Although life is mysterious, Solomon has discovered by submitting to the God of Mystery, rather than trying to make sense of the world through human experience, he can enjoy and appreciate the best life has to offer.
Solomon has yet another example of futility, the Hebrew word “hebel.” “Hebel” literally means “vaporous;” we try to grasp it but as we clench our fist, it slips through our fingers. Life does not make complete sense. It is enigmatic. A mystery. This is a classic example: the righteous to whom it happens according to the wicked and the evil men to whom it happens according to the righteous. In other words, sometimes the righteous get what the wicked deserve and the wicked get what the righteous deserve. It doesn’t seem that it should be this way, but it sometimes is.
So what should we do? Solomon says he commended pleasure. Solomon has already explored pleasure in Chapter 2 and found it to be unsatisfactory. But here he uses the word commend, “shabach,” which has a root meaning of, “address in a loud tone.” It can also mean, “pacify.” As discussed in Ecclesiastes 2:1 and Ecclesiastes 3:12 the translation “pleasure” suggests an enjoyable feeling or experience that could have either a good or evil source. When our entire earthly experience (life under the sun) is taken into account, there is nothing better (good) for a man than to eat and to drink and to be merry (better, “rejoice”).
Solomon set out to discover if pleasure would provide meaning to life, but found it wanting. Pleasure is an insufficient foundation for life. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t good. Solomon commended pleasure, stating there is nothing better. Since life is vanity, we should embrace pleasure. To eat, drink, and be merry is the best we are going to get in this life. But we can only truly enjoy these pleasures through the lens of fearing God and trusting Him by faith.
Pleasure will stand by him in his toils. Pleasure is a reward for work. This is similar to Ecclesiastes 3:9 where Solomon asked, “What profit is there to the worker from that in which he toils?” Then answered in Ecclesiastes 3:12, “I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good in one’s lifetime.”
Solomon adds here that pleasure is an aid to help, to provide comfort in a confusing and troublesome world.
In 1 Timothy 6:17, Paul says something similar to this—God “richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.” Paul exhorts wealthy believers to be generous and share. Similar to Ecclesiastes 3:12. The reality is that if we don’t do so, money ends up owning us instead of us owning it, as Solomon pointed out in Ecclesiastes 5:10. But Paul also exhorts us to enjoy all that God has richly supplied. Life will have plenty of challenges and difficulties. But we shouldn’t spend time worrying about what might go wrong. Instead we should spend time enjoying the days we have.
Solomon reminds us that God has given these days. They are not meaningless; we are just unable to fully comprehend it all. And we are not to give up on seeking God. Even though frustrated in his exhaustive efforts to reconcile all the events—good and bad, just and unjust—of man’s earthly experience, Solomon concludes that he must still enjoy life as a good gift God has given.
14 There is futility which is done on the earth, that is, there are righteous men to whom it happens according to the deeds of the wicked. On the other hand, there are evil men to whom it happens according to the deeds of the righteous. I say that this too is futility.15 So I commended pleasure, for there is nothing good for a man under the sun except to eat and to drink and to be merry, and this will stand by him in his toils throughout the days of his life which God has given him under the sun.
Check out our other commentaries:
Matthew 24:29-31 meaningJesus finishes the answer to the second question about the sign of His coming. Jesus will gather His elect, shake the powers of the heavens,......
Genesis 5:12-24 meaningKenan was the father of Mahalalel. He was the father of Jared, who became the father of Enoch. Enoch was the father of Methuselah. Enoch......
Genesis 9:18-23 meaningNoah’s sons are Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Ham is the father of Canaan. Noah plants a vineyard and becomes drunk. Ham saw the nakedness of......
Matthew 5:25-26 meaningReconciliation is important not just for your brother, but also for someone with whom you have a dispute. Settling a wrong quickly avoids consequences that......
Ecclesiastes 12:1-5 meaningSolomon challenges the young to remember God with a perspective that embraces both the brevity of life and the certainty of judgment.......