“As is true with most biblical Wisdom literature, little historical narrative occurs in Ecclesiastes, apart from Solomon’s own personal pilgrimage. The kingly sage studied life with high expectations but repeatedly bemoaned its shortcomings, which he acknowledged were due to the curse. Ecclesiastes represents the painful autobiography of Solomon who, for much of his life, squandered God’s blessings on his own personal pleasure rather than God’s glory. He wrote to warn subsequent generations not to make the same tragic error, in much the same manner that Paul wrote to the Corinthians. The Hebrew word translated “vanity”, “vanities”, and “vain life” expresses the futile attempt to be satisfied apart from God. This word is used 38 times expressing the many things hard to understand about life. All earthly goals and ambitions when pursued as ends in themselves produce only emptiness. Paul was probably echoing Solomon’s dissatisfaction when he wrote, “…the creation was subjected to futility” (Solomon’s “vanity”: Rom. 8:19-21). Solomon’s experience with the effects of the curse (see Gen. 3:17-19) led him to view life as “chasing after the wind.” Solomon asked, “What advantage does a man have in all his work…?” (1:3), a question he repeated in 2:22 and 3:9. The wise king gave over a considerable portion of the book to addressing this dilemma. The impossibility of discovering both the inner workings of God’s creation and the personal providence of God in Solomon’s life were also deeply troubling to the king, as they were to Job. But the reality of judgement for all, despite many unknowns, emerged as the great certainty. In light of this judgement by God, the only fulfilled life is one lived in proper recognition of God and service to Him. Any other kind of life is frustrating and pointless.”

Excerpt taken from the MacArthur Study Bible.

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