In chapter 2, Solomon launches into what he had learned about his works of building material things like houses and gardens and seeking even greater wealth. His conclusion? All of these material achievements were nothing but vanity, a grasping after wind.
He finds no real, sustained profit in them, nothing that truly added to his quality of life, no lasting fulfillment. He does not mean they resulted in no sense of achievement or passing pleasure, but that their fruit never truly fulfilled God's purpose for man. Therefore, those things are poor substitutes for a sustained sense of well-being. He then proceeds into an exploration of wine and entertainment. These are simply another form of materialism, ways of pleasing the flesh. He concludes that they, too, are folly, a mad pursuit.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Seven): Contentment
Is it better to receive a gift from God or to work for it in the way Solomon did? The former is preferable. With our understanding and help—if we are "good in His sight"—God can turn what would normally be meaningless and absurd into something that is profitable for us, if we allow Him.
Solomon reaches an overall conclusion here: In reality, the evil people of the world are working for the benefit of the righteous. Eventually, all will come to those God considers good. We must look at this in its full scale. Who will inherit the earth—and not only the earth, but everything in it? The sons of God. Solomon is taking a long-range view of this. The wicked will eventually be seen to have been building and gathering for the work of the righteous. All their works are a vanity to them, but they are God's gift to the righteous.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and the Feast of Tabernacles (Part 2)
While concluding the thoughts of chapter 2, these verses also provide a smooth bridge to the instruction in chapter 3. They are the first positive, solid instructions that Solomon has given about both God and life. They pave the way for accepting truly thrilling instruction about God in relation to time and a Christian's life of faith.
Solomon, to this point, describes life as a waste of time and energy, seemingly meaningless, monotonous, repetitious, and unendurable. This occurs even though one's life may be busy, just as Solomon's was. To those who have little or no relationship with God, and therefore have no clear knowledge of His purpose, what Solomon has written to this point is a realistic assessment. Recently, while in a supermarket, I saw a young woman wearing a shirt that proclaimed, “Life is divided between miserable and horrible.” To many, it seems as though life has no object except to bring difficulty and pain.
Ecclesiastes, however, provides a message directly from our Creator about what our attitude must be if we are going to make the best use of the awesome opportunity He has given us—and especially of the instruction in chapter 3.
In the first two chapters, Solomon's approach to life is completely “under the sun.” “Under the sun” implies that his teaching has not positively considered God; it is an entirely earthy view, thoroughly self-centered and carnal. God is mentioned only in Ecclesiastes 1:13, where Solomon calls life “a burdensome task God has given the sons of man.” His assessment closely parallels the words on the woman's T-shirt in the supermarket.
In the final verses of Ecclesiastes 2, Solomon takes a sudden, sharp turn to an “above the sun” approach, advising that we should enjoy good in our labor because it is from God. His statement, “This also, I saw, was from the hand of God,” is important. Our attitude toward labor, he counsels, should be that it is a gracious gift from our Creator. Laboring is a God-designed and -assigned responsibility of man.
Apart from angels, we are the only created beings who can labor like this. We can work using creativity, objectivity, and purpose, but no animal can. We need to give thanks for such ability because it places mankind in a category that no animal can ever enter. We are still less than God but so far above animals that there is no adequate comparison.
Is there a reason such a disparity exists? He adds two verses later that God gives gifts like wisdom and knowledge to those who are good in His sight, another positive reason for a person to approach life in a different attitude. Can an animal by reason appreciate life? Does a beast have the knowledge and wisdom to add value to its life?
Our attitudes and demeanors, however, are often highly variable. Overall, without directly using the terms, Solomon is saying our attitude should be thankful and contented. Why? Foremost, for the very fact that we even have life. Directly tied to this is that we have been given a mind that can think about God, that can look forward to the future on a basis of truth within His purpose, that can realize that we are the called of God, that can think spatially, and that can read and understand. We should be thankful that we can be given even more gifts because of these factors.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Three): Time
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Ecclesiastes 2:26: