The Book of Ecclesiastes

Author: Solomon

Date: Tenth century BC

Theme: The vanity of life


Each of the books included in the sacred Canon are unique. This holds true of Ecclesiastes in a special way. Solomon wrote three books in the Bible. He wrote the Song of Solomon while he was young and had only eighty wives and sixty concubines. In his middle years of life he wrote Proverbs, which is a contrast between two women. One woman is the woman of the street, the seductress. The other woman is Lady wisdom. Then in his fading years of life, he wrote this book, Ecclesiastes. At the end of his life he had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines. He had written one thousand five songs and three thousand proverbs. Ecclesiastes has been called the Sphinx of the Bible, for it is grave, majestic, and mysterious.

Ecclesiastes is unique in sacred Canon. Luke wrote his gospel and the sequel, the book of Acts. John wrote his gospel and his triad of books, and Revelation. The Apostle Paul wrote for for a period of about a decade. Only Solomon wrote books in various stages of life that reflect the changing viewpoint of one man’s life. This, the final book of his life, shows the transition of youth to age. Ecclesiastes is the contrast of youthful dreams to the realization we will all face death and judgment. It is the Hebel of life. Life on earth is empty, transitory, and unsatisfactory.

The Bible is many things, including philosophy. No where is philosophy more on display than in this grand book. The author saw all life had to offer and concluded it is Hebel, empty. At the end of all conclusions, all that matters is God. No man on earth was better qualified to write this perspective than Solomon. God Himself acknowledged Solomon as the wisest man to ever live. He was the richest man on earth during his reign in Jerusalem. His life is without sequel.

Solomon is not a bitter old man as some might present him as. He is not disillusioned. He is a man who had seen more, and experienced more, than any man in history. From his coronation in Gibeon decades before, until this writing, he was the single most qualified man to write on the journey of life. Far from bitter, he is a clear eyed visionary putting the most important subject of every life on planet earth to words of eternal wisdom.

When he concludes his treatise in the final chapter, his deductions are overwhelming, convincing, and eternal. Fear God and keep His commandments, this is the whole duty of man, for God shall bring every work into judgment.

Chapter 1

1.1 the preacher. One who addresses an assembly. The son of David, hence Solomon.

1.2 vanity. This is the key word and the theme of the entire book. The Hebrew word hebel, has been translated many ways, by numerous people. Some meanings have been futility, emptiness, nothingness, and even absurdity. The general gist is that it encompasses no value or profit. It speaks of things transitory or that pass away. The Qoheleth, or preacher, is not saying there is no value in temporal things. He is stating that after a lifetime of living, and seeing many things, all of it is of no value in eternity. The author is speaking of things under the sun, which are temporal things. The casting of vanity over life does not include the fear of God, or even enjoying life. He is simply saying the pursuit of these things is hebel, or vain.

1.3 what profit? The question is what eternal profit? The term under the sun, is used twenty nine times in the book. This term identifies the temporal world.

1.4-11 The cycles of nature testify of this concept of hebel. Nature goes on and on, but man, the diadem of God’s creation passes away. This opening observation is the overall canopy of the book.

1.12-18 Solomon. No other person in history is more qualified than Solomon to make these conclusions. God used Solomon’s earthly successes to speak to the world about hebel, or vanity. Seven times in this writing Solomon says it is vexation of spirit. He is stating the obvious conclusion that this world, and all it can give as a reward, is futility. Solomon’s great wisdom did not unlock life’s ultimate questions. Solomon’s former book, the book of Proverbs, emphasizes the benefits of wisdom. In the closing years of his life he acknowledges wisdom has limitations.