-Introduction: Late in King Solomon’s reign over Israel, around 3,000 years ago, a wise man looked back at a life filled with so much material opulence, yet there were some profound things missing. The son of David and ancestor to the Messiah writes under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God to spare future generations from living a life of futility and despair when lived apart from the fear of the Almighty LORD. Nihilism is the only recourse when one does not abide in the truths of the Heavenly Father. In other words, everything becomes empty and meaningless separated from the one-true living God. People cannot find true and lasting joy in anything this corrupted-sinful world has to offer. This is wisdom literature on the meaning of life with antidotes designed to bring one to the end of themselves and trust in the Savior. Therefore, the key verses in this book are the last two, “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).” The structure of this work can be outlined as follows: 1. Solomon’s personal experience (Ecclesiastes 1:1-2:26), 2. Solomon’s general observations (Ecclesiastes 3:1-5:20), 3. Solomon’s practical counsel (Ecclesiastes 6:1-8:17), and 4. Solomon’s final conclusion (Ecclesiastes 9:1-12:14). Themes include, but are not limited to: 1. Human seeking and searching, 2. The emptiness of life without God in pursuit of pleasure, intellect, power, and wealth, 3. Work with the wrong motives, 4. The certainty of death and the brevity of life on earth, and 5. Human wisdom verses God’s wisdom. As we read this book from the “Preacher” in a negative and pessimistic tone, let us resolve to abandon the “vanity” of so many things in this life and seek Christ Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). Though Solomon had rightly asked for God’s wisdom in his early years (2 Chronicles 1:7-12) and had become the wisest man in the world (1 Kings 4:29-34), we can relate to the frailty, imperfection, and downward spiral of mankind as we study these important and lasting truths. With humility and repentance, let us examine our own lives, like I believe Solomon did, and grow in our spiritual walk. We need to seek our happiness and fulfillment in God alone, putting every other temporal thing in its proper place. Let’s remember our Creator.
(Ideas extracted from “New American Standard Bible: Life Application Study Bible.” Zondervan: Grand Rapids, MI, 1995, pgs. 1108-1109)
-Chapter 1: The words of the “Preacher” (qoheleth- the collector, public speaker, speaker in the assembly, from which the Septuagint translates ekklesiastes [from which we get ekklesia, or church- the called out for assembly] as the name of this book, translated into English as ecclesiastes), the “son of David,” and “king in Jerusalem” identifies the author as Solomon even though some scholars of higher criticism have asserted that another, or others, wrote this book in a much later period due to the linguistic differences in this book compared to the period of the king some 1,000 years before Christ. I believe findings in Qumran, the overall themes of the book, and textual verification are among the many proofs that Solomon did actually write this inspired Scripture (see “A Popular Survey of the Old Testament” by Norman L. Geisler, Baker Book House: Grand Rapids, MI, 1977, pgs. 213-214 and “The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty, Old Testament” by editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, Victor Books: Wheaton, IL, 1985, pgs. 975-976). The often-given mantra of the book, “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity” begins the contemplation of what is important in life by the Preacher. He jumps right in to a serious question regarding what advantage there is for a man to do all his work under the sun (Deuteronomy 24:19, Proverbs 14:23, 1 Corinthians 10:31, Colossians 3:23). He observes what can be viewed as the meaningless repetitions of life from generation to generation as the sun rises and sets each day, the wind blows in its different directions, and the waters flow back and forth, making all things seem wearisome, unsatisfying, and hard to understand for mankind. From this pessimistic perspective, “That which has been is that which will be, and that which has been done is that which will be done. So, there is nothing new under the sun.” Things exist as they have for ages with no remembrance of earlier things or later things. Future generations don’t even seem to have any hope from this nihilistic vantage point (Ecclesiastes 1:1-10).
-Solomon goes on to tell how he, as the Preacher and king over Israel in Jerusalem, has set his mind to “seek and explore by wisdom” all the things that have been done under heaven by mankind. He concludes that it is a “grievous task” that God has given to the sons of men with much affliction involved. He sees all the works that have been done under the sun by man as “vanity and striving” after the wind. He proclaims cynically, “What is crooked cannot be straightened and what is lacking cannot be counted.” He had said to himself, “I have magnified and increased wisdom more than all who were over Jerusalem before me (a textual proof of Solomon’s authorship here, any imposter to the writing of this text would be an intentional deceiver),” and his mind had observed a wealth of wisdom and knowledge. Yet, as he set his mind to understand wisdom and to know madness and folly, he realized that this also was a “striving after the wind.” Why? “Because in much wisdom there is much grief, and increasing knowledge results in increasing pain (Ecclesiastes 1:11-16).”
-*Application* Life lived without Jesus Christ at the center of it will lead us to improper perspectives and major disappointments. This section of Scripture reminds us of the utter depravity of man in this corrupted-sinful world that is hopeless apart from the redemption of the Savior. Without Christ, even the hardest working plans, most keen observations, and most intellectual pursuits come up empty with affliction, grief, and increasing pain. Thankfully, there is another way (1 Corinthians 15:57-58, 1 John 5:4-5).
Verse to Memorize: Ecclesiastes 1:13