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Ecclesiastes 09

Ecc 9:1 . . For I have taken all this to my heart and explain it that righteous men, wise men, and their deeds are in the hand of God. Man does not know whether [it will be] love or hatred; anything awaits him.

That was certainly true of Joseph. He was a very good boy; favored by God, yet sold into Egyptian slavery by his own kin. Same with John the baptizer. He too was a good, and wise, man— the forerunner of Christ. Yet at the young age of thirty, still in the prime of his life, he was beheaded at the whim of a silly young girl whose dancing happened to please a tetrarch. God did nothing to prevent it. Are any of us any safer?

Ecc 9:2-3a . . For the same fate is in store for all: for the righteous, and for the wicked; for the good and pure, and for the impure; for him who sacrifices, and for him who does not; for him who is pleasing, and for him who is displeasing; and for him who swears, and for him who shuns oaths. That is the sad thing about all that goes on under the sun: that the same fate is in store for all.

Oftentimes when people contract fatal diseases, they whine: "Why me?" Answer: Why not? Yes, why not because we're all just lobsters in one of those fish tanks they have in sea food restaurants.. The cook gropes about and the lobster he catches is just a matter of chance. And eventually he gets them all, one by one.

It seemed to Solomon that good people shouldn't have to die. But actually, death is merciful. What if people lived forever? They would continue to age more and more till they were totally debilitated and looked like emaciated mummies. They would have to be carried around like baggage, completely dependent upon the young for subsistence; and forever enduring an unbearable quality of life.

Ecc 9:3b . . (Not only that, but men's hearts are full of sadness, and their minds of madness, while they live; and then— to the dead!)

The word for "madness" is from howlelah (ho-lay-law') which actually means folly; not insanity. Webster's defines folly as (1) a lack of good sense or normal prudence and foresight, (2) criminally or tragically foolish actions or conduct, (3) a foolish act or idea, and (4) an excessively costly or unprofitable undertaking.

If we take the far view— if we weigh the value of Man's thoughts and endeavors against the depth of eternity —then nothing a man under the sun does has any real meaning and purpose. After the earthly man lives out his pointless existence, he dies and rots away like common road kill.

Ecc 9:4 . . For he who is reckoned among the living has something to look forward to— even a live dog is better than a dead lion—

As long as people are still alive, there's always the thought that one day their ship might come in. But once you're dead, there are no more ships other than the one that ferries people across the river Styx.

Ecc 9:5-6 . . since the living know they will die. But the dead know nothing; they have no more recompense, for even the memory of them has died. Their loves, their hates, their jealousies have long since perished; and they have no more share till the end of time in all that goes on under the sun.

On the face of things, those who have passed on experienced the final phase of life; the last item on their bucket list: and now have nothing left to do. They're all done. They were born (we all are) they lived (we all do) they died (we all will). And everybody not only experiences the final phase, but most everyone also experiences the common experiences of life-- love, hate, envy, and jealousy. Every generation goes through the very same things while they're here.

NOTE: There is a technical difference between jealousy and envy. The first is territorial, i.e. possessive. Whereas the second is begrudging of another's good fortune.

Ecc 9:7-10 . . Go, eat your bread in gladness, and drink your wine in joy; for your action was long ago approved by God. Let your clothes always be freshly washed, and your head never lack ointment. Enjoy happiness with a woman you love all the fleeting days of life that have been granted to you under the sun— all your fleeting days. For that alone is what you can get out of life and out of the means you acquire under the sun. Whatever it is in your power to do, do with all your might. For there is no action, no reasoning, no learning, no wisdom in Sheol, where you are going.

Sheol is often interpreted "grave". That's a good choice of words for the man under the sun, i.e. a rational man thinking to himself whose perception of reality is moderated by what he can see going on around him in the physical universe rather than what he cannot see going on under his feet in the non-physical sphere.

The man under the sun generally understands that he needs to squeeze every drop of juice out of the orange of life before it's too late. That is both sad and frustrating for many because circumstances will not permit them to enjoy life as much as they would like. They will never achieve their highest potential, never eat right, never dress right, never have a family of their own, never be pretty, never be handsome, never be thin, never be rich, never be intelligent, never be famous, never be popular, never have good health, and never have a home of their own-- the grave ends any and all dreams of ever achieving any of that.

Since a lifetime is so little time to enjoy life, it's tragic that the good life is taken away from us so easily because there's simply not enough time in life to make up for lost time.

Ecc 9:11a . . I again saw under the sun that the race is not [always] to the swift, and the battle is not to the warriors, and neither is bread to the wise, nor wealth to the discerning, nor favor to men of ability;

Typically races are won by the swift, but if the swift should trip and fall, they will lose the race in spite of their superior speed. Battles are usually won by the valiant, not the timid. But again, not always. If the valiant are dunces, then the timid with brains can outsmart them. Food and money are usually plentiful in the homes of people who have a head on their shoulders; but again, if the wise should suddenly lose everything by an economic catastrophe; like the Wall Street collapse of 2008, then all the financial know-how in the world won't buy them a single loaf of bread down at the local Safeway.

The word "favor" is from chen (khane) which means: graciousness, i.e. subjective (kindness, favor) or objective (beauty). For some strange reason, nature allows only a relatively small percentage of beautiful people to have any brains or develop any really useful, productive skills. Most of the achievers in life, like chemists, astronomers, architects, mathematicians, writers, movie makers, physicists, engineers, and designers et al; are ordinary-looking people. The beautiful people are often dead wood (and dead heads). Whenever I look behind the scenes of really difficult movies like Inception, Matrix, Avatar, and Monsters Inc.; I'm amazed at the rather unexceptional looks of many of the makers of our favorite movies. They just don't appear to be all that smart and creative.

I noticed the same thing in my job as a Federal civilian employee. The headquarters in my district has a noticeable shortage of attractive men and women because the government, as a rule, doesn't hire people in respect to how well they fill out their clothes or reflect in a mirror, but in respect to how well their minds work.

Ecc 9:11b . . for time and chance overtake them all.

There are no guarantees in life. It's a gamble. I know of a clerk in Costco who spent four years in college majoring in Sociology. There was plenty of demand for people with that kind of a degree when he entered college; but by the time he finished school, the demand had dwindled and my graduate friend had to get a job as a fry cook in a Mongolian grill.

Ecc 9:12 . . And a man cannot even know his time. As fishes are enmeshed in a fatal net, and as birds are trapped in a snare, so men are caught at the time of calamity, when it comes upon them without warning.

A machinist employed by the Corps of Engineers here in Portland Oregon where I once worked as a welder, volunteered to go and help out with the rescue and clean-up operation in New York after the World Trade Center was hit with airliners hijacked by Islamic patriots. On return, he remarked how he was puzzled by parking structures near ground zero full of very expensive autos like BMW, Corvette, and Lexus that were covered with dirt day after day. He wondered why the people who owned those beautiful cars never washed them.

Then he realized why. It was because those cars once belonged to commuters who worked in the Trade Center-- commuters who were caught by total surprise in the sudden destruction of not only their place of employment, but also of their very lives. Whatever they had planned for that day, was instantly canceled forever. The owners never dreamed that the miles they drove to work that day would be their cars' very last.

Sudden-death incidents like that happen all the time. Back in Feb 2017, actor Bill Paxton was in the hospital for treatment of an aortic aneurysm when he suddenly died of a stroke on the operating table. It claimed his life right out of the blue like a stray bullet from a drive-by.

Ecc 9:13-16 . .This thing too I observed under the sun about wisdom, and it affected me profoundly. There was a little city, with few men in it; and to it came a great king, who surrounded it and built mighty siege works against it. Residing in the city was a poor wise man who might have saved it with his wisdom, but nobody thought of that poor man. So I observed: Wisdom is better than valor; but a poor man's wisdom is scorned, and his words are not heeded.

A pity that the truly wise are not always famous nor widely respected; whereas the boastful, the narcissistic, the achievers, and the ambitious always seem to find ample public opportunity to express their opinions, and ways to get them implemented.

But unless you have access to millions of dollars, you can forget running for either the US President, the US Senate, or State Governor. The poor stand little chance running for office no matter how wise and capable they might be because wisdom and ability alone are not enough. Political office is typically won by the powerful, the influential, and/or those who have very rich friends and the support of very large special interests.

Ecc 9:17 . .The words of the wise heard in quietness are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools.

Unfortunately, the words of the wise are all too often heard in private. They seldom have a large public audience because the wise are neither popular, nor charismatic. The masses want to be entertained by a silver-tongued speaker of grand verbiage and a promoter of impossible social agendas. Bombastic plans for the future seem to be the tried and true method of every successful politician. They offer hope you can believe in; but in reality, all they actually have to offer are impossible ideals.

Ecc 9:18 . .Wisdom is more valuable than weapons of war, but a single error destroys much of value.

Although wisdom may have more value than a cruise missile, it isn't nearly as effective as that weapon in its purpose. It should be noted that a cruise missile isn't launched indiscriminately; but usually launched only after the wisdom of diplomacy has run its course and left the wisdom of warfare no choice but to do its thing; and its thing these days can be the destruction of an entire city by just one bomb.

Equipment and munitions, no matter how sophisticated nor how destructive, are wasted in the hands of those untrained and unskilled in their use. So wisdom and weapons of war work together for a victory. But obviously wisdom is the more valuable of the two because it is through wisdom that war materiel is employed to its best effect.

Former US President John F. Kennedy once commented in a speech: Every man woman and child is under a nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest thread, capable of being cut at any moment by accident, miscalculation, or by madness.

In other words, geniuses figured out how to harness fission, but its application is sometimes subject to the arbitrary discretion of fools and Murphy's law.

A really good example of a single error destroying much of value was a 1998 NASA Mars robotic probe that failed to achieve its intended orbit around Mars due to ground-based computer software which produced output in non-SI units of pound (force)-seconds (lbf·s) instead of the SI units of newton-seconds (N·s) specified in the contract between NASA and Lockheed.

As a result of that one software boo-boo; the spacecraft encountered Mars on a trajectory that brought it too close to the planet, causing it to pass through the upper atmosphere and disintegrate. All the ingenious designing and engineering that went into constructing a perfectly good orbiter, and getting it out to Mars, went for naught.

Another good example was the Hubble Space Telescope flub. Nobody physically tested the Hubble's optics before sending the machine into near-earth orbit because a computer model convinced the telescope's makers that everything was okay as-is and needed no testing. As a result, Hubble's initial data produced images little better than those seen by an elderly person with cataracts. Ouch!



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