Ecc 2.1-26 tells us that after Solomon saw the emptiness in all natural wisdom, science and cycles of man and nature, he now is going to tell us what he learned in the realm of life’s pleasures and whether that was as empty and vain.
v 1…I said to myself (in my heart), “Come now, I will test you with pleasure (the things that cause it). So enjoy yourself.” And behold (see with goodness), it too was futile (empty, no purpose).
v 2…I said of laughter, “It is madness,” and of pleasure, “What does it accomplish (its only for a moment)?”
v 3…I explored with my mind (Hebrew “heart”) how to stimulate my body with wine while my mind (heart) was guiding me wisely, and how to take hold of folly, until I could see what good there is for the sons of men to do under heaven the few years of their lives (he sought to gratify himself with wine to see where that led, and to do things contrary to the Torah to experiment).
v 4…I enlarged my works (buildings). I built houses for myself, and I planted vineyards for myself (to walk in and enjot the fruit);
v 5…I made gardens (Hebrew “ganot”) and parks (Hebrew “pardesim” or orchards) for myself (his pleasure), and I planted in them all kinds of fruit trees (for food, medicine and drink, etc);
v 6…I made ponds of water for myself from which to irrigate a forest of growing trees (it was necessary).
v 7…I bought male and female slaves (servants and maids), and I had homeborn slaves (born in his house). I also possessed flocks and herds larger than all who preceded me in Jerusalem (as God promised in 2 Chr 1.12).
v 8…Also, I collected (gathered) for myself silver and gold (1 Kings 9.28; 1 Kings 10.24-29), and treasure of kings and provinces. I provided for myself male and female singers (common in eastern courts) and the pleasures of men-many concubines.
v 9…Then I became great and increased more than all who preceded me in Jerusalem. My wisdom also stood by me (none of these possessions or greatness robbed him of his wisdom during all these experiments).
v 10…And all that my eyes desired I did not refuse them. I did not withhold my heart from pleasure, for my heart was pleased because of all my labor and this was my reward for my labor (he wanted to see if there was any profit in it all).
v 1…Thus I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labor which I exerted (labored), and behold all was vanity (no purpose, a waste of time) and striving after wind and there is no profit under the sun (in the natural, all his labors brought no lasting satisfaction).
v 12…So I turned to consider (examine) wisdom, madness and folly (to compare their value), for what will the man do who will come after the king except what has already been done (the same foolish mistakes that have ben done since the beginning).
v 13…And I saw that wisdom (chachmah) excels folly as light excels (dispels) darkness (the worth of wisdom far outweighed folly because it was empty).
v 14…The wise man’s eyes are in his head (for observation and understanding), but the fool walks in darkness (deliberately closing his eyes). And yet I know that one fate befalls them both (death).
v 15…Then I said to myself (in my heart), “As is the fate of the fool, it will also befall me (as Solomon considered this, he realized he was going to die). Why then have I been extremely wise (wisdom alone without service is of little use)? So I said to myself, “This too is vanity (worthless).”
v 16…For there is no lasting remembrance of a wise man as with a fool (people forget both the wise and the fool), inasmuch as in the coming days all will be forgotten. And how the wise and the fool die alike (experience death).
v 17…So I hated life (weary of what it had to offer), for the work which had been done under the sun was grievous to me (the natural world experience was empty); because everything is futile (empty) and striving after the wind (vexation of spirit).
v 18…Thus I hated all the fruit of my labor for which I had labored under the sun (the natural world), for I must leave it to the man who will come after me (his successor will reap the fruit of Solomon’s labor).
v 19…And who knows whether he (his successor) will be a wise man of a fool (Rehoboam was his son and he was a fool)? Yet he will have control over all the fruit of my labor for which I have labored by acting wisely under the sun. This too is vanity (all his wisdom went for nothing) in the natural).
v 20…Therefore I completely despaired (thought he was a failure) of all the fruit of my labor for which I had labored under the sun (if he looked at it only from the natural angle).
v 21…When there is a man who has labored with wisdom, knowledge and skill, then he gives his legacy (his share) to one who has not labored (he ends up with it) with them. This too is vanity and a great evil (so what’s the difference if he works or not).
v 22…For what does a man get in all his labor and his striving with which he labors under the sun (what does he have to show for all his work)?
v 23…Because all his days his task is painful and grievous (the only reward it seems); even at night his mind (Hebrew “lev” or heart) does not rest (anxious and troubled). This too is vanity (as far as this natural life is concerned). v
v 24…There is nothing better for a man that to eat and drink and tell himself that his labor is good. This also I have seen, that it is from the hand of God (makes use of the blessings God has given him).
v 25…For who can eat and who can have enjoyment without him (Hebrew “outside of me””)?
v 26…For to a person who is good in his sight (the heart to be obedient to him-Rom 8.28) he has given wisdom and knowledge and joy (as a reward in his mercy ), while to the sinner he has given the task of gathering and collecting (wealth) so that he may give to one who is good in God’s sight (inherits the earth-Matt 5.5). This too is vanity and striving after the wind (vexation of spirit for the natural man without God).