4I made me works great, I built myself houses, and planted myself vineyards. 5I made myself gardens and orchards, and planted all kindsof fruit trees in them. 6I made myself water pools from which to water growing trees of the grove. 7I acquired male and female servants, and had servants born in my house. Yes, I had greater possessions of herds and flocks than all who were in Jerusalem before me. 8I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the special treasures of kings and of the provinces. I acquired male and female singers, the delights of the sons of men and musical instruments of all kinds.
The Story:We might say, on the one hand, that Solomon is simply reporting the facts. All he tells us is true. But it’s the way he tells us that is most troubling, and this way of reporting seems deliberate. Solomon let his wisdom and success go to his head. He actually began to believe that he had been responsible for all his greatness, rather than God, Who had promised to make him great. But Solomon has a point, toward which he is working, and he wants to make sure that when he arrives there – the vanity of mere material success – we’ll be ready to agree with him. Most of what Solomon reports here is corroborated in 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles. This causes me to wonder whether Ecclesiastes (in Hebrew, “The Acts of Qohelet”) might not be the book referred to in 1 Kings 11.41 as “The Acts of Solomon” (the name substitution in the former done by Solomon himself). Solomon became the quintessential secular man – focused on himself, indulging his passions to the full extent of his ability, and seeking lasting happiness in things and experiences – but not so that he was eternally lost. Material success didn’t satisfy Solomon, and it won’t satisfy anyone else.
The Structure:Solomon became so full of himself at this point in his life that he appears to have had no room for God. Here he lays the groundwork for a theme that will recur throughout Ecclesiastes: The “stuff” of life must not be regarded as an end in itself; nor is it intended merely for our pleasure. Everything has its place in the divine economy, and we find real happiness and lasting fulfillment only when we live our lives from that perspective. The lust Solomon reports having indulged here – and that he doubtless sensed was growing in Rehoboam – will be tempered with gratitude and contentment as the king unfolds his “under the heavens” convictions in due course.
Why do people look to things and experiences for happiness? Why is it unwise to do so? To what should a Christian turn to find contentment and fulfillment in life?
Each week’s studies in our Scriptorium column are available in a free PDF form, suitable for personal or group use. For this week’s study, “Solomon’s ‘I’ Problem: Ecclesiastes 2,” simply click here.
T. M. Moore
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.