8b I acquired male and female singers, the delights of the sons of men, and musical instruments of all kinds. (Eccl. 2:8b)
Entertainment didn’t cut it for Solomon either. While typically reserved for feasts and banquets, he had for himself male and female singers. If you’re impressed with iTunes or Spotify, imagine what it would be like if you could have live performances at your disposal whenever you wanted. Before you marvel too long at Solomon’s entertainment options, you’d do well to consider how he might have marveled if he knew what would be available to the average Westerner in the 21st century. Who could have imagined screens of all different sizes providing seemingly instant access to music, movies, news, and just about any piece of information one could want? You probably don’t need either Solomon or I to tell you – trying to find fulfillment in the transient distraction of entertainment is vanity (cf. Eccl. 2:11). Sure, Nabal’s feast was festive (1 Sam. 25:36) until his heart died within him and he became like a stone (vs.37). Sure, Herodias’ illicit dancing pleased Herod (Mt. 14:6); in fact, Herod even found John’s preaching entertaining (cf. Mk. 6:20); and this man was so addicted to amusement that when he had the Son of God in front of him he didn’t worship Him; rather, he wanted a miracle to be done by Him (Lk. 23:8).
When enjoyed in proper, non-sinful measures entertainment is fine – there is a time to laugh and dance (Eccl. 3:4). But the entertainment train will inevitably run out of tracks. A trip to the house of mourning provides a reminder of that (Eccl. 7:2), along with moments of forced sobriety where the non-Christian, separated from the anesthetic of frivolity, can think about eternity and their need of Savior, and the Christian can reckon with the temptation to invest a disproportionate amount of time in one escapist fantasy after another instead of serving the God who will enthrall His people forever. Therefore, it behooves men and women to turn down the background noise that is so prevalent around them – the TV, the next YouTube video, the constant alerts of social media, text message notifications, and the like, not because those things are intrinsically evil of themselves, but because such indulgences can be exercises in vanity distracting us from matters of eternal gravity.
Now you may be thinking, per the heading above, “Where does the sexual pleasure part of the equation come in?” Well, in the latter half of Ecclesiastes 2:8, the Hebrew word translated as “musical instruments,” a word that only occurs here in the Old Testament, may refer to “concubines” as the NASB and ESV translations render it. In that case Solomon’s reference to “the delights of the sons of men” has erotic overtones, as it does in the seventh chapter of the Song of Solomon (cf. Song 7:6). That sheer possibility, or perhaps better said – probability, reminds us of the sad reality: Solomon pretty much did not withhold himself from any sexual pleasure. That might sound like hyperbole until you read 1 Kings 11:3 and find out that he had 700 wives and 300 concubines!
His life is a lesson about sexual temptation in many ways but for the moment let us be reminded that if sinful sexual desires are not mortified by the power of the Holy Spirit they will not be satisfied by a thousand people. The missing piece of the satisfaction puzzle is not another sexual experience. In fact, the physical union of a man and a woman, lawfully celebrated and enjoyed within the context of God’s covenant of marriage is meant to point to something infinitely better than itself; namely, the forever spiritual union that exists between Jesus and His church (Eph. 5:31,32; 1 Cor. 6:17). 700 wives and 300 wives cannot take the place of one Jesus.
So let us learn more lessons from Solomon, the end for which we were created is not found in either entertainment or the erotic. Merriment will not bring fulfillment and sexual pleasure is not indefinite. But if you embrace the real and highest reason for human existence – a subject to be developed in the forthcoming Why Am I Here (On Earth)? The Answer series, you will be enthralled forever, experiencing the glorious wonder of God’s presence and the pleasure of the infinitely-better union to which marriage ultimately points.