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Iain Provan: Ecclesiastes 5:8–9 picks up the thoughts of 4:1–3, making it clear to the reader that oppression is not merely a matter of individuals behaving badly in respect of their neighbors. Oppression has its structural, systemic aspects. The oppression of the poor and vulnerable and the denial of justice and rights are consequences of an entire hierarchical system of government that is corrupt. Each government official “is eyed” (Heb. šmr) by another, either in the sense that each looks out for the interests of the other, or in the sense that each is supervised by another and cannot behave in ways that are not to his superior’s advantage.

In all this watching, however, no concern exists for the interests of the poor and for justice—for the powerless of 4:1–3. Government is in the interests only of the powerful. It has been forgotten that each person is supposed to be his brother’s “keeper” (šmr in Gen. 4:9, i.e., to watch out for his interests), just as God himself watches out for the interests of his creatures (šmr in verses like Ps. 16:1; 41:2; 121:3–5, 7–8).

David Hubbard: The Preacher’s counsel focused on understanding the reality of corruption and greed in government, with the assumption that such understanding would help his Jewish kin to cope with the inevitable. He describes the contemporary scene in terms that curdle the blood of any son or daughter of Israel raised on the Law, the Prophets, and the Proverbs, all of which condemn the practices Ecclesiastes described.

Oppression” (see 4:1–3) and “violent perversion (lit. “robbery,” Ps. 62:10) of justice and righteousness” (see 3:16) are not new themes in the book. What is new here seems to be the specific connection with the administrative structures of government. This is made dear in the Hebrew word for “province” (mědînāh), which describes a judicial district with a centralized system for enforcing and adjudicating the law (see 2:8). Its most frequent use is in Esther, where nearly forty times it depicts the Persian provinces and their governmental structures by which Ahasuerus ruled the empire. “High official,” which translates a word meaning “lofty” or even “proud” (Heb. gābōah; Is. 2:15; 5:15), confirms this bureaucratic setting.

The “perversion of justice” takes place not in spite of the government officials but because of them. They are supposed to be checking on each other to make sure that the law is upheld and the rights of the citizens guarded. Instead, they are protecting each other, covering up for each other, which is what “watches” seems to mean here. The evil has permeated the system so that each tier of the administration is free to work injustice—taking bribes, browbeating the defenseless, extorting higher taxes than called for, confiscating property and goods, demanding special favors, and commandeering people to work for them—because each official is supported in these crimes by his superior.

Albert Mohler: Money cannot rescue us from futility; money only proves its robbing power.  The privileged insiders who control the bureaucracies structure the economy to their own advantage (5:8-9).  The material successes we do gain can be delusional because they don’t satisfy, they get taxed or even stolen, and they rob us of peace of mind (5:10-12).  The way we live for money in the end proves bitterly disillusioning (5:13-17).  How much better to live simply, take life as it comes, and enjoy each day as God’s kind gift (5:18-20).


A.  (:8-9) Problem of Political Corruption

  1. (:8)  Corruption Results in Oppression and Injustice

a.  Reality of Oppression and Injustice

If you see oppression of the poor

and denial of justice and righteousness in the province,

b.  Reminder to Expect Such Corruption

do not be shocked at the sight,

Allen Ross: Qohelet says there is no reason to be shocked by oppression; for there is an established bureaucracy that sees that everyone gets his cut. The NIV’s “surprised” is tāmāh which, in most of its other occurrences in the OT, refers not only to surprise but also to shock and dismay at a negative situation. Perhaps the admonition here is not just to expect these oppressive situations but also not to be dismayed at them. Numbness is the preferred reaction.

c.  Reinforcement of the Political Swamp

for one official watches over another official,

and there are higher officials over them.

Craig Bartholomew: The point of one official “watching over” another is that they protect each other’s backs in the maintenance of oppression. . .

Government, as Qohelet notes in 5:9 [8], is a good institution designed to facilitate justice for all. By design government wields power, and ideally this is to be for the benefit of all citizens (cf. Rom. 13:1–7). But from his observations, Qohelet knows that corruption can set in so that rather than promoting justice, government becomes the source of oppression and exploitation of the poor.

Tremper Longman: There is no doubt that the situation results in oppression and the deprivation of justice and righteousness. The preoccupation with other things means that no one is watching out for justice. Justice and righteousness were at the center of government’s responsibility, not just in the OT, but in the ancient Near East as well.

In the context, I understand this verse [:9] to continue the thought of the previous one, which described governmental oppression and exploitation of the poor. Verse 8 (English 9) says that this line of corruption goes to the very top; even the king himself takes advantage of his politically powerful position to get the profit of the land.

  1. (:9)  Corruption Extends to the Highest Level of Government

After all, a king who cultivates the field is an advantage to the land.

David Hubbard: The major question has to do with whether verse 9 is a contrast to verse 8 or a climax. Was the king part of the problem (NIV, JB), or was he thought to make a difference in maintaining stability despite the corruption (NKJV, NIV, RSV, NEB, NASB).

The bureaucratic rationalize their greed with words like those: “There is profit to the land in all this; after all the king has a right to the tilled field.”

Iain Provan: The sense is that the only real “profit” made by workers from tending their crops is the king, who stands at the pinnacle of the corrupt regime and derives the ultimate benefit. We might paraphrase as follows: “In the end, the only ‘gain’ from hard work in the fields is the monarchy, which flourishes in the soil of the workers’ labor.” Note again 1 Samuel 8:10–18, with its picture of the king who takes and takes from his people, employing them to plow “his” ground and to reap “his” harvest, while ensuring that his officials and attendants are well cared for.

Craig Bartholomew: This pithy statement would then sum up what a just order should be. The profit of the land is not just for a select few, but is intended for the benefit of all. This principle is encapsulated in a proverb: “A king for a plowed field.” This is confirmed by the importance of the inalienable holding of land by kin-groups in OT law. As C. J. Wright explains, “That the land should be held in the form of patrimonies which should not pass out of the family was a cherished ideal in Israel that was protected by legislation and theologically justified and sanctioned.” Leviticus 25:23 asserts that the land belongs to Yahweh, and Mettinger notes, “The proper concept of this divine ownership appears to be that every Israelite was to regard his holding as deriving from God himself. . . . There existed the consciousness of an intrinsic equality among the Hebrews before God . . . which was expressed . . . by each head of a family holding his land as from God.”  One’s land was a symbol of one’s share in the inheritance of Israel and the means of economic survival for one’s family. The sort of oppression of the poor that Qohelet describes in v. 8 resulted very often from theft of land, which is why this is so frowned upon in the OT. Proverbs 23:10–11 warns precisely against this: “Do not move an ancient boundary stone or go into the fields of the fatherless, for their redeemer is strong, he will plead their cause against you!” The king was appointed to prevent this sort of thing from happening and to ensure justice for all, which included making sure that property rights were respected. Hence, “a king for a plowed field.

The image evoked is that just rule would facilitate plowed fields throughout the land so that all can benefit from the fruit of the earth. The land should be for all and the king should facilitate justice, but the tone is ironic. The corrupt power relations have spread to the top of the tree and offer no hope of justice for the oppressed. Land and its just distribution are central to OT law, and in an agricultural context one’s survival depends on having one’s own land to cultivate. This principle of equitable land distribution is powerfully portrayed in the unlawful “robbing” of Naboth’s vineyard by King Ahab in 1 Kings 21. This sort of robbery was presumably rampant in Qohelet’s day.

Walter Kaiser: Good government by a delegated officer, or the “higher-up” person, is a great blessing to any country. This is one source of correction of some of the abuses witnessed by mortals. Happy indeed is that country that recognizes that such “profit” of the land brings a blessing on everyone; ruler and people are happiest when they both realize that they are served by the farmed fields. But should human government also fail, there is still redress from God, who will not fail to adjudicate the injustices and unfair acts of those who govern.

B.  (:10-12) Problem of Greed and Lack of Contentment

Craig Bartholomew: Qohelet reflects on the love of wealth and its dangers. Love of money and consequent work for it will not bring fulfillment. It is important to emphasize here that Qohelet is referring not simply to wealth per se but to love of it. As Paul says in 1 Tim. 6:10, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (NIV). Qohelet elaborates on the type of grief that love of money can lead to. It never satisfies, because one always wants more; increasing wealth brings more stress into one’s life so that one is unable to really enjoy it; and if one’s identity is formed around wealth, then when it is taken away (v. 14), one’s life becomes empty and meaningless. Furthermore, one cannot take one’s wealth along at death.

David Hubbard: There is something about the drive to acquire that impels us to seek more and more. If it is insecurity that prods us to seek wealth, wealth itself will not cure that insecurity. If it is the desire for power that pushes us, money will not quell that desire. For many people the thirst for more material goods is insatiable. Long after their basic needs are met, they crave for more. Long after they have the permanent security they seek, they strive for more. Long after they have all the luxuries they covet, they itch for more. Koheleth uses a chain of proverbs (sayings as the indicative grammar shows) to get this idea across The first link (v. 10) makes the basic point: wealth cannot satisfy. The second (v. 11) and third (v. 12) links illustrate the point: wealth attracts idle hangers-on (v. 11), and wealth increases anxiety.

  1. (:10)  Never Satisfied with Enough – Insatiable Appetite for More

a.  Greed Negates Contentment

He who loves money will not be satisfied with money,

nor he who loves abundance with its income.

Daniel Akin: Those who love money will never be satisfied by money, and Solomon calls this kind of discontentment “futile.” Solomon’s statement has nothing to do with tax bracket; he does not mention an amount. His statement has everything to do with the heart. You can love money and have a lot, and you can love money and have a little. The issue is not how much you have; the issue is the heart. The issue is failure to be content with what you have. There was a time in your life when you would have jumped at the opportunity to have the income, family, and house that you presently have, but now it is not enough.

The sinfulness of the human heart causes us to see what we have right now as not enough. You can see this reality in the people who win a jackpot in Vegas and go right back to the same slot machine to get more (Begg, “In Search of Meaning”). A reporter once asked Rockefeller, who was the richest man in the world, “Which million that you have earned was your favorite?” And Rockefeller answered, “My next million” (Begg, “In Search of Meaning”). Nothing is ever good enough. Solomon’s point is difficult for most of us to believe because we think if we had more money we would be the exception, and we would be satisfied with what we had. But our own experience tells us that is not true—after all, there was a time in our lives when we would have thought what we earn right now is a lot of money. We thought we would be content. Satisfied. But we amaze our friends and surprise ourselves to discover that we are not content.

Tremper Longman: The section begins with a proverb expressing the insatiability of wealth.  No matter how much money a person has, there is always the possibility of and the desire for more. The implication is that those who set the acquisition of money as their highest goal in life have a never-ending task. They will never reach their goal, and, therefore, their life is “meaningless.”

b.  Refrain: Love of Money Leads to a Life of Futility

This too is vanity.

David Hubbard: Why would anyone want to live that way — that kind of life is. All the enjoyment of what these people have is clouded by the thought of what they want next. All gratitude for present blessing is overshadowed by the fear of tomorrow’s losses. All generosity may shrivel because the wealthy person is preoccupied not with how he can help others, but with what he can gain next.

  1. (:11)  Never Free from Leeches and Parasites – Increase in Your Posse

a.  Multiplication of Leeches and Parasites

When good things increase, those who consume them increase.

Daniel Akin: You’ll Attract Leeches

Solomon says the more money you make, the more leeches will want a piece of what you have, and ultimately you will watch it go away. The person who has wealth does not really get to enjoy the fruits of what he has earned (Longman, Ecclesiastes, 165). Creditors, family, “friends,” the IRS, and more will consume what you have. Everyone will have a hand out to get what you got.

David Hubbard: Friends, family, and servants gather around wealth. They may pester the rich person and dissipate what he has. How often have we read of an athlete—say, a boxer—whose golden moments found him surrounded by an entourage that gladly shared his wealth, but whose twilight days saw him both broke and abandoned. Wealth can carry its own frustration—that was the Preacher’s apt observation.

Douglas Sean O’Donnell: He will need a maid to clean his big house. He will need a personal chef to cook his rich meals. He will need a gardener to trim the trees. He will need an accountant to keep the books. He will need a broker to invest his savings. One by one and week by week, in their different and seemingly subtle ways, they will all leech a little more and more and more from his back pocket. Then there is the family (which seems to continually extend outward the more he makes), and the old friends, and the new acquaintances (who never have enough and want a little more), and finally the tax man (who is usually the first at the front door to collect).

b.  Refrain: Helplessness of the Rich to Enjoy their Wealth

So what is the advantage to their owners except to look on?

Craig Bartholomew: The point is that the thing pursued, namely wealth, takes on a life of its own and starts to control the person pursuing it. All the owner can do is stand and watch as the problems gather momentum.

  1. (:12)  Never Able to Sleep Peacefully – Increase in Anxieties and Stress

a.  Working Man Sleeps Fine

The sleep of the working man is pleasant,

whether he eats little or much.

b.  Rich Man Plagued with Insomnia

But the full stomach of the rich man

does not allow him to sleep.

Iain Provan: The world of the rich is indeed a world of “abundance” (śbʿ, v. 12), which does not in fact satisfy (śbʿ, v. 10) and permits no sleep (cf. 2:23; 5:3). The world of the worker (ʿbd, as in 5:9, “cultivated”), by contrast, is one in which there may be less consumption (he may not eat [ʾkl] much, v. 12; cf. “consume” in v. 11), but at least he has peace of mind that permits restful slumber. The one suffers the indigestion of materialism, being too full of good things. The other, tasting more selectively of life’s bounty, knows sweeter dreams (Heb. matoq/metuqa, “sweet,” often refers to what is eaten, esp. honey, cf. Judg. 14:14). Once again it is suggested that the pursuit of profit brings not only oppression to others but also damage to the self.

Craig Bartholomew: Wealth involves increased worries and cares so that the rich person does not enjoy the good sleep of the poor laborer (v. 12).

David Hubbard: Here the Preacher’s point was not so much the anxiety over the responsibilities of wealth, as it was the anxiety caused by the use of wealth. “Abundance” is literally “satisfaction,” a noun (Heb. śābāʿ) related to the verb used in verse 10. This is an ironic choice of words: the lavish possessions which ought to satisfy have the opposite effect. Fancy parties, rich food, high living, risky investments—none of these is conducive to relaxation. The overindulgence which wealth makes possible and the stress which fame and attention produce all work against sleep. And where “sleep” flees, hardly anything else in life can truly be enjoyed. Insomnia is much more likely to occur in the fancy houses on the hilltops than in the small cottages in the valley. Wealth may bring frustration in many forms. And sleeplessness is surely one of the more vexing.

C.  (:13-14) Problem of Bankruptcy Despite Hoarding of Riches

Douglas Sean O’Donnell: Hoarding can hurt the hoarder in at least three ways.

  • First, riches can be suddenly and ruinously lost. Verse 14 throws the first match into this bonfire of vanities: “those riches were lost in a bad venture.
  • In any case, riches are certain to disappear at death. This is the second way in which hoarding hurts.
  • Third, without God’s gift to enjoy abundance, everything that money can give is joyless. As Luther again put it, “The wicked begin their hell in this life.”  This touches back on the “I can’t get no satisfaction” theme that Solomon explored earlier in Ecclesiastes 2:1–11. It puts an exclamation point on it, however, because of God’s clear role in the matter. It is not merely that money can’t buy joy; it is also that God makes sure of it.
  1. (:13)   Temptation to Hoard Riches

There is a grievous evil which I have seen under the sun:

riches being hoarded by their owner to his hurt.

Iain Provan: An explicit statement to this effect, looking back over 5:10–12, is found in verse 13. Qohelet has seen a “grievous evil” (lit., “sick evil,” in the sense of “miserable outcome,” cf. 5:16😉 as he observes the world: wealth “hoarded” to the harm of its owner (cf. “owner” also in 5:11). The Hebrew verb behind “hoarded” is šmr, reminding us of 3:6 and, most recently, of 5:8. The rich man has kept his wealth when he ought to have been keeping his neighbor; but even though his goods have increased (v. 11), the end result for him has only been “harm” (lit., “evil,” playing on the concept of whether “goods” are really good for the person).

David Thompson: The Hebrew words “grievous evil” are words that mean there is an evil that will wound you and leave you sick, lacking strength and worn down and that is hoarding wealth (Gesenius, p. 279). The word “hoarded” is one that pictures hoarding something to such an extreme that one keeps, watches and preserves his wealth by guarding it to the point of putting it someplace and then mailing it shut for protection (Gesenius, pp. 837-838). The picture here is of a person who is consumed with hoarding and protecting his wealth. His money is the primary passion of his life. The person who is like this is involved, in God’s estimation, in a “grievous evil” and the ultimate result will not be happiness, but hurt.

  1. (:14)  Tragedy of Bankruptcy

When those riches were lost through a bad investment

and he had fathered a son, then there was nothing to support him.

Daniel Akin: Statistics tell us that “60% of families waste away their wealth by the end of the second generation. By the end of the third generation, 90% of families have little or nothing left of money received from grandparents” (Voorhees, “Why Most Families Lose Their Wealth”). Thus, Solomon argues that wealth is an insecure basis for happiness (Garrett, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs, 314). After all, Proverbs said that wealth sprouts wings and flies away (Prov 23:4-5), which leads to the next reason.

D.  (:15-17) Problem of Death and the Stripping of All Wealth

Craig Bartholomew: There is the problem of death (vv. 15–17). Even if one had a son, one comes naked into the world and cannot take one’s labor along at death (cf. Job 1:21). Verses 16 and 17 most likely refer to the father. The father can carry nothing with him when he dies, and having lost his wealth he spends his remaining days in darkness and anger.

  1. (:15-16)  Naked in Death

a.  Statement of the Harsh Reality

As he had come naked from his mother’s womb,

so will he return as he came.

b.  Futility of Work

He will take nothing from the fruit of his labor

that he can carry in his hand.

Daniel Akin: We brought nothing into this world, and we will lose everything when we die. After all, Ecclesiastes has made it abundantly clear that we return to the dust. The point is that if we do not lose our money in a bad business deal, then we will certainly lose it at death. Thus, we lose it one way or the other. We enter this world naked, with nothing in our hands. Every parent knows this is true. Babies do not come out of their momma’s stomach holding the cash necessary to pay the hospital bills. And we die the same way—with nothing. Paul says the same thing in 1 Timothy 6:6, and a country song called “Trailer Hitch” makes the same point. You never see a hearse with a trailer hitch, so why spend all this effort to make so much money when death will cancel all of our work and earnings? Jesus asks us why we would kill ourselves to make as much money and accumulate as much stuff as possible when we will lose it all in the end anyway. He calls that foolishness in Luke 12.

c.  Restatement of the Harsh Reality

And this also is a grievous evil—

exactly as a man is born, thus will he die.

d.  Refrain: Futility of Work

So, what is the advantage to him who toils for the wind?

  1. (:17) Miserable in Life

Throughout his life he also eats in darkness with great vexation,

sickness and anger.

Daniel Akin: Solomon’s final point is that the rich man eats in darkness with much sorrow, sickness, and anger. This man does not enjoy life. He is lonely and has no one with whom to share his wealth. Thus, trying to find satisfaction in money and stuff is meaningless. It never truly brings satisfaction, and then you die. This point is illustrated in the poignant story by Tolstoy called, “How Much Land Does a Man Need?” The story is about a content peasant farmer who says that he needs just a little land to be happy. The Devil overhears the man and commits to getting him more land in an effort to destroy him. The peasant farmer gets a little land but is not satisfied, so he trades it for more land but is not satisfied. This goes on repeatedly till the man dies in his quest for a huge chunk of land, and the story ends with the servant burying him and this telling statement: “Six feet from his head to his heels was all he needed.” Death is the great equalizer! It cancels out all the earnings we have! Why kill yourself to gain more money, more stuff, and more land, when you are just going to be shoved into a hole in the ground at the end and eaten by worms?!

Jacob Gerber: You can’t put your hope in public life. You can’t put your hope and your private stocks and in your wealth and in your business and in your toil, you can’t find any hope for satisfaction in this world under the sun. So where then can you turn? What can you look for for satisfaction in life?


Daniel Akin: Solomon follows his condemnation of the love of money with another carpe diem passage. He calls us to contentment during our short life. The key is not how much or how little you have but rather how you view what you do have. The basic idea is to enjoy what God has given you instead of craving more, more, and more. Enjoy food, enjoy drink, enjoy your work, and enjoy your spouse and your family because until you enjoy what you already have, new things will not help or satisfy. Why should God provide more for you if you are not content with what He has already given you (Driscoll, “Redefining Riches”)? You can be so concerned about what you do not have that you fail to enjoy and show gratitude for what you do have!

David Hubbard: Koheleth is not speculating here. The alternative conclusion is grounded in his careful observation and reflection (“I have seen,” see 1:14) as firmly as are the observations on wealth in 5:13 and 6:1. The wise man has taken careful note of how wholesome and solid human life can be when people follow the path charted in the alternative conclusion. “Good” and “fitting” (lit. “handsome” or “beautiful”) tie this kind of conduct (v. 18) to God’s creative plan, as 3:10–13 point out. At the same time the passage is worded to form a deliberate connection and contrast with the sad observations about lost wealth in 5:13–17. Both experiences are widespread and typical in our kind of world, as “under the sun” (vv. 13, 18) shows. Both speak of “riches” (vv. 13, 14, 19), but from very different angles: “riches kept for (or “by”) their owner” and “perish” (“are lost,” v. 14) versus “riches“given” by God, which last as part of an inheritance (v. 19). Both feature “labor,” but in one case he takes “nothing” from it, no “profit” at all (vv. 15–16), and in the other he is able “to enjoy the good of all his labor” (vv. 18–19). Both allude to a family “heritage” (or “inheritance”) but the shattered man has nothing to leave his “son” (v. 14) while the joyful man’s stable “heritage” is mentioned twice (vv. 18–19). Both seem to live long lives, though the loser spends “all his day” in the gloom of his vanished fortune (v. 17) while the winner takes joy “all the days of his life” in productive labor (v. 18) and is occupied with joyful tasks (v. 20). Finally, the bereft person stews daily in the broth of his bitterness, rehearsing, reviewing, and reliving his misfortunes (v. 17), but the fulfilled man does not “dwell unduly” (lit. “remember much”) on the incidental happenings of the past, whether weal or woe, but plunges with a “heart” full of “joy” into the opportunities of the present. Which person would you rather have as a neighbor?  Following the alternative conclusion makes princely people.

Allen Ross: In this, the fourth of the so-called carpe diem passages, Qohelet again declares what he has found to be good: that it is appropriate for humans to eat, drink, and take pleasure in the fruits of their labor. The days in which this can be done will be few. And when a person is able to do so, he should recognize the opportunity as a gift from God.

Douglas Miller: The giving nature of God continues to be emphasized: God gives not only life (v. 18), but also wealth, possessions, the ability to enjoy them, and the ability to accept one’s lot and be happy in one’s toil (v. 19, perhaps meaning the results of one’s toil; cf. 2:18-19). This instruction is reminiscent of 2:24-26 and 3:10-13.

A.  (:18) Resetting Expectations

  1. Life Lesson from Observation

Here is what I have seen to be good and fitting:

Knut Martin Heim: The words what I have seen as good, which is beautiful have two functions:

  1. to create a contrast with the dark fate of those who pursue happiness through stockpiling material goods,
  2. and to signal the importance of what comes next.
  1. Enjoy What You Can When You Can

to eat, to drink and enjoy oneself in all one’s labor in which he toils under the sun during the few years of his life which God has given him;

  1. Contentment with Your Lot in Life

for this is his reward.

B.  (:19) Appreciating God’s Generous Gifts

  1. Privilege of Wealth = Gift from God

Furthermore, as for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth,

  1. Enjoyment of Wealth = Gift from God

He has also empowered him to eat from them

and to receive his reward

and rejoice in his labor;

this is the gift of God.

Knut Martin Heim: The statement includes at least four claims that are central to Qoheleth’s theology.

  1. Everyone who is able to secure wealth can do so only through divine providence (to whom God has given).
  2. Everyone who is able to consume his wealth can do so only through divine providence (and whom he [= God ] has enabled to eat from it).
  3. Everyone who is able to be contented with a limited allocation of material possessions can do so only through divine providence (and whom he [= God ] has enabled to . . . accept his share).
  4. Everyone who has these three skills in combination can exercise them only because that aptitude is a gift from God.

In sum, Qoheleth here promotes economic modesty and self-restraint regarding the consumption of material goods as pathways to emotional fulfilment dependent on divine generosity.

C.  (:20) Enjoying Life While You Have Opportunity

Derek Kidner: At first sight this may look like the mere praise of simplicity and moderation; but in fact the key word is God, and the secret of life held out to us is openness to Him: a readiness to take what comes to us as heaven-sent, whether it is toil or wealth or both. This is more than good and. . . fitting (18) : more literally it is ‘a good thing which is beautiful’. Once more, a positive note has broken through, and as the chapter ends we catch a glimpse of the man for whom life passes swiftly, not because it is short and meaningless but because, by the grace of God, he finds it utterly absorbing. This will be the theme of the closing chapters; but first there is more to be explored of human experience and its harsh realities.

  1. Don’t Focus on the Brevity of Life

For he will not often consider the years of his life,

David Thompson: Life for one right with God is an exciting expedition, not a depressing drudgery. One right with God isn’t worried about what he does or doesn’t have. He doesn’t worry about how long he will live. He just enjoys the day and lives in light of the words of Jesus Christ, who said, “Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matt. 6:34). I want us to carefully observe where happiness, fulfillment and joy are found  — in the heart. Nothing material, nothing tangible can produce gladness. God must put it in a man’s heart. Even though we live in dark and evil days, our days can be enjoyable. When God grants job and happiness to a man, man can forget about the brevity of his life.

  1. Focus on Enjoying What Aspects of Life You Can Right Now

because God keeps him occupied with the gladness of his heart.

John MacArthur: When a person recognizes the goodness of God, he rejoices and does not dwell unduly on the troubles detailed in the previous context.

Tremper Longman: One can almost feel Qohelet’s envy as he describes those to whom God has given riches and the ability to enjoy them. They are the ones, unlike himself as his speech continually testifies, who are able to take his advice and enjoy life now. He is suffering, but they have an anesthetic to life’s harsh realities. As Michael Fox noted, according to Qohelet, “Pleasure is an anodyne to the pain of consciousness.”