Solomon’s Philosophy Experiment

Version française/French version

Ecclesiastes2

Thousands of years ago King Solomon, with all of his wisdom and his great resources, tried to find an answer to this great philosophical question :

“What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?” (Ecclesiastes 1:3)

In other words: he tried to discover the best thing for man to do on this earth all the days of his mortal life “under the sun”.  The best thing to give happiness and meaning to life.  He tried to “see what was that good for the sons of men, which they should do under the heaven all the days of their life” (Ecclesiastes 2:3b). A serious philosophical quest which he pursued with great vigor:

“I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning ALL THINGS THAT ARE DONE UNDER HEAVEN.” (Ecclesiastes 1:13a)

He looked at life in ALL of its aspects so as to be able to give the best answer to the great question previously quoted.  He did this not half-heartedly but he “gave” his “heart” to find the answer:

“And whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy…” (Ecclesiastes 2:10a)

Under very favorable circumstances (a time of peace and great prosperity) he personally and simultaneously experienced many things which men in the past thought would make them happy:

1) marriage/sexual pleasure

“… KING SOLOMON LOVED MANY strange WOMEN, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites… he had SEVEN HUNDRED WIVES, princesses, and THREE HUNDRED CONCUBINES.” (1st Kings 11:1, 3a)

2) wealth/possessions/financial success

“… king Solomon exceeded all the kings of the earth for riches…” (1st Kings 10:23)

“And all king Solomon’s drinking vessels were of gold, and all the vessels of the house of the forest of Lebanon were of pure gold; none were of silver: it was nothing accounted of in the days of Solomon.” (1st Kings 10:21)

“And the king made silver to be in Jerusalem as stones…” (1st Kings 10:27a)

“Now the weight of gold that came to Solomon in one year was six hundred threescore and six talents of gold, beside that he had of the merchantmen, and of the traffick of the spice merchants, and of all the kings of Arabia, and of the governors of the country.” (1st Kings 10:14-15)

3) great knowledge and wisdom

“And Solomon’s wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east country, and all the wisdom of Egypt.” (1st Kings 4:30)

Solomon : “my heart had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.” (Ecclesiastes 1:16b)

4) food/alcohol

“And Solomon’s provision for one day was thirty measures of fine flour, and threescore measures of meal, ten fat oxen, and twenty oxen out of the pastures, and an hundred sheep, beside harts, and roebucks, and fallowdeer, and fatted fowl.” (1st Kings 4:22-23)

Solomon : “I sought in mine heart to give myself unto wine, yet acquainting mine heart with wisdom” (Ecclesiastes 2:2a)

5) music/entertainment

Solomon : “… I gat me men singers and women singers…” (Ecclesiastes 2:8b)

6) political power over a great kingdom (a pretty good career!)

“So king Solomon was king over all Israel.” (1st Kings 4:1)

“Judah and Israel were many, as the sand which is by the sea in multitude, eating and drinking, and making merry.  And Solomon reigned over all kingdoms from the river unto the land of the Philistines, and unto the border of Egypt: they brought presents, and served Solomon all the days of his life.” (1st Kings 4:20-21)

“For he had dominion over all the region on this side the river, from Tiphsah even to Azzah, over all the kings on this side the river: and he had peace on all sides round about him. And Judah and Israel dwelt safely…” (1st Kings 4:24-25a)

7) servants (a life of ease)

Solomon : “I got me servants and maidens, and had servants born in my house…” (Ecclesiastes 2:7a)

8) mirth/laughter/folly/fun

Solomon : “I said in mine heart, Go to now, I will prove thee with mirth, therefore enjoy pleasure” (Ecclesiastes 2:1a)

Solomon : “I withheld not my heart from any joy” (Ecclesiastes 2:10b)

Solomon : “And I gave my heart to … know madness and folly” (Ecclesiastes 1:17a)

9) writing/creativity/arts

“And he spake three thousand proverbs: and his songs were a thousand and five.” (1st Kings 4:32)

Three books of the Bible were authored by him : Ecclesiastes, Proverbs and Song of Songs.

10) building/gardening/planting

“And king Solomon made a navy of ships in Eziongeber…” (1st Kings 9:26a)

“And Solomon built Gezer, and Bethhoron the nether, And Baalath, and Tadmor in the wilderness, in the land,  And all the cities of store that Solomon had, and cities for his chariots, and cities for his horsemen, and that which Solomon desired to build in Jerusalem, and in Lebanon, and in all the land of his dominion.” (1st Kings 9:17-19)

“But Solomon was building his own house thirteen years, and he finished all his house.  He built also the house of the forest of Lebanon; the length thereof was an hundred cubits, and the breadth thereof fifty cubits, and the height thereof thirty cubits, upon four rows of cedar pillars, with cedar beams upon the pillars.” (1st Kings 7:1-2)

Solomon : “I made me great works; I builded me houses; I planted me vineyards: I made me gardens and orchards, and I planted trees in them of all kind of fruits:” (Ecclesiastes 2:4-5)

11) fame/personal glory

“And there came of all people to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all kings of the earth, which had heard of his wisdom.” (1st Kings 4:34)

12) pets/livestock

Solomon : “I had great possessions of great and small cattle above all that were in Jerusalem before me” (Ecclesiastes 2:7b)

“… once in three years came the navy of Tharshish, bringing gold, and silver, ivory, and APES, AND PEACOCKS.” (1st Kings 10:22b)

One could add good physical health as well.  Solomon in the book of Proverbs talks about physical health at different times (e.g. Proverbs 25:16, Proverbs 17:22) and God had promised him longevity (as long as he was faithful – see 1st Kings 3:14) so we can assume that Solomon was quite healthy in the prime of his life.

***** RESULTS OF SOLOMON’S EXPERIMENT *********

For a time Solomon experienced a measure of happiness:

Solomon : “my heart rejoiced in all my labour” (Ecclesiastes 2:10b)

BUT this happiness was illusory and did not last:

Solomon : “Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit… Therefore I hated life…” (Ecclesiastes 2:11a,17a)

He then provided at that time an answer to the question mentioned at the beginning of this document (“What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?“):

Solomon : “there was NO PROFIT UNDER THE SUN.” (Ecclesiastes 2:11b)

Solomon’s problem at that time was that he was self-centered (e.g. “I made ME great works; I builded ME houses” – Ecclesiastes 2:4a) and was focused on the finite things of this world which cannot ultimately satisfy us or give meaning to our existence.  Solomon was more focused on the creation than on the Creator who made all things and alone can satisfy the deepest longings of our heart.  Solomon would come to realize at the end of his philosophical quest that a right relationship with God in loving service and in sincere worship was the only way to find true happiness and meaning in this life “under the sun”:

“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: FEAR GOD, AND KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS*: for THIS IS THE WHOLE DUTY OF MAN. For GOD SHALL BRING EVERY WORK INTO JUDGMENT, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)

* living for God requires first living under His grace (unmerited favor); Solomon was not advocating justification before God by the works of the law; he himself knew that all men are sinners without exception (Ecclesiastes 7:20, 1st Kings 8:46) and he himself had provided bloody sacrifices (which pointed as types to the Perfect Atoning Sacrifice of Messiah); the Torah teaches that justification before God is by faith without the works of the law (Genesis 15:6)

Many centuries later Jesus would say to His disciples : “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)

If there is no life after death (as some falsely think) then why should people toil and labor to acquire honors/possessions/achievements/knowledge/fame for themselves when they will die and not be able to bring any of those things with them?

“As he came forth of his mother’s womb, naked shall he return to go as he came, and shall take nothing of his labour, which he may carry away in his hand. And this also is a sore evil, that in all points as he came, so shall he go: and what profit hath he that hath laboured for the wind?” (Ecclesiastes 5:15-16)

Solomon tells us why food/alcohol will not satisfy us:

“All the labour of man is for his mouth, and yet the appetite is not filled.” (Ecclesiastes 6:7)

Solomon tells us why music/entertainment will not satisfy us:

“… the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.” (Ecclesiastes 1:8b)

Solomon tells us why intellectual/philosophical pursuits will not satisfy us:

“… no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11b)

“… in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.” (Ecclesiastes 1:18)

“… of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.” (Ecclesiastes 12:12b)

Solomon, who was EXCEEDINGLY rich, tells us that wealth/possessions will not satisfy us:

“He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity. When goods increase, they are increased that eat them: and what good is there to the owners thereof, saving the beholding of them with their eyes? … the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep.” (Ecclesiastes 5:10-11,12b)

If anyone thinks something “new” (e.g. a “new” philosophy) is going to come along on this earth that will give meaning to life Solomon would remind us that:

“The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9-10)

Whatever we think can make us happy on this earth and in this life Solomon tested/experienced to a greater degree/extent than anyone who has ever lived so who thinks that they could come to a better conclusion than he did?  If you look for a meaning for life outside of serving the God of the Bible in sincerity and truth (John 4:24) you’ll only end up disappointed… you won’t find what you’re looking for…

U2's Bono : "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For"

U2’s Bono : “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”

… and (which is much worse!) you’ll be judged by the glorious God you have refused to serve.  What does God have in store for those who do not obey the Gospel and refuse to live for His glory?  Eternal torments for the body and the soul (Matthew 25:46).  An eternal existence of misery and shame. Never-ending. Not even the slightest hope for anything remotely pleasant. No bright future ahead. No relief. No consolations. No possibility to change one’s lot. No escape. No peace. No source of joy/pleasure. No food. No water. No fellowship time with friends/family. No way to forget one’s sufferings. No possibility of rest. No sleep. No possibility of ever satisfying your sinful desires. A conscience tormented eternally with guilt. No one to blame but oneself.

Solomon : “I said in mine heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked: for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work.” (Ecclesiastes 3:17)

“Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, BE YE RECONCILED TO GOD. For he hath made him [Christ] to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him [Christ].” (2nd Corinthians 5:20-21)

See also : Blog Intro : The Gospel of Jesus Christ and Messianic Prophecies Part 1

***** FOR FURTHER STUDY *********

After having looked at different past commentaries on the Book of Ecclesiastes I can say that the one that I felt best grasped Solomon’s argumentation was Loyal Young’s commentary available for free download at this website:

http://archive.org/details/commentaryonbook00younuoft

Years ago I listened to this very good series of sermons on Ecclesiastes:

http://www.kaleochurch.com/sermons/sermon-series/ecclesiastes/

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