Summary: What will make you happy?
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LIFE UNDER THE SUN
I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind (1:14).
The Hebrew word for “vanity” is hebel. It literally means “vapor,” “breath,” or “wind.” In Ecclesiastes, hebel is used in a figurative sense.
Life “under the sun” (without God) is:
Life is a treadmill.
Life is a chasing after wind.
Life is a vapor.
What is crooked cannot be made straight (1:15).
We can’t fix life. We can’t change it.
SOLOMON’S QUEST FOR MEANING
How would you fill in the blank? “I’ll be happy when _________.”
Solomon was like Bill Gates, Albert Einstein, and Hugh Hefner all rolled into one. If anyone could find fulfillment from life under the sun, it would be Solomon. His search for meaning could be called “The Royal Experiment.”
King Solomon searched for meaning in the things we often put in that blank:
I the Preacher have been king over Israel in Jerusalem (1:12).
I said in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself.” But behold, this also was vanity. I said of laughter, “It is mad,” and of pleasure, “What use is it?” (2:1-2).
I searched with my heart how to cheer my body with wine—my heart still guiding me with wisdom—and how to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was good for the children of man to do under heaven during the few days of their life (2:3).
I made great works. I build houses and planted vineyards for myself. I made myself gardens and parks, and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees (2:4-6).
I bought male and female slaves, and had slaves who were born in my house (2:7a).
I had also great possessions of herds and flocks, more than any who had been before me in Jerusalem. I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces (2:7b-8a).
I got singers, both men and women (2:8b).
And many concubines, the delight of the children of man (2:8c).
Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:1-3).
9. FAME (2:9)
So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem (2:9).
What was Solomon’s conclusion at the end of his quest for meaning?
Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun (2:11).
Two quotes from The Simpsons (not an endorsement of the show) demonstrate the vanity of life under the sun: (1) “The road to the Super Bowl is long ... and pointless—I mean, when you really think about it.” (2) Homer Simpson says to Mr. Burns: “You’re the richest man I know.” Mr. Burns replies, “Yes, but I’d trade it all for more.”