Ecclesiastes 2 – Opportunities of Life & Tel El-Kheleifeh

Solomon conducted his search for life’s meaning as an experiment. The first thing he tried to satisfy himself with was pleasure. He bought more slaves, herds, and flocks. He surrounded himself with jesters, singers, and many beautiful women. This still did not satisfy him.

He referred to it as “chasing after the wind.” We can feel it when it passes but we can’t grasp it or keep hold of it. He believed that we must not base ourselves on the pursuit of happiness, but on the solid foundation of God. He said this because our accomplishments, wealth, and materials mean nothing after death.

1 I said in mine heart, Go to now, I will prove thee with mirth, therefore enjoy pleasure: and, behold, this also is vanity.

2 I said of laughter, It is mad: and of mirth, What doeth it?

3 I sought in mine heart to give myself unto wine, yet acquainting mine heart with wisdom; and to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was that good for the sons of men, which they should do under the heaven all the days of their life.

4 I made me great works; I builded me houses; I planted me vineyards:

5 I made me gardens and orchards, and I planted trees in them of all kind of fruits:

6 I made me pools of water, to water therewith the wood that bringeth forth trees:

7 I got me servants and maidens, and had servants born in my house; also I had great possessions of great and small cattle above all that were in Jerusalem before me:

8 I gathered me also silver and gold, and the peculiar treasure of kings and of the provinces: I gat me men singers and women singers, and the delights of the sons of men, as musical instruments, and that of all sorts.

9 So I was great, and increased more than all that were before me in Jerusalem: also my wisdom remained with me.

10 And whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy; for my heart rejoiced in all my Labour: and this was my portion of all my Labour.

11 Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the Labour that I had labored to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.

12  And I turned myself to behold wisdom, and madness, and folly: for what can the man do that cometh after the king? even that which hath been already done.

13 Then I saw that wisdom excelleth folly, as far as light excelleth darkness.

14 The wise man’s eyes are in his head; but the fool walketh in darkness: and I myself perceived also that one event happeneth to them all.

15 Then said I in my heart, As it happeneth to the fool, so it happeneth even to me; and why was I then more wise? Then I said in my heart, that this also is vanity.

16 For there is no remembrance of the wise more than of the fool forever; seeing that which now is in the days to come shall all be forgotten. And how dieth the wise man? as the fool.

17 Therefore I hated life; because the work that is wrought under the sun is grievous unto me: for all is vanity and vexation of spirit.

18  Yea, I hated all my Labour which I had taken under the sun: because I should leave it unto the man that shall be after me.

19 And who knoweth whether he shall be a wise man or a fool? yet shall he have rule over all my Labour wherein I have labored, and wherein I have shewed myself wise under the sun. This is also vanity.

20 Therefore I went about to cause my heart to despair of all the Labour which I took under the sun.

21 For there is a man whose Labour is in wisdom, and in knowledge, and in equity; yet to a man that hath not labored therein shall he leave it for his portion. This also is vanity and a great evil.

22 For what hath man of all his Labour, and of the vexation of his heart, wherein he hath labored under the sun?

23 For all his days are sorrows, and his travail grief; yea, his heart taketh not rest in the night. This is also vanity.

24  There is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat
and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his Labour. This also I saw, that it was from the hand of God.

25 For who can eat, or who else can hasten hereunto, more than I?

26 For God giveth to a man that is good in his sight wisdom, and knowledge, and joy: but to the sinner he giveth travail, to gather and to heap up, that he may give to him that is good before God. This also is vanity and vexation of spirit.

Tel El-Kheleifeh

Solomon’s Seaport at Ezion-geber
The cedar from Lebanon was brought by sea to Joppa for the building of Solomon’s temple (2 Chr 2:16). But that port was not adequate to meet Israel’s needs.

Scripture informs us that Solomon built a fleet of ships at Ezion-geber.
“King Solomon built a fleet of ships at Ezion-geber, which is near Eloth on the shore of the Red Sea, in the land of Edom. And Hiram sent with the fleet his servants, seamen who were familiar with the sea, together with the servants of Solomon. And they went to Ophir and brought from there gold, 420 talents, and they brought it to King Solomon (1Kgs 9:26-28 ESV).

Then Solomon went to Ezion-geber and Eloth on the shore of the sea, in the land of Edom. And Hiram sent to him by the hand of his servants ships and servants familiar with the sea, and they went to Ophir together with the servants of Solomon and brought from there 450 talents of gold and brought it to King Solomon (2 Chr 8:17-18 ESV).

Ezion-geber is said to be near Eloth (Elat, Elath, in some English versions). We pointed out in the previous post that Nelson Glueck thought he had located Ezion-geber at Tell el-Kheleifeh and that it was the same as Eloth.

In 1962 Beno Rothenberg demonstrated that the installation at Tell el-Kheleifeh could not have been for copper smelting.
In 1965 Glueck wrote an article in which he agreed with Rothenberg.
This means that Tell el-Kheleifeh may not be Ezion-geber.

Tell el-Kheleifeh was once thought to have been the site of Ezion Geber, a port city of Solomon.  The site is located atop a small hillock in Jordan, approximately 547 yards (500 m) from the northern shore of the Gulf of Aqaba in the Red Sea.

But scholars now recognize a lack of conclusive evidence for identifying Tell el-Kheleifeh with Ezion Geber. Early assumptions that a large-scale smelting operation took place there during Solomon’s reign can no longer be sustained.

If Tell el-Kheleifeh was unoccupied during Solomon’s time it could have been Ezion Geber.  Although some pottery fragments at the site attest to occupation as far back as the 8th century B.C., little evidence exists for an earlier occupation.

Remains of Tell el-Kheleifeh

The earliest level at Tell el-Kheleifeh includes a four-room house measuring 40 sq. ft., surrounded by mud-brick casemate wall measuring 135 sq. ft.  the structure may have served a variety of functions, possibly including use as a storehouse and as a citadel.

A later phase expanded the site; it included a wall spanning 180 ft. on all sides, along with a four-chambered gate in the southern wall.  While further excavation at this site  may uncover a clearer picture of its sage, identity and function, the current dearth of an archaeological evidence severely limits firm conclusions.

It is important to recognize that the identification of Tell el-Kheleifeh with Ezion Geber has not been disproved; in fact, some archaeologists believe that such an equation is still possible.  But there is no extant evidence that Tell el-Kheleifeh was occupied in Solomon’s time.

Although Solomon was a capable builder, many of his works seem nowhere to be found.  Some sites once thought to be Solomonic have proved not to be so.  The grand works alluded to in Ecclesiastes 2 have, for the most part, simply been lost.  Perhaps we so well to look on this as a metaphor reflecting that they were indeed – at least some sense – “meaningless.”

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