Ecclesiastes
קהלת
12 Chapters, 222 verses, 5,584 words. 

   



Vital Statistics

 Purpose:  To spare future generations the bitterness of learning through their own experience that life is meaningless apart from God 
 Author:  Solomon
 Original audience:  Solomon's subjects in particular, and all people in general  
 Date written:  Probably around 935 B.C., late in Solomon's life
 Setting:  Solomon was looking back on his life, much of which was lived apart from God
 Key verse:  "Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind." (12:13)


Author and Date

    No time period or writer's name is mentioned in the book, but several passages strongly suggest that King Solomon is the author (1:1, 12, 16; 2:4-9; 7:26-29; 12:9; cf. 1Ki 2:9; 3:12; 4:29-34; 5:12; 10:1-8). On the other hand, the writer's title ("Teacher," Hebrew qoheleth; see note on 1:1), his unique style of Hebrew and his attitude toward rulers (suggesting that of a subject rather than a monarch--see, e.g., 4:1-2; 5:8-9; 8:2-4; 10:20) may point to another person and a later period.

Purpose and Method

    With his life largely behind him, the author takes stock of the world as he has experienced it between the horizons of birth and death--the latter a horizon beyond which man cannot see. The world is seen as being full of enigmas, the greatest of which is man himself.
    From the perspective of his own understanding, the Teacher takes measure of man, examining his capabilities. He discovers that human wisdom, even that of a godly person, has limits (1:13, 16-18; 7:24; 8:16-17). It cannot find out the larger purposes of God or the ultimate meaning of man's existence.
As the author looks about at the human enterprise, he sees man in mad pursuit of one thing and then another--laboring as if he could master the world, lay bare its secrets, change its fundamental structures, break through the bounds of human limitations and master his own destiny. He sees man vainly pursuing hopes and expectations that in reality are "meaningless, a chasing after the wind" (1:14; 2:11, 17, 26; 4:4, 16; 6:9; cf. 1:17; 4:6).
But faith teaches him that God has ordered all things according to his own purposes (3:1-15; 5:19; 6:1-2; 9:1) and that man's role is to accept these, including his own limitations, as God's appointments. Man, therefore, should be patient and enjoy life as God gives it. He should know his own limitations and not vex himself with unrealistic expectations. He should be prudent in everything, living carefully before God and the king and, above all, fearing God and keeping his commandments (12:13).


Teaching

    Life not centered on God is purposeless and meaningless. Without him, nothing else can satisfy (2:25). With him, all of life and his other good gifts are to be gratefully received (see Jas 1:17) and used and enjoyed to the full (2:26; 11:8). The book contains the philosophical and theological reflections of an old man (12:1-7), most of whose life was meaningless because he had not himself relied on God.






Outline


I. Author (1:1)



II. Theme: The meaninglessness of human

efforts on earth apart from God (1:2)


III. Introduction: The profitableness of human

toil to accumulate things in order to achieve

happiness (1:3-11)
















IV. Discourse, Part 1: In spite of life’s apparent enigmas and meaninglessness, it is to be enjoyed as a gift from God (1:12-11:6)













A. Since human wisdom and endeavors are meaningless, people should enjoy their life and work and its fruits as gifts from God (1:12-6:9)

1. Introduction (1:12-18)

  1. HUman endeavors are meaningless (1:12-15)

  2. Pursuing human wisdom is meaningless (1:16-18)

2. Seeking pleasure is meaningless (2:1-11)

3. Human wisdom is meaningless (2:12-17)

Toiling to accumulate things is meaningless (2:18-6:9)

  1. Because people must leave the fruits of their labor to others (2:18-26)

  2. Because all human efforts remain under the government of God’s sovereign appointments, which people cannot fully know and which all their toil cannot change (3:1-4:3)

  3. Because there are things better for people than the envy, greed and ambition that motivate such toil (4:4-16)

  4. Because the fruits of human labor can be lost, resulting in frustration (5:1-6:9)



B. Since people cannot fully know what is best to do or what the future holds for them, they should enjoy now the life and work God has given them (6:10-11:6)

1. Introduction: What is predetermined by God is inalterable, and people cannot fully know what is best or what the future holds (6:10-12)

2. People cannot fully know what is best to do (chs. 7-8)

3. People cannot fully know what the future holds (9:1-11:6)






V. Discourse, Part 2: Since old age and death will soon come, people should enjoy life in their youth, remembering that God will judge (11:7-12:7)

A. People should enjoy their life on earth because their future after death is mysterious, and in that sense is meaningless for their present life (11:7-8)

B. People should enjoy the fleeting joys of youth, but remember that God will judge (11:9-10)

C. People should remember their Creator (and his gifts) in their youth, before the deteriorations of old age and the dissolution on the body come (12:1-7)


VI. Theme Repeated (12:8)



VII. Conclusion: Reverently trust in and obey God (12:9-14)





Ecclesiastes Horizontal



1:1 - Intro: All is vanity

Experience of


1:12 - Personal experience of vanity

Vanity

Search

3:1 - Time


for

4:1 - Toil / Task / Treasure

Observation

Meaning

7:1 - Advantages of wisdom

of

in

8:10 - Righteousness vs. wickedness

Vanity

Live

9:13 - Wisdom vs, Folly  



11:1 - Advice for the future

Living with Vanity


12:9 - Fear God, keep His commandments