All this I tested by wisdom and I said,
“I am determined to be wise”—
but this was beyond me.
Whatever exists is far off and most profound—
who can discover it?
The value of wisdom is that we can search out everything that goes on around us, and draw conclusions about them; this is the Teacher’s quest. The Teacher will tell us of his search for wisdom in these last verses of chapter 7, and in this discussion, he reveals some interesting things, but not quite what we might expect. In the first 2 verses, he tells of the difficulty of the search and how it seemed to evade him. Verse 25 seems to be his goal:
So I turned my mind to understand,
to investigate and to search out wisdom and the scheme of things
and to understand the stupidity of wickedness
and the madness of folly.
He wants to understand the “scheme of things” and to understand the stupidity of wickedness and folly; all I can say is “good luck.” His results are in verses 26-27:
I find more bitter than death
the woman who is a snare,
whose heart is a trap
and whose hands are chains.
The man who pleases God will escape her,
but the sinner she will ensnare.
“Look,” says the Teacher, “this is what I have discovered:
“Adding one thing to another to discover the scheme of things—
To begin with, he mentions “the woman who is the share” an interesting illustration. It would seem that our wise Teacher has found that many fall victim to the allurements of lust and sensuality; some commentators might want to expand this to drink and drugs, but I’ll let the Teacher’s words stand alone without any help from me. A wise man of God will avoid this trap, but woe to the not so wise. I doubt much has changed since Solomon wrote these words…
And now, the rest of his results:
while I was still searching
but not finding—
I found one upright man among a thousand,
but not one upright woman among them all.
This only have I found:
God created mankind upright,
but they have gone in search of many schemes.”
As for verse 28, let’s not shoot the messenger here gang; I didn’t write this text! It would seem that in Solomon’s investigation, he had a hard time finding upright men, and that he failed entirely to find an upright woman. I wonder how large his sample was… It is possible that he is using a little touch of hyperbole here, at least I hope so. In any event, people who are truly “upright” aren’t easy to find I suppose, even now. This brings us to verse 29, which seems to summarize the whole of his search under the sun. God created us as upright and moral people, certainly He intended that we should live this way, but humanity entered into sin and folly, and each of us knows what happened after that, for even these many centuries after Solomon breathed his last, we endure life in a world that is filled with the consequence of sin and rebellion against God.
Chapter 8 moves on to another topic: Submission, both to the king and to God. Will we receive a better report on the state of things? Will we be able to find a ray of hope there?
Let’s find out as our adventure continues…