Ecclesiastes 6:3-6 causes me much stress. In essence Solomon says a man who lives two thousand years and has a hundred children is worse off than a child 26 thingswho dies at birth, or is stillborn. How is this possible? Methuselah is the oldest man in the bible and he only lived to be 969 years old. The fellow Solomon mentions lives over twice that long. Further, Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, had 88 children, but as far as I can find no one in the bible had one hundred children. Long life and many children were two measuring sticks in Israeli culture that determined a life blessed by God. Yet an infant dead from the womb is somehow better off!

Solomon seems to be arguing that to feel nothing, know nothing, experience nothing, is far better than living long, prospering, procreating and possessing everything under the sun that should make life satisfying and worthwhile. The only resolution I can find in this strange assertion is the concluding phrase of verse six. It explains that both the 2000 year old man and the stillborn baby end up in the same place. As already argued at length the grave is the destiny of rich and poor, wise and foolish, as well as kings and their subjects. There is no advantage of one over another. But here Solomon says the one who sees nothing, feels nothing, knows nothing and has nothing is better off than the one who has everything. I must ask the same question again. How is this possible?

David Jeremiah gives me the most satisfying answer. In his study on Ecclesiastes entitled, “Searching for Heaven on Earth,” he says, “Here is the very serious point Solomon is making with these illustrations: Living without God and without meaning in life is worse than never having been born at all.” Yes, regardless of the number of years one lives every life will come to an end and to get to the end without ever having tasted of the love and goodness of God is worse than never having lived at all. Jeremiah concludes, “…if you get to the grave without God, you will have lived a meaningless life. Only God brings meaning to prosperity.” Phil Ryken adds some additional insights. He says, “The gifts that God gives us and the power to enjoy those gifts come separately. This is why having more money can never guarantee that we will find any enjoyment. Without God, we will still be discontent. It is only when we keep him at the center of our existence that we experience real joy in the gifts that God may give. The fear of the Lord is not just the beginning of knowledge; it is also the source of satisfaction.”