I?

 26For God giveth to a man that is good in his sight wisdom, and knowledge, and joy: but to the sinner he giveth travail, to gather and to heap up, that he may give to him that is good before God. This also is vanity and vexation of spirit.