NAME AND AUTHOR
The name “Ecclesiastes” is a Greek word that means “teacher” or “preacher.” The Book of Ecclesiastes begins this way: “The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem.” Who is this teacher or preacher who is the author of Ecclesiastes? The description can fit only Solomon. Though his name is not directly mentioned as the author, only he was a son of David and king in Jerusalem. The subject matter of the book seems to indicate that Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes when he was an old man reflecting back on his life.
THE THEME OF ECCLESIASTES
The theme that is repeated throughout the book is that life is meaningless if it is lived only for the things of this world. Solomon writes that he had searched for satisfaction in wisdom, pleasure, toil, and riches. Since he found very little satisfaction in these things, he says about them all: “Meaningless! Meaningless!” The Hebrew word that is translated “meaningless” literally means “air” or “breath.” Just as our breath has no real substance, so the things of this world have no lasting substance; by themselves they are basically empty and meaningless. Wise Solomon reminds us that we cannot expect to find real satisfaction from them. When Solomon encourages his readers not to set their hearts on things such as wisdom, pleasure and toil, he does not say that these things should be pushed aside. He encourages his readers to accept them as being from the hand of God and to enjoy them for whatever good they can offer. But from the things of this life, from the things of this place “under the sun,” we should not expect to find a heaven on earth. At the end of Ecclesiastes Solomon says:
“Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the whole duty of man.” (12:13)
The things of this life by themselves are utterly meaningless and empty; but man finds meaning in life when he centers his life on his God. When we remember our relationship to our God, life on earth can be not only livable, but even enjoyable. But we must remember that complete joy and satisfaction is waiting for us only in the next life. Life “under the sun” will always seem meaningless when compared with the full life that will be ours in the presence of God in heaven.
SOME FREQUENTLY QUOTED VERSES FROM ECCLESIASTES:
“Meaningless! Meaningless!’ says the Teacher. `Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless’” (1:2).
“There is nothing new under the sun” (1:9c).
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven” (3:1).
“That every man may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil – this is the gift of God” (3:13).
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work” (4:9).
“Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools” (5:1).
“Whoever loves money never has money enough” (5:10).
“Naked a man comes from his mother’s womb, and as he comes, so he departs” (5:15a).
“There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins” (7:20).
“Remember your Creator in the days of your youth” (12:1a).
“Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body” (12:12b).
“Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (12:13b).
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