The End of the Wise and the Fool
Then I turned myself to consider wisdom and madness and folly–
For what can the man do who succeeds the king?
Only what he has already done.
Then I saw that wisdom excels folly as light excels darkness.
So I said in my heart,
“As it happens to the fool, it also happens to me,
And why was I then more wise?”
Then I said in my heart, “This also is vanity.”
For there is no more remembrance of the wise than of the fool forever.
There is one thing Solomon did that made all of his life worthwhile. He wrote Ecclesiastes from the mistakes he made. We can be assured that Solomon did return back to his faith in Lord, God of Israel.
Ecclesiastes — which means “Preacher.” Solomon was a man who had sinned in giving way to selfishness and sensuality, who has paid the penalty of that sin in “weariness of life”, but who has through all this been under the discipline of a divine education. He learned from it the lesson which God meant to teach him. He points out clearly that the secret of a true life is that a man should consecrate the vigor and vitality of his youth to God. All man’s efforts to find happiness apart from God are of no result. The key statement of Ecclesiastes is chapter 1 :2:
“Vanity of vanities! saith the Preacher, Vanity of vanities! all is vanity!”
Oppression, Toil, and a Man without Friends
1 Again I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun: I saw the tears of the oppressed– and they have no comforter; power was on the side of their oppressors– and they have no comforter. 2 And I declared that the dead who had already died, are happier than the living, who are still alive. 3 But better than both is he who has not yet been, who has not seen the evil that is done under the sun. 4 And I saw that all labor and all achievement spring from man’s envy of his neighbor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. 5 The fool folds his hands and ruins himself. 6 Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind. 7 Again I saw something meaningless under the sun: 8 There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. “For whom am I toiling,” he asked, “and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?” This too is meaningless– a miserable business! 9 Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: 10 If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! 11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? 12 Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken..
Advancement Is Meaningless
13 Better a poor but wise youth than an old but foolish king who no longer knows how to take warning. 14 The youth may have come from prison to the kingship, or he may have been born in poverty within his kingdom. 15 I saw that all who lived and walked under the sun followed the youth, the king’s successor. 16 There was no end to all the people who were before them. But those who came later were not pleased with the successor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
The Confidence of the Foolish
1 Hear this, all peoples; Give ear, all inhabitants of the world,
2 Both low and high,
Rich and poor together.
3 My mouth shall speak wisdom,
And the meditation of my heart shall give understanding.
4 I will incline my ear to a proverb;
I will disclose my dark saying on the harp.
5 Why should I fear in the days of evil,
When the iniquity at my heels surrounds me?
And boast in the multitude of their riches,
7 None of them can by any means redeem his brother,
Nor give to God a ransom for him—
And it shall cease forever—
9 That he should continue to live eternally,
And not see the Pit.
10 For he sees wise men die;
Likewise the fool and the senseless person perish,
And leave their wealth to others.
11 Their inner thought is that their houses will last forever,
Their dwelling places to all generations;
They call their lands after their own names.
He is like the beasts that perish.
And of their posterity who approve their sayings. Selah
14 Like sheep they are laid in the grave;
Death shall feed on them;
The upright shall have dominion over them in the morning;
And their beauty shall be consumed in the grave, far from their dwelling.
For He shall receive me. Selah
16 Do not be afraid when one becomes rich,
When the glory of his house is increased;
17 For when he dies he shall carry nothing away;
His glory shall not descend after him.
(For men will praise you when you do well for yourself),
19 He shall go to the generation of his fathers; they shall never see light.