The Vanity of Dominion

See full series: 2019-sermons
See full series: studies-in-ecclesiastes

The Vanity of Dominion

Sermon by  Thomas Thornhill Jr

Passage: Ecclesiastes 2:7




As we continue our study of Ecclesiastes, we are finding how Solomon found vanity in all earthly pursuits.   We have addressed – laughter & mirth, wine & substances, and luxury and recreation. Today, as we continue, we want to talk about having servant and the vanity of dominion.


  1. Dominion – to exercise authority over, or to rule over.
  2. God has given man dominion over His creation – Genesis 1:26-28.
  3. But with dominion comes a level of power or authority, and responsibility.
    Genesis 2:15, when Adam was put in the garden of Eden, he was to tend and keep it. There were rules he was expected to follow.   We must never forget that this creation is here for our enjoyment, but also we are called upon to take care of it (while understanding it is here for our use).
    Luke 12:48 tells us that to whom much is given, from him much will be required…
  4. But many today are consumed with power and dominion over others.     They take pleasure in oppressing

Male and female servants

  1. Slavery is an unpleasant and difficult Biblical topic, but it is something we need to address.   The Bible’s teaching about slavery is a basis for its rejection by some today. Because we find it mentioned in both the Old and New Testaments, it needs to be addressed. Here we will briefly mention a few thoughts.   A more in-depth study can be made at a later time (including our upcoming class on evidences)..
    1. Slavery was a part of cultures and lands in Bible times.   We find information about slavery in the Babylonian, Egyptian, Assyrian and even Roman Empire (where it is estimated there was more than 50 million slaves in the empire).   The children of Israel became slaves in Egypt when an ungodly Pharaoh arose.
    2. In these empires, slaves were treated as nothing more than property to be used and abused at will. They had no rights at times (though in time, some empires began to grant some rights).
    3. Because of this, it was regulated in the Bible. Most slavery under the LOM, was the result of defeated nations (spoils of battle), or indentured servants (one who sold himself as a way to provide for family, etc., or the result of debt.
    4. As you study the Bible, it is reasonable to conclude that God never intended for men to be treated as property.  But, because of culture, it was tolerated and regulated.
    5. But under the LOM, slaves were not mere pieces of property.   They had rights and were to be treated as part of one’s household, especially their brethren.
      Examples of regulations include:

      1. Leviticus 25:43 – not to be ruled over with rigor (harshness), but with the fear of God.
      2. Deuteronomy 23:15-16 – an escaped slave was not to be returned to his master, but was permitted to dwell with the one they escaped to.   Nor were they to be oppressed
      3. Deuteronomy 23:17 – there was to be no “ritual harlots” of the daughters of Israel.
      4. Exodus 21:16 – kidnapping a man and selling him as a slave brought the death penalty (this is akin to the type of slavery in early American history).
      5. Exodus 21:20-21 – punishment for beating a servant to death
      6. Exodus 21:26-27 – to strike a servant so that he loses his/her eye or tooth, they were to be set free.   This show that they were to be treated humanely
      7. Exodus 20:10 – on the Sabbath, they were to rest, and were not permitted to work..
      8. We do not understand all the details behind this, thus we need to be careful in passing judgment on the character of God.
    6. In the NT, again slavery was acknowledged (because it was part of the Roman Empire), but it is clear that it was NOT preferred.   This is seen by numerous instructions given.
      1. The book of Philemon – Onesimus was an escaped slave, return to Philemon his master, now as a brother and urged to be accepted as such.
      2. 1 Corinthians 12:13, Galatians 3:27-28 – we are all baptized into one body, whether slave or free – to be treated equally before God.   NOT as property.
      3. 1 Corinthians 7:20-24 – the call to remain in the calling (state) that you were called.   Vs. 21 – notes that if you are a slave, don’t be concerned about it, BUT if you can be made free, rather use it.
      4. Ephesians 6:5-9, Regulations for both masters and slaves bear out the humane treatment expected as Christians. This was in stark contrast to Roman regulations about their slaves.
      5. Colossians 4:1, masters were to treat their bondservants with what is just and fair, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven (to whom you will answer – TT),
      6. And do not forget the analogy of slavery to sin and Satan as evil and slavery to God (as a benevolent Master) contrasted. And lest you balk at that, consider that we are actually His children and heirs.
      7. In NT times, the hope was that in time, slavery would be done away with.   When men learned to treat each other as they should, it would be.
      8. Slavery is NOT the way of God.
  2. But in our text, Solomon acquired slaves, both to work his house and for entertainment (vs. 8), but his conclusion was that such is vanity.
  3. But, there is also the concept of servants, where one has the resources to hire one to tend to personal needs. While not wrong within itself, and perhaps even a good thing, such can lend to ungodly attitudes.
    1. It can lead to pride – The Biblical concept of humility defeats this attitude – Romans 12:3, Ephesians 6:9 & Colossians 4:1 where masters are to treat their bondservants justly and fair, because “you also have a Master in heaven.”
    2. Often, leaders and the successful in society have a tendency to look down upon others and view those who are “under” them as inferior.
      Racism is an example of this (Matthew 7:1-5), and so is looking down on the poor (James 2:1-9 – this is class conflict).
    3. Psalm 10:2-11 – the wicked oppresses the poor.   Psalm 73:5-8
      Proverbs 14:31, He who oppresses the poor reproaches his Maker, But he who honors Him has mercy on the needy.
      Ecclesiastes 5:8, If you see the oppression of the poor, and the violent perversion of justice and righteousness in a province, do not marvel at the matter; for high official watches over high official, and higher officials are over them.
    4. We are to be compassionate – James 1:27, cf. Matthew 25:31-46.
      Often the affluent are not. They look down upon and despise the poor.
      Isaiah 3:14-15, What do you mean by crushing My people And grinding the faces of the poor?” Says the Lord God of hosts. One of many passages from the prophets noting their condemnation.
      Matthew 23:14 – Jesus condemned the scribes and Pharisees because of this.
      Proverbs 14:31, He who oppresses the poor, reproaches his Maker.   But he who honors Him has mercy on the needy.
    5. 1 Timothy 6:17-19 summarizes the attitude of the wealthy.
  4. I believe this is what Solomon was addressing in this verse. Solomon may not have been looking down on anyone, but there are many with wealth that do. And he had at his disposal whatever he wanted, and he used it – power, money and fame to seek meaning, but found none in that.   Like everything else, it was vanity.

In this lesson, we are again reminded that putting our ultimate trust in this life is vanity. Solomon had the means and he looked everywhere.   His conclusion was right.   What is our conclusion as we search for meaning?   Think about it.