ECCLESIASTES: WITHOUT GOD, EVERYTHING IS MEANINGLESS
Dr. Robert A. Morey states, [DEATH and the Afterlife, Bethany House Publisheres, Minneapolis, Minn, 1984, p. 216]:
"Perhaps the best way to understand Ecclesiastes is to compare it to the book of Proverbs. Both books are found within the poetical section of the Old Testament. The five poetical books of Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs deal with the practical issues of life instead of such things as prohecy, history or theology. They are also called 'Wisdom literature' because they seek to educate us about life and how to live it.
Although Proverbs and Ecclesiastes are both wisdom literature, they teach us about life in two totally different ways. Proverbs begins with the assumption that there is a personal God Who gives meaning to all of life (Prov. 1:7). In contrast, Ecclesiastes begins with the assumption of 'the man under the sun,' i.e., autonomous man without God (Eccles. 1:16, 17).
Proverbs begins with God and asks the question, 'How should we live?' Ecclesiastes begins without God and asks, 'Why should we live?'
Proverbs is positive, while Ecclesiastes is negative and pessimistic. Proverbs promisesx us that life will be wonderful if we begin with God (1:1-7). Ecclesiastes warns us that life is empty and without meaning if we begin without God (1:2).
In Proverbs, wisdom is more important than money (3:13-18). In Ecclesiastes, money is more important than wisdom (10:19; 1:17, 18).
In many other ways, Ecclesiastes reveals the warning that without God, nothing in life will have any meaning or significance.
After giving the perspective of autonomous man for eleven chapters, the author concludes by bringing the Creator into the picture (12:1), defining death as the ascent of the spirit to God 12:7, and the necessity of beginning with God and the keeping of His commandments (12:13, 14).
OUTLINE PER C.I. SCOFIELD
[THE NEW SCOFIELD STUDY BIBLE, Oxford Univ. Press, New York, 1967, p. 659-668]:
[Eccl 1-4]: The Teacher's Experience of the Meaninglessness of Earthly Things
[Eccl 1:1-11]: His theme: everything is meaningless (cp. 12:8)
[Eccl 1:12-18]: Wisdom cannot satisfy.
[Eccl 2:1-11]: Proof contained: Pleasure and riches cannot satisfy.
[Eccl 2:12-26]: Wisdom is better than folly, but both have an end.
[Eccl 3:1-22]: Proof continued: the weary round of life
[Eccl 4:1-16]: Life's oppressions and inequalities
[Eccl 5-10]: Exhortations in the Light of This Experience
[Eccl 5:1-7]: Mere religious practices cannot satisfy.
[Eccl 5:8-20]: The futility of riches.
[Eccl 6:1-12]: The futility of life.
[Eccl 7:1-29]: Human wisdom's better findings
[Eccl 8:1-17]: Importance of obeying rules
[Eccl 9:1-18]: Despite wisdom, death is certain.
[Eccl 10:1-20]: Beware a little folly
[Eccl 11-12]: The Conclusion of the Matter
[Eccl 11:1-10]: The best thing possible to the natural man.
[Eccl 12:1-14]: Fear God; keep His commandments
[Note that the theme of this part is 'Despite wisdom, death is certain.' The viewpoint is entirely of what happens in an individuals physical lifetime - there is no consideration made to what might or might not happen after one's physical death.]
(v. 3) "This is the evil in everything that happens under the sun
[from a perspective without God the author concludes this]:
The same destiny overtakes all.
[i.e., physical death. Notice that there is no perspective offered of a life after death].
The hearts of men, moreover, are full of evil and there is madness in their hearts while they live, and afterward they join the dead.
(v. 4) Anyone who is among the living has hope - even a live dog is better off than a dead lion!
[Again, there is no perspective offered of a life after death. The theme of everything is meaningless without is still offered. But is this true. The author will conclude at the end that this is indeed not so when one obeys God]
(v. 5) For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even the memory of them is forgotten.
[Once in Sheol, all experiences related exclusively to physical life are no longer possible. Those in Sheol do not marry and procreate children because they do not have bodies. Neither do they plan and execute business transactions. Once in Sheol, they cannot attend public worship in the temple and give sacrifices or praise. There are no bodily pleasures such as eating or drinking. Those in Sheol do not have any wisdom or knowledge about what is happening in the land of the living. They are cut off from the living. They have entered a new dimension of reality with its own kind of existence (Ps 6:5; Eccles 9:10, etc.). So 'the dead know nothing' relative to the perspective of living under the sun for they are obviously not present under the sun when they are dead. So they in effect know nothing relative to the context of living under the sun. Furthermore, is it actually true that the dead know nothing, that they have no further reward and that the memory of them is forgotten? Scripture says no especially relative to God's memory of them and to rewards in heaven for faithful service which is taught throughout Scripture as well as a conscious after life with every individual having a memory, a knowledge and activities. The point of being out of touch with God's viewpoint is clearly being made here, for everything is not meaningless - yet without God it is. So the author is illustrating a point in his life when he was not in touch with God's viewpoint until the very end of the book]
(v. 6) Their [the dead's] love, their hate and their jealousy have long since vanished; never again will they have a part in anything that happens under the sun
(v. 7) Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink you wine with a joyful heat, for it is now that God favors what you do.
[Is this always true - eat drink and be merry?? Other passages say no! So obviously, the author is making a point of such an attitude: Without God, indeed everything is futile so get all the gusto you can now for then it will all end when you die - it is all meaningless. But does it have to be? See chapters 11 & 12: the conclusion of the matter]
(v. 8) Always be clothed in white, and always anoint your head with oil.
(v. 9) Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun - all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun.
[Is it really meaningless, is this how God has set up the lives of individuals to be lived? Does God do meaningless things such that man's life has no value and all is futile? The author is obviously making a point here and his viewpoint here does not reflect a truth that he will later expound upon in the last section of his book]
(v. 10) Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in [Sheol = an after death existence and not the grave. It is often mistranslated grave but that is the Hebrew word, kever], where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom [relative to subject at hand in the context: life under the sun, i.e., while you are physically alive]
(v. 11) I have seen something else under the sun:
[Notice that the perspective is exclusively and morbidly on whatever happens under the sun. It is all meaningless - again is it really?? Consider the warped perspective the author has as he continues]:
The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.
[Whatever happened to the sovereignty of God. Chance and meaninglessness is the author's god at this time as he continues on his morbid perspective]
(v. 12) Moreover, no man knows when his hour will come: As fish are cought in a cruel net, or birds are taken in a snare so men are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them.
[Is this true? Is this supported in Scripture elsewhere that men are caught in a cruel net; evil befalls all men, they are helpless to resist or avoid it? There is not the sovereign God Who will see them through such times and even divert such events in the lives of His faithful ones? How far away can an individual be from a godly perspective]
This continues on until the author turns to God and presents God's point of view: fearing God and keeping His commandments will provide the duty of man and man will indeed not have a meaningless existence for he will have his 'eternal home' and not go to nothing upon his physical death, (v. 12:5c).
Ecclesiastes 12:5 (NASB)
5 Furthermore, men are afraid of a high place and of terrors on the road; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags himself along, and the caperberry is ineffective. For man goes to his eternal home while mourners go about in the street.