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Daniel Akin: Chapter 6 begins, echoing the curse with the language of “sickening tragedy,” by presenting a man who has everything the world says you need to be truly happy (interestingly, the very things promised to Solomon in 2 Chr 1:12). But God does not give him the ability to enjoy what he has. What makes this situation more awful is that someone else will enjoy that for which the man worked so hard (cf. Eccl 2:18-23). Thus, a man can live the American dream but find it is actually a nightmare!

What should we make of God’s sovereign choice mentioned here? God sovereignly allots things to us, and He even allots the ability or inability to enjoy what He has given to us. God chose what you would get and where you would be stationed in life. He chose the life, family, job, skills, looks, and intellect you have. But why in the world would God give someone something but withhold the ability to enjoy it? Because He knows what is best for us. He gives some the inability to enjoy what they have because in His goodness He will not give you something that drives you away from Him. He knows there is no such thing as happiness apart from Him. . .

Ecclesiastes 6:3-6 shows that a man can have the blessed life of the Old Testament—wealth, kids, and long life—yet not be satisfied. If you cannot enjoy life, then a stillborn baby is better off (6:3). Why? Because the rich man is all alone. He does not get a proper burial (6:3), which means he is unlamented and no one misses him (Hunt, Ecclesiastes, 28). . .

All the work a man does is for his mouth, but his appetite is not satisfied (6:7). Life is a treadmill; we work so that we can eat so that we can have the strength to work so that we can eat (Kidner, Ecclesiastes, 61). We have uncontrolled appetites to consume food, money, technology, and so much more, but the problem is the “more” we get is never enough because the human heart was made to be satisfied only in God alone. Thus, no amount of money or things will ever fill our void (Hunt, Ecclesiastes, 22). Interestingly, the wise really have no advantage over fools, and the poor wise man cannot get a leg up either (6:8). The problem of dissatisfied appetites affects every station of life, and even if the poor man figured out how to make his way in the world and get some success, he would be as unsatisfied as the rich man. Therefore, Solomon concludes that the sight of the eyes is better than the roving appetite, and he writes “futile” over the whole section (6:9). It is better to be content with what you have—what is right in front of your eyes—than constantly crave more!

David Thompson: There is no doctrine in all of the Bible that is more calming or stabilizing than the doctrine of the sovereignty of God. Here is what you are faced with in this world–either God “is” sovereign or He “isn’t.” God either rules or He must be ruled. God either does the swaying or He must be swayed. God either must accomplish His will or He must subject His will to others. The Bible in no uncertain terms clearly affirms that God is totally and completely sovereign in every realm. God is the supreme ruler who does what He wants, when He wants with whomever He wants. No one can defeat His counsel, His purpose or His will. It is just as Psalm 115:3 says, “But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.

When we read the inspired writings of Solomon, it becomes very clear that he had a high and holy grasp of the sovereignty of God (i.e. Prov. 16:1-4). And as we come to a text like this in Ecclesiastes, it is obvious that even when Solomon was focused on life “under the sun,” he still knew there was One calling the shots who was “above the sun.” Solomon believed the “day of prosperity” was from God and he believed the “day of adversity” was also from God (Eccl. 7:14).


Man cannot even be in a right frame of thinking until he begins to grasp the sovereignty of God. Any man who thinks he is in control is a man “chasing the wind.” We are the clay, God is the Potter. We are the creature, God is the Creator. God is totally and completely sovereign and we will not even begin to find real meaning in life until we grasp this Biblical point.


There is an evil which I have seen under the sun

and it is prevalent among men

Continued worldly insight into the futility of the human condition;

Book becomes somewhat repetitious as it continues to drive home the same messages and repeatedly investigates the same themes.

A.  Consistency of the Ominous Observations = dark and brooding

an evil which I have seen

Journal of what Solomon saw as he looked around him and what he personally experienced; this is his blog and the tone is heavy

Evil” is a pretty strong word; Solomon not sugar coating anything; not looking through rose-tinted glasses; but not making things up either; facing reality square in the face and reporting what he sees around him

B.  Consistency of the Finite-Limited Perspective

under the sun

Doesn’t have his “mind of Christ” spectacles on – despite some glimpses of light

C.  Consistency of the Human Condition

it is prevalent among men

cf. “no temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man1 Cor. 10:13

Sometimes as believers we view the world as divided into 2 classes of people: the saved and the unsaved; that’s how we view our neighbors, our co-workers, etc.   We think of all of the distinctions between these two groups – What fellowship can light have with darkness, etc. – But Solomon is thinking here of how much all of mankind has in common – what is innate to the human condition – the reality that is prevalent among men – yes, those with a divine perspective will be able to deal with this reality without the despair of the unsaved … connectivity to Christ gives us the divine perspective … but viewed just “under the sun” apart from how we deal with the reality, there are some perplexing questions in this life.

David Hubbard: Koheleth introduces (v. 1) his final observation (“I have seen”; see 5:13, 18) by featuring the frequency— “common” is literally “much” or “many”—and the ubiquity— “under the sun” means “everywhere in our broken world” (see 1:3)—of the “evil.” “Evil” here as often in the book means “painful misfortune,” a “happening fraught with danger or frustration,” “something that blocks life’s blessing and robs it of joy.” “Men” (Heb. ʾādām) stands for persons regardless of gender (see 1:3).


Albert Mohler: Here’s another depressing reality: owning cannot guarantee enjoying, so that a life unlived is better than a life unenjoyed.

Robert Laurin: (:1-9) — One of life’s greatest misfortunes is that a man may have riches and not be able to enjoy them, either because of an early death or perhaps because of a spirit of avarice which will not let him be satisfied.

A.  (:2) The Good Life Proves Elusive

  1. (:2a) Possessing the Good Life is a Gift from God – Solomon’s Blessings – Riches / Wealth / Honor  cf. 2 Chron. 1:11-12

a man to whom God has given riches and wealth and honor so that his

soul lacks nothing of all that he desires

This is a self-portrait on Solomon’s part – he is this man he references here; God asked him what he most wanted in all of the world and then God abundantly blessed him beyond his imagination.

What sorts of people do we know that have been blessed with riches and wealth and honor?  Important to acknowledge that such prosperity is a gift from God.

John MacArthur: The Lord gives and takes away for His own purposes.  So, the blessings of God cannot be assumed or taken for granted.  But they should be enjoyed with thankfulness while they are available.

  1. (:2b) Enjoying the Good Life is Impossible Apart from a Gift of God as Well – Solomon’s Frustration

a.  You Don’t Get to Enjoy Your Possessions

yet God has not empowered him to eat from them

Imagine how frustrating this must be.  Everything you want is within your reach, but for some reason you cannot partake and enjoy.

Warren Wiersbe: Enjoyment without God is merely entertainment, and it doesn’t satisfy.  But enjoyment with God is enrichment and it brings true joy and satisfaction.

Douglas Miller: Earlier Qohelet stated the general rule (for all people): God gives good things and it is fitting to enjoy them (5:18-19). But now he addresses the individual exception to the rule (6:1-2). Yes, God gives, but some are not able to enjoy God’s gifts.

Michael Eaton: “eat” means to enjoy here (Is. 3:10)

Look at the gracious invitations of the Lord Jesus Christ:  (just picked out 4)

To those who are in need of repentance in order to experience the divine favor:

Rev. 3:20  “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to  him and will dine with him, and he with Me.”

To those who are on the treadmill of this rat race life:

Matt. 11:28Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”

To those who want to discover real meaning and purpose in life:

Matt. 4:19  “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.”  But you must leave your nets and follow

John 6:27Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.”  All hinges on living a life of faith

b.  A Stranger Enjoys Your Possessions

for a foreigner enjoys them.

Chuck Swindoll: What types of foreigners are in view?

  • Could be national enemies that take spoils of war
  • Could be things out of your control such as disease and failing health
  • Could be time commitments that don’t allow you the freedom to enjoy the good life
  • Could be family conflicts that devour your peace of mind and your material estate
  1. (:2c)  Conclusion: Futility and Pain Once Again

This is vanity and a severe affliction.”

Sobering Comparison:

B.  (:3-6) The Good Life No Better Than the Non Life – In fact more painful and frustrating

  1. Possible Mitigating Factors

a.  Larger Family – language of hyperbole

If a man fathers a hundred children

Children viewed as a blessing from the Lord – no humanistic concerns over population control here

b.  Longer/Healthier Life

and lives many years, however many they be

  1. Same Problem: No Enjoyment or Satisfaction

but his soul is not satisfied with good things,

And he does not even have a proper burial

Warren Wiersbe: But his family does not love him, for when he died, he was not lamented. . .  His relatives stayed around him only to use his money (5:11), and they wondered when the old man would die.  When he finally did die, his surviving relatives could hardly wait for the reading of the will.

John MacArthur: Not having a burial, as in the case of King Jehoiakim (Jer 22:18,19 —  “a donkey’s burial”), indicated complete disrespect and disregard for one’s life.  To die without mourners or honors was considered worse than being born dead, even if one had many children and a full life.

[cf. cremation – not showing much respect for the body or much hope for the afterlife]

Tremper Longman: I thus stay close to the MT and understand the meaning to be that, though someone may have the external trappings of a happy life, he may be miserable, and his dead body may be treated in a horrid fashion (Deut. 28:26; 2 Kings 9:10; Jer. 14:16). The idea expressed in this verse is also found in Ecclesiastes 4:2.

  1. Worse State Than Non Existence

a.  Point of Comparison

then I say, ‘Better the miscarriage than he’

Talking about the still born child – such expectation; the mother carries the child for 9 painful months; the agony of delivery and then the devastation of the child being still-born – isn’t this a cruel illustration on Solomon’s part .. how can the life of any man be more sorry than that sad state of affairs.

Douglas Miller: The point the Teacher makes is that it would be better to be a mysterious stillborn child than to have a hundred offspring and live a long life without finding satisfaction in good things. At least the lost child has rest (v. 5c; cf. 4:6; Job 3:13, 17).

David Hubbard: Despite the complete absence of identity (v. 4) and utter lack of experience of life, the stillborn (“this,” v. 5) has a huge advantage over the shattered man—the advantage of “rest” or even “pleasure” as the rabbis sometimes translated the word (Heb. nahat, see 2:24). To feel nothing, know nothing, experience nothing, Koheleth deems preferable to the vexing pain of missing out on all the things that bring satisfaction—again the word is “goodness” (v. 6; see v. 3).

b.  Unrecognized Futility Better Than Recognized and Experienced Futility

1)  Not Known by Anyone

for it comes in futility and goes into obscurity;

                                         And its name is covered in obscurity.”

2)  Not Knowing any of this World’s Evil and Suffering

It never sees the sun and it never knows anything;

                               It is better off than he.”

Warren Wiersbe: More than one person in the Bible became so discouraged with life that he either wanted to die or wished he had never been born.  This includes Moses (Num. 11:15), Elijah (1 Kings 19:4), Job (3:21; 7:15), Jeremiah (8:3; 15:10), and Jonah (4:3).  Even the great apostle Paul despaired of life during a particularly tough time in his life (2 Cor. 1:8-11).

Michael Eaton: The child at least has rest; he does not have to endure the conflicts of life “under the sun.”

c.  Same Destiny

Even if the other man lives a thousand years twice and does not enjoy

good things – do not all go to one place?”

Michael Eaton: The destination is common to all, no matter how long it takes to get there.  The one place is Sheol, the realm of the dead.

Solomon: we know where we are all headed; let’s just get there with the minimum of suffering and frustration.

David Hubbard: The leveling effect of death is a familiar theme: it happens alike to the wise and the fool (2:14), to beasts and human beings (3:19–20). As in 3:20, “one place” must refer to Sheol, the grave or the abode of the dead (see 9:10), omnivorous and insatiable in its appetite (Prov. 30:16).


A.  (:7) Laboring . . . Eating . . . Emptiness

All a man’s labor is for his mouth and yet the appetite is not satisfied.”

Chuck Swindoll: The term translated “appetite” is the Hebrew word nephesh.  It’s the term often rendered “soul” in other Old Testament passages.  The soul is not satisfied.  Work doesn’t bring satisfaction to an empty life.

David Thompson: The particular Hebrew word for “labor” (amal) is one that refers to labor that brings one to the point of being wearied, fatigued and exhausted (Gesenius, p. 639). There is a very positive reason why a man works hard at a job; so he may provide for his physical needs. In fact, there is nothing wrong with working so we may have something to eat. This is a blessing of God and also it is the will of God (Ecc. 2:24; 3:13; II Thess. 3:10-12). Hard work will bring relief from hunger, but it won’t bring total fulfillment or satisfaction. Truth is bread alone will never satisfy or fulfill the soul no matter how hard one works (Deut. 8:3; Matt. 4:4).

Man is a bottomless pit; nothing can fill him up or satisfy.

Work would have some value if it could bring satisfaction.

B.  (:8) What’s the Point?  2 Piercing Questions:

  1. No Difference – Wise Man or Fool

For what advantage does the wise man have over the fool?”

  1. No Difference – Rich Man or Poor

What advantage does the poor man have,

knowing how to walk before the living?”

Craig Bartholomew: Wealth cannot provide meaning (rest), and both the wise person and the fool have the same destination; what then if any is the advantage of “wisdom,” asks Qohelet (v. 8). Verse 8 refers back to 5:8–9 [7–8]. Wisdom is all about skill in living, but what value is it to the poor if their lot is to be oppressed and exploited? How can wisdom help the poor if rising out of poverty, that is, becoming wealthy—one of the things wisdom is meant to produce (cf. Prov. 3:9–10)—merely compounds the problem of the meaning of life? Qohelet’s use of “wisdom” here is surely ironic, for the context assumes that the person seeking wealth is wise, whereas the book as a whole will time and again show that this sort of wisdom is folly.

C.  (:9a) Mini-Insight – Focus on What You Have

What the eyes see is better than what the soul desires.”

Proverbial saying: “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.”

Some people go through life with that grasping, covetous spirit – imagining that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence; let’s jump to that next job – it has to be better than what I’ve got here; then you find out that human nature is the same everywhere; the jerks you thought you were escaping somehow popped up over there;

If I could just have X . . .

Solomon has a lot to say about the secret of Contentment.

Chuck Swindoll: Balancing perspective – we still need dreamers – great quote:

“The reason mountain climbers are tied together is to keep the sane ones from going home.”

So it takes a few dreamers out front to tell them what it’s going to be like, to keep their hopes up.  And so it is with life.  But the problem comes when we live only in a fantasy land and refuse to face reality. . .  Dreaming sets us on a collision course where fantasy hits reality broadside.  Face the inescapable truth – You need God.

D.  (:9b) Same Old Conclusion = Futility Under the Sun

This too is futility and a striving after wind.”

Warren Wiersbe: Is Solomon telling us that it’s wrong to dream great dreams or have a burning ambition to accomplish something in life?  Of course not, but we must take care that our ambition is motivated by the glory of God and not the praise of men.  We must want to serve others and not promote ourselves.  If we think our achievements will automatically bring satisfaction, we are wrong.  True satisfaction comes when we do the will of God from the heart (Eph. 6:6; John 4:34).


Robert Laurin: It is ultimately useless to try to change things, and to wish for more than one has.  Submission to the fixed order is best, since God has determined things the way they are.  Man is powerless even to argue the issue.

George Hendry: The nature and destiny of man are determined by One mightier than him, and he cannot contend with his Maker or add to his stature one cubit.  All his endeavours to find enduring substance in this transitory life issue in vanity, and leave him facing the final question.

David Thompson: I like what C. S. Lewis said — “To argue with God is to argue with the very power that makes it possible to argue at all.” Dr. Chuck Swindoll said disputing with God about His sovereignty is a “waste of time and effort” (Living On the Ragged Edge, p. 183). When we dispute with God about His sovereignty, we reject what God has revealed about Himself, we miss the lessons we can learn in the midst of anything and we typically think emotionally, irrationally and unbiblical. Even Solomon, when focused “under the sun,” knew disputing about God’s sovereignty was something that would never cause one to be fulfilled.

A.  (:10-11) The Futility of Trying to Determine Your Own Destiny3 Don’ts:

  1. The Finality of the Sovereignty of God – since your course has been determined

Don’t Think that You Can Change Your Future

Whatever exists has already been named, and it is known what man is

Michael Eaton: To “give something a name” is to study or (as here) to appoint its character.  Both the world (what is) and man have settled characters.  One who is stronger than he is God.  Thus the Preacher is underlining the impossibility of changing the basic character of life.  Man cannot escape his limitations, nor can he completely unravel the world’s anomalies (cf. 1:15).  He may, like Job, wish to debate the matter with God, but God is altogether greater.

Charles Ryrie: Man is unable to control his destiny, which is determined by God.  This is contrary to fatalism, which views God as either nonexistent or uninvolved.

Donald Glenn: Solomon introduced his discussion on the limitations of human wisdom (6:10 – 11:6) by reverting to two themes he had used earlier to demonstrate the futility of human toil, namely, the immutability (1:15; 3:14; cf. 1:9) and inscrutability (3:11, 22) of divine providence.

  1. The Frustration of Any Human Speculation or Debate – since God is wiser and more powerful

Don’t Debate with God

for he cannot dispute with him who is stronger than he is.

For there are many words which increase futility.”

Chuck Swindoll: Disputing is a waste of time and effort.  So long as I fight the hand of God, I do not learn the lessons He is attempting to place before me.  Everything that touches me comes through the hand of my heavenly Father who continues to love me, who continues to maintain control of my life, who continues to be totally responsible for my life.  He does the same with all His created things.  That’s why He’s God!

Van Parunak: (:10b) — he cannot contend with or enter into judgment with God.

1)  He cannot complain about the events, since they are determined.

2)  He cannot complain about his lot in them, since he is determined!

  1. The Pointlessness of Life Under the Sun – since God trumps man at every turn

Don’t Try to Beat God at His Own Game = Controlling Life

What then is the advantage to a man?”

Craig Bartholomew: In such a context many words simply increase the enigma of life (v. 11). This is not to say that all words increase the enigma of life, but this line raises in an acute fashion which words do not! Qohelet certainly seems unable to find them. Who then can say what the path to life and joy is in the few days of a person’s enigmatic life? Verse 11b repeats the programmatic question of “what benefit” there is for the person (cf. 1:3). Verse 12a repeats the question with an emphasis on the brevity of life and its enigmatic nature. Seow insists that “enigmatic” must mean “fleeting” here but gives no reason for this,  presumably because it extends the idea of the brevity of one’s days. As a conclusion to vv. 1–12, however, there is no reason why Qohelet should not refer to the brevity of life and its enigmatic nature. Transience is indeed a major theme in this section, but it contributes to the enigmatic nature of life. God, according to Qohelet, has made people like a shadow. This metaphor, which occurs elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible, emphasizes the insubstantiality of the human person—shadows come and go, and this is just like humans, who have no idea what will happen after them under the sun.

B.  (:12) The Futility of Even Understanding Your Lot in Life3 Who Knows:

Albert Mohler: Two mysteries elude our grasp.

  • One, who knows the best way to live this brief life?
  • Two, who knows the best way to prepare for the unseen future?

God holds the key to these unknowns, and he isn’t sharing the answers with us.  So we are wise to humble ourselves and trust in him.

  1. The Uncertainty and Moral Relativism of Agnosticism

Who Knows What is Best?

For who knows what is good for a man during his lifetime,

  1. The Brevity and Futility of This Life on Earth

Who Knows Whether You Will Be Around Tomorrow?

during the few years of his futile lifeHe will spend them like a shadow.”

Tremper Longman: Specifically, the verse says that he made people like a shadow. The expression occurs elsewhere (1 Chron. 29:15; Ps. 144:4; Job 8:9; 14:12) in contexts that also emphasize the frailty of human beings. The metaphor is one that highlights the brevity of human life, but perhaps even more pointedly its ephemerality. It conveys the fact that humans are so ephemeral, so insubstantial, that they are unable to know the future, what happens after they leave the scene. That Qohelet means the future on earth is clearly established by the key phrase under the sun (1:3); Qohelet never seriously entertains the thought of an afterlife.

Thus, in this one verse Qohelet raises his two largest problems: death and the future’s uncertainty. God has made human beings ephemeral, and that is why they cannot know the future, either theirs or anyone else’s. The verse places the responsibility for this sad state of affairs squarely on God.

  1. The Mystery and Dread of the Future

Who Knows What the Future Holds?

For who can tell a man what will be after him under the sun?”