Ecclesiastes, Part 3: The Comforter
Proceeding through our presentation of Solomon’s Ecclesiastes, it is evident that there are going to be times when we shall be compelled to repeat ourselves, because the work itself is quite repetitive in nature. We have also discussed, as our writer himself had explained, why we believe that this preacher is indeed Solomon, the ancient king of Israel. But we have called him the Preacher because that is what he had called himself as he wrote this work. As he repeats his themes, the Preacher also uses different perspectives or adds new elements to his subjects. Therefore we can see that the repetition of the work is one of its teaching methods, just as the skepticism that the Preacher often expressed is also a teaching method. Making his repetitive remarks, the Preacher expresses and addresses skeptical concerns in different ways throughout this work.
The transience, or vanity, of man, the cyclical nature of worldly existence, the fact that man ultimately dies without any apparent reward for his labors, or any ability to enjoy them once he is gone and therefore he must leave them to the enjoyment of others, these have been the primary subjects of the Preacher. And even though he laments such vanity, where he exhorts men to keep the commandments of God we realize that while all may appear to be vanity, all is vanity without God. Therefore with God, it becomes evident that all is not in vain, that there must be something greater in the end, some greater purpose underlying man’s apparent vanity. Realizing this, we must admit that for man, for the Adamic man which Yahweh created to be immortal, the skepticism of the Preacher is unwarranted because there certainly is a God.
In chapter 3 of Ecclesiastes the Preacher added to his lamentation over the vanity of man the idea that men were no different than the beasts, who also labored and died. However there the Preacher had also asserted that it was God who purposely subjected man to vanity, and that man should therefore fear God, because “God requires that which is past” and “God shall judge the righteous and the wicked: for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work.” Considering this, we must conclude that man’s labors do indeed matter in the end, that man will be judged for his works, however it is also apparent that man will be judged for the works of his life apart from and beyond whatever worldly riches he was able to accumulate during that life. Later on, in the Gospel, Christ taught the same difference between the accumulation of worldly riches, and the accumulation of treasure in heaven by the good things that a man may do in this life.