23All this I have tested by wisdom. I said, “I will be wise,” but it was far from me. 24That which has been is far off, and deep, very deep; who can find it out? 25I turned my heart to know and to search out and to seek wisdom and the scheme of things, and to know the wickedness of folly and the foolishness that is madness. 26And I find something more bitter than death: the woman whose heart is snares and nets, and whose hands are fetters. He who pleases God escapes her, but the sinner is taken by her.
(Ecclesiastes 7:23-26 ESV)
King Solomon tested all approaches to life by applying wisdom. Solomon intentionally sought to be wise. But he could not be as wise as he wanted and he admits so. Few people are willing to admit that they are not as smart as they should be or want to be. Rather we pretend to be something we are not. This is just another example of the honestly of the authors of the Bible.
Solomon tried to test out all that he has been talking about using wisdom, but had to admit that he could not fully find the truth. True wisdom is far off and deep, very deep. It was beyond King Solomon just as it is beyond all of us. No human can find it out.
King Solomon turned his heart to know and to search out and to seek wisdom. He made up his mind he was going to do it. He gave it his best shot. But as he’s told us, he fell short. Human effort is not enough to discover the truths that God has embedded into our existence.
But Solomon also sought to know sin – the wickedness of folly and foolishness. A doctor cannot prescribe a cure for a disease unless he understands it cause. Solomon had lead a pretty sinful life and now, as he writes this as a penitent old man, he ostensibly wishes to understand the reasons for his actions.
In his pursuit of all this he found something more bitter than death. Death was, and still is, considered by many the worst thing that can happen to a person. But Solomon discovered something even worse: sin.
In the verse 26 Solomon metaphorically refers to sin as a woman and her sexual advances. It is possible Solomon is referring specifically to sexual sin here. He did, after all, live a very lascivious life and was caught in the snares, nets, and fetters of his many wives and concubines [1 Kings 11:4]. Since the book of Ecclesiastes is the journal of his findings about life, it’s not unlikely the lessons he recorded came from his own experiences.
It is also possible he is referring to sin in general. Either way, his conclusion is the same: sin is worse than death The one who pleases God escapes it.
The one who pleases God is the one who has faith in Him, is spiritually-minded, who fears displeasing Him, who obeys Him, and who does His will [1 Samuel 15:22; Psalm 147:11; Romans 8:8; Hebrews 11:6, 13:21]. Such a person will escape sin because his mind is set to do good and he will not fall for sin’s allure. His commitment to God will prevent him from being led astray.
But the sinner who is not committed to pleasing God is taken in by sinful temptations, of which there is no shortage. This is how King Solomon lived during his youth. Yet as he got older he learned the truth: such a life is foolishness.
Solomon realized that he couldn’t attain all wisdom. But he also realized that he could gain some wisdom by reflecting on the mistakes he made in his past. We all can learn similarly.
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