The Scriptorium

Better Off Never Living

Live long, neglect your soul, die alone. Ecclesiastes 6.3

Ecclesiastes 6 (2)

Pray Psalm 4.7.
You have put gladness in my heart,
More than in the season that their grain and wine increased.

Read Ecclesiastes 6.3.

Prepare.
1. Should this man have been happy? Why or why not?

2. What did he fail to achieve?

Meditate.
This verse is a restatement of verses 1 and 2, but with the meaning stretched out a bit. It also harks back to Solomon’s thought about those who are caught in oppression (4.1-3). In a sense, Solomon is saying that being oppressed and failing to satisfy your soul’s deepest need are equally vain.

Here is a man who has many children and lives a long life; but, at the end of his life, not only has he not satisfied the longing of his soul, his children have all forsaken him. We can see how this idea extends the idea broached in verses 1 and 2. This man has no one to bury him, a fate sometimes seen as a consequence of divine judgment (cf. Ps. 79.1-4).

This end of life, Solomon insists, is worse than never living at all. Did this man consume his wealth on himself, leaving very little for his many children? And, at his death, did they scorn and abandon him? We don’t know, and Solomon is only trying to get us thinking, not to provide all the details of this situation.

Solomon is a literary craftsman. We saw his use of inclusio in verses 1 and 2 – beginning and ending his thought at the same place (“evil”). Now here he completes a Hebrew parallelism, a literary device we most often (though not exclusively) associate with poetry. In this example, the first idea is stated (vv. 1, 2). Then, it is stated again (v. 3), in a different form, and with some embellishment or extension of the original idea. Parallelism provides emphasis, and helps to make an image more memorable.

Do you find it curious that Solomon believed poetry to be a powerful vehicle for conveying important ideas? These days, most of us have little use for poetry. Perhaps Solomon’s use of the genre should call us to repent of our indifference to this divinely-ordained literary form? 

Reflect.
1. We’ve seen that Solomon uses a number of father/children images to make his points. Why do you suppose he employed that image so much?

2. Stuff won’t make you happy (vv. 1, 2). Neither will many children and long years of life. Why not?

3. How is the soul “satisfied with goodness”? How would Solomon answer that question?

A numerous family was a matter of fond desire and of high honor among the Hebrews; and long life is the desire of mankind in general. Even with these additions a man may not be able to enjoy his riches, family, and life. Such a man, in his passage through life, seems to have been born for no end or use. And he who has entered on life only for one moment, to quit it the next, has a preferable lot to him who has lived long, but only to suffer. Matthew Henry (1662-1714), Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6.1-6

Satisfy my soul with Your goodness, Lord, so that today I may…

Pray Psalm 4.1, 8.
These verses point to the Christian’s great hope – peace now, and peace forever in the presence of the Lord. Pray for the peace of God to fill your soul with goodness, and ask Him to use you as a channel of peace today.

Sing Psalm 4.1, 8.
Psalm 4.1, 8(Picardy: Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent)
Answer when I call, Lord Jesus, God of all my righteousness!
Bend Your holy ear, relieve us from all terror, all distress!
Lord, receive our prayer, release us; send Your grace to save and bless!

Safely in Your peace, let us lie, Lord; keep us in Your love and care.
Rooted in Your strong and wise Word, may we know Your comfort there.
Guard and keep us till we die, Lord; go before us everywhere.

T. M. Moore

 

Where does the book of Ecclesiastes fit in the overall flow of Scripture? Our series of studies, God’s Covenant, can show you, and help you discover the great beauty of the unity and diversity of Scripture, and how it all points to Christ. To order your copy of this important workbook, click here.

You can download all the studies in this series on Ecclesiastes by clicking here. If you value Scriptorium as a free resource for your walk with the Lord, please consider supporting our work with your gifts and offerings. You can contribute to The Fellowship by clicking the Contribute button  at the website or by sending your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 360 Zephyr Road, Williston, VT 05495.

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.