The Book of Ecclesiastes - Introduction

Statistics

  • Ecclesiastes contains a total of 222 verses. In the Bible, the number two is the number of division. Therefore, 222 indicates great division just as 666 is the number of man in Revelation 13:18. The book of Ecclesiastes prominently displays the separation between heaven and earth. Compare this to the second day of creation. On that day (day number two) the firmament was created to divide between the heaven and earth. And, just as on this day God never declared His creation to be good, so the book of Ecclesiastes is clearly the most pessimistic book of the Bible.
  • Ecclesiastes clearly divides into two sections of six chapters each. This division into two equal parts is a picture of separation between God and man that marks the book. The first six chapters prove conclusively the vanity of all things under the sun. The second six chapters point to the importance of heavenly wisdom in the midst of earthly vanity.

Theme

  • Ecclesiastes declares the absolute vanity of all things under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:1-3; 2:22; 6:11-12; 12:8). Biblical vanity does not refer to an excessive care on good looks. Biblical vanity is emptiness or worthlessness. Ecclesiastes mentions vanity 33 times. It refers to the emptiness of life; in fact, of meaning of any sort, if God is left out and there is no eternity or heaven (see also Psalm 39:5-6; Psalm 62:9).
  • Two keys will help in understanding this total vanity as taught in Ecclesiastes:
    • First, this vanity refers only to hose things that are under the sun. The phrase under the sun occurs 29 times in the book while under heaven occurs three times. The book does not declare eternal or heavenly things to be vain - only those things connected to this earth and limited by time.
    • Second, this vanity deals with permanent, not temporary, value. Something is vain if it brings no ultimate value. The book emphasizes profit (Ecclesiastes 1:3; Ecclesiastes 3:9; Ecclesiastes 5:16). Many things on earth have a temporary value and are not evil in themselves. However, when these things are examined in the light of eternity, they are worthless or vain. Consider these verses:
      • “Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?” Ecclesiastes 1:2-3
      • “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” Mark 8:36 

Structure of the Book

  • The twofold division of the book is clearly marked by the use of key words. Notice how the following words and phrases are distributed between the two sections:
Chapters 1-6 Chapters 7-12 Total
“under the sun” & “under heaven” 21 11 32
“vanity” 22 11 33
“wise” & “wisdom” 19 34 53
  • The first half of the book emphasizes the separation between heaven and earth. As such, the word vanity and the phrases under the sun and under heaven are much more common in this section. However, the second half of the book emphasizes the wisdom we need as is seen in the distribution of wise and wisdom.

Author

  • King Solomon wrote the book of Ecclesiastes. Modernistic scholars deny this but they are wrong. The internal evidence of the book clearly identifies the author as Solomon. He is said to the “son of David” (1:1). And, he is called the “king over Israel in Jerusalem” (1:12). Only Solomon could be described by both of these statements. However, a study of the book will also show that only Solomon could have described the experiences told in the book.
  • God appointed Solomon as the author of three books of scripture: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon. Many Bible students have looked on these three books as fruits of three times in the life of Solomon.
    • Song of Solomon – the love song of Solomon’s youth.
    • Proverbs – the wisdom of Solomon’s middle years.
    • Ecclesiastes – the frustrations of Solomon’s old age.
  • In the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon takes the position of a proclaimer of truth. He refers to himself as the preacher (a title not used in any other Old Testament book) a total of 7 times. He uses this title three times at the beginning of the book (1:1, 2, 12), once in the middle of the book (7:27) and three times at the end of the book (12:8, 9, 10). Solomon wants us to know that he has been through it all and has tried everything. What he speaks, he speaks with the voice of authority. We know that God inspired the words of the book. Solomon wants us to know that he has lived it.

Life of Solomon

  • Solomon was born to David and Bathsheba after the death of the son who was a product of their adulterous union (2Samuel 12:24). In David’s old age, he appointed Solomon to reign as his successor (1 Kings 1:17). After Solomon became king, the Lord appeared to him in and offered to give him whatever he desired. Solomon wisely asked for wisdom and God blessed him in many ways (1 Kings 3:5-13). Solomon’s wisdom and wealth were known throughout the world (1 Kings 4:29-34; 1 Kings 10:21-23).
  • But in the height of Solomon’s glory, he planted the seeds that led to much sorrow. He loved many women and took to himself a total of one thousand wives and concubines. In his old age, these wives led Solomon into idolatry so that his heart was not perfect with God (1 Kings 11:1-8). In return, the Lord sent adversaries to trouble Solomon in the later years of his reign (1 Kings 11:14, 23). But, for David’s sake, he would not remove him (1 Kings 11:13).

Ecclesiastes

  • The historical accounts do not record Solomon’s reaction to God’s judgment. However, the book of Ecclesiastes reveals that he did to some degree repent of his sins. Ecclesiastes was written after Solomon had lived and experienced almost all that this life has to offer (see 2:9-10, 25-26). The thousand women of Ecclesiastes 7:28 probably refer to Solomon’s thousand wives and concubines (1 Kings 11:3). The book was certainly written toward the end of Solomon’s life.
  • In Ecclesiastes we learn that God will judge those who sin against Him (Ecclesiastes 3:17; Ecclesiastes 5:8; Ecclesiastes 8:11-13; Ecclesiastes 11:9; Ecclesiastes 12:13-14). Solomon knew what he was preaching about. He had experienced that judgment.
  • In conclusion: Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes as a warning to those who think they can be satisfied with what the world has to offer. Solomon had tried it all. He had taken of all the pleasures the world had to offer. He could speak with experience. All is vanity and vexation of spirit. Nothing under the sun offers any permanent profit. In the end, the wise man is he who fears God and keeps His commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
David Reagan

Daily Proverb

Proverbs 22:19

That thy trust may be in the LORD, I have made known to thee this day, even to thee.