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08/09/2008 / Test All Things

A Study Of Ecclesiastes 9:13-18

What is the meaning of the word “Ecclesiastes”?

It means, “The Preacher”.

We find that in Ecclesiastes 1:1, “The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem”.

Therefore we conclude that Ecclesiastes was written by king Solomon.

Solomon Is the Preacher (2 Peter 1:21, Ecclesiastes 9:13)

Some people object to that, because Solomon did a great deal of wickedness. But if God could speak His words through the mouth of a donkey, of the false prophet Balaam, then God can speak through a man whom God has given great wisdom. Certainly God can do that! Solomon was known for his great wisdom. When Solomon preached, he preached the true Gospel, “for prophecy came not in old time by the will of men, but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost”, 2 Peter 1:21.

Today we are going to look at a parable in Ecclesiastes chapter 9. If Solomon preached the true Gospel, then we should discover in here the Gospel of Christ Crucified. Let us read verse 13,

Ecclesiastes 9:13
This wisdom have I seen also under the sun, and it seemed great unto me:

Ecclesiastes 9:14
There was a little city, and few men within it; and there came a great king against it, and besieged it, and built great bulwarks against it:

Ecclesiastes 9:15

Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same poor man.

This is the entire parable. The remaining three verses are the conclusions.

An intriguing parable, isn’t it?

But what does it mean?

Verse 13 says that this parable contains great wisdom. Therefore it is certainly worth to spend the time to unravel this parable, containing great wisdom. The story begins with this line:

“There Was a Little City” (Ecclesiastes 9:14, Isaiah 40:15-17, Psalm 5:5-6, 7:11, 10:4, 11:5-6, 14:1)

Ecclesiastes 9:14
There was a little city, and few men within it; and there came a great king against it, and besieged it, and built great bulwarks against it:

What does this little city represent?

If this parable indeed contains great wisdom then it does not refer to just a little city somewhere on this planet, but it must have worldwide application. This wisdom is great because it refers to the true Gospel. Throughout the Bible, and certainly throughout Ecclesiastes, we must see the Gospel. This is the only way we can understand Ecclesiastes. I suggest to you that this little city represents the whole world. It is the world of sinners.

Do I have Scriptural evidence for that?

Yes I do!

Beginning with Isaiah 40 it is as if God presents to us the New Testament course of history. For example, in Isaiah 40:3 God introduces us to the voice of John the Baptist, in Isaiah 65 God introduces us to the New Heaven & the New Earth, and in Isaiah 66 God introduces us to Hell, which God is going to create for the Devil and all his messengers. The Gospel begins with a proper concept of MAN. Isaiah 40:15,

Isaiah 40:15
Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing.

In verse 15 God refers 3 times to the same thing.

Can you see that God does not see this world as we see it?

From God’s perspective all the nations of the world are to Him as a drop in a bucket, or they are as the dust you blow off a balance before you use it, and all the great nations in the Mediterranean are to Him as “a very little thing”. We can see that people have a high opinion of themselves, but God does not share that opinion. Mankind is in His sight “as a very little thing”.

Isaiah 40:16

And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt offering.

The entire country of Lebanon is not big enough for an altar to sacrifice unto God, and all the cattle found in Lebanon are not sufficient for a burnt offering to make atonement for the sins of mankind. God is describing here how great God is, how small we are, and how great our sins are:
Isaiah 40:17

All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity.

Here we get a little bit of an idea how great God is. Even though God made man to be the crown of His creation, and even though He made man in the image of God, all mankind is in His sight still small as nothing, and all the nations that rebel against God are counted to Him as less than nothing. God could wipe them off the map in an instant. We sometimes have the idea that the great Babylonian Empire, and the great Medo-Persian Empire, and the great Grecian Empire, and other great empires are totally lost to Satan. But God says that these empires are as nothing in the realm of spiritual value. They are no great loss at all, because they are counted to Him as less than nothing.

Now you can see why I identified the little city in Ecclesiastes 9:14 with the whole world. And if we look at our world objectively, with a view of all that God has created, we can see that we are only a speck of dust in our entire solar system, and our solar system is only a speck of dust in our great galaxy, the Milky Way, and our great Milky Way is only a speck of dust in this universe where we see trillions upon trillions of galaxies, as far as the eye can see. And so you can see that both physically and spiritually this world can be seen as only “a little city, and few men within it”.

Now, does God count the entire world population as just a few men?

No! The Hebrew word that has been translated “few” has been much more often translated “little”. We could just as well read this sentence as, “There was a little city, and little men within it”. We are only little men in God’s sight.

Do you know where people get the idea that we are so big and so important in God’s sight?

They get that from the idea that God is only love, and that is all that He is. We are so important in God’s creation that He can’t help but love us, and God loves every human being that He has made. That is a totally distorted view of God. If you had any ideas that God loves every human being He has made, then you want to read this,

Psalm 5:5
The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity.

Psalm 5:6
Thou shalt destroy them that speak leasing (= lies): the LORD will abhor the bloody and deceitful man.

God identifies “the foolish” here with “all workers of iniquity”. God calls those who sin, and especially those who sin deliberately, “fools”, and God hates them.

Is it new to you that God can hate?

Psalm 7:11
God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day.

Yes, God is angry every day, because mankind keeps on sinning every day. Of course God is love, but God also hates all workers of iniquity.

And who are the wicked?

Psalm 10:4
The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts.

This defines who the wicked are; they will not seek after God, and God calls them fools: “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God”, from Psalm 14:1. All those who ignore God, and all those who worship other gods, and remain in that state until death are called “the wicked”.

Does God hate them?

Psalm 11:5
The LORD trieth the righteous: but the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth.

Psalm 11:6
Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup.

God hates the wicked with a perfect hatred. And God’s righteousness demands that He must punish them in Hell with fire and brimstone forever more.

“There Came a Great King” (Ecclesiastes 9:14, Psalm 48:1-3, 47:1-9, Romans 7:1-2,4)

Ecclesiastes 9:14
There was a little city, and little men within it; and there came a great king against it, and besieged it, and built great bulwarks against it:

Who does this great King represent?

Is it Solomon?

No, it could not be Solomon, because Solomon was the wisest of all in his lifetime, and yet a poor wise man turned this siege around.

Could it be Pharaoh, the king of Egypt?

No, it could not be Pharaoh, because we have no record in the Bible that any such thing happened. But remember that this parable must display great wisdom, and it must refer to the true Gospel. Therefore this parable does not refer to an earthly king, but God. I suggest to you that that this great King is no one else than God.

Do I have Scriptural evidence for that?

Yes I do!

Let us turn to the Psalms again. In Psalm 48 there is great rejoicing over the city of God, which in the Old Testament times referred to Jerusalem. This cannot be the meaning today, since “Jerusalem which now is, is in bondage with her children”.

That is what the New Testament declares. In its place we have now “the city of the living God”, the heavenly Jerusalem, which represents “the church of the Firstborn”, both in heaven and on this earth. If we are saved we are members of the heavenly Jerusalem. This must be how we presently interpret this Psalm. So, let us begin to read Psalm 48:1-3,

Psalm 48:1
Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, (in) the mountain of his holiness.

Psalm 48:2

Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King.

Psalm 48:3

God is known in her palaces for a refuge.

Here God is known as The Great King who rules over His elect people, in heaven as well as on earth. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” according to Psalm 46:1.

But there is more. Let us now look at Psalm 47:1.

Psalm 47:1
To the chief Musician, A Psalm for the sons of Korah.
O clap your hands, all ye people; shout unto God with the voice of triumph.

Psalm 47:2
For the LORD most high is terrible; he is a great King over all the earth.

Psalm 47:3
He shall subdue the people under us, and the nations under our feet.

Psalm 47:4
He shall choose our inheritance for us, the excellency of Jacob whom he loved. Selah.

Here God is described as “a great King over all the earth”. He rules, not only over all the elect, but also over all the reprobate. He is King of kings and Lord of lords right now. And God repeats this:

Psalm 47:5
God is gone up with a shout, the LORD with the sound of a trumpet.

Psalm 47:6

Sing praises to God, sing praises: sing praises unto our King, sing praises.

Psalm 47:7
For God is the King of all the earth: sing ye praises with understanding.

Psalm 47:8
God reigneth over the heathen: God sitteth upon the throne of his holiness.

Psalm 47:9
The princes of the people are gathered together, even the people of the God of Abraham: for the shields of the earth belong unto God: he is greatly exalted.

Beautifully is God’s sovereignty on display here in Psalm 47.
Twice in this Psalm is God described as the Great King over all the earth. Therefore we can safely suggest that the Great King in Ecclesiastes 9:14 is God. We now turn again to Ecclesiastes 9:14. There we read that the Great King, God, came and besieged the little city, the world of sinners, and He built great bulwarks against it. These bulwarks are not for the city’s protection. These great bulwarks are great siege-works with which He is going to invade the city and destroy it. As the walls around the cities became higher and higher, the siege towers that were rolled unto the walls also became higher and higher. Enormous towers were built up to 150 feet high. That is 10 times higher than an average building. Then the towers were rolled to the walls of the city and battering rams were placed in the lower part of the towers, and the pounding of the walls could be heard day and night. Those were fearful times.

But what are these siege-works here in Ecclesiastes 9:14 representing?

With what is God surrounding and besieging the world of sinners?

With the Law. God is encompassing them about with the Law of God, and the Law shuts them up. All the world is under siege, because they have been unfaithful to the Law of God.

In Romans 7:1-2 God explains why we are under attack by the Law. In this chapter God defines our relationship to the Law of God: From the moment we are born into this world we are married to the Law of God until death separates us. This may sound strange if you have never heard this, but that is what God declares here in Romans 7:1-2.

Romans 7:1
Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth?

Romans 7:2

For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband.

Just like the woman who is bound by the Law to her husband, until death causes a separation, so we are bound to our husband, the Law, until we die or until the Law dies. And as long as we are under the Law and we violate the Law in one way or another, our husband, the Law, accuses us of being an unfaithful wife, and our husband, the Law, demands that we suffer the penalty for such unfaithful behavior. That penalty is the 2nd death, which is spending an eternity in the Lake of Fire. That is how the entire human race is bound for Hell and is in need of salvation. Well, the Law does not die.

How then can we be saved from our slippery slide into Hell?

Verse 4 explains it:

Romans 7:4
Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.

If we belong to the elect of God, then we died with Christ when He died on the cross. Then the conditions are in place for God the Holy Spirit to raise us from our spiritual deadness, by making us “Born Again”. But for the rest of the world God continues to tarry, and God continues to build His bulwarks; God continues to be longsuffering until the last of His elect is brought in. The longsuffering of God means that there is time to bring salvation to some. Let us now return to Ecclesiastes 9:15.

“There Was a Poor Wise Man” (Ecclesiastes 9:15, 2 Corinthians 8:9, Philippians 2:7, Genesis 18:23-24, 19:22, Proverbs 3:19)

Ecclesiastes 9:15
Now there was found in it (in that city) a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same poor man.

Who does that poor wise man represent?

That poor wise man represents the Lord Jesus Christ.

Was He wise?

No question about that. He is God the Son. No man was wiser than He.

But was He also poor?

The Bible says that He came into the world so poor that He was born in a stable and He had an animal feed trough for His bed. Also God says in 2 Corinthians 8:9,

2 Corinthians 8:9
For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.

He laid down His glory that He had as God the Son, and came down for our sakes as the poorest of the poor, so that “we through His poverty might be rich”. In this way the Lord Jesus gave us an example of where we must place our priorities. Listen to what God says in Philippians 2:7,

Philippians 2:7
(Christ) made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:

Here again the Lord Jesus Christ gave us an example how we must live. Our reputation does not count. We are left on this earth because we are here as servants of God, serving Him in our capacity as men. We are appointed as ambassadors of Christ in this world of men, and we are to serve God by serving men.

But what are we to make of the words in Ecclesiastes 9:15 that this “poor wise man, who is Christ, by his wisdom delivered the city”?

The Lord Jesus Christ did not deliver, or save, the entire world; did He?

But if we dig into the Hebrew text, we see that the word that has been translated “delivered” has the meaning of “made to escape”. Christ did not really save all people in the entire world, but He made this world to escape the destruction that the Law of God requires for their sins.

How did Christ deliver this world?

He came to bring the Bread of Life to this world. He came to give Himself as a ransom for many. He suffered in their place the penalty due to the sins of many, so that they, the many, would not have the Law as their enemy. This is how this wise man delivered the city. Christ saved many of the world, but those many still constitute only a small fraction of the whole. So this wise man saved some so that the whole city would not be destroyed.

Does God not destroy the world because there are some in the world who have all their sins forgiven?

Yes, indeed!

This is a fundamental principle that God laid down in Genesis 19.

Do you remember why Genesis 19 is an important chapter?

It is because this is the chapter where Lot was rescued out of Sodom, and in that story God laid down the principles for the Rapture of Believers on the Last Day. Perhaps you remember that God told Abraham that God was going to destroy Sodom. And Abraham was shocked, because his nephew Lot lived in the city of Sodom. Then Abraham approached God and said in Genesis 18:23:

Genesis 18:23
And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?

Genesis 18:24
Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein?

And God said, “If I find in Sodom 50 righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes”.

Then Abraham drove down the bargain until he got down to ten righteous within the city of Sodom. And God promised, “I will not destroy it for ten’s sake”. But what Abraham did not know was that God would not destroy the city if there would be found only one righteous person in the city. This information we get out of Genesis 19:22, where God said to Lot:

Genesis 19:22
Haste thee, escape thither (to Zoar); for I cannot do any thing till thou be come thither. Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar.

God would not destroy Sodom until Lot had arrived safe and secure in the city of Zoar. God said, “I cannot do any thing till thou be come thither”. Literally: “I am not able to speak a word until you have come there”. God promised to us, there in Genesis 19, that He would not destroy the world until the last of the elect has been raptured out of the world. Presently the world is not destroyed because there are living here a few saints for whom Christ suffered and died. This is how Christ, by His wisdom, made the world escape the destruction that the Law of God requires for their sins.

But why does Ecclesiastes 9:15 say, “by His wisdom”?

I must come back to that verse in Proverbs that I have used so often, Proverbs 3:19,”The LORD by wisdom hath founded the earth; by understanding hath he established the heavens”.

It means that all of God’s creation, heaven and hell, man and angels, salvation and condemnation, were created by God in His wisdom and in His understanding of how everything would fit together. When the Lord Jesus Christ atoned for the sins of many, He by His wisdom delivered the many from the curse of sin, and He by His wisdom executed the death sentence on Satan and all his messengers. No one understood these things clearly until God declared these things in the New Testament. Now we understand that in Ecclesiastes 9:15 the poor wise man, by His wisdom, delivered the city in this way.

“Yet, He Was Not Remembered” (Ecclesiastes 9:15, 1 Peter 2:6-8)

Ecclesiastes 9:15
Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same poor man.

Why did no man remember the work of salvation of the Lord Jesus Christ?

We must remember that the city represents the world of sinners that was kept from destruction because some saints lived among them. We all came into the world as sinners. But when God saved us by renewing our soul, we were transformed into saints. We now love the Lord Jesus Christ and we remember His work of salvation for us on the cross. But of the world of sinners no one remembers what the cross of Christ stood for. No one seeks after God, because the Father does not draw them to Jesus to see the truths of the Gospel of grace alone, by Christ alone, and by Scripture alone. No one believes the Bible alone and no one believes that God’s salvation is by grace alone. No one remembers what our forefathers already understood during the Reformation. They may say that they believe the Bible, but if they deny the sovereignty of God, if they introduce their own works into their plan of salvation, then they have simply twisted the Word of God to their own destruction. It is in this way that “no man remembered that same poor man”.

Did God not know when He created them, that these people would remain unsaved and that they would not glorify Him?

Absolutely yes!

God knows what vessels unto honor and vessels unto dishonor He made. God wrote about it in Romans 9, and also here in 1 Peter 2:6-8 where God speaks about the building of a spiritual house of which Christ is the chief cornerstone.

1 Peter 2:6
Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded (or “ashamed”).

1 Peter 2:7
Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner,

1 Peter 2:8

And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.

Therefore, of all those who were appointed to stumble at the Word, no one remembered what the cross of Christ stood for. It was in this way that “no man remembered that same poor man”.

Please turn again to Ecclesiastes chapter 9. We will continue with verse 16.

“Wisdom Is Better Than Strength” (Ecclesiastes 9:16-17)

This does sound good, doesn’t it?

We all like such positive statements of “mind over matter”. We had that in the back of our mind all along. But that is not the whole verse. We read in Ecclesiastes 9:16,

Ecclesiastes 9:16
Then said I, Wisdom is better than strength: nevertheless the poor man’s wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard.

Why does it now refer to despising?

Verse 16 says, “the poor man’s wisdom is despised”

We find in verse 15, “no man remembered that same poor man”.

How does the negative act of “not remembering” lead to the positive act of “despising”?

If someone does not remember my words, it does not mean that he despises me. I am just a human being. But if God says something and we do not remember, or ignore, His words, then we despise His words, and therefore we despise Him. That is why unbelievers, who are in the church but remain unsaved, are raked over the coals for their unbelief, literally, because they have heard the Gospel many times but they do not think it important enough to remember what God has said. They do not remember because they despise His words. This also proves correct my suggestion that the “poor wise man” represents the Lord Jesus Christ. If he were just a human being, no one would have suggested that “the poor man’s wisdom is despised”. His wisdom was expressed in words. Christ brought the Gospel to mankind. But His words are no longer heard, because Christ’s wisdom is despised.

Who are those that despise the Word of God?

How dare they?

Well, don’t blame people that are far away. We should look around in our own church, and perhaps point the finger at ourselves.

Is it not true that every local church has unsaved people within it?

Some churches have a few and others have plenty. God has built into the local church a certain amount of potential destruction from within. This is the reason why so many churches are falling away. Most of those churches are not besieged from outside, but from within. That is why we must always be on our guard for those who want to take away God’s sovereignty and God’s righteousness. These are two of God’s major attributes, which dominate God’s plan of salvation. God’s sovereignty concerning man and God’s righteousness concerning Christ are the dominant features of God’s plan of salvation. But look also at the ingratitude of wicked men toward the salvation that was provided. A salvation that cost Christ everything He had, but it comes to us so free and so full of grace. But God is not mocked. God simply takes this Gospel and brings it to another part of the world where it will be heard gladly, until it has been heard through the entire world. God’s wisdom is better than strength. His wisdom is heard in quiet places where God the Holy Spirit has come to revive the souls of men. That is why God says in Ecclesiastes 9:17,

Ecclesiastes 9:17
The words of wise men are heard in quiet more than the cry of him that ruleth among fools.

Who are the wise?

They are those who have become saved and have experienced the grace of God. The words of the wise are heard in quiet places, where they speak about the Word of God and about the things God has done for them. The cries of the rulers of the world are given very little attention in those quiet places.

What are those quiet places?

They are the churches and the meeting places of true believers. They want to hear about God’s wisdom, because they are interested in everything that glorifies their Redeemer. They realize that:

“Wisdom Is Better Than Weapons of War” (Ecclesiastes 9:18)

Ecclesiastes 9:18
Wisdom is better than weapons of war: but one sinner destroyeth much good.

The wisdom of this poor wise man delivered the city. The wisdom of God through Christ is the wisdom unto salvation. The Roman rulers, conquerors of the world, sought to extinguish the church through persecution. But God in His wisdom turned their plans around. As a result the church of the Lord Jesus Christ conquered the Roman Empire. The rulers of the Jews sought to destroy the Lord Jesus Christ. They caused Him to be crucified and die. But the wisdom of God turned their plans around. The result was that many Christians, meaning of the family of Christ, appeared and continued the work of Christ on a much greater scale. This is the clearest example of “Wisdom is better than weapons of war”.

But then God continued saying in verse 18, “But one sinner destroyeth much good”. Notice the contrasts that are painted in verses 16, and 17, and 18. The first half of each verse refers to those who have been saved, and the second half of each verse refers to those who remain in unbelief. That is what is in view in verse 18: Wisdom is better than weapons of war in conquering the entire Roman Empire. But one sinner from among the unsaved is able to destroy much good. By not remembering the words of Christ, they are forgetting the doctrines of God’s grace. They end up despising the doctrines of grace, and thereby despising Christ. Now they want to deliver themselves in their own way, not knowing that God will then besiege them with the Law of God, because they have no Savior. Once they are despising Christ they no longer have a Savior. They are destroying much good by dragging others with them into the pit of Hell. But God will be merciful to some, because our God delights in mercy. According to verse 17 the Gospel penetrates quietly into the hearts of men, by the grace of God.

Is this not a beautiful parable?

Pity those people who hold to the theory that everything in the Bible must be explained in a historical fashion. They have not a clue how to explain this parable.


By Alfred Chompff


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