The Scriptorium

From One Fool to Another

Solomon used his experience to persuade his son. Too late. Ecclesiastes 2.18-23

Ecclesiastes 2 (6)

Pray Psalm 38.17, 18, 21, 22.
For I am ready to fall,
And my sorrow is continually before me.
For I will declare my iniquity;
I will be in anguish over my sin.

Do not forsake me, O LORD;
O my God, be not far from me!
Make haste to help me,
O Lord, my salvation!

Read Ecclesiastes 2.18-23.

1. Why is Solomon so suddenly bitter in these verses?

2. What legacy is Solomon focusing on in these verses?

Perhaps thinking that he had managed to bring Rehoboam along thus far, Solomon makes his first direct jab at achieving something like conviction.

Who does Rehoboam think he is to receive all the work of his father and just squander it in self-indulgence? The very thought of it led Solomon to hate all that he had done and to despair of his life amounting to anything.

Is this just a ploy on Solomon’s part, an attempt to get Rehoboam to “wake up and smell the coffee”, if only for his father’s sake? Doubtless Solomon actually had these feelings, but expressing them this way at this point in his biographical sketch seems deliberately provocative. It’s not the last time Solomon will employ this tactic. Clearly Solomon loves his son and wants to spare him the vexation, anger, and despair into which he himself had slipped – if only temporarily – in his old age.

Solomon’s admission, in passing, of his having used his wisdom “under the sun” (v. 19) is a testimony to his sense of a failure of stewardship. He took what the Lord had graciously granted him and used it to foster a self-indulgent way of life. Where did that lead? Hatred of life, despair, vexation, suspicion of his successor – in general, disappointment and misery.

The difference between Solomon and Rehoboam was that Solomon had come to see the folly of his way. He was speaking to Rehoboam from the way of the fool in order to discourage him from embracing that way (Prov. 26.4, 5). He wanted to spare his son the sleepless nights he himself had known (v. 23), and to help him know the way of true wisdom, contentment, joy, and hope, which is the inheritance of the redeemed as they labor in the Kingdom of the Lord.

1. What’s the difference between happiness and joy? Which should we seek, and where should we expect to find it?

2. Should we be concerned about leaving a legacy to those who will survive us? What kind of legacy?

3. Solomon emphasizes that the reflections here are on his experience of living “under the sun”. Why are days “sorrowful” and work “burdensome” for those whose only horizon is on this material age?

If the whole earth is not worth the kingdom of heaven, surely he who has left a few fields leaves nothing, as it were; even if he has given up a house or much gold, he ought not to boast nor grow weary. Moreover, we should consider that if we do not relinquish these things for virtue’s sake, we leave them behind later when we die and often, as Ecclesiastes reminds us, to those to whom we do not wish to leave them. Why, then, do we not relinquish them for the sake of virtue, so that we may inherit a kingdom? Athanasius (295-373), Life of St. Anthony 17

Lord, the most important legacy is to love and serve You with joy. Help me to build on that legacy today as I…

Pray Psalm 38.17-22.
We can always grow in our salvation, and we must strive to do so. Part of growing in grace is confessing our sins as the Lord leads. Take your time; listen as the Spirit searches your soul. Confess and repent as He leads.

Sing Psalm 38.17-22.
Psalm 38.17-22 (Leoni: The God of Abraham Praise)
My sins I now confess; my anxious soul relieve!
Though foes are strong, Lord, heal and bless all who believe!
Forsake me not, O Lord! Repay my foes with wrath.
Stand by me with Your saving Word and guard my path!

T. M. Moore

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from
The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006). All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore