Survey on the book of Ecclesiastes

About This Book:

In the book of Ecclesiastes, the author is exploring the meaning and purpose of life. The key word used in the book is vanity which means failing to find happiness by one’s own effort and means. The power, popularity, prestige, pleasure – nothing can fill the emptiness of man’s heart but God. The book concludes with fearing God, keeping God’s commandments, and living joyfully; Eating, drinking, rejoicing, and doing good.

 

Historical Background:

There are three viewpoints regarding the author and when this book was written:

  1. Traditional View – Traditional view assumes that the preacher/writer of this book is Solomon. They conclude this because the author identifies himself as a King and the Son of David. Also, the preacher calls himself a wisdom teacher, which Solomon was. People believe that Solomon had written this book at an old age when he had repented from his sin. If their view is correct, then the book must have been written 1000 years before Christ.
  2. Critical View – Critical view dates the book late in the history of Israel, some claiming it to be written as late as the Persian rule, or even in the pre-Maccabean period which is 225 to 250 BC. The adherents of this view conclude this on the basis of the language and style in which the book was written.
  3. Alternative View – Alternative view believes that there are two narrators in the book. One is the preacher, other is a wise man who is telling the words of the preacher to his son. The wise man is the author of the book and not the preacher. Looking at the content of the book, it is clear that the book was written at a time when there was oppression and violence in Israel.

 

Theme:

This book is divided into three parts a prologue (1:1-11), the main autobiographical main body (1:12-12:8), and an epilogue (12:8-14). The prologue and epilogue refer to the preacher as the third person. In the main body, the preacher speaks in the first person.

The theme of Ecclesiastes is the need for fearing God in this fallen, confusing world. There are various themes in the book and the key themes are:

  1. The vanity of life – All the pleasures of earthly life are only temporary. The more one tries to understand life, the more mysterious life becomes.
  2. Sin and Death – All people have sinned. Human beings seek out ways to sin even though God made man upright. Death is a reality that none escapes.
  3. Joy and Frustration of Work – Preacher finds work both satisfying and troubling.
  4. Grateful enjoyment of God’s good gifts – Despite the reality of a fallen world, the preacher is able to see the beauty of God’s creation. He is able to appreciate God’s good gifts of relationships, food, drink, and satisfying labor.
  5. Fear of God – The fact that everything is vanity should drive people to take refuge in God and to fear and revere Him.

 

Theological Significance:

There are powerful forces in this world, but even the greatest people are really very weak. This is why we need constant help from God. Work, wealth, and pleasure cannot satisfy people. Only carrying out the will of God through His commandment satisfies. God makes everything beautiful at the proper time. People’s efforts are often without any real purpose. Success in life does not satisfy a person’s real needs. Therefore, we must respect God and not love money.

As people are guilty of many wrong and evil deeds, they must think about their lives seriously. The process of judgment in this world does not give a good life to everyone. The same kinds of events happen in everybody’s lives, but people should still desire wisdom.  Foolish desires and lazy attitudes cause serious troubles. Most people are not preparing in a sensible manner for the day when God will be their judge. Only a right relationship with God can prepare you for old age, death, and the judgment of God.

 

Bibliography:

NKJV Bible App by Olive Tree
Introduction to the Old Testament by Tremper Longman III
Global Study Bible
A summary of each chapter in the Book of Ecclesiastes

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