In the book of Ecclesiastes, King Solomon explored every endeavor of mankind to find satisfaction and fulfillment.  Even with all of his freedom, money, and power, his ultimate conclusion was that everything is vanity.  Everything that he tried resulted in emptiness and frustration.  This is an illustration of what we can expect from all of man's effort in trying to achieve greatness apart from God.  It's often difficult to tell which parts of this book are sarcastic and deceptive, and which parts are actually truths from God. 

Chapter 1

In Ecclesiastes 1:9, Solomon notes that there is nothing new under the sun, and what has been will be again.  Although recent years and decades have brought the industrial revolution and the electronic age, man's best inventions have really brought him no closer to real satisfaction than before.  Each new invention raises our expectations for the next one.  Instead of appreciating what we have, we are disappointed that we don't yet have what will be available with the next release of our favorite game series, phone applications, movies, or television series. 

Neither ancient philosophy nor modern psychology can rectify the fleshly sin nature of mankind.  We don't find more joy and satisfaction as our knowledge increases.  We can't rejoice when we find a way to treat a serious disease because there are more diseases ready to invade our lives, often as a result of our treatment (or mistreatment) of the old ones. 

Chapter 2

Solomon, like many of us, acted as though he thought that the primary goal of life was to experience the most pleasure, when actually he knows that it was to bring glory to God.  He knows better, because he was one of the smartest men who ever lived.  Yet he pursued the gratification of the body and its senses as though this were the ultimate satisfaction.  He surrounded himself with all the comforts that any king could imagine, including money, food, travel, entertainment, and fine architecture.  Instead of any permanent satisfaction, he was always left only with the pleasures of sin, and even they lasted only for a season.  After all, when sin abounds, guilt follows, and this drowns out any temporary pleasure that was found. 

One man may be intelligent, and the next man may be a simpleton; or one educated and one uneducated.  Yet, in all cases they arrive at the same end, being totally unfulfilled.  Even the wisest of men cannot avoid sorrow, depression, sickness, and death.  If a man accumulates wealth, he will leave it to descendants who, somewhere down the line, will squander it.  He satirically says that the best we can do is to eat, drink, and be merry; concentrate on the present while we forfeit the future. 

Solomon said that he will leave all of his wealth to his heirs, and who is to say whether they will look after it wisely or squander it foolishly.  There is even some truth to this from the perspective of the heirs:  If they're foolish, they will soon squander it all, but if they're wise, they probably didn't need the inheritance anyway. 

Chapter 3

This is a difficult book because, even though it is inspired Scripture, it does not offer Godly truth.  Instead, it offers a false truth from only a human perspective.  It is filled with pagan fatalism, not Judeo-Christian values, so it leaves no place for the mercy and grace of God.  God allows man to fill his heart with such worldly things in order to teach him that the world cannot satisfy, because his heart remains empty.  In the same way, God gave us the law in order to teach us that none of us can live up to His Godly standards on our own. 

In Solomon's cynical, but honest, view, all men are wicked and nobody can be trusted. 

Chapter 4

It is one's huge and arrogant ego that causes rebellion and the thought the he can do anything he wants without regard to others.  The only reason he wants anything to do with others is to help him achieve his goal of being able to do what he wants.  He wants to be completely independent, but his experiences disappointingly show him that he actually needs others. This leads to a meaningless and unfulfilled existence. 

Chapter 5

Religion has done much harm throughout the centuries.  Pagan religions have demoralized people with false teaching all over the world.  The ancient religions of the eastern world and of the Middle East have not been the answer.  The Roman Catholic Church in Europe has not been the answer.  Protestantism has in many ways reverted back to the very things from which they wanted to break free during the Reformation.  It's a sad commentary that many people actually go to church today in order to try to get away from the true God.  They want to remain in religious legalism instead of establishing a relationship with Jesus Christ, the very Son of God.  They value the words of religion over a relationship with God. 

Chapter 6

Like religion, money has proven to have much to do with the fallen state of man.  People want to accumulate wealth just for the sake of being wealthy, not for doing good things with their wealth.  The wealthier one gets, the more unhappy he is because he has more to lose.  Solomon cites the emptiness that results when one spends his life pursuing what brings no happiness in this life, and what has no value in the next life.  For these reasons, the poor man is usually more content than the rich man. 

Chapter 7

Solomon's search for the meaning of life left him confused.  He said that a good name is better than fine perfume.  On the other hand, he said that Frustration is better than laughter because a sad face is good for the heart. 

Chapter 8

From God's perspective, there really isn't too much difference between good people and bad people.  They're all sinners, falling short of God's standard of perfection.  Solomon said that although all men are not equal when they are born, they are equal when they die.  Of course, in truth, either men believe in a God who forgives and saves them from their sin, or they do not.  Man is deceived when he sins because God does not judge immediately. 

Chapter 9

Solomon's human thinking deceives him, making him proclaim a sort of universality, where all men end up at the same place in the after-life.  Solomon is suffering from depression, thinking that life is just a matter of luck or a game of chance. 

Chapter 10

The injustices of life suggest to Solomon that it's best to just take a moderate course.  Parents can raise their children correctly and still see them easily led astray from the way they were raised, and Solomon would call this an injustice of life.  One man might work hard and save his money but still have little to show for it, while another man might inherit a fortune overnight. 

Chapter 11

We shouldn't be afraid of doing good deeds, although our reward may be delayed.  We should live sensibly while still being willing to accept certain risks.  We should instruct children and youth correctly because they will be less likely to make life-changing decisions in their old age. 

Chapter 12

Solomon paints a sad picture of old age, including failing eyesight, the quick passage of time, and many sad experiences.  The elderly person's legs lose their strength, their shoulders are no longer erect, and their teeth are worn out.  The older person loses his hearing, the strength of his voice, and a sound night's sleep.  He becomes fearful, and he no longer enjoys traveling.  He is annoyed by little things, he loses his hair, his romance is gone, and death is near. 

Solomon's conclusion is that without God, all things under the sun are vanity.  The wise thing to do is to fear, revere, worship, and obey God.  God is just.  Every man is a sinner, and God will judge each one with perfect justice.  Our sins are either on Christ because of our faith in Him as our perfect sacrifice, or we be found unable to pay for our own sins and suffer an eternity without God. 

Owen Weber 2012