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Transition from seeking meaning in Work or Intellectualism and Education.

He has already acknowledged that education is a grind = much grief

(rushed through this last week – but we will take up this topic next week).

Solomon bounces to the other end of the spectrum — maybe there is some secret of the good life that I am missing by being too intellectual — I don’t want to go overboard and get into the realm of the crazy and the insane; but I’ll try letting my hair down and going with the flow and just seeking pleasure.

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4)  I’LL BE HAPPY WHEN . . .

REVIEW:  What are some images of futility (in addition to chasing the wind)

  •             Cut to the chase, don’t chase the wind
  •             In pursuing life apart from Jehovah, Solomon ran into a wall
  •             Like rat or hamster running on treadmill
  •             “under the sun”  =  not including God in the equation
  •             like blowing bubbles
  •             like spending your life shoveling smoke
  •             life is not always a bowl of cherries, sometimes it is the pits
  •             life is like a black hole — sucking the meaning out of life
  •             chasing dandelion seeds in the wind

Important to keep these pictures in your mind


* * * * * * * * * *

1 John 2:15-17



  1. Futility of Unbridled Appetites = Pleasure the lust of the flesh” – Maximizing Fun

Nothing wrong with fun in itself; appetites given to us by God; self control essential

  1. Futility of Coveting Possessions = “the lust of the eyes” – Maximizing Things

Nothing wrong with things; cannot serve both God and Mammon

  1. Futility of Pride and Selfish Ambition = “and the boastful pride of life” — Maximizing Worldly Fame = what others think of me – we should strive for excellence ….

* * * * * * * * * *

Craig Bartholomew: In this first test we get a good look at Qohelet’s epistemology in action, the means by which he will try to answer the question of the benefit of labor under the sun. Experience and observation are core elements. Pleasure presents itself as an answer to his question, and he abandons himself to it relentlessly, using all the resources at his disposal. He explores the pleasure of wine, extensive building projects, gardens and parks, the accumulation of wealth and treasures, music, sex, and so on, but all to no avail. Once he stops and reflects on this test, he concludes that it too leaves his quest unanswered.

Douglas Sean O’Donnell: Pastor Solomon takes us to a place that we can name the hollow house of hedonism. Yes, the house is filled with wine and women, gardens and gold, songs and servants; but it is hollow when it comes to satisfying our deepest needs.

Within the house of hedonism there are many rooms. Solomon will show us four of them in Ecclesiastes 2:1–11: the private pub, the garden, the treasury, and the bedroom. Take my hand now and I’ll show you. Be careful, though, for seeing what Solomon saw might tempt you to want what he had. And that is not what we should truly desire.

  • The Pub
  • The Garden
  • The Treasury
  • The Bedroom

What went wrong with the pleasure-and-possessions experiment, that he would pronounce it profitless? There are at least two explanations for the failure. Putting self first, ironically, fails to satisfy self and also, ironically, fails to give pleasure. The first failure deals with the sin of selfishness and the second with the sin of idolatry. The first failure breaks the second-greatest commandment (“You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” Matt. 22:39), while the second failure breaks the greatest commandment (“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,v. 37).

Knut Martin Heim: The most striking feature of this report on Qoheleth’s experiment is the high frequency of first person singular pronouns, indicating obsessive concern with self-gratification.

Daniel Akin: In chapter 1, Solomon concluded that everything is meaningless and fleeting because humanity rebelled against God and now lives in a cursed world where nothing we attempt to build our lives on will ultimately satisfy. If this cursed world is all there is, then there is no profit to all of our activity because nothing changes under the sun. Solomon told us we are trapped in a monotonous prison where nothing changes, and then we die.

That led to Solomon giving his personal testimony about how he tried everything to find some kind of meaning in this life, but he concluded that nothing works. The end of chapter 1 set up Solomon’s testimony, and now chapter 2 gives the details to his search for meaning. Like a scientist or a philosopher, he experiments with all kinds of things to see what has lasting value or meaning (Chandler, “Quenched”).

First, he turns to pleasure, or what we might call “hedonism.” O’Donnell notes, “Within the house of hedonism there are many rooms,” and Solomon tries to sleep in them all (Ecclesiastes, 43). He adopts the lifestyle of eat, drink, and be merry. Tim Keller points out that it is not until Solomon already concluded that there are no answers in life that he turns to pleasure (“The Search for Pleasure”). If nothing that I do matters and the world is going to burn up in the end, then I need to lighten up. Solomon’s attitude is like the guy in the Tim McGraw song who got a bad diagnosis from his doctor and in response did all sorts of crazy things like skydiving, mountain climbing, and riding on a bull. Many people turn to pleasure, if not for ultimate meaning, then for distraction from lack of meaning.

Roland Murphy: The sequence of thought is as follows: an announcement of an experiment and a preliminary judgment about the value it yielded (vv 1–2); a description of the experiment (vv 3–9); an immediate judgment that the toil yielded pleasure as its “portion” (v 10); and an ultimate judgment in v 11. An inclusion may be indicated by . . . , “Ah . . . vanity,” in 2:1b, 11b.



A.  (:1) Sneak Preview Summary

  1. The Focus for This Test – Checking out Pleasure

    “I said to myself, ‘Come now, I will test you with pleasure.’”

Did not seek the counsel of others; we see him talking to himself;

Transition from investigation of education and wisdom

Solomon became the ultimate Party Animal — surprising given what we know about his background:

  • Father David = a man after God’s own heart
  • given the greatest gift of insight and wisdom God has ever bestowed on a man
  • involved in works of spiritual significance — like the building of the Temple

Party animals tend to burn themselves out in 2 directions:

  • in a Fun Fantasy — Pure Escapism
  • in a Feeding Frenzy — Selfish Indulgence

Iain Provan: The Hebrew word is śimḥa (2:1), which in other contexts means “joy, gladness, gaiety”; indeed in 2:26; 5:20; 8:15; and 9:7 it is described as a gift of God like wisdom and knowledge. The translation “pleasure” is thus an unhelpful one, if it carries for the reader the connotation of things forbidden or questionable.

Gladness of heart, joy, pleasure—it is not that these things are not good in themselves in Ecclesiastes. Yet Qohelet has discovered that the pursuit of them with the hope of gain is just as pointless as the pursuit of wisdom and knowledge for that purpose. The concept śimḥa does not “accomplish” or achieve anything (v. 2). Indeed, it is as readily associated with fools as with the wise (cf. 7:4). The same is true of “laughter” (2:2), which is all too often uttered by those who have no profound grasp of reality (cf. 7:3–6).

  1. The Frame of Reference

So enjoy yourself.”

Very selfish and self-centered in his orientation;

He gets to pick the areas of pleasure that have the potential to interest him.

Cultural Slogans:

  • Grab for all the Gusto – consistent with all the marketing slogans …
  • Just Do It
  • You only go around once
  • Eat, Drink and be merry for tomorrow you die
  • If it feels good, do it
  • Playboy philosophy
  1. The Frustration

And behold, it too was futility.”

B.  (:2) Escapism Fails to Satisfy – Comedy routines, cutting up, hanging out and having a good time

I said of laughter, ‘It is madness,’ and of pleasure, ‘What does it accomplish?’”

humor, joking around in sport; jesting; poking fun at someone

10:19A feast is made for laughter“; eating, drinking, and having a merry old time

Evaluation: It is madness; craziness; zany; off-the-wall

Cf. Swindoll illustration of man who goes in for counseling; gloomy, depressed; advised to get some comedy relief – turns out he is the clown or the comedian; what lies behind the mask of Jay Leno and David Letterman??

C.  (:3) Indulgence Fails to Satisfy — Feeding Frenzy — feeding one’s appetites to please yourself– totally selfish

  1. Sophisticated Indulgence

I explored with my mind how to stimulate my body with wine while my mind was guiding me wisely

not talking about some drunken fool here; but a sophisticated and intelligent pursuit

David Hubbard: After all, part of pleasure’s lure is that it offers to heighten our senses. We are created to enjoy a tender touch, a tasty morsel, a tangy beverage, a graceful figure, a delicate perfume. From the standpoint of our senses, we might conclude that pleasure is what we were made for. The Preacher sought to test that view of life by abandoning himself to pleasure. He gave his senses every chance to thrill and tingle, to stir and soothe. Would he uncover life’s full purpose by arousing his sensitivities?  He thought it worth a try. . .

Pleasure has another lure: it offers to lift us above the routine. So much of our living seems bound to the ordinary. It is hobbled by the patterns we learned in childhood; it is grooved by the habits we developed as teenagers; it is fettered by the cords of conformity our culture puts upon us and kept on a narrow track by the duties of our daily jobs. Often we long to kick over the traces and bolt off on our own free course. Pleasure lets us do that. Temporarily we can hang our inhibitions in the hallway and go to the party without them.

  1. Unrestrained Indulgence – mind no longer in control here

and how to take hold of folly

  1. Verdict

until I could see what good there is for the sons of men to do under heaven the few years of their lives

Limitations of his investigation:

a) limited by his nature — looking at human endeavors

                                    not looking at things from God’s perspective

b) limited by space — earthly sphere

                                    not looking at things from a spiritual perspective

c) limited by time — few years we have to spend here on earth

                                    not looking at things from an eternal perspective

Limitations lead him to a sense of desperation to get on with the task of experimentation — there is no time to lose in searching for the key to life, the key to happiness;

sense that life is passing him by and he doesn’t want to miss out


They just have bigger barns.

Solomon was the ultimate Top Dog — THE TOP DOG MENTALITY THRIVES ON COMPETITION – desire to be #1; look at your neighbor and make sure you are beating him out

Craig Bartholomew: Qohelet’s embrace of debauchery could lead us to think of him as a lowlife, a bum, but vv. 4–10 make clear that his experiment with pleasure was sophisticated and wide ranging. The royal fiction is strongly in evidence here since the projects Qohelet embarks on and the possessions he accumulates fit with what we know of Solomon and kings in the ancient Near East. The word ʿśh, “to do” or “to make,” occurs seven times in vv. 4–11 and is part of Qohelet’s vocabulary of work. Qohelet’s list of accomplishments is paralleled by comparable lists in royal inscriptions found in the ancient Near East.

A.  (:4a) TOP DOG IN ARCHITECTURE — the ultimate Achiever

I enlarged my works; I built houses for myself

Mega Building Projects — Bigger and Better

Note emphasis on selfishness in all of these pursuits -“for myself” — not for any humanitarian or philanthropic purposes — not out to make the world a better place for others

not talking about the Temple — that was built for God to God’s specifications

other royal residences completed later in life (1 Kings 7:10-12; 9:19); Palace in Jerusalem took 13 years in building

All of his pet, personal projects – whatever he wanted to excel in; if there were seven wonders in the world, he dedicated himself to building something even more grandiose and impressive – What do you devote yourself to???

Danger of Pride of accomplishment — cf. Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4:30

“Look what I’ve done; Look what I’ve built” mentality

Ray Stedman: Solomon too gave himself to this. His own house took fourteen years to build, the temple seven. He built houses for his many wives whom he brought to Jerusalem, spending time, money and interest doing so. Southwest of Jerusalem, in a place seldom visited by tourists; there exist yet today vast depressions in the earth which are still called the Pools of Solomon, which he used to water the forest of trees which he planted in an effort to find satisfaction for his own heart.

Douglas Miller: Qohelet’s list reminds one in several ways of Solomon’s great wealth, works, and activities (1 Kings 3-11):

  • building projects (v. 4; 2 Chron 8:1-6)
  • houses and vineyards (v. 4; Song of Sol 8:11)
  • gardens (Song of Sol 5:1) and parks with fruit trees (v. 5; reminiscent of Eden, Gen 1:11, 29; 2:9)
  • reservoirs and an irrigation system (v. 6)
  • male and female slaves (v. 7; 1 Kings 10:5; 2 Chron 8:7-8)
  • herds (larger animals, such as cattle) and flocks (v. 7; smaller animals, such as sheep and goats)
  • male and female singers (v. 8)
  • treasures (v. 8) [Parody, p. 240]

B.  (:4b-6) TOP DOG IN HORTICULTURE — the ultimate Arborist; the ultimate

Environmentalist; the ultimate gentleman farmer

  1. Fruitful Vineyards – so he could indulge his taste for wine – Best possible drinks

I planted vineyards for myself

(Song of Sol. 8:11; cf. David’s vineyards — 1 Chron. 27:27)

Wine, drugs, narcotics — addictive — vs.3-4  “vineyards

Best possible drinks (stimulants)

What are they searching for?  Some type of fix that will satisfy;

Their testimony = “My life apart from these artificial stimulants is empty and boring and meaningless”

  1.   Natural Works of Beauty —  creative; aesthetically pleasing; fruitful

I made gardens and parks for myself and I planted in them all kinds of fruit trees.”

word used for parks (pardesim) — Greek word = paradise

Luxurious gardens were characteristic of royalty and nobility in ancient Near East (no simple ChemLawn application)

creates almost a secular Garden of Eden; a man-made paradise

Problem: There is no paradise if God is not present

cf. people devoting their lives to the environment — that’s already been tried

1 Kings 4:33  Solomon spoke of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon even to the hyssop that grows on the wall; he spoke also of animals and birds and creeping things and fish (a little bit of the zoologist in him also)

Remember: Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart; Any ability we have to create artistic beauty is a gift from God anyway — Direct the glory to Him

  1. Irrigated Forests

I made ponds of water for myself from which to irrigate a forest of growing trees

Daniel Akin: Solomon indulged in the best of architecture, the best of agriculture, and the best of engineering (2:4-6). He planted vineyards, gardens, and parks. Your gardening hobby or the worlds your kids have created in Minecraft pale in comparison to Solomon’s creations. He constructed an entire irrigation system to water these gardens and parks (2:6). One can still find these pools of Solomon in Israel today. Literally, Solomon tried to create a new garden of Eden (Longman, Ecclesiastes, 89). The phrase “every kind of fruit tree in them” (2:5) is used three times in the creation account (Gen 1:11,29; 2:9). He tried to get back to paradise, but one cannot get back there in this fallen world.

C.  (:7a) TOP DOG IN EMPIRE BUILDING — the ultimate Authority; the ultimate boss

I bought male and female slaves, and I had homeborn slaves.”

accumulating slaves — power, control

people to satisfy your every whim — certainly he did not have any workload which he did not choose to bear

Some people devote their lives to climbing the ladder of power and control — the money might not be the main thing to them; What gives them pleasure is the opportunity to command others.

Remember Matt. 20:25-26  “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them.  It is not so among you, but whoever wishes

to become great among you shall be your servant.

That does not mean that you won’t be in a position of authority with a large area of responsibility (cf. the Apostle Paul) –but you won’t view and treat those under you as slaves – rather your desire is to serve them.

Transition: slaves also viewed as objects of wealth

D.  (:7b-8a) TOP DOG IN POSSESSIONS AND WEALTH — the ultimate Acquirer

  1. Flocks and Herds – Best possible food

I possessed flocks and herds larger than all who preceded me in Jerusalem.”

“Beef — It’s what’s for dinner” — no bland vegetarian diet here; forget the cholesterol, full speed ahead; Go out and slaughter the best fatted calf you can find, marinate it, and cook it up

  1. Silver and Gold

Also, I collected for myself silver and gold, and the treasure of kings and provinces.”

Remember: the rich man in the parable —Luke 12:15-34  “and he began reasoning to himself…” (many important principles in this parable)

take your ease; eat, drink and be merry” (vs.19)

Is our security in our wealth and possessions?

Remember the principles of Accountability and Stewardship; pursue what is really important in life = furthering the kingdom of God

Faith should free us up not to be anxious about our material well-being.

Collectors are an interesting lot – cf. sports memorabilia; stamps; coins; antique cars; etc.

E.  (:8b) Top Dog in Entertainment – the ultimate Artistic Performer

I provided for myself male and female singers

  • American Idol example – music industry
  • Sports Heros
  • TV and movie stars

cf. How our society has adopted the pleasure-ethic instead of the old Puritan work-ethic

We live to play; we work to be able to finance our playing; We live for the weekend — for our leisure time; We try to get away with doing the bare minimum.

ASIDE:  Goal is to insulate yourself from the pain of reality; numb yourself; distract yourself from the harsh realities of your meaningless existence

F.  (:8c) Top Dog in Sexual Pleasures – the ultimate Adulterer; Sex Addict

and the pleasures of men – many concubines.”

Views them as just another collectible; something to allow him to indulge his physical appetities; no relationship or companionship in view here; playboy mentality is nothing new under the sun

Best possible sex — variety and abundance of sexual partners  (1 Kings 11:1-3)

Fairchild: Have you ever noticed in rap videos that they are going for the life of Solomon? Big cars, big houses, girls running around half naked massaging and feeding them. Apparently, these me are Old Testaments scholars who have read the book of Ecclesiasts.

But this message is not a 12 step program for deliverance from alcoholism or from gluttony or from sexual addictions – this message is about the underlying philosophy that drives us to

seek  satisfaction in pleasures themselves apart from God

cf. ministry of John Piper – Desiring God – what do we really desire; what really satisfies??

Problems with feeding our appetites:  (Hubbard: The Snares of Pleasure)

a) Pleasure always promises more than it can produce



b) Pleasure satisfies only during the act itself

requires repetition and intensification — bigger dose of drugs– like the potato chip commercial: “I bet you can’t eat just one”;

Instead of being satisfied, we are thirsting for the next dose

Danger of coming under the control of something — being addicted to something.

What type of self-control, What type of self-discipline do I show?

Banowksy: Pleasure is a hard master, an appetite that grows on what it feeds.  It is a physiological fact that a stimulated muscle reflexively demands greater stimulation, and people become enslaved by their passions in much the same way.  With each overindulgence, the level of physical and emotional expectation gradually rises so that an increasingly greater thrill is required to satisfy the urge.  Without finding full satisfaction, the hunger need settles into the monotony of filling and emptying. One begins by seeking pleasure to fill his boredom and ends by being bored with pleasures.

c) We get bored — cf. cry of kids minutes after having the time of their lives:”I’m bored … We never do anything that is any fun. I don’t know what to do.  There is no one to play with me”

d) If we don’t get bored, we get frustrated — unable to gain the goal

Bottom line: we can’t take too many days of a feeding frenzy —

Reminds me of:

  • Berenstein Bears “Too Much Birthday!”
  • Proverbs: too much honey makes you sick

Shakespeare: “If all the years were playing holidays, to sport would be as tedious as to work”



A.  (:9) The Pursuit of Greatness – Mr. Popularity

Then I became great and increased more than all who preceded me in Jerusalem. 

My wisdom also stood by me

I’m sure he was getting a big head by now; but didn’t completely lose touch with reality

Hebrew — unusual force here: “I was great, and I added

Solomon loved those visits from the Queen of Sheba and other visiting dignitaries

Remember: we are not called to be man-pleasers, but those who please the Lord who has bought us with His own blood

B.  (:10a) Formula for Spiritual Disaster

all that my eyes desired I did not refuse them. 

I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure

How about that for a formula for raising kids?!   How would that work out!

  • eyes” — outward aspects of his pleasure
  • heart” – inward aspects of his pleasure

Getting dangerously close to the awful possibility that “Nothing has meaning!”

Sadly, this is the conclusion that the honest humanist must face– The unsaved around us are wrestling with this perspective all of the time — even though they won’t admit that.

Goal: trying to lift himself above the monotony of the routine of life by being the ultimate Party Animal or the Top Dog in some area or the most respected by some group of significance.

Remember one of the signs of the evil last days:

men will be lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God”  — 2 Tim. 3:4

The parable of the sower: the seed that fell among thorns was choked with the cares and riches and pleasures of this life and could bring no fruit to perfection  (Luke 8:14)

Amos 6Woe to those who are at ease in Zion…who recline on beds of ivory

1 Tim. 5:6  the widow that lives in pleasure is dead while she liveth

What does this say about the world’s concept of Retirement??

C.  (:10b) Fleeting Pleasure is the Only Reward

for my heart was pleased because of all my labor

and this was my reward for all my labor

If we know all of the above, why is temporary pleasure so attractive??

Not trying to kid ourselves …

pleasure is enjoyable for the moment ..

After we have sucked dry all of the fizz of life — What is left of any substance??



D.  (:11) Concluding Perspective: Bitter Disillusionment

Thus I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labor which I

had exerted, and behold all was vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit

under the sun.”

the morning after; reflecting back — “I considered”  “I faced”  — to look someone in the eye (Job 6:28)  “face the facts”   “turn one’s attention”

Pleasure . . . Possessions . . . Popularity – all are futile pursuits apart from living to obey God

Our ultimate happiness cannot come from trying to have fun or from trying to create some type of environment that pleases us– our connection to God and what is important in light of eternity is the key

Ray Stedman: That is a very honest reporting. Solomon says there were some positive things, apparently. First, he gained a degree of notoriety, he says. He became great, surpassing all who went before him in Jerusalem. Many people think that fame will satisfy the emptiness of the heart. Solomon found fame.  He adds that he kept his objectivity, though. “My wisdom remained with me,” he says. In other words, “I was able to assess this as I went along. I did not lose myself in this wild search for pleasure. I was able to look at myself and evaluate it as I went along. But I tried everything. I did not miss or set aside anything.” He belonged to the jet-set of that day. “I enjoyed it for a while,” he says. “I found pleasure in all my toil, but that was all the reward I got for my labor – momentary enjoyment. Each time I repeated it I got a little less enjoyment out of it.” “My conclusion,” Solomon says, “is that it was not worth it. Like a candle, it all burned away, leaving me jaded and surfeited.  Nothing could excite me after that.” He concludes that it was all emptiness, a striving after wind. He was burned out.


  • Don’t envy the wicked their riches and comforts and pleasures
  • Be bold to evangelize — the need is there
  • Practice Contentment — Godliness with contentment is great gain
  • Remember that there is a Day of Reckoning

1 Cor. 3:10-15 — we will be left with only a handful of smoke after all the

pleasures pursued for their own enjoyment have been burned away

Solomon’s Conclusion: Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


I.  Experience of Eve in Yielding to Satan in the Garden (Genesis 3:6)

A.  Unbridled Appetites – “the tree was good for food

B.  Covetousness – “it was a delight to the eyes

C.  Pride of life – “desirable to make one wise” – to know like God knows

II.  Experience of Moses in Choosing Suffering with the People of God (Heb. 11:24-26)

A.  Unbridled Appetites – “passing pleasures of sin” vs. “endure ill treatment with people of God

B.  Covetousness – “choosing reproach of Christ”     vs. greater riches than treasures of Egypt

C.  Pride of life – “refused to be called the son of Pharoah’s daughter

III.  Experience of Christ as He Defeated the Temptation by Satan (Matt. 4:1-11)

A.  Unbridled Appetites – “Command that these stones become bread” — Priority of Word of God

B.  Covetousness – “All these things I will give you” – Priority of Worship

C.  Pride of life – “throw yourself down” – Priority of Humility