Ecclesiastes 2.13-19 – Wisdom – worldly and heavenly
Posted: 25 September 2014 in Ecclesiastes

Then I saw that wisdom excelleth folly, as far as light excelleth darkness. The wise man’s eyes are in his head; but the fool walketh in darkness: and I myself perceived also that one event happeneth to them all. Then said I in my heart, As it happeneth to the fool, so it happeneth even to me; and why was I then more wise? Then I said in my heart, that this also is vanity. For there is no remembrance of the wise more than of the fool for ever; seeing that which now is in the days to come shall all be forgotten. And how dieth the wise man? as the fool. 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. 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. 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.

Solomon was famed for his wisdom, and yet he apparently understood wisdom to primarily be the means by which fame and worldly fortune were to be acquired. In the light of biblical revelation, it can be said that there is nothing particularly wise in that conception of wisdom.

There is a hint of it in Isaiah, and in some of the psalms, but generally belief in a resurrection, and subsequent judgement, does not seem to have become widespread until the end of the Old Testament period. Even in New Testament times, it was not a truth universally acknowledged. The Pharisees are known to have accepted it, and apparently so did Martha in John 11.24. In any case, Solomon does not appear to have had any conception of a future estate, and so he tried to understand the benefits of wisdom in wholly this worldly terms. The upshot being his disillusionment, as recorded in the above passage. We of course know, or ought to know, that the only genuine wisdom is to live in accordance with God’s will, and to embrace the wisdom which comes from him alone. Only it can lead to eternal life, and all other wisdom, being of our own corrupt and dubious manufacture, is sinful at best.

It is recorded in 1 Kings 11.1-2 that, later in life, Solomon disobeyed one of God’s explicit commands, in taking to himself wives not of Jewish extraction. Subsequently he found himself being sucked into idolatry. If Ezekiel 18.24 is to be taken as any guide, for all his wisdom, Solomon’s experience at the last judgement may not be a happy one:

But when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth, shall he live? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die.

We are not lesser sinners than Solomon, and the warning in Ezek 18.24 applies to all who, preferring their own wisdom and righteousness to that put forward by God, turn away from Christ.

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