The Berean Expositor
Volume 11 - Page 36 of 161
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Studies in Ecclesiastes.
Does your Business Pay? (1: 3).
pp. 17 - 20
We have scanned somewhat briefly this wonderful book, and have seen the conclusion
of the matter, that apart from the blessed hope of resurrection both Paul and Solomon
agree that we are of all men most miserable. We now return to the opening section of the
book to look more closely at the method which is adopted, the materials that are used,
and the result that is achieved.
The thesis with which Koheleth opens chapter 1: 2 and closes chapter 12: 8 is that
which he probes and proves throughout the twelve chapters. All is vanity, such is the
statement. Now for the proof. The preacher puts forth a question:--
"What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?"
It is most important, in order to arrive at a true answer, that we should have a true
understanding of the question, which is one concerning profit. The Hebrew word is
yithrohn, and signifies literally "What is over and above", that is, the true commercial
everyday idea of profit. Labour, which earns enough to supply to-morrow's strength to
labour again, is but an endless circle to be described in the verses that follow, and is
profitless however much it may seem to produce. The reader may prove this meaning by
the usage of the cognate yother which occurs in Ecclesiastes seven times, viz.:--
"Why was I then more wise."
2: 15.
"What hath the wise more than the fool."
6: 8.
"What is man the better."
6: 11.
"By it there is profit to them."
7: 11.
"Neither make thyself over wise."
7: 16.
"And moreover."
12: 9.
"And further."
12: 12.
The only positive statement is the central reference. In this book of superlative vanity
something is profitable. What is it?
"Wisdom is good, like an inheritance, and by it there is profit to them that see the
sun.......the PROFIT (yithrohn) of knowledge is that wisdom giveth LIFE to them that
have it" (7: 11, 12).
Here we are plunged at once into the very heart of the matter. All labour is profitless
which does not yield treasure in heaven. Merely to moil and toil for the meat that
perisheth, for the clothes that wear out, for the gold that fades, for riches that take wings,
is to live the life of a bankrupt though we die wealthier than a Croesus. So to dispose of
one's time, so to arrange one's labour that some of the seed sown shall be harvested "in
that day", that some of the treasure shall be laid up as a good foundation for the life that
is life indeed, even though some of our crops down here are sparse and our bank account
low--such labour is not without its "moreover". From the verse which asks the question