It's not until you fully understand the scope of this world's problems that you can fully appreciate God's good and perfect solution.
Read / Listen to the chapter:
Read the chapter in an outlined format
Ecclesiastes 7 (ESV)
1 A good name
is better than precious ointment,
and the day of death
[better] than the day of birth.
2 It is better
to go to the house of mourning
than to go to the house of feasting,
for this is the end of all mankind,
and the living will lay it to heart.
3 Sorrow is better
by sadness of face
the heart is made glad.
heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.
5 It is better for a man
to hear the rebuke of the wise
than to hear the song of fools.
6 For as the crackling of thorns under a pot,
so is the laughter of the fools;
this also is vanity.
oppression drives the wise into madness,
and a bribe corrupts the heart.
8 Better is
the end of a thing
than its beginning,
and the patient in spirit is better
than the proud in spirit.
9 Be not quick in your spirit to become angry,
for anger lodges in the heart of fools.
10 Say not, “Why were the former days better than these?”
For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.
is good with an inheritance,
an advantage to those who see the sun.
12 For the protection of wisdom
is like the protection of money,
and the advantage of knowledge
is that wisdom preserves the life of him who has it.
13 Consider the work of God:
who can make straight
what he has made crooked?
14 In the day of prosperity
and in the day of adversity
God has made
as well as the other,
so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.
15 In my vain life I have seen everything.
There is a righteous man
who perishes in his righteousness,
and there is a wicked man
who prolongs his life in his evildoing.
16 Be not overly righteous,
and do not make yourself too wise.
Why should you destroy yourself?
17 Be not overly wicked,
neither be a fool.
Why should you die before your time?
18 It is good
that you should take hold of this,
and from that withhold not your hand,
the one who fears God
shall come out from both of them.
19 Wisdom gives strength
to the wise man
more than ten rulers who are in a city.
20 Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who
and never sins.
21 Do not take to heart all the things that people say,
lest you hear your servant cursing you.
22 Your heart knows that many times you yourself have cursed others.
23 All this I have tested by wisdom.
I said, “I will be wise,”
but it was far from me.
24 That which has been
is far off,
who can find it out?
25 I turned my heart
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.
26 And I find something more bitter than death:
whose heart is snares and nets,
and whose hands are fetters.
He who pleases God escapes her,
but the sinner is taken by her.
27 Behold, this is what I found, says the Preacher,
while adding one thing to another to find the scheme of things—
my soul has sought repeatedly,
but I have not found.
One man among a thousand I found,
but a woman among all these I have not found.
29 See, this alone I found,
that God made man upright,
but they have sought out many schemes.
Read the chapter on BibleGateway
Definitions of key terms in Ecclesiastes which make it much easier to understand.
Ecclesiastes 7 Summary
The Preacher stacks several proverbs up in this chapter that all have one thing in common: they pit the world's understanding of good with what is actually good.
The most famous of these proverbs comes in v2:
It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.
Certainly this doesn't seem to make sense. How could it possibly be better to enter into a room full of weeping and crying rather than a room filled with good food and fun times?
But it's through understanding these surprising contrasts that you'll actually be able to fully enjoy life. It's only when you realize how fleeting life is by going to the house of mourning that you will truly appreciate life's feasts.
The Preacher, a character based on the life of King Solomon, saw everything in life (v15) - he was able to do and experience things most people could never even dream of - and he tested these all of these things by wisdom (v23).
What he found was a sorry world that was full of hevel - the Hebrew word that we've read so often in Ecclesiastes, translated as vanity, emptiness, meaninglessness - hevel is like a wisp of smoke or steam that you can see and touch and feel, but can never really grab on to.
But why is this? How can a universe that God repeatedly described as being Good be such a meaningless mess?
The Preacher reports his ultimate conclusion in v29: