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Bible Commentaries

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

Ecclesiastes 6


The writer proceeded to elaborate on his thesis that all human endeavor lacks permanent value-by citing evidence that he had observed personally, and then evidence that everyone has observed.

B. General Observations 2:18-6:9

Thus far, Solomon had reflected on the futility of all human endeavor generally (Ecclesiastes 1:3-11), and the futility of human achievement (Ecclesiastes 1:12-15) and his own achievements in particular (Ecclesiastes 2:1-17). Next, he turned to an evaluation of labor, his own (Ecclesiastes 2:18-20), as well as that of all other people (Ecclesiastes 2:21 to Ecclesiastes 6:9). What he described in this section did not require a privileged position; it can be observed by anyone.

Verses 1-9

4. The perishable fruits of labor 5:1-6:9

This section emphasizes the folly of trying to find ultimate satisfaction in one’s work. Solomon focused on a variety of situations that involve the fruits of labor: money and what it can buy, fame, and pleasure.

III. THE LIMITATIONS OF Wisdom 6:10-11:6

Clues in the text indicate the value and purpose of Ecclesiastes 6:10 to Ecclesiastes 11:6. The phrases "does not know" and "cannot discover" occur frequently (Ecclesiastes 6:12; Ecclesiastes 7:14; Ecclesiastes 7:24; Ecclesiastes 7:28; Ecclesiastes 8:17; Ecclesiastes 10:14; Ecclesiastes 11:2; Ecclesiastes 11:6). Also, the recurrence of "it is good" (Ecclesiastes 7:18), and "is better than" (Ecclesiastes 7:2; Ecclesiastes 7:5; Ecclesiastes 9:16; Ecclesiastes 9:18), helps us realize that in this section, Solomon gave much practical advice on how to live. He did not let us forget that our understanding of God’s ways in the present (Ecclesiastes 7:13; cf. Ecclesiastes 8:17) and in the future (Ecclesiastes 9:1; Ecclesiastes 10:14; Ecclesiastes 11:2) is partial. The conclusion is: we should fear God (Ecclesiastes 7:18; Ecclesiastes 8:12; Ecclesiastes 12:13) and seek to please Him (Ecclesiastes 7:26; cf. Ecclesiastes 2:26).

Verses 10-12

A. God’s Sovereign Foreordination of All Things 6:10-12

In Ecclesiastes 6:10-12, Solomon returned to his theme of the immutability and inscrutability of divine providence (i.e., why God allows things to happen as they do; cf. Ecclesiastes 1:15; Ecclesiastes 3:11; Ecclesiastes 3:14; Ecclesiastes 3:22). "Named" (Ecclesiastes 6:10) refers to the practice of expressing the nature of something by giving it an appropriate name. In the ancient world people recognized that the person who named someone or something was sovereign over it. Thus God "called" what he had created day, heaven, man, etc.; and Adam named the woman, the animals, etc. Solomon’s point in Ecclesiastes 6:10 is that God has sovereignly decreed the nature and essence of everything that exists. Consequently it is foolish for man to argue with God about what He has foreordained (Ecclesiastes 6:10 b). More arguing only results in more futility for man (Ecclesiastes 6:11). Man does not know what is best for him or what his future holds completely (Ecclesiastes 6:12). Solomon pointed out that we are ignorant of our place in God’s all-inclusive plan. Even though we have more revelation of God’s plans and purposes than Solomon did, we still are very ignorant of these things.

"The Latin saying Solvitur ambulando (’It is solved by walking’) suggests that some problems are elucidated only as one goes forward in practical action (cf. Isaiah 30:21; as we go, the Lord guides)." [Note: J. S. Wright, "Ecclesiastes," p. 1173.]

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Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". 2012.