We began Ecclesiastes this morning in our reading. Here is the brief introduction I wrote for my Ugandan friends.
Ecclesiastes is a unique form of wisdom literature. Its form and style stand in contrast to most of the Bible both in theology and in tone. The author observes life and draws logical conclusions. This observation is “life under the sun” as the author describes it. Life as humans live, without God, is futile, meaningless, purposeless and empty. It is a bleak picture. The book is historically attributed to Solomon but may have been written several centuries after Solomon’s time. It was written in Palestine and the author, if it was not Solomon, remains unknown. The title comes from the Hebrew for “the Preacher” or “the Speaker” and could be a pseudonym or even a proper name.
Ecclesiastes can be outlined as follows:
Ecclesiastes 1:1-6:12 – the emptiness of all endeavors
Ecclesiastes 7:1-12 – seven proverbs of relative value
Ecclesiastes 7:13-29 – On premature death
Ecclesiastes 8:1-9:6 – The king and subjects
Ecclesiastes 9:7-12 – the wise person’s counsel
Ecclesiastes 9:13-18 – the waste of wisdom
Ecclesiastes 10:1-20 – maxims derived from experience
Ecclesiastes 11:1-10 – admonitions
Ecclesiastes 12:1-8 – a description of old age and death
Ecclesiastes 12:9-14 – postscript
A vital lesson from Ecclesiastes is to remember that “life under the sun” has very few and invariable conclusions. We live, we work, and eventually we die. The Christian lives with their eternal destiny in mind and therefore does not fall into the depression that the author of Ecclesiastes seems to have fallen into.