The Book of Ecclesiastes Bible Study Chapter 2 Part 1

On to Ecclesiastes 2:1-9

Solomon said he wanted wisdom, but what he really wanted was satisfaction. He wanted his life to mean something. The problem is that when we look for meaning in and of itself, ‘under the sun’ (meaning in this world), we’re not going to find it because this world is not going to endure – there’s going to be a new heaven and a new earth – the Kingdom of G-d. We should be people who are interested in pursuing those things that have eternal implications.

v1: Heart is synonymous with thinking (Prov 23:7). Here, Solomon is considering or reflecting. He is trying through his own ability to determine something.  

  • I will test you (wisdom): Solomon is speaking about testing wisdom – not simply in an intellectual way but in an experiential way. He wasn’t satisfied with intellectual wisdom, so might have thought the answer could be found in a physical experience. He set his mind toward pursuing wisdom in an experiential sense (He didn’t want to only know it, he wanted to physically experience it).
  • Mirth/gladness: Solomon now sets out to seek pleasure – that which is gratifying/pleasing to not only his brain but also to his senses. Solomon wants to know if going from one pleasurable experience to the next will be lasting and meaningful, if it will eventually lead to satisfaction. 
  • But surely: This word in Hebrew is a word that means “Pay attention!”. Solomon has reached an important conclusion and he wants us to pay attention to what he has discovered.
  • Vanity: The pursuit of pleasure changed nothing in his life. Intellectual knowledge had proved to be futile, and now Solomon discovered that even the pursuit of pleasure was futile. There was nothing of lasting significance in it.  When we pursue pleasure, or do things to make ourselves feel good or glad, we are going to find that it is temporary/fleeting and soon leaves us feeling empty. 

Note: Solomon is hinting, over and over again, that things have no lasting significance. They are temporal – here today and gone tomorrow (except we know that this cannot be applied to G-d – Heb 13:8 – and nor to the things of G-d. We need to seek those things which are enduring/eternal – Matt 6:19-21,33). 

v2: Laughter: To be happy in a very jovial sense – not just something that was humorous but something that was satisfying to his senses. Solomon pursued laughter (“comedy”) but found it to be ‘madness’. If we are only ever subjected to funny things, those things which are continuously and relentlessly happy and uplifting, it leads to madness – being out of touch with reality. 

  • Mirth: Being happy doesn’t produce anything, and nor does it bring about change in this world. If everyone walks around laughing nothing of much substance will be produced. The same joke told over and over again eventually loses its humour. Jovial, happy, funny experiences don’t satisfy.

v3: I searched in my heart: This means that he pursued it, he explored it (like a tourist explores a new land). 

  • Gratify my flesh with wine: He allowed his body to be affected by wine/alcohol (drugs etc would also fall into this category today). The wine didn’t satisfy him. 
  • Guiding my heart with wisdom: As Solomon thought through these things, his heart was led back to wisdom. He realised that all of this external stimulation was folly/a foolish way of trying to fill up his senses. Although knowledge doesn’t satisfy us it is still superior to the pursuit of indulging in pleasure (alcohol, drugs etc). In this verse we see that Solomon reached a turning point in his pursuit of pleasure. 
  • Under heaven all the days of their lives: Change of phrase. Solomon reached a conclusion – our days and lives are limited on earth. Many people who are living from party to party (‘living it up’) forget that their lives are temporal (Ps 90:12 – we need to order our days. G-d wants us to live wisely within the short span of time that He has given to us). 

v4: In this verse, Solomon reveals the next thing that he pursued – with basically unlimited resources he built himself multiple houses (in probably multiple beautiful locations- even today, houses are often a status symbol among the wealthy) and vineyards – again, wealthy people often engage in wine, wine cellars, vintage and unique/finest wines etc. 

v5: Gardens…orchards…fruit trees: Wealthy people often plant lavish gardens, with exotic trees, have greenhouses in their gardens etc. This is exactly what Solomon did. But this, too, did not satisfy him. 

v6: Waterpools: These weren’t swimming pools but were reservoirs of water to make his gardens lush, to make them flourish optimally. 

  • Growing trees of the grove: Solomon, three thousand years ago, in the middle of Israel (mainly desert), planned forests of different types of trees. He also made an irrigation system for them. This would have been very, very costly and also very labour intensive. All this was done by Solomon in the pursuit to make himself great. He believed at this point that in a multiplicity of possessions and achievement there would be some lasting satisfaction. We already know that that was not the case. 

v7: Acquired: Purchased.

  • Servants born in my house: Solomons pursuits didn’t only affect his generation but it affected subsequent generations. This phrase (together with the previous phrase ‘growing trees”) points to the fact that Solomon was having success – he was ‘fertile,’ so to speak, in all types of things. 
  • Greater possessions of herds and flocks than all …before me: Solomon was rich in people (manpower), but also in animals. Solomon achieved more than anyone else who ruled over Israel. He surpassed his father (King David). 

v8: Gathered…silver and gold: Although Solomon was spending exorbitant amounts of money in building houses etc he was still amassing huge amounts of it.  

  • Special treasures of kings and of the provinces: Solomon had so much going on at his home front yet he was also managing to go out to war and take spoil. He was conquering kings and taking their treasures, taking their wealth. Although he was spending a lot there was a large cash flow coming into his coffers. 
  • Male and female singers…musical instruments: People like possessions. They like achievement, but they also like music. Solomon even catered for this luxury. 

Note: Solomon, is experiencing everything to its fullest. He’s expanding his kingdom, he’s building, he has a very large cash flow coming in. He lacks nothing and he’s achieving more than anyone else in Jerusalem. On top of all of that he’s also indulging in the pleasures of humanity (music and things that bring great pleasure to individuals). 

v9: Became great and excelled: He increased in every way. He had inherited a lot, but he added even more to that inheritance. On every front Solomon was extremely successful – except he had no means of accomplishing what he truly was looking for inwardly. 

  • Remained: (literally)To stand, or an idiom to stop. Translating this word as ‘remained’ gives this sentence a positive slant, whereas to stand or to stop gives this sentence a more negative meaning. If we take the more literal meaning this sentence then can be understood as Solomon’s wisdom, his understanding, his knowledge, stopped. He didn’t grow anymore. All this pursuit of pleasure did not have a positive influence on him. When we pursue pleasure, and live lives based on it, it is going to stunt us. We’re not going to mature spiritually and we’re not going to understand things – it’s going to put us in an immature state. 

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