Ecclesiastes Chapters 3 and 4—Natan’s Commentary

Ecclesiastes 3

Ecclesiastes 3:1–8, There is a season. A major aspect of coping with and even finding some happiness in one’s life while, at the same time, a prisoner to this physical time-space continuum called life on earth is having an understanding of the right timing of things, that is, knowing when and when not to do something. Many activities in life may be acceptable to do at one time, but not at another time. The consequences of doing the right thing at the wrong time can blow-back disastrously on a person. Therefore, learning the difference between when and when not to act is essential to finding some happiness in this life and requires knowledge, wisdom and understanding.

There Is a Time…and There Is Not a Time

There is a time and season for everything (Ecclesiastes 3:1). This sounds like an innocuously bland and self-evident statement, but not really as we are about to discover.

There is a time do to things, as the wise preacher informs us in his famous Ecclesiastes three passage, which begins with the famous words, “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die…” and so on.

But the more the years and decades slide past me and am not in the grandparenting season of my life, the more I realize that there is, perhaps, more importantly, a time not to do a lot of things that I might have done at an earlier time in my life. There are battles not to fight, things not to thing (for a Scripture declares elsewhere, “As a man thinketh, so is he”—a scary thought!) things not to do, and definitely things not to say. There are several reasons that immediately come to mind for not doing these things. 

First, and, perhaps, most importantly, it’s about priorities. As one reaches the top of the hill of one’s life and begins the descent on the other side toward death, one can see more circumspectly one’s past life as well as that which remains whether it be a long or a short time. With the stark reality of one’s life in full view and the idealizations of past expectations unfulfilled gone like dust in the wind, that which remains in one’s life suddenly becomes as valued treasure. Add to this the unexpected deaths of loved ones and friends around you, which, to any young people reading this, occurs more frequently the older one gets, suddenly, every breath and heartbeat becomes a cherished gift from the Creator.

The second reason for not doing or saying many things that I might have in earlier years has to do with following the leading of the Set-Apart Spirit of Elohim more precisely instead of jumping unquestioningly in lockstep to the demanding impulses of my impatient, impetuous and sin-oriented flesh. This too has to do with priorities—desiring to be in the perfect will of the Almighty by seeking first the kingdom of Elohim as Yeshua instructed his disciples to do instead of seeking all those other carnal and earthly things.

The third reason for adding the negative adverb not to the statements in Solomon’s famous Ecclesiastes three passage is that the older one gets, one starts getting a little more tired if not physically, at least emotionally from chasing the wind and ending up with little or nothing to show for it. Many things become, as the Preacher in Ecclesiastes definitively declares repeatedly, is vanity of vanities. Suddenly one wakes up and discovers the wisdom of working smarter, instead of harder. This is wisdom, which only comes with age and perspective. It’s wise to conserve energy and to save it for those things that are worth the time and effort, and for which there is a payoff especially in the next life. All else is little more than emptiness and chasing the wind.

Fourth, so much of what we do and say is an expression of human pride and vanity. We are all guilty, so raise your hand. I’ve got mine up! As I get older, I agree with the preacher’s words in Ecclesiastes verse two of chapter one, “‘Vanity of vanities,’ says the Preacher; ‘Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” When one gets brutally honest with oneself and analyses most of one’s words and actions, human pride and vanity is the pathetic though realistic label that must be applied to most of it. So what does the Almighty have to say about this? What reasons will we give to him on judgment day as to the motives behind most of what we have said and done? What legacy of value are we really leaving to the next generation? Will we be leaving behind a grandiose frozen-in-time, stone cold and lifeless monument to ourselves, or will we have sown seeds into the fertile ground of the lives of those around us that will hopefully bring forth fruit that will not only make the world a better place, but that will also serve to expand the kingdom of Elohim at the expense of the kingdom of darkness? 

Make no mistake, every one of our thoughts, words and deeds is a pebble dropped into the vast ocean of our existence; the ripples go forth and touch many lives for good and for bad much more than we can know or imagine. We have no idea of this! The ripples travel beyond the horizon. So act and speak wisely on the front end, for who knows what the end consequences will be. This is another good reason not to do and say a lot of things.

Another reason to say less is this: Did you every wonder why we have two ears and two eyes but only one mouth? One learns more by listening and observing than by talking. Some people never stop talking! You ask them a simple yes or no or a one sentence question expecting an equally short answer and you get an epistle. I’ve been guilty of this on more than one occasion! A mark of wisdom is to speak volumes with few words. Yeshua the Messiah was the master of this approach. His longest sermon was only three chapters long and only takes a few minutes to read, yet these few words have turned the world on its head!

Add to all these reasons why there is a time not to speak and do is this one: The older I get, the more I realize that most people don’t care what you have to say or think anyway. They’re too preoccupied with their own stuff and too self-absorbed to care beyond that. So why waste the time, energy and breath saying it if only to hear yourself talk? This too is vanity of vanities! Those who do care—who have ears to hear—will seek you out. You don’t have to have to go after them. I found this out the frustrating way after 18 years of pastoring a local congregation and more than 30 years in continuous ministry.

Finally, you learn more by being a receiver than a transmitter. Currently, my receiver is pointed heavenward. This means waiting patiently on Yehovah to transmit. The older I get, the more I realize how much I don’t know. To be sure, this is humbling. At the same time, the more I realize that others don’t know as well. Those who act like they have all the answers and know it all usually have something to sell you. Follow the money! Most of them, too, are fools (like the rest of us), but they’re too proud to admit it. This too is vanity of vanities.

Now that you’ve read this far, do you really want to really know what’s going on? It’s this. The world is currently in a state of hyper confusion induced by godless men under the spell of secular humanism and demonic antichrist concepts and agendas, which the Bible prophesied would occur prior to the second coming. We live in gross darkness, and there are no human spiritual leaders to guide us through this Satanic black hole cesspool. Where are they? Most are too busy making money and building their empires, and they’re clueless. It’s business as usual. That leaves the rest of us searching for answers and direction. We’ve never been this way before, for we are in the last days after all! There’s only one direction to look for guidance, and that’s up. We have only the Word of Elohim and his Set-Apart Spirit to guide us at this point, since we’re in uncharted territory. That means shutting up and listening. You can’t receive directions from heaven if you’re transmitting via your big yap and listening to yourself speak!

Let me leave you with these words of David,

I will lift up my eyes to the hills—from whence comes my help? My help comes from YHVH, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel Shall neither slumber nor sleep. YHVH is your keeper; YHVH is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. YHVH shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul. YHVH shall preserve your going out and your coming in From this time forth, and even forevermore. (Psalm 121:1–8)

Unto You I lift up my eyes, O You who dwell in the heavens. Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their masters, as the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to YHVH our Elohim, Until He has mercy on us. Have mercy on us, O YHVH, have mercy on us! For we are exceedingly filled with contempt. Our soul is exceedingly filled With the scorn of those who are at ease, With the contempt of the proud. (Psalm 123:1–4)

Ecclesiastes 3:11, Everything beautiful. Beauty and happiness can be found, even in this life of vanity resulting in emptiness and nothingness, if everything is done at the right time; therefore, finding the right timing is a major key to happiness.

Eternity. Each human, if they are not mentally ill, wants to live forever; no one wants to die. The fear of death and the will to survive and live are the strongest drives in the human soul. Just picture a drowning person frantically flailing their arms while trying to keep their head above the water, or people in a panicked rush trying to escape a burning building. The conundrum, however, that faces each person, is how does one escape the prison of this physical time-space continuum called life on this earth? How does one move to the other side of the final curtain on the stage of life that is often referred to as the veil of death? The quest for eternity that Elohim has placed in the heart of each person says yes, I want to live and not die—to be immortal, but how to do so is illusive and uncertain. 

In an attempt to answer the perennial question, “What happens to me after I die?,” and to console ourselves in face of this nagging question, man has invented countless religious systems in an attempt to answer this age-old question, yet the uncertainty of life and the certainty of death still haunts the human psyche. 

For many people, hopelessness and uncertainty give way, to one degree or another, to the philosophy summed up by the adage, “Let’s eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” If this approach does not salve the aching soul, then many people tend to self-medicate by masking the pain by altering their reality through drugs, alcohol or other forms of mind altering substances or experiences, so they do not have to deal with reality. But this too is thin gruel upon which to nourish the aching and weary soul and its longing desire for immortality. It is a thin veneer, a temporary fix to the perpetually nagging question of what is the meaning of life? This is not unlike a drug addict to sticking a needle in his arm in a vain attempt to hide the pain and make it to the next day.

No one. In the face of man’s unanswered questions about the purpose and meaning of life, the empty meaninglessness of the philosophy of “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die,” and being torn between the opposing forces of the realization of the ultimate emptiness and meaningless vanity of one’s physical life, the uncertainty of the future, and the strong desire to live forever, one still cannot figure what is going on at the higher level above it all. Is their a God? If there is, what is he, she or it up to? Is he just toying with us? Is he alive, but absent and uninvolved? If there is a God, is he working out some mysterious plan and purpose that involves us? These are seemingly impossible questions to answer, and, again, most of the religions of the world have in vain attempted to provide humans with the answers. 

In the mean time, and tangential to the point, most religious systems have inserted themselves in between man and God and, while preying on man’s innate fear of death and desire for immortality, have found ways to extort money from and exercise unnecessary control over fearful humans. While promising answers, these humans in positions of power have a myriad ulterior motives for doing what they do that benefit them and not the questions askers. For many critically thinking and discerning people, religion, too, is vanity of vanities and ends up being an empty and meaningless hope, if not a total fraud when they awake to the hoax that religiosity has foisted upon many hapless fools. This only compounds the despair of life that many people feel.

Ecclesiastes 3:12, Nothing is better. To be sure, rejoicing, or finding joy in one’s life can be found by doing good. Those who do evil are condemned to live with more guilt and shame than those who at least attempt to do good, even though they too are sinners. This is because YHVH has written the bottom line basics of his Torah-law on the human heart, that is, do not murder, do not lie, do not steal and so on. These basics Torah principles have been reflected in the fundamental laws of society worldwide from time immemorial. YHVH will reward those humans who adhere to these basic Torah-laws as Paul declares in Romans two:

[F]or when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) in the day when Elohim will judge the secrets of men by Yeshua the Messiah, according to my gospel. (Rom 2:14–16)

Ecclesiastes 3:13, Eat and drink and enjoy good. YHVH has filled the earth with many good things as a blessing and source of the joy for all humans. As Yeshua said, the sun shines on and it rains on both the just and the unjust (Matt 5:45). As a result of Elohim’s over-arching love and goodness, all humans can find joy in many things such as flowers, trees, sunsets, mountains, animals, a job well done, good food and drink, family, worthwhile accomplishments in life that promote good and many other things. All of this, as the Preacher declares, is a gift from Elohim. 

Ecclesiastes 3:14, Whatever Elohim does. This physical, material existence including the earth and the universe is confined to the walls of time and space; it is a closed system. Nothing can be added or taken away from it. Man, of himself, does not have the means to escape it. Elohim has confined man to this space on earth in space.

Ecclesiastes 3:15, That which has already been. Again, this physical existence is comprised of endless cycles, like countless gears on an immense mechanical device. These cycles interminably repeat themselves, and man is trapped in the middle of it all.

Elohim requires an account. This set of cyclical patterns in which man finds himself has been designed by the Creator to teach man lessons. Will he learn form the mistakes of history? From the cycles of history? From man’s multiple failed attempts to figure things out without Elohim? A few humans will wake up and realize that they are on a giant hamster wheel running around and around going nowhere. Most will not. Regardless, YHVH has put the light of his truth burning in the inner conscience or spirit of man as a witness that there is something more out there (Prov 20:27; Ps 18:28; Rom 2:14–16). Will man follow the tiny, precious light within, or will he reject it and continue on his vain path that leads to empty nothingness and to death with no hope of an afterlife? Regardless of which path each person freely chooses to take, Elohim will eventually require an accounting from each person of all that they have done in the past.

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Messiah, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. (2 Cor 5:10)

Ecclesiastes 3:16, In the place of judgment. As noted above, every human will give an account to Elohim for his past actions, good or bad, at the heavenly judgment seat. No matter whether one is deemed wicked or righteous, no one is totally righteous before Elohim. Even the righteous possess iniquity, for all have done wrong and departed, to one degree or another, from the path of good.

Ecclesiastes 3:18–20, Men…animals. The same fate awaits all living creatures on this earth—both humans and animals. Despite a person’s great achievements and accumulation of material goods, a human being and a worm all end up in the same place—dead. Their bodies decay and they return to the earth from which they were formed. Humans and animals return to nothingness.

Ecclesiastes 3:21, Who knows. No one knows for sure what happens to a person when he dies. When this was written, no one had come back from the dead who could answer this question. Does man have an immortal spirit that lives on or when he dies, that is the end of it all, as is the case with animals? 

Ecclesiastes 3:22, So I perceived. As the Preacher is working his way through trying to answer these difficult questions, he arrives at the same place as before. To find some meaning while trapped in this physical existence, the best that man can do is to occupy himself with some meaningful and productive work. At least, it could be implied, he will be so busy that he will not have time to be vexed over these unanswerable questions. Despite everything, the Preacher could find no answers to his nagging questions.

Ecclesiastes 4

Ecclesiastes 4:1, Then I returned. The preacher begins to revisit the questions that he has already pondered thus far, while going deeper into the mystery of the meaninglessness of man’s physical existence. Over the next few chapters, he discusses the ultimate pointlessness of the never-ending cycles of life, as well as offering some advice on how to make the most of a bad situation (i.e. this physical life) without making it worse.

The questions that the Preacher keeps asking continue him in a downward spiral of negativity in that the answers all came up the same. Everything that a person could do in his life was vanity or, in the end, lead to nothingness, and there seems to be no answers to the deeper conundrums of life like, “What happens to us after we die?”

From this vantage point of seeming hopelessness, spiraling downward out of control into the pit of human despair, the Preacher begins to drill down on the questions and issues that he has briefly touched on previously.

The tears of the oppressed. Oppression is defined as “prolonged cruel or unjust treatment or control; the state of being subject to unjust treatment or control, or mental pressure or distress.” The world is full of oppression.

The oppressor. With very few exceptions, humans in positions of power oppress those who are under them.

Ecclesiastes 4:2–3, Dead…living. In view of human oppression and the suffering in its wake, the Preacher concludes that life is not worth living, and that it would have been preferable to never have been born in the first place.

Ecclesiastes 4:4–8, Toil and every skillful work. Even though the Preacher encourages one to find joy in one’s work, this too, eventually is vanity of vanities and leads to nothingness. Ultimately, where does it all lead and what is the point of it all?

Ecclesiastes 4:9–11, Two are better than one…a threefold cord. While the Preacher concludes that toil and labor ultimately lead to vanity or emptiness, one may as well make the best of the prison sentence called life by at least being surrounded by friends who support you and who will be there to help in time of need.

Ecclesiastes 4:13–16, Better a poor and wise youth. Leaders and the positions they hold come and go, and so does popularity. One minute you are on top of the hierarchy of social acceptance, the next moment you are at the bottom having been rejected by the next generation. A wise youngster with a checkered background may come out of nowhere and become the new, popular leader only to be replaced later by that which is subsequently viewed as “new and improved.” So what is the point of this all? Nothing. Just more endless cycles in the cosmic gears of time and space repeating themselves over and over again.


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