As I was searching for answers for my own dissatisfactions, the Holy Spirt led me to the book of Ecclesiastes. I carefully read and study the book in its entirely.   There, I found the answers I was looking for. Ecclesiastes 5:10 shows us the trap that many find themselves in, Salomon tells us, “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income. This too is vanity.” (New American Standard Version 1995)

At the center of this book is the word Vanity; so, before we move forward, lets define that Word. Vanity is the Hebrew word heḇel “A common noun referring to vanity, emptiness, meaninglessness, idols. The word is used seventy times, thirty-five of these are in Ecclesiastes. It refers to the vanity and ultimate emptiness and meaninglessness of all things in this life, whether they seem good or bad (Eccl. 1:2, 14; 2:11, 15, 3:19; 4:4, 7, 8; 5:7[6]; 6:2, 4, 9; 7:6, 15; 8:10; 9:9; 11:8). Combined with itself in the plural, it means absolute meaninglessness (Eccl. 1:2). Idols and the vain religious customs associated with them are all delusions (Jer. 10:3, 15). It denotes an empty, vain life (Eccl. 6:12). Used with the verb hāḇal, it means to carry out vain talk or action or what is empty (Job 27:12). As an adverb, it means to talk in vain, emptily (Job 35:16). To walk after heḇel means to go after or follow vanity (2 Kgs. 17:15; Jer. 2:5). Anything obtained through evil is vain, such as wealth (Prov. 13:11).[1]

Salomon, who wrote this book, gives us a list of things that even in our society today, are considered important, but he dismissed them as vanity. Salomon continue by stating, “And I applied my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is but a striving after wind.” Ecclesiastes 1:17 (English Standard Version). In Ecclesiastes 4:4 Salomon continues by stating, “Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man’s envy of his neighbor. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.” (ESV) The word striving is the Hebrew word raʿyôn “A masculine noun indicating striving, chasing. It indicates an effort to attain something or to gain some knowledge or wisdom about life under the sun. It is considered useless striving after the wind, nothing (Eccl. 1:17; 4:16); or simply without benefit or merit (Eccl. 2:22).[2]” Here we find ourselves chasing after things we should not be chasing after; here we see folks establishing goals (what they want for themselves) but not searching for the prophetic vision (what God wants from them). 

When we chase after things we are not supposed to chase after, we make our hearts sick. Proverbs 13:12 tells us, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” That fulfilment is only found in God; chasing after our own ambitions eventually will make us sick. Salomon does not only present the problem, but he also tells us the secrets of a good life. We will be looking at those secrets in our next chapter.

To be continued…

[1] Warren Baker and Eugene E. Carpenter, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: Old Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2003), 252–254.

[2] Warren Baker and Eugene E. Carpenter, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: Old Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2003), 1067.

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