(source: Google images)
(Bible reading: 1 Kings 11 and Ecclesiastes)
I was disappointed to read the brief commentary to the Book of Ecclesiastes provided by my NKJV Chronological Study Bible. They inserted this book just after 1 Kings 10, the height of King Solomon’s reign and renown. Although the commentary leans on the belief that King Solomon was the author of this book, it also mentions the surprise of some scholars that the book is attributed to Solomon for it hardly fits the Bible’s portrait of him. Then it further states: “…the book can be read in light of Solomon’s greatness. Read in this way, Ecclesiastes offers a striking contrast between Solomon at the peak of his power and worldly success and this bleak and weary book.”
I was surprised and disappointed that the commentary failed to connect the turning away of Solomon from God and God’s anger as reasons for the overall theme of pessimism and bleakness in the writing of the Book of Ecclesiastes, and that it should have been more fitting to insert it after 1 Kings 11, when King Solomon’s heart has turned away from the Lord.
I believe, and this is what I feel in my spirit as I read the life of Solomon and the Book of Ecclesiastes, that King Solomon did write this book and he wrote it around the time when God’s anger was kindled upon him and His presence left him. So, read in the light of this falling away, the somber mood of Ecclesiastes can be easily understood.
King Solomon loved many foreign women and because of this, he turned away from following the Lord and worshiped the gods of his foreign wives. The Lord became so angry at Solomon that He was going to tear the kingdom from him, in the time of his son’s reign, leaving only one tribe to him for the sake of his father David. This was the beginning of King Solomon’s downfall.
When the Spirit of the Lord left King Saul, there were times that he would lose his sanity (1 Sam. 16:14-16). When we read the Book of Ecclesiastes, it is full of weariness, desperation, sorrow, over pessimism, meaninglessness and even hopelessness as can be understood from the lines that the dead and the one who has never existed are better off than the living!
We now understand that a person without the Spirit of the Lord, one who is estranged from God, is simply wretched. He cannot see any meaning to life; cannot feel joy or inspiration – life is void like a vacuum; he only sees darkness and feels fearful, weary and heavy-burdened. For if one has the Spirit of the Lord, one has power, love, and a sound mind!
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Tim. 1:7)
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…(Gal. 5:22-23)
If our hearts turn away from following the Lord and turn to other “gods” – embracing the things and pleasures of this world – the Holy Spirit will grieve and He will leave. And we are left spiritually dead, no life, for it is the Spirit who gives life (John 6:63).
It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Heb. 10:31 NIV)
In the end, as the commentary said “almost as an afterthought”, Solomon came to the full realization that the whole duty of man is to fear God and keep His commandments. Was it too late for him? The Bible does not mention if he was restored by the Lord. As he had written in Ecc. 2:16:
For there is no more remembrance of the wise than of the fool forever,
Since all that now is will be forgotten in the days to come.
And how does a wise man die?
As the fool!
Oh Lord, let this not be our end, as we continue to follow You, walk humbly before You and obey Your commands!
By God’s grace, we’ll have more of Ecclesiastes next week.