Faith is the assurance

Eighteenth in the Solomon Series

Ecclesiastes, the twenty-first book of the Bible, is a book of wisdom and of heartfelt discouragement and reaching to higher planes where acceptance in Christ steadies and comforts.

The root word of Ecclesiastes is qahal (with long marks over the a's), meaning "assembly, company, congregation." The Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Bible chose Ecclesiastes, or "a member of the assembly," because of the relation of qalal to ecclesia (assembly). The English rendering "Preacher" follows Jerome's Latin word for "speaker before an assembly." (from the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, Moody Press)

A. R. Fausset, a 19th century Irish theologian, stated in his commentary,

The Hebrew title is Koheleth, which the speaker in it applies to himself (Ecc 1:12), "I, Koheleth, was king over Israel." It means an Assembler or Convener of a meeting and a Preacher to such a meeting… The substitution of the title Koheleth for Solomon (that is, peace), may imply that, having troubled Israel, meantime he forfeited his name of peace (1Ki 11:14, 23 ); but now, having repented, he wishes to be henceforth a Preacher of righteousness."

Early in his address, Solomon observes: There is nothing new under the sun (Ec 1:9). He had been a man who looked into all matters under heaven, yet his great wisdom and seeking brought him grief and sorrow (vs 18). He tried pleasure, wine; he built houses and planted gardens, orchards and made pools for watering his orchards; he increased in servants and in cattle and gold; he brought in singers and instrumentalists for pleasure. (Ec 2:3-8)

Yet when he looked on all that his hands had made, he could see only vanity and feel only vexation. 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? " (vs 15)

He saw that in certain matters he had not been wise, and his sorrow caused him to hate the work he had done (vs 18). God will give a good man wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he gives only increase that will be given to another (vs 26). What an aggravation!

There is a time for everything; a time to rend and and a time to sew; to plant, to pluck up; but what profit is there in anything? (3:9) Well, in its time God makes everything beautiful. (3:11) We cannot understand all that God has purposed; we should instead rejoice in the Lord and do good. (vs 12) Enjoy the fruit of your labor as God's gift. (vs 13)

God's works are from all eternity and He brings into focus what has been perpetrated for evil; we should fear him (vs 15). We are like the beasts (vs 19). In that generation, Christ had not yet been incarnated, nor had the Holy Spirit been given. Yet, there was wisdom; there was God's Word, and one could commune with it. Then, faith could be nurtured.

Solomon considered the tears of the oppressed, that they had no comforter (4:1); recalled how men envied (vs 4); how the man without a family labored for no one (vs 8), and that two are better than one, for they keep warm in bed and can withstand an enemy (vs 11).

But thinking of companions, Solomon then preached, "Better [is] a poor and a wise child than an old and foolish king, who will no more be admonished." (vs 13) Those born into his kingdom would become poor (vs 14).

When you are in God's house, listen to Him and let your words be few (5:1, 2); pay your vows (vs 4); fear God (vs 7); don't be impressed or troubled with those who oppress the poor and are unjust. God sees them (vs 8). The greedy rich have only the enjoyment of beholding their wealth; the sleep of a laborer is sweet — while the abundance of the rich will not let him sleep (vss 10-12).

And what about the man to whom God has given riches, wealth and honor, who cannot enjoy it, or the man with a hundred children and a long life who departs in darkness without proper burial? There is little difference in life between fools and wise men; but stop contending with Him who is mightier than we (6:1-10).

Indeed, "sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better." (7:3) It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise than the song of fools (vs 5): Better is the end of a thing than the beginning, and the patient in spirit is better than the proud man (vs 8) or the angry one (vs 9).

Stop complaining (vs 10); neither be overly righteous or foolish or overly wicked (vss 16, 17)… We all sin (vs 20); we fail in our life's goals (vs 23); Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions. (7:29)

In chapter 8, Solomon reminds the hearers to keep the king's commands and not to challenge his judgments, for God made him the king (8:2-5).

A ruler at times governs to his own hurt (vs 9). If justice is not swiftly served, it nevertheless works to the harm of the evildoer. He begins to think he will not be judged so he becomes more persistent in his sin (vs 11) and comes under greater judgment.

It does seem at times that the righteous are as much destroyed by the wicked as vice versa, and this is another "vanity" (vs 14).

Solomon pulled back from this thought; he thought instead to eat, drink and be merry (vs 15); man cannot fathom the inscrutable ways of God (vs 17). Don't entertain frustrations, doubts, anxieties; be at peace.

Our faith in God demonstrates that we believe even though we don't see or understand. There was a time when Solomon thought he did understand the depths of God's ways, but he was much younger then.

In Ecclesiastes, we see that Solomon has returned from the heights and depths to a level place.

Half-hearted, or even less

Seventeenth in the Solomon Series

One meaning of the word prayer is "to estimate, assess," for when we pray, we reflect on our lives and how we may bring our behavior or decisions in line with God's laws. Praying helps us build our relationship with the Lord and keep to his narrow way that leads to eternal life.

Evidently, Solomon had not prayed to "judge self" as his harem increased, though he may have said general prayers of praise and rote intercessory prayers for his people. He had lost touch with God's will for his own life.

As we covered in the 15th post on Solomon, his 700 wives (all of them, princesses!) turned his heart away from God, even though the Lord had warned him about this very thing, and he built high places for their pagan gods. And Solomon did evil in the sight of the LORD, and went not fully after the LORD, as [did] David his father. (1 Ki 11:6)

That the writer of these Bible passages noted that Solomon's heart was not wholly devoted is significant. Even in his worst days, Solomon was not completely turned away from the Lord. David had warned his son:

Now therefore in the sight of all Israel the congregation of the LORD, and in the audience of our God, keep and seek for all the commandments of the LORD your God: that ye may possess this good land, and leave [it] for an inheritance for your children after you for ever. And thou, Solomon my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind: for the LORD searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts: if thou seek him, he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off for ever. (1 Ch 28:8, 9)

Solomon did not forsake the Lord, however, he nearly did.

Three adversaries were raised up by God to oppose Solomon: Hadad, an Edomite (Esau's progeny), Rezon, a Syrian leader, and Jeroboam, an Ephraimite and engineering foreman whom Solomon had put in charge of the house of Joseph.

Solomon sought to kill Jeroboam, so he fled to Egypt until Solomon died. Egypt was also the protector of Hadad who had been taken there as a boy when Joab assailed Edom. This brings to mind the uselessness of alliances with our former slavemasters. Solomon had made an important contract with Egypt, which nevertheless gave sanctuary to his enemies. Don't expect any favors from the spiritually blind — particularly when the Lord has determined to discipline you.

On behalf of David, God planned to tear the kingdom away from Solomon during his son's reign, leaving one tribe for David and for Jerusalem's sake. (1 Ki 11)

The dividing of Israel was pictured in the prophecy of Abijah when he tore his garment into 12 pieces and told Jeroboam to take ten, "for thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel, Behold, I will rend the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon, and will give ten tribes to thee: (But he shall have one tribe for my servant David's sake, and for Jerusalem's sake, the city which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel:) (1Ki 11:31) (Whether Abijah tore his own garment or Jeroboam's is unclear. Only 11 are accounted for, since the tribe of the Levites served in worship and lived throughout the kingdom.)

In John Gill's commentary on Ecclesiastes, he states that Hebrew scholars explained:

"when Solomon, king of Israel, saw, by the spirit of prophecy, that the kingdom of Rehoboam his son would be divided with Jeroboam, the son of Nebat; and that Jerusalem, and the house of the sanctuary, would be destroyed, and the people of the children of Israel would be carried captive; he said, by his word, Vanity of vanities in this world, vanity of vanities; all that I and my father David have laboured for, all is vanity!''

Yes, only the Spirit can reveal to our hearts what our minds already know. Solomon's anguish showed he had begun to understand that he was undone.

Beware your Egyptian contracts

Sixteenth in the Solomon Series

Before we study how the Lord punished Solomon, let us consider the backdrop of his demise.

Was it "OK" for Solomon to marry Pharaoh's daughter? Would there be any reason he should not have?

In Deuteronomy 17:16 God instructed Israel not to multiply horses to have increased concourse with Egypt, considering the mighty deliverance that had set her free from Pharaoh and slavery. That miracle was to be held in honor forever. But would bringing an Egyptian wife to Israel run counter to that command?

David had a foreign wife. Absalom's grandfather was Talmai, king of Geshur. (1 Ch 3:2). Kings of that epoch were expected to have harems, and Israel had been built by polygamy, wives and concubines; but those were not patterns God intended.

These facts help to explain why Solomon's liaison with the Egyptian was accepted, but our lives must not be guided by family practices or cultural norms that do not reflect God's highest and best, and that do not uphold his law.

Israel had been told not to take foreign wives. In Deuteronomy 7:3-4, Moses instructs the Israelites regarding the Canaanite nations, "Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son. For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly.

Perhaps there was some leniency in the days of the kings, since not all foreign tribes were Canaanites, nor much beyond Israel's borders. As well, did not Joseph marry an Egyptian and were not Ephraim and Manasseh of this line?

But the principle of marrying within the family was begun with Isaac. (Gen 24:3); Esau caused his parents grief by marrying Hittite women. The principle carried over to New Testament teachings: Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? (2 Cor 6:14)

Was Solomon's marriage to the Egyptian a "state" matter? As covered in a previous post, the alliance came about because Pharaoh helped to secure Israel's borders by driving Canaanites out of Gezur. That victory provided her dowry. It seems that Pharaoh had a goal to ally with Israel now that she had become great.

Was not the princess a proselyte to Judaism? But if so, why did Solomon say: My wife shall not dwell in the house of David king of Israel, because [the places are] holy, whereunto the ark of the LORD hath come. (2 Ch 8:11)? She was removed to dwell outside of Jerusalem, not within the city of David.

Yet to say that Solomon should never have married Pharaoh's daughter presents theological problems. Why is the Song of Solomon the only one of his songs to be preserved as well as included in holy Scripture? Does that not give a stamp of approval to this marriage? Or, might it be only a story presented for our edification, like the story of Samson and Delilah? We appreciate its meaning when we have read further to understand its ramifications.

Unlike Delilah, the Egyptian princess was a gracious creature, truly in love with her lover; but Solomon's desire for her and his other foreign wives had an echo from the past, "Get her for me; for she pleaseth me well — " spoken by Samson, though his father and mother had pleaded: "Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines?" (Judges 14:3)

Did Solomon ever wonder if he should have paid Pharaoh in gold for Gezur rather than by marriage contract?

If we accept the Song of Solomon as a wedding song for a marriage NOT made in heaven, we would see the need to compare Scripture with Scripture for meaning and context. As we go beyond Songs to Ecclesiastes and read about Solomon in 1 Kings and 1 and 2 Chronicles, we realize a context for warning and not rejoicing.

However, many much wiser than I have seen the Song of Solomon as a divine allegory of Christ's love for the church, so I will not refute that, but only say, Young person, be certain of your marriage plans. Love is strong as death.

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. -Mat 5:14

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