New European Commentary


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Ecc 7:1 A good name is better than fine perfume; and the day of death better than the day of one’s birth-
This is how Solomon imagines things should ideally be. But for him, he had just lamented that his name would be despised after his death, and his burial would therefore be with shame (see on Ecc. 6:3,4). And indeed, after his death the people complained of how he had so bitterly whipped and abused them (1 Kings 12:11). He accurately foresaw it all, including Rehoboam's rebellion and the division of the kingdom. But he does nothing about it.

This is yet another example of Hezekiah's cynicism now God had given him 15 years to live. He saw death as better than life, because his life was not devoted to God and he had no future hope of the Kingdom. The parallel is between having "a good name" and "the day of death". His only hope for the future was in having a good name amongst his generation in the nations around him after his death. In the Hezekiah context, we recall that he was given much precious ointment (Is. 38:2). But he sacrificed the future welfare of his sons and his people for 15 years of personal prosperity, risking leaving a bad name for himself at death. He now realizes this, but makes no repentance. 

Ecc 7:2 It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men-
But Solomon admits he himself is as the old king who will no longer be admonished (Ecc. 4:13). But he urges others to be admonished (Ecc. 12:12), and to go to funerals instead of wedding parties [of which Solomon must have had many], so that they might "take to heart" wisdom (Ecc. 7:2), although Solomon says this was "far from me" himself (Ecc. 7:23). He preached God's truth, he accepted it as true, whilst refusing to personalize it himself. He really is a parade example of the dangers inherent in glorying in our mere possession of Divine truth.  

The idea could be that if you go to a wedding, then the couple will "take this to heart" and may bless you in future. But if you go to a funeral, you will not get any blessing from the dead person. But we note the view that a funeral "is the end of all men". He has no hope beyond the grave. This was the root problem for both Solomon and Hezekiah.

And the living should take this to heart- The only other occurrence of this phrase is also in Ecclesiastes, at Ecc. 9:1 where Solomon says that the conclusions he is now giving in the book are because he has 'laid it to his heart' ("I considered in my heart [same Hebrew phrase], in order to declare all this"). Solomon says that faced with death, a wise man [he clearly has himself in view] will consider or lay life to his heart. Ecclesiastes appears to be Solomon's reflections as an old man facing death, rejecting the Divine wisdom he was given as a young man, whilst still holding on to it in some ways. His encounter with his own upcoming death is cited by him as the source of his new wave of wisdom. This spiritual biography of Solomon is recorded for our learning as a unique insight into the deepest psychology of a man who turns away from God's Truth to his own human reflections and meanderings. This is frequently how God in His wisdom teaches us- through the example of failures. This isn't negative psychology- increasingly universities now teach through 'problem based learning'.

Ecc 7:3 Sorrow is better than laughter; for by the sadness of the face the heart is made good-
The idea is that going to a funeral and sorrowing is better than the laughter of a wedding feast (Ecc. 7:2,3). Yet despite realizing this on an intellectual level, Solomon personally commended mirth / laughter to himself (Ecc. 8:15), and advises removing sorrow from the heart (Ecc. 11:10). Again we see Solomon's amazing ability, indeed the ability of human nature, to comprehend truth on one level, and yet reason and live exactly and precisely and consciously the opposite.

Solomon sees wisdom as the way to wealth and "pleasure" in this life, and that is the basis for his appeal to men to be wise and accept his wisdom (Prov. 10:23). But David uses the word only of the "pleasure" of the future, restored Kingdom of God on earth (Ps. 126:2); whereas Solomon wanted it all now, just as the 'prosperity gospel' likewise does. And yet as he got older, Solomon realized that such "pleasure" from material things is not in fact pleasure, and he uses the word several times in Ecclesiastes of how pleasure in this life is vain (Ecc. 2:2; 7:3; 10:19). This approach is in fact a contradiction of his seeking after "pleasure" in Proverbs. He came to this nihilistic position because he failed to perceive that the true "pleasure" is not now, but in the future Kingdom.  

Ecc 7:4 The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth-
He speaks of how laughter, mirth and songs are not the pursuit of the wise- and yet these are the very things he gave himself to, whilst at the same time possessing theoretical wisdom (Ecc. 7:3-5). On one hand Solomon condemns mirth (Ecc. 7:4; Prov. 20:32 LXX "If thou abandon thyself to mirth, and stretch forth thine hand in a quarrel, thou shalt be disgraced"). But this is exactly what Solomon did in Ecc. 2:1,2; 8:15. He refused to accept his own wisdom. It was merely a teaching position, and he felt the need to empirically find its truth. he failed to personalize the wisdom he taught, and therefore turned away in the end .

Ecc 7:5 It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools-
But Solomon chose to surround himself with singers and every kind of music (Ecc. 2:8). He realizes that the singers were what he calls "fools", but he still indulged in it. Just as someone might openly confess that certain entertainment is foolish and unspiritual, but still indulge in it. Whilst knowing that he needed rebuke from the wise, it would seem that Solomon never accepted it. But he knew on another level that this was what he should do. This idea of knowing on one level but not another is fundamental to understanding human behaviour. We have a profound and realistic insight into it in the autobiography and piercing self analysis of Ecclesiastes.

Ecc 7:6 For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool. This also is vanity-
But knowing this, Solomon commends mirth in Ecc. 8:15. On one hand Solomon condemns mirth (Ecc. 7:4,6; Prov. 20:32 LXX "If thou abandon thyself to mirth, and stretch forth thine hand in a quarrel, thou shalt be disgraced"). But this is exactly what Solomon commends in Ecc. 2:1,2; 8:15. He refused to accept his own wisdom. It was merely a teaching position, and he felt the need to empirically find its truth. he failed to personalize the wisdom he taught, and therefore turned away in the end.

Ecc 7:7 Surely extortion makes the wise man foolish; and a bribe destroys the understanding-
"Surely oppression maketh a wise man foolish” (Ecc. 7:7 RV), he commented at the end of his life- even though right then he was chastising the people with whips, oppressing them (1 Kings 12:11). He knew the true wisdom, he saw his reflection so accurately in the mirror, a wise man made foolish, but resigned from its personal implications. He could even write that “I returned and considered all the oppression that are done under the sun [by himself!]: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power [Solomon was king and had set up the tax system in a clever and biased way]; but they had no comforter” (Ecc. 4:1; 5:8). It was a real case of spiritual schizophrenia- he sorrowed for the people he oppressed. He even seems to say that there is nothing to be surprised at in the poor being oppressed, because the whole hierarchy of officialdom above them do the same (Ecc. 5:2). He saw his sin as inevitable, as part of his participation in humanity- he didn’t own up to his own desperate need for grace. Yet he also knew that “man lords it over man [cp. Solomon’s oppression of the people] to his own hurt” (Ecc. 8:9 RSV).  

The Hebrew for "oppression" is also translated "quarreling".

Ecc 7:8 Better is the end of a thing than its beginning. The patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit-
This again is an example of Solomon's piercing self examination. Indeed he was "proud in spirit" and impatient. He wanted the outcome of wisdom immediately, in this life, and has no faith expressed in any future Kingdom of God on earth, a future day of judgment or eternal recompense in it. Despite knowing that the end is better than the beginning, he was too impatient to wait for that "end", and so turned away from Yahweh to idols who apparently offered immediate gratification.

Ecc 7:9 Don’t be hasty in your spirit to be angry, for anger rests in the bosom of fools-
GNB "it is foolish to harbor a grudge". It seems that Solomon is here painting an accurate picture of himself. The book of Proverbs is full of sideways swipes at his half brothers, Absalom especially. Despite all his material wealth, Solomon died an angry man full of regrets; because he had not accepted God's grace.

Ecc 7:10 Don’t say, Why were the former days better than these? For you do not ask wisely about this-
Is this Solomon's cynical take on Dt. 4:32, where God challenged Israel to think of the former days and marvel at God's power displayed in them...?

The Lord recognized the essential conservatism of human nature when He observed that no matter how good the new wine, we will think that “the old is better” (Lk. 5:39), taking it as read that “the former days [are perceived to be] better than these” (Ecc. 7:10). Yes, for all our much vaunted liberalism and open mindedness, our reasonable openness to new ideas which we assume we have- we are conservatives by nature. Don’t disturb me or upset my social club. The seed of the Gospel was sown in our lives so that we might bring forth fruit. Not to just be retained and to lay dormant. The Lord’s judgment of the one talent man may seem unusually harsh- he who carefully preserved the talent (and the same Greek word is used later in the New Testament about the need to “preserve” the Truth). He didn’t spend it on himself. Didn’t lose it. Didn’t let it get dirty. Didn’t forget where he buried it. But his inaction was the basis of his condemnation.

LXX "Say not, What has happened, that the former days were better than these? for thou dost not enquire in wisdom concerning this". Yet I suggested on :9 that Solomon went to his grave with regrets, lamenting that the glory days of his father David had not continued. But they were not really glory days, only in Solomon's biased recollection.

Ecc 7:11 Wisdom is as good as an inheritance. Yes, it is more excellent for those who see the sun-
GNB "Everyone who lives ought to be wise; it is as good as receiving an inheritance". But Solomon elsewhere despises wisdom, considering it to have no ultimate advantage over folly, because of the problem of eternal death which he sees it as unable to affect. His worry about the inheritance he would leave, and whether Rehoboam would be wise, is because he realizes that wisdom cannot be passed on. The idea may be that an inheritance is no good unless it has wisdom with it. Hezekiah would have thought this about Manasseh, who inherited his vast wealth but had no wisdom.

Ecc 7:12 For wisdom is a defence, even as money is a defence; but the excellency of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the life of him who has it-
The comparison of wisdom with money reflects how Solomon sees wisdom as only helpful in this life, on a secular level. Hence LXX "For wisdom in its shadow is as the shadow of silver: and the excellence of the knowledge of wisdom will give life to him that has it". And many comments in Proverbs seem to highlight only the secular advantages of being wise. Solomon repeatedly complains that the wise and foolish die the same death, and so his comment that wisdom preserves life must apply only to its use in preserving secular life.

Even if we insist that "wisdom gives life" means 'eternal life' [which I doubt, as Solomon has no real belief in this, especially at the end of his life], then we can simply reflect that Solomon did not accept this as true for himself. In the end, Solomon felt that for himself, it was as well to be righteous as to be wicked, for in death there was no further difference (Ecc. 9:2,5,9). He knows judgment will come (Ecc. 11:9), at least for the young people, but he reasons as if it won’t- at least not for him. He knows, but he doesn’t know on the personal, experiential level. This is why there are apparently contradictory statements in Ecclesiastes. For example, the wise dies as the fool, with no more eternal remembrance than the fool (Ecc. 2:15,16). This, Solomon, says, is what he himself believes in his own heart. But in Ecc. 7:12 he says that wisdom gives life to those who have it. But then again in Ecc. 9:16-18 he observes that although wisdom can help, it’s benefits are easily undone, so easily as to make it useless. I don’t see these different perspectives as being the difference between life in the world and life in the spiritual realm. They are all spoken with conviction by Solomon, which, to my mind, ruins the idea that he himself believed the Truth but was simply outlining what life is like without God.  My resolution of this is that he knew and preached God’s Truth, but for him personally, it meant nothing at all. And therefore in practice he advocated the life of self-enjoyment, acting as if all the other truth of wisdom was not operative in practice.

"Defence" is Heb. 'shadow'. There are so many allusions to shadows in Ecclesiastes, understandable if Hezekiah was the author, reflecting on the result of the shadow going back to give him another few years before death. He now realizes that only wisdom can preserve life. And his life had been preserved for 15 years for other reasons, and he felt he had no hope of anything more- because he accepts that wisdom is personally "far from me".

Ecc 7:13 Consider the work of God, for who can make that straight, which He has made crooked?-
The Hebrew and also LXX understands the "crooked" as a person, "for who shall be able to straighten him whom God has made crooked?". This could continue Solomon's cynical approach that all is predetermined by God and therefore His demand to judge people is unreasonable (see on Ecc. 3:15). But Solomon may have in view the reality of death, which could not be escaped. "Made crooked" is s.w. Ecc. 12:3 about the old man being 'bowed down'. Given the context of death, the idea may be that the effects of the aging process are from God and cannot be undone by man. This would pave the way for the teaching of :14, that the nature and extent of our lives and life experiences are all controlled by God and [according to Solomon] we cannot intervene in those processes; and therefore relationship with Him is pointless. But we must remember that he wrote this in old age, as his autobiography, when he had already turned away from God. So I assume this is all said tongue in cheek about God.

In contrast to Hezekiah reasoning with God that he not die when intended, he has now retreated to the position of thinking that all is foreordained and human spiritual effort makes no difference. This was very much the spirit in which at the end of Isaiah 39 he accepts God's judgment upon him, rather than again seeking to reason with God to change that possible outcome. This is the same idea as in :14, that joy and adversity come from God on whatever days He chooses, and man cannot change that. Likewise in :15, Hezekiah reasons that being righteous or wicked is irrelevant because everything is chance dictated by a Divine hand that operates at random. This was a studied rejection of the grace shown Hezekiah by Yahweh. For his healing and Zion's deliverance from Assyria had not been random, but a conscious gift of grace. Indeed in :16 he goes further and warns against being overly righteous as the stress he imagines comes with it might destroy you before your time.

Ecc 7:14 In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider; yes, God has made the one side by side with the other, to the end that man should not find out anything after Him-
As explained on :13, Solomon is writing about "God" at a time when he has turned away from Him. The Hebrew here is difficult, but the idea may be that we receive from God the right amount of good and evil, so that by the end of our lives there is no need for anything to be added. This would mean that every experience in life is designed by God and is perfectly designed right to the end, so that we have been developed, at least potentially, to the point He wishes. This is true; but then Solomon mocks that truth by saying that this is so that man cannot find out about the future after death (Ecc. 3:22; 6:12; 10:14). Even at Solomon's time, the hope of resurrection from the dead and final judgment and reward in God's Kingdom upon the earth was well established. David so clearly believed it. But Solomon willfully refuses to.



Ecc 7:15 All this have I seen in my days of vanity: there is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who lives long in his evildoing-
This is exactly the postmodern mindset of our world today- to have no passion, to dip into everything in moderation, to live in the mire of mediocrity. GNB "My life has been useless, but in it I have seen everything". Experiencing / seeing things does not make life meaningful. One can travel the world sightseeing, but still life is useless unless used for God. The reasoning here is that righteousness like wisdom is pointless; a righteous man dies you whereas the wicked may live long. Solomon refuses to accept the perspective of resurrection from the dead and a final judgment with eternal consequence in God's future Kingdom. And therefore indeed righteousness appears pointless and futile. We note that Solomon stresses that this is his personal conclusion and belief. Without doubt he has personally rejected righteousness and wisdom.

Koheleth's words here directly contradict the Old Covenant's promise of long life in return for obedience. But he never uses the term "Yahweh" and reasons as if he is not in covenant with Yahweh. Hezekiah is here ignoring the wonder of the grace shown to him- that his premature death had been reversed and his days extended by grace alone.

Ecc 7:16 Don’t be overly righteous, neither make yourself overly wise. Why should you destroy yourself?-
This is again a kind of regret expressed by Solomon that he had asked God for wisdom, and God's commendation of his choice is thereby despised by Solomon. He has often said that wisdom is useful for this life; but he advises a life of moderation. He thinks that righteousness has no eternal reward (see on :15), and in fact too much wisdom could be self destructive. He seems to have himself in view as the parade example.

The Hebrew term for "righteous over much" occurs only elsewhere in the Proverbs, where Solomon uses it as something to be praised and respected (Prov. 28:28; 29:2,16). But now Solomon despises his desire and respect for wisdom and righteousness, considering that the way of wisdom, as he now saw it, was to be both wise and foolish, to sin a little and be righteous a little. The philosophy of 'balance' he now reached, having a little of both, was in fact how he had lived his life in practice all along. Now in his old age he tries to intellectually and spiritually justify it.

"Overly wise" is a term which occurs only once elsewhere in the Old Testament, in Ecc. 2:15, where Solomon recalls that he had made himself "more wise" by asking for wisdom. Now in his cynicism he regrets that request for wisdom which had at the time been so pleasing to God. The blasphemy of those statements in Ecclesiastes  that  wisdom is meaningless is hard to plumb. Deep within  his  heart, Solomon's attitude was that "As it happeneth to  the  fool,  so it happeneth even to me (the man made wise by God); and why was I then more wise?" (Ecc. 2:15). Ecc. 7:16 is in similar  vein: "Be not righteous over much; neither make thyself over wise"-  even  though wisdom and righteousness are what God desires  from  us  above  all!  This despising of wisdom and the truly  spiritually  ambitious  life was due to Solomon's lack of faith in a resurrection; he had his kingdom in this life, and he failed to see the blinding necessity of a resurrection, judgment and  change  of nature.

Ecc 7:17 Don’t be too wicked, neither be foolish. Why should you die before your time?-
Solomon had earlier taught that the righteous / wise live long lives, and therefore the unwise have shorter lives (Prov. 9:11; 10:27). But now in Ecc. 7:15 he says this isn't true to observed reality. Long life was the promise for obedience to the old covenant (s.w. Dt. 11:21). But it is not always the case, as Job learned (s.w. Job 29:18); righteous men like David and Hezekiah felt their days had been shortened (s.w. Ps. 89:45; 102:23). And it was so with the Lord Jesus. And faithful men often lament that the wicked seem to get long life, whilst the righteous don't. The answer to that conundrum is that final blessing of long life is at the resurrection, at the last day; and not in this life. But Solomon didn't see that; he thought that long life now was the only reward. He failed to perceive the real meaning of the Gospel of the Kingdom.

Koheleth's position is precisely that of postmodernist man today. And that is the vital relevance of Ecclesiastes for today. Abuse alcohol or drugs with temperate, moderate indulgence... but not too often, lest you become addicted. Be a good guy... but everything in balance, don't get too into righteousness. And he will go on in Ecc. 8 to advocate keeping a careful distance from "God".  

Ecc 7:18 It is good that you should take hold of this. Yes, also from that don’t withdraw your hand; for he who fears God will come forth from them all-
The "this" and "that" refer to excessive wisdom / righteousness and excessive folly (:16,17). Again Solomon appears to refer to God skeptically, suggesting that true worship of God is beyond being righteous or sinful. ESV: "It is good that you should take hold of this, and from that withhold not your hand, for the one who fears God shall come out from both of them". Solomon here explicitly preaches what he practiced in his life- the 'little of both' syndrome. "The one who fears God shall come out from both of them" could perhaps be paraphrased as meaning 'The truly spiritual person will mature beyond this simplistic understanding of sin and righteousness'. This is new age philosophy- that morality is but a paradigm which the spiritually mature have grown or [supposedly] matured out of.

As discussed on :13, Hezekiah in this section is arguing that both righteousness and sin lead to the same meaningless end. So here he advises to take hold of "this", the righteousness of :16, and also take hold also of folly (:17). But "he that fears God shall discharge himself of them all" (Heb.). I take that as absolute cynicism about God, although the translators scramble to cover over the full force of the skepticism. He's saying 'And if you fear God you get some blessing, right, isn't that the idea, and so the blessing will be to get out of this meaningless life by dying and then you won't have any more choices between righteousness and folly'.

Ecc 7:19 Wisdom is a strength to the wise man more than ten rulers who are in a city-
Solomon perhaps perceives that after him there will come many rulers in the city of Jerusalem, but they will be many because of their lack of wisdom. He likes to imagine that he as the wise man had therefore had a long reign.

Verse 20 appears to continue the theme of verses 15-20- and so verse 19 must fit in to that theme, surely. Perhaps the idea is that the truly wise are stronger than any apparently strong people in society- in that, as taught at the end of :18, they have matured beyond living by a paradigm of sin and righteousness. Thus Solomon has effectively rejected the wisdom given him by God and come to a new 'wisdom' or a-morality. This would explain the reference to two types of wisdom in :23,24 [see notes there].

Despite the previous verses arguing that righteousness is a meaningless choice in the ultimate view of life and death, Hezekiah cannot avoid the niggle of obvious Divine truth. He has to go on to say that wisdom is of course very useful. Although we may perceive a difference in his reasoning between his view of righteousness and wisdom. Wisdom is, after all, a handy thing to have in this life. Even if, as he considers, it has no impact on the utter finality of death. The ten rulers in the city [of Jerusalem] could refer to the fact there had been ten kings in Jerusalem over Judah before Hezekiah. And he considers them all fools.

Ecc 7:20 Surely there is not a righteous man on earth, who does good and doesn’t sin-
This is true but it appears to be using this truth as a justification for downgrading 'sin' to something inevitable, merely part of being human as he has argued in :15-17. See on :18. This is a far cry from the Hezekiah who gratefully thanked God for casting all his sins behind His back. He now sees sin as inevitable and not, therefore, something that should be an issue for God. And having earlier in this section argued that the choice between righteousness and folly is without eternal consequence, he now nuances that by saying that in any case, nobody is truly righteous. So, the idea of choosing righteousness is thereby purely theoretical and therefore meaningless. Hezekiah's faulty reasoning here could have been avoided had he been focused upon the future Messiah- for He would be the one righteous man on earth who did good and didn't sin.

Ecc 7:21 Also don’t take heed to all words that are spoken, lest you hear your servant curse you-
Again, whilst this is true, the implication is that sin is inevitable and that morality or obedience to commandment is not something to overly worry about. See on :18. Perhaps Solomon had in view David paying too much attention to the cursing of his servant Shimei, and [as the Psalms show] beating himself up over it.

Ecc 7:22 for often your own heart knows that you yourself have likewise cursed others-
LXX "For many times he shall trespass against thee, and repeatedly shall he afflict thine heart; for thus also hast thou cursed others". Surely Solomon has in view his problems with his servant Jeroboam, whose rebellion against him was clearly very upsetting to Solomon deep within him. He considered himself omnipotent, and his servant had upset that narrative.

Ecc 7:23 All this have I proved in wisdom. I said, I will be wise; but it was far from me-
This was Solomon's problem. He admits as noted on Ecc. 10:2 that his wisdom was never in his heart, it "was far from me" as he expresses it here. The wisdom he asked for and so desired in his youth was given to him, but it was far from him personally- just as God's Truth can be far from the heart of those who find, possess, maintain and teach it today. And so he considers that his own later wisdom was greater than the wisdom given him by God at the start. "Far" can equally well mean 'far away in time', and the Hebrew is translated elsewhere as "long ago" or "of old". He could be saying that it was a long time ago that he had asked to be wise, and now that wisdom was different to the 'wisdom' by which he had 'proved' that morality is meaningless, sin is inevitable and we can just act as we wish (:15-22; see on :19,24).

At  the  end  of his days, he recognized that although  he  had  loved  the  theory  of wisdom, the image of a spiritual  life, the wisdom of God had never really impacted his soul: "I said, I will be wise (referring back to his request for wisdom  in  1  Kings 3); but it was far from me". His request  for wisdom had only been so that he could do the job of leading  Israel, living out the parental expectation of his father, whom he admits in Proverbs 4 had taught him to ask for wisdom. 

Solomon admits he himself is as the old king who will no longer be admonished (Ecc. 4:13). But he urges others to be admonished (Ecc. 12:12), and to go to funerals instead of wedding parties [of which Solomon must have had many], so that they might "take to heart" wisdom (Ecc. 7:2), although Solomon says this was "for from me" himself (Ecc. 7:23). He preached God's truth, he accepted it as true, whilst refusing to personalize it himself. He really is a parade example of the dangers inherent in glorying in our mere possession of Divine truth.  

Ecc 7:24 That which is, is far off and exceedingly deep-
"Far off" is s.w. :23 "far [from me]". That which is far off and unobtainable therefore refers to the wisdom which Solomon had asked for and been given in his youth; but he now says that true wisdom is unobtainable by man. He downgraded the concept of truth by saying that ultimate truth cannot be found and therefore the search for it is primitive and meaningless. All we are left to do is to exist for this brief life. This is the end result of continually downplaying 'truth'.

Who can find it out?-
David had encouraged Solomon to ask for wisdom and to seek and "find" God (1 Chron. 28:9 s.w.); and so often in Proverbs, Solomon had rejoiced that wisdom could be "found" (s.w. Prov. 2:5; 3:13 "happy is the man who finds wisdom"; 4:22; 8:9,12,17,35; 24:14). But now Solomon considers that ultimate wisdom cannot be "found", but rather he feels he has "found" [s.w.] the wisdom of meaninglessness by his own personal reflections (s.w. :26,27,28). Here again we see the two different types of 'wisdom' and 'finding' which Solomon has in view (see on :23).

The context of :24 is the statement in :23 that wisdom was "far from me". Again, the author cannot bring himself to describe all wisdom as bunk. He retreats to the position that there is "wisdom", but it's too difficult to find. He says the same in Ecc. 8:1 "Who knows the interpretation of a thing?", which appears to continue the theme here despite the chapter break. It's a major theme in Ecclesiastes: "Who knows?" 2:19; 3:21; 6:12; "Who can tell?" 6:12; 8:7; 10:14; "Who can find?" 7:24. The answer of course is God through the Lord Jesus. And so those who once lived active spiritual lives can retreat to a position that they have no idea what truth is, because [they say] it's too complicated to find it. There are too many options, especially in the age of information explosion. But this is an excuse. God's truth is there for the humble to easily find- if they seek it in Christ.

Ecc 7:25 I turned around, and my heart sought to know and to search out, and to seek wisdom and the scheme of things, and to know that wickedness is stupidity, and that foolishness is madness-
This turning around is not any reference to repentance, as some like to imagine. It rather refers to the change of mind within Solomon, rejecting God's wisdom and morality for his own, as explained on the previous verses. "To seek out wisdom" must be understood in the context of the notes on :19,23,24. God had given Solomon wisdom- as a pure gift. But now he has rejected that and is trying to search out 'wisdom' for himself- and coming to wrong conclusions. So many who were given God's wisdom in their youth have made the same error.

Ecc 7:26 I find more bitter than death the woman whose heart is snares and traps, whose hands are chains. Whoever pleases God shall escape from her; but the sinner will be ensnared by her-
Solomon had over 1000 wives, and slept with whom he chose. But he laments in Prov. 30:15,19 how he lives in fear of his wives committing adultery. He mentions a particular woman and her daughters who he describes as blood sucking leaches, who have broken his heart and irritate and anger him because they are so insatiable. Solomon, the apparently powerful over women, becomes ensnared by them, as he laments here. This a clear reference back to Solomon’s own entanglement. In his younger days, he had found “the hair of thine head like the purple of a king [i.e. he imagined her to be suited to him, the King of Israel, when she wasn’t]; the king is held captive in the tresses thereof” (Song 7:5 RV). 

Solomon was evidently fascinated by Samson. His writings contain many allusions to him. Thus he speaks of how he found "more bitter than death the woman, whose heart is snares, and her hands as bands ("fetters", RSV): whoso pleaseth God shall escape her; but the sinner shall be taken by her" (Ecc. 7:26 AV). His constant warnings about the danger of the Gentile (AV "strange") woman are all commands to learn from the example of Samson. All these passages allude to Samson (e.g. Prov. 5:20; 6:26-28; 7:21-27). Often the Proverbs allude to characters in Israel's history. The references to a wise son rejoicing his father and mother (Prov. 23:25) and saddening them by his folly shout for application to Samson. The warnings about not looking at a strange woman recall how Samson saw the Philistine girl in Timnath and the prostitute in Gaza (Jud. 14:1; 16:1).

Joshua's prophecy that those who married the surrounding women would find them "a snare and a trap for you, a scourge in your sides, and thorns in your eyes" (Josh. 23:12,13 RSV) was fulfilled in Samson's relationship with Delilah and in Solomon's experience likewise. But the similarity is such that surely Samson must have been aware of it, when he asked Delilah to tie him up with cords. Joshua's words were not too distant history and surely Samson knew them. This is Samson at his darkest. He was mixing up his sex game with Delilah with Joshua's words. Joshua had said that these women would tie up the Israelite man if they married them. Samson didn't marry her; it is possible that she was a renegade Israelite, not a Gentile; and he wanted to show that actually Samson could handle a bit of fun with Delilah without really breaking the spirit of Joshua's words. And so as he broke those bands each time to go out and kill some more Philistine warriors, he doubtless felt he was still in spiritual control.

Solomon made exactly the same mistake; he took foreign wives. And the record comments: "of the nations concerning which the Lord had said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall not go in to them, neither shall they come in unto you: for surely they will turn away your heart... and his wives turned away his heart" (1 Kings 11:1-3). The implication is that Solomon took those wives thinking 'Well, I know the law says they will surely turn away my heart, but actually they won't, I can handle it'; and he didn't handle it. Solomon seems to have realized, in the bitterness of Ecclesiastes, that he had made the same mistake as Samson: "I find more bitter than death [i.e. it would be better to be dead than be in this position] the woman, whose heart is snares and nets, and her hands as bands: whoso pleaseth God shall escape from her; but the sinner shall be taken by her" (Ecc. 7:26). These were surely Samson's thoughts in those eyeless weeks in Gaza: better to have died than to have been snared by Gentile women. He let her snare him, conscious of the allusion to Joshua's words; and thought he could break free from the relationship at will. But in the end, he couldn't. Any form of sin is by nature addictive. The only way of dealing with it is to break completely. The Lord taught this when He spoke of the need to gouge out the eye that offends our spirituality. And He was alluding to how Samson's eyes were 'picked out' (Young), "gouged out" (Jud. 16:21 RSV). We either do it to ourselves, or the Lord will do it to us. He will have the conquest over sin in our existence, ultimately. Either we work with Him in this, and thereby remain with Him eternally; or we foolishly resist Him, and He has His way against our will, and in doing so destroys us. With a logic like this, any sacrifice is logically given. But more than logic. If we truly love the Lord God and His Son, the desire to give, to serve for nothing, will render this logical encouragement unnecessary.

Even in the cynicism of Ecclesiastes, written in Solomon’s later life, he still uses words and phrases which have their root in his father David- e.g. his description of women as snares in Ecc. 7:26 goes back to how his father dealt with women who were a snare (1 Sam. 18:21). And the whole description of old age in Ecc. 12 is based on his father’s experience with Barzillai (2 Sam. 19:35).

Solomon as an  old  man says that the man who pleases God will free himself from the snare of women, but the sinner will be taken captive by her;  yet  as an old man, Solomon's heart was turned away by his wives  (1  Kings  11:4-7).  He saw himself as the sinner, rather than the man who was personally trying to please God. The way he built  idol  temples  for those women on mock temple mounts near Jerusalem  was surely a studied statement that he saw himself as a hopeless apostate (2 Kings 23:13). Like the alcoholic or drug abuser, Solomon could analyze his problem so accurately- and yet do nothing about it. This is the utter tragedy of all spiritual failure.


Ecc 7:27 Behold, I have found this, says the Preacher, one to another, to find out the scheme-
Or as AV "Counting one by one", perhaps going through his wives. The original could imply 'experiencing one thing after another', i.e. the things he lists in chapter 2, following every whim and passion of the flesh to see where it leads. Instead of accepting God's revealed wisdom, he proudly decided to try to work it all out for himself. This is effectively what everyone does who rejects God's revealed word in the Bible.

This is a sad reflection upon his disobedience to the command of his mother in Prov. 31:29 LXX, where she hopes that her son will be the one who will say that "Many women are good wives, but you are the best of them all". This is quite contrary to the spirit of Solomon's experience in Ecc. 7:26,27, where he as it were goes through all his "many women" one by one, and can't say that a single one of them is "good". Bathsheba clearly has in mind that Solomon would have but one wife, whom he would praise as the best of all women. He totally rejected this ideal.

 Ecc 7:28 which my soul still seeks; but I have not found. One man among a thousand have I found; but I have not found a woman among all those-
Solomon's anti-women stance is a reflection of his anger with himself for having done what God had warned against- marrying many and Gentile wives. Solomon had all the instruction  he could wish for; but he didn't allow it to really sink  home  one  little  bit. He  hit  out  on  the search for an ultimately satisfying woman, but out of the 1000 he had he never found one, even when he sat down and analyzed each of them. And even politically, his marriages with all those Gentile women  didn't  seem  to  achieve him the support he desired from their  home  countries; Egypt gave refuge to Jeroboam, Solomon's main rival (1 Kings 11:40), even though he always acquiesced to his wives and even in his very old age he still didn’t destroy the idol temples he built for them (2 Kings 23:13).

David's influence was extremely strong, but  it  decreased over the years. Yet even at the end, Solomon’s wisdom stayed with him in that some aspects of his upbringing stayed with him- he could never escape from it. When he says that he has never found a truly wise woman, but he did know one wise man he may well have had David in mind.

Ecc 7:29 Behold, this only have I found: that God made man upright; but they search for many schemes
Solomon may still have gender in view, considering males were upright but women were scheming. The "schemes" are the snares and traps of :26. We see here how the mighty Solomon, who took whatever woman he fancied, was not in fact free. He felt himself trapped by those women, and victims of their schemes. It was hardly surprising. Any woman he slept with automatically entered his harem, being shut off from the world and hardly seeing Solomon ever again. And so there were endless "schemes" by them. This was inevitable and of his own creation. Solomon's dislike of women was perhaps akin to how the alcoholic hates alcohol.

This is one of many allusions to the curse in Eden, whereby "to dust you shall return" (Gen. 3:19). There are many allusions to the curse in Ecclesiastes, especially in the verses which speak of man's labour being in vain and just to satisfy his appetite / need to eat. Especially Ecc. 5:17 "All his days he also eats in darkness, he is frustrated, and has sickness and wrath". "God made man upright" (Ecc. 7:29), "one sinner destroys much good." (Ecc. 9:18 cp. Rom. 5:18 "for as by one man sin entered the world... so death passed upon all men"). But Genesis 3 held out the great Hope of redemption from the curse through Messiah. But the koheleth doesn't want to factor that in. Although he surely knew Gen. 3:15 as well as he knew Gen. 3:19. But he wallows in the curse rather than the long term blessing of Eden restored in the Kingdom.