Verses 1-3 continue the thought of the last chapter that man cannot know what awaits him in this life – what will happen along the way. The preacher says that there is one fate for all – for the righteous and the wicked. For those who serve the Lord, and for those who do not, it is all the same – their fate “under the sun” is death. Solomon says that this fact is “an evil” in verse 3, meaning that it is an “unfair” fact of life.
It does seem most unfair that good is often not rewarded in this life, while at the same time, evil’s punishment often does not come quickly. And then in the end they both are dead anyway. This also means that the wicked not only get the same end under the sun, but seeing no consequences for their evil they just continue – thumbing their noses at the rest of the world. So what is the advantage for those who try to do good while “under the sun?”
It is in verse 4 that the preacher begins to answer that question – while we are living under the sun, we still have hope. For the dead, there is no reward to work toward. Their fate is determined, and the Lord will judge their deeds. In verse 5, a “living dog” being better that a “dead lion” means that no matter how great and powerful one may be while under the sun, once dead there is (for them) no more love, no more hate, and no more share of things in this life. But again the living still have hope.
This leads up to an important point that the wise man is making. It is a fact that our own pleasure and happiness while “under the sun” are not God’s foremost concern, nor should they be ours. But while serving God and leading others to do the same, we should not neglect to have joy in what we have been blessed with here – in this mere breath of a life (verse 9). Verse 10’s admonition (whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might”) is the basis for the hymn “To the work!”
The preacher then points out that being the fastest runner, the strongest in battle, or the most intelligent person – none of these guarantee one’s successes. The variable of chance will often find its way into the equation when one takes his own abilities too seriously. This leads to the final point Solomon makes in verses 13-18. Wise council may be ignored and unappreciated if it does not come from those that are favored among men, but it is no less valuable.
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog. All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility. When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.