Book of Ecclesiastes
The Book of Ecclesiastes, written by Solomon (as most declare) around 935 BC, was a book about life being meaningless without God. The writer encourages people to look at how they can live their lives based on how God intended. The writer exercises a few sections overall, which include accepting your life that God gives you and enjoying it, making the most of the frustrations of life, and having a positive attitude about life.
In the first few chapters, the author wants people to accept the life that God gives them and enjoy it, and starts in the first chapter asking if there is a purpose to life. Life, at times, doesn’t seem to have much meaning, people have to work to keep themselves alive, and many people lose what they work for (to vanity). If life is all for naught, where are we headed and why are we placed here? Life may be wearisome at times, history repeats itself, and generations die and are forgotten. Wise and wealthy men have searched for the meaning of life, wisdom causes frustration when studied, but the learning and experience through learning things enabled his eyes to see the difference between wisdom and folly. Kings build huge fortunes and want pleasure of all kinds. But, this doesn’t bring satisfaction…why…? Wisdom, the writer notes, has no advantage over folly and diligence doesn’t have advantage over idleness. Foolishly wasting life on vain things, things that don’t prosper, only brings hardship and sleepless nights upon people. However, the writer comes to a positive conclusion about the purpose of life, and he decided that God intends for people to enjoy the good things of life and to find enjoyment in their work. God’s gift is for us to enjoy life.
Now, in enjoying life, those who accept God’s gift will please God – for God gives the wisdom and ability to enjoy this gift. God didn’t want humans to miss out on the pleasure that life on Earth could bring, because once they get to a heavenly place, they must be ready to accept even more fulfillment and enjoyment overall. People that try to find happiness based upon their own wisdom and efforts will find that life leads to naught. But, people who find happiness based upon God’s wisdom will find true pleasure in life and will please God in the process.
The writer goes on in chapter three talking about how things work in God’s fixed order, that the ceaseless repetition of events declare life as useless, but God has a reason and way for the earth that people will not embrace. The many repetitions are instead caused by human error, but everything happens in the time that God allows and decided it will happen. Human effort to improve life, the writer declares, is useless: people can change nothing. They have a desire to know God and His Ways, but since God does everything perfectly according to His Plan, people can change nothing. Events go on to repeat themselves according to God’s fixed purposes, and therefore, this keeps people humble before God, in reverence. The writer goes on talking about injustice in the world and the uselessness of achievement before going on to talking about making the most of our life’s frustrations.
The writer changers gears in chapter five, as he begins to talk about making the most of our frustrations in life. He gives advice about religion, that people are not forced to make vows, that we should listen to God’s Word, and that we should avoid silly thoughts and useless speech. What many should be doing is bringing honor before God and/or fearing God. Next, he talks about money, because greed was a big problem, so people should be aware that instead of frustrating about money and prosperity, they should learn to be content, because prosperity does not bring satisfaction. The more people have of money, the more they want – and therefore causes the problem for greed. People go and blow their money and don’t save it up for their future generations in provision. Riches are deceitful, but being content is wise and good!
After that, the writer talks about life and death. We need to make our way through life, even in the various misfortunes. The writer has placed a good amount of proverbs here about life and death that can be beneficial for people to understand that death is certain, that we shouldn’t waste our time on empty pleasures, and people who understand life will prefer rebuke of a wise person rather than an empty praise of a fool. We need well-meaning people in our lives, that help us through our circumstances, instead of people who bloat us up and make us feel important – as if that’s something to die for. People need to live good lives and have a good legacy, one that’s known of enjoying life and its good qualities, instead of being known for popularity and riches. Life enjoyment is great; and when wisdom and money are used together, this improves the quality of life. The writer discusses a few other things and gives some warnings before wrapping this section up. He talks of the many opportunities of life, and that people should enjoy life at the full while they have the opportunity, for they will not have a further opportunity when dead. After talking a bit more about wisdom and folly, he goes on to his next section of talking about having a positive attitude on life.
In having a positive attitude on life, the author teaches first that people need to have boldness in spite of any uncertainty, for regardless of what people decide to do, results will come in due time. People should not put all their goods or resources into one project (many people restate this as “putting all your eggs in one basket”). Many things in life people cannot control or alter, therefore, there’s much that people don’t know. However, their attitude should remain positive and they should be optimistic on life. Life is then compared to the light of day, death compared to the darkness at night. People should enjoy life to the full while the light of day lasts. He goes on to giving advice to young people that it is God’s Will that people should enjoy life and that they have a responsibility to do so. They should remember that God is the Creator, the one who gives life. Accepting life from His Hand is what He intended, and that young people shouldn’t miss their opportunities before old age comes.
The writer finishes up with his final comments, as he states that true wisdom comes from God. Wisdom helps people and sticks in their minds. He gives a final warning that too much study can be harmful, especially if it goes above what is taught by teachers of wisdom. All people have the responsibility that they should fear God, obey His commandments, and allow His wisdom to come into their mind and help them live and enjoy life. People are answerable to God in everything they do, and people should not live in vanity anymore!