Let’s read Eccl 9:1-8
v1: All this: ‘This’ is referring to the primary things – all the things he has mentioned thus far (the pursuit of knowledge, the things that can be known in this world, etc).
- I considered all this: Solomon is trying to understand the deeper meaning of life or how to live a life of significance. Although Solomon understands that G-d is Creator he doesn’t understand His coming Kingdom. When we do not understand Kingdom theology we are a people who are empty of hope.
- The righteous and the wise: Two different concepts but one group – righteous people behave righteously and wise people behave wisely… But it can also be said that righteous people are wise and wise people are righteous.
- In the hand of G-d: An idiom which means that it has all been given over to G-d, He is in control. Although this is true, there is a problem in the way Solomon views G-d’s handling of this authority.
- People know neither love nor hatred: Like ‘righteous’ and ‘wise’ these two concepts (love and hate) are also lumped together. Solomon is saying that we can do wise or righteous things, under the authority of G-d, but we don’t know what we’re going to get from doing it – lovely things or terrible. From Solomon’s point of view he has no assurance about future outcomes.
v2: Solomon thinks that whether we do good or bad things, live righteously or unrighteously, we all are ultimately faced with the same “event” (i.e. the righteous and the wicked experience the same ultimate consequences).
v3: This: Referring again to the main things that Solomon has been writing about.
- This is an evil in all that is done: Solomon sums it up by saying that everything done on earth is evil. Solomon (as borne out in the rest of v3) is concerned about his death. He (like those who are without faith) is concerned that he is going to come to an end and that will be it – a ceasing to exist. This upsets him.
- One thing happens to all: Whether people are good or bad, just or unjust etc.. Solomon sees them as all meeting the same end.
- Full of evil…madness: He sees the behaviour of all people as full of evil and full of madness.
v4: Joined to all the living: i.e. is still living. The original word is a word which means chosen or selected to be (living).
- Hope: The Hebrew word translated “hope” here is not the word for hope but is a word which means security, trust or confidence. Solomon isn’t looking forward to a future hope. Instead he is looking backwards and has placed his security and confidence in living.
- Dog…lion: In Solomon’s day dogs were not pets like they are today. Dogs were scavengers and would go around in, often, dangerous packs. Lions were seen as noble and majestic creatures. Solomon almost interjects a bit of humour into this passage by saying it is better to be an alive mangy dog rather than a dead kingly beast. Solomon has no confidence or expectation that there is life after death.
v5: The dead know nothing: Solomon had an incorrect/false view of death at this point in his life – he thought people ceased to exist once they died. This belief leads to a sense of futility.
- The memory of them is forgotten: This seems to have been one of Solomons greatest fears. Many people are afraid of being forgotten, so they give scholarships in their names, build buildings with their names on them etc in an attempt to be remembered.
v6: Our time here on earth is limited. We would be wise to pray Ps 90:12. Wisdom is not in making a name for ourselves here so that we can be remembered. If we are wise we will be investing in the Kingdom to come, making a difference in the lives of others by faithfully leading them into the Kingdom so that they too can pursue the promises of G-d (Matt 6:19-21).
v7: Solomon’s message in this verse is to basically eat and drink (live life to the fullest) while you can.
- Accepted your works: G-d accepted sacrifices when they were burnt up. This is alluding to the fact that in the end Solomon sees G-d as taking everything from us, receiving all of us.
v8: Garments always be white: Because Solomon is not yet speaking from a spiritual perspective, we know that he is not speaking about white garments in the sense of good deeds (Rev 19:8), but he is speaking about a need to be fashionable or well dressed – “put your best foot forward”.
- Let your head lack no oil: Oil upon the head was a kind of perfume. It was also pleasing or soothing to the wearer. This is Solomons “advert” verse for good clothes and fine fragrance – this thinking is a trap to many, many people in the world today.