For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4


Ecclesiastes 6

A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2004 James Melough

6:1.  “There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, and it is common among men:”


“... common” is also translated “heavy, another hardship, that weighs men down.”


6:2.  “A man to whom God hath given riches, wealth, and honor, so that he wanteth nothing for his soul of all that he desireth, yet God giveth him not power to eat thereof, but a stranger eateth it: this is vanity, and it is an evil disease.”


A man may have so much wealth that he can obtain virtually  anything he wants, yet lack the “power to eat thereof,” i.e., to enjoy his riches, as it is written, “Take heed and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesses,” Luke 12:15.  The only thing that brings enduring peace and satisfaction is to know the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior, and to obey Him as Lord.


“... but a stranger eateth it,” is also translated, “a man unknown eats it; a stranger, an outsider enjoys or devours it.”

Some however, point out that “stranger” may also apply simply to someone other than ones self, so that it may refer to a relative.

This also is as worthless  as chasing after the wind; and it is an incurable, distressing evil; a sore misfortune; a dire plague that weighs heavily on men’s minds.


6:3.  “If a man beget a hundred children, and live many years, so that the days of his years be many, and his soul be not filled with good, and also that he have no burial; I say, that an untimely birth is better than he.”


A man may live to a ripe old age, and see his life perpetuated in a hundred children, but if he is not satisfied with the good things God has given him to enjoy, and ends his days in poverty so that there isn’t enough to provide him with a decent burial, it would have been better for him to have been stillborn.


Many on the other hand understand “that he have no burial” is a hyperbolic description of his having a long life.


6:4.  “For he cometh in with vanity, and departeth in darkness, and his name shall be covered with darkness.”


Alternative translations of this verse are, “For it entereth a worthless thing and departeth in obscurity; its name is concealed in oblivion; for that comes in vain; in darkness it departs and in darkness its name is covered.”


6:5.  “Moreover he hath not seen the sun, nor known anything: this hath more rest than the other.”


This continues the description of the stillborn.  It has never seen the sun, nor has it ever known anything, yet it has more rest than the man described in verse three, the “rest” here applying not to its eternal state, but to the fact that it didn’t have to experience the earthly toil and trouble that are the common lot of men.


Nothing is stated in this verse relative to the eternal state of the stillborn.


6:6.  “Yea, though he live a thousand years twice told, yet hath he seen no good: do not all go to one place?”


No matter how long a man might live, his life is as worthless as the wind if he hasn’t come to know the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.  Since believers go to heaven, and unbelievers to hell,   the statement that “all go to one place” may mean that the infidel considers death to end a man’s existence, the one place to which all go being simply the grave, he in his ignorance refusing the testimony of Scripture that there are two eternal destinations for men: heaven for believers, and the lake of fire for unbelievers.


6:7.  “All the labor of man is for his mouth, and yet the appetite is not filled.”


While the reference here may be to man’s labor for literal food, it is more likely that the term is the metaphoric description of his desires in general; and experience confirms the accuracy of the observation that he is rarely ever satisfied.  No matter how much he has, he still craves more, whether it be money, possessions, fame, power, ad infinitum.


6:8.  “For what hath the wise more than the fool? what hath the poor, that knoweth to walk before the living?”


“... to walk before the living” is also translated, “Where should a man go when he is poor, save where he can earn a livelihood?”  Some, The Bible Knowledge Commentary for example, render it “might know how to get along in the world.”


6:9.  “Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the desire: this is also vanity and vexation of spirit.”


Other renderings of this verse are, “Better aim at what lies in view than hanker after dreams,” “Better a joy at hand than wants or desires that roam abroad,” “It is better to be satisfied with what is before your eyes than give rein to desire.”  But even this is emptiness and the equivalent of chasing the wind.


6:10.  “That which hath been is named already, and it is known that it is man: neither may he contend with him that is mightier than he.”


“... hath been named already” is generally understood to mean that everything has been predestinated by an inscrutable and immutable God or Providence (this being the view of the infidel); while “it is known that it is man” is also translated “it is foreknown what man is,” that is, the nature of man is known.  This is another way of saying that the nature of man never changes.  As was the nature of fallen Adam so also is the nature of all his descendants: it is evil, as it is written, “There is none righteous, no, not one ... none that doeth good,” Ro 3:10-12.  Man’s human frailty is declared in the meaning of the name of the first man Adam, i.e., red earth.  Man’s body is but dust.


The “mightier than he” with whom man cannot hope to contend successfully is God.


6:11.  “Seeing there be many things that increase vanity, what is man the better?”


Other renderings of this are, “Though verily his greatest performances magnify vanity, what is comparable to man?”  Since there are many arguments to prove the abundance of vanity; is there any one thing better than another for man?”  “The more words, the more worthlessness; what advantage does man gain from them?”  “The more words, the greater the vanity (worthlessness) of it all: and what does man get from it?” 


6:12.  “For who knoweth what is good for man in this life, all the days of his vain life which he spendeth as a shadow? for who can tell a man what shall be after him under the sun?”


The question is rhetorical, for the obvious answer is that, from the infidel’s perspective, no one can tell a man what is good or best for him, nor can anyone tell him what will be after him, for no one knows what the future holds.  The Bible however, and every spiritual believer, can furnish the answer.  Man’s greatest good is to obtain God’s gift of eternal life by confessing himself a sinner, and by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior; and relative to the future, God’s assurance to every believer is that he will dwell for ever in bliss in heaven, and to every unbeliever His assurance is that he will endure eternal torment in the lake of fire.  What happens to a man during his few days here on earth “under the sun” pales into insignificance compared to what his eternal experience will be.


Continuing to express the philosophy of the infidel natural man, Solomon declares that no one knows what is good for man during the course of his empty worthless life which has as little substance as a shadow.  The infidel philosopher, refusing to believe that there is an eternal existence either in hell or heaven, deludes himself and his dupes that there is nothing more to life than the few fleeting years spent here on earth.  The believer, reading the Bible under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, knows otherwise.

[Ecclesiastes 7]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough