After I finished reading Ecclesiastes something hit me as I was listening to the guys on White Horse Inn talk about Jesus’ ascension, and the Holy Spirit and God’s kingdom, etc. The Hebrews and then the Jews after the Babylonian captivity always see the promises of God’s kingdom in physical terms. The land was real land, the king was a real earthly king, the enemies put under his feet real armies defeated in battle. As they looked back at their history, Solomon was the guy, the apex of glory and dominion for the people of Israel. During the time of Jesus Jews longed to see Solomon’s reign restored, and most of those, maybe all, who followed Jesus thought he would restore the kingdom to Israel, be another Solomon. They were sorely disappointed, for three days.
But as I think about Ecclesiastes, here is the greatest king in all of Israel’s history in terms of splendor and material glory, and he declares over and over again, everything is meaningless! In fact he says so 33 times. And several of those times he adds that it’s all a “chasing after the wind” (9 times total). So if his reign and kingdom and Israel’s rule in the Promised Land is so great, why is Solomon such a cynic? Because he realizes that God’s ultimate promises can never be truly fulfilled in such a fallen and broken world. There has to be more. The book ends with judgment, but not real hope for anything beyond what we can expect from how we act on earth. Until Jesus was finally revealed as the conqueror of sin and death, you have to wonder why Jews wanted to restore something that was so “meaningless.” The idea of eternity and everlasting life was not well enough conceived until after the resurrection, when all the OT was then fully interpreted in light of Christ. It isn’t all so meaningless after all!