Ecclesiastes, unlike Acts, Romans, or Hebrews, does not seem to come right out and discuss the topic of faith. The writer shares about his own life and the pursuit of satisfaction and happiness in his own power. In all of the things he tried to find happiness in, he only found that everything apart from God is meaningless and vain. When he accepted the fact that God has a plan that He is working it out in the author's life, and that all he needs to do is allow Him to work, it was only then that he was able to find true satisfaction and happiness. He then calls the readers to not walk in the same way of meaninglessness as he had, but rather to seek God first, and reap the benefits of faith in God.
The writer of Ecclesiastes is known only as the Qohelet, which is the Hebrew word meaning Teacher, but who exactly the author was is unsure. Traditionally it is believed that King Solomon wrote this book. It is thought to have been written later in his life, based upon some of the content in the book. Solomon was considered the wisest man to ever live. He valued knowledge and the attainment of wisdom. He received wisdom as a gift from God and continued his pursuit of knowledge through his life. In Ecclesiastes 1:13 and 14 the author says "I devoted myself to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under heaven. What a heavy burden God has laid on men! I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the sun". He also says in 2:13 and 14 that "I saw that wisdom is better than folly, just as light is better than darkness. The wise man has eyes in his head, while the fool walks in the darkness; but I came to realize that the same fate overtakes them both". The writer has realized that for all of his efforts to gain wisdom and knowledge he still faces the same destiny as the fools. In 1:18 he comes to the conclusion that "For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge the more grief." The type of wisdom being referred to here is a humanistic wisdom which focuses on gaining knowledge of man and excluding God. It is when God is excluded that wisdom leads to the sorrow and grief.
The author also turned his pursuit of happiness to his work. He thought that perhaps the toils and labor of life would produce the fruits of happiness. He quickly realized that this too is meaningless. Everything that a man works hard to obtain in the end will remain on the earth to become trash or simply to be passed on to another man. A search for happiness in the tangible fruits of our labor brings only temporary pleasure. The writer addresses this in 5:10 and 11; "Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless. As goods increase, so do those who consume them. And what benefit are they to the owner except to feast his eyes on them?" He also comments in 2:17-18 that "
So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me." The author sees that for all of his hard work he will earn no happiness.
The author also talks about the accumulation of pleasures. If knowledge and work cannot provide happiness, perhaps the pleasures of the world would. The writer obviously had access to all manner of entertainment and things to tie his time up in. The passage in Ecclesiastes 2:3-11 lists all the pleasures that he spent his time and energy on that, like everything else proved to be meaningless: "I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly-my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was worthwhile for men to do under heaven during the few days of their lives. I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. I...
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Halley, Henry H. Halley 's Bible Handbook. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing, 1965.
Sandmel, Samuel. Hebrew Scriptures. New York: Oxford University Press, 1978.
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