1For I have taken all this to my heart and explain it that righteous men, wise men, and their deeds are in the hand of God Man does not know whether it will be love or hatred; anything awaits him.
The righteous must put the hope and trust in God that God will reward them according to their faith in Him and resultant good deeds. In this life, both good and bad will be experienced, and man does not know what will come or when. But the believer in Christ can rest knowing that God loves Him and is in charge of all that He will experience in life. God will cause all to work for his good (Romans 8:28). Despite the chaotic nature of life on earth, this gives the believer hope, rest, and security.
2It is the same for all There is one fate for the righteous and for the wicked; for the good, for the clean and for the unclean; for the man who offers a sacrifice and for the one who does not sacrifice. As the good man is, so is the sinner; as the swearer is, so is the one who is afraid to swear.
3This is an evil in all that is done under the sun, that there is one fate for all men Furthermore, the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil and insanity is in their hearts throughout their lives. Afterwards they go to the dead.
No matter who a person is, what they have done, how wealthy they are, what nation they are from, whether they sacrifice or don’t sacrifice, they will all one day die. All humanity eventually will meet the same fate of death; the issue is what will happen to them after they die. Such, of course, depends on their faith in God to save them and forgive them. They need this because man is born into sin, his heart is full of evil (Jeremiah 17:9), and he is incapable apart from divine grace to even reason his way to wisdom and salvation. In this sense, his decisions, being irrational and against the revelation given to him through the creation (see Romans 1:18-20), are nothing less than pure madness.
4For whoever is joined with all the living, there is hope; surely a live dog is better than a dead lion.
5For the living know they will die; but the dead do not know anything, nor have they any longer a reward, for their memory is forgotten.
6Indeed their love, their hate and their zeal have already perished, and they will no longer have a share in all that is done under the sun.
All men will die, and once dead, they have no hope left and no chance at redemption. While they are alive, there is hope for change and repentance. Even a person of lowliness and rendered with difficulties in life is better off than a dead rich, prosperous person because he is still alive. The living understand that they will one day die; wisdom chooses to live wisely and obediently in light of that fact. Once a person is dead, they have no chance to find God or enjoy His good gifts in this life. Those who merely lived for themselves have lost everything because, once dead, they are forgotten, and they have no opportunity for sinful pleasure.
7Go then, eat your bread in happiness and drink your wine with a cheerful heart; for God has already approved your works.
8Let your clothes be white all the time, and let not oil be lacking on your head.
9Enjoy life with the woman whom you love all the days of your fleeting life which He has given to you under the sun; for this is your reward in life and in your toil in which you have labored under the sun.
10Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might; for there is no activity or planning or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol where you are going.
Solomon’s advice is that we enjoy life to the fullest, being obedient to God all the while. This God approves of, whereas sin He condemns. God desires that we be joyful, enjoying His presence (Psalm 16:11) and His good and perfect gifts (James 1:17). Rather than live life in a state of depression and sorrow, we should live as those who are innocent, pure, joy-filled, and celebratory because of the goodness of the Lord. As Hebrews 1:9 says, “YOU HAVE LOVED RIGHTEOUSNESS AND HATED LAWLESSNESS; THEREFORE GOD, YOUR GOD, HAS ANOINTED YOUWITH THE OIL OF GLADNESS ABOVE YOUR COMPANIONS.” There can be great enjoyment in lifelong marital faithfulness to the woman God has given as a man’s wife. He loves this woman, and knowing that life is short, he enjoys life with her to the fullest. Life is laborious and difficult being that we live in a fallen world, but God has graced us in this life with the idea of marriage and family. We should enjoy the married life to the full should God call us into that role. We should also work hard and do things to the best of our ability. We should not be those who live careless, purposeless lives, but we should be focused, diligent, driven, and committed to the call of Christ on our lives according to the Great Commission. Even in things that seem monotonous and insignificant, we should do faithfully and heartily unto the Lord rather than for men (Colossians 3:23). Once we die, we have no more opportunity to go back and do this life over again. How we live this life will dictate the next (2 Corinthians 5:10, 1 Corinthians 3:10-15). Wisdom takes advantage of this opportunity now while we are as of yet under the sun.
11I again saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift and the battle is not to the warriors, and neither is bread to the wise nor wealth to the discerning nor favor to men of ability; for time and chance overtake them all.
12Moreover, man does not know his time: like fish caught in a treacherous net and birds trapped in a snare, so the sons of men are ensnared at an evil time when it suddenly falls on them.
Trusting in human strength has no guarantees. Time and chance overtake us all, for we all die. Even those who think they are the most secure can die unexpectedly. Sometimes even the strongest do not survive. Life is also unfair in that sometimes those who are discerning and wise suffer and lack basic needs. Life has circumstances that even the strongest of humans cannot predict or survive. This is why the safest place to be is trusting and resting in the arms of God Who promises to meet the needs of His church (Philippians 1:19). No man knows the time of his death, but suddenly it happens. Thus, we need to be prepared beforehand lest we be taken when we are not ready to meet the Lord in judgment.
13Also this I came to see as wisdom under the sun, and it impressed me.
14There was a small city with few men in it and a great king came to it, surrounded it and constructed large siegeworks against it.
15But there was found in it a poor wise man and he delivered the city by his wisdom Yet no one remembered that poor man.
16So I said, "Wisdom is better than strength." But the wisdom of the poor man is despised and his words are not heeded.
17The words of the wise heard in quietness are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools.
18Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good.
Solomon observed that a great king with a mighty army was defeated because of one poor unknown man who had wisdom. Through his wisdom he delivered the city, yet he was quickly forgotten. The world appreciates those who are rich and powerful even if they are fools. They like the appearance of success rather than true wisdom. Wisdom has great value and the capability of saving an entire nation. Yet few listen to wisdom except in the hour of need. Then, they go on to forget wisdom and the source of it.
Wisdom is more valuable in the time of war than weapons, but because of the sin of even one man, wisdom is forgotten. The bottom line is that Solomon wishes that people would listen to wisdom, but sometimes even shouting doesn’t matter because the truth is being shouted at fools. Wisdom is the answer, but few find it and most scorn it.