Online Bible Commentary
All Was Vanity
Ecclesiastes 2:1 I said in my heart, "Come now, I will test you with mirth; therefore enjoy pleasure"; but surely, this also was vanity. 2 I said of laughter--"Madness!"; and of mirth, "What does it accomplish?" 3 I searched in my heart how to gratify my flesh with wine, while guiding my heart with wisdom, and how to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was good for the sons of men to do under heaven all the days of their lives. 4 I made my works great, I built myself houses, and planted myself vineyards. 5 I made myself gardens and orchards, and I planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. 6 I made myself water pools from which to water the growing trees of the grove. 7 I acquired male and female servants, and had servants born in my house. Yes, I had greater possessions of herds and flocks than all who were in Jerusalem before me. 8 I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the special treasures of kings and of the provinces. I acquired male and female singers, the delights of the sons of men, and musical instruments of all kinds. 9 So I became great and excelled more than all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me. 10 Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure, For my heart rejoiced in all my labor; And this was my reward from all my labor. 11 Then I looked on all the works that my hands had done And on the labor in which I had toiled; And indeed all was vanity and grasping for the wind. There was no profit under the sun. (NKJV)
Solomon, son of David, was the king of Israel for some forty years (1 Kings 11:42) from 970 B.C. until his death at the age of fifty-nine in 931 B.C. The book of Ecclesiastes was likely written near the end of his life, about 935 B.C.
Solomon had turned from God in his later years (1 Kings 11). He established other gods in Israel to honor some of his 700 wives who were from other countries and worshiped different gods.
Solomon, being the son of a king, had received the best education known to man at the time. He learned the best of human wisdom. He also was blessed by God with true wisdom, the wisdom from God, but in his later years he turned away from the wisdom of God and towards human wisdom.
In his human wisdom Solomon sought meaning through riches, but he found it was all in vain (vv. 1-2). He then looked for meaning through self gratification and life’s luxuries (v. 3).
He then sought fame, becoming one of the most successful people in the world (vv. 4-8). The phrase “musical instruments of all kinds” (v. 8b) is believed to mean the 700 wives and 300 concubines that he maintained to satisfy his sexual desires.
Solomon “became great and excelled more than all who were before me in Jerusalem” (v. 9a). He had all that any man could want. And yet, his “wisdom remained” with him (v. 9b). He kept his head. He knew something was wrong.
He had everything his “eyes desired” (v. 10a). He did not withhold himself “from any pleasure” (v. 10b). He worked hard, and he played hard (v. 10c).
Then, Solomon looked at “all the works that my hands had done And on the labor in which I had toiled” (v. 12a), and he realized that “all was vanity and grasping for the wind” (v 12b), it was all in vain, empty. “There was no profit under the sun” (v.12b). He knew that all of his riches would not last, because they existed in this world, “under the sun”.
Solomon had everything any of us could want, from a human standpoint. But he still did not find satisfaction. He still did not find meaning to life.
Solomon failed to find satisfaction in his work, his riches, his fame, and self gratification. “All was vanity” (v. 12). There was not enough money, sex, and fame in the world that would satisfy him.
And the same goes for us. We do not find true, lasting satisfaction from the things of the world. True, lasting satisfaction only comes from a relationship with Jesus Christ.