Ecclesiastes

Ecclesiastes, Part 5: Wisdom and the Power of Sin

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Ecclesiastes, Part 5: Wisdom and the Power of Sin

Presenting our commentary on Ecclesiastes chapter 6, we discussed the vanity of poverty and wealth. The Preacher had presented us with three examples of circumstances in the lives of men, and the evils that befall two of them. The first example was of the man who, having been blessed with riches, was blessed by Yahweh in his later years to enjoy the fruits of his life’s labors. Then there was the man who accumulated riches and was bereaved of them so that he lived his later years in want. Finally, there was the man who worked a long life and had many children, but who had never enjoyed any luxuries all of the time that he lived.

While it was apparent that the men of the latter two examples were undergoing trials imposed on them by Yahweh, whether or not they had sinned, it is also evident from other Scriptures that the man in the first example, the rich man who enjoyed his wealth, was also being tested. But this is not evident unless we examine the Law and the Gospel. In the Law we learn that wealth is given to men by Yahweh so that He may establish His covenant, in Deuteronomy chapter 8. Understanding that, wealthy men should abide the Gospel of Christ and employ their wealth in a manner so as to build His Kingdom, seeking to store treasure in heaven rather than to increase their earthly treasures even further. So this might be the most difficult of these three examples for a man to live up to.

Ecclesiastes, Part 4: The Vanity of Both Wealth and Poverty

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Ecclesiastes, Part 4: The Vanity of Both Wealth and Poverty

Resuming our presentation of Solomon’s Ecclesiastes here with chapter 6, as we have already explained, there are going to be times when we shall necessarily repeat ourselves, because the work itself is quite repetitive in nature. But we have also explained that as he repeats his themes, the Preacher adds different perspectives or new elements to his subjects. With this we have concluded that the repetitious nature of the work is one of its teaching methods, just as the skepticism which is often expressed is also a teaching method. Making repetitive remarks, the author expresses and addresses skeptical concerns in different ways.

The labors of life, the vanity of those labors, the trials which man must undergo only to die in the end empty-handed. And regardless of whether he had been impoverished or wealthy, the oppressed or an oppressor, his fate is the same as all other men, and with this he has no comforter. That was the theme which the Preacher had employed in chapter 4 of Ecclesiastes, that man has no comforter to succour him in his trials, while all of his own labors are vanity. However the antithesis to the skepticism and the dismal outlook of the Preacher is found in Christ, since He is the Comforter of men, as He described Himself, as it is recorded in John chapter 14, and as Paul had also described Christ in the opening passage of his second epistle to the Corinthians. Ultimately, the Preacher will answer his own skepticism in this same manner, that all things are in the hand of God and that He shall judge every good or evil work. But he does not make that conclusion explicit until the very last chapter of the work.

Ecclesiastes, Part 3: The Comforter

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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.

Ecclesiastes, Part 2: Vanity and Deliverance

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Ecclesiastes, Part 2: Vanity and Deliverance

Presenting the opening chapters of Ecclesiastes, we showed how this work was attributed to King Solomon from the earliest times, and also how it accords very well with the life of Solomon, once we realize that it must have been written in the later part of his life. Only in the life of Solomon do we find someone who could have had the experiences of this writer, who called himself the Preacher but who also claimed to be a son of David and king over all Israel. Then in addition to these assertions, there is also the confession of an abundantly opulent lifestyle which the historical Scriptures describe for us in the life of Solomon. Writing this book, the Preacher is now reflecting back on that life and assessing its value.

Ecclesiastes was written to lament the plight of man, that none of the works of man seem to be of any benefit to him at the end of his life, because he must leave the fruits of them to others. Realizing this, the Preacher turned to mirth and decadence, but neither did he find any satisfaction in those things. Making our own assessment of his words, we explained that the Preacher had purposely employed skepticism as a teaching method throughout his discourse. All is vanity, he proclaimed, but what he really meant to say is that all is vanity without God, something which is further revealed to us as we make our way through these subsequent chapters of his work.

Ecclesiastes is poorly understood by many Bible readers, since the skepticism it expresses is often mistaken for Scriptural truth. But rather, that skepticism is merely used as a literary device in order to demonstrate that without God, man has no hope at all. Regardless of what he does with his life, in the end he dies like all other men, and all are eventually forgotten. Reading the book, Christians should understand that the conclusions of the skeptic are wrong, because there is a God. The Preacher makes that expression where he declares the importance of keeping the Law. Here in this chapter, chapter 3 of Ecclesiastes, the Preacher informs us that it is God who subjected man to this travail, for man to be exercised in vanity. If man is being purposely exercised in vanity, then there must be something for him beyond this life, or the exercise itself would be in vain. Here we must ask, does even God act in vain?

Ecclesiastes, Part 1: Methods of The Preacher

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Ecclesiastes, Part 1: Methods of The Preacher

Before beginning a commentary on Ecclesiastes, let me first make the confession that none of my commentaries on Scripture are founded on worldly learning. I never went to Bible school, I never studied other mens’ commentaries, and I have little idea what the supposedly learned men say about most aspects of Scripture, or about individual books of Scripture. Neither am I going to research any of them for any particular commentary. With only a few exceptions, on the infrequent occasions where I have tried to read a popular commentary on a portion of Scripture, I have been disappointed, and sometimes even angered by what I have seen. For the most part, my only experience with the popular commentaries is through the editing work which I have done for Clifton Emahiser, who quotes from them frequently.

So when I write my own commentaries, I seek out only what information I can glean from or about the oldest available manuscripts, and I base my commentaries on what I have come to understand from Scripture itself and from classical histories and whatever I remember from my own readings of these and other works, such as the apocryphal literature or the ancient inscriptions of the neighboring cultures. Therefore, whether I say anything new, or whether I repeat anything old, for me to contend with or to mimic any of the traditional commentaries is not premeditated. Rather, I only seek to provide a discussion of Scripture through the lens of that proper covenant theology which is found in our Christian Identity understanding.

However, in my readings of archaeological journals and other worldly sources I am familiar with at least many of the claims of the critics of Scripture. Concerning this particular book, Ecclesiastes, they point to Aramaic or Persian words or other seemingly foreign aspects of its language, and they assert their own interpretation of these things in order to cast doubt upon the veracity of authorship, whether it be claimed or attributed. Here I will only state that their presumptions do not make inevitable their conclusions, as other reasons may also be given to explain the circumstances. The ancient Hebrews did not live in a vacuum, and often they did have foreign influences. For that they were even chastised by Yahweh their God. The ancient Hebrews themselves also greatly influenced the surrounding nations. Under David, and for a long time after David, they did indeed occupy and rule over all of the lands from the River of Egypt to the Euphrates River, and at least as far north as Hamath. So Solomon ruled over a great part of the Aramaic speakers of his time.