Expanded Biblical Comments / Ebc21 - Ecclesiastes

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The book of Ecclesiastes seems to have been written in later life, when the heart had grown sick with excess of sensuous pleasures and the lack of real happiness which comes from a close and perfect walk with God, when Solomon turned from all his riches and honors with the sad refrain, "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity." From his own experience he proves the truth of his theme, and counsels to others a different course from that which he himself had pursued. R1517:5

The heavenly wisdom of the books of Ecclesiastes, Proverbs and Solomon's Song we accept as of divine direction, as were the words of the prophets, who frequently wrote things they did not comprehend. R2053:4

Summary of the chapters of the book. R1532

Ecclesiastes 1

Ecclesiastes 1:1

Words of the Preacher -- Written in later life, when Solomon's heart had grown sick with excess of sensuous pleasures. R1517:5, R1532:2

Ecclesiastes 1:2

Vanity of vanities -- Proving his theme from his own experience, Solomon counsels to others a different course. R1517:5

Ecclesiastes 1:3

What profit -- An important question, especially for the young; but all would do well to carefully consider it. R1532:2

Ecclesiastes 1:4

But the earth -- The physical earth. A69

"God created it to be inhabited." (Isa. 45:18) R1116:6*; SM313:T

Abideth for ever -- Therefore not to be destroyed by the great tribulations, earthquakes, etc., predicted in the Scriptures. HG398:3, HG417:5

Despite the conclusions of science that the solar system is gradually running down and that eventually the earth will become cold and lifeless. Q771:1

The elements that are for man's supplies will never be exhausted; but will be re-utilized in new forms in a circle that will last into eternity. Q772:2

Therefore "the time of the end" (Dan. 12:4) refers to the end of the age or dispensation, and not to the end of the world. Dxv; OV26:3; Q848:4; HG314:3

In spite of all the creeds of Christendom to the contrary. R2971:2

Ages may end and be succeeded by other ages, but the same physical earth remains. PD18/26; R1615:4

We anticipate that some change will take place in the near future, making the earth more fit than at present for the Millennial kingdom. R3154:6

There is no reason why it should be destroyed; it is not to be burned up with literal fire. SM318:1, SM791:1; R5364:4, R3074:6

Ecclesiastes 1:7

They return again -- So shall it be with the Word of the Lord, it shall not return unto him void, without fruit. R3598:4

Ecclesiastes 1:13

Sore travail -- The present experience under the dominion of sin. R1533:5

Thus testifies one of the most successful men, from the world's standpoint, that ever lived. R1532:3

Exercised therewith -- So that when the Millennial kingdom comes they may be ready for the duty of submission to God. R1533:5

Ecclesiastes 3

Ecclesiastes 3:8

Hate - Despise that which is contrary to the principles of justice and righteousness. "I hate thee with a perfect hatred." (Psa. 139:22) Q783:T

Ecclesiastes 3:9

What profit -- Solomon sees man laboring hard to amass wealth, and wisely inquires thus. R1532:3

Ecclesiastes 3:10

To be exercised -- By experience. R1533:5

Ecclesiastes 3:18

Sons of men -- None of Adam's children are called "Sons of God" until Jesus gave himself a ransom. R1005:2

Beasts -- Those who, by wilful sin, forfeit and lose the likeness of God are to be treated as "natural brute beasts made to be destroyed." (2 Pet. 2:12) R1005:2

The distinction is not in the kind of breath of life, but in that man has a higher organism than other animals. R1880:4

Ecclesiastes 3:19

For that which -- Death. E315

Even one thing -- Even the same thing. E315

The destruction of the tissues goes on, so everything that had life in the body perishes--a process common to both man and beast. R5166:1

So dieth the other -- Your senses can discern no difference between them. R4792:5

Death is not sleep; it is destruction. R5166:1

Such as die the Second Death are not sons; they will be treated as brute beasts, destroyed. R1006:6

But though there is no hope for the future life for the brute, God's Word stands pledged for a future life for humanity. HG646:2

Have all one breath -- Life is not a created element at all, but a principle or force transmuted into different organisms. R822:1*

One kind of ruach, spirit of life; an invisible power or influence. E174, E389; R1880:4

All life is the same whether in fish, fowl, beast, man or angel. R822:2*

But with different bodies and organic quality. E327

No preeminence -- Mankind is not possessed of any power of life beyond that of a beast, except by God's provision; nevertheless, our Creator has made provision for everlasting life for man. R4792:5

Ecclesiastes 3:20

Unto one place -- But for God's mercy the infidel view would be true--no beyond, no future for man after death. SM29:1

Ecclesiastes 3:21

Who knoweth -- Who can prove the popular theory? E315

The wise man challenges any proof, any knowledge to such effect. R1880:4

Spirit of man that -- That the ruach, spirit of life, of man. E315

Goeth upward -- Controverting the heathen theory that man had some inherent quality which would prevent his death, even when he seemed to die. R1880:4; HG331:2

Spirit of the beast that -- That the ruach, spirit of life, of the beast. E315

Goeth downward -- The distinction between man and beast is not in the kind of breath or life, but in man's likeness to God and the provision for his resurrection. R1880:5

Such as die the Second Death will be treated as "brute beasts," destroyed. (2 Pet. 2:12) R1006:6

Ecclesiastes 4

Ecclesiastes 4:9

Two -- Two, as elders together, would be able to accomplish manifold more. R5142:6*

Ecclesiastes 5

Ecclesiastes 5:1

Keep thy foot -- Take heed to your standing, your walk, your conduct. R3990:1

Not literal feet, but being circumspect in one's daily life. R5186:3

Do not go to the house of God as to the market place, or to some place of amusement. R5186:3

Decorum, reverence, is necessary in every place where God is worshipped. R5187:1

House of God -- Whether we meet in a parlor, church, or opera house, the fact that God's people are there makes that building a holy place. R5187:1

Ready to hear -- Listen; not full of mirth. All conversation should be of a kind that would edify, build up, along spiritual lines. R5187:1

We do not know any lesson the Lord's people need to learn more than that of reverence. R5187:2

Sacrifice of fools -- Laughter, levity, foolish talk, jesting. R5186:6

Consider not -- Many parents become so accustomed to the ways of their children that they do not realize that others are being annoyed. R5187:4

To come into the meeting late is out of harmony with the principles of both justice and love. R5187:4

He who is indifferent to the rights of others manifests that he is lacking in the spirit of love. R5187:4

Ecclesiastes 5:2

Before God -- In view of the fact that "All things are naked and open with him with whom we have to do." (Heb. 4:13) R1938:1

For God -- Our Judge. R1938:1

Is in heaven -- Upon the throne. R1938:1

Thou upon earth -- Under trial before the bar of God. R1938:1

Thy words be few -- Thoughtful, wise, as uttered before God; not rash, hasty and ill-considered. R1938:1

Ecclesiastes 5:4

Vowest a vow -- Makest a covenant or promise. R2081:1*

Our "consecration" or "baptismal" vow, if a proper one, was all comprehensive--involving the sacrifice of all that we possessed or ever would acquire. R4238:1

Defer not to pay it -- The Lord expects faithfulness in each one who has taken his covenant upon him. R5855:5

One who consecrates cannot, by subsequently changing his mind, be released from the obligations thus incurred. R2080:6*

Pay that...vowed -- Its observance tends to strengthen the entire life. R5613:6

"It is a snare for a man to devour that which is holy, and after vows to make inquiry." (Prov. 20:25) R4265:5

Ecclesiastes 5:5

Better is it -- Our Lord emphasized the same lesson. (Luke 14:28-33) R4238:2

And not pay -- Its violation serves to weaken the conscience. R5613:6

It is not enough that we have consecrated. It will avail nothing if we prove unfaithful to it, except to rise up in judgment against us. R2154:5

If death is not voluntary the Lord will destroy our flesh. If we resist this it will mean the hopeless death of our being. R5855:5

Ecclesiastes 5:8

Marvel not -- Take comfort that God's judgments will some day be manifest and prevail. R1532:5

That is higher -- God is above all the judges of the earth. R1532:5

Ecclesiastes 5:11

What good is there -- Business prosperity he regards as an empty bubble and the excessive labor to accomplish it as laboring for the wind. R1532:5

Ecclesiastes 6

Ecclesiastes 6:9

Vexation of spirit -- Ruach, mind. E318

Ecclesiastes 6:12

His vain life -- How vain and unsatisfactory is every earthly good when there is no hope beyond the present life. R1532:5

Ecclesiastes 7

Ecclesiastes 7:1

A good name -- On the contrary, the truly consecrated prefer to suffer for righteousness' sake rather than win a good name among men by compromising. R1532:6

A wise worldly policy. Such as seek merely present ease should be careful to maintain a good name. R1532:6

Ecclesiastes 7:2

House of mourning -- Be sympathetic with those in sorrow. R1532:6

Ecclesiastes 7:8

In spirit -- Ruach, mind, disposition. E318 Ecclesiastes 7:9

Hasty In thy spirit -- Not to be hasty tempered. R1532:6 Ecclesiastes 7:14

Day of adversity -- Rendered "evil" in "I create evil." (Isa. 45:7) A125

Ecclesiastes 7:16

Righteous over much -- Since righteousness is not rewarded in the present time, keep your finger on the popular pulse and follow popular ideas. This is not the proper course for the children of God. R1532:6

Over wise -- Solomon counseled an easy course of moderation. Paul advises all who are running for the prize (not open to Solomon) to be "fervent in spirit." (Rom. 12:11) R1533:4

The ease and pleasure seeker will find this to his present advantage. R1532:6

Destroy thyself -- The truly consecrated prefer to suffer for righteousness' sake than to win a good name among men by a compromising policy. R1532:6

Ecclesiastes 7:25

Reason -- Same word as translated "account" in verse 27 and "device" in Eccl. 9:10. R4093:5*

Closely related to, and the result of, understanding. (Ex. 30:23; Isa. 11:2) R4093:5,2*

Ecclesiastes 7:29

Made man upright -- The earthly likeness of his Creator. "In the image of God created he him." (Gen. 1:27) R1510:4, R2394:5; A171; R1794:1, R1266:1, R1091:5, R465:1

But they have -- God is not guilty. R1091:4

Many inventions -- Sinful, contrary devices. R866:1, R1718:3

And defiled and degraded himself. R1718:3, R2394:6, R3256:5; E406

Each different creed shows a slightly different image of God, but they are all horrible. SM443:3

Ecclesiastes 8

Ecclesiastes 8:8

The spirit -- Ruach, spirit of life, spark of life. E317 Ecclesiastes 8:17

Not be able to find -- A knowledge of God's plan was not then due. R1532:6

Ecclesiastes 9

Ecclesiastes 9:1

No man knoweth -- He could not tell certainly from the book of nature whether God loved or hated them. R1532:6

Ecclesiastes 9:5

For the living -- Even the least intelligent. E347

But the dead -- When man dies his personality, the result of his heredity and pre-natal influences combined with his experiences, perishes; for it cannot exist without a body. R5166:2

Death is an actual extinction of being but not the annihilation of matter, which is indestructible. R1377:6

Know not any thing -- Thus neither Dorcas, nor Lazarus, nor the widow of Nain, nor Jairus' daughter had any wonderful experiences or mysterious visions to relate. R1450:5

Thus Jesus could do no preaching while dead, nor the antediluvians any listening. R1679:1, R4176:6; HG727:5

Whoever knows this is fortified against all the deceptions of the evil spirits. SM197:T

All, good and bad, go down to the tomb, to sheol, hades, called in our Bibles, hell. They are experiencing neither joy nor sorrow, pleasure nor suffering awaiting the resurrection. OV362:3; R4551:5, R5131:3,6; SM115:1, SM197:T, CR21:1

The resurrection of the dead is an absolute necessity to any future life or hope or blessing. R5579:2, R5673:6,3; SM99:2

Contrary to the teachings of Spiritism. R2170:2, R3741:3, R3387:2, R4521:2, R5378:2

The various manifestations of Spiritism come not from dead men. R4521:2

Only the Bible teaches that the dead are dead--all other religions teach that death is a deception. R4410:3

During the Jewish age God guarded his typical people against delusions and lying spirits of devils. R1642:6

Is Forgotten -- Is very generally forgotten. E347

Ecclesiastes 9:6

Is now perished -- "In that very day his thoughts perish." (Psa. 146:4) R5166:2

A condition of peaceful unconsciousness. R2172:3

Any more a portion -- An interest. E347

Forever -- Olam, for a long, indefinite period. E347

Ecclesiastes 9:10

With thy might -- We should be actively engaged in doing some good according to our talents and opportunities because we are all hastening to sheol, to the tomb. SM28:T

Solomon shows in this verse that the absence of natural wisdom, knowledge, understanding, counsel and might, brings physical death; the same is true applied spiritually. See comments on Ex. 30:23, 24. R4093:5*

Act quickly therefore; the time is short. R5127:5

There is no work -- Good or bad, praising or cursing. E368

"The dead praise not the Lord, neither any that go down into silence." (Psa. 115:17) R2599:2

The condition of the dead is one of total unconsciousness. R4794:1, 4, R4792:1, R4551:5, R5303:1

The world in general, including infants, will be raised just as they went down, excepting infirmity and disease. R631:5

Therefore the dead will not be required to aid or co-operate in their awakening from the graves, for the can neither assent to nor oppose their awakening. R1509:5

Opportunities now afforded should be exercised to the fullest, for to each one will come a night time when these will pass, as one passes into death. R4149:3

In the literal grave. This does not apply to those merely reckoned dead, but alive as New Creatures in Christ. Q760:1

Nor device -- Planning good, or thinking ill. E368

These four--wisdom, knowledge, device (understanding) and works (results of workmanship) relate to the same four elements in Exo. 31:3 and Isa. 11:2, and to the four ingredients of the holy anointing oil. R4093:5,2*

Nor knowledge -- Holy knowledge or unholy knowledge. E368

"His sons come to honor and he knoweth it not." (Job 14:21) A210

The suggestion that the moment of death is the moment of greater life is of the Adversary. OV215:T

As mankind goes into death, so shall they come out of it; for in it they shall have learned nothing. R721:6, R5167:2

In the grave -- Sheol, oblivion, death, not torment. E348, E368, R4551:6, R4162:5, R2599:2; SM115:1, SM525:2

Since God will "have all men to come to the knowledge of the truth" (I Tim. 2:4); and since mankind have died in ignorance, God has prepared for the awakening of the dead. A106

Since the state of death is an entire suspension of being, man's probation or trial must occur, not in death, but before death or after it has ended--in the resurrection. R902:3*, R2612:2

Whither thou -- The soul, the sentient being. E348

Goest -- Whether wicked or righteous before death. E368; OV362:3

God has prepared for the awakening of the dead in order to knowledge, faith and salvation. OV177:3, OV226:T, A106

Ecclesiastes 9:11

Not to the...strong -- The Lord may grant his blessing with the feebly spoken word if the life be in harmony with the message given out. R4968:5

Ecclesiastes 10

Ecclesiastes 10:1

Dead flies - Theological errors which mar the pleasure and profit of truth. R1211:6, R2064:4

Stinking savour -- Bad spirit. R2064:4

Doctrines of devils in our creeds which blaspheme God's character. R5673:6, R5674:1

Ecclesiastes 10:12

Lips of a fool -- An unwise, reckless talker. R1937:3

Ecclesiastes 11

Ecclesiastes 11:1

Bread -- Truth. R3715:1*

Waters -- Peoples. R3715:1*

Ecclesiastes 11:3

Empty themselves -- Inanimate things act under nature's law--there is nothing to indicate that this text refers to mankind at all. R2048:5

Tree falleth -- When an individual dies. Q767:T

If any lesson or comparison to man were intended, it would be that so man falls helpless in death. R2048:5

There it shall be -- As a tree is powerless to change its position, the world will be raised with the same kind of intelligence with which it went down into death. R2048:5, R4985:6, R4668:4; Q767:T, A105

There is no change in the grave, either for good or for evil. Q588:T "There is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave." (Eccl. 9:10) A106

As one awakening from a sleep finds himself in practically the same condition in which he lay down, plus a slight invigoration, and is able to identify himself and speedily recall the events and circumstances which preceded his sleep. F714

There would he be forever were it not for the divine arrangement for his awakening. HG647:1

The earliest opportunity after death to gain knowledge and form character will be when "all that are in the graves shall come forth." (John 5:28, 29) R2050:5

No change of character takes place in the grave. R2050:5, R1965:4, R545:1

If one were raised perfect he would not know himself--his identity would be gone. R4985:6

They will come forth from the tomb in practically the condition in which they entered it--mentally, morally and physically. R5167:1, R4985:6

Ecclesiastes 11:6

Sow thy seed -- God's message is so grand that whoever receives it in a good and honest heart must desire to live it and tell it to others. R4001:2

Withhold not -- "Sow beside all waters." (Isa. 32:20) If the sowing has been to gather the Lord's Little Flock from every nation, so we must expect the harvest work to be similarly broad. R4000:2

Continue to serve, even when apparently the most favorable opportunities are withheld. R3197:4

Thou knowest not -- By tracting, etc., the truth reaches more people than we might realize. R5915:4*

Ecclesiastes 12

Ecclesiastes 12:1

Remember -- And reverence the Creator, learning also of one's own imperfections and how they were incurred. R3608:4

Pursue a different course in life than I (Solomon) have done. R1533:1, R1517:5

Days of thy youth -- These have the blessed advantage of a long acquaintance with God and of the instruction of his Word. R1671:6

It is a great mistake to presume that young men must first run in the race of pride and ambition with the world, and then be converted to God. R1672:4

Some young people are among the most faithful of those who have consecrated their lives to the Lord. R1672:4

We have many notable examples in the Scriptures of early consecration to the Lord. R1671:3

Before one shall have learned so much of evil that the remainder of life would not suffice to eradicate it. R4838:5

Some parents make a mistake in assuming that their children must have an experience in "sowing wild oats" before they will be prepared to appreciate righteousness. R4837:6

Ecclesiastes 12:1

Evil days -- The bitter harvest that always comes from sowing "wild oats." R1671:6, R3608:4, R1554:2, R4837:6 Of physical decline and infirmity. R1533:2

Come not -- Evil days of disappointment and despair never will come to those who in youth commit their ways unto the Lord. R1671:6

No pleasure -- Unless the mind has found its satisfaction in God there is indeed no pleasure in old age. R1533:2

Ecclesiastes 12:2

Be not darkened -- By dimness of vision, mental and physical. R1533:2

Nor the clouds -- Of trouble, of one kind or another. R1533:2

Ecclesiastes 12:3

Keepers of the house -- Arms and hands. R1533:2

The strong men -- Lower limbs. R1533:2

Bow themselves -- Unable to support the weight of the body. R1533:2

The grinders -- The teeth. R1533:2

Cease -- To perform their office because they are few. R1533:2

And those -- Various mental functions. R1533:2

The windows -- The eyes. R1533:2

Be darkened -- Be dimmed. R1533:2

Ecclesiastes 12:4

Doors shall be shut -- Because old age has little in common with the rising generation and, therefore, less communication. R1533:2

Grinding is low -- When the work of life is done. R1533:2

Voice of the bird -- Rise up early, being unable to sleep well. R1533:2

Be brought low -- The failing powers cease to catch the strains of earthly enchantments, but the ear of faith catches the sweeter strains of heaven's melodies. R1533:2

Ecclesiastes 12:5

A burden -- The great burden, labor and sorrow of extreme old age. R1533:2

His long home -- The grave, there to await the morning of resurrection. R1533:5

Ecclesiastes 12:6

The silver cord -- Of life. R1533:5

The golden bowl -- The body, which contains the precious life blood. R1533:5

The pitcher -- The lungs, which draw in life from the surrounding atmosphere. R1533:5

The wheel -- The heart. R1533:5

Ecclesiastes 12:7

Then shall the dust -- Of which the dying body was composed. R1533:5

Human bodies have crumbled to dust for centuries. R5108:1

Return to the earth -- All mankind, as they die. R5108:1

Reminiscent of the original sentence of death pronounced upon Adam for disobedience. (Gen. 3:19) Q837:4

As it was -- Mere inanimate dust. R1533:5

And the spirit -- Ruach, spirit of life, privilege of living, right to life, power or permission of living. E315; CR397:5; Q206:4, R803:3, R837:4; R5108:2

Since the fall, all mankind have lived without a right to life. R5108:2

Shall return -- God has a right to countermand the right to live. CR397:5

Unto God -- Revert to him, not as a person or as a thing, but as a right or privilege; just as any forfeited privilege reverts to its giver. E315, E317, Q668:T, HG510:5

In the sense that it is no longer amenable to human control, as in procreation, and can never be recovered except by divine power. E344; R1533:5, R5108:2, R1880:5; Q207:T

Who gave it -- Thus reducing man's condition to exactly what it was before he was created. E316

Ecclesiastes 12:8

All is vanity -- The poor world's dying refrain, after a wasted life. R1533:5

Ecclesiastes 12:13

The conclusion -- By the experiences of a wasted life, Solomon finally proved the vanity of every course save that of God's appointment and direction. R1533:1

Keep his commandments -- That they may eventually prove this conclusion is God's object in letting them have the present experience under the dominion of sin. R1533:5

By his experience of a wasted life, Solomon concluded this to be the proper course. The world will have reached a similar conclusion after their experience with sin. R1533:1

Whole duty of man -- Will be enforced in the coming Millennial age of the world's probation. R1533:5

Ecclesiastes 12:14

Into judgment -- The course which Solomon chose and followed surely did not entitle him to a place among the Ancient Worthies. R1533:1

A time of reckoning is coming. R722:2, R2612:6

This is the significance of the present overturning civil and religious. R1538:4, R4902:4

During Messiah's thousand-year reign of righteousness the world will be brought to its judgment. R4902:4, R1653:3

Every secret thing -- We seem to be approaching a time of manifestation. R1954:3

Some shall thus awake to shame and age-lasting contempt. (Dan. 12:2) R2613:4, R722:6

Quite probably the restored man of the Millennial period will have considerable power of mind-reading and intuitive discernment over the imperfect, as our Lord could read the thoughts of the Pharisees. R1954:3

Whether it be good -- The honorable, even though not Christians or saints, will have a better standing in the future time of trial. R4902:5

Whether it be evil -- The dishonorable will need more stripes to rise up out of sin. R4902:5

"The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good." (Prov. 15:3) A145