The book of Ecclesiastes is one of the most controversial and difficult books of the Old Testament. The author of the book, the time of its writing, the purpose of its writing and its message are all questioned by Bible scholars. While many books of the Old Testament are questioned by theologically liberal scholars even theological conservatives have raised serious questions about the book of Ecclesiastes.
Some Bible teaches have said Ecclesiastes give a cynical view of life that teaches everything is worthless. Some have said Ecclesiastes is a call to enjoy life to its fullest because everything comes from God. Some have said Ecclesiastes is an exploration of the failure of human wisdom. Some have said Ecclesiastes examines the folly of life without God. Some have said Ecclesiastes has no clear theme, and others have said Ecclesiastes is unified by a single clear theme that runs throughout the book. With all this difficulty in understanding Ecclesiastes many have wondered if it should even be in the Bible.
Ecclesiastes says it was written by the son of David, king in Jerusalem. The natural conclusion is that King Solomon wrote the book. Ecclesiastes was written at the end of Solomon’s life after a long season of great wickedness. Two major building projects define his life. During the first half of his reign Solomon led the construction of the temple of God in Jerusalem. Toward the end of his life he led the construction of many temples to false gods. At some time in his life Solomon began seek out the pleasures of work and leisure, wisdom and folly, wealth, possessions and women. After trying everything available, he declared, “vanity of vanities, all is vanity.”
In all his wisdom Solomon wrestled with the major questions of life: what good is work, what good is pleasure, what good are riches, what good is family, what good are all things? Again, he answered is “all is vanity.” Ecclesiastes examines all the ambitions of life: wealth, power, fame, wisdom, happiness, women, simplicity and concludes they are all meaningless. Ecclesiastes examines all the toils, successes and failures of life and declares that none of them last. Ecclesiastes examines life from every angle and finds life is without purpose.
The book of Ecclesiastes calls the reader to consider the futility and frustration of a life lived apart from God. Though much of Ecclesiastes expresses the hopelessness of living apart from God, the book does not leave the reader without a solution. When all is said and done, Solomon goes back to the principles he learned as a child and taught in Proverbs. When all other philosophies of life have been considered, the conclusion of the whole matter is, “Fear God, and keep His commandments.”
Ecclesiastes explains that life is unexplainable. No one will know all the reasons why. No one will see all their plans and dreams come to pass. Life will seem pointless and frustrating at times. Yet, God rules over all. Though man now suffers because of the curse of sin, life does not have to be pointless or hopeless. A life lived for God will be worthwhile. Ecclesiastes is a very profitable book of the Bible because it teaches all men the value of living according to God’s commands.