How to Study Ecclesiastes

General Instructions

    1. A careful observation of Ecclesiastes gives insight into why this book is included in the Bible. So as you begin your study of this book, do the following:

        1. Remember that all you read must be considered in the context of the whole counsel of God.

        2. Read 1:1-3 and 12:13-14 to see how Ecclesiastes begins and ends. Keep these verses in mind as you study.

    2. As you read Ecclesiastes, mark every reference to the author in a distinctive way:

        1. Who and / or what he is; how he describes himself; what he pursued, had, or experienced, and what gain it was to him. This is important. You may want to list your insights in your notebook as you go through Ecclesiastes.

        2. As you read the book, observe what the author has seen, come to know, commends, and concludes. Mark or note these insights in a special way, since these usually include important key repeated phrases.

        3. After chapter 4, mark or list in the margin the author's commands and warnings. For example, in 5:1 he tells us to guard our steps when we go into the house of God.

    1. As you read each chapter, mark in a distinctive way the key words: God, vanity (futile, futility), under the sun (under heaven), wisdom, righteous (righteousness, justice), wicked (wickedness), wise, fool, evil, labor (labored. toil), riches (wealth). List this key words on an index card that you can use as a bookmark while observing this book.

    2. When you finish observing each chapter:

        1. Look at every reference to God that you marked in the text. In your notebook, list all you learn about Him, what He does, and what we are to do in respect to Him.

        2. Mark the contrasting groups of people: the righteous and the wicked, the wise and the foolish. In your notebook, list what you learn about these persons from each chapter.

        3. Also make s list of what you learn about riches (wealth) and labor.

        4. When you have completed your study of the book, you may want to summarize in your notebook what you learned from compiling the above lists.

Chapters 1 - 8: Exploring Life's Inconsistencies

    1. As you read, mark the key words. Also watch for and mark these words: explore (explored), discover (discovered), and directed.

    2. The words vanity, futile, and futility are all from the Hebrew word hebel, which means "vapor" or "breath."

        1. Hebel appears more in Ecclesiastes than in any other book of the Bible; half of all its occurrence are in Ecclesiastes.

        2. Except for 11:8 and 12:8, all the occurrences of vanity and futility appear in this first segment of Ecclesiastes. Therefore after you finish marking in a distinctive way each occurrence of these words, you might want to record in your notebook everything you learn from the text about vanity and futility. Remember the although they are translated two different ways, they are the same Hebrew word.

Chapters 9 - 12: Explaining Life's Inconsistencies

    1. Read 9:1and ,ark the word explain. Do you see how this verse might be used as a pivotal point in the book? If so, watch for any explanations the author might give to life's inconsistencies.

    2. When you finish observing chapter 10, review each reference to wisdom that you have marked and summarize everything you learned about wisdom from Ecclesiastes.

    3. As you find any "pictorial descriptions" of the body and what happens as you get old (e.g., "the grinding ones which are few" might be a picture of losing some teeth).

    4. Complete Structure of Ecclesiastes.

Key Words in the NIV and KJV

Key doctrines in Ecclesiastes

  1. Vanity of life—the futile attempt to be satisfied apart from God (1:2; 12:8; Gen. 3:17–19; Ps. 39:5, 6; 62:9; 144:4; Rom. 8:19–21; James 4:14)

  2. The meaning of life (1:3; 2:24; 3:9; 12:13, 14; Is. 56:12–57:2; Luke 12:19–21; John 10:10; 1 Cor. 15:32; 1 Tim. 6:17)

  3. Balance in life—there is a time and a season for everything (3:1–8, 17; Exod. 15:20; Ps. 126:2; Amos 5:13; Rom. 12:15, 16; Heb. 9:27)

  4. The fear of the Lord (12:13, 14; Deut. 6:2; 10:12; Mic. 6:8; Matt. 12:36; Acts 17:30, 31; Rom. 2:16; 1 Cor. 4:5; 2 Cor. 5:10)


Studies on Ecclesiastes