Why would Qoheleth be disappointed over wisdom? If wisdom is better than foolishness, then what does it lack?
William Pemble writes:
Of the vanity and weakness of it, from the common event that befalls both the wise and the foolish 19; from which no man’s wisdom can exempt himself, not the wisest – even to me – the wisest of men, the same lot befalls that to others: and therefore there is in this respect no cause why a man should study to be more learned than another, which is also a great vanity, verses 14 & 15.
This agreement between wisdom and folly is confirmed by the argument, there are two evils common with the wise man and the fool: (1) Oblivion, the persons and doings both of the wise and foolish shall be forgotten in succeeding ages. (2) Death, which seizes on the wise man as well as on the fool, verse 16.
This agreement between wisdom and folly is amplified by the effect it wrought in Solomon, viz, A hatred of life, as a thing not lovely nor desirable, if it be separated from all true contentment, which he could not find in anything under the sun; all being evil, i.e., troublesome, grievous, vain and vexing, verse 17. Wherein Solomon shows that himself did, and every man will do, as he is a natural man, viz, rather wish for death than miss of comfort and happiness in his life, and desire rather than not to be, than to be perpetually unhappy.
What is the link between death, wisdom and foolishness? Why is this a frustration?
What is the problem with being forgotten? What does he want with remembrance? What is he seeking?
Why does God not give us perpetual remembrance in this life?
Consider the problem of hypocrisy:
Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 6:1 (ESV)
Isn’t memory a form of “being seen”? Whose attention should we seek:
But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. Matthew 6:6 (ESV)
Does God ever forget? Why should we concern ourselves with eternal remembrance upon earth, when the opinion of other human beings should not concern us while we are alive? This is not a minor point: we must either seek glory/opinion of men or we must seek it from God:
How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? John 5:44 (ESV)
Thus, by cutting of the remembrance on earth, God forces us into a place where we must seek glory from God. And, if we do not seek glory from God we cannot have God – we cannot have “faith” and thus we cannot have redemption and salvation in Jesus Christ.
Again, see the pattern with temptation:
1) Wisdom: God says seek glory from me alone. If you seek if from the creature, you cannot have me.
2) Avoid the temptation: Therefore, God cuts us from the temptation – Qoheleth says plainly: it is an undying frustration to seek glory from men, because they can’t give it to you. At most you’ll receive a few years of glory (and not very useful glory at that).
3) Seek the greater glory and joy: But we were created for an “eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor. 4:17). In fact, all troubles in this life, rather than being a means of frustration (which they are when we seek glory from them) become a means, a gateway to the eternal glory of God (2 Cor. 4:16-18; 1 Peter 1:3-9).