Ecclesiastes 6:1–12: Who Knows What is Good?
Ecclesiastes 6 marks the end of the first half of the book. Here, the Preacher summarizes the results of his search for meaning under the sun. The results have been an absolute failure. In this summary chapter, the Preacher focuses on the lack of good in this world, under the sun. His argument is simple: there is nothing good under the sun, even if we desperately, anxiously searched for that good throughout our lives. Worse, the Preacher says that even if we found good, it wouldn’t help, because we wouldn’t recognize it for what it is. With this, the Preacher gets at the significance of faith. We cannot walk by sight, because we are not capable of evaluating good on our own, apart from God. Instead, we must depend on the word of God to guide us toward good, since God alone is good.
1) How is it possible that someone could gain all that he desires, and yet not find enjoyment and satisfaction in this world (v. 2)? Why would the Preacher say that a stillborn child is better off than the one who lives two thousand years, but sees no good in this world (v. 3–6)? How does the wisdom of Ecclesiastes evaluate the fact that “all go to the one place” (v. 6)? Where do you seek for good in this life? How satisfied are you in those things? What might you learn from this passage?
2) Why does all of our toil never satisfy the deep cravings of our soul’s appetite (v. 7)? Why cannot even wisdom or wealth provide us with the skill or resources to find lasting satisfaction in this world (v. 8)? Where does your soul’s appetite wander (v. 9)? Have you yet seen the good that you are looking for? Why, then, do we so consistently discover new temptations within our soul to wander over again to something new? To what degree do you feel the vanity of these efforts?
3) Who was the one to have “named” all things (v. 10)? What was the significance of his work in naming the animals, beyond simply giving them something to be called? Why, then, did Adam give so much credence to the serpent who tempted him and his wife to do what God had forbidden them from doing? Why do we, with Adam’s story to study, continue to think that the created world will bring us more good than the Creator?
4) At the end of the first half of Ecclesiastes, what have been the highlights for you? Which passages have challenged you the most in your own thinking, desiring, or behavior? What is one area that you have freshly recognized your foolishness and sin? How might Ecclesiastes lead your life in a different direction? How does Ecclesiastes help to loosen your clinging grip to the created things under the sun, and instead to look in faith to the Creator, and to his Son Jesus Christ?