Ecclesiastes 2:1 - 3
ESV - 1 I said in my heart, "Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself." But behold, this also was vanity. 2 I said of laughter, "It is mad," and of pleasure, "What use is it?
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In my opinion, Solomon in Ecclesiastes was speaking from the perspective of people "under the sun" (that is, without the knowledge of God, or of His involvement in their lives) because he wanted to "leave no stone unturned" in his search to find meaning and fulfillment in life. Therefore, although he had great wisdom, he included among the paths that he chose to explore in this quest the conscious pursuit of physical pleasure, and also the ways in which he observed people whom he regarded as foolish trying to achieve this fulfillment. As noted in the passage cited in the question, he tried to do it through activities that would amuse him, or by the use of alcohol. He also built great public works, acquired hundreds of wives and servants, planted fruit trees, and acquired great material wealth. However, he finally saw that none of these activities brought him the ultimate fulfillment and meaning that he was seeking, and thus he came to regard the pursuit of them as vanity and folly for anyone who was seeking the purpose of life as he was. Ultimately, he concluded (at the very end of the book) that the "whole duty" of people was to fear God and keep His commandments.
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