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11th June

Ecclesiastes 5-8; Psalm 7

Bible in a Year
6 minutes
In this article
11th June

Ecclesiastes 5-8; Psalm 7

Bible in a Year
6 minutes


So far in Ecclesiastes, we have read through the introduction of the teacher and then the beginning of his teachings. The teacher serves as an antidote to the book of Proverbs. While Proverbs gives us principles to guide our lives, Ecclesiastes explores the reality when those principles don't add up.

We explored how the Hebrew word hevel, often translated meaningless or vanity, refers to smoke or vapour. Smoke last a short time before dissipating in the air. You can't grab hold of it. When the teacher says that life and its meaning are hevel, they are saying it's fleeting and you can't understand it. Every time you try to grasp it and understand it, it slips through your fingers.

The teacher then looked at hard work, wisdom, and pleasure. All are hevel. You can work hard but 1,000 years later your work will be nowhere to be seen and no one will know your name. You can spend your life chasing after wisdom, but never fully grasp it. A life focused on pleasure quickly loses its shine. He then tried wisdom and hard work again. The problem is you have no control over who gets the benefit of your hard work after you die, and both wise people and foolish people end up the same after they are dead.

The only solution available to the teacher is to eat, drink, and take pleasure in your work. In short, live in the moment. This leads the teacher to reflect on different seasons that come and go. It's useless trying to fight it or hold on to previous seasons.

Next up was righteousness and wickedness. Both the righteous and the wicked eventually die and are forgotten, so why be righteous? The teacher then reflected on some things that did seem good. It is better to have people by your side than to be alone. It's better to be wise than pursue position. 

Ecclesiastes 5-8

The teacher moves on to religion and worshipping God. He encourages the reader to not be rash or overzealous with their religion. Don't be too quick to speak before God or vow that you will do this or that. Instead, be wiling to come humbly and just listen. It's better to not be overzealous than to be overzealous and fail to live up to the promises you make before God.

From there, the teacher talks on wealth and greed. Do not chase after money because you will never have enough. You may even lose it all and then all that work will have been for nothing. Instead, like a simple farm labourer, be content with what you have and the simple work of your hands. Again, the teacher uses the phrases, "eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils" (Proverbs 5:18).

If God blesses you with wealth, then enjoy it. Just don't hold on to it too tightly. Even if you were to be extremely wealthy, and have lots of children, but never enjoyed the life you lived, it would not have been worth it. We all go to the same place when we die, so we might as well enjoy this life.

You may have noticed there's very little mention of heaven or hell in what we've read of the Bible so far. That's because these ideas don't really feature much in the Old Testament. Many of the Old Testament writers assumed that when you die, that's it. It's not until we get to the New Testament that we see the ideas of heaven and hell as we now know them.

Because of this, the teacher takes the time to focus on death a little. He feels it's an important thing to acknowledge because none of us can escape it. It is much better to be aware of death and to mourn it, than to go to feasts pretending like it will never happen.

Then comes a series of one liners, a little like the book of Proverbs. Oppression and bribes corrupt the wise. Patience is better than pride. Anger belongs to the foolish. Nostalgia and longing for the past is not wisdom. Wisdom is like a good inheritance that protects those who have it.

We then get a short break where the teacher acknowledges that sometimes righteous people perish while wicked people succeed. His response to this is to not break your back trying to be overly righteous, because it might not save you, but also don't be wicked either, because that's not the answer. Instead, just fear God and trust him to guide your ways.

Then we go back to more little snippets of advice. Wisdom is good, but the reality is there's no one one who has never sinned. Don't get angry when you hear someone say something mean about you, because you know that you say mean things from time to time.

The teacher reflects on his own life, and his troubles with women. When it comes to men, when he searches hard enough, he has eventually been able to find someone he can call a friend and be real with. But when he tries to find a woman he can be real with, he can't.

It's worth noting, this is just the teacher’s own experience. Ecclesiastes isn't trying to make a comment on women. We’ve already mentioned how if the teacher isn’t Solomon, it’s someone writing from Solomon’s perspective. Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. It’s not surprising, then, that he would find most of his relationships with women superficial.

Moving on, the teacher talks about what to do when dealing with people of power, such as a king. Honour them, be patient with them, and keep their commands. Do all this to keep your influence with them. If you get frustrated and leave, or fight them on little details, then you will never have the opportunity to influence them on important matters. Those who succeed are people who fear God and trust in him.

That's all you can do. You can trust in logic or in fairness. Sometimes righteous people are punished as though they were wicked, while wicked people are celebrated as though they were righteous. You might as well just trust God, because you can't work it out or understand it.

Psalm 7

It is attributed to king David, about a time he was wrestling with the accusations of a man named Cush from the tribe of Benjamin. While there is no specific mention of Cush elsewhere in the Bible, this is not surprising. Saul and his family were from the tribe of Benjamin, and so there would be many from that tribe that believed David had unfairly stolen the crown. We see examples of this in 2 Samuel 16:5 and 2 Samuel 20:1. 

This psalm fits into the category of lament psalm, specifically a prayer of someone innocent, who has been accused of something false. The structure of the psalm is a chiasm where the passage mirrors itself.

A) Psalm 7:1-2 - Declaration of trust in God

B) Psalm 7:3-7 - Let me be judged for my wickedness

C) Psalm 7:8 - God is my judge

D) Psalm 7:9a - Let the wicked die

D) Psalm 7:9b - Let the righteous be saved

C) Psalm 7:10-11 - God is my judge

B) Psalm 7:12-16 - Let the unrepentant be judged for their wickedness

A) Psalm 7:17 - Declaration of trust in God

Unlike some of the other lament psalms we’ve read so far, this psalm begins with a declaration of trust. From there, the psalmist repents for any wickedness in them. This is important. They don’t want pride to blind them from any truth in these accusations.

When praying to God about a struggle with someone else, it’s always beneficial to first look at yourself and see how you might be contributing to the problem. Jesus raises this point in the gospels (Matthew 7:3; Luke 6:41). 

The psalmist recognises God’s authority to judge. If he is wicked or righteous, let God decide. Either way, let the wickedness come to an end.

And then the psalm flips back round. Now that the psalmist has taken time to examine themselves, they bring their request to God. Establish the righteous. If after all this God finds the psalmist innocent, then may he save them.

Just as God is a judge who punishes the wicked, he also protects the innocent. Thinking now of his enemies, the psalmist asks God to punish them if they are not repentant like he has been. May they fall to the consequences of their own actions.

And so the psalmist ends, once more declaring his trust in God. He can be praised as both protector of the innocent and judge of the wicked.

Anything you think I've missed? Maybe you've got a question that still needs answering. Send me a message over on my Instagram (@brynjoslin). I'd love to talk it through with you some more.

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