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BOOK : Ecclesiastes

Description : Reflections of King Solomon in old age

Author: Solomon

Date written : sometime late in Solomon's reign, probably somewhere about 930BC

Chapters : 12


Brief Synopsis:


•  The title   Ecclesiastes   is a Latin transliteration of the Greek translation of the Hebrew Koheleth meaning  "Gatherer", but traditionally translated as "Teacher ”
•  The teacher is a son of David and king in Jerusalem, i.e. Solomon. 
•  In it Solomon deals with such issues as the futility of human effort, limited life-spans, oppression and envy and much more.
•  It is life seen from a purely earthly perspective and therefore somewhat negative.
•  Yet conclusions are drawn about life and about God.


Outline :


We have considered a variety of outlines that are in common use but have rejected each of them as either too complicated or over-simple. Ecclesiastes is not an easy book to classify and so we have ended up using the summary list of subjects or themes you will find in our own set of Bible Studies in Ecclesiastes (see link at bottom of page):


1:1-11   A meaningless world that just keeps on
1:12-18   Searching for wisdom is chasing the wind
2:1-11   Chasing after pleasure is chasing the wind
2:12-16   The wise and the fool both eventually die
2:17-26   The results of work cannot go through death
3:1-8   Everything has a right time
3:9-17   The works of God
3:18-22   The fate of all creatures
4:1-3   Oppressed and oppressor
4:4-6   Achievement through work is meaningless
4:7-12   Loneliness
4:13-16   Folly in leaders
5:1-7   Careless words before God
5:8-20   Meaningless striving after wealth
6:1-9   Prosperity without enjoyment is folly
6:10-12   The fixed nature of life
7:1-6   Death helps a right perspective
7:7-14   Live in wisdom
7:15-18   Avoid extremes
7:19-29   The folly of mankind
8:1-6   Wise actions before rulers
8:7-17   The wise and the wicked
9:1-6   A common destiny for all
9:7-10   Living in the light of this
9:11-12   The uncertainty of life
9:13-18   The words of the wise
10:1-7   Position does not mean wisdom
10:8-11   Wisdom helps work
10:12-14   The words of the fool
10:15-20   The role of the ruler
11:1-6   Giving, work & activity
11:7-10   Let youth live in the light of eternity
12:1-8   Remember God before death comes
12:9-14   Keep a right attitude towards God


Key Verses :


Solomon's conclusion stated at the outset

1:1 The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem : "Meaningless! Meaningless!" says the Teacher. "Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless."

His intent at the beginning

1:12-14 I, the Teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem . I devoted myself to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under heaven. What a heavy burden God has laid on men! I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

He thought to look into everything

2:1 I thought in my heart, "Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good." But that also proved to be meaningless.

He took every opportunity of his wealth and power

2:4,9-11 I undertook great projects….. I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me. I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.

A simple conclusion for daily living

2:24,25 A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?

The frustration of work

3:9-14 What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil--this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him.

Contentment with what you have, a goal

5:18-20 Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him--for this is his lot. Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work--this is a gift of God. He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart.

The confusions of life

8:14-17 There is something else meaningless that occurs on earth: righteous men who get what the wicked deserve, and wicked men who get what the righteous deserve. This too, I say, is meaningless. So I commend the enjoyment of life, because nothing is better for a man under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany him in his work all the days of the life God has given him under the sun. 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

A wise conclusion despite everything else

12:13,14 Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil


Concluding C omments


•  It is thought that Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes near the end of his life. Remember the historical records of 1 Kings 11 that he married many foreign women and gave way to their religions and lost his own. The result? A jaded king, which is reflected in the words of this book.
•  Key words are “under the sun” which appear 28 times. The perspective is, therefore, from the earth. He has lost the divine perspective and there are but echoes of his former experience.
•  Yes, he acknowledges God but the covenant name “I AM” or Yahweh, is never used.
•  It is a useful book for modern people, particular post-modern people who focus so much on ‘experiences'. As we might say, “Solomon has been there, done it and got the tee-shirt” – six times over! And his conclusions after he has pondered great philosophical thoughts and done so many things? Without God it is all meaningless!
•  As we so often say in our apologetic pages, if you take God out of the equation, the existence of the world and what we are today, is pure chance. There can be no such thing as meaning and purpose. Solomon has learnt that!
•  The good news is that Ecclesiastes is not the only book we have and so we have the wonder of so many other books where the revelation of God is clear and sharp. In the meantime, Ecclesiastes presents us with a salutary warning not to let our lives get sucked into weird and wonderful religions where confusion and doubt reign and life loses its sense of purpose and meaning that only comes with the experience of the Living God who we find on so many of the pages of our Bible.
•  Enjoy reading Ecclesiastes but keep it in perspective and let its lessons be received.



Additional resources on this site:

Ecclesiastes Bible Studies


Meditations in Ecclesiastes 1-5