ECCLESIASTES – BIBLE SURVEY
 

Author:  The writer says that he was “the Son of David, King in Jerusalem” (1:1, 12, 16).  The writer is Solomon, and the book is an autobiography of his experiences and reflections while he was out of fellowship with God.

Solomon may have been wise, but he did not follow his own wisdom.  Ecclesiastes has its origin in his tragic sin of forsaking God and seeking satisfaction in many things “under the sun”.  

Message: The message of Ecclesiastes is that, apart from God, Life is full of weariness and disappointment.

Major Theme:  What is the meaning of life? The writer is pointing out the folly of human reasoning in order to focus on the true satisfaction, which is to be found in God.

Key term: “vanity of vanities” (1:2, 12:8) states that authors theme.  The word vanity in the Hebrew means “breath” or “vapor” and thus speaks of life as “quickly passing”. 

Vanity: Strong’s # 1892: This word basically means “vapor” or “breath”, such as the rapidly vanishing vapor of one’s warm breath in the cool air. (See Psalms 39:5, 11; 62:9; 144:4)

Wherever we read the Word vanity in Ecclesiastes, we should think of what is “quickly passing”. This is one of the key terms in the Book of Ecclesiastes, for it is found 38 times there, but only 34 times in the rest of the Old Testament.  With this word, Solomon received worldly pursuits such as wealth, honor, fame, and various pleasures as similar to desperately grasping at air (2:17).

Chapter 1: Vanity of life and pleasure

Solomon’s search of satisfaction were in wisdom (1:12 – 18) and acquiring more knowledge.  Humanistic wisdom without God, leads to grief and sorrows.

Chapter 2: Pleasures are meaningless

Solomon built houses (See 1 Kings 9:10), water reservoirs, planted vineyards, gardens, parks and trees, had a large number of servants, herds of cattle, wealth in silver and gold, choirs and orchestras, had 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:3).

2:10) all my eyes desired: Solomon had limitless ability to fulfill any and all desires.

2:11) at the end of his quest for possessions and experiences, Solomon concluded that it was vanity or “vapor”, a grasping for wind.  Even with all he had done and experienced, there was still a sense that nothing lasting or enduring had been achieved. 

Chapter 3: A time for everything

To everything there is a season . . . a time.  Both words are usually regarded as being specific points in time.  See Daniel 2:21:  Seasons here in Daniel refers to the events of history. See Esther 4:14: “yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” God sets a time for everything.

Chapter 4 – 5: The writer considers oppression

Probably the poor and the downtrodden (See Amos 5:11, 8:4-6)

The fool folds his hands:  being lazy better a handful with quietness - moderation, than both hands full together with toil and grasping for wind - moderation is better than being over worked.

A man is envied by his neighbors: I wish I had what my neighbor has (a nice new boat or car) today this is called “keeping up with the Jones’”.

Walking prudently: God has no pleasure in those who do the right things for all the wrong reasons.

Chapters 6 – 12: The best advice the writer gives is to obey God.

At the end of the book in 12:8, the writer again returns to the theme of the book found in verse 1:2, “vanity of vanities”.  Such is life “under the sun” (or Earth) apart from God, is “vanities of vanities”. Solomon concluded that it was all vanity, or “vapor”, a grasping for the wind, all that he had done and experienced, apart from God.