Ecclesiastes 6:7-12 “Who Knows What Is Good For A Man In This Life?”

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Ecc 6:7 All the labour of man is for his mouth, and yet the appetite is not filled.
Ecc 6:8 For what hath the wise more than the fool? what hath the poor, that knoweth to walk before the living?
Ecc 6:9 Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the desire: this is also vanity and vexation of spirit.
Ecc 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.
Ecc 6:11 Seeing there be many things that increase vanity, what is man the better?
Ecc 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?


As with all carnal men, King Solomon is obsessed with what the future holds. His obsession stems from knowing that he will have no control over that period of time. Though he once knew it, he now writes as if he is completely unaware that the Truth of the matter is that he has absolutely no control over what is now taking place in his own life. King Solomon did not believe in the false doctrine of mankind having a will that is free from God’s sovereign hand in all of mankind’s ways, yet he obsesses over what the future holds.
In an earlier and better state of mind this is what this same author told us:

Pro 21:1 The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.

He even tells us that our very thoughts are “from the Lord”:

Pro 16:1 The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the LORD.

In this same chapter we are made to know a little more of the extent of the sovereign hand of God in the lives of mankind. Be they good men or evil men, both are made to be what they are of God, and not of their own free will:

Pro 16:4 The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.

In this same chapter we are also told:

Pro 16:33 The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD.

So the Lord has predestined all things to be done after the counsel of His own will:

Eph 1:11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:

King Solomon had been taught of the sovereignty of God by his father King David. King David had written of the sovereignty of God in the 139th chapter of Psalms. The Lord revealed to King David the full extent of His sovereignty, and King David simply marveled with these words in the ACV version:

Psa 139:1 O LORD, thou have searched me, and known.
Psa 139:2 Thou know my sitting down and my rising up. Thou understand my thought afar off.

God “understand[ s our] thoughts” because, as King Solomon tells us in the book of Proverbs, be they good or evil, our very thoughts are “of the Lord” and “even the wicked” are made for Him and for His sovereign purpose as Pro 16:1 and 4 explain. Those are not original thoughts to King Solomon. He learned of the total sovereignty of God over even our thoughts from his father:

Psa 139:3 Thou search out my path and my laying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.
Psa 139:4 For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou know it altogether.

“You… are acquainted with all my ways… there is not a word in my tongue, but… you know it altogether”. So when we are told, “You understand my thought afar off” we need to understand that this has nothing to do with physical distance. Rather, it has everything to do with the time before we were even born, as King David is in the process of demonstrating. God is revealing to us the fact that even the “words of our tongue” are known to God in advance for this reason:

Psa 139:5 Thou have beset me behind and before, and laid thy hand upon me.

This is not to say that God has blocked us in after we are born. What King David is telling us is that God’s sovereignty is so complete that His hand determines “all our ways” before we are ever born. He even admits:

Psa 139:6 [ Such] knowledge is too wonderful for me. It is high, I cannot attain to it.

Not only is God’s knowledge all inclusive of our very thoughts, but He is also omnipresent and in all places at the same time.

Psa 139:7 Where shall I go from thy Spirit? Or where shall I flee from thy presence?
Psa 139:8 If I ascend up into heaven, thou are there. If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, thou are there.
Psa 139:9 If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the outermost parts of the sea,
Psa 139:10 even there thy hand shall lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.

As the apostle Paul told the superstitious Pagan Athenians:

Act 17:28 For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.

If all that we do is “in Him”, then it follows that we cannot hide from His presence. He is not far away in a distant ‘heaven’, rather He is always and immediately at hand in every situation, even when our evil actions may be used to cause us to feel that we are so far from Him.
At this point it is worth repeating this Truth:

Pro 16:4 The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.

Making “even the wicked for the day of evil” can hardly be considered as making God a wicked God, when His plan entails the saving of all men from the curse of sin and death. While we as His creatures are given by Him to protest His sovereign ways, this is still the Biblical truth and the fact of this matter:

Psa 139:11 If I say, Surely the darkness shall overwhelm me, and the light around me shall be night,
Psa 139:12 even the darkness hides not from thee, but the night shines as the day. The darkness and the light are both alike [ to thee].

King David is given to understand and tell us that even the darkest and the most depraved actions of men serve only to show the predestined fate of these doomed, temporary bodies of flesh and blood, and by contrast, the wisdom of the God who created them to be so temporal. Bodies of flesh and blood, such as were given to Adam and Eve, and all “in Adam”, are not capable of inheriting the kingdom of God, which King David earlier told us ‘has no end’.

Psa 102:27 But thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end.

The next step is to show us that our Creator knew us before we were born in our mothers’ womb:

Psa 139:13 For thou formed my inward parts. Thou covered me in my mother’s womb.
Psa 139:14 I will give thanks to thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are thy works, and that my soul knows right well.
Psa 139:15 My frame was not hidden from thee, when I was made in secret, curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.

Now the ultimate Truth which is “too wonderful for me. It is high, I cannot attain to it”:

Psa 139:16 Thine eyes saw my unformed substance, and in thy book they were all written, [ even] the days that were ordained, when as yet there was none of them.
Psa 139:17 How precious also are thy thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them!

What an all encompassing statement. All of our days were written in God’s book “when as yet there was none of them”. To all who know God and His Son, those are words of great comfort in times of trouble.
Contrast the positive spirit we see in the words of King David, and in the early writing of King Solomon with the doleful spirit of King Solomon after He has placed his wives and their Gods before and ahead of His own God:

Ecc 6:7 All the labour of man is for his mouth, and yet the appetite is not filled.
Ecc 6:8 For what hath the wise more than the fool? what hath the poor, that knoweth to walk before the living?

Solomon had made this same observation in the book of Proverbs:

Pro 16:26 He that laboureth laboureth for himself; for his mouth craveth it of him.

But in the book of Proverbs he has hope, and does not lament the fact that “under the sun” there appears to be so little difference in this life between a wise man and a fool, between the rich and the poor.
Verses 7-8 are just an extension of the hopeless, depressing words we were given in verses 2-3:

Ecc 6:2 A man to whom God hath given riches, wealth, and honour, 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.
Ecc 6:3 If a man beget an 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.

It is a spirit which has been separated from God which considers anything to be “untimely” when considering that our days were all written in God’s book “when as yet there was none of them” (Psa 139:16).
Keeping with his materialistic, ‘this life is all that matters’, depressing theme, King Solomon continues:

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

It is better to gratefully appreciate and enjoy what God has given us than to constantly be expressing our lack of appreciation for our station in life, and our ungrateful desire to have that which we have not been given.
It is also better to be an overcomer, as is our Lord, than to simply want to overcome, while not being willing to die to the things of this age. But it is only those who have no hope in Christ who see no purpose in walking through this life which is known as “the valley of the shadow of death”. Simply put, it is better to be grateful for what we have, than to be ungratefully coveting that which we have not yet been given, and always complaining that everything we have been given is nothing more than “vanity and a vexation of spirit”.
Contrast King Solomon’s depressing, apostate spirit with the excited, uplifting spirit in the Psalms of his father:

Psa 23:4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Psa 23:5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Psa 23:6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

King Solomon’s apostasy is our own apostasy and the healing of the deadly wound by which we all must “live” (Mat 4:4 and Rev 1:3).

Rev 13:2 And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority.
Rev 13:3 And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast.

King Solomon had, in type, received a deadly wound when his heart was given to God’s service. But that deadly wound… by a sword” was healed, and he himself “wondered after the beast” when he followed his wives into the state of apostasy, depression and “vanity and vexation of spirit” which is the theme of this book as we now see:

Ecc 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.

The last person born into this age will be the same as the first, “That which has been”. We are all named the same, that is “man”. The Hebrew word translated ‘man’ here is the word ‘adam’. It is a humbling name. Here is how Strong’s defines this Hebrew word:

aw- dawm’

From H119; ruddy, that is, a human being (an individual or the species, mankind, etc.): – X another, + hypocrite, + common sort, X low, man (mean, of low degree), person.
Knowing what we are from the Potter’s hand, makes the false doctrine of ‘the fall of man’ even more obviously false. ‘Man’, ‘adam’, was “marred in the Potter’s hand” as nothing more than a lump or clay to begin with. Where can mere clay fall? We are all created by our Maker “in the lowest parts of the earth”. Where can we fall from “the lowest parts of the earth”?

Psa 139:15 My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.

It certainly does not serve well that which is already from “the lowest parts of the earth”, to “contend with Him that is mightier than he”. Here is how Isaiah depicts such an effort:

Isa 45:9 Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands?
Isa 45:10 Woe unto him that saith unto his father, What begettest thou? or to the woman, What hast thou brought forth?

We all contend with our own Creator as is typified in Job, and now in King Solomon:

Job 40:1 Moreover the LORD answered Job, and said,
Job 40:2 Shall he that contendeth with the Almighty instruct him? he that reproveth God, let him answer it.
Job 40:3 Then Job answered the LORD, and said,
Job 40:4 Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth.
Job 40:5 Once have I spoken; but I will not answer: yea, twice; but I will proceed no further.
Job 40:6 Then answered the LORD unto Job out of the whirlwind, and said,
Job 40:7 Gird up thy loins now like a man: I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me.
Job 40:8 Wilt thou also disannul my judgment? wilt thou condemn me, that thou mayest be righteous?

We all do it and we are all brought to repentance for doing so: “neither may he contend with him that is mightier than he”.

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

Considering that man is only dust, and has been named ‘adam’ or ‘red clay’, all the things he thinks he has accomplished really serve only to increase his vanity and trust in himself, necessitating what God did to King Nebuchadnezzar, and for that matter to King Solomon much earlier, in allowing him to apostatize into the worship of the gods of his pagan wives.
But Nebuchadnezzar’s story is the most graphic to demonstrate how “many things increase vanity” within us all and how God deals with that vanity:

Dan 4:28 All this came upon the king Nebuchadnezzar.
Dan 4:29 At the end of twelve months he walked in the palace of the kingdom of Babylon.
Dan 4:30 The king spake, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?
Dan 4:31 While the word was in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee.
Dan 4:32 And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field: they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass over thee, until thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.
Dan 4:33 The same hour was the thing fulfilled upon Nebuchadnezzar: and he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles’ feathers, and his nails like birds’ claws.

Nebuchanezzar is a type of me and you. He had “many things that increase[ d his] vanity, what [ was he] the better?”

Ecc 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?

This is a legitimate question coming from any of the prophets and writers of the Old Testament, in the sense that they were never given to see or understand exactly what God is doing with His creatures. Christ Himself tells us:

Mat 13:17 For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.

Peter reiterates and expands upon what Christ was saying here:

1Pe 1:9 Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.
1Pe 1:10 Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you:
1Pe 1:11 Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.
1Pe 1:12 Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.

So we cannot fault Solomon for realizing that he certainly was not given to him to know “what, or what manner of time… the glory that should follow… the sufferings of Christ”, simply because “it was revealed to them that not unto themselves, but unto us they were ministering”.
Where in the Old Testament was this revealed to them? Here are just a couple of verses which show that God was not ministering to the “many prophets and righteous men [ who] have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them” in the Old Testament:

Deu 18:15 The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken;
Deu 18:18 I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.

If God were revealing Himself to Israel through Moses, then there would be no need to tell them that He would put His words in the mouth of some “prophet” who was yet to come. If God were revealing His plan for the salvation of mankind through Moses then there would be no need to tell Israel, and us as His spiritual Israel (Gal 6:16), “… unto Him ye shall listen”.
Then we also have this in the book of Daniel:

Dan 12:4 But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.

There it is in very plain language. The Old Testament prophets were shown that they were not ministering to themselves, but their words and books would be sealed to themselves and to physical Israel, and would not be understood by any but those who would be living at “the time of the end”.
Contrast what the holy spirit instructed Daniel to do with the words of his prophecy, with the instructions the holy spirit gave the apostle John concerning the revelation of Jesus Christ:

Rev 22:10 And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand.

Where then did “the time of the end” begin? Here is the answer to that question:

1Co 10:11 Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.

There it is again. The entire history and economy of ancient Israel with its patriarchs, judges, kings, and prophets “happened to them for ensamples [ Greek – tupos, types of us], and they are written for our [ not their] admonition”. “The ends of the world [ have] come upon” us, and not upon the patriarchs, judges, kings, or prophets of the Old Testament”. “The ends of the world [ Greek – aion, age]” began with the time of Christ, not with the calling of Abraham or any of his physical seed.
Finally we will go to the end of the “faith chapter”, which again is only a type of the true faith which was not to come to mankind until after the death and resurrection of our Savior. Here again we are told:

Heb 11:39 And these all [ all of the Old Testament saints], having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:
Heb 11:40 God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.

The “better thing”, as Daniel told us, and as Christ, and Peter reaffirmed, was “not unto themselves, but unto us… some better thing for us”.
Now let’s see if there are any verses in the New Testament which tell us what it is that has been given to us, that was not given to them.
Here are just a few such verses:

Mat 13:10 And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables?
Mat 13:11 He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them [ The multitudes of Christ’s day, and before Christ’s day] it is not given.
Eph 1:4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:
Eph 1:9 Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:
Eph 1:10 for an administration of the fullness of the times. To gather together all things in the Christ, things in the heavens and things upon the earth,
Eph 1:11 in him in whom also we obtained an inheritance. Having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the deliberation of his will. (ACV)

So there it is. That is the answer to Solomon’s question:

Ecc 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?

Christ has “made known to us… the Christ… His Christ” [Act 22:8, what is good for a man in this life”, and what He has revealed to us is that in this life we are to “seek… first the kingdom of God and His righteousness”. This was not revealed to Solomon, or even to Daniel, neither of whom had any idea of what or where was the true “kingdom of God”.

‘The Lord and His Christ’

Act 4:26 The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ.
Act 22:7 And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?
Act 22:8 And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And he said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest.
1Jn 4:17 Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.
Rev 11:15 And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.
Rev 12:10 And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.

Seek first the kingdom of God is “what is good for a man in this life”.

Mat 6:31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
Mat 6:32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
Mat 6:33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
Mat 6:34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

That “kingdom… is within you”

Luk 17:20 And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation:
Luk 17:21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.

The only question left for us to answer is “Who can tell a man what shall be after him under the sun?” This is the answer to that question:

Amo 3:7 Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.
Eph 3:2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you- ward:
Eph 3:3 How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,
Eph 3:4 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)
Eph 3:5 Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;
Eph 3:6 That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:
Eph 3:7 Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power.
Eph 3:8 Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;
Eph 3:9 And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:
Eph 3:10 To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,
Rev 1:1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John:

God will do nothing without revealing “His secret… His mystery… to His servants the prophets”, and that secret is that the nations will be “fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel”. That secret is “what will come after all of us “under the sun”, and that secret is this:

2Sa 14:14 For we must needs die, and are as water spilt on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again; neither doth God respect any person: yet doth he devise means, that his banished be not expelled from him.
1Co 3:15 If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
1Co 15:22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
1Ti 2:3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour;
1Ti 2:4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.
Isa 46:10 Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:
1Ti 4:9 This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation.
1Ti 4:10 For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe.
1Ti 4:11 These things command and teach.
2Pe 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us- ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
1Jn 2:2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.
Rev 21:3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.
Rev 21:4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

That is the Biblical answer to “What shall be after… a man… under the sun”!
In our next study, if the Lord wills, we will learn that the day of one’s death is better than the day of his birth, that sorrow is better than laughter, that mourning is better than mirth, and that the end of a thing is better than its beginning.

Ecc 7:1 A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth.
Ecc 7:2 It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart.
Ecc 7:3 Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better.
Ecc 7:4 The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.
Ecc 7:5 It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools.
Ecc 7:6 For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool: this also is vanity.
Ecc 7:7 Surely oppression maketh a wise man mad; and a gift destroyeth the heart.
Ecc 7:8 Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof: and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.
Ecc 7:9 Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools.

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