18Then I hated all my labor in which I had toiled under the sun, because I must leave it to the man who will come after me. 19And who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will rule over all my labor in which I toiled and in which I have shown myself wise under the sun. This also is vanity. 20Therefore I turned my heart and despaired of all the labor in which I had toiled under the sun. 21For there is a man whose labor is with wisdom, knowledge, and skill; yet he must leave his heritage to a man who has not labored for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. 22For what has a man from all his labor, and for the striving of his heart with which he toils under the sun? 23For all his days are sorrowful, and his work burdensome; even in the night his heart takes no rest. This also is vanity.
The Story: Perhaps thinking that he has 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 leads Solomon to hate all that he has 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.
The Structure: Solomon’s admission, in passing, of his having used his wisdom “under the sun” 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 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.
How can you see that Solomon is trying to “answer the fool according to his folly” (Prov. 26:4, 5)? How would you apply this to your own work of reaching lost secularists 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.