Summary: Life is full of meaning when your faith is in Christ.
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WHO IS THE AUTHOR?
The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem (v. 1).
Who wrote the book of Ecclesiastes?
• “Preacher” (qoheleth) means “one who gathers” or “one among the gathering.”
• “Ecclesiastes” is from the Greek translation of qoheleth (ekklesiastes). (Ekklesia is the NT word for “church.” It means “assembly.”)
• The traditional view is that Ecclesiastes was written by SOLOMON. He was the only immediate “son of David” to be “king in Jerusalem.”
• Most modern scholars believe that Ecclesiastes was written by an UNKOWN author of a later period. Why? (1) The phrase “son of David” could refer to any legitimate Davidic descendent, as it does in Matthew 1:20 with reference to Joseph and frequently throughout the NT with reference to Jesus Christ. (2) The distinctive nature of the Hebrew language used in the book is widely believed to be indicative of a date much later than the 10th century B.C. (3) The Preacher’s remarks imply a historical setting that seems in tension with the Solomonic era, such as the fact that many have preceded him as king in Jerusalem (e.g., 1:16; 2:7, 9—though these may include non-Israelite kings), that injustice and oppression are openly practiced (3:16-17; 4:1-3; 8:10-11), and that he has observed firsthand the foolishness of kings (4:13-16; 10:5-6) and their abuse of royal power (8:2-9). [ESV Study Bible]
• There are two voices in Ecclesiastes: the NARRATOR (1:1-11; 12:9-14) and the PREACHER (1:12-12:8).
CHASING AFTER THE WIND
Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity (v. 2).
Vanity (hebel) is an important word in Ecclesiastes:
• Literally, hebel means “VAPOR,” “WIND,” or “BREATH.”
• Figuratively, hebel means “FLEETING,” “MEANINGLESS,” and “INCOMPREHEN-SIBLE.”
a. Fleeting: “I loathe my life; I would not live forever. Leave me alone, for my days are a breath [hebel]” (Job 7:16). The NIV reads, “My days have no meaning.” “Man is like a breath [hebel]; his days are like a passing shadow” (Psalm 144:4). “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting [hebel]” (Proverbs 31:30 NIV). “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist [vapour KJV] that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:13-14). The NIV translates hebel as “meaningless.”
b. Meaningless: The NIV translates hebel as “meaningless.” Hebel is used 13 times to describe pagan idols.
c. Incomprehensible: Sometimes when something cannot be understood, we say, “I can’t grasp that.” A vapor cannot be grasped.
• “Vanity of vanities” means the GREATEST vanity. (“King of kings” means the greatest king.)
• EVERYTHING under the sun is “vanity.” “All is vanity.” See 1:14; 2:11, 17, 21; 4:4, 7-8.
• “Vanity” is the result of the FALL. “The creation was subjected to futility” (Romans 8:20).
CHASING WHAT IS ABOVE THE SUN
What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun? (v. 3).
“Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life” (Genesis 3:17 NIV).
Life is a treadmill (vv.4-11).
“For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36).
“Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you … This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent” (John 6:27, 29).
Life is full of meaning when your FAITH is in CHRIST.
“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).