Solomon’s Grief (v.17)
Solomon saw that life is futile (1:1-11). He tried to escape the fruitlessness, but failed (1:12-2:16). Regardless of all his toil, he was destined for death and decay. “Then I looked on all the works that my hands had done and on the labor in which I had toiled; and indeed all was vanity and grasping for the wind. There was no profit under the sun” (2:11). Solomon has realized that all of life is futile, and he can’t do anything about it.
This brought Solomon to a lowly state. In verse 17, the prepositions “because” and “for” explain this. “So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me, for all is vanity and a striving after wind” (v.17, emphasis mine). This divides verse 17 into three assertions. The first assertion is a result of the second; the second assertion is a result of the third. Solomon hated life because life gave him grief. Life gave Solomon grief because it was vain. So the origin of Solomon’s lowly state is the final assertion, that life is vain.
Life is futile, so life gave Solomon grief – and because life gave Solomon grief, he hated life. The word translated “hated” in verse 17 is saneh (sn’). It is used 146 times in the Hebrew Bible, usually translated as in this verse: “hate.” But sometimes it is translated as “scorn” or “enemy.” In Deuteronomy 22:13, God warned against a husband who might turn against (sn’) his wife. Isaac hated (sn’) Leah (Genesis 29:31-33; cf. Proverbs 30:23), preferring to marry only Rachel. The Egyptians were afraid the Hebrews would join their enemies (sn’), so they enslaved the Hebrews (Exodus 1:10). This word designates an adversary. So when Solomon says that he “hated life” (Ecclesiastes 2:17), he means that he considered it an enemy. Life became Solomon’s adversary, and he hated it (Genesis 37:4-5; cf. Job 10:1).
Women who have a negative blood type can have trouble bearing children. The problem occurs when a baby they carry has a positive blood type. If the mother’s blood mixes with the child’s during birth, the mother’s body will produce defensive cells to combat the positive blood type. So the next time she conceives, her body will literally attack the baby within the womb, if he has a positive blood type. This illustrates where Solomon found himself in life. He had considered himself safe and comfortable, much like an infant in the womb. He realized, at some point, that all of life is futile (Ecclesiastes 1:1-11), no matter what he did (1:12-2:16). Suddenly, his bed was not quite as soft, his water was not quite as cool, and his wisdom was not quite as reassuring. His comfortable place had become a hostile environment. He saw no escape.
Solomon was in great despair, and this is where our passage begins in verse 18. In the first part (vv.18-23), Solomon laments over the futility of life. In the second part (vv.24-26), Solomon arrives at an answer regarding the futility of life.
Solomon’s Lamentation (vv.18-23)
First, see the personal wound God inflicted upon Solomon (vv.18-19). “I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me, and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun” (vv.18-19). Solomon is writing of a personal hardship. Readers familiar with Solomon’s life should be reminded of God’s rebuke to Solomon, near the end of his life.
Since this has been your practice and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes that I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and will give it to your servant. Yet for the sake of David your father I will not do it in your days, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son. However, I will not tear away all the kingdom, but I will give one tribe to your son, for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem that I have chosen.1 Kings 11:11-13
Solomon gave himself to unhindered pleasure in his latter years (as we saw in Ecclesiastes 2:1-11). God always deals with sin, and Solomon’s disobedience was no exception. The question is never whether God will deal with sin, but how He will choose to do so. Will He choose to punish a man, as a conqueror subjugates an enemy, or will He choose to discipline a man, as a shepherd catches a lamb by the crook of his staff? Both punishment and discipline are painful – often indistinguishable in the moment of affliction. The true distinction is manifest in the result of the pain. Punishment reaps only anguish, but discipline bears the fruit of repentance, which blossoms into the joy of salvation (Psalm 51:7-12).
The two kings who preceded Solomon on Israel’s throne illustrated both of these Divine responses to sin. Saul disregarded God’s instructions for sacrifice and conquest, and so the kingdom was taken from him (1 Samuel 15). David committed adultery and murder, and so his house was doomed to violence and his newborn baby was taken from him (2 Samuel 11-12). Solomon indulged himself in the pleasures of life with no regard to the Law of God, and so most of the kingdom was taken from his sons (1 Kings 11). Each of these Divine responses to sin were categorically appropriate. However, only Saul’s affliction was true punishment, because he never returned to the Lord from his sin. David and Solomon both repented, which means the pain God caused was the means He used to bring them home. Just as the pig sty compelled the prodigal son to return home (Luke 15:16-17; cf. Hosea 2:6), the nullification of all his work compelled Solomon to return to God.
Let us pause for a moment to consider this lesson. If you have been afflicted by the consequences of personal sin, consider that affliction to be God’s grace, leading you to repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10). Let your tears commend to you the mercies of God. Make your deep wounds be pathways to the cross of Christ, where living water flows to quench every thirst and meet every need. All of Heaven rejoices in repentance (Luke 15:7), so set your face toward repentance (e.g. Genesis 35:2-4).
God’s word to Solomon came true. After Solomon’s death, the kingdom of Israel split. Rehoboam kept the throne of Jerusalem, but most of Israel left with Jeroboam. All the glory of Israel, which Solomon inherited from his father David and built by his great wisdom, was quickly disgraced. This painful promise had a grave effect on Solomon. He wrote about it several times in Ecclesiastes. Clearly, the thought of handing over his life’s work to a man more foolish than himself was a wound to the man who embodied wisdom (cf. Psalm 49:10; 39:6).
Second, see the universal curse that we all share (Ecclesiastes 2:20-23). Solomon’s reflection on the personal wound he received from God leads into despair for universal vanity. He spoke personally in verses 18-19, but now he speaks generally. Solomon laments that his personal anguish is shared by all men. “I turned about and gave my heart up to despair… because sometimes a person who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave everything to be enjoyed by someone who did not toil for it” (vv.20-21). The point is that Solomon’s situation is not unique. All over the earth, wealth is being passed on to future generations who have not worked for it and who probably will not use it well.
So reflect on your wealth, for a moment. If you have plans for passing on your wealth to children or dear friends when you are gone, you should know that this is a good idea. We should be setting other people up for success, especially our children. This is good, but keep in mind that you will have no control over how your wealth will be used. The people who receive your wealth when you have passed may not use it wisely. There is a distinct possibility that everything you have worked for in life will be wasted within a few years after your death. This is the reality Solomon is pointing to in verse 21.
He goes further in verses 22-23, offering a final statement regarding life’s futility, and the reason for his great despair. “What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun? For all his days are full of sorrow, and his work is a vexation. Even in the night his heart does not rest. This also is vanity” (vv.22-23). Sleep is our clearest image of rest. For sleep itself to grant no rest is the height of frustration and struggle. It means there is no escape from the weariness of life.
This is the gloomiest point Solomon came to in his life, the point of hating life itself, surrounded by fruitlessness. This is Solomon’s lamentation (vv.18-23), but the last three verses (vv.24-26) are pivotal. Here, we learn about the gift of God that supersedes the vanity of life.
Solomon’s Conclusion (vv.24-26)
“There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil” (v.24). Solomon is not speaking sarcastically or dismissively. He is being straight forward. There is nothing better for us than that we would enjoy the life that God has given us. We will consider three elements in verses 24-26 that shape our understanding of what this joy comprises.
First, this is joy that is a gift of God. “He should… find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God” (v.24b, emphasis mine). Enjoying life is a gift of God, a divine blessing. This seems obvious to Solomon, because God is sovereign over all things: “For apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?” (v.25). This joy is the second gift Solomon has revealed thus far in Ecclesiastes. The first gift is clarified in chapter 1: “It is an unhappy business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with” (v.13). “Business” refers to anything a man does in the course of his life – a ninth grade girl learning chemistry, a middle-aged widow laying flowers by her husband’s tombstone, a grad student riding his horse on a nice Saturday afternoon break. Life in sum, and life in every small part – it is all a gift of God. And it is a gift which Solomon calls “an unhappy business,” because it is all futile.
So there are two distinct gifts. The first gift is the gift of life. The second gift is the gift of joy. The first gift is toil. The second gift is enjoying the toil. The first gift is like a can of peaches, and the second gift is like a can opener. The second gift gives new meaning to the first, but does not change the substance of it. The first gift does not go away if the second gift is given, it merely changes relationships with the recipient. This is an important point to clarify, because many people want God to give them different lives. Charlatans use Christian lingo to promise all kinds of wealth, health, and prosperity, if only we would have enough faith (faith that coincidentally sounds like coins plinking in their coffers). Such promises are nil if the second gift of God (joy) does not undo the first gift of God (toil). God does not offer men different lots in life. His sovereign decrees are irreversible and unescapable (3:1-15).
God’s grace is not an immediate departure from earth. His grace is the ability to enjoy life on earth. This is the lesson every creature must learn, or else be doomed to perpetual frustration and anxiety. God is God, and you are not. You live in God’s world and He gets to call the shots. He has given you a life to live with a certain number of days, certain relationships, certain trials, and certain common graces (family, conscience, etc.). Your place is not God’s (as if you get to determine what your lot is). Your duty is to accept this universal order of Creator/creation, obey God, and enjoy the life He has given you.
You may be thinking, “How could I ever enjoy my life? What is there to be happy about in the hard times God has given to me?” Well that’s the point: you can’t enjoy the toil unless God gives you the grace to do so. However, keep in mind that the joy God gives is true joy, from top to bottom. It is not empty or superficial pleasure – that’s what you get if you seek joy elsewhere (2:1-11). The joy God gives is solid and vigorous.
He gives song in the prison cell, after a hefty flogging: “And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison… About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:23, 25; cf. 5:41; Psalm 34:1). He gives compassion in the face of murderers: “‘As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.’ Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them” (Genesis 50:20-21). He gives peace amongst lions (Daniel 6; Philippians 4:4-7; Colossians 3:15-17), comfort in death (Psalm 23:4; 2 Corinthians 4:16-17), blessing in persecution (Matthew 5:10; Romans 5:3; Philippians 2:17; Colossians 1:24), resilience in affliction (2 Corinthians 4:8-9), and sustenance in emptiness (2 Corinthians 6:10; Philippians 4:10-13). The second gift of God is potent, capable of disarming every affliction and conundrum the Christian faces in a fallen world.
This impervious joy is so certainly yours in Christ, that God commands you to be joyful. “Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” (Psalm 32:11; cf. Philippians 4:4; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; James 1:2). So while you may not understand how God can enable you to enjoy your life, I commend you to trust His promise that He can. Our God is a miracle working God, and He is faithful.
Second, this is joy that belongs to God’s people. “For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy” (v.26, emphasis mine). Here we learn again that joy is a gift of God, but we also learn to whom God gives this gift. God’s people are the recipients of His joy. Notice that God does not give the gift of enjoying life to everyone. Joy is a wrapped present with a “from/to” sticker slapped on top. Joy is not a park map in a kiosk, free for anyone to take. Joy is the peculiar treasure of God’s church.
Solomon’s exact word choice deserves further reflection, especially since we live under the New Covenant. God gives joy “to the one who pleases him.” If all men are sinners (Romans 5:12), then all men fall short of this qualification. How is it that God’s people receive God’s joy? The answer is found in Christ. He lived the good life we could not live. He pleased God by living a perfect life of obedience, as a man, on earth (Philippians 2:5-11). Christ pleased God, and so to Christ God gave the gift of joy. So the gift of joy is Christ’s to give, and He gives it liberally and freely to all of His sheep. If you try to please God on your own, then you will never receive the gift of joy, because you can never please God by your good works (Romans 3:19-20). You can receive the gift of joy only by running to the cross for mercy, trusting in Christ’s obedience on your behalf. The good news of the Gospel is that, if you do come to Christ in faith, God will count your disobedience as Christ’s disobedience, and Christ’s obedience as your obedience. So only by the blood of Christ does this joy belong to God’s people.
Notice also the tense of the verb “give” in verse 26: “God has given… joy.” The gift of joy belongs to the church now, not in the indefinite future. This may allude to the security of God’s promises (e.g. Romans 8:29-30). However, it certainly implies that this joy is not something only to think about, but also to possess. Many Christians treat life on earth as a state of limbo. Any attempt to make life better is just polishing brass on the Titanic. This outlook on life is unbiblically dismal. Christians have the obligation of enjoying life in a fallen world. It is our duty, our God-given task, to be people of stout delight.
Third, this is joy that inherits the world. “For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a striving after wind” (v.26, emphasis mine). Here, Solomon clearly distinguishes between the two gifts of God. To His people, God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy in a fallen world. To the sinner, God has given only toil. Solomon calls the sinner’s life a vanity and a striving after wind.
Notice what Solomon writes about the destiny of a sinner’s labor. Everything a sinner works for, all of his labor on earth, will only be handed over to one who pleases God. The fruit of the sinner’s toil is given to the saint. Both groups live in a fallen world: the sinner works and the saint works, and both die. Even so, there is an eschatological distinction between the two. In the final chapter, the biographies distinguish themselves.
Solomon is telling us how the world is going to end. The world ends with the people of God inheriting the earth, and the enemies of God having nothing to show for all their toil under the sun. The curtains close with the King robbing Haman of his signet ring, to bestow it upon Mordecai (Esther 8:1-2). This truth peppers the New Testament, as the glory of God’s intentions with His covenant people become clearer. Paul wrote to Timothy, “The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him” (2 Timothy 2:11-12, emphasis mine). “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). “So then let no one boast in men. For all things belong to you, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world of life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you, and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God” (1 Corinthians 3:21-23 NASB).
So God gives the gift of enjoying life to His people, and He also gives them the world, when all things are said and done. “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, and the wealth of a sinner is stored up for the righteous” (Proverbs 13:22; cf. Job 27:16-17). This means death is not the end of God’s church, nor of their joy. The joy that God gives is a joy that does not end in death, but rather inherits the world. This promise of future glory gives Solomon something eternal to hold onto in a futile world. The first gift will one day be renewed. This promise that God’s people will one day inherit the world makes Solomon see his death differently. It gives him further incentive to rejoice and seek the second gift of God.
The eschatological fabric of Ecclesiastes is startling. Solomon is writing in the looming shadow of having the kingdom stripped from his son (1 Kings 11:11), but this was yet to be. Israel was still enjoying their golden era of prosperity. The promises God made to Abraham had been fulfilled (Joshua 21:43-45): they were delivered from Egypt, given the land of Canaan, and made very prosperous. This seemed like the height of covenant glory. This appeared to be the blossoming, eternal kingdom of God. Then, the man who embodied Israel’s prosperity stopped crying, “Peace, peace” (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:3). Ecclesiastes came like a thief in the night. It was like a whisper of thunder on a sunny day, and a trembling chandelier before an earthquake. For first time, the glory of the Old Covenant was explicitly brought into question. Moses’ covenant could not deliver God’s people from the futility of life, and so Solomon foreshadowed the prophetic petition of the next millennium: Israel needed a New Covenant. Later preachers would bring this need into focus, and likewise the mercy of God to meet that need.
Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. And I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses. And I will summon the grain and make it abundant and lay no famine upon you. I will make the fruit of the tree and the increase of the field abundant, that you may never again suffer the disgrace of famine among the nations. Then you will remember your evil ways, and your deeds that were not good, and you will loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abominations. It is not for your sake that I will act, declares the Lord God; let that be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel.Ezekiel 36:22-32
Two Adams, Two Gifts
Solomon’s conclusion may be summarized like this: life is futile, but God gives His people joy that inherits the world. This is joy that does not take us out of the world, but promises a new world, preserving us until we arrive there. For now, enjoy the life God has given you. Enjoy the struggle. Eat and drink, have your birthday parties, go to your family reunions, see a movie at the theater, read a good book. Enjoy it through the pain and suffering because you know that one day you will be delivered. You know that your work is not ultimately fruitless: God says you will inherit the world. God says you will die, but He will raise you up again. To the sinner, death is a bitter end to a bitter life. To the saint, death is relief from a hard pilgrimage, and what comes next is a “far green country” – everlasting joy in the face of Christ.
When Solomon laments over the vanity of life, he is lamenting over death and decay. He is grieving over the fact that he lives in a fallen world ruled by death. This death came from Adam, our forefather and covenant head in the Garden of Eden. When Adam disobeyed God, God cursed him. From that moment on, Paul says, all creation was subjected to futility (Romans 8:20).
Adam disobeyed God, failed to kill the serpent, and he and his wife and their children were all doomed to live futile lives of death in a fallen world. Adam earned a gift for all those born of him: death and fruitless toil. The first gift of God is the gift of Adam. There came another Adam, thousands of years later. A man not born of the seed of Adam, but born of God. This second Adam obeyed God, crushed the head of the serpent, and earned everlasting life for His bride. This second Adam earned a gift for all those born of His Spirit: life and eternal joy. The second gift of God is the gift of the second Adam.
We are presented in this passage with a lesson in how those in Christ should live in a fallen world – how those in the second Adam should live under the curse of the first Adam. This is how we live: we live with the understanding that one day, the glory of the second Adam will overshadow the first. One day, the life of the second Adam will overtake the death of the first. The perfection of the New Covenant will one day blossom into an eternal kingdom, far more brilliant than Israel’s Golden Age ever was. The New Covenant, by God’s faithful mercies, will conquer the curse of the first Adam with the blessing of the second Adam.
Therefore, if you have indeed been baptized into Christ (Romans 6:3; Galatians 3:27), enjoy your life. Go out and enjoy the life God has given you. Obey God and have a good time here on earth. Kiss your husband, have a slice of blueberry pie, work hard at your job, brush your teeth like your body will be resurrected, mow your lawn like you’ll inherit the world, change your oil with gladness, teach your sons how to throw a football, gather with God’s covenant people and sing – enjoy life. Because Christ’s tomb is empty, and one day yours will be, too.
 As we complete the first section of Ecclesiastes (1:1-2:26), I issue this warning once again to the reader: let the intended weight of Solomon’s writing lay upon your chest, before you see the grace of God to lift that weight. Many commentators, in places such as verse 17, attempt to explain away Solomon’s abysmal look on life. For example: “The expressions in [verse 17] must, therefore, be restricted to that kind of life which Solomon has been describing, a life spent in the pursuit of pleasure and enjoyment” [Holden, 71-72]). Again: “The preachers object was to ascertain which, of all earthly goods, involved the smallest disappointment” (Mylne, 19). Yet, if we are faithful exegetes, interpreting each passage in context, we have no need of apologizing for or explaining away Solomon’s words. Solomon was not the only Biblical character to hate life (Numbers 11:15; 1 Kings 19:4; Job 6:9; Jeremiah 20:14; Jonah 4:3).
 See Coleman, 15-16; Wardlaw, 96-97. Holden doubts whether Solomon has Rehoboam in mind (pg. 74). Young considers it possible, but on grounds of folly which Solomon perceived in Rehoboam (pg. 82). My argument is that the reason is God’s promised judgment, not Rehoboam’s proven/unproven character. As if ignorant of 1 Kings 11, Macdonald asks, “Did Solomon have some forebodings of the disasters that were to attend his successor’s reign?” (pg. 178).
 e.g. the fruit of Bathsheba’s womb died, and as Uriah died by the sword, the sword never left David’s house.
 “All the father’s wisdom may quickly come to nothing, by the son’s folly” (Reynolds, 72).
 Jamieson considers verse 22 an interrogative reiteration of verse 21 (pg. 405).
 Jamieson clarifies that his life does not simply possess grief, but is itself grievous (pg. 405).
 “In this verse, and to the end of the chapter, is elucidated the whole sum and subject of this book, which is designed to shew what constitutes the only good which a man can attain from his worldly labour, and wherein consists the happiness of this present life; namely, in having the heart and life seasoned with the fear of God; and then… to use all external blessings with contentment, freedom, cheerfulness, and delight, which is a special privilege the Lord gives to his servants. The apostle comprehends all this in two words, ‘godliness, with contentment,’ 1 Tim. 6:6” (Reynolds, 79-80).
 There seems to be a consensus among scholars that verse 24 begins a new sub-section, no matter how small the division is, and regardless of whether or not Solomon is saying anything different here than he already has. Every major English translation, including the Septuagint, marks verse 24 as the beginning of a new paragraph, a new point. ESV, NASB, NIV, NRSV, HCSB, KJV, NLT, LEB, NKJV, NET, RSV, ASV. According to Swete, the LXX also considers verse 24 the beginning of a new sub-section (Henry Barclay Swete, The Old Testament in Greek: According to the Septuagint [Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1909], Ec 2:24–25).
 “The happiness of this life consists in a free, cheerful, and contented enjoyment of the bounties of Providence” (Reynolds, 82). “He came at length to see that the blame of that bitter disappointment to which his earthly acquisitions had given rise, was not their fault but his own; it was the fault of his seeking and expecting from them a measure and kind of happiness they were never meant to yield. It was the fault, in a word, of making them his chief good, and, in them, loving and serving the creature more than the Creator” (Buchanan, 87).
 Jamieson considers this translation to be Epicurean and “contrary to the general scope” of what Solomon is saying in this passage (pg. 405; see also Holden, 74; Tyler, 123-124). I cannot find reputable sources to commend this position. His sentiment towards verse 24 is emblematic of a larger disagreement among commentators on Ecclesiastes. Jamieson, Bridges, Holden argue that verses 24 is not commending something for Christians to practice today. Reynolds, Wilson argue that verse 24 is in fact commending something for Christians to practice today. I take the latter position. Lloyd summarizes my position well: “From his painful experience Qoheleth comes to the conclusion that there is nothing more advisable than to submit to the arrangements of God’s Providence, and calmly to enjoy whatever God gives” (pg. 36).
 This verse contains a textual variant: does the text read, “apart from Him” (i.e. God), or “more than I” (i.e. Solomon)? By a somewhat slim margin, both quantity and antiquity are on the side of “apart from Him,” which is why most modern translations favor this reading (ESV, NASB, CSB, NET, RSV, NRSV; KJV, NKJV prefer “more than I”). See Holden, 75; Lloyd, 38; Stuart, 139; contra. Ginsburg, 301-302. The NET Bible offers a possible explanation for the historical origins of this variant: “The textual deviation is a case of simple orthographic confusion between י (yod) and ו(vav) as frequently happened, e.g., MT צו לצו צו לצו (tsv ltsv tsv ltsv) versus 1QIsa 28:10 צי לצי צי לצי (tsy ltsy ts ltsy).”
 I am indebted to Douglas Wilson, who provides this analogy in Joy at the End of the Tether. Reynolds captures the relationship between the first and second gifts fairly well: “Life is the principal external blessing communicated to us from above, to the preservation and comfort of which all other outward blessings are directed” (pg. 68-69).
 This joy is manifestly distinct from the joy Solomon gave himself to in 2:1-11. “Enjoy yourself” (v.1) is the sentiment Paul reflects, if the dead are not raised. “If the dead are not raised, let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (1 Corinthians 15:32 NASB). Solomon’s advice is, “Let us eat and drink, for God is sovereign” (cf. Ecclesiastes 3:1-15).
 “Many gifts of God are common to good and bad men, Mat. 5:45; 1 Cor. 13:1, 3: but this is a peculiar favour he bestows on his beloved, Ps. 127:2” (Reynolds, 85).
 On this verse, Bridges writes, “This seems to be the Divine dispensation. Good and evil are portioned out according to character. Where the stamp—Good in his sight—is broadly marked, gifts and grace flow out abundantly” (pg. 71). This is contrary to one of Solomon’s central points in Ecclesiastes, that both good and evil happen to both sinners and saints, and only the sovereign God knows why (3:11).
 Holden argues contrary to my position, that verse 26 refers to swift, earthly retributive justice, which God uniquely promised in the Jewish Theocracy (pg. 76).
 See also Mark 10:29-30; Romans 4:13; 8:32; 1 Corinthians 6:2-3; 2 Corinthians 4:14-15, Revelation 20:4-6.
 This gift is a redemptive reiteration of Adam being given to earth to work (Genesis 2). Further, it would make no sense for those outside of Christ to possess the ability of enjoying the world, because the world is not theirs.
 “Far green country” is a reference from the end of The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (also ch. 8 of The Fellowship of the Ring).