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Students will be able to

1. summarize the contents of the book.

2. explain how vanity keeps the writer from a full relationship to God.



Ecclesiastes is not a book of general use but one for a special need. B.H. Carroll said both Ecclesiastes and Job had an unearthly power over him and led him to God.

The name Ecclesiastes comes from the Greek title of the book in the Septuagint but follows the Latin spelling in the Vulgate. The Greek word EKKLESIASTES means a member or speaker of an assembly. It translates the Hebrew title KOHELETH, which is a feminine particle from the verb KAHAL (to assemble) and is related to the noun KAHAL (assembly). It has been variously explained:

(1) a name given to the author as a personification of wisdom,

(2) one who collects or gathers in the sense that the author collected the proverbs (cf. 12:9­10), or

(3) one who addresses an assembly, that is, a speaker or teacher (Wayne H. Peterson, Ecclesiastes, The Broadman Bible Commentary, p. 100).

Teacher, or the preacher, is more appropriate to the nature of the book.


Ecclesiastes is a product of Israel's interest in wisdom. We know little about the writer. He does not give his name anywhere in the book. He simply designates himself as "teacher." In 1:1 he is called son of David, King in Jerusalem. In 1:12 he says, "I the preacher have been king over Israel in Jerusalem." He included many proverbs in this book (12:9). He says he is wealthy and has many concubines (2:8). These all point to Solomon so tradition has placed him as the author. However the probability is that the preacher/teacher was not Solomon, but a wise man in the third or fourth century B.C.

If Solomon is not the actual author, why does Qoheleth seek to link himself with the great king? The simplest answer is for literary effect. The words of the honored head of Israel's wisdom movement would carry weighs with the sages whose views Qoheleth aimed to correct. Moreover, Solomon himself could serve as a model of the life Qoheleth was striving to evaluate. Wisdom, pleasure, wealth, influence, accomplishment were attributes touted by the wise men. The author could offer no better illustration of their limitations than Solomon's own case (William S. Lasor, David Allen Hubbard, Frederic William Bush, Old Testament Survey, 589).


All evidence points to the fact that Ecclesiastes was among the last books to be accepted into the canon. In the Talmud it appears in the third division called the writings or Hagiographa. About 100 BC the writer of the Wisdom of Solomon attempted to disprove statements in Ecclesiastes. His intention was to keep it out of the canon.

The first clear evidence of the inclusion of Ecclesiastes in the canon. . . "comes from the rabbinical discussions at Jamnia (A D. 90), 2 Esdras (A.D. 100) and Josephus (ca A.D. 100). The conviction that Ecclesiastes was properly a part of the canon must, of course, have existed for some years before it was given official recognition . . . The New Testament does not clearly refer to the book, but it was accepted by Christians at least as early as the second century." (Wayne H. Peterson, "Ecclesiastes,The Broadman Bible Commentary, p. 103.)

Value of Ecclesiastes:

We live in an age of secularism, change, and despair. Secularism has, in a sense, undermined the certainties of our religious faith. There are new ways of thinking and many good traditions have been cast aside. Because values are in doubt we have a hard time making up our mind. We ask the fundamental question: Why am I here? What is the meaning of Life? There are lessons to be learned from the book of Ecclesiastes:

1. Life must be appraised realistically.

2. The unchangeable must be accepted: when Qoheleth saw all of life as vanity, he did not give up.

3. Secularism is unsatisfactory -­ this is vanity. He did recognize wisdom, enjoyment, and wealth, as having certain advantages. (2:24, 7:11,14)

4. There is an acute need for Christ and the New Testament Revelation.

Ecclesiastes demonstrates the inadequacy of Old Testament revelation. The writer shows a need for conviction of life after death and individual redemption.



I. Introduction (1:1­11)

The preacher is used here as a personal name although it is a translation of the Hebrew word Koheleth. The Theme of the book is found in 1:2 and 12:8­­" Vanity of Vanities, says the preacher, vanity of vanities! All is Vanity." (vs. 2)

II. Two Experiments (1:12­2:26)

1. Search for Satisfaction (1:12­15) Since all is vanity, the author searches out books of wisdom to find an answer to this problem.

2. Failure of Wisdom (1:16­18) He first searched out wisdom and found it to be futile, a "striving in the wind."

3. Failure of Pleasure and Possessions (2:1­11) He pursued a plan of life which he felt was guided by wisdom. In this experiment he tried wine, women, song and possessions. He also tried building projects as a source of fulfillment.

4. Death, The Destroyer of Satisfaction (2:12­23) The author concludes that wisdom has an advantage over folly. The wise understand; the foolish do not. But this advantage fades when he discovers that death comes to both wise and foolish; he must leave all he has to someone else when he dies.

5. Solution: Enjoyment of the Simple Life (2:24:26) The first passage that gives a partial solution to all being vanity.

III. Life's Limitations (3:1­11:6)

1. God's Sovereignty (3:1­15) The author concludes that everything is ordained by God. The limitations which God imposes on man's life drive him to fear God.

2. Man's Injustice (3:16­4:3) Here the author shows that man is no higher than the animals . Both are frail creatures and die alike. It seems that Koheleth has no belief in life after death, except the shadowy Sheol.

3. Futility of striving ( 4:4­16) Human striving does not produce lasting satisfaction. Man's jealousy of his neighbor makes him strive harder to achieve success.

4. Sincerity in Worship (5:1­7) This section discusses man's need for sincerity in worshipping God. He must hear God and obey and then pray to him (utter a word).

5. Futility of Wealth (5:8­6:12) Koheleth talks about greedy accumulation of wealth. He gives six reasons why the possession of wealth is futile.

(1) Poor are oppressed.

(2) Greedy are never satisfied.

(6) Wealth attracts parasites.

(4) Wealth will not allow one to sleep (safety).

(5) Wealth causes sorrow.

(6) The wealthy man cannot take it with him.

6. Reflections on Wisdom (7:1­22) A collection of proverbs and a personal experience. Varied subjects. This chapter teaches that good in the world has relative value.

7. Limits of Wisdom (7:23­29) Koheleth examined wisdom and found he has learned little about wisdom. His search for a life without difficulty was not possible with wisdom.

8. Necessity of Submission (8:1­9) He recognizes the king must be obeyed, but his wisdom tells him the time and way to carry out the commands. The wise man must remember that there are many situations over which he has no power.

9. Success of the Wicked (8:10­15) The author returns to the theme vanity. He has evidence that the wicked many times fare better than the righteous. For that reason he pronounces that all is vanity.

10. Man's Helplessness (8:16­9:6) In searching for meaning of man's existence, Koheleth concludes that this meaning is undiscoverable (8:16­17). Man cannot determine his own fate.

11. Solution: Enjoyment of Earthly Life (9:7­10) Life is in God's hands; death is certain. Enjoy life while it lasts. This is the solution to "all is vanity."

12. Limitations and advantages of Wisdom (9:11­18) Koheleth asserts that success does not depend on effort. He finally admits wisdom has limitations. There is little difference between sinner and fool.

13. A collection of Proverbs (10:1­11:6) Represents a variety of thoughts in the teaching of Koheleth.

IV. Conclusion (11:7­12:14)

1. Serene and Godly Life (11:7­12:8)

Koheleth reaches the conclusion of his whole argument. He has spoken of vanity. He has said to enjoy the simple life. Here he teaches the necessity of enjoying life before old age. He concludes by telling the reader to rejoice during youth and to remember God the creator. The arguments of the book ends with a reassertion of its thesis: all is vanity.

2. Epilogue (12:9­14)

This section praises Koheleth and the teachings of the wise men, warns against excessive study, and exhorts the reader to be loyal to God. The epilogue ends by pointing the reader to God as Koheleth had done himself.

(Outline from Wayne H. Peterson, Ecclesiastes, The Broadman Bible Commentary, pp. 106-127)




I. Introduction (1:1­11)

II. Two Experiments (1:12­2:26)

1. Search for Satisfaction (1:12­15)

2. Failure of Wisdom(1:16­18)

3. Failure of Pleasure and Possessions (2:1­11)

4. Death, The Destroyer of Satisfaction (2:12­23)

5. Solution: Enjoyment of the Simple Life (2:24-26)

III. Life's Limitation (3:1­11:6)

1. God's Sovereign (3:1­15)

2. Man's Injustice (3:16­4:3)

3. Futility of Striving (4:4­16)

4. Sincerity Worship (5:1­7)

5. Futility of Wealth (5:8­6:12)

6. Reflections on Wisdom (7:1­22)

7. Limits of Wisdom (7:23­29)

8. Necessity of Submission (8:1­9)

9. Success of the Wicked (8:10­15)

10. Man's Helplessness (8:16­9:6)

11. Solution: Enjoyment of Earthly Life (9:7­10)

12. Limitations and Advantages of Wisdom (9:11­18)

13. A Collection of Proverbs (10:1­11:6)

IV. Conclusion (11:7­12:14)

1. Serene and Godly Life (11:7­12:8)

2. Epilogue (12:9­14)



1. Read 3:12­13. Summarize his conclusion about the meaning of life.

2. Read 1:1­11 and write one or two words which describe the feelings or mood set here for the book.

3. Read pages 299­306, Andrew E. Hill &John H. Walton, A Survey of the Old Testament.


Discussion Question #1: What is the meaning of life according to Ecclesiastes?


Teacher's Notes:

Contemporary teaching. To paraphrase Paul, the teacher could see but a poor resection as in a mirror. (1 Cor 13:12). The book of Ecclesiastes is amazingly applicable to the contemporary scene.

1. Similar Philosophies The author reflected a world with an impersonal view of God. He saw the hopelessness of human existence. Many modern philosophers reflect such a fatalism. Nowhere is the authors fatalism more evident than among those today who keep reminding us of the realistic possibility of nuclear annihilation.

2. A Worthwhile Life. Ancient man thought he could find pleasure in materialism, wealth, vocational success, fame, fortune, and pleasures of the world (good food, good wine, slaves, women.) Today's media spread the same misconceptions. The end is the same ­­ futility.

3. Avoidance of Extremes. In 7:16­17 we are reminded of this. We should not go to extremes but stay in the middle most of the time.

4 The Mystery of Evil. Life is not always fair. The wicked are not always punished. The righteous are not always rewarded.

5. The Difficulty of Aging. The teacher has acquired a skeptical bent in his old age. Skepticism is not always bad, but aging may intensify an unhealthy skepticism. As we age we lose jobs, mates, friends, and often our health. Sometimes we lose contact with the church.

6. Hope The teacher did not give up completely. He could find hope in the simple pleasure and duties of life­pleasure, wisdom, friendship, listening, acting expediently. Thus although Ecclesiastes does not offer the final light for a worthwhile life, it does point the way to help in the simple things. (Ecclesiastes, The Disciple's Study Bible, 789.)


Teacher's Notes: Vanity means breath or vapor and then, in a figurative sense (I) futility, meaningless emptiness, (2) transitoriness ­­ life is futile and brief.


Discussion Questions:

#1: What are the practical results of viewing adversity with attention to purpose rather than cause?

#2. What does the term vanity in Ecclesiastes mean?

#3. Why is conventional wisdom inadequate when seeking to live for God?



Credits and Copyright This online text book is provided by the Division of Student Ministry of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, 333 N. Washington Dallas, Texas 75246-1798 214.828.5100 Use the text to meet your academic needs. If you copy any part of this online text, please give credit to the Division of Student Ministry of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. Any donations which you give will be used in the Division of Student Ministry Summer Missions Programs.

Credits and Copyright This online text book is provided by the Division of Student Ministry of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, 333 N. Washington Dallas, Texas 75246-1798 214.828.5100 Use the text to meet your academic needs. If you copy any part of this online text, please give credit to the Division of Student Ministry of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. Any donations which you give will be used in the Division of Student Ministry Summer Missions Programs.