From the proverbs, you might expect some repetition in wisdom books, and Ecclesiastes does not disappoint us. There is more than a bit of repetition here.
The writer repeatedly tells us that wisdom is important, despite the fact that it is so often ignored. You see it plainly in the little story he tells at the end of chapter eight. A poor man saves his city through his wisdom, but because he is poor, he is not honored and it isn’t long before no one pays any attention to him at all. This is far from what we would call “fair,” but if there’s one thing that rings true in Ecclesiastes, it is that life is far from what we would call “fair.”
Why does life have to be this way?
The wise author doesn’t say. In fact, he says he doesn’t know: “When I applied my mind to know wisdom and to observe man’s labor on earth—his eyes not seeing sleep day or night— then I saw all that God has done. No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all his efforts to search it out, man cannot discover its meaning. Even if a wise man claims he knows, he cannot really comprehend it” (8:16-17).
What he does know is that God understands, and His approval is most important of all.