Ecclesiastes 2


Solomon failed to find ultimate pleasure and happiness up to the end of his life. Such things as wealth, prestige, power, wisdom and knowledge failed. He isn’t looking for just ordinary things that can bring happiness, but he wants to find the ultimate pleasure.

Actually, he was surrounded by many things that could have brought him all the pleasure and joy any one person could ask for. Unfortunately, he could find pleasure in spiritual activities. Moving on he thought surely there must be some pleasure he was missing in his life. So, the search continued seeking out what he could find that would give him ultimate pleasure and happiness.

Pleasure Is Meaningless

‘I said to myself, ‘Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.’ But that also proved to be meaningless. ‘Laughter,’ I said, ‘is madness. And what does pleasure accomplish?’ I tried cheering myself with wine and embracing folly—my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was good for people to do under the heavens during the few days of their lives. I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired male and female singers, and a harem as well—the delights of a man’s heart.’ Ecclesiastes 2:1-8

We live in a society that likes to party, sadly many of them involve alcohol. The main reason people get drunk is simply to forget about their problems for a moment, it doesn’t bring real happiness, in fact, it just heightens their unhappiness.

Solomon tried this but this proved to be meaningless. No doubt he experienced laughter and joy to some degree but not the kind of satisfaction he wanted for himself. There were actually many things he could have filled his days with pleasure. He had singers to entertain him, he had sumptuous dinners in his banquet hall, and he would have served the best of wines.

Scripture also declares that ‘wine makes for a merry heart,’ Psalm 104:15. The wine was a common drink among the Jews but it was dangerous. At weddings and other public affairs, it was mixed with water to bring down the content of alcohol. This no doubt was the situation at the wedding feast that Jesus and his disciples attended in Galilee, John 2:1–11. Jesus wouldn’t have produced intoxicating wine.

There are many warnings given in the Old Testament about the abuse and misuse of wine. Some would add stronger drinks to wine to make it stronger. They had alcohol in those days just as we have today. Some Bible characters like Noah, Genesis 9:21, and Lot, Genesis 19:30-38, became drunk on wine which left them stupefied.

Too much alcohol and one becomes intoxicated. Once intoxicated one is incapable of thinking rationally. The result is that a person does senseless things and can be a threat to others around him including his family.

In the last two weeks news carried by local TV and the newspaper tell of car wrecks where alcohol was found and no one was wearing a seat belt and when the cars swerved off the highway and occupants were killed. In these particular incidents, the occupants were in their teens. Teenage drinking seems to have reached record-high numbers. All kinds of warnings don’t seem to stop driving under the influence. ‘Don’t drink and drive’ one motorway sign warns.

People in bars are told not to drive home but get a ‘designated driver’ to take them home. More people die of driving under the influence of alcohol than die in warfare. T.V. and billboard ads are directed toward the young. Unfortunately, sporting event ads seem to draw more attention than other ads. Beer ads show everyone as happy and having a great time.

Did Solomon ever get drunk? Probably so, as he was seeking the ultimate pleasure. Wine could bring a certain kind of pleasure. Since wine can make the heart merry no doubt there is much laughter associated with it. One thinks he will be happy until he awakes from a drunken stupor feeling terrible. Nothing good can be said about alcohol. Evidently, the wine didn’t bring Solomon the pleasure he thought that it would, Ecclesiastes 2:10-11.

Solomon tells us of something else which temporary takes our minds off the problems of life and that’s work. Solomon himself had been down this road but accumulating a great vast of wealth from anyone who came to visit him, 1 Kings 10:1-2 / 1 Kings 10:10.

He was involved in everything you could think of, spending time with the rich and famous to help him be happier. He invested time in wine, parties and work, but they all came to an end and he still didn’t find any real lasting happiness.

‘I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me. I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my labour, and this was the reward for all my toil. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.’ Ecclesiastes 2:9-11

Solomon as a king, had the resources, contacts and wealth to try everything in life to find real lasting happiness, but he still came to the conclusion that it was all meaningless, it was a waste of time because they didn’t bring him real happiness.

There’s no doubt that having the resources, contacts and wealth will bring us some kind of happiness, but Solomon realised that real happiness only comes when God is number in our lives, Colossians 3:1-2.

We can almost read his frustration when he realises that everything, he’s worked so hard for to help him find happiness, actually made him unhappier. If we want to have real happiness in this life, then we should put others first and put our own selfish desires last, John 13:17 / Philippians 2:1-4.

Wisdom And Folly Are Meaningless

‘Then I turned my thoughts to consider wisdom, and also madness and folly. What more can the king’s successor do than what has already been done? I saw that wisdom is better than folly, just as light is better than darkness. The wise have eyes in their heads, while the fool walks in the darkness; but I came to realise that the same fate overtakes them both. Then I said to myself, ‘The fate of the fool will overtake me also. What then do I gain by being wise?’ I said to myself, ‘This too is meaningless.’ For the wise, like the fool, will not be long remembered; the days have already come when both have been forgotten. Like the fool, the wise too must die!’ Ecclesiastes 2:12-16

When one thing fails to bring us happiness, then move on to something else to find it. here Solomon now tries wisdom and knowledge to find happiness. Wisdom in itself won’t stop any of us from getting involved in stupid things, but someone who puts wisdom into practice will certainly know to stay away from those very same stupid things.

However, whether we use wisdom correctly or not, both the wise and foolish end up in the grave. The point is that we must learn to focus on things above, not on things here on Earth, Colossians 3:1-2, if we want to be happy in life.

The wise and the foolish won’t be remembered by the living when they die, in other words, knowledge doesn’t guarantee that anyone will be remembered. Often at memorial ceremonies, people will remember the great act of courage a person has done, but they actually don’t know their names.

Toil Is Meaningless

‘So, I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. And who knows whether that person will be wise or foolish? Yet they will have control over all the fruit of my toil into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless. So, my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labour under the sun. For a person may labour with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then they must leave all they own to another who has not toiled for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labour under the sun? All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. This too is meaningless.’ Ecclesiastes 2:17-23

Solomon makes a shocking statement, ‘he hates life’! When he examines life in general and looks at everything life has to offer, he comes to the conclusion that life doesn’t provide any form of peace.

This is simply because life without God is meaningless, it’s a life without peace because we don’t have God’s peace, Romans 15:33 / Ephesians 2:14-18, or at peace with each other, Hebrews 12:14.

Everyone knows that when we die, we leave everything behind, Ecclesiastes 5:15 / 1 Timothy 6:7. Everything we worked so hard for in life is left behind as an inheritance for others, those who didn’t work for it.

Solomon wondered if the person who inherited his wealth would be wise enough not to waste it, Luke 15:13. He hopes that they will be wise enough to learn that real happiness comes from helping others, Luke 6:38 / Hebrews 13:16.

‘A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.’ Ecclesiastes 2:24-26

So many people today live to work, rather than working to live, many people just work to build up their wealth and their only goal in life is to get richer. We should learn to be content with what we have, that is as long as we’re not struggling to feed our families and make ends meet, Philippians 4:10-13.

Solomon recognises that it’s God who does the providing, even our work and if we remember that God is the provider, we can enjoy life to the full because we understand we’re actually working for God, Ephesians 6:5-9 / Colossians 3:22-24.

God gives us the wisdom to help us understand the importance and meaning of life, we’re simply to glorify God and not ourselves with our lives. He gives us the knowledge to help us comprehend the work of God in His creation.

In other words, when we remember these things, when we work, we know that they actually bring us real joy, despite what is happening around us, Romans 8:28.

Go To Ecclesiastes 3