Solomon’s preacher: flying in the face of a lazy generation

The phrase “should never” appears only twice in the English translations, and a popular song tells people to “never be discouraged” while the facts are that Christ himself was profoundly troubled and needed encouragement in the last hours of his life. There however are lots of verbs with the following meaning:

The phrase “should never” appears only twice in the English translations, even though there are lots of verbs with the following meaning:

  1. let us never
  2. you/they must never
  3. we/I will by no means
  4. they will never 

The first “should never” is not even a command or expectation; it is one of the conclusions from the preacher (of Ecclesiastes).

“When I gave my heart to know wisdom and to see the task which has been done on the earth (even though one should never sleep day or night),”

Ecclesiastes 8:16, NASB

Three Clauses make up this verse.

  1. “When I gave my heart to know wisdom 
  2. and [gave my heart] to see the task which has been done on the earth
  3. (even though one should never sleep day or night),” (Ecclesiastes 8:16, NASB)
  1. כַּאֲשֶׁ֨ר נָתַ֤תִּי אֶת־לִבִּי֙ לָדַ֣עַת חָכְמָ֔ה
  2.  וְלִרְאוֹת֙ אֶת־הָ֣עִנְיָ֔ן אֲשֶׁ֥ר נַעֲשָׂ֖ה עַל־הָאָ֑רֶץ
  3.  כִּ֣י גַ֤ם בַּיּוֹם֙ וּבַלַּ֔יְלָה שֵׁנָ֕ה בְּעֵינָ֖יו אֵינֶ֥נּוּ רֹאֶֽה׃” (Ecclesiastes 8:16, WLC)

The 3rd clause seems to be the preacher’s conclusion that in both day and night (= every 4 hour day) his inner (heart) processes to (a) acquire wisdom and (b) to see [by looking at] the common inyan, business, come up empty-handed.

His conclusion: [my translation]

because indeed daily for sleepy eyes there is no sight.

He was accusing his generation of being busy sleepy heads, unseeing and therefore not wise.  Who is going to dispute the progress of the Israelite kingdom during Solomon’s reign?  The busy sleepyhead is not missing in the modern era. We find them in all the areas of public endeavour and public service. There are employers whose practice is to rob the worker, peace officers and judges who pervert justice, preachers, rabbis, imams, and  prophets who have no master.  If we think the Ecclesiastes preacher is arrogant then consider that lilies of the field and the birds of the sky know their path and follow it, yet they have neither book, prophet nor magic wand. I recommend a pin for that balloon: the idea that busyness is evidence of knowledge or wisdom.

Deny deny

Rabbit holes mark the places where feet of many have tried to lead God’s people. The identity of the human race and the place we occupy in the genuine picture painted by Moses and the prophets. Christ is not trying to save humanity by exercising their minds about creation; that is quite clear. For persons to migrate from hostile and rebellious the frame of reference must include what we are and what we can be. Beware! “Flesh and blood” does not mean spirit.

The living creature who named all the living creatures  was a living creature.


  • Nephesh chayyah include swarms of marine animals (Genesis 1:20)
  • Nephesh chayyah include human beings (male and female). Then the Lord God formed man “dust from the ground“, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. (Genesis 2:7)
  • Out of the ground came every beast of field (Genesis 2:19)
  • Out of the ground came every bird of the sky (Genesis 2:19)
  • Beasts and birds are living creatures (Genesis 2:19)

Man is not an animal, huh?

“Man is a spiritual being, composed of body, soul, and spirit” is one popular mantra. The difference between spirit/wind and flesh/bone is graphic. Spiritual (of spirit) and of flesh (πνευματικος and σαρκινος) are even opposites.

“For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin.” (Romans 7:14, NASB)

Man is an animal, ranking below angels, who we know to be genderless spirit and fire. When we call someone an angel we promote them.

He makes the winds His messengers, Flaming fire His ministers.

Psalms 104:4

What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him? Yet You have made him a little lower than God, And You crown him with glory and majesty! You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet,

Psalms 8:4-6

Humans are known to sink below the understanding of animals we recognize.

An ox knows its owner, And a donkey its master’s manger, But Israel does not know, My people do not understand.

Isaiah 1:3

Waiting for the pin to pop that balloon of human essence is going to take a long time because human pride keeps getting in the way of truth and humility. We tend to challenge ourselves with both lies and truth.

Stick a pin in

Do you realize that comedians have had people laughing at the most serious threats and indignities to which people with public accountability have exposed us? The schticks were funny and true. So where were the gatekeepers of human security while the late night laughter rolled? They were watching their balloons floating across the sky, painted with advertisements of well-oiled machines and cosmopolitan societies but filled with every kind of homicide, every kind of xenophobia and utterly disgusting attitudes and behaviours. It is certain that people are discovering a web of lies and balloons for which there is a pin.

Nobody ever said in prayer to the God and Father of the Lord Christ “I decree and declare”. Nobody! Not God’s Only Son, not David, Samuel or Moses.

Who is in agreement?

“Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven.”

Matthew 18:19, NASB

Two people agreeing on a request for something to be done and seeing God do it is the probability the Lord is affirming in this saying.

It is quite obvious that people at least say “amen” with great regularity in hundreds of  situations where the desired result is unambiguous, but there must also be, all across the globe, two persons who agree on what they want, why they want it, and where they want it.

How many graveside prayers have ascended in agreement for the departed to return for God’s glory or for the comfort of the bereaved? Given the current and repeated distresses of human beings, we can count how many people are in agreement about the peace of Jerusalem or the end of lies, homicide, and theft. Can we not?

The heavenly Father answers requests by the million each hour so why is there so little evidence that two people in agreement ensures that God the Father delivers the thing requested? Having piled up promises around prayer myself I think it is time to realize that Christ’s idea of agreement must be something other than saying a thing and having someone ditto it. The way we have used this verse to press the requests of dozens, hundreds or thousands of people only contributes to an alternate reality or a fevered imagination, and we can safely stick a pin in that balloon.