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Ecclesiastes 7:29  (King James Version)
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<< Ecclesiastes 7:28   Ecclesiastes 8:1 >>


Ecclesiastes 7:23-29

God is allowing us some insight into Solomon's heart and life. He gifted Solomon with a proclivity for understanding and wisdom, but this passage reveals that achieving them did not come easy.

The true God gifts us to enable us to fill our place in the Body of Christ (I Corinthians 12:1-11), but this does not mean He gives the gifts in full-blown perfection so we can fulfill that role without effort (Matthew 25:14-30). His gifts must be developed, fine-tuned, and polished until they are truly fit to be used—even then they are still less-than-perfect in actual practice.

Solomon is confessing a truth that we, too, discover as we continue our conversion. Finding wisdom is difficult and not as satisfying as we might think. These verses are a confession by the author that, despite all the great intellectual gifts given him, in the end what he did not know far exceeded what he actually knew.

This section is a reminder of Solomon's purpose, as stated in Ecclesiastes 1:12-13: “I set my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all that is done under heaven; this grievous task God has given to the sons of man, by which they may be exercised.” He was indeed gifted, but God in no way drilled a hole in the top of his head, stuck a funnel in the hole, and poured wisdom in, requiring no effort on Solomon's part. He had to participate in the search to reach his goal. It became a lifelong pursuit.

This pursuit took earnest effort. His goal was set; his was no superficial overview. With earnest, exhaustive thoroughness, he applied himself to discover what lay behind the conduct he observed. He wanted to know the reason of things, as verse 25 shows. Why did he search so thoroughly? “Wisdom strengthens the wise more than ten rulers of the city” (verse 19). He was looking for spiritual strength through understanding. The fruit of that search would be wisdom to equip him to make better choices.

Wisdom, spiritual sagacity, can be an extremely valuable resource. Sagacity indicates “discernment,” that one is “keen,” “perceptive,” and “sound in judgment,” insuring that one's choices produce good fruit. Through verse 19, the Bible is showing us that wisdom can govern thought, the will, and one's actions to produce good results. This is not to say that he found them all, but that is what he was determinedly seeking.

The deep insights he found revealed the order and harmony supporting the things he witnessed from the outside. However, we should understand that seeking wisdom exacts a price. It is interesting how the Bible compares the costs of achievement: by the value of what a person might buy on the market. It declares that one pays more for wisdom than for goods that people expect will fetch a high price on the open market. Wisdom's costs are largely in terms of time, attention, and discipline to achieve (see Proverbs 3:13-15; 8:11; 16:16).

Solomon looked at problems from all sides, and even analyzed the opposite of the way he first saw things. He uses terms like “wickedness,” “folly,” and “madness,” showing that he was looking deeply at human behavior. He examined these things so closely that he believed that at least emotionally, he experienced a small measure of the characteristics—even the bad ones—he was searching into.

What did Solomon learn from this? Ecclesiastes 7:23-24 reveals it was humbling: “All this I have proved by wisdom. I said, 'I will be wise.' But it was far from me. As for that which is far off and exceedingly deep, who can find it out?” It was far more difficult than he imagined when he began. If we measure our gifting against his, what kind of wise plan could we produce that would impress God to remove the burden of a trial? As we can see, searching for wisdom is a necessity but difficult. The answers are rarely right on the surface.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Thirteen): Confessions



Ecclesiastes 7:23-29

This entire section examines wise judgment, whether the source of our problems is God, fellow man, or ourselves. We must ask ourselves if we are truly making an effort to pursue holiness, without which, Paul says in Hebrews 12:14, “no one will see the Lord.” Is that where our problem lies? Are we really making an effort worthy of the treasure we have been freely given? Do we have something to repent of regarding the time and energy we expend? Our conclusion will parallel his conclusion to some degree: It is no wonder that salvation must be by grace!

Ecclesiastes 3:11 balances this: “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.” We will never have complete answers because God in heaven is also working things out in our lives, and His purposes take precedence over our weak efforts and conclusions. Much is beyond our control.

Two major truths are revealed from Solomon's confession: First, a truly wise person will be humbled realizing that he does not know everything, and this lack of knowledge will affect his choices and conduct because he knows he is terribly ignorant. Second, the humbling will move him to be cautious in his judgments so that he does not condemn God, others, or even himself. Recognizing these truths tends to balance our thinking because we know that what we have now is marvelous—but crumbs compared to what is coming. Thus, we can see that a study of the path Solomon took, though difficult, can be beneficially humbling.

The children of God must be constant learners. Why? We are not merely looking for salvation but also preparing for the Kingdom of God and for service to Him and mankind in that Kingdom. However, we must submit to the fact that the knowledge of God is like a distant star, a destination so far off that we will never reach it in dozens of lifetimes. This reality points to why we need everlasting life. We must humbly accept this truth now, knowing we will never reach it, but keep earnestly working toward it to be as prepared as possible.

I Corinthians 4:1-8 presents a hurdle we must deal with regarding the accumulation of knowledge or position:

Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one's praise will come from God. Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other. For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you have not received it? You are already full! You are already rich! You have reigned as kings without us—and indeed I could wish you did reign, that we also might reign with you!

A pitfall exists even in the earnest search for wisdom and truth: Human nature sometimes follows the path of flaunting it. We must be strongly resist this. The wise person knows this is true and resists self-glorification, making him wiser.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Thirteen): Confessions



Ecclesiastes 7:26-29

Solomon's conclusions are certainly not inspiring. He finds the world to be full of alluring but discouraging wickedness. Only one man in a thousand, he deems, actually lives what he considered to be a righteous life.

His findings on women reflect experiences of extreme disappointment. Blaming no woman in particular, he seems to cast all women with whom he had had personal experience as no more than snares to entrap him into some form of slavery. He must have felt that, because he was not pleasing to God, God did not make a way for him to escape women of that nature. His experiences led him to assert that he could not find even one woman in a thousand who lived a righteous life!

He probably did not feel that way about all women, because in other places, such as in the Song of Songs and Proverbs 31, he speaks highly of them, and in Proverbs 4, 7, 8, and 9, he uses a woman to represent wisdom. It cannot be said, then, that he looked on woman as an evil creation, yet his personal experiences definitely color his comments here.

We can perhaps clarify this conclusion by restating it: He found that righteousness is rare indeed regardless of gender. Few people are living before God as they should.

Following these declarations, verse 29 provides an intriguing concluding statement about this search, and it triggers questions.

He calls what he is looking for “wisdom,” and it truly is wisdom because, within the context of his search, the answers would provide a clearer basis for making good choices in life. But considering what we have covered—beginning even with his statement in chapter 1:2, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity”—what he seems to be looking for are answers to why God has created all this and why life is so difficult and puzzling. He seems to be expressing the thought that, if he knew the answers to these questions, it would help his search a great deal.

It cannot be known how much Solomon searched the Bible for an overall answer, but the writings of Moses were available to him. Certainly, his father David knew a great deal, and being the godly man he was, it is impossible to imagine that he did not instruct his son from what Moses was inspired to write.

Deuteronomy 29:29, available to Solomon, is recorded for our understanding: “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” The Bible indeed reveals a great deal, but apparently, Solomon did not understand that God chooses to reveal some matters personally and individually in the same way He has called us. God has clearly revealed much more to the elect, but the eyes of the uncalled are still blinded (Romans 11:7-8). Solomon understood a great deal but not every aspect of it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Fourteen): A Summary



Ecclesiastes 7:29

The word “only” is inserted in his conclusion to draw attention to its importance. Righteous living is truly rare, and it has been so from the beginning, from Adam and Eve until now.

After this qualification, Solomon immediately asserts that God did not create human beings to sin but to live righteous lives. He is implying that we should stop blaming God for all of mankind's troubles—that we get ourselves into this mess we call life. God made us upright, but we all have deliberately chosen to sin.

Undoubtedly, he is reflecting on the early chapters of Genesis, where a clear pattern of deliberate, willful sin appears. Genesis 1:31 states God's evaluation of His creation: “Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good.” Will we challenge God's judgment of what He had just created? Adam and Eve had already been created at this point, and God judged what He had made as “very good.”

They were not flawed by sin, and God had not placed in them a mechanism to sin deliberately. They had not been created to live fractured, sinful lives but upright, righteous lives. In terms of sin, whatever became part of them occurred after this point. He did not entrap them. However, they were capable of sinning because God created them with minds able to learn, discern, and make choices between options. Sinning was something they opted to do.

Genesis 6:5 suggests an interesting connection between the overwhelming sinfulness of the days of Noah and Solomon's conclusion in Ecclesiastes 7:29: “Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” The intriguing relationship is between the word “schemes,” “inventions,” or “devices,” depending on what translation is used in Ecclesiastes 7:29, and the word “intent” in Genesis 6:5. While not the same word, both derive from the same root, indicating thinking and/or planning. In both contexts, the thinking is being done with evil intent. That is, the ones doing the devising are deliberately planning evil.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Fourteen): A Summary



Ecclesiastes 7:29

This verse is especially thought-provoking as an Old Testament insight into what is called the Doctrine of Original Sin. It plainly asserts that God did not create man for the purpose of sinning.

Through the millennia, mankind has shown a persistent and strong proclivity to blame God for all his troubles. We are indeed created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26). God gave us a spirit (Job 32:8), and by it, we have the ability to understand and harness many of the powers that He placed within our nature and environment. But Ecclesiastes 7:29 clearly indicates that man, specifically Adam and then all humanity after him, including women, have deliberately chosen to sin.

This point appears in the final part, “But they have sought out many schemes.” Time and history have proven repeatedly that we do not always do things constructively. We seem to pollute everything we touch, creating new problems with each generation, most of which we cannot solve. Potential problems exist now that could, except for God's mercy, wipe life itself from the face of the earth.

We could loosely interpret verse 29 as, “God made man to be upright, but man has defeated himself by his own schemes. He strives to do things his way. He goes to so much trouble to make trouble for himself instead of reading God's Book, believing it, and submitting to it.”

Mark Twain is highly respected as a writer, but according to contemporary accounts, he was sarcastic and cynical about God and life in general. By means of his skilled writing, he managed to hide from the public his hatred of God, Christianity, and life itself. However, in Huckleberry Finn, his most popular and critically acclaimed novel, he portrays God, and Christians especially, as ignorant, pharisaical, and silly, demanding dolts, killjoys who take all the fun out of life.

Twain blamed God for all of mankind's troubles. On these thoughts, he wrote a book in the last few months of his life, Letters to Earth, and it so offended his daughter that she would not allow it to be published until thirty years or so after his death, fearing it would destroy his reputation. In another place he wrote, “Whoever has lived long enough to find out what life is, knows how deep a debt of gratitude we owe to Adam, the first great benefactor of our race. He brought death into the world.”

Thank God that there is also a Last Adam! By virtue of His sinless life, atoning death, and resurrection, we can by God's grace receive the quality of life God intended from the beginning. We do not have the wisdom to solve all the deep mysteries of life, but from our experiences, we should be wise enough to look within ourselves and see the deadly sin in our hearts, asking God to be our Savior through Jesus Christ.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Thirteen): Confessions




Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Ecclesiastes 7:29:

Genesis 3:16-19
Ecclesiastes 7:29
Ecclesiastes 7:29
Ecclesiastes 7:29
Romans 9:19-24

 

<< Ecclesiastes 7:28   Ecclesiastes 8:1 >>



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