Ecclesiastes 2:15-20

Ecclesiastes 2:15

Then said I in my heart, As it happeneth to the fool, so it happeneth even to me; and why was I then more wise? Then I said in my heart, that this also is vanity.


The Solomon asks the question that if the wise men and the foolish men are susceptible to the same things, then what advantage does being a person of wisdom have?  I once saw a bumper sticker on a car which stated “Eat Right, Exercise Regularly, Die Anyway.”  That shows the fatalism in man’s thinking.  It basically states, why shouldn’t I live at Burger King and enjoy life if it all ends in the grave?  The bottom line is the grave is not the goal of life but seeking the LORD is.  Then Solomon thinks in his heart that wisdom has no life advantage over being foolish.  Basically, if they both have the same outcome, then why did I seek wisdom with all my heart?


Ecclesiastes 2:16

For there is no remembrance of the wise more than of the fool for ever; seeing that which now is in the days to come shall all be forgotten. And how dieth the wise man? as the fool.


For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.  (Hebrews 6:10)  Solomon is speaking in the worldly sense that the wise man as well as the fool will not be remembered in future generations.  For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?  (Psalm 6:5)  When our loved ones die we think about them after the funeral maybe for a few weeks but then as we get absorbed into our own lives we think about them less and less, not out of disrespect of their memory but because we get caught up in day to day living and life tends to crowd out memories or times of reflection.  Then Solomon equates the fact that the wise man will die just like the fool does.  He may die under different circumstances but nevertheless the effect of death is totally equal.  The rich and poor meet together: the LORD is the maker of them all.  (Proverbs 22:2)  In this world, the rich and the poor travel apart from each other as they say “in different circles.”  Where the rich and poor meet will be at the Judgment Seat of Christ.  Being rich does not mean you will be kept out of Heaven and being poor does not mean you will be automatically allowed into Heaven, only those who are saved in Christ will be given entry and those without Him will be rejected.  Social status on earth does not determine your eternal destiny, only whether you are saved or not!


Ecclesiastes 2:17

Therefore I hated life; because the work that is wrought under the sun is grievous unto me: for all is vanity and vexation of spirit.


Solomon was saying that because of the transitory nature of this life whether it be in building great things or you are a person of great wisdom, it is all fleeting and that is what Solomon hated about life.  You work hard all your life and build things and your reward is the grave.  All the work is grievous unto Solomon.  The word “grievous” carries with it the meaning of “evil, calamity, or displeasure.”  This is how Solomon looked at all the works which are done under the sun.  No matter what the task at hand or the situation, it was all vanity and vexation of spirit which was affliction or troubling to the spirit.  This is because once a project is complete, the anticipated joy was not present.


Ecclesiastes 2:18

Yea, I hated all my labour which I had taken under the sun: because I should leave it unto the man that shall be after me.


Since Solomon is quite aware of the fact that the wealthy man dies as well as the fool, now he realizes another aspect of that final departure.  He realizes that all the work that he did, the vineyards, the beautiful buildings and other structures will now be left to the one who will come after him.  Just as Solomon said previously that one generation comes and another goes.  Many times we labor in this life and yet much of our goods are left to someone else who will come after us.  For example, I have in my possession a 1939 RCA Victor Radio which belonged to my Grandfather.  When my mother died in 1999, she left me a coffee jar with about 100 silver Mercury Dimes which I cashed in at the time.  In life we all leave something to the people that come after us.  Many times we work hard and the next generation benefits.


Ecclesiastes 2:19

And who knoweth whether he shall be a wise man or a fool? yet shall he have rule over all my labour wherein I have laboured, and wherein I have showed myself wise under the sun. This is also vanity.


This verse continues the thread from verse 18.  The man who will take charge of all Solomon’s holdings could be either a fool or a wise man.  In the case of a fool, would he undo everything that Solomon built according to the wisdom he had or will it be a wise man who will continue to manage his estate wisely?  He will not know because once a person is dead, their estate is passed on to the heirs named in the will or in the case of Solomon it would be passed to the next king.  Would that king be able to manage such massive riches without it affecting his judgment in all matters?  Many times wealthy parents leave their children a lot of money and those children just squander it on useless things until they are broke and have nothing to leave their posterity.  Since nothing will be different under the sun, the next generation that will inherit Solomon’s wealth will also be a case of vanity or emptiness because nothing will be different.  How many times people win big money in the lottery and lose it within a few years because of their inability to handle wealth?  This is also a case of vanity because the wealth they desired all their life has happened and soon it will be gone and they are back to laboring for their next meal.


Ecclesiastes 2:20

Therefore I went about to cause my heart to despair of all the labour which I took under the sun.


Since Solomon has assessed that all the labor under the sun is but vanity and vexation, he now goes into a bout with despair which is “hopelessness.”  He sees that all his labor will be passed on to the next generation and it would not give him the security and joy that he anticipated so instead of enjoying the immediate results of labor, he goes into despair knowing that material goods remain here on earth and the possibility of him being forgotten is a reality.  We can go into a depression if we really consider how transitory this life really is.  One day we are children and the next we are growing gray hair.  Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.  (James 4:14)  As I write this I am 66 years old and I often wonder where did the time go and how could it have gone so fast, one day I was going to work and the next day I am retired.  If these are the only things we dwell upon, it can cause depression.  Even in these last days the nations of the world are in perplexity or bewilderment.  And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring;  (Luke 21:25)  Basically, in this verse “perplexity” comes from a Greek word which means “no way out.”  When reading and studying Ecclesiastes, always keep in mind these two words when you come to depressive verses which only focus upon the futility of this world, “BUT GOD....”