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Ecclesiastes 2

1 - I said in my heart, "Come now, I will test you with mirth: therefore enjoy pleasure"; and behold, this also was vanity.
2 - I said of laughter, "It is foolishness"; and of mirth, "What does it accomplish?"
3 - I searched in my heart how to cheer my flesh with wine, my heart yet guiding me with wisdom, and how to lay hold of folly, until I might see what it was good for the sons of men that they should do under heaven all the days of their lives.
4 - I made myself great works. I built myself houses. I planted myself vineyards.
5 - I made myself gardens and parks, and I planted trees in them of all kinds of fruit.
6 - I made myself pools of water, to water from it the forest where trees were reared.
7 - I bought male servants and female servants, and had servants born in my house. I also had great possessions of herds and flocks, above all who were before me in Jerusalem;
8 - I also gathered silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and of the provinces. I got myself male and female singers, and the delights of the sons of men-musical instruments, and that of all sorts.
9 - So I was great, and increased more than all who were before me in Jerusalem. My wisdom also remained with me.
10 - Whatever my eyes desired, I didn't keep from them. I didn't withhold my heart from any joy, for my heart rejoiced because of all my labor, and this was my portion from all my labor.
11 - Then I looked at all the works that my hands had worked, and at the labor that I had labored to do; and behold, all was vanity and a chasing after wind, and there was no profit under the sun.
12 - I turned myself to consider wisdom, madness, and folly: for what can the king's successor do? Just that which has been done long ago.
13 - Then I saw that wisdom excels folly, as far as light excels darkness.
14 - The wise man's eyes are in his head, and the fool walks in darkness-and yet I perceived that one event happens to them all.
15 - Then I said in my heart, "As it happens to the fool, so will it happen even to me; and why was I then more wise?" Then I said in my heart that this also is vanity.
16 - For of the wise man, even as of the fool, there is no memory for ever, since in the days to come all will have been long forgotten. Indeed, the wise man must die just like the fool!
17 - So I hated life, because the work that is worked under the sun was grievous to me; for all is vanity and a chasing after wind.
18 - I hated all my labor in which I labored under the sun, because I must leave it to the man who comes after me.
19 - Who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will have rule over all of my labor in which I have labored, and in which I have shown myself wise under the sun. This also is vanity.
20 - Therefore I began to cause my heart to despair concerning all the labor in which I had labored under the sun.
21 - For there is a man whose labor is with wisdom, with knowledge, and with skillfulness; yet he shall leave it for his portion to a man who has not labored for it. This also is vanity and a great evil.
22 - For what has a man of all his labor, and of the striving of his heart, in which he labors under the sun?
23 - For all his days are sorrows, and his travail is grief; yes, even in the night his heart takes no rest. This also is vanity.
24 - There is nothing better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and make his soul enjoy good in his labor. This also I saw, that it is from the hand of God.
25 - For who can eat, or who can have enjoyment, more than I?
26 - For to the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy; but to the sinner he gives travail, to gather and to heap up, that he may give to him who pleases God. This also is vanity and a chasing after wind.
Ecclesiastes Images and Notes

The Book of Ecclesiastes

Ecclesiastes 7:21-22 - Also take no heed unto all words that are spoken; lest thou hear thy servant curse thee: For oftentimes also thine own heart knoweth that thou thyself likewise hast cursed others.

Ecclesiastes 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. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether [it be] good, or whether [it be] evil.

The Old Testament - A Brief Overview

Bible Survey - Ecclesiastes
Hebrew Name - Qoheleth "the preacher"
Greek Name - Ekklesiastes (Greek form of the Hebrew)
Author - Solomon (According to Tradition)
Date - 977 BC Approximately
Theme - All pursuits in life are empty except fearing God and obeying His Word
Types and Shadows - In Ecclesiastes Jesus is true fulfillment

Illustration of Solomon's Temple
Illustration of Solomon's Temple on Mount Moriah

Summary of The Book of Ecclesiastes

The book of Ecclesiastes was written by Solomon who was the wisest man in the world, and in fact he was the embodiment of pure wisdom if you read his story. There was no man better qualified to talk about life, because he tasted everything in life to its fullest power, he had fame, wealth, power, women, and everything that any man could ever wish for. He tested out everything in life both with God and without God, and his conclusion was that everything "under the sun" is futile, meaningless, purposeless, and empty, without God. His encouragement is to remember the Lord while you are young, fear him, obey him, and respect him. This is the true meaning and purpose in life, and the source of fulfillment.

The word "Ecclesiastes" is the Greek equivalent for the Hebrew word Koheleth, or "the preacher." Solomon was the wisest man in the world, people came from all over the world to hear his wisdom. He built the Temple in Jerusalem, he was the son of King David, and he was chosen to impart his wisdom to us in the book of Ecclesiastes.

Solomon had thoroughly experienced all avenues of pleasure, all avenues of sensuality, all avenues of wealth, honor, folly, and the pursuit of knowledge. He also sinned in giving way to every excess of life which his position made possible and comes to the realization of the uselessness of it all. He concludes that the result of his efforts have been made him empty and that there is nothing new under the sun, but all is part of the endless, frustrating circularity. His attitude was spoken in the recurring phrase, "vanity of vanities, all is vanity, saith the preacher." In Ecclesiastes, the world is convicted of its vanity by one who has drunk of every spring.

The conclusion which Solomon "the preacher" reaches is that in such an empty and unsatisfying world where disappointment, trouble and death cannot be avoided, a quiet enjoyment of God's gifts is the only real wisdom. The man who is truly wise will "fear God and keep his commandments" (12:13-14), making the best of things as he finds them and trusting in the providence of God. This secret should be understood early in life. An understanding of this will provide one with great pleasure in life. The book of Ecclesiastes profoundly illustrates the idea that a life apart from God is a life without meaning.

Outline of the Book of Ecclesiastes

Ecclesiastes 1:1-2:26 - Sermon #1: The vanity of human wisdom. In this section the preacher argues that human effort and human achievement are futile, and he demonstrates this by talking about the futility of human life at every stage in every generation. He goes on to discuss how empty human wisdom, education and philosophy is. Also the enjoyments of pleasure as well as money and wealth bring emptiness. Even the wisest of all men must eventually die, and all of man's hard work and business and wealth are left to undeserving heirs. Man should be content with all the provisions that God gives in life.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-5:20 - Sermon #2: Appreciate the divine laws governing life. Life and death is a reality, and there is a proper time that has been determined for every activity and every experience. God is the only one who guarantees anything of value, and anything that lasts. Man will experience punishment and men will experience death, this is universal for every man and every beast. There is no certainty of what is beyond life from the human perspective, so make the best of this present life in the eyes of God. There are also disappointments in life, there is cruelty and there is misery and there is affliction. There are disadvantages to those who succeed in life, and there are penalties for those who are lazy and the greedy. The hardships in life are better faced with a partner than alone, and if one succeeds in politics this is also unstable. When someone seeks after whatever benefits himself this also is futile. When you live your life or yourself, or sacrifice for others this is folly, vain words and broken promises is also folly. When someone does you wrong and they are paid back for their wrongdoing or for their greed this also is folly. You can only find contentment in life when you're thankful and can enjoy the gifts of God.

Ecclesiastes 6:1-8:17 - Sermon #3: There is no fulfillment in any earthly pleasures or wealth. Gaining the whole world does not fulfill a man, there is no long-lasting contentment in money or in having many children. There is no great satisfaction in being educated in the world or being uneducated and a fool. There is no real point in life other than God, one can receive a wise counsel for a corrupt world, but true values come when someone is faced with sorrow or death. There are problems with short-lived pleasures, and there are also problems with gaining wealth dishonestly, and also getting angry easily. It is better to be wise and to have great wealth when you're dealing with the problems in life. You can have good luck or bad luck, these also come from God. You can boast about your religious ideals and you can hire prostitute, both of these lead to major problems in life. There is nothing greater than wisdom, every man is a sinner and one should be aware of his actions. But man who has much education cannot find spiritual truth. The greatest evil is an evil woman. Every man has grown to become corrupt. The world is fallen, therefore respect governmental authority. God's law exists in the universe despite the sorrows in life and even death. The good person, or the unpunished evil person will eventually meet God in judgment. Life has many problems and this may encourage some that God's ways are beyond understanding.

Ecclesiastes 9:1-12:8 - Sermon #4: God will deal with the world's injustices. Death will come upon everyone eventually, whether one is evil or good, or even very good. When one dies all of their learning will come to an end, those who are seeking God must let others see and take advantage of life. Becoming successful is an uncertainty, and living a long life is difficult even after trying. But wisdom, which goes unnoticed is greater than the strongest force. Life is uncertain and yet there is folly. Just a little folly can ruin your life. Take wise choices in front of important people especially rulers. Your great wealth can turn away, and sin can make you miserable. The fool makes conversation that is worthless and has no direction. It is important to have direction in life and morality is important for nations and men. When you despise authority you will be punished. There is a good way to spend your life, be kind, do good to those who do good to you. Realize that God's laws are established in nature and no one can alter them. It is wise to be happy in whatever you put your hand to. There is punishment for those who are young that are seeking lustful pleasures. Make a decision early in life to seek after God for you become old.

Ecclesiastes 12:9-14 - Conclusion: The meaning of life in the light of eternity. The book of Ecclesiastes was given to teach us the meaning of life, which is to fear the Lord and to obey his word. This encouragement is more valuable than every book they could ever be written in the whole world by all the wisest men. God will come and his judgment will be final.

Quick Reference Map
Map of the Empires of David and Solomon
Map of the Empires of David and Solomon (Click to Enlarge)

Quick Reference Maps - Ecclesiastes

The Kingdom of Solomon during the Time of Ecclesiastes

The Empire of David and Solomon during the Chronicles

Solomon's Temple Illustration

The First Day. Light.

Ecclesiastes Resources

Samuel the Prophet
Saul, Israel's First King
King David
King Solomon

More About the Book of Ecclesiastes
Ecclesiastes in the Picture Study Bible
Timeline of the Ancient World
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