What Was That Good, Ecc 2:1-26

Solomon determined in his lifetime to “see what was that good for the sons of men, which they should do under the heaven all the days of their life”, Ecc 2:3.  He experimented with everything a man can do.

He tried pleasure, Ecc 2:1-2

Mirth is social merriment; hilarity; high excitement of pleasurable feelings in company; noisy gayety; mirth always implyies noise.  The Bible refers to “the voice of mirth”, Jer 7:34.

Pleasure is the gratification of the senses or of the mind; agreeable sensations or emotions.  Pleasure from indulgence of the appetite, from the view of beauty, from the harmony of sounds, from agreeable society, from the expectation of seeing a friend, from the prospect of gain or success of any kind.

Laughter, Solomon concluded, is mad (in the sense that people seeking laughter are infatuated with folly).  Folly, v.3, is an act which is inconsistent with the dictates of reason, or with the ordinary rules of prudence.

Solomon found that pleasure is vanity, laughter is mad, and mirth “What doeth it”?  He was none the better after trying it all.

He tried wine, Ecc 2:3

He gave himself to wine.  And he learned a great deal about that, Prov 20:1; Prov 23:29-35.  The results are horrible.  Though he was given to wine, yet he acquainted his heart with wisdom.  That is, he didn’t become a sot drunk.  He was trying to learn.

He tried doing great works, Ecc 2:4-6

He accomplished all the things men do to find satisfaction in their worldly achievements.  Architecture, construction, horticulture, agriculture, and husbandry are listed here.  George Vanderbilt tried the same things when he designed the Biltmore.

He tried accumulating possessions, Ecc 2:7-9

Solomon accumulated more than all that were before him in Jerusalem.  Again he maintained some sense when his “wisdom remained with” him. He was able to objectively and realistically evaluate whether accumulating all this stuff was that good.

He tried covetousness, Ecc 2:10

He helped himself to all that his eyes desired.  He said, “I kept not my heart from any joy”, including many wives.  My heart rejoiced in all my labour: this was my portion.  In other words, he had a good time doing doing great works, accumulating possessions and feeding his covetousness.

What was that good?  No profit, Ecc 2:11

Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought (after he was done). The result was vanity, vexation of spirit, and no profit under the sun.  Why?  Because he had to leave it all here for someone else.  The real profit is above the sun, where you lay up treasures in heaven.

And the men that follow him will attempt the same things and have to learn the same lessons that he learned.  Madness is extreme folly; headstrong passion and rashness that act in opposition to reason.  Anyone who tries to do something different than Solomon did will only do that which hath already been done (he did it all).

He also tried wisdom, Ecc 2:13-16

Wisdom excelleth folly as far as light excelleth darkness.  The wise man’s eyes are in his head (he can see where he is going).  The fool walks in darkness (we say, “he’s in the dark”), like Prov 4:18-19.  One event happeneth to them all.  They are all going to die.  What happens to the fool happens to the wise man.

There is no remembrance of the wise more than the fool.  That which now is in the days to come shall all be forgotten.  Men keep repeating the same works and making the same mistakes. Our generation, if they were wise, would get saved after seeing what the wise men of the prior generation learned.  I preach salvation at funerals and the mourners disregard all that the wise man learned.  Even when Jesus comes, men will be doing Noah’s generation and Sodom and Gomorrah all over again Lk 17:26-30.

What was that good? He hated life, Ecc 2:17

The result of all this is that Solomon “hated life”.  Contrast v.17 and v.10.  Solomon rejoiced while he was doing it, but it became grievous after he was done with the fun.  It was all vanity and vexation of spirit.  Why?

First, he had to leave it all to an heir, Ecc 2:18-21

He hated to leave it to a man after him.  Solomon didn’t know whether he would be a wise man or a fool.  He shall have the rule.  Therefore he despaired of all his labour.  To despair of is to be without hope; to give up all hope or expectation.

Solomon laboured in wisdom, and in knowledge, and in equity (he treated people according to justice and reason – he didn’t come to his wealth by hook and by crook).  Yet to a man that hath not labored therein shall he leave it.  He said this was vanity and a great evil.  Why is this evil?  Because the philosophy that, “I want my children to have it better than I did” often leads to their destruction.

Second, he experienced grief and had no rest accumulating it, Ecc 2:22-23

What hath he? Solomon asked.  He had sorrows, grief, and no rest in the night, Ecc 5:12.  He rejoiced in his accomplishments while doing them, but he had no rest.

What was that good? Contentment, Ecc 2:24-26

Solomon concluded that there is nothing better than to eat, drink, and enjoy good in your labour.  This was from the hand of God.  He decided that men should seek contentment.  An axiom under the sun is that God giveth to a man that is good in his sight wisdom, and knowledge, and joy: but to the sinner God giveth travail to gather and to heap up that he may have to give it to him that is good before God.

Conclusion: What we should know is, “You leave God out of the picture and you’re just wasting your time down here trying to succeed”.  Jesus and Paul taught us, from above the sun:

Godliness with contentment is great gain, 1 Tim 6:6.

Seek ye first the kingdom of God, Matt 6:33

Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, Matt 6:20.

Set your affection on things above, Col 3:1-2

To study the prior lesson in this series, see Things You Cannot Do.  To study the next lesson in this series, see Seasons and Times.