17 ¶ Therefore I hated life; because the work that is wrought under the sun is grievous unto me: for all is vanity and vexation of spirit. 18 Yea, I hated all my labour which I had taken under the sun: because I should leave it unto the man that shall be after me. 19 And who knoweth whether he shall be a wise man or a fool? yet shall he have rule over all my labour wherein I have laboured, and wherein I have shewed myself wise under the sun. This is also vanity. 20 Therefore I went about to cause my heart to despair of all the labour which I took under the sun. 21 For there is a man whose labour is in wisdom, and in knowledge, and in equity; yet to a man that hath not laboured therein shall he leave it for his portion. This also is vanity and a great evil. 22 For what hath man of all his labour, and of the vexation of his heart, wherein he hath laboured under the sun? 23 For all his days are sorrows, and his travail grief; yea, his heart taketh not rest in the night. This is also vanity. 24 There is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour. This also I saw, that it was from the hand of God. 25 For who can eat, or who else can hasten hereunto, more than I? 26 For God giveth to a man that is good in his sight wisdom, and knowledge, and joy: but to the sinner he giveth travail, to gather and to heap up, that he may give to him that is good before God. This also is vanity and vexation of spirit.
Eve, the first human mother and wife, had been deceived by her passion for three things when confronted by Satan in the guise of a serpent, a dragon, beautiful to behold and covered with glory. See Ezekiel 28:12-19 in a comparison likening the King of Tyre to the spoiler of the universe which affords us an immediate prophecy about a man along with a description of Satan’s fall from grace in the Bible’s classic conservation of words, with descriptions often having multiple layers of application and meaning. These things came from within Eve when Satan uttered his famous words, “Yea, hath God said?”
Genesis 3:6 ¶ And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.
Three things are present here; the lust of the flesh in that she saw the tree was desirable for food, the lust of the eyes in that the fruit, whatever it was, was pleasing in appearance, and the pride of life in that she would gain wisdom and understanding above her current knowledge. These three things Christians are warned about by the Apostle, John.
1John 2:15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.
Solomon denied himself nothing and consumed everything he desired. None of these things gave him the satisfaction he craved. There was still this unsettling feeling, this gnawing of uneasiness and dissatisfaction. He grew to hate life. His search of wisdom, material possessions, and pleasure did nothing for him but make him feel spent and used.
Solomon despised all of the work that he had done and held all of his efforts in contempt because for any pleasure he would gain by them was overshadowed by the fact that he was doomed to one day die and the man who came after him would enjoy the fruit of his efforts, his labor.
Whether wise or a fool, the person who was next to come along and enjoy the things he had worked hard for, would have them anyway. Solomon’s labor was in the search of wisdom, understanding, and knowledge and the thought that he might leave it to a willful moron, which he did by the way, disturbed him to no end.
For all of the sleepless nights and days of stress and struggle there seemed not to Solomon any point to it. Remember, he had armed men surrounding his bed so that he, the king, could sleep in safety, sort of like your alarm system backed up by the handgun in your night stand.
Song of Solomon 3:7 ¶ Behold his bed, which is Solomon’s; threescore valiant men are about it, of the valiant of Israel. 8 They all hold swords, being expert in war: every man hath his sword upon his thigh because of fear in the night.
We learn to live in fear without even thinking about it although it has its effect. How well would you sleep surrounded by armed retainers all night long?
Solomon concluded here that there was nothing better for a man to do than to enjoy the fruits of his efforts that God provided him. He acknowledged God’s hand in the bounty that he enjoyed. God gives to the man or woman who understands that good things come from God, not only wisdom and knowledge but joy. On the other hand, the person who does not honor God will, in his hard work, lay up treasures that, perhaps, will be used by a good person after the sinner is gone from the earth.
Things come full circle, Solomon said. The wise man and the fool both come to the same place in the end and who knows but that the wise man will lay up earthly benefits that a fool, who comes after him, will enjoy. Even the sinner’s fruit of his labor, often, is enjoyed by a wise and good man after he is gone.
It was frustrating to Solomon because of how our own efforts do not seem to play a big part in the outcome. Whether we are good or bad, a wise man or a fool, whatever we do in this world for ourselves and for the world appears to have little value. It certainly does not help us in eternity.