Better a poor but wise youth than an old but foolish king who no longer knows how to heed a warning. The youth may have come from prison to the kingship, or he may have been born in poverty within his kingdom. I saw that all who lived and walked under the sun followed the youth, the king’s successor. There was no end to all the people who were before them. But those who came later were not pleased with the successor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
It is the final three sentences that stands out to me because they give a snapshot of political reality. We get very excited by the prospect of replacing our current leaders; we want to buy into everything the new candidates say; we want to believe. But within a very short time, the new leader seems mostly seems merely a warped clone of the person we just got rid of. The new policies end up giving us problems that might be different than the old problems, but they are problems all the same. The new person makes new mistakes and before we know it we’re unhappy and looking for a replacement and hoping the next election will bring us the real change we need. Rinse. Repeat.
As the author of Ecclesiastes concludes the chapter: “this too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” Ecclesiastes is not a book to give us happiness; it seems designed to simply confront us with the world as it is, as if to remind us of why we’re perpetually dissatisfied.
I think what the author means to tell us is that if we’re looking for something outside ourselves “under the sun” to solve our trouble or bring us happiness, we will be perpetually miserable. Politicians are never going to bring us the rainbows and unicorns we want.