In 2:1, Solomon decided to pursue all of the sensual pleasures that life has to offer; he immersed himself in such and thoroughly enjoyed himself. However, the outcome was the same as the pursuit of wisdom, it was pointless! "Laughter" and "mirth" both get old after a while. They do not truly satisfy or accomplish anything. Solomon even used alcohol during some of these investigations. It didn't lead him to the answers for which he was searching. The king is examining all of these things to see what is worthwhile for men to do. He does not recommend any of these things he has considered thus far.
Beginning in 2:4, he listed at least eight categories of his works in which he claimed greatness: (1) houses, (2) vineyards, (3) gardens and orchards, (4) water pools, (5) servants, (6) herds and flocks, (7) silver, gold, and special treasures, and (8) singers. Depending upon the translation one is using, there is likely a ninth category. The NJKV mentions "musical instruments" while Hebrew scholars Keil and Delitzsch prefer the rendering "mistresses." Either rendering is certainly possible. We know that Solomon had many lovers (cf. I Kings 11:3); he probably had many musical instruments also to go along with his singers.
In all of Solomon's many accomplishments, he tried to remain objective as he searched for purpose to life. He came to an interesting conclusion in 2:10. "For my heart rejoiced in all my labor; and this was my reward." Did you catch that? Solomon affirmed that the reward is the joy of labor itself! Finally, here is something of some value! Man should find fulfillment and reward in the things he does--as he does them (cf. 2:24; 3:22; 5:18)! However, there is no profit after the labor is over; the completed task is also vain. Once the work is done, there is no longer satisfaction. In physical terms, Solomon seems to be suggesting that it is the journey--not the destination--which is truly worthwhile.
The king declared again in 2:11 - "All was vanity and grasping for the wind. There was no profit under the sun." Solomon discredited the value of the previously mentioned great works (cf. 2:4-8). If only our society (and many who claim to follow Christ) would realize this great truth! The accumulation of things is pointless; money cannot buy happiness; sensual experiences are meaningless; pleasure is futile. Purpose and fulfillment in life are not found in catering to one's physical desires!
We will continue this series tomorrow.