Peace & Blessings Beloved,
TGBTG for allowing us to see another day. I pray all is well with you and yours, and that your week has been fruitful & blessed thus far.
Today we are going to take a deep dive into the twenty-first book listed in the Holy Bible, Ecclesiastes. Specifically, we're going to look at the Purpose, Background, Literary Features, & Major Themes.
The author of Ecclesiastes puts his powers of wisdom to work to examine the human experience and assess the human situation. His perspective is limited to what happens under the sun. He considers life as he has experienced and observed it between the horizons of birth and death -- life within the boundaries of this visible world. His wisdom cannot penetrate beyond that last horizon; he can only observe the phenomenon of death and perceive the limits it places on human beings. Within the limits of human experience and observation, he is concerned to spell out what is good for people to do. And he represents a devout wisdom. Life in the world is under God -- for all its enigmas. Hence what begins with Meaningless! Meaningless! (1:2) ends with Remember your Creator (12:1) and Fear God and keep his commandments (12:13).
With a wisdom matured by many years, he takes the measure of human beings, examining their limits and their lot. He has attempted to see what human wisdom can do (1:13,16-18; 7:24; 8:16), and he has discovered that human wisdom, even when it has its beginning in the fear of the Lord (Proverbs 1:7), has limits to its powers when it attempts to go it alone -- limits that circumscribe its perspectives and relativize its counsel. Most significantly, it cannot find out the larger purposes of God or the ultimate meaning of human existence.
To sum up, Ecclesiastes provides instruction on how to live meaningfully, purposefully and joyfully within the theocratic arrangement -- primarily by placing God at the center of one's life, work and activities, by contentedly accepting one's divinely appointed lot in life, and by reverently trusting in and obeying the Creator-King.
Qoheleth occurs seven times in the book of Ecclesiastes (Ecclesiastes 1:1-2, 12; 7:27; 12:8-10) and nowhere else in biblical literature. As a noun, designating the speaker, it also gives the Hebrew name Qoheleth to the book itself.
Ekklesiastou is the Greek word used in the LXX which we find translated Teacher.
1. Introduction (1:1-2)
2. On time and the World (1:3-11)
3. On Wisdom (1:12-18)
4. On Wealth (2:1-11)
5. On Wisdom (2:12-17)
6. On Wealth (2:18-26)
7. On Time and the World (3:1-15b)
8. On Politics (3:15c-17)
9. On Death (3:18-22)
10. On Politics (4:1-3)
11. On Wealth (4:4-8)
12. On Friendship (4:9-12)
13. On Politics (4:13-16)
14. On Religion (5:1-7)
15. On Politics (5:8-9)
16. On Wealth (5:10-6:6)
17. Transition (6:7-9)
18. On Wisdom and Death (6:10-7:4)
19. Transition (7:5-6)
20. On Wisdom and Politics (7:7-9)
21. Transition (7:10)
22. On Wisdom and Wealth (7:11-14)
23. On Wisdom and Religion (7:15-29)
24. Transition (8:1)
25. On Politics (8:2-6)
26. Transition (8:7-8)
27. On Theodicy (8:9-9:1)
28. Transition (9:2)
29. On Death and Contentment (9:3-10)
30. Transition (9:11-12)
31. On Politics (9:13-10:17)
32. Transition (10:18-20)
33. On Wealth (11:1-6)
34. On Death and Contentment (11:7-12:7)
35. Conclusion (12:8-14)
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 chapters. 1 - 2 to the more serene tone and sober instructions for life in chapters. 11 - 12 marks a development in matured wisdom's coming to terms with the human situation.
A striking feature of the book is its frequent use of key words and phrases: e.g., meaningless (1:2;2:24-25), work/labor/toil (see note on 2:10), good/better (2:1), gift/give (5:19), under the sun (1:3), chasing after the wind (1:14). Also to be noted is the presence of passages interwoven throughout the book that serve as key indicators of the author's theme and purpose: 1:2-3,14,17; 2:10-11,17,24-26; 3:12-13,22; 4:4,6,16; 5:18-20; 6:9,12; 7:14,24; 8:7,15,17; 9:7,12; 10:14; 11:2,5-6,8-9; 12:1,8,13-14. The enjoyment of life as God gives it is a key concept in the book (see 2:24-25 and note, 26; 3:12-13 and note, 22; 5:18-20; 7:14; 8:15 and note; 9:7-9; 11:8-9).
Life Under the Sun
HOPE LOST IN THE GARDEN
When man was driven from the garden, access to the tree of life was taken away. In essence hope for a fulfilling life was lost. We will shortly see in Romans how the whole of creation looks forward to once again the freedom it enjoyed.
THE FUTILITY OF LIFE OUTSIDE OF THE GARDEN
Ecclesiastes is a view of life separate from God. The futility that began in Genesis 3 and is spoken of in Romans 8 is magnified in Ecclesiastes. What would life look like if we were left in that futility? Ecclesiastes is the answer to that question. While there are hints spread throughout the book and a clear statement of focus in the conclusion, the rest of the book views life without hope.
THE HOPE FOUND AMIDST THE FUTILITY
The hope is found in Christ. Further in the passage in Romans it is clear that Christ is the hope offered to a society plagued by futility.
The Vanity of Wisdom
Life is hebel. It is brief, absurd and meaningless.
Creation reflects the futility of life in its continued cycles and in the fact that it remains unmoved over time.
Man not only realizes that life is futile but as well is unable to answer the problem, find anything to satisfy the problem, learn anything to fix the problem or come up with any new ideas to solve the problem.
Man is left with a complete inability to find purpose and satisfaction.
It is important that we understand that Solomon is not espousing that all of the areas in which he searched were pointless, but that without God they were unfulfilling. It is not true that wisdom and even pleasure carry no worth, but a complete focus on them for satisfaction will be fruitless and vain.
It seems apparent that God wants man to come to the end of himself. Often man only comes to find God when he has come to the end of his own ability. Man has the opportunity to go directly to God, but often chooses every other path to satisfaction.
Vanity of Pleasure
Ecclesiastes 2:10 I did not restrain myself from getting whatever I wanted; I did not deny myself anything that would bring me pleasure. So all my accomplishments gave me joy; this was my reward for all my effort.
1. The potential for gratification is realized.
2. Our brain drives us to act on the potential. Our brain tells us we are hungry so we go and eat. Sexual desire drives one to make love with whoever is available. Loneliness drives us to a social life.
3. Our actions are rewarded by the sensations of pleasure. Often the action itself is the most rewarding. Eating with someone else brings much more pleasure than merely satisfying a hunger craving.
4. Once someone has been satisfied, the action comes to an end, at least until a new desire comes along.
“We must exercise ourselves in the things which bring happiness, since, if that be present, we have everything, and, if that be absent, all our actions are directed toward attaining it.”
The primary thought behind Hedonism is that all actions can be measured on the basis of how much pleasure and how little pain they produce.
There are two types of Secular Hedonism: Motivational and Normative. Motivational Hedonism claims that only pleasure and pain motivate us. Normative Hedonism claims that all pleasure has worth or value and only pleasure has worth or value. As well, all pain has disvalue and only pain has disvalue.
Jeremy Bentham initially proposed the thought of utilitarianism. He found that pain and pleasure were the only intrinsic values in the world. From this he derived the rule of utility: that the good is whatever brings the greatest happiness to the greatest number of people.
There are a number of different views of Utilitarianism. Some approach this position from its negative viewpoint. Negative Utilitarianism requires us to promote the least amount of evil or harm, or to prevent the greatest amount of harm for the greatest number.
Solomon clearly states that a search for permanent or even temporary satisfaction in pleasure is a waste of time.
Wisdom vs. Folly
Ecclesiastes 2:13 I realized that wisdom is preferable to folly, just as light is preferable to darkness: 2:14 The wise man can see where he is going, but the fool walks in darkness. Yet I also realized that the same fate happens to them both.
The verb siklut (foolish behavior in Ecclesiastes 2:12) is mostly used in contexts where a man acts out of fear and thus behaves rashly, rather than acting wisely out of a confidence based in God … This practical atheism the Babylonians used to call living in a ramanishu, i.e. living by oneself, on one’s own resources, without dependence on God. But this is the essence of sin … Wisdom is the way of the moral and spiritual man while folly is the way of a man with twisted values. One other association of siklût (foolish behavior) with madness (Ecclesiastes 7:25) is pictured by the sinner who allows himself to be entrapped by an immoral woman. The one who would be wise and pleasing to God escapes from her clutches.
Therefore, a fool’s life is characterized by blindly following after pleasure apart from God. Solomon’s comparison in 2:12-17 does then appear to be a comparison between wisdom and pleasure/folly.
Solomon’s comparison seems to initially uplift wisdom. In similar fashion to that of Proverbs, Solomon sets up wisdom as light and folly as darkness. He acknowledges that the wise man is able to see and analyze life. Due to this light, the wise man is more likely to live a more productive life. In contrast, the fool walks about in darkness. He is oblivious to the many dangers that regularly come near his door. He often falls headlong into danger due to his complete lack of discretion.
The Vanity of Labor
Ecclesiastes 2:18 So I loathed all the fruit of my effort, for which I worked so hard on earth, because I must leave it behind in the hands of my successor. 2:19 Who knows if he will be a wise man or a fool?
The root word for labor often refers to drudgery of toil rather than the nobility of labor. It relates to the dark side of labor, the grievous and unfulfilling aspect of work.
CONSEQUENCES OF LABOR
Although this word can be used to express physical suffering, it much more commonly has to do with mental anguish.
The root meaning is to vex, agitate, stir up, or provoke the heart to a heated condition which in turn leads to specific actions.
The primary meaning conveys the idea of ‘lying down’. His mind continues to run at night keeping him from truly resting.
Attempting to find lasting satisfaction in work is going to leave one feeling empty. Some might attempt to find satisfaction in the actual fulfillment of the job. Others might attempt to find satisfaction in the fruit of their job. Either way, you will be unsatisfied.
A Time for Everything
Ecclesiastes 3:1 For everything there is an appointed time, and an appropriate time for every activity on earth: 3:2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to uproot what was planted; 3:3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; 3:4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance. 3:5 A time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 3:6 A time to search, and a time to give something up as lost; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; 3:7 A time to rip, and a time to sew; a time to keep silent, and a time to speak. 3:8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.
Man wants to have control. He wants to have a life filled with joy and productivity. Instead man is left with this burning desire to overcome the reality of his mortality. He works hard to accomplish much, only to leave all he has done to others when he dies – and his death is inevitable.
Therefore, the conclusion is that man ought to just be content with what seasons come into his life and accept them.
God’s Sovereignty Over an Evil World
It is true that the world is an evil place and that wickedness will reign in the places of justice and righteousness, but it is also true that the righteous God will one day judge.
IT IS INEVITABLE THAT GOD WILL JUDGE.
Romans 12:19 Do not avenge yourselves, dear friends, but give place to God’s wrath, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.
Hebrews 10:30 For we know the one who said, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 10:31 It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
IT IS INEVITABLE THAT GOD WILL JUDGE ALL MEN.
Romans 2:6 He will reward each one according to his works: 2:7 eternal life to those who by perseverance in good works seek glory and honor and immortality, 2:8 but wrath and anger to those who live in selfish ambition and do not obey the truth but follow unrighteousness. 2:9 There will be affliction and distress on everyone who does evil, on the Jew first and also the Greek, 2:10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, for the Jew first and also the Greek.
2 Thessalonians 1:6 For it is right for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 1:7 and to you who are being afflicted to give rest together with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels. 1:8 With flaming fire he will mete out punishment on those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.
IT IS INEVITABLE THAT GOD WILL JUDGE ALL MEN IN THE FUTURE.
Matthew 16:27 For the Son of Man will come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.
While there may be some present joy in sin, the fact that God has placed eternity in the hearts of man seems to leave man incapable of enjoying life without Him. If a man realizes (even suspects) that he is going to be eternally judged for his actions, little joy can be found in wickedness.
The Allowances of a Sovereign God
All sorts of things happen to all people…
We have no control over these happenings and it is in this realization that we are confronted with the truth that we are in bondage to time. Not only are we bound to time, we are as well incapable of controlling time. We are given an internal desire but not the inherent ability to understand eternity.
God is sovereign over all those happenings…
We realize that God, alone, is sovereign over time and the happenings in our lives. Solomon clearly establishes God as the Sovereign Judge over all men. At a future time mankind will be judged for how they responded to Him.
A Sovereign God Allows Oppression
Ecclesiastes 4:1 So I again considered all the oppression that continually occurs on earth. This is what I saw: The oppressed were in tears, but no one was comforting them; no one delivers them from the power of their oppressors. 4:2 So I considered those who are dead and gone more fortunate than those who are still alive. 4:3 But better than both is the one who has not been born and has not seen the evil things that are done on earth.
A Sovereign God Allows Rivalry
Ecclesiastes 4:4 Then I considered all the skillful work that is done: Surely it is nothing more than competition between one person and another. This also is profitless – like chasing the wind. 4:5 The fool folds his hands and does no work, so he has nothing to eat but his own flesh. 4:6 Better is one handful with some rest than two hands full of toil and chasing the wind.
A Sovereign God Allows Loneliness
Ecclesiastes 4:7 So I again considered another futile thing on earth: 4:8 A man who is all alone with no companion, he has no children nor siblings; yet there is no end to all his toil, and he is never satisfied with riches. He laments, “For whom am I toiling and depriving myself of pleasure?” This also is futile and a burdensome task! 4:9 Two people are better than one, because they can reap more benefit from their labor. 4:10 For if they fall, one will help his companion up, but pity the person who falls down and has no one to help him up. 4:11 Furthermore, if two lie down together, they can keep each other warm, but how can one person keep warm by himself? 4:12 Although an assailant may overpower one person, two can withstand him. Moreover, a three-stranded cord is not quickly broken.
A Sovereign God Allows Man to be Expendable
Ecclesiastes 4:13 A poor but wise youth is better than an old and foolish king who no longer knows how to receive advice. 4:14 For he came out of prison to become king, even though he had been born poor in what would become his kingdom. 4:15 I considered all the living who walk on earth, as well as the successor who would arise in his place. 4:16 There is no end to all the people nor to the past generations, yet future generations will not rejoice in him. This also is profitless and like chasing the wind.
May we establish, nurture, and grow a sincere love for the word of God, and study it lovingly & faithfully.
I pray you receive this with the love intended, and apply it to wisdom.
May the joy of the Lord continue to be your strength.
Love you much.
Stay Safe, Stay Healthy, Stay Blessed!
P.S- If you have not given your life to Jesus Christ, I implore you to take the time to do so right now. Use John 3:16 & Romans 10:9-10 as a foundation for making your confession of faith. And use Ephesians 2:1-10 to provide proper context for your salvation