12Then I turned myself to consider wisdom and madness and folly;
For what can the man do who succeeds the king? –
Onlywhat he has already done.
13Then I saw that wisdom excels folly,
As light excels darkness.
14The wise man’s eyes are in his head.
But the fool walks in darkness.
Yet I myself perceived
That the same event happens to them all.
The Story: Because his wisdom had “stayed with him” Solomon was able to see, at the end of all his folly, that the way of wisdom is the superior way. His indirect word of advice to Rehoboam is that he will not be able to achieve anything more than Solomon did, or know anything different. So (by implication) he should be content to know wisdom and spare himself the vexation and disappointment of a life in pursuit of folly and madness. “Use your head, lad,” he seems to be saying in verse 14, “and don’t let your heart jerk you here and there into the darkness of sin.” But then another sobering thought arrested him: Given that we’re all going to die, what difference does it make whether we live in wisdom or in folly? Solomon doubtless had this thought, but he worked through it to his satisfaction (as we shall see). Here he seems to be anticipating Rehoboam’s thinking this idea and, in the light of death’s certainty, heading off to eat, drink, and be merry while he could.
The Structure: If the main lesson of Ecclesiastes is that life under the sun can only disappoint, the main theme is that wisdom – life “under the heavens” – is the divinely-appointed way of life. The way of wisdom is never beyond the reach of any who will get their “eyes in their heads” and see things the way they really are, so that they turn away from folly and embrace the way of the Lord in every area of life. In the structure of Ecclesiastes Solomon is never very far away from this theme, even as he drives at the lesson of his mediations by one means or another. His message to his son is thus not simply, “No, no, no!” It is a message of hope and wise counsel to help a young man find the meaning of his life before he squanders it in self-indulgent folly.
How would you state the hope of the Gospel in positive terms, so that it has meaning and attraction for lost people today?
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.