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Book Of Ecclesiastes

Kohelet proclaims (1:2) "Vanity of vanities! All is futile!"; the Hebrew word hevel, "vapor", can figuratively mean "insubstantial", "vain", "futile", or "meaningless". Given this, the next verse presents the basic existential question with which the rest of the book is concerned: "What profit hath a man for all his toil, in which he toils under the sun?", expressing that the lives of both wise and foolish people all end in death. While Kohelet endorses wisdom as a means for a well-lived earthly life, he is unable to ascribe eternal meaning to it. In light of this perceived meaninglessness, he suggests that human beings should enjoy the simple pleasures of daily life, such as eating, drinking, and taking enjoyment in one's work, which are gifts from the hand of God. The book concludes with the injunction to "Fear God and keep his commandments; for that is the duty of all of mankind. Since every deed will God bring to judgment, for every hidden act, be it good or evil."

book of ecclesiastes

According to rabbinic tradition the book was written by King Solomon in his old age,[1] but the presence of Persian loanwords and Aramaisms point to a date no earlier than about 450 BCE,[2] while the latest possible date for its composition is 180 BCE.[3]

It has been proposed that the text is composed of three distinct voices. The first belongs to Qoheleth as the prophet, the "true voice of wisdom",[21] which speaks in the first person, recounting wisdom through his own experience. The second voice belongs to Qoheleth as the king of Jerusalem, who is more didactic and thus speaks primarily in second-person imperative statements. The third voice is that of the epilogist, who speaks proverbially in the third person. The epilogist is most identified in the book's first and final verses. Kyle R. Greenwood suggests that following this structure, Ecclesiastes should be read as a dialogue between these voices.[21]

Wisdom was a popular genre in the ancient world, where it was cultivated in scribal circles and directed towards young men who would take up careers in high officialdom and royal courts; there is strong evidence that some of these books, or at least sayings and teachings, were translated into Hebrew and influenced the Book of Proverbs, and the author of Ecclesiastes was probably familiar with examples from Egypt and Mesopotamia.[38] He may also have been influenced by Greek philosophy, specifically the schools of Stoicism, which held that all things are fated, and Epicureanism, which held that happiness was best pursued through the quiet cultivation of life's simpler pleasures.[39]

Yet another suggestion is that Ecclesiastes is simply the most extreme example of a tradition of skepticism, but none of the proposed examples match Ecclesiastes for a sustained denial of faith and doubt in the goodness of God. Martin A. Shields, in his 2006 book The End of Wisdom: A Reappraisal of the Historical and Canonical Function of Ecclesiastes, summarized that "In short, we do not know why or how this book found its way into such esteemed company".[41]

The book continues to be cited by recent popes, including Pope John Paul II and Pope Francis. Pope John Paul II, in his general audience of October 20, 2004, called the author of Ecclesiastes "an ancient biblical sage" whose description of death "makes frantic clinging to earthly things completely pointless".[53] Pope Francis cited Ecclesiastes in his address on September 9, 2014. Speaking of vain people, he said, "How many Christians live for appearances? Their life seems like a soap bubble."[54]

This summary of the book of Ecclesiastes provides information about the title, author(s), date of writing, chronology, theme, theology, outline, a brief overview, and the chapters of the Book of Ecclesiastes.

The argument of Ecclesiastes does not flow smoothly. It meanders, with jumps and starts, through the general messiness of human experience, to which it is a response. There is also an intermingling of poetry and prose. Nevertheless, the following outline seeks to reflect, at least in a general way, the structure of the book and its main discourses. The announced theme of "meaninglessness" (futility) provides a literary frame around the whole (1:2;12:8). And the movement from the unrelieved disillusionment of chs. 1 - 2 to the more serene tone and sober instructions for life in chs. 11 - 12 marks a development in matured wisdom's coming to terms with the human situation.

Beauty matters in our understanding of who God is. Every aspect of our books is carefully considered. Original artwork from around the world, typography, layout design and negative space are thoughtfully weaved into each book of the Bible. Printed on quality paper using FSC-certified, environmentally friendly practices.

I am a pastor in Kenya. I use Pastor Chuck Swindoll's books a lot: Moses, David, Joseph, Esther, Hand Me Another Brick. I also receive Insight [for Today] daily. I use all as my study material. . . . I pray that I could absorb all that, live it and teach it. God bless Chuck, God bless Insight For Living.

Justin S. Holcomb (PhD, Emory University) is an Episcopal priest and teaches theology at Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando. He has written or edited more than twenty books on abuse, theology, and biblical studies. Justin and his wife, Lindsey, live in Orlando, Florida, with their two daughters.

The Israelitish name for God is nowhere employed, nor does there appear to be any reference to Judaic matters; hence there seems to be a possibility that the book is an adaptation of a work in some other language. This supposition would agree with the fact that certain of the idioms found in it are not so much late Hebrew as foreign Hebrew (e.g., vii. 24, viii. 17, xii. 9); with the frequent use of the participial present (e.g., viii. 14); with the unintelligible character of several phrases which are apparently not corrupt (e.g., iv. 17, x. 15, much of xii. 4-6); and with the want of sharpness that characterizes some of the aphorisms (e.g., x. 9). Further, the verb (xii. 9), which describes a process to which the author says he subjected his proverbs, should, on the analogy of the Arabic "wazan," refer to the numbering of syllables; and the following phrases, apparently meaning "searched out and corrected" or "carefully straightened," have the appearance of referring to metrical correctness, though their exact import is not easy to fix. Of any such formal technicality the verses of Ḳohelet bear no trace in their existing form; yet there are places where the introduction of words would be more intelligible if the author had a fixed number of syllables to make up (e.g., xii. 2, "while the sun or the light or the moon or the stars be not darkened"). If this be so, the character of the idioms noticed (e.g., xii. 9, "the wiser Ḳohelet became, the more did he teach") renders it probable that the language of the model was Indo-Germanic; and the introduction of the names "David," "Israel," and "Jerusalem," as well as the concealment of all names in the case of the anecdotes which the author introduces (e.g., iv. 13-15, ix. 14-16), is with the view of accommodating the work to Jewish taste.

The felicity, wisdom, and profundity of many of the aphorisms probably endeared the book to many who might have been displeased with the Epicurean and pessimistic passages. Yet without the idea that Ḳohelet was Solomon one could scarcely imagine the work ever having been included in the canon; and had it not been adopted before the doctrine of the Resurrection became popular, it is probable that the author's views on that subject would have caused his book to be excluded therefrom. Mystical interpretation of the book began fairly early (see Ned. 32b); and the work was a favorite source of citation with those rabbis who, like Saadia, were philosophers as well as theologians.

The name of this book signifies "The Preacher." The wisdom of God here preaches to us, speaking by Solomon, who it is evident was the author. At the close of his life, being made sensible of his sin and folly, he recorded here his experience for the benefit of others, as the book of his repentance; and he pronounced all earthly good to be "vanity and vexation of spirit." It convinces us of the vanity of the world, and that it cannot make us happy; of the vileness of sin, and its certain tendency to make us miserable. It shows that no created good can satisfy the soul, and that happiness is to be found in God alone; and this doctrine must, under the blessed Spirit's teaching, lead the heart to Christ Jesus.Solomon shows that all human things are vain. (1-3) Man's toil and want of satisfaction. (4-8) There is nothing new. (9-11) The vexation in pursuit of knowledge. (12-18)1-3 Much is to be learned by comparing one part of Scripture with another. We here behold Solomon returning from the broken and empty cisterns of the world, to the Fountain of living water; recording his own folly and shame, the bitterness of his disappointment, and the lessons he had learned. Those that have taken warning to turn and live, should warn others not to go on and die. He does not merely say all things are vain, but that they are vanity. VANITY OF VANITIES, ALL IS VANITY. This is the text of the preacher's sermon, of which in this book he never loses sight. If this world, in its present state, were all, it would not be worth living for; and the wealth and pleasure of this world, if we had ever so much, are not enough to make us happy. What profit has a man of all his labour? All he gets by it will not supply the wants of the soul, nor satisfy its desires; will not atone for the sins of the soul, nor hinder the loss of it: what profit will the wealth of the world be to the soul in death, in judgment, or in the everlasting state?4-8 All things change, and never rest. Man, after all his labour, is no nearer finding rest than the sun, the wind, or the current of the river. His soul will find no rest, if he has it not from God. The senses are soon tired, yet still craving what is untried.9-11 Men's hearts and their corruptions are the same now as in former times; their desires, and pursuits, and complaints, still the same. This should take us from expecting happiness in the creature, and quicken us to seek eternal blessings. How many things and persons in Solomon's day were thought very great, yet there is no remembrance of them now!12-18 Solomon tried all things, and found them vanity. He found his searches after knowledge weariness, not only to the flesh, but to the mind. The more he saw of the works done under the sun, the more he saw their vanity; and the sight often vexed his spirit. He could neither gain that satisfaction to himself, nor do that good to others, which he expected. Even the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom discovered man's wickedness and misery; so that the more he knew, the more he saw cause to lament and mourn. Let us learn to hate and fear sin, the cause of all this vanity and misery; to value Christ; to seek rest in the knowledge, love, and service of the Saviour.Commentary by Matthew Henry, 1710. 041b061a72


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