A Study in the Word – Ecclesiastes 2:1-11


Does self-indulgence in pleasure bring lasting value (2:1)? Should one’s philosophy of life be “Make hay while the sun shines”? In his first test he explored physical pleasure to its fullest while remaining coldly objective (2:3). The test sought to discover if self-indulgence could produce the highest good in one’s brief span of life. His conclusion: No, seeking lasting value in pleasure is a futile effort (2:2).

His second test focused on personal achievement (2:4-7). He explored personal achievement solely for personal pleasure. Whatever he tried was done in the plural: houses, vineyards, etc. In each single instance he aimed for his personal enjoyment (“for myself,” 2:4-7a). He aimed for records and trophies in “out doing” all who preceded him (2:7).

Whatever he tried aimed solely for his own benefit. He even thought himself to be a commodities trader, a dangerous occupation for the uninformed (2:8a). He sought pleasure solely for himself in entertainment, even at the expense of others (2:8b). He used women as instruments of sexual conquest: “the delights of the sons of men -- girls of all sorts to be my brides” (2:8c, BBE). In essence, “I had everything a man could desire!” (NLT).

At first, he received great public admiration, even imitation (2:9a). He did manage, however, to remain coldly objective for later evaluation (2:9b). He submerged himself in pleasure, managing to experience every pleasure he desired: “I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure” (2:10). His efforts paid off – sort of. He believed he deserved the inner joy that pleasure could produce.

But then reality stepped in: Immediate joy was fleeting. When all of this failed to produce lasting value, he determined that overvaluing pleasure had produced nothing really worthwhile. His objective evaluation of “all my activities” produced an unexpected and unwelcome conclusion: “No profit” (2:11).

To gain all that a pleasure can give, that pleasure must be repeated or increased. Human nature cannot sustain constant repetition. Pleasure sought solely for one’s exclusive benefit is more hedonism than lasting joy. God intended pleasures be shared, and shared by others who are not objects. His goal (2:3b) was to see if pleasure could produce the highest good in a life of brief duration. Since pleasurable activities are immediate and temporary, the good they produce is immediate and temporary, certainly not building blocks for life. Conclusion: Build into life things eternal, pleasurable, and of godly quality.

Dr. David Moore is a university online Bible and theology instructor. Email: dm5867se@outlook.com