“Ecclesiastes 6 is one of the Bible’s darkest chapters,” wrote one commentator. Next, to Job 3, I agree with him.
The Preacher ended chapter five by describing how God gives everything we have to us, including the ability to enjoy it (Ecclesiastes 5:19). Enjoying the good gifts of this life under the sun is only possible if God gives us the needed joy.
Against this backdrop, the Preacher continues his look at life under the sun. It is important to remember that he is looking at life under the sun apart from God. The picture is always bleak when it is viewed from a human perspective.
An Evil I Have Seen
There is a particular evil the Preacher has seen under the sun, and it lies heavy on mankind, it is a great burden.
God gives a man wealth, possessions, and honor, and this man lacks nothing that he desires. This does not sound bad so far. God gives him wealth, but He does not give him the power to enjoy it. He has money, but he can’t enjoy it. He used his money to buy whatever he wanted, yet there was still no joy. He had all the honor you could imagine, yet again, there was no enjoyment.
And he did not have this enjoyment because God did not grant him the ability to enjoy it. To make matters worse, someone else enjoyed it, a stranger. Someone the man did not even know enjoyed everything he had. His family did not enjoy it, a stranger did.
This is a bleak picture, indeed. It is vanity as the preacher says and a grievous evil.
Better Off Dead
If the picture was not dark enough, it becomes even darker when we get to verses 3-6.
A sign of prosperity in Hebrew culture was having many children. If a man had one-hundred children and lived a long life, another sign of blessing, but had no enjoyment, the Preacher says a stillborn child is better off.
The stillborn child comes in vanity and goes in darkness, and its name is covered. Although it has never seen the sun, it finds rest while the “blessed man” does not.
This man would be no better off than a stillborn child if he lived two-thousand years but did not enjoy life. In the end, he will end up in the same place as the stillborn child, in death.
Death is inescapable for us all. No matter what we have, we will all die.
Another factor of life under the sun is our appetites are never satisfied. We get hungry, so we eat, but we get hungry again. And so, the cycle continues.
Our physical appetites are never satisfied, and our desires are never satisfied. Our appetites are always wondering. Philip Graham Ryken writes, “our desires are always traveling, but never arriving.” We satisfy them temporarily, and then they ask for more.
Nothing New Under the Sun
A refrain seen throughout Ecclesiastes is there is nothing new under the sun. The Preacher does this again with different language by saying, “whatever has come to be has already been named.” There is nothing new under the sun, and this includes the nature of man.
We are frail, weak, and sinful creatures, and we are not able to dispute with one stronger than we are. The more we know, the more vanity we see. We are all fleeting, and we pass like a shadow.
God has determined the end from the beginning. He is the one stronger than we are. We can argue with God, but we only need to look to Job to see how that ends.
Life After Life Under the Sun
The closing question of this chapter is, “For who can tell man what will be after him under the sun?”
The Preacher is not ready to give an answer yet. Perhaps at this point in his search, he has not found the answer. But we know the answer, it is found in the gospel.
There was a Man who came and lived life under the sun. He was tried and tempted as we are yet without sin. He experienced the sorrows of living life under the sun, and He went to the one place that all go, death.
But for Him, death was not the final word. He rose from the dead, He defeated it once and for all. And now He is at the right hand of God the Father interceding for those He purchased through His life, death, and resurrection.
Jesus is the answer to what will be for man after this life under the sun. In Christ one day, we will dwell with God where there will be no more sorrow, lack of enjoyment, and no more vanity.
The Preacher looks at life under the sun apart from God to show us our need for God. One writer wrote, “By talking openly about our disappointment with life, he is trying to awaken our longing for God.” Our appetites can travel and arrive when we satisfy them in God, and this happens through Jesus, who is the way to the Father and the source of true satisfaction.