In verses 1-6, Solomon admonishes the reader about taking seriously the worship of the Lord. The “sacrifice of fools,” spoken about in 1-3, refers to those that do not show proper reverence for the Lord, but are simply “going through the motions” of worship. Such people believe that they are complying with the acts of worship that are expected of them. But their hearts are not in it, so they would be better off simply observing and learning.
In verses 4-6, he warns about making rash vows to God. God has always taken vows seriously (and indeed still does). The Nazirite vow (Numbers 6:1-21) was one taken very seriously by the faithful that dedicated themselves to such a life. By fulfilling this special vow to the Lord, they set themselves apart from others in many ways. But it was a decision that would last a lifetime, and God expected it to be kept. But perhaps the most well known is Hannah’s vow, which she fulfilled in giving her child Samuel over to the service of the Lord (1 Samuel 1:9-28).
But people would also (especially in times of trouble) come to the Temple and make vows to the Lord that required less commitment – possibly involving some sort of sacrifice. Solomon’s warning was to those who would make such vows without keeping them – possibly never even trying very hard. Note verse 5 (“it is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay”) and verse 7 (“God is the one you must fear”).
Ah, but one might think “that was then – we don’t make vows like that in our worship today.” Nothing could be further from the truth. When we make the decision to become a Christian, we set ourselves apart from the world, and even our baptism itself becomes part of that vow – to serve the Lord. As Paul put it in Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” And if we turn our backs on that vow, it would be better if we had never made it (2 Peter 2:20-21).
The remainder of the chapter speaks of injustice and of how those who love riches will never be satisfied with them. But probably the best wisdom of this section comes from the last three verses. In verse 18, Solomon says “good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him…” Then in verse 20: “for he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.”
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.