- Christogenea Internet Radio
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?
As we have also sought to elucidate in our previous discussion, there is a theme found in scripture of which this work is a significant part. Inevitably, the punishment of Adam in Genesis 3, the recognition that all the life and labor of man is vanity in Ecclesiastes, and the later insistence in Ecclesiastes that man keep the commandments of God along with the explanation of Paul of Tarsus in Romans chapter 8 where he said that “to transientness [or vanity] the creation was subjected”, are all elements of an important theme which helps to put Ecclesiastes into perspective, and to show that Paul was merely teaching us the lessons of the Old Testament. But Ecclesiastes only suggests the expectation which Paul mentions, without describing it explicitly, where the Preacher advises men to keep the commandments of God. This is evident because if there were no such expectation, then there would be no reason to ever keep the commandments of God.
Therefore in Genesis chapter 3 we read, where Yahweh pronounced the punishment of transientness upon Adam for his sin: “Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; 18 Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; 19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” Then in the opening verses of Ecclesiastes we read: “2 Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. 3 What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?”
But in the very closing verses of this same book, in Ecclesiastes chapter 12, we read the Preacher’s conclusion: “13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. 14 For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” Then finally, we have the explanation of Paul of Tarsus in Romans chapter 8: “19 Indeed in earnest anticipation the creation awaits the revelation of the sons of Yahweh. 20 To transientness [or vanity] the creation was subjected not willingly, but on account of He who subjected it in expectation 21 that also the creation itself shall be liberated from the bondage of decay into the freedom of the honor of the children of Yahweh.” However one must examine the context of the rest of Romans chapter 8 to find that by saying creation, Paul refers to the Adamic creation, as opposed to other things which Yahweh had created. In the end all is vanity, except that there is indeed a God who shall judge the works of men. That was the lesson of Paul, and that is the lesson of the Preacher, for which reason he also gives the same exhortations to keep the commandments of God.
With this we shall proceed with Ecclesiastes chapter 3:
Ecclesiastes 3:1 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: 2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; 3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; 4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; 5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 6 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; 7 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
The Adamic man is a special creature in Yahweh God’s creation, as Solomon himself attested in his Wisdom of Solomon, chapter 2, that “God created man to be immortal, and made him to be an image of his own eternity.” However when man sinned, he was subjected to transientness, as Paul of Tarsus had explained, while Yahweh God certainly also knew that ultimately He Himself would deliver man from vanity. This we also see expressed in Genesis chapter 3 in the sentence pronounced upon Adam, “Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever.” To know good and evil, that is also a lesson here in Ecclesiastes, as Solomon had given himself over to licentiousness, and he learned that it was also vanity.
So even for man there is a time to be born, and a time to die, and he cannot escape his fate. Speaking generally, Paul had said in Hebrews chapter 9 that “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment”, and that is the same conclusion reached here by the Preacher.
9 What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth?
There is a time for men to be born and to die, but in the meantime, man should take the necessity of his labor for granted, understanding that labor is a virtually inescapable part of his life. Paul of Tarsus went so far as to warn that he who doesn’t work should not eat, so the lazy and slothful have no license to take advantage of our Christian community. So we read of the first man, in Genesis chapter 2, “15 And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.” Then when he sinned, “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground...” it is evident that there is also “a time to plant, and a time to pluck up”, speaking of the sowing and the harvest, “a time to break down, and a time to build up”, speaking of the vanity of the works of men, and “a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together”. When one plows a field or plants a garden, he labors to cast stones away, and then when one builds a wall or a road, stones must be gathered together. Therefore the Preacher concludes:
10 I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it.
As he proclaimed in Ecclesiastes chapter 1, man himself cannot make the crooked things straight, and man cannot even imagine the things which are wanting. So man does not have any power of his own over the creation of God, to make things right in his own eyes, or to change the circumstances of his vanity, or transientness, through his own labor or his own imagination. Neither can man create anything which is not transient.
And in addition to the travails of his labor, there are times to hate, to make war, to kill [the Hebrew word is different from that in the commandment not to murder], to break down, to weep, to mourn, and to lose, and these are countered by times to love, to make peace, to heal, to build up, to laugh, to dance, and to gain. Ostensibly, negative emotions are not wicked, but are sometimes even necessary, as there is a time even for hate. Ostensibly, the times for many of these things, and how often man may do or suffer one or the other, may be determined in accordance with how well a man seeks to keep the commandments of Yahweh his God.
In reference to these things, the Preacher concludes:
11 He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.
Here we have a problem with a translation which has evidently endured for centuries. Where the King James Version says “he hath set the world in their heart”, it is not referring to the hearts of men, or they would certainly be able to know “the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end” just as well as they could know the laws of God which should also be placed in their hearts.
The New American Standard Bible has the same phrase to read “He has also set eternity in their heart,” and Brenton’s English Septuagint follows the King James translation, but the Greek very well reads “he has also set the ages in their heart”, which would agree in essence with The New American Standard Bible. The Hebrew word is ‘owlam, or ‘olam (Strong’s # 5769), a word which has a variety of meanings in various contexts. Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon has a definition for this word spanning practically three columns, or a page-and-a-half of very small print. There it is explained that the word primarily means a hidden or long time, perpetuity, in regard to times past or future. It is then explained that of individual men it refers to all the days of one’s life, among other similar meanings.
Then, with an unusually convoluted twist of logic which admittedly follows the “Chaldee and Rabbinic usage”, Gesenius argues at the very end of his definition that this word in this passage should mean “the world… like the Greek αἰών, hence the desire or pursuit of worldly things more fully called ἀγαπὴ τοῦ κόσμου,” which is love of the world, where he cites 1 John 2:15, or “αἰών τοῦ κόσμου” which is ages of the world, where he cites Ephesians 2:2. Therefore Gesenius concludes that here this word refers to “worldly things, and the love of them as destructive to the knowledge of divine things”. Then Gesenius says that this verse should be interpreted to mean that “(God) has made everything beautiful in its time… although he has set the love of worldly things in their hearts, so that man does not understand the works of God”. He then cites Ecclesiastes 8:17, but the Preacher’s words there do not support Gesenius’ conclusion.
All of this might sound good on paper – if one were to ever trust a rabbi – but it is not true, and it helps to show just how convoluted and perverse is Jewish, and especially rabbinical thinking. There is only one word here, ‘owlam, and it describes nothing more than a span of time. It may correspond to the Greek word αἰών, which is also properly a span of time, but it is a novel contrivance to extract an entire phrase from it and to give it attributes of meaning which it does not have by itself. We have shown that the New American Standard Bible and the Greek translators of the Septuagint both interpreted this word to signify nothing more than a span of time, even if they did not interpret it in the same manner in which we shall interpret it. But by itself it is not equivalent to the Greek phrases which Gesenius suggests. That span of time, as we have seen in Gesenius’ original definition of the word, may be very long, even eternity, or it may merely describe lifespan of a man, depending on the context. So in the context of other things, it can simply refer to their duration, the span of their existence. In fact, the word world itself came originally from the ancient Germanic words wer and ald, referring to the age of man. (See the American Heritage College Dictionary Indo-European Roots Appendix where it is explained that world is: “from [the] Germanic compound *wer-ald-, ‘life or age of man’”.)
Furthermore, if God put it in men’s hearts to desire worldly things, then all sin is the fault of God, as Adam and Eve were punished for a transgression resulting from their desire for worldly things! So according to Gesenius and the rabbis, all covetousness should be blamed on God, because God put worldly concerns into the hearts of men. This is blasphemy. Leave it to the rabbis to justify their lusts and their covetousness by scheming up a way to blame it on God.
But to the contrary, Yahweh God Himself, especially in the person of Yahshua Christ, had warned His people not to follow after worldly things. As Paul had said in his epistle to Titus, “11 For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, 12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; 13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; 14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” If we follow the rabbis, we may begin to think like Jews, and here both Gesenius and the King James translators had followed the rabbis.
So where the Preacher writes that God “made every thing beautiful in his time”, ostensibly referring to the span of time in which each thing exists that he had described in the preceding verses, then he means to say in continuance of that idea that “he hath set the duration in their heart”, meaning that the span of existence of each thing which God has created is a part of its original nature or fabric. The Hebrew word for heart is leb (Strong’s # 3820), which Strong’s properly defines as the heart, but which he also explains was used “very widely for the feelings, the will and even the intellect, likewise for the centre of anything”. Therefore when speaking of things other than men we would assert that the word refers to the fabric or nature of those things. So the lifespan of a flower is built into the nature of the flower itself, just as the lifespan of a man, or the duration of the seasons, or of wars, or of peace. God determined it all from the beginning of Creation, and man cannot find it out for himself because man ultimately has no control over that creation.
The passage which Gesenius cited to support the rabbis’ convoluted explanation does not support it at all. In the closing verses of Ecclesiastes chapter 8 we read: “ 16 When I applied mine heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done upon the earth: (for also there is that neither day nor night seeth sleep with his eyes:) 17 Then I beheld all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun: because though a man labour to seek it out, yet he shall not find it; yea further; though a wise man think to know it, yet shall he not be able to find it.” So we would read verse 11 here to say “He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the duration in their nature, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.”
Now the Preacher speaks of man himself:
12 I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life. 13 And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God.
Man must be exercised in his travail, which is the punishment that he suffers on account of the sins of his ancestors, and especially of his first ancestor. This we see, in part, in Romans chapter 5: “12 For this reason, just as by one man sin entered into the Society, and by that sin death, and in that manner death has passed to all men, on account that all have sinned: 13 (for until the law sin was in the Society; but sin was not accounted, there not being law; 14 but death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not committed a sin resembling the transgression of Adam, who is an image of the future. 15 But should not, as was the transgression, in that manner also be the favor? Indeed if in the transgression of one many die, much greater is the favor of Yahweh, and the gift in favor, which is of the one man Yahshua Christ, in which many have great advantage. 16 And not then by one having committed sin is the gift? Indeed the fact is that judgment of a single one is for condemnation, but the favor is from many transgressions into a judgment of acquittal.” Now on the other hand, since, as Paul also explained, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God”, neither can we blame our ancestors for our transient state, as we ourselves have done no better with our own lives, and we cannot boast that we would have done better.
All men have been subjected to transientness, yet all share equally in the expectation of being “liberated from the bondage of decay”, as Paul describes in Romans chapter 8. So while the Preacher had not yet heard the Gospel of Christ, its promises are nevertheless revealed in the Old Testament Scriptures which preceded the Gospel, and the Preacher is actually encouraging men to make the most of the trials which they shall inevitably have to face. As we have already discussed in reference to the opening chapters of Ecclesiastes, whether man enjoys the fruits of his labor, or whether they are taken from him, depends upon whether man is obedient to God. That is evident in the curses of disobedience and blessings of obedience given to the children of Israel in Deuteronomy chapter 28. So if a man does enjoy the fruits of his own labor, that is a gift from God. The Preacher later encourages men to keep the commandments of God, because in the end their works will be judged, whether they were good or bad.
Of course, to understand the truth of this one must also understand that there are races of people here who are not of God, and who cannot be considered under the term man. So these concepts do not apply to them. The children of the devil in the branches of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil are not properly man. But God permits them to chastise man, just as he permitted the devil to chastise Job, and just as he permitted the “Princes of this world” to chastise even Himself, in the person of Yahshua Christ.
But as the Preacher also explains here, there is no good implicit in man. The commandments which man gets from God are for good if men keep them, and men themselves are wicked when they do not keep them. Paul explains this in Romans chapter 7: “9 Now I was alive apart from the law once; but the commandment having come, the sin was revived, and I died.” He did not know he was doing evil until he heard the law, because man by himself is not good without the law, which comes from God. So man cannot be good without God. Therefore Paul continues: “10 And it was found to me that the commandment, which is for life, it is for death: 11 for sin having taken a starting point by the commandment, had seduced and killed me through it.” Paul became cognizant of the destructive nature of his sin only through the law. The law alone warns us of the nature and consequences of sin. So he concludes: “12 So indeed the law is sacred, and the commandment sacred, and just, and good.” But himself man is not good, man can abide the law which is good, and by keeping it he can do good works. So Christ Himself had said, as an example for men which is recorded in Luke chapter 18, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except one, Yahweh. 20 Know the commandments: You should not commit adultery, you should not murder, you should not steal, you should not testify falsely, honor your father and mother.” While denying that man is good, Christ points us to the law which is good.
Some scoffers may claim that even the pagans whom they know have done good. However the pagans cannot credit their heresy for any of their morality. Our general society has been developed upon the foundation of the commandments of Christ for at least sixteen hundred years now, and many men generally adhere to them even if they do not know the Christian Scriptures, because they have been instilled into the fabric of our society in practice, even if not they have not heard them in word. To a great degree, through cultural acclimation, the laws of our God were also instilled into the ancient Greek, Roman, and even the Germanic societies, so they also had many moral similarities. Paul commended the Romans for that very thing in chapter 2 of his epistle to them, which he had also explained in a different manner while accrediting the Galatians.
Here the Preacher continues by contrasting the works of God to the vanity man:
14 I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him.
In Isaiah chapter 40 the permanency of the word of Yahweh is compared to the vanity of man where we read: “7 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. 8 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.” The permanency of His creation is described in the 24th Psalm: “The earth is the LORD'S, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. 2 For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods. 3 Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place?” It is expressed again by Solomon in Proverbs chapter 3: “19 The LORD by wisdom hath founded the earth; by understanding hath he established the heavens. 20 By his knowledge the depths are broken up, and the clouds drop down the dew.” There are countless other places where it is described, and attested that man cannot know the full extent of it. Neither can man change it, as the words of Christ indicate where He said “And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit? If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest?”
For this man should fear Yahweh, which means to submit to the Word of God and to be obedient to His law. So in Job chapter 28 we read: “28… Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.” Then Solomon himself wrote in Proverbs chapter 1: “7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Fear of the Lord is not to worry about being struck by lightening from heaven, but rather, to come to understand His will for man, that man is subject to Him and should therefore obey His Word. The Preacher continues:
15 That which hath been is now; and that which is to be, hath already been; and God requireth that which is past.
Here the Preacher expresses somewhat differently the profession that there is nothing new under the sun. But then he adds the concept that “God requires that which is past.” But if the works of God are forever, then what God must require is an accounting for the deeds of men, which are past. So the Preacher begins to speak of judgement, and explains that the judgement of man is not just.
16 And moreover I saw under the sun the place of judgment, that wickedness was there; and the place of righteousness, that iniquity was there.
The Preacher is speaking of the courts of men and perhaps even of the temple itself, that there were wicked men operating within the places where one should expect to find justice and righteousness. So it is also evident that Solomon himself was not able to prevent such wicked men from infiltrating these places. Later, in the 82nd Psalm, which was written by Asaph, we see it described that God stood amongst the people of His congregation and chastised them, where it says in part “2 How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked?” This is of course a prophecy of the ministry of Christ in Jerusalem. The Psalm proceeds where God then exhorts the people to judge justly and defend the poor, the afflicted, the fatherless and the needy.
But the problem of unjust judgement was far older than the time of Christ, as we read in the Word of Yahweh in Jeremiah chapter 5: “26 For among my people are found wicked men: they lay wait, as he that setteth snares; they set a trap, they catch men. 27 As a cage is full of birds, so are their houses full of deceit: therefore they are become great, and waxen rich. 28 They are waxen fat, they shine: yea, they overpass the deeds of the wicked: they judge not the cause, the cause of the fatherless, yet they prosper; and the right of the needy do they not judge. 29 Shall I not visit for these things? saith the LORD: shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this?” The people suffered because they had accepted the persons of the wicked. As the apostle Jude had also explained: “4 For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.”
As the Preacher exclaimed earlier, man is helpless to make the crooked things straight, and he can not even understand the things which are wanting, never mind actually provide them. Now, indirectly admitting that he himself was powerless to stop the wicked, he yields to God even for this, just as we have read in Jeremiah, as he says:
17 I said in mine heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked: for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work.
David, the greatest of the kings of ancient Israel, exclaimed in the 139th Psalm: “21 Do not I hate them, O LORD, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee? 22 I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies. 23 Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: 24 And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” So Solomon, who may have surpassed even his father in power and majesty, and who was far greater than any of his successors, admits that not even he could undertake the judgment of the wicked, that he must leave it to God. Later on, Asaph in the 74th Psalm complains that “4 Thine enemies roar in the midst of thy congregations; they set up their ensigns for signs.” But even seeing the problem, he could certainly not resolve the dilemma. As the Word of Yahweh says through Moses in Deuteronomy chapter 32: “41 If I whet my glittering sword, and mine hand take hold on judgment; I will render vengeance to mine enemies, and will reward them that hate me.”
The only conclusion can be that all is not really vanity, and that there is a God who will judge the righteous and the wicked, otherwise the wicked shall never be judged, and they shall prevail forever. So the Preacher continues in reference to man himself:
18 I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts.
Man is an animal, just like all of the other beasts. Yet the only thing that separates man is something he may suppose to possess, but which he cannot actually see, and that is the Spirit of Yahweh his God. That is the “treasure hidden in earthen vessels”, as Paul describes it. So Solomon said elsewhere, in a passage which we have already cited from chapter 2 of the Wisdom of Solomon, where he is actually speaking of the devices of the wicked: “18 For if the just man be the son of God, he will help him, and deliver him from the hand of his enemies. 19 Let us examine him with despitefulness and torture, that we may know his meekness, and prove his patience. 20 Let us condemn him with a shameful death: for by his own saying he shall be respected. 21 Such things they did imagine, and were deceived: for their own wickedness hath blinded them. 22 As for the mysteries of God, they knew them not: neither hoped they for the wages of righteousness, nor discerned a reward for blameless souls. 23 For God created man to be immortal, and made him to be an image of his own eternity.” So the wicked may do whatever they want to man, but they will never prevail even when they kill men because man was created by God to be immortal.
Paul of Tarsus also recognized this dilemma, that man is but a beast in his fleshly nature, although he did not quite explain it in those same terms, even if in certain instances he did describe wicked men as beasts. So in Romans chapter 7 Paul described at length the struggle between the two natures of Adamic man, the fleshly and the spiritual. The law being spiritual, as he also explains there, the man who follows the Spirit seeks to keep the law and finds life, whereby the fleshly man who departs from the law and follows after the way of beasts finds sin and death. In conclusion, Paul exclaims “22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man”, which is the man of the Spirit, which is the image of Yahweh’s eternity. We expounded upon this at great length in Part 9 of our Romans presentation in May of 2014, which was subtitled The Two Natures of Adamic Man.
In that presentation of Romans chapter 9, we had also concluded that:
Unlike the beasts, the Adamic man has a spirit from Yahweh God through which he may have communion with God. From 1 John 4:13: “Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.” Therefore Paul says in Romans chapter 8, speaking of Israelites turned to Christ, that “16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God”. Yet the Adamic man in his fleshly state is still a beast. Therefore Solomon had written in Ecclesiastes chapter 3 that “18 I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts.” So unlike the other creatures, the Adamic man has a dual nature, and may follow either one, that of the flesh or that of the spirit imparted to Adam, which is the spirit of God. That is why in Jeremiah chapter 2 where the prophet laments the fornication of the children of Israel, who mingled themselves with the other races, he describes them as having created “broken cisterns, that can hold no water”. Broken cisterns cannot hold water, and mongrel people cannot contain the spirit which God imparted to Adamic man.
This invites a digression. Paul explained in Hebrews chapter 12 that a man is either a son or a bastard. Esau, being a race-mixing fornicator, as Paul described in that same chapter, could not recover his birthright because his children were mongrels and therefore they could not inherit the Kingdom of God. Mongrels can only be beasts, and they have no other choice. But the children of God, when they depart from the spirit and follow the flesh, are also no different than beasts.
Notice where we had just cited the Wisdom of Solomon, in chapter 2 verse 18, in the original Greek there is no definite article before the word for son, and it should say “For if the just man be a son of God, he will help him, and deliver him from the hand of his enemies.” There are men who may appear to act justly who are not sons of God. When they infiltrate our institutions, we have wickedness in place of judgement, and iniquity in place of righteousness, because they are not guided by the Spirit, or the law of Yahweh written in the hearts of His children.
Here, where the Preacher continues to employ skepticism as a rhetorical device, he also continues to speak in relation to the fleshly aspect of man:
19 For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity. 20 All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.
As Adam was told: “19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” In this same manner even Abraham himself had admitted, as he was awestruck with the idea of communicating with God, as it is recorded in Genesis chapter 18, “Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes….” Man should be humbled by his low estate, and the fact that he indeed faces certain death, yet he cannot be certain of the promise of life thereafter because he himself has not yet witnessed it, as the Preacher himself now asks:
21 Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?
Abraham had died, and Abraham himself professed that he was little but dist and ashes, but Christ later professed that Yahweh was not the God of the dead, but of the living, counting Abraham, Isaac and Jacob among the living. So we have an assurance that the patriarchs, while dead, continue to live.
But no man has an absolute proof of his own eternal nature, so all is vanity without God, and man can only possess an uncertain hope even once he recognizes that there is only hope in God. Therefore man should be all the more humble. As Paul of Tarsus explained in Hebrews chapter 11 “1 Now faith is expecting an assurance, evidence of the facts not being seen. 2 For by this were the elders accredited.” Of course, the elders were accredited because they acted on account of their faith, as Paul goes on to describe throughout that same chapter. Because their actions concurred with their belief in God, they feared Him and submitted themselves to His Word.
But Paul also explains in 1 Corinthians chapter 15 that if there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body, and in that manner man does differ from the beasts. There he explains, where we shall cite the Christogenea New Testament in order to avoid certain errant translations or interpolations found in the King James Version: “39 Not all flesh is the same flesh, but one flesh of man, and another flesh of beasts, and another of birds, and another of fish. 40 And bodies in heaven, and bodies on earth: but different is the effulgence of the heavenly, and different is that of the earthly: 41 one effulgence of the sun, and another effulgence of the moon, and another effulgence of the stars; a star differs in effulgence from stars. 42 In this way also is the restoration of the dead. It is sown in decay, it is raised in incorruption. 43 It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in honor. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body; if there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual. 45 And just as it is written, ‘The first man Adam came into a living soul,’ the last Adam into a life producing Spirit. 46 But the spiritual was not first; rather the natural, then the spiritual: [the process described in Genesis chapter 2] 47 the first man from out of earth, of soil; the second man from out of heaven. 48 As he of soil, such as those also who are of soil; and as He in heaven, such as those also who are in heaven. 49 And just as we have borne the likeness of that of soil, we shall also bear the likeness of that of heaven.” Each Adamic man has two natures, the image and the likeness of God, as the Wisdom of Solomon tells us that the Adamic man was made in the image of God’s eternity. So we must understand that here Paul made an analogy comparing Adam with Christ. Of course, each had possessed body and Spirit, but in the analogy Adam represents the fleshly nature, while Christ being God Himself represents the Spiritual, the spirit being a gift from God. Like Christ, if we as individuals are born from above, as He Himself explained in John chapter 3, then we also have a heavenly body as Paul attests here – but we cannot see it so long as we are in the flesh.
Solomon referred to some of these same things in other contexts in his Proverbs. In the Wisdom of Solomon, in chapter 16, he wrote: “14 A man indeed killeth through his malice: and the spirit, when it is gone forth, returneth not; neither the soul received up cometh again.” Then from Proverbs chapter 18: “14 The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear?” Again, in Proverbs chapter 20: “27 The spirit of man is the candle of the LORD, searching all the inward parts of the belly.” Psalm 32 is a psalm of David and says “2 Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.” So there may be men who, even if they sin, sin will not be accounted to them because their spirits, being from God, have no guile. In this same manner the apostle John had written that “9 Each who has been born from of Yahweh does not create sin, because His seed abides in him, and he is not able to sin, because from of Yahweh he has been born.” Nevertheless we are warned that all men – even those born of God – shall be judged by their works. There is a clear distinction between the fleshly and the spiritual natures of a man, and even Solomon admits in his Wisdom that the life of a man is received up after his death. As we have said, the skepticism depicted here in Ecclesiastes is a rhetorical device illustrating that man has hope only in God, so that we can know that there is deliverance from vanity.
So the Preacher continues:
22 Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better, than that a man should rejoice in his own works; for that is his portion: for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him?
As we have already cited in our first presentation of this book, and as it says in Isaiah but which this time we shall quote from Paul of Tarsus, from 1 Corinthians chapter 2, since he is also repeating other concepts which we have just read in Ecclesiastes and in Proverbs: “9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. 10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.”
And now we must ask, why should a man rejoice in his works if all of his labor is vanity, as the Preacher had lamented in reference to his own labors, and as he asks here in verse 9, “What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth?” So we can only imagine, that if a man has good works, that he may truly rejoice, because he shall have a better deliverance from his vanity.
So we read in the words of Solomon in Proverbs chapter 16: “1 The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the LORD. 2 All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the LORD weigheth the spirits. 3 Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established.” In that manner Solomon agrees with Paul, that a man must seek to follow the way of the Spirit, and not the way of the flesh, which is also the way of beasts. Then in Proverbs chapter 24 we read: “12 If thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? and he that keepeth thy soul, doth not he know it? and shall not he render to every man according to his works?”
This Paul of Tarsus explains from a different perspective in 1 Corinthians chapter 3: “11 For [an]other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; 13 Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. 14 If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. 15 If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” Likewise we see in Proverbs chapter 11: “18 The wicked worketh a deceitful work: but to him that soweth righteousness shall be a sure reward.”
This we may also perceive in the 15th Psalm, a psalm of David: “1 LORD, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill? 2 He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. 3 He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour. 4 In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoureth them that fear the LORD. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not. [In other words, he that keeps his oaths even when it is to his own disadvantage.] 5 He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved.”
In this same manner Christ demanded that His disciples love their brethren, and we read in the first epistle of John, in chapter 4: “12 No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. 13 Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. 15 Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. 16 And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. 17 Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. 19 We love him, because he first loved us. 20 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? 21 And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.”
By this we know what good works we should rejoice in, and by this one may know that if one is a child of God, Christ will indeed “bring him to see what shall be after him”, as the same apostle says in chapter 3 of that same epistle: “2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” There certainly is deliverance from vanity, if indeed one is a child of God.