Preview to the Book of Ecclesiastes
I. The book of Ecclesiastes is one of my most loved book in the Bible. I read it before I became a Christian. Though I did not fully understand it, I was fascinated and was hooked to read it over and over again. Together with the book of Proverbs, I became a
Bible reader even if I am not converted yet. The thing is I only read Ecclesiastes and Proverbs and for reading it I learned many things. During that time, I did not know that I’m reading the Wisdom Literature of the Bible. In Bible College, I came to love these two books more, together with the rest of the Word of God of course. Though Ecclesiastes is an old book it is still of vital importance to us today.
II. Why we study the Old Testament:
A. The Old Testament is written for our learning – Rom. 15:4
B. For our admonition – 1 Cor. 10:11
C. For doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness – 2 Tim. 3:16-17
A. In the Hebrew Bible, the book is called Qoheleth which means “the words of the preacher” Eccl. 1:1. The term suggests one who speaks to an assembly, an ecclesiastic or preacher
B. The translators of the Septuagint version called it “Ekklesiastes” which also means “preacher”, derived from the word “ekklesia” (assembly).
A. We have identified the author last week as King Solomon.
B. The author identifies himself only as “the son of David, king in Jerusalem” – Eccl. 1:1
C. Internal references certainly point to Solomon:
1. His wisdom – Eccl. 1:16; 1 King. 3:12
2. His building activities – Eccl. 2:4-6; 1 Kings 7:1-12
3. His wealth – Eccl. 2:7-9; 2 Chr. 9:13-28
D. King Solomon began his reign as a humble servant of the Lord, seeking God’s wisdom and help (1 Kings 3:5-15). As he grew older, his heart turned away from God to the false gods of his many wives whom he had taken from foreign lands (1 Kings 11:1).
E. These marriages were politically motivated, not because of love, as Solomon sought alliances with the nations around Israel. In fact, many of the things Solomon did that seemed to bring glory to Israel were actually contrary to the Word of God (Deut. 17:14-20).
A. Ecclesiastes is classified as one of the “Wisdom Literature” in the OT which includes Proverbs, Psalms, Job.
B. It is also included as one of the poetical books in the OT which includes Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Songs of Solomon
C. He wrote Proverbs from the viewpoint of a wise teacher (1:1-6), and Song of Solomon from the viewpoint of a royal lover (3:7-11), but when he wrote
Ecclesiastes, he called himself “the Preacher” (1:1,2,12; 7:27; 12:8-10).
D. But the Preacher did more than call an assembly and give an oration. The word Koheleth carries with it the idea of debating, not so much with the listeners as with himself.
E. He would present a topic, discuss it from many viewpoints, and then come to a practical conclusion. Ecclesiastes may appear to be a random collection of miscellaneous ideas about a variety of topics, but Solomon assures us that what he wrote was orderly (12:9).
A. The futility of life “under the sun” – Eccl. 1:2,14
B. A key word is “vanity” (occurs 33 times in 28 verses), which means “futility,
uselessness, nothingness” In Hebrew it means “empty” and “worthless”, something transitory and unsatisfactory.
C. It teaches that great accomplishments and earthly possessions alone do not bring lasting happiness. True satisfaction comes from serving God and following His will for our lives.
D. It teaches us that that life is to be enjoyed. The preacher tells us ” for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life, and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labour-it is the gift of God” (3:12-13). God wants us to enjoy life’s simple pleasures. Our grateful acceptance of His daily blessings can bring a sense of joy and fulfilment to our lives.
VII. The book is characterized by opposites.
A. Wisdom vs. folly
B. Good vs. evil
C. Light vs. dark
D. Love vs. hate
E. Life vs. death
F. This world vs. afterlife book
A. David, in his long and hard struggle to build the kingdom was forever shouting, Rejoice, shout for joy, sing, Praise God. King David, the emotional man.
B. Solomon sitting peacefully on the throne, with riches, honor, splendour, power, fabled luxury, lots of women, was one man in all the world whom we can call Happy. Yet until his old age his refrain was “vanity”. Solomon was not a happy man. He was the man of wisdom.
C. The mysteries of fallen human existence are admitted and documented, but there is more!
D. There is God; there will be justice one day. Because humans do not know the answers does not mean there are no answers!
VIII. Theological Issues
A. The very fact of this book’s presence in the Canon seems to imply that God does not reject the sincere, doubtful seeker.
B. The asking of ultimate questions is not discouraged.
C. Ecclesiastes assumes the existence of God and is written within the stream of the OT faith.
D. Evil is a result of mankind’s fall, not God (Eccl. 7:29; 9:3). This is not the world God intended it to be!
E. God’s ways cannot be known. Mankind can struggle for meaning in life, but it cannot be found without God!
F. It doubts the easy orthodox views on the afterlife and doubts mankind’s ability to know God, but still God is gracious and present.
G. The world, as it is, is unfair and cruel; there must be something more, if God’s promises are true!
H. H. Be content with life—it is from God. Enjoy it when and where you can (2:24-26; 3:12, 13, 22; 5:18; 8:15; 9:7-9).
I. Simplistic answers that do not fit life experiences are “no” answers. We must face the reality of the meaninglessness of life if there is no God.
Indeed, the Book of Ecclesiastes is a fascinating and perplexing book. Written by one of the wisest man who ever live. Man, who started out right but ended up badly. Join us as we study and learn more from this man.