Before we look at those verses, let’s consider verses 2-3: “All things come alike to all: ONE EVENT happens to the righteous and the wicked; to the good, the clean, and the unclean; to him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice. As is the good, so is the sinner; He who takes an oath as he who fears an oath. This is an evil in all that is done under the sun: that ONE THING HAPPENS TO ALL. Truly the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil; madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that THEY GO TO THE DEAD” (NKJV). In this book Solomon is an OBSERVER of things “under the sun”; he is on a quest to discover the meaning of life in this present world. He has seen throughout his search that there are RIGHTEOUS people and WICKED people in the world and yet they all share the same fate; THEY ALL GO TO THE DEAD! In Solomon’s thinking (and that of many others) this is “an evil,” which means that death seems to be “an injustice,” for one can live a righteous life and then die, and one can live an insane life of wickedness and die the same death as the righteous.

In verses 4-5 Solomon reverses course and expresses the thought that “life still has its advantages over death.” Let’s read those interesting verses: “But for him who is joined to all the living THERE IS HOPE, for a living dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know they will die; but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten.” Even though all men will die, there is still HOPE in this life. There is an old saying, “Where there is life there is hope” and this is what Solomon is focusing on. What “hope” is he referring to? Hope always refers to “looking forward to something” and thus while one is alive they can consciously look forward to things in life that they can enjoy. They know death is coming, but until the moment where they draw their last breath, they can still enjoy what is good “under the sun” (a glorious sunrise or sunset, a majestic mountain, the love of family, a good job, etc.). He uses a crude analogy to drive home his point, for even a living dog (which was despised in Solomon’s time) has it better than a dead lion (the highest and noblest of all animals).

For those who have died, Solomon says “they know nothing” (all knowledge of life in the world is behind them), “they have no more reward” (all pleasures “under the sun” are gone), and “the memory of them is forgotten” (all praise and honor received from men vanish like the dew with the rising sun).

Before I close, I want to address a terrible false teaching that is based on Solomon’s words, “the dead know nothing.” Some teach that these words imply that when one dies, their “soul sleeps,” which means they are in a state of “unconsciousness.” Again, Solomon is simply stating that when one dies he ceases to have any knowledge of what is going on in this world. We must always interpret scripture in the CONTEXT in which it is found, and thus when one leaves this world “they know nothing” about things “under the sun,” for they are now in a completely different PLACE and CONDITION. The Bible teaches the opposite of “soul sleep,” for when one dies he is very conscious of where he is and his circumstances. This is taught clearly and emphatically in Luke 16:19-31, which I encourage you to read. (280.7) (DO)