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Old Testament Survey

Ecclesiastes




Key Verses

1:2
2:24
12:13, 14


Key Chapters

Chapter 12


Key Concepts

Vanity, empty


Thoughts for Reading

Is life worth living?
How many useless things have you collected?
What good will they do you “in the end?”
What makes life worth living?


Eccles. 12:8
Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity.

Title

In Hebrew the book is titled "Qohelet," a word which either means teacher, preacher, or leader of the assembly. Some, however, understood it to be a proper name. In general, those finding it to be a proper name do not attribute authorship of the book to Solomon. Jewish tradition is that Solomon is the author of this book. The Greek word, which is carried into English as Ecclesiastes, means “one who calls an assembly,” a preacher.

King over Israel

Solomon is most probably the author of the book. There is little direct evidence for this position, but historical external evidence supports the tradition. The internal evidence is stronger, for the author identifies himself as the son of David who is a King over Israel in Jerusalem (1:1, 12). Since verse twelve expands the description of king as “king over Israel in Jerusalem,” Solomon is the only one who meets this description. Further, other description the author gives to himself matches Solomon: increased in wisdom more than all before him (1:16); a builder of great projects (2:4-6), a possessor of many slaves (2:7), herds of sheep and cattle (2:7), and great wealth (2:8), and a claim to be greater than all who lived in Jerusalem before him (2:9).

Another area of disagreement on this book is the unity and structure of the Book Or to state it another way, is there a common theme to the account? At one time, the thought was prevalent that the book was a combination of the contradictory views of a skeptic, a wise man, and a believer. This view has lost favor over the years.

A second view supports the contention that the book is a collection of wisdom sayings built around a very loose theme (wisdom) but having no true structure.

A third view is that the book repeats set formulas throughout, with the addition of an introduction and conclusion. These threads are:

The “cloudiness” of views is set against the present emphasis on literary criticism and an indifference on the part of many to decide the book should be viewed positively throughout or if the work is negative.

A Book of the World

Just as Proverbs is full of contrasts, of good versus bad, with the bad being used to emphasize the position of the good, so should Ecclesiastes be read as the contrast to Proverbs. Where Proverbs contains the positive side of the wisdom of a relatively young Solomon, Ecclesiastes is written later in the King’s life, after he has experienced the “pleasures” of earthly life. These are the same pleasures which face us – wealth, prestige, power, sex, control, fame, and fortune. Solomon looks back on this life of the “rich and famous” and discovers the offerings of the world are not worth anything. Ecclesiastes, then, presents the wisdom of the world.

Viewed in this fashion, Ecclesiastes is Solomon’s effort to demonstrate the futility of life apart from God. He attempts to demolish man’s confidence in his man’s own achievements. The argument is that the “ways which seem right to a man” (Prov 14:12; 16:25) are of little or no use in the face of God.

After all the emptiness of man’s ways, the work concludes on a high point looking to God. The intent, then, is to show that man must walk by faith rather than by sight (2 Cor 5:7). Life’s “surprises” cannot be explained by man. Man cannot understand or comprehend or control much of life.

This all leads to the conclusion that man left to his own devices will find life empty, frustrating, and mysterious – “vanity of vanities.” Natural man will find little under the sun which satisfies all of his desires and needs. The final conclusion of Solomon catches the reader off guard.

Eccles. 12:13-14
Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. 14For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.

Jesus in Ecclesiastes

Against the conclusion, one must look to a Savior to reach God. The perplexity of life is only removed through a personal relationship in Christ. Jesus is the conclusion of the matter!

The Vanities of Ecclesiastes

How many do you seek?

 

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December 15, 2019

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