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In School With Solomon

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Ecc 9:1 . . For I have taken all this to my heart and explain it that righteous men, wise men, and their deeds are in the hand of God. Man does not know whether [it will be] love or hatred; anything awaits him.

That was certainly true of Joseph. He was a very good boy; favored by God, yet sold into Egyptian slavery by his own kin. Same with John the baptizer. He too was a good, and wise, man-- the forerunner of Christ. Yet at the young age of thirty, still in the prime of his life, he was beheaded at the whim of a silly young girl whose dancing happened to please a tetrarch. God did nothing to prevent it. Are any of us any safer?

Ecc 9:2-3a . . For the same fate is in store for all: for the righteous, and for the wicked; for the good and pure, and for the impure; for him who sacrifices, and for him who does not; for him who is pleasing, and for him who is displeasing; and for him who swears, and for him who shuns oaths. That is the sad thing about all that goes on under the sun: that the same fate is in store for all.

Oftentimes when people contract fatal diseases, they whine: "Why me?" Answer: Why not? Yes, why not because we're all just lobsters in one of those fish tanks they have in sea food restaurants.. The cook gropes about and the lobster he catches is just a matter of chance. And eventually he gets them all, one by one.

It seemed to Solomon that good people shouldn't have to die. But actually, death is merciful. What if people lived forever? They would continue to age more and more till they were totally debilitated and looked like emaciated mummies. They would have to be carried around like baggage, completely dependent upon the young for subsistence; and forever enduring an unbearable quality of life.

Ecc 9:3b . . (Not only that, but men's hearts are full of sadness, and their minds of madness, while they live; and then-- to the dead!)

The word for "madness" is from howlelah (ho-lay-law') which actually means folly; not insanity. Webster's defines folly as (1) a lack of good sense or normal prudence and foresight, (2) criminally or tragically foolish actions or conduct, (3) a foolish act or idea, and (4) an excessively costly or unprofitable undertaking.

If we take the far view-- if we weigh the value of Man's thoughts and endeavors against the depth of eternity --then nothing a man under the sun does has any real meaning and purpose. After the earthly man lives out his pointless existence, he dies and rots away like common road kill.
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Ecc 9:4 . . For he who is reckoned among the living has something to look forward to-- even a live dog is better than a dead lion--

As long as people are still alive, there's always the thought that one day their ship might come in. But once you're dead, there are no more ships other than the one that ferries people across the river Styx.

Ecc 9:5-6 . . since the living know they will die. But the dead know nothing; they have no more recompense, for even the memory of them has died. Their loves, their hates, their jealousies have long since perished; and they have no more share till the end of time in all that goes on under the sun.

On the face of things, those who have passed on experienced the final phase of life; the last item on their bucket list: and now have nothing left to do. They're all done. They were born (we all are) they lived (we all do) they died (we all will). And everybody not only experiences the final phase, but most everyone also experiences the common experiences of life-- love, hate, and rivalry. Every generation goes through the very same things while they're here.

Ecc 9:7-10 . . Go, eat your bread in gladness, and drink your wine in joy; for your action was long ago approved by God. Let your clothes always be freshly washed, and your head never lack ointment. Enjoy happiness with a woman you love all the fleeting days of life that have been granted to you under the sun-- all your fleeting days. For that alone is what you can get out of life and out of the means you acquire under the sun. Whatever it is in your power to do, do with all your might. For there is no action, no reasoning, no learning, no wisdom in Sheol, where you are going.

Sheol is often interpreted "grave". That's a good choice of words for the man under the sun, i.e. a rational man thinking to himself whose perception of reality is moderated by what he can see going on around him in the physical universe rather than what he cannot see going on under his feet in the non-physical sphere.

The man under the sun generally understands that he needs to squeeze every drop of juice out of the orange of life before it's too late. That is both unfortunate and frustrating for many because circumstances will not permit them to enjoy life as much as they would like. They will never achieve their highest potential, never eat right, never dress right, never have a family of their own, never be pretty, never be handsome, never be thin, never be rich, never be intelligent, never be famous, never be popular, never have good health, and never have a home of their own-- the grave ends any and all dreams of ever achieving any of that.

Since a lifetime is so little time to enjoy life, it's tragic that the good life is taken away from us so easily because there's simply not enough time in life to make up for lost time.
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Ecc 9:11a . . I again saw under the sun that the race is not [always] to the swift, and the battle is not to the warriors, and neither is bread to the wise, nor wealth to the discerning, nor favor to men of ability;

Typically races are won by the swift, but if the swift should trip and fall, they will lose the race in spite of their superior speed. Battles are usually won by the valiant, not the timid. But again, not always. If the valiant are dunces, then the timid with brains can outsmart them. Food and money are usually plentiful in the homes of people who have a head on their shoulders; but again, if the wise should suddenly lose everything by an economic catastrophe; like the Wall Street collapse of 2008, then all the financial know-how in the world won't buy them a single loaf of bread down at the local Safeway.

The word "favor" is from chen (khane) which means: graciousness, i.e. subjective (kindness, favor) or objective (beauty). For some strange reason, nature allows only a relatively small percentage of beautiful people to have any brains or develop any really useful, productive skills. Most of the achievers in life, like chemists, astronomers, architects, mathematicians, writers, movie makers, physicists, engineers, and designers et al; are ordinary-looking people. The beautiful people are often dead wood (and dead heads). Whenever I look behind the scenes of really difficult movies like Inception, Matrix, Avatar, and Monsters Inc.; I'm amazed at the rather unexceptional looks of many of the makers of our favorite movies. They just don't appear to be all that smart and creative.

I noticed the same thing in my job as a Federal civilian employee. The headquarters in my district has a noticeable shortage of attractive men and women because the government, as a rule, doesn't hire people in respect to how well they fill out their clothes, but in respect to how well their minds work.

Ecc 9:11b . . for time and chance overtake them all.

There are no guarantees in life. It's a gamble. I know of a clerk in Costco who spent four years in college majoring in Sociology. There was plenty of demand for people with that kind of a degree when he entered college; but by the time he finished school, the demand had vanished and my graduate friend had to get a job as a fry cook in a Mongolian grill.

Ecc 9:12 . . And a man cannot even know his time. As fishes are enmeshed in a fatal net, and as birds are trapped in a snare, so men are caught at the time of calamity, when it comes upon them without warning.

A machinist employed by the Corps of Engineers here in Portland Oregon where I once worked as a welder, volunteered to go and help out with the rescue and clean-up operation in New York after the World Trade Center was hit with airliners flown by Islamic extremists. On return, he remarked how he was puzzled by parking structures near ground zero full of very expensive autos like BMW, Corvette, and Lexus that were covered with dirt day after day. He wondered why the people who owned those beautiful cars never washed them.

Then he realized why. It was because those cars once belonged to commuters who worked in the Trade Center-- commuters who were caught by total surprise in the sudden destruction of not only their place of employment, but also of their very lives. Whatever they had planned for that day, was instantly canceled forever. The owners never dreamed that the miles they drove to work that day would be their very last.

Sudden-death incidents like that happen all the time. Not long ago actor Bill Paxton was in the hospital for treatment of an aortic aneurism when he suddenly died of a stroke on the operating table. It took his life right out of the blue like a stray bullet from a drive-by.
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Ecc 9:13-16 . .This thing too I observed under the sun about wisdom, and it affected me profoundly. There was a little city, with few men in it; and to it came a great king, who surrounded it and built mighty siege works against it. Residing in the city was a poor wise man who might have saved it with his wisdom, but nobody thought of that poor man. So I observed: Wisdom is better than valor; but a poor man's wisdom is scorned, and his words are not heeded.

A pity that the truly wise are not always famous nor widely respected; whereas the boastful, the narcissistic, the achievers, and the ambitious always seem to find ample public opportunity to express their opinions, and ways to get them implemented.

Can you define the difference between a statesman and a politician? A statesman has his country's, and his countrymen's, best interests to heart. A politician has only his own and/or his party's best interests to heart. Very few statesmen wield power in the USA. Judging by current events, and recent political scandals, it's mostly the politicians who are running things.

Has a particular politician ever made you angry? Has a particular political body ever made a decision that, to you, seems they have mental illness and/or have forgotten to take their medication? Have you ever wished that you were there to make that critical decision? Maybe there were some issues that troubled you. Maybe the person holding office is voting in such a way as to hurt your district, harm your state and/or ruin your country. If so, perhaps you'd like to run for political office.

You might begin by reading every available article on local and/or state government. You could also make a habit of catching the local evening news so as not to miss a report on a particular bill or hot political topic. You could also begin talking and discussing your political ideas with others every chance you get.

However, unless you have access to millions of dollars, you can forget running for either the US President, the US Senate, or State Governor. The poor cannot run for office no matter how wise and capable they might be because wisdom and ability do not count in politics. Political office is typically only for the powerful, the influential, and for those who have very rich friends and the support of very large special interests. Government and big business may seem like strange bedfellows, but in this USA of ours, their collusion is simply the way things are.

Ecc 9:17 . .The words of the wise heard in quietness are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools.

Unfortunately, the words of the wise are all too often heard in private. They seldom have a large public audience because the wise are neither popular, nor charismatic. The masses want to be entertained by a silver-tongued speaker of grand verbiage and a promoter of impossible social agendas. Bombastic plans for the future seem to be the tried and true method of every successful politician. They offer hope you can believe in; but in reality, all they actually have to offer are impossible ideals.
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Ecc 9:13-16 . .This thing too I observed under the sun about wisdom, and it affected me profoundly. There was a little city, with few men in it; and to it came a great king, who surrounded it and built mighty siege works against it. Residing in the city was a poor wise man who might have saved it with his wisdom, but nobody thought of that poor man. So I observed: Wisdom is better than valor; but a poor man's wisdom is scorned, and his words are not heeded.

A pity that the truly wise are not always famous nor widely respected; whereas the boastful, the narcissistic, the achievers, and the ambitious always seem to find ample public opportunity to express their opinions, and ways to get them implemented.

Can you define the difference between a statesman and a politician? A statesman has his country's, and his countrymen's, best interests to heart. A politician has only his own and/or his party's best interests to heart. Very few statesmen wield power in the USA. Judging by current events, and recent political scandals, it's mostly the politicians who are running things.

Has a particular politician ever made you angry? Has a particular political body ever made a decision that, to you, seems they have mental illness and/or have forgotten to take their medication? Have you ever wished that you were there to make that critical decision? Maybe there were some issues that troubled you. Maybe the person holding office is voting in such a way as to hurt your district, harm your state and/or ruin your country. If so, perhaps you'd like to run for political office.

You might begin by reading every available article on local and/or state government. You could also make a habit of catching the local evening news so as not to miss a report on a particular bill or hot political topic. You could also begin talking and discussing your political ideas with others every chance you get.

However, unless you have access to millions of dollars, you can forget running for either the US President, the US Senate, or State Governor. The poor cannot run for office no matter how wise and capable they might be because wisdom and ability do not count in politics. Political office is typically only for the powerful, the influential, and for those who have very rich friends and the support of very large special interests. Government and big business may seem like strange bedfellows, but in this USA of ours, their collusion is simply the way things are.

Ecc 9:17 . .The words of the wise heard in quietness are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools.

Unfortunately, the words of the wise are all too often heard in private. They seldom have a large public audience because the wise are neither popular, nor charismatic. The masses want to be entertained by a silver-tongued speaker of grand verbiage and a promoter of impossible social agendas. Bombastic plans for the future seem to be the tried and true method of every successful politician. They offer hope you can believe in; but in reality, all they actually have to offer are impossible ideals.
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Hallo Beetow, When we look at the end time prophesies, they are dire, people, lovers of themselves, God haters, adulterers. Wars rumours of wars etc.. These things have to come to pass. If wise men were in power throughout the world these things might not come to pass and scripture would not be fulfilled. We are told that all those in authority were appointed by God. Could it be that God is appointing those that will bring about the prophesies in scripture. As scripture says God's ways are far removed from ours. I am not called to become involved, God has appointed those in authority, I am not called to disagree with him, I'm called to pray for the ones he has chosen. It's unwise to disagree with the Living God. bless you.
 
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I welcome comments, but only as they are relevant to the book of Ecclesiastes. Let's not derail the topic by going off on tangents with discussions of prophecy.

Thank You.
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I welcome comments, but only as they are relevant to the book of Ecclesiastes. Let's not derail the topic by going off on tangents with discussions of prophecy.

Thank You.
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I suggest You read your own post Beetow, You quote Ecclesiastes, then you spend the rest of your post talking about governments, that, I would suggest, is going off topic. but bless you, sorry if I did it wrong.
 
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You quote Ecclesiastes, then you spend the rest of your post talking about governments, that, I would suggest, is going off topic.
The book of Ecclesiastes is a collection of Solomon's world views rather than his doctrinal views. It's the Bible's fun book because it's chock full of normal thinking instead of religious dogma. Ecclesiastes requires very little interpretation as anybody who's been around the block a time or two can easily relate to its thoughts.

» Just a word of caution: According to Matt 12:42, Luke 11:31, John 1:1-14, and Col 2:3; Christ trumps Solomon, so beware of using proof texts from Ecclesiastes to contradict Christ's teachings related to the afterlife.

In addition: Christ is the voice of God (John 3:34, John 8:26, John 8:28, John 12:49, John 14:24) whereas there is not the slightest textual evidence in the book of Ecclesiastes that Solomon was anybody's voice but his own when he wrote it.
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Ecc 9:18 . .Wisdom is more valuable than weapons of war, but a single error destroys much of value.

Although wisdom may have more value than a cruise missile, it isn't nearly as effective as that weapon in its purpose. It should be noted that a cruise missile isn't launched indiscriminately; but usually launched only after the wisdom of diplomacy has run its course and left the wisdom of warfare no choice but to do its thing; and it's thing these days can be the destruction of an entire city by just one bomb.

Equipment and munitions, no matter how sophisticated nor how destructive, are wasted in the hands of those untrained and unskilled in their use. So wisdom and weapons of war work together for a victory. But obviously wisdom is the more valuable of the two because it is through wisdom that war materiel is employed to its best effect.

President John F. Kennedy once commented in a speech: Every man woman and child is under a nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest thread, capable of being cut at any moment by accident, miscalculation, or by madness.

In other words, geniuses figured out how to harness fission, but its application is sometimes subject to the arbitrary discretion of fools and Murphy's law.

A really good example of a single error destroying much of value was a 1998 NASA Mars robotic probe that failed to achieve its intended orbit around Mars due to ground-based computer software which produced output in non-SI units of pound (force)-seconds (lbf•s) instead of the SI units of newton-seconds (N.s) specified in the contract between NASA and Lockheed.

As a result of that one software boo-boo; the spacecraft encountered Mars on a trajectory that brought it too close to the planet, causing it to pass through the upper atmosphere and disintegrate. All the ingenious designing and engineering that went into constructing a perfectly good orbiter, and getting it out to Mars, went for naught.

Another good example was the Hubble Space Telescope flub. Nobody physically tested the Hubble's optics before sending the machine into near-earth orbit because a computer model convinced the telescope's makers that everything was okay as-is and needed no testing. As a result, Hubble's initial data produced images little better than those seen by an elderly person with cataracts. Ouch!
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Ecc 10:1 . . Dead insects will cause even a bottle of perfume to stink! Yes, an ounce of foolishness can outweigh a pound of wisdom and honor.

Before the wonders of modern chemistry, perfumes were made (and many still are) from animal and vegetable sources. Those, being all-natural, in a day prior to modern preservatives, could spoil if the perfumer wasn't careful to keep his product protected from exposure to temperature, insects, dirt, moisture, and other contaminants. All the skills and patience and knowledge exercised in the making of expensive scents could be completely annulled by simply forgetting to put the cap back on a jar.

Anyway, Ecc 10:1 certainly rings true in this day and age as the Roman Catholic Church's credibility steadily goes down the tubes because of its ongoing pedophilia scandals aggravated by its deplorable cover-ups.

And we shouldn't forget to mention law enforcement officers stepping out of character to take bribes, commit murder, robbery, theft, kidnapping, assault, battery, and rape.

The media is very attuned to the principle of Ecc 10:1. There isn't a day goes by that they don't grab every opportunity to criticize a US President and/or their family in order to discredit the man and make Americans lose confidence in his executive abilities.

Ecc 10:2 . . A wise man's mind tends toward the right hand, a fool's toward the left.

The right hand is the most useful and dexterous of the two hands. (at least for right-handed people anyway). It swings hammers and it writes letters. It pulls back the bow string, and it wields the sword and axe. It holds your cup of coffee, and it stirs cake mix. So to put your mind towards your right hand is to make your mind the leader in your efforts; in contrast to the fool who doesn't bother taking time to think anything through before charging ahead. The fool leaves behind him a wake of errors; and is always learning things the hard way. His favorite (full time) university is the School Of Hard Knocks. Pity, but it seems to be the only way he ever learns anything.

Ecc 10:3 . . A fool's mind is also wanting when he travels, and he lets everybody know he is a fool.

For some strange reason, the average male doesn't like to ask for directions when he travels. Women usually don't mind at all because they want to get where they're going. The men want to get there too, but they don't want to get there as wimpy men; they want to find their own way there as macho men. They prefer to think of themselves as commandos, patrol leaders: map and compass experts. So they often end up lost and turned around because their male ego will not permit them to let somebody (especially wives and girlfriends) help them find the way.

And then there are people who don't prepare for emergencies when they travel. They don't bring a car blanket, no paper towels, no tarp, no flares, no water, no first aid supplies, no flashlight, no food, their spare tire is flat, nor have they a clue how to install their car's tire chains (that is; if they even have a set) and they try to get by all year long on regular tires rather than go to the trouble of purchasing and installing seasonal tires.

Ecc 10:4 . . If the wrath of a lord flares up against you, don't give up your post; for when wrath abates, grave offenses are pardoned.

It is amazing how time has a way of healing things, and making people's anger dissipate. If your boss blows his top at you for something or other and rakes you over the coals, don't lose heart and quit your job just yet. He'll cool off after a while and soon be back to his old self again. Sooner or later, the boss himself will trip up and do something stupid like sexual harassment or creating a hostile workplace; thus putting himself in the awkward position of owing you one. Then you'll be even, and can go on as if nothing ever happened; and he'll be very glad you didn't do something rash like haul him down to the Equal Employment Opportunity office and make an issue of his professional conduct.
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Ecc 10:5-6 . . Here is an evil I have seen under the sun as great as an error committed by a ruler: Folly was placed on lofty heights, while rich men sat in low estate. I have seen slaves on horseback, and nobles walking on the ground like slaves.

That is more a contrast between the nature of two types of character than actual estate. A good biblical example of what Solomon is talking about can be seen at Acts 23:23-24:27; where Paul the apostle mounted his defense against the accusations of his Jewish enemies before a Roman governor named Felix.

Felix wasn't born into nobility. No, he was actually an emancipated slave who worked himself up to rank by craftiness and cruelty. Felix ruled, not with a nobleman's mentality, but with a slave's. Tacitus, Hist. 5, says this of Felix: Per omnem saevitiam ac libidinem jus regium servili ingenio exercuit -- "He used royal power with a servile genius, and in connection with all the varieties of cruelty and lust."

Felix should have been judged by Paul, not the other way around. As Paul discoursed on righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix became nervous and said: That's enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you. (Acts 24:25)

Felix's wife, Drusilla, was a piece of work herself. Her father was Herod Agrippa 1, the one who ordered the death of James the brother of John (Acts 12:2). Her great uncle, another Herod, ordered the Lord's cousin John beheaded (Mk 6:27). And last but not least, her great grandfather was the infamous Herod who ordered the slaughter of pre-schoolers. (Matt 2:16)

Ecc 10:8-9 . . He who digs a pit may fall into it, and a serpent may bite him who breaks through a wall. He who quarries stones may be hurt by them, and he who splits logs may be endangered by them.

Anyone who's ever chopped kindling, already knows how easy it is for sticks of wood to fly up into your face from a blow of the axe.

One of the most dangerous jobs up here in the northwest is logging. There's ten ways from Sunday to get yourself injured logging. Chain saws rip men, loose boughs called widow-makers fall on their heads, cables called chokers sometimes catch the men and crush their hands, tear them in half or pull an arm or leg off their bodies; falling trees lurch and skid rearwards off the stump to hit the logger if he forgets to stand off to the side. They are constantly tripping and falling, getting scratched, bitten by bugs, yelled at, cursed, and threatened by the Bull of the woods (their foreman).

Should men stop logging because it's dangerous? Should they stop digging trenches for pipelines because sometimes the trenches cave in? Should they stop tearing down old buildings for new shopping malls and apartment houses because there might be a rattler, or a scorpion, or a brown recluse spider in the rubble? No. All those hazards just quite naturally come with the turf.

Blue collar men are constantly in danger. But a wise worker will pay attention in safety meetings, and put into practice what's he's taught so he doesn't inadvertently kill himself in the process of bringing home the bacon. My boss always said: Cliff; I don't care if you get killed on the job just so long as you do it safely. (chuckle) That's one of the paradoxes of the blue collar world. Safe working practices save many lives and limbs; but none are fool proof.

Ecc 10:10 . . If the axe has become dull and he has not whetted the edge, he must exert more strength. Thus the advantage of a skill [depends on the exercise of] prudence.

We have a saying in the blue collar world: Work smarter, not harder. Many times a job can be facilitated by just simply taking the time to go and get the right tool instead of struggling to make do with the wrong one. But men can be stubborn; and are sometimes careless, lazy and/or in a hurry; with predictable results.
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Ecc 10:11 . . If the snake bites because no spell was uttered, no advantage is gained by the trained charmer.

That continues the thought from verse 10; "Thus the advantage of a skill [depends on the exercise of] prudence."

Trained snake charmers lose control over cobras when they fail to exercise the snake charming skills they learned in training. Charmers can't just sit there and do nothing. The snake might strike and end the show before the charmer gets any money from his audience. That principle obviously applies in just about any area of life where skills (and prudence) are required to produce results; like driving a car, SCUBA diving, banking, typing, sewing, cooking, rock climbing, welding . . whatever. Trainings and skills are only valuable when they're applied and put to use.

Ecc 10:12-14a . . A wise man's talk brings him favor, but a fool's lips are his undoing. His talk begins as silliness and ends as disastrous madness. Yet the fool talks and talks!

There are some shows on television that I simply cannot endure because the hosts are so rude and disorderly; for example The View, and Kathy Lee Gifford and Hoda Kopb. Those people continually interrupt each other and hardly let the others complete a sentence before blurting out their own thoughts; and many times all are talking at once with a din that reminds me of a chicken house with all the birds clucking and squawking in an incoherent cacophony.

For some people, every conversation is either a filibuster or a monologue: they do all the talking. I used to work with a young man who not only talked very fast, but with a pretty fair amount of animated arm waving and head tossing to go with it. He had a maddening habit of never finishing one topic at a time. In mid sentence he would branch off to another; leaving the first incomplete. His conversation was like that continually and the effect was nerve jangling because your mind was constantly shifting gears trying to keep up with each new train of his erratic thoughts.

People's words are like pools of water. Some are very deep; yet so clear that you can see all the way down. Others are shallow, but alas, so murky that you cannot see even one inch below the surface.

Ecc 10:14b . . A man cannot know what will happen; who can tell him what the future holds?

Well . . some people seem to know about everything. No matter what topic comes up in conversation, they have something to share about it as if you were the student, and they the master; and they are prolific with rash predictions about this and about that.

Ecc 10:15 . . A fool's exertions tire him out, for he doesn't know how to get to a town.

(chuckle) There's a modern colloquialism similar to that one: So and so is so dumb that he doesn't know his right hand from his left. Or: He wouldn't be able to find his nose if it wasn't attached to his face. That's the general impression bucket-mouths make upon their victims.

"Sooner meet a bereaved she-bear than a fool with his nonsense." (Pro 17:12)

"A knowledgeable man is sparing with his words; a man of understanding is reticent. Even a fool, if he keeps silent, is deemed wise-- intelligent, if he seals his lips." (Pro 17:27-28)

It isn't necessary to be an aged wizard like Gandalf to be truly wise because wisdom isn't really measured by a person's age. It's measured in good sense. Frodo the Hobbit, although young and inexperienced, is wise in his own way. Some of his friends are imbeciles. But not Frodo. Although he enjoys a good time as well as any of his peers, Frodo is careful to avoid stupidity. Because he exercises a considerable amount of self control, Frodo is the only inhabitant of Middle Earth who can be trusted to bear the one ring that rules them all.
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Ecc 10:16a . .Woe to you, O land, whose king is a lad

It is a very sad time in a country's progress when the young are getting their own way. God is known for punishing Moses' people by saddling them with immature leadership and with disrespect for senior citizens. Some see lowering the USA voting age to 18 as progress and a step in the right direction. The Bible would see it as an evidence of America's decadence.

"He will destroy all the nation's leaders-- the heroes, soldiers, judges, prophets, diviners, elders, army officers, honorable citizens, advisers, skilled magicians, and expert enchanters. Then he will appoint children to rule over them, and anarchy will prevail. People will take advantage of each other-- man against man, neighbor fighting neighbor. Young people will revolt against authority, and nobodies will sneer at honorable people." (Isa 3:2-5)

Children's activities, like little league baseball and cub scouts, need adult supervision. Kids, no matter how intelligent, just haven't the maturity to rule either themselves or others. Management of lands and peoples requires a degree of maturity, experience, and self discipline; which is why it's totally stupid to lower the voting age instead of raising it especially when the new 21 in America is now somewhere around 26, and where civil disobedience is thought to be patriotic, and where parent-demeaning sitcoms rate high in television programming.

Ecc 10:16b-17 . . and whose princes feast in the morning. Blessed are you, O land, whose king is of nobility and whose princes eat at the appropriate time-- for strength, and not for drunkenness.

The word for "princes" is from sar (sar) which means: a head person of any rank or class-- captains, chiefs, generals, governors, keepers, lords, taskmasters, monarchs, kings, magnates, barons, czars, foremen, supervisors, etc.

A hearty breakfast of pancakes, fruit, and cereal wouldn't be considered feasting. But a banquet, replete with alcohol, so early in the day, would have to be construed as indulgence. Here in America, where we have so much, overeating is a big problem. Many of us don't eat because we're hungry. No, we eat for recreation: simply because we like food. You want to see true hunger? Just look at the plight of the people of Afghanistan. Many of them are eating grass, insects, and soil just to have something in their stomachs.

Overeating is not the same as gluttony. Real gluttony is where revelers stuff themselves then regurgitate it so they can continue. But chronic overeating can be evidence of the possible presence of other vices. There used to be an old saying that chubby people are the happiest people. But we now know that over-eating is often the result of psychological problems like depression and anxiety disorders. Is that the kind of people we need in positions of leadership? I seriously doubt it.

Ecc 10:18-19 . .Through slothfulness the ceiling sags, through lazy hands the house caves in. They make a banquet for revelry; wine makes life merry, and money answers every need.

People with vices often put a higher priority upon satisfying their appetites for sex, food, substances, and gambling than taking care of business. Drug addicts often lose their jobs for non-productivity and tardiness. Some lose their friends, and their mental health. Gamblers risk the loss of their homes, credit ratings, and bank accounts. Binge eaters risk heart attacks, strokes, and hardening of the arteries. Smokers risk cancer, premature aging, and high blood pressure. And addicts on meth risk losing their teeth. The best time to break a bad habit is before it starts.
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Ecc 10:20 . . Do not revile the king even in your thoughts, or curse the rich in your bedroom, because a bird of the air may carry your words, and a bird on the wing may report what you say.

The word for "revile" is translated from qalal (kaw-lal'); and basically means: to belittle, vilify, despise or express contempt for someone. It can also mean to wish (either in your heart or out loud) for someone's misfortune, or to hope they experience some sort of harm, calamity, and/or injury.

Vilifying the rich is one thing; but vilifying those that employ you in their business is quite another and can possibly lead to the loss of a promotion, or even your job.

Solomon's advice on this point is extremely valuable; and the practice of discretion is an outstanding social skill. It never seems to fail, that when friends get together, some begin airing petty grievances against their supervisors. Of course they wouldn't dare do this if any of the supervisors' friends were around; but they make the common mistake of assuming their friends are all loyal, and can keep a secret, and protect them from scandal. But you just never know who among your friends might be wearing two faces; and looking for an opportunity to curry favor with the very person you just now ran into the ground.

Even the walls can quite literally have ears. Here's how. One year, we were on vacation and staying at a friend's home in the town where we were. Well, one evening as my wife and I were planning our itinerary for the next day, I complained that the day would be ruined if our host wanted to come with us. Guess what? Their home had central heating and every room was equipped with a vent that connected to the main ductwork; which quite effectively carried sounds to every room in the house like a tubular telegraph system. Our host overheard everything we said.

Nowadays we pretty much have to assume that strange rooms, and even our workplaces, are equipped with hidden microphones and tiny little video cameras. Privacy is becoming scarcer and scarcer in the modern world.
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Ecc 11:1-2 . . Send your bread forth upon the waters; for after many days you will find it. Distribute portions to seven or even to eight, for you cannot know what misfortune may occur on earth.

In Solomon's opinion; a well-rounded person is charitable. Altruism is one of those characteristics that should be included in everyone's social résumé; and makes us a better person for it. Nowadays, college aspirants have to put in some time benefiting their communities in some way because it looks good on a college application.

They say charity begins at home. From there, it moves on out into the neighborhood, and ultimately into the world: foreign aid for example. Some people object to foreign aid because it drains American resources badly needed on the home front. But drain or not, it's a good policy. Not only is it humanitarian, and therefore morally right; but you just never know when America herself will be down and out and the very people who were down on their luck that we assisted with weapons, food, technology, and medicine, might one day reciprocate and help us out in some way.

"I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings." (Luke 16:9)

America is sometimes accused of buying friends with foreign aid, and no doubt some of that is true. But not always. And even if it were 100% true; so what? You don't need to love people to be charitable. It makes good sense to build yourself a base of good will just in case you need a favor some day. People you have helped are more inclined to help you back than those you ignored; and in this big bad world, you need all the friends you can get.
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Ecc 11:3-6 . . If the clouds are filled, they will pour down rain on the earth; and if a tree falls to the south or to the north, the tree will stay where it falls. If one watches the wind, he will never sow; and if one observes the clouds, he will never reap.

. . . Just as you do not know how the life-breath passes into the limbs within the womb of the pregnant woman, so you cannot foresee the actions of God, who causes all things to happen. Sow your seed in the morning, and don’t hold back your hand in the evening, since you don’t know which is going to succeed, the one or the other, or if both are equally good.

Just about any mention of a "God" in the book of Ecclesiastes is superficial rhetoric, and has nothing to do with genuine faith.

What Solomon is saying is: If people waited until all the conditions were just right, life would pass them by. In other words: Life is a risk. Take it.

Ecc 11:7-8 . . How sweet is the light, what a delight for the eyes to behold the sun! Even if a man lives many years, let him enjoy himself in all of them, remembering how many the days of darkness are going to be. The only future is nothingness!

We know from the revealed portions of scripture that the future is definitely not darkness and nothingness. But from the point of view of the man under the sun, one's existence on earth is relatively brief in comparison to one's non-existence in the grave. Philosophically then, it's stupid to deny one's self the pleasures this life has to offer when death is so inevitable.

In the movie Moonstruck; Olympia Dukakis' character asks Danny Aiello's character why men chase women. He suggested that men chase women because they fear death. Well, if not the moment of death, then surely they fear the aging process that gets men to the moment of death; which is the root cause of the so-called middle-age crisis. The aging process then, is a sort of world-wide pandemic for which there is no known cure; and the condition thus far has always been fatal.
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Ecc 11:9-10 . . O youth, enjoy yourself while you are young! Let your heart lead you to enjoyment in the days of your youth. Follow the desires of your heart and the glances of your eyes-- but know well that God will call you to account for all such things-- and banish care from your mind, and pluck sorrow out of your flesh! For youth and dark hair are fleeting.

I let my past go too fast
No time to pause.
If I could slow it all down,
Like some captain whose ship runs aground,
I could wait until the tide comes around
(RUSH: Time Stand Still, 1987)

Life can't be put on hold, nor can one pause and savor the moment because moments are momentary. The instant moments happen, they become fixed in the frozen sea of the past. People who think to save themselves for marriage for example, can do no such thing. One cannot save life as if it were possible to put life in storage. No, life goes on. When people try to save themselves for later; they only end up letting themselves go to waste because youth isn't static; no, youth is left behind like the treads of a rope bridge crumbling off behind you for every step taken as you cross over to the other side; ergo: the time to live life is while you have it; not wait to live it later after you've gone to seed. That rope bridge steadily gets to the point when there are no treads left to retrace your steps.

Young people should enjoy a young person's life to the fullest while they have the chance; but of course not to excess because any reasonable sense of justice expects a day when a supreme being will call everyone into account. But nevertheless; there is a lot to life that can be fully enjoyed only while we are young. Age takes the pleasure out of many things in life that were once fresh and exciting.

Take Disneyland in Los Angeles for example. Walt's park was built in the 1950's, completed just three years before I became a teen-ager. Oh; how I yearned to go there and ride the Jungle Cruise, a boat ride on the rivers of the world-- and we lived in San Diego, only a measly ninety miles from Anaheim. Well, my mom and dad never did take us; and I didn't go on my own until I got out of the Army; but by then it was more of a curiosity than a pleasure. You know why? Because I wasn't a kid anymore.

So don't let youth slip through your fingers. Don't put off kid things till you are older; because when you are older, kid things won't be near as much fun nor will they be nearly as interesting either.

There was a time when I had 20-20 vision and could gaze at the stars with my naked eyes and see them all crisp and sharp, even the really tiny ones. Then one day I started noticing birds with four wings. Astigmatism had crept up on me and there was nothing I could do about it except start wearing glasses.

In later years, I developed cataracts; which make it difficult to drive at night because the headlights of oncoming cars are like looking at flares through an oily window and make it really hard for me to see the white lines. Even in bright daylight, cataracts prevented me from reading street signs till I was very close and then of course too late to safely turn on the one I wanted. So now I have artificial lenses in both eyes to go along with the artificial joints that I already had in both knees.

Romance especially is dulled by age. When you're young, love and romance take your breath away, you can't sleep for the excitement of it all, and all you can think of is being with the love of your life. Well, when you get older, it's not like that. And I don't mean real old either. People in only their mid thirties and forties no longer feel the same rush any more.

As a case in point, I dated a little in high school. Afterwards, during three years of active duty in the Army I avoided girls and did no dating at all. After discharge, I dated a girl when I was 21 and then completely lost interest in dating till I was 32. But guess what? That decade of celibacy rendered me almost completely frigid. I could feel very little chemistry with girls; they were simply people of a different gender. The only reason I married at all is because of the aging process. One day while shaving, as I looked in the mirror I noticed my face beginning to sag and my hair thinning and receding. It was a wake-up call. I realized the time of life for starting a family was rapidly slipping away where before I gave it no thought at all.

I was once asked, in the 6th grade, by a sadistic male school principal who caught me acting silly in the cafeteria: "Aren't you ever going to grow up?" I answered; "I don't want to grow up." He was immediately indignant, and demanded to know why. I replied; "Because grown-ups are unhappy."

He was annoyed by my answer; but no doubt knew in his heart I was right. I never saw that man happy. He was always irritable and upset at the students for one thing or another and everyone feared him. You know, looking back, I don't think that man was even 35 yet; and just look how much of the exuberance of youth he had already lost even by the time of that relatively early age.
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Ecc 12:1 . . So appreciate your vigor in the days of your youth, before those days of sorrow come and those years arrive of which you will say: I have no pleasure in them.

Most people cope pretty well with middle age, and old age too-- as long as they're in good health, their mind is sound and, they have the right attitude. But nobody does good with advanced age.

Your bowels won't work right, you'll be incontinent and smell bad; diverticulitis causes blood in your stools, your skin will be thin and easily torn, blue veins pop out on your legs and on the backs of your hands, you won't see things unless they're right under your nose, your sense of smell will be weak right along with your sense of taste. Savory foods will taste like cardboard and your stomach can't deal with them anyway.

No more hiking, no more bicycle rides, no more airplane trips, and very little travel. Walking, if you're able to walk at all, will really be little more than a shuffle of slow, flat footed, jerky little short steps rather than a brisk fluid stroll.

Ecc 12:2 . . before sun and light and moon and stars grow dark, and the clouds come back again after the rain:

Often, as people get older and their health begins to fail, friends will ask: Hey, how's ol' so and so doing? And someone will say: Oh, he has his good days and he has his bad days. Well, eventually ol' so and so will have only his bad days and no good days ever again.

Ecc 12:3a . .When the keepers of the house become shaky,

Keeping house requires the use of one's hands for mopping, dusting, and doing laundry and dishes. Aged people's hands tremble. They can't hold anything steady. In fact, they have so little strength and dexterity left in their hands that they can't grasp anything securely; so they drop stuff a lot.

Ecc 12:3b . . And the men of valor are bent,

Those in advanced age, even if they were once proud Olympic athletes, can't stand up straight and keep their shoulders back anymore. Older people get bent and hunched. They shrink too, and some practically curl over like a fish hook.

My mother-in-law really loved birds. But her back was so bent over that she couldn't look up to see them, and unless they were only a few yards away, she couldn't even lift her head high enough to see the ones down low on the ground. I could've gotten her the finest Leica optics money can buy, but it would just be throwing money out with the recycle. She couldn't use them on a birding trip, nor could she even go on one. And if that weren't enough, she lost the use of one eye because of glaucoma.

Ecc 12:3c . . the grinding ones stand idle because they are few,

Before the advent of dentures and professional dental care, people commonly lost their teeth from decay and gum disease. As they got older, people lost more and more teeth until the day came when there finally weren't enough teeth left in their mouth to bite off food and chew it. Foods like grains, meats, and many crispy fresh fruits and vegetables were simply out of the question; so they had to eat mushy foods, foods that were overcooked; or that didn't require a lot of biting and chewing. There's still a lot of that in third world countries.
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Ecc 12:3d . . and those that look through the windows grow dim,

Cataracts are a common ailment among the aged. It's a cruel condition because it clouds the eye's lens thus preventing full passage of light to the retina. When I had my own cataracts treated, I was amazed. Not only was the world a whole lot brighter, but colors were more vivid too. But back in Solomon's day, there was no treatment for cataracts; so people's eyesight just waxed worse and worse as time went on to the point where they could no longer even get around on their own or even so much as recognize familiar friends.

Ecc 12:4a . . And the doors to the street are shut--

The doors are shut because aged people get chilled easily by drafts. Riding on a city transit bus once, in the dead of summer in San Diego, some senior citizens shut my window because the air blowing in was making them cold even though the rest of us on board were broiling in the heat.

Ecc 12:4b . . with the noise of the hand mill growing fainter, and the song of the bird growing feebler, and all the strains of music dying down;

I've lost some of my hearing in the higher and lower ranges. It's natural and to be expected, even at my age which, to date, is 76. Hearing aids help a lot so we don't have to yell so loud at aged folks in order for them to hear us. Just imagine not being able to enjoy your favorite music; or straining to hear ordinary conversation.

Ecc 12:5a . .When one is afraid of heights

We can fall aplenty when we're young and get away with it. Our joints are tight and strong, our ligaments are taught and springy, our bones are solid and tough, and we can handle all the bumps and bruises life throws at us. But not so when we reach advanced age. Falls, even little ones, are extremely hazardous; and can even be fatal.

Every now and then the news runs a story of an aged person who stumbled and fell at home and broke a hip; and couldn't even reach the telephone to call for help; sometimes laying there for days until the landlord or relatives checked in on them. I knew an aged lady who's broken hip actually caused her death. Her body was so weak already from fighting cancer that the broken hip put it over the edge.

Ecc 12:5b . . And there is fear on the road.

Back in Solomon's day, people didn't move about cocooned in the safety and comfort of a shell of metal and glass like many of us do today in modern motorized vehicles. Well; they didn't have inoculations for pneumonia back then so the aged were always in danger of literally catching their death outdoors due to exposure to wind, rain, cold, and dampness.

Back in 1966, I drove up to Oregon from San Diego all alone in a VW and slept in the car at night rather than pay for a motel. I was only 22 years old then and totally unconcerned for my safety. Today, I would not even think of such a venture; too risky, any number of things could go wrong which, back then, I wouldn't have given a second thought. I may be older and wiser now, but I'm not all that daring anymore either.
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Ecc 12:5c . . For the almond tree may blossom, the grasshopper be [gravid], and the caper bush may bud again; but man sets out for his eternal abode, with mourners all around in the street.

Nature isn't dismayed by the passing of a human being. Flowers continue to bloom, bugs continue to multiply, and fruit continues to appear on vines, bushes, and trees; and birds continue to migrate. When people drop dead, the world doesn't drop dead with them. Trees and flowers go right on budding and blooming, fish go on swimming, birds go on flying, bees go on buzzing, the Earth goes right on turning, and the Moon goes right on shining as usual just like nothing ever happened.

The world was doing just fine before any one of us came along, and it will go on doing just fine after we're all gone. When those 2,829 people died in the 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, and another 200,000+ were killed in the 2010 Haiti earthquake, and another 169,752 were killed in the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia, and yet another 25,000 killed and/or went missing in Japan's tsunami in 2011 --nature felt neither pity nor remorse; and the stars in their courses didn't even blink.

And funerals? What a joke. Standard funerals are anti-Green. The figures below represent chemicals and construction materials consumed on account of, and/or buried with, America's dead in just one calendar year.

» over 30,000,000 board feet of hardwoods

» over 100,000 tons of bronze, steel, and copper

» over 1,000,000 tons of concrete.

» over 1,000,000 gallons of formaldehyde

» over 2,000,000 acres of land have been clear-cut and made into cemeteries good for nothing else which have to be maintained with pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and petro-chemical fertilizers which all eventually leach into the soil and into our water supplies.

We are literally killing the planet to honor our dead. And the irony of it all-- the sublime irony --is that the reason half of us go to funerals is to pay our respects to people we couldn't be bothered with when they were alive.

Ecc 12:6 . . Before the silver cord snaps and the golden bowl crashes, the jar is shattered at the spring, and the jug is smashed at the cistern.

Well; you know what they say about Humpty Dumpty: All the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put Humpty back together again.

People with money, like king Solomon, had fancy lighting in their homes. Chandeliers made of ornate bowls overlaid with gold, containing oil or candles, were suspended from the ceiling by metal hardware made of silver. Ancient bowls, and jars, and jugs were fragile. Once broken, they weren't repaired, but discarded and replaced with a new unit. Man is like that-- just an expendable vessel; and death destroys him beyond repair like one of Solomon's terracotta dishes.

Ecc 12:7a . . And the dust returns to the ground as it was,

Man's body is composed of mother nature's physical elements. She wants them back. But the power that makes things alive doesn't consist of mother nature's elements. The power of life is divine; and God (or the gods, whatever) wants it back after you're done with it.

Ecc 12:7b . . and the life-breath returns to God [or the gods; whatever] who bestowed it.

In other words; man's life is a short-term loan.

Ecc 12:8 . . Utter futility-- said Koheleth --all is meaningless!

Well, there you have it-- an objective evaluation of the human experience. It's fragile, brief, subject to termination without the benefit of even so much as a moment's notice, and punctuated with misery. Is it any wonder then that from the perspective of a man under the sun; the human experience is completely pointless?

When people reach what is commonly called the age of reasoning; some of their very first questions are: Why am I here? Where did I come from? What is the meaning of life, and is there a purpose for mine?

I think it's very normal (or at least very common) for people to seek a justification for their existence; and without it, they can only conclude that the human experience is futile; which can be roughly defined as serving no useful purpose; for example:

Nobel Prize winner, author of several best-selling books, and recipient of at least a dozen honorary degrees, physicist Steven Weinberg (who views religion as an enemy of science), in his book "The First Three Minutes" wrote: The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it seems pointless. But if there is no solace in the fruits of our research, there is at least some consolation in the research itself . . . the effort to understand the universe is one of the very few things that lifts human life a little above the level of a farce and gives it some of the grace of tragedy.

What a dismal appraisal. In Mr. Weinberg's opinion, the human experience scarce escapes the categories of farce and tragedy; its quest for knowledge seems the only thing that gives humanity any justification to exist at all. The universe? It's just a meaningless void decorated with fascinating objects --a carnival side show of cosmic curiosities, so to speak.

Wouldn't it be sad if we only lived and died like insects and fungi? I mean, what would be the point of it all? They say a mind is a terrible thing to waste. What real advantage is it to have something so useful as a human mind if it's only going to die and stop working after many years of learning and experience? And what real advantage is it for the mind of the present to make the world a better place for the next generation of minds if the mind of the present doesn't live to see it? That's really no more significant an existence than that of the individuals in a bee hive or a termite colony.
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