Reflections of King Solomon in old age
written : sometime late
in Solomon's reign, probably somewhere about 930BC
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
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):
A meaningless world that just keeps on
Searching for wisdom is chasing the wind
Chasing after pleasure is chasing the wind
The wise and the fool both eventually die
The results of work cannot go through death
Everything has a right time
The works of God
The fate of all creatures
Oppressed and oppressor
Achievement through work is meaningless
Folly in leaders
Careless words before God
Meaningless striving after wealth
Prosperity without enjoyment is folly
The fixed nature of life
Death helps a right perspective
Live in wisdom
The folly of mankind
Wise actions before rulers
The wise and the wicked
A common destiny for all
Living in the light of this
The uncertainty of life
The words of the wise
Position does not mean wisdom
Wisdom helps work
The words of the fool
The role of the ruler
Giving, work & activity
Let youth live in the light of eternity
Remember God before death comes
Keep a right attitude towards God
conclusion stated at the outset
words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem : "Meaningless!
Meaningless!" says the Teacher. "Utterly meaningless! Everything
intent at the beginning
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.
thought to look into everything
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.
took every opportunity of his wealth and power
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.
simple conclusion for daily living
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?
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.
with what you have, a goal
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.
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
conclusion despite everything else
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
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.