16 ¶ And moreover I saw under the sun the place of judgment, that wickedness was there; and the place of righteousness, that iniquity was there. 17 I said in mine heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked: for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work. 18 I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts. 19 For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity. 20 All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again. 21 Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth? 22 Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better, than that a man should rejoice in his own works; for that is his portion: for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him?
Here are some of Solomon’s most negative and disturbing statements as he puts his thoughts down for posterity and God preserved them for us. Solomon has observed that in the world there is often great corruption and iniquity in the place of judgment. Magistrates whose job it was to dispense God’s justice and judgment could be bribed or have another agenda other than their assigned duties.
Deuteronomy 16:19 Thou shalt not wrest judgment; thou shalt not respect persons, neither take a gift: for a gift doth blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the righteous.
He also saw corruption in the realm of religion where so-called men of God practiced iniquity.
Jeremiah 23:11 For both prophet and priest are profane; yea, in my house have I found their wickedness, saith the LORD.
Solomon was confident that God would judge both the righteous and the wicked.
Daniel 12:2 And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.
We know that those who reject God’s free offer of salvation through Christ will be judged by God at the great white throne.
Revelation 20:11 ¶ And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
Christians also have their time of judgment before the judgment seat of Christ.
Romans 14:10 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
2Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.
Solomon then says that men are no different than beasts, even that they are beasts. He says we have that commonality with all creatures. We die, as they do. He makes the disturbing statement that man is no better than an animal. We, like them, go into the ground and turn again to the elements from which we were created. Who knows, he says, whether the man’s spirit goes upward and the beast’s spirit goes down into the earth? Maybe both go to the same place.
Let’s look at this from the Bible. God created living things, beasts of the field and beasts of the forest, things that fly or fowls, and things that swim in the sea or fish. He had already created prototypes in the spiritual, unseen world of heaven.
Ezekiel 1:4 ¶ And I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself, and a brightness was about it, and out of the midst thereof as the colour of amber, out of the midst of the fire. 5 Also out of the midst thereof came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance; they had the likeness of a man. 6 And every one had four faces, and every one had four wings. 7 And their feet were straight feet; and the sole of their feet was like the sole of a calf’s foot: and they sparkled like the colour of burnished brass. 8 And they had the hands of a man under their wings on their four sides; and they four had their faces and their wings. 9 Their wings were joined one to another; they turned not when they went; they went every one straight forward. 10 As for the likeness of their faces, they four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side: and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle. 11 Thus were their faces: and their wings were stretched upward; two wings of every one were joined one to another, and two covered their bodies. 12 And they went every one straight forward: whither the spirit was to go, they went; and they turned not when they went. 13 As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, and like the appearance of lamps: it went up and down among the living creatures; and the fire was bright, and out of the fire went forth lightning. 14 And the living creatures ran and returned as the appearance of a flash of lightning.
These are the cherubims. Please look at Ezekiel, chapters one and ten. Notice the word substitution between Ezekiel, chapter one and chapter ten, with cherub in 10:14 replacing ox in 1:10. A cherub is not a fat little baby floating on a cloud. It is a spiritual animal.
Ezekiel 10: 8 ¶ And there appeared in the cherubims the form of a man’s hand under their wings. 9 And when I looked, behold the four wheels by the cherubims, one wheel by one cherub, and another wheel by another cherub: and the appearance of the wheels was as the colour of a beryl stone. 10 And as for their appearances, they four had one likeness, as if a wheel had been in the midst of a wheel. 11 When they went, they went upon their four sides; they turned not as they went, but to the place whither the head looked they followed it; they turned not as they went. 12 And their whole body, and their backs, and their hands, and their wings, and the wheels, were full of eyes round about, even the wheels that they four had. 13 As for the wheels, it was cried unto them in my hearing, O wheel. 14 And every one had four faces: the first face was the face of a cherub, and the second face was the face of a man, and the third the face of a lion, and the fourth the face of an eagle. 15 And the cherubims were lifted up. This is the living creature that I saw by the river of Chebar. 16 And when the cherubims went, the wheels went by them: and when the cherubims lifted up their wings to mount up from the earth, the same wheels also turned not from beside them. 17 When they stood, these stood; and when they were lifted up, these lifted up themselves also: for the spirit of the living creature was in them. 18 Then the glory of the LORD departed from off the threshold of the house, and stood over the cherubims. 19 And the cherubims lifted up their wings, and mounted up from the earth in my sight: when they went out, the wheels also were beside them, and every one stood at the door of the east gate of the LORD’S house; and the glory of the God of Israel was over them above. 20 This is the living creature that I saw under the God of Israel by the river of Chebar; and I knew that they were the cherubims.
These creatures are around the throne of God as well.
Revelation 4:6 And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind. 7 And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle.
God created physical creatures that originated in the seas and then regenerated on the land.
Genesis 1:21 And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good…24 And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.
A creature that is alive is one that breathes air, breath that God gives to them.
Genesis 6:17 And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die.
Genesis 7:15 And they went in unto Noah into the ark, two and two of all flesh, wherein is the breath of life….22 All in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land, died.
These creatures, of course, like us, have a body; animate, living flesh. Many of them, what men call higher animals, have a self-identity, a seat of will, and an understanding of their separateness from other creatures, which goes on forever from its initial creation, called a soul.
Job 12:10 In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind.
Numbers 31:28 And levy a tribute unto the LORD of the men of war which went out to battle: one soul of five hundred, both of the persons, and of the beeves, and of the asses, and of the sheep…
Here, in verse 21 we have an acknowledgement that animals have a spirit. The rhetorical question that Solomon asks, for the sake of his argument, is who knows, who can see if the spirit of one goes up to God or the spirit of one expires upon its physical death? He is pointing out how, from a strictly temporal view, a view from this life alone, without any other instruction or understanding we have no way of knowing. His point is that for all he knows from what he sees a man or woman should just enjoy what God has given them in life because from his perspective there is nothing else. How will he even know what happens after him?
Here is a very important point and the danger of drawing conclusions from experience alone. Without God’s revelation of Himself through the teaching of the Holy Ghost man knows nothing, like an animal, but his immediate surroundings and the sensations he experiences through his or her experiences. Man, without the understanding that God can give to him, is no better than and has no more understanding than a dog.
He can be loyal, kind, loving, considerate, faithful, and helpful or he can be mean, hateful, violent, malicious, following the pack to trouble, and vile in his habits. In the end, though, no person has any understanding without God’s generous imparting of understanding. God gives understanding to mankind that He does not to the animals. No matter how intelligent I think my cat is, he is never going to balance my checkbook or demand to know angrily why a cup of coffee is so expensive.
Job 32:8 But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding.
God gives the faith by which a person believes and is saved.
Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
Were it not for God’s choice human beings would be rolling in the mud just like any beast with no more thought for tomorrow or eternity than a pig. Of course, many are just like that and the atheistic evolutionists would have you believe that is the way it should be. After all, to them, we are no better than a hog.
As we continue, Solomon keeps considering the great issues of life from the perspective of carnal man to show us how pointless an existence consumed by the thoughts of the flesh really is.