Ecclesiastes — Lesson 10



- Solomon often struggles in Ecclesiastes with the failure of traditional beliefs to explain realities experienced in human life.

- He reflects on how far the realities of human experience seem to vary from the ideal.

- This lesson will deal with the problem of evil as examined by Solomon in Ecclesiastes.

- The problem of evil -- injustice, sufferings of the innocent, bad things happening to good people -- is the oldest of all puzzles.

- It's also said to be one of the strongest of all arguments against belief in the goodness of God and the goodness of life.

- Our sense of justice leads us to believe that goodness should be accompanied by comfort, and that evil should be accompanied by discomfort.

- Righteous men have always wondered why the Father would allow sinners to enjoy so many blessings.

- Jeremiah 12:1,2 -- Righteous art thou, O Lord, when I plead with thee: yet let me talk with thee of thy judgments: Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? wherefore are all they happy that deal very treacherously? Thou hast planted them, yea, they have taken root: they grow, yea, they bring forth fruit: thou art near in their mouth, and far from their reins.

- Habakkuk 1:13 -- Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look upon iniquity: wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously, and holdest thy tongue when the wicked devoureth the man that is more righteous than he?

- Malachi 3:15 -- And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered.

- Psalmist almost lost his faith. Psalm 73:2 -- My feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped.

- It's important to remember the context of Solomon's perspective -- everything "under the sun" is vanity. We must look beyond the sun to Christ to understand and deal with the challenges that face us in this life.

1. In general, what attitude does Solomon exhibit with regard to the question of evil in the world?

- Since his perspective on life seems to be limited to that which is "under the sun," he finds spiritual truths and the anomalies of life to be difficult to understand.

- Solomon seems to be an individual in conflict. Often when he encounters something he finds difficult to reconcile, he in effect throws up his hands in frustration. He often expresses the view that it's better to enjoy the good things of life rather than try to understand its complexities.

- In the same way, we must look beyond the sun to Christ to understand and deal with situations and occurrences that may be unjust from an earthly perspective. If we fail to do so, our lives will be marked by the same sense of frustration and aimlessness.

2. How does Solomon seem perplexed by the problem of evil in Ecclesiastes 8:12-14? How does his attitude compare with those we find today concerning evil in the world?

- 8:12-14 -- 12. Though a sinner do evil an hundred times, and his days be prolonged, yet surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him: 13. But it shall not be well with the wicked, neither shall he prolong his days, which are as a shadow; because he feareth not before God. 14. There is a vanity which is done upon the earth; that there be just men, unto whom it happeneth according to the work of the wicked; again there be wicked men, to whom it happeneth according to the work of the righteous: I said that this is also vanity.

- On one hand, he says in verse 12 that it will be well with them that fear God. He knows the general rule that those who fear God will fare well and that the opposite is true of the wicked.

- However, Solomon also knows of cases that do not conform to the general rule, and therefore he calls it all vanity.

- He was distressed by the inequality of the human lot, and by the apparent absence of a just arrangement of human affairs.

- If God is the Father and King of humanity, how is it that the affairs of the world are not administered more fairly. Why aren't the good recompensed and the wicked swiftly and effectively punished?

- The situation Solomon describes:

- The just suffer the afflictions that seem appropriate to the wicked.

- The wicked reap the prosperity and good fortune that would be expected to go to the righteous.

- Other similar passages in Ecclesiastes:

- 3:16 -- And moreover I saw under the sun the place of judgment, that wickedness was there; and the place of righteousness, that iniquity was there.

- 4:1 -- So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter.

3. What is Solomon's answer in Ecclesiastes 8:15 to the perplexity of evil in the world?

- 8:15 -- Then I commended mirth, because a man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry: for that shall abide with him of his labor the days of his life, which God giveth him under the sun.

- Solomon essentially says the same thing in other passages.

- Ecclesiastes 2:24 -- There is nothing better for a man, that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour. This also I saw, that it was from the hand of God. (Solomon said this after despairing because he would have to leave all for which he had labored to someone else.)

- Ecclesiastes 3:22 -- Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better, than that a man should rejoice in his own works; for that is his portion: for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him? (Solomon expressed this after questioning whether the spirit of man went upward or the spirit of the beast went downward to the earth.)

- His sense of inner turmoil seems revealed by a statement he makes in Ecclesiastes 7:2 -- it is better to go to the house of mourning than to the house of feasting.

4. Who has caused evil and suffering in the world? Does God ever have a role in evil?

- Many humble individuals appear unable to give a complete answer to this problem. Biblical revelation, however, gives answers and a practical solution.

- Man is the cause of moral evil.

- Since God made man free, man has the choice of doing good or evil. In many passages, from Genesis to Revelation, the principle of "choose you" seen in Joshua 24:15 is given to human beings.

- Deuteronomy 30:15 -- See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil.

- When man chooses evil, one can say that God has allowed it, but one cannot say that God is responsible. God couldn't have eliminated moral evil without his making man a machine, a puppet.

- God has used adversity and suffering as a penalty for disobedience.

- Every work of God was "very good" when Adam and Eve disobeyed. (Gen 1:31) He then was forced to curse his good world. So, then came thorns, weeds, toil, pain, diseases, parasites, drouths, tornadoes, earthquakes, etc.

- Death as a penalty for disobedience was established "even over them that had not sinned after the likeness of Adam's transgression." (Genesis 3:17-18)

- The effect of sin is transmitted, but not the guilt. (Ezekiel 18:20)

- God has allowed suffering and difficulties to occur as a disciplinary measure.

- There are people who have not violated God's laws who are not reaping what they have sown. Galatians 6:7 -- Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. Nevertheless, some are subjected to various afflictions.

- Consider the example of Job.

- Job had done nothing to deserve his boils and misfortune. God had a providential purpose in allowing the ulcers.

- Refused to curse God. Job 2:9-10

- Exercised patience. James 5:11

- God saw in him a spirit of egotism and rebellion. Job 13:2-3; 23:2

- Lack of patience. Job 21:4

- Flashing eyes. Job 15:12

- Disposition to argue with God. Job 13:3

- Humbled by days of affliction, listened to God's rebuke, repented in "dust and ashes." Job 42:6

- Better man as a result of his disciplinary evil than he would have been otherwise.

- Paul had done nothing to cause the "thorn in the flesh" that afflicted him. II Cor 12:7

- Prayed for relief, not knowing that God had allowed the pain to keep him humble.

- Instead of cursing God for his pain, he was thankful that God loved him. He came to realize that "when I am weak, then am I strong. II Cor 12:10

- Hebrews 12:11 -- No chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.

- In the case of Christ, God has allowed "vicarious" sufering to occur. Jesus "bare the sin of many." Isaiah 53:12 He was made to be "sin on our behalf" as he suffered vicariously. II Cor 5:20

5. How should we respond when we see evil people prosper and Christians forced to undergo various trials?

Christians should study and remember basic principles contained in God's word.

- God is good.

- Acts 14:17 -- Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.

- Psalm 40:5 -- Many, O Jehovah my God, are the wonderful works which thou hast done, and thy thoughts which are to us-ward: they cannot be set in order unto thee; if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered.

- Prosperity of the wicked confirms the need for a future judgment and argues in favor of immortality.

- Job 21:30 -- That the wicked is reserved to the day of destruction? they shall be brought forth in the day of wrath.

- Hebrews 9:27 -- And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after that the judgment.

- John 5:28-29 -- Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.

- Prosperity of the wicked testifies of the heavenly Father's merciful forbearance in hope of their repentance.

- Their prosperity shows the longsuffering love and patience of God. Romans 2:4 -- Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?

- I Peter 3:9 -- The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

- Prosperity of the wicked tests the faith of the righteous.

- Job was tempted to turn away from God because of seeming injustices. That was part of his test. The question mystified him, but he refused to let it destroy his faith.

- He could see that prosperity is no sign of divine approval. Job 12:6 -- The tabernacles of the robbers prosper, and they that provoke God are secure; into whose hand God bringeth abundance.

- He completely rejected his friends' philosophy that suffering indicates sin. Job 21:34.

- Psalms 37:1 -- Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious.

- Joys of the wicked are fleeting. Their only rewards are being enjoyed now. Matthew 6:2,5,16 -- 2. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 5. And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 16. Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

- Faith is founded on things substantial. Hebrews 11:1 -- Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. But always there's an element of trust in faith.

6. In what ways can Christians actually profit in the face of distressing circumstances involving the contrast between those who fear God and those who do not fear God?

- We can cultivate patience. James 1:3-4 -- Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

- We will develop a quiet confidence and strength as God's people. Christians don't lean upon circumstances; they lean upon God, who never changes. Proverbs 3:5-6 -- Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

- We can come understand and expect God's deliverance and acceptance.

- Psalm 9:9 -- The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. Psalm 27:1 -- The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 46:1 -- God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

- Romans 8:18 -- For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.


- All kinds of injustices and gross wickedness prevail everywhere. None of this can be intelligently charged as God's fault.

- Things that cause startling miscarriages of justice throughout the world -- man's freedom of the will, his decision to serve Satan rather than God, the fact of God's displeasure with man's rebellious condition, the impartiality of natural disasters and the capricious results of chance happening to all men alike.

- But for the Christian, we know that God will vindicate and save his children. Our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.

- Many things can happen to test our faith, our endurance. But we have the comfort of knowing that God is on our side -- always.

- When problems of evil appear completely unsolvable, when we're beset with problems, happy is the Christian who loves the Lord and keeps on trusting, even when he cannot understand.

-Romans 8:31-34 -- What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall any thing to the charge of God's elect? Is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.



1. In general, what attitude does Solomon exhibit with regard to the question of evil in the world?

2. How does Solomon seem perplexed by the problem of evil in Ecclesiastes 8:12-14? How does his attitude compare with those we find today concerning evil in the world?

3. What is Solomon's answer in Ecclesiastes 8:15 to the perplexity of evil in the world?

4. Who has caused evil and suffering in the world? Does God ever have a role in evil?

5. How should we respond when we see evil people prosper and Christians forced to undergo various trials?

6. In what ways can Christians actually profit in the face of distressing circumstances involving the contrast between those who fear God and those who do not fear God?

God's Plan of Salvation

You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)

You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)

You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)

Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)