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Bible Commentaries
Ecclesiastes 2

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

Verses 1-26

Chapter 2

So I said in my heart, Go to now, I'm going to prove thee with [pleasure,] with mirth, therefore enjoy pleasure: but, behold, this was vanity ( Ecclesiastes 2:1 ).

So we read in the New Testament the epistle of John, "All that is of the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life" ( 1 John 2:16 ), these are the aspects of the world by which man is seeking to find an answer, a fulfillment. These are the things that Solomon searched out. As you follow his search, it was in the lust of his flesh, the lust of his eyes, and the pride of life. He came to the conclusion, that these things are all empty.

First of all, the lust of the flesh. Giving myself over to pleasure. But behold, it was empty.

I said of laughter, It is mad: and of [the joy, the pleasures, the] mirth, What does it do? I sought in my heart to give myself unto wine, yet acquainting my heart with wisdom; and to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was good for the sons of men, that they should do under the heaven all of the days of their life ( Ecclesiastes 2:2-3 ).

So he got into the lust of the eyes.

I built me great works ( Ecclesiastes 2:4 );

Beautiful homes.

I planted vineyards: I made gardens and orchards, I planted trees with all kinds of fruits: Made pools of water, to water therewith the wood that bringeth forth the trees ( Ecclesiastes 2:4-6 ):

All of these beautiful gardens and buildings and all.

And then the pride of life.

I got servants and maidens, I had servants born in my house; I also had great possessions of great and small cattle above all that were in Jerusalem before me ( Ecclesiastes 2:7 ):

Great abundance of cattle. Do you realize that everyday in order to feed his household, his family, and his servants, that it took ten prime beef and twenty commercial grade beef everyday? A hundred lambs a day. That's 36,000 a year. That's over 10,000 beef that he slaughtered just for his servants and his family needs every year. Plus all of the fowl, and the deer, and the roebuck and so forth that were killed just to take care of the appetites of his family and of his servants. You have a thousand wives; you got to feed them. And they've got kids, they got to be fed. And then they each have to have their servants. Thirty beef a day. So he was right when he said, "I had cattle more than anybody who was in Jerusalem before me."

I gathered also silver and gold ( Ecclesiastes 2:8 ),

In Chronicles we read that he made silver as common as the stones in Jerusalem. Now, you that have been to Jerusalem know what a stony place that is. And he made silver as common as the stones in Jerusalem. There in Chronicles' fourth chapter it tells about that. Second Chronicles 2Ch 9:27 is where it talks about the silver.

I brought treasures of the kings and of the provinces: I developed [choirs,] men and women singers, the delights of the sons of men, [great orchestra,] all kinds of musical instruments, of all sorts. So I was great ( Ecclesiastes 2:8-9 ),

Pride of life.

I was great, and increased more than all that were before me in Jerusalem: also my wisdom remained with me ( Ecclesiastes 2:9 ).

He was a botanist, a zoologist.

And whatsoever my eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy; for my heart rejoiced in all my labor: and this was my portion of all my labor ( Ecclesiastes 2:10 ).

Now notice that. Who could say this? "And whatsoever my eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy." Very few people can make that kind of a statement. You have to have really the wealth of Solomon and all to be able to say that. It seems to us there's always that, you know, "If I only, if I only, if I only," and we aren't able to fulfill all of the desires of our eyes. We go down and we see a beautiful yacht, we think, "Oh, my, if I only had that yacht." With Solomon, "Buy it." You know, I mean, he didn't withhold anything. Whatever he desired, whatever he wanted, he had. Very few men can say that. "Oh, I would be so happy. Oh man, I'd be so satisfied." Was he?

Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, on the labor that I had labored to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun ( Ecclesiastes 2:11 ).

No profit in any of it. It was empty. I was still empty. I was still frustrated. You see, this is life on the human level. This is the denying of the spiritual nature. It is trying to live your life apart from God. Trying to find satisfaction and meaning apart from God. You'll never do it.

So I turned myself to behold the wisdom, and madness, and folly: for what can a man do that cometh after the king? ( Ecclesiastes 2:12 )

What can anybody do after me? I mean, I've done it all.

even that which hath been already done ( Ecclesiastes 2:12 ).

There's nothing left. I did it all.

And then I saw that wisdom excels folly, as far as light excels darkness. The wise man's eyes are in his head; but the fool walks in darkness: and I perceived also that one event happens to them all. I said in my heart, As it happens to the fool, so it happens even to me; so why am I any wiser? ( Ecclesiastes 2:13-15 )

With all of my wisdom I can't prolong my life. With all of the understanding and knowledge that I have, I can't prolong life. I'm going to die just like the fool out there who doesn't know anything. He's going to die. I'm going to die. And when we die, it's all over. So what good is it to have all of the wisdom that I have because we're coming towards the grave, both of us together. We're both going to die. My wisdom isn't going to keep me from death. How dies the wise man? As the fool. Then I said in my heart, as it happens to the fool so it happens even to me. So why am I any wiser?

Then I said in my heart, this also is emptiness. For there is no remembrance of the wise any more than the fool for ever; seeing that which now is in the days to come shall be forgotten. And how dies the wise man? as the fool. Therefore I hated life ( Ecclesiastes 2:15-17 );

Now, hey, wait a minute. This is the guy that has everything. This is the guy who has every kind of pleasure, every kind of possession that you could possibly hope to have. Anything under the sun, he's got it. And what is he saying? I hated life.

because the work that is wrought under the sun is grievous unto me: for all is vanity and vexation of spirit. Yes, I hated all my labor which I had taken under the sun: because I was going to have to leave it unto the man that shall be after me. And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? ( Ecclesiastes 2:17-19 )

Everything that I've built. Everything that I've amassed. Everything that I've done, I'm going to die and going to have to leave it to some nut. And I don't know if the guy's going to be wise or foolish. He may just go out and look at the history. Rehoboam's son left the throne and all to Rehoboam. What did he do? He no sooner gets on the throne than he angers the tribes of the north and they have a revolution and he loses the kingdom and starts downhill. The whole glory that Solomon had built up, his son, dumb, foolish actions, blew it. And so Solomon's worries were not really unfounded. His son was a fool.

yet he's going to have rule over all of my labor wherein I have labored, and wherein I have showed myself wise under the sun. So it was emptiness. Therefore I went about to cause my heart to despair of all of the labor which I took under the sun. For there is a man whose labor 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 ( Ecclesiastes 2:19-21 ).

You do all of the work, you do all of the effort, you do all of the sacrifice, you do all of the strain, you do all of the saving, you do all of the wise prudent planning and everything else, and you die and if you can really amass a great fortune, million dollars or so, the government will come in and get seventy percent. And you know how foolishly they're going to spend it.

This also is vanity and a great evil. For what hath man of all of his labor, and of the vexation of his heart, wherein he hath labored under the sun? ( Ecclesiastes 2:21-22 )

What do you get for it?

For all of his days are sorrows, and his travail grief; yea, his heart takes no rest in the night. And this also is vanity. There is nothing better ( Ecclesiastes 2:23-24 )

Now this is the conclusion. Earthly wisdom. I've done it all, empty. So "there's nothing better."

for a man, than that he should eat and drink, that he should make his soul to enjoy good in his labour. This also I saw, was from the hand of God. For who can eat, or who else can hasten hereunto, more than I? For God giveth to a man that is good in his sight wisdom, and knowledge, and joy: but to the sinner he gives travail, to gather and to heap up, that he may give unto him that is good before God. This also is vanity and vexation of spirit ( Ecclesiastes 2:24-26 ). "

Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 2". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/ecclesiastes-2.html. 2014.
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