The Story:The man who doesn’t find life “under the heavens” won’t find it “under the sun.” Solomon says that a stillborn child is better off than the man he has been describing in verses 1-3. It doesn’t matter how long a man lives, or how much his life is filled with good things, if he is unable to enjoy those things as gifts from God, to be used for His glory, his life is vanity and chasing the wind. Don’t miss Solomon’s off-hand remark about the stillborn child finding rest rather than the man he has been describing. Covenant children, dying in infancy, may be regarded as redeemed and saved on the basis of their parents’ faith. Both the Old and New Testaments indicate this (cf. 2 Sam. 12.15-23; 1 Cor. 7.14). It’s not clear whether or not this grace extends to all children dying in infancy. Note here that the “stillborn child” is spoken of as though it were a fully human person. The Latin word used here in the Vulgate is abortivum.
The Structure:Solomon extends his parallelism even further, now drifting farther from the original image (the unhappy man) to the new and stronger one (the child at rest). The “one place” idea here is qualified by “all” and seems to refer to “all those who live under the sun” rather than the stillborn child. In other words, all who live like this man go to death and vanity for eternity, so what difference does even 2,000 years of the “good life” under the sun avail a man? Recall that Solomon began this section with a general focus on “men” (v. 1). The problem he observes here is systemic; it’s part of the human condition, the result of mankind’s fall into sin. Sin has effects on every aspect of human life, including our culture, social practices, institutions, and conventions. Human beings are powerless to extricate themselves from this snare. They need help from beyond, from “the heavens.”
Why are we so easily tempted to make things and experiences our source of happiness rather than God? How can we help one another resist this temptation?
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, “Are We Having Fun Yet?: Ecclesiastes 6,” 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.