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 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 (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
Saul, Israel's First King
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Ecclesiastes in the Picture Study Bible
Timeline of the Ancient World
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