ECCLESIASTES

Introduction to Ecclesiastes – By constantly inquiring into the significance of everything that exists, the Preacher presents himself as an optimist, not a pessimist, and his little success in discovering some absolute value in this world “under the sun”, doesn’t mean that he has failed in his intent – Ecclesiastes should not be called pessimistic or cynical, but it is brutally realistic – In Particular Ecclesiastes makes the reader confront the full and dreadful significance of death – **Most people, whether or not they are religious, refuse to face what death really is: a calamity that nullifies the achievements of human life – Ecclesiastes strips away the myths we use to shield ourselves from this stark fact – In Pointing out the dreadfulness of death, **Ecclesiastes helps us see how profound is our need for resurrection [and meaning found only in an eternal life existence] – More simply, Ecclesiastes drives us to Christ – The New Testament shares this perspective; death is not a friend or even a doorway but a terrible enemy – It will be, however, a conquered enemy (I Cor 15:26,54-55; Rev 20:14)

Ecclesiastes is generally attributed to Solomon (approximately between the years 971 and 931 B.C.), who would have written it in his old age. The rather pessimistic tone that permeates the book agrees with the spiritual situation that Solomon went through in those moments (I Kings 11). Although I Kings doesn't mention it, Solomon must have recovered his sound judgment before death, after which he must have repented and returned to GOD. That which is said in Eccl. 1:1, "Words of the preacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem", seems to point to Solomon. Allusions to Solomon's wisdom (1:16), his riches (2:8), his servants (2:7), his inclination to pleasures (2:3), and his building activities (2:4-6) are found dispersed throughout the book. ... Ecclesiastes tells us it was written by a son of David who was king in Jerusalem over Israel (1:1,12). This points to Solomon since he alone, after David, ruled both Judah and Israel. ... The book evokes a time when the traditional answers to the great questions about the meaning of life have lost their relevance. Instead of responding to these questions with quotes from the Scripture, the Preacher introduces a methodology that leans on observation and inductive reasoning. In other scriptural books like Job, Proverbs, and certain Psalms, wisdom is synonymous with virtue and piety; its antithesis, foolishness, is converted thus into evil. In the book of Ecclesiastes, the word "wisdom" is sometimes used this way when it makes reference to the conventional interpretation of the concept by the Israelites (as in 7:1-8:9; 10:1-11:6). But in the initial chapter (1:12-18) the author approaches wisdom as a merely intellectual process, similar to the Greek philosophies, and questions its universal validity. Although he never disputes the existence of a GOD who grants significance to his creation, the Preacher is determined to discover it through his own experience and observation, in a way that he himself can verify it and pass it on to his disciples. Content: The book of Ecclesiastes offers evidence of being a carefully composed literary essay that should be considered in its totality before examining its parts. The content of the book is defined in the same terms (1:2; 12:8) that anticipate and summarize the author's convictions. The theme is continued in 1:3, "What profit does a man have from all his labor for which he strives under the sun?"; or "Can a man find true wisdom apart from GOD's revelation?" The Preacher's question investigates whether any kind of eternal, permanent value ("profit") exists, that can be found in this world ("under the sun") that might give meaning to life. The Hebrew word that's translated as "profit" is yitron (1:3), and can also be translated as "gain" or "value". "Vanity" is a key word in the book, and is the equivalent of the Hebrew word hebel (literally "breath", "encouragement"); it indicates that which is mortal, transitory or passing. By going over each one of the ways through which mankind has tried to find wisdom, the author of Ecclesiastes finds it elusive (like when one tries to catch "the wind") and deceptive ("vanity"). The "wisdom" of 1:12-18 is found empty of real value. The answer can be found neither in pleasures, nor in riches, great human achievements (2:1-11), in a doctrine of retribution (2:12-17) nor in material things (2:18-26). If neither human achievements, nor material things, are yitron, what should our attitude be toward them, considering they don't possess any permanent value? The answer to this question introduces the other question that the book is dedicated to: You should enjoy life as much as GOD blesses it (3:11,12; 5:18-20; 9:7-10), remembering that at the end, He will judge "all these things" (11:7-10). Not even the proper human life, in a merely secular sense, can be the yitron that the Preacher seeks. The interrelationship between life and death also makes up a subordinate theme of the book. But getting back to the principal question of the Preacher, "Is it all destined to end (12:8) like it began (1:2), on a note of hopelessness? By constantly inquiring into the significance of everything that exists, the Preacher presents himself as an optimist, not a pessimist, and his little success in discovering some absolute value in this world ("under the sun"), doesn't mean that he has failed in his intent. On the contrary, he becomes obligated (when he makes the observation that GOD introduced order into the universe at the moment of creation, 3:1-14) to seek the permanent value that he pursues in the world to come (not "under the sun", but "over the sun", in other words). Although he doesn't say it in that exact way, the logic that serves to guide his entire investigation forces him to recognize the only real yitron in fear (reverence) and obedience to GOD (11:7-12:7). This is affirmed in the epilogue: Fearing GOD and keeping his commandments is the fundamental duty of mankind (12:13). This point should be made recognizing that, while true justice doesn't exist in this life, in his time, GOD will judge and put everything in its place (11:9; 12:14). The book concludes with this profound thought. -- Message and Purpose: (HBH) Christian readers, after they have shaken off the initial shock of reading Ecclesiastes, have often described it as a defense of the faith or even an evangelistic work. Ecclesiastes shows that many of the pursuits of life, including wealth, education, and power, do not really fulfill. In that way Ecclesiastes shows that life without GOD is meaningless and drives the reader to faith. ... Ecclesiastes should not be called pessimistic or cynical, but it is brutally realistic. In Particular Ecclesiastes makes the reader confront the full and dreadful significance of death. Most people, whether or not they are religious, refuse to face what death really is: a calamity that nullifies the achievements of human life. Ecclesiastes strips away the myths we use to shield ourselves from this stark fact. In Pointing out the dreadfulness of death, Ecclesiastes helps us see how profound is our need for resurrection. More simply, Ecclesiastes drives us to Christ. The New Testament shares this perspective; death is not a friend or even a doorway but a terrible enemy. It will be, however, a conquered enemy (I Cor. 15:26,54-55; Rev. 20:14). -- Personal Application: Christians in the modern church often assume a passive intellectual attitude, accepting almost everything that's said to them, or simply questioning a doctrine according to appearances, instead of investigating whether it has a biblical foundation. The Preacher's challenge finds its parallel in the apostle Paul's recommendation to the Ephesian Christians that they not be "wavering children, carried everywhere by every wind of doctrine" (Eph. 4:14). To the principle of interpreting the Scriptures for oneself, clearly established by Luther and the Reformers, is added the mandate to "Scrutinize the Scriptures" (John 5:39), to know what they truly teach. The Preacher's purpose for finding what really has value in this life, should be a challenge to each true believer in Jesus Christ, "the way, and the truth, and the life" (John 14:6). The Preacher's failure at the time to find something of permanent value, in the things of the world, teaches Christians who live in these times of greed and materialism to concentrate on the "things from above" (Col. 3:1) and not glorify ambition and material possessions. -- Christ Revealed: Although the book of Ecclesiastes doesn't contain typical prophecies or allusions about Jesus Christ, it anticipates a certain number of teachings of the one in whom the law and the prophets are fulfilled (Matt. 5:17). Although Jesus said little about wisdom, Paul referred fully to the wisdom that comes from GOD (Rom. 22:44) in contrast to that of the narrow world of human limitations (I Cor. 1:17; 3:19; II Cor. 1:12). In Matthew 6:19-21 Jesus warned against the pursuit of riches in this world, saying that it was the kingdom of heaven that should be sought, which reminds us of the Preacher's echo of condemnation against materialism in 2:1-11, 18-26; 4:4-6; 5:8-14. Likewise, the emphasis on heaven that Jesus makes reflects the impossibility of finding something of permanent value "under the sun" (in this world). The Preacher's conclusion, that the only true value resides in reverence and obedience to GOD (12:13), is equivalent to Jesus' teaching that what is of primary importance is our attitude toward GOD (Matt. 22:37, citing Deut. 6:5) and secondly, our attitude toward all other human beings (Matt. 22:39, citing Lev. 19:18). -- The Holy Spirit in Action: All the references to the "spirit" in Ecclesiastes designate the vital force that gives life to human beings and animals (see 3:18-21). However, the book anticipates some of the problems that Paul faced defining the use of the spiritual gifts in I Cor. 12-14. Those who believe that GOD has spoken through the Holy Spirit in dreams and visions (Joel 2:28-32; Acts 2:17-21) would do well in following the Preacher's counsel: not all dreams communicate GOD's wishes to us (5:3). It seems as if Paul had these kinds of reserves in mind when he speaks in I Cor. 14:29 of the gifts of tongues and prophecy, recommending that an orderly manifestation of this nature might be followed by a judgment on the part of the assembly. Also, the Preacher's emphasis on reverence and obedience to GOD anticipates Paul's interest in the edification of the Church (I Cor. 14:5). True spiritual gifts - genuine manifestations of messages or miraculous actions - should be maintained within a spirit of reverence to GOD's glory through Christ and for the edification of the believers. [link]

Ray Stedman – Adventuring Through the Bible – ECCLESIASTES: THE INSPIRED BOOK OF [HUMAN] ERROR – The book of Ecclesiastes, or “the Preacher, [Searcher]” is unique in scripture – There is no other book like it, because it is the only book in the Bible that reflects a human, rather than a divine, point of view {Note: The Book of Job is very similar also having more of a humanistic origin in point of view rather than being material presented from God through prophets or priests as with most of the other books of the Old Testament and all of the books in the New Testament.} (Mp3s)

In chapter 2 the writer [King Solomon] examines the *philosophy of hedonism - *the pursuit of pleasure as the chief end of life. What gives life meaning? Well, millions today say, "Just enjoy yourself! Have a good time, live it up, do as you like, seek pleasure. That's the purpose of living. That's why we are here!" But the Debater [Preacher, Searcher - King Solomon] says: I said to myself, "Come now, I will make a test of pleasure; enjoy yourself." But behold, this also was vanity (Ecclesiastes 2:1 RSV). Then he proceeds to itemize pleasure. He says that first he tried pleasure in the form of laughter, or mirth. Maybe this is what is needed to make life thoroughly enjoyable. So he sought out opportunities to give himself to genial, gracious, laughing, happy company. But he says that after a time, even this yielded a weariness of spirit. Then he says he tried the acquisition of possessions; perhaps meaning comes from wealth: So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem; also my wisdom remained with me. And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them (Ecclesiastes 2:9-10a RSV); And he gave himself to the accumulation of wealth and possessions. (How many are living on that level today!) He says it too was emptiness of spirit and didn't satisfy his longing. -- Then in chapter 3 he views life from what we might call the existential viewpoint. That is a popular term today. It is fashionable to believe in existentialism [create your own version of reality - this is the religion of the world - it was Hitler's religion - Hitler thought if he could imagine it or set his will to it then it would come to pass i.e. his successful invasion of Poland and France early in WWII] and it is, of course, thought to be something new on the stage of world ideas. But it is nothing new at all. It is as old as the thinking of man. Actually, we might call this viewpoint fatalism, because there is always a fatalistic element in existentialism. We in America can hardly realize why existential thinking has so powerfully gripped the minds of people in our world. The popularity of existentialism was born at the end of World War II, when Europe was left in shambles. The great cities of Europe were in ruins, and all that men had previously pinned their hopes on -- in government and religion, as they knew it - had been powerless to arrest the catastrophe and terrible chaos of World War II. At the end of it, men were left with utterly shattered hopes concerning what they had believed in. They asked one another, "What can we trust? We can't trust religion. It did nothing to stem the awful tide of tyranny under Hitler. And we can't trust government, because it is the very tool of such power. So what can we trust?" And somebody suggested that the only thing that we can trust is our own reactions to life as we live through things. We experience feelings and reactions to events, and even though no two of us may have the same reaction, at least each person's reaction is real to him. So they said, "All we can really trust is our own reaction to events, to existence." And that is existentialism. ... Now this writer says, "I tried that. I discovered that I reacted to events, that I had certain inescapable experiences in life." The writer sees that all these events come upon us. And he sees also that man has a desire for something deeper, for finding significance, for finding meaning in life: He has made everything beautiful in its time; also he has put eternity into man's mind (Ecclesiastes 3:11a RSV), In other words, man can never rest with simply external explanations of things. He has to look deeper. Eternity is in his heart. And this writer says he saw all this. He saw that events of life are inescapable and are experienced by all men -- but he saw that all men go to one place when it is all over. All turn to dust. And there is nothing better for man than to enjoy his work, ... for that is his lot; who can bring him to see what will be after him (Ecclesiastes 3:22b RSV)? He sees futility, hopelessness. What's the use? In chapter 4 he turns to capitalism, of all things. Here he sets forth the competitive enterprise of life. When we Americans hear the word "capitalism" perhaps we think it is a wonderful word. We think it describes the vigorous young insurance executive out to join the million-dollars-a-month club, or some high-powered executive in business who is building his own empire. We admire this. We say. "Capital is the answer." Remember that the word of God always ultimately looks at life as it really is. And capitalism is not a final answer to things. It may be a better answer than communism, and I'm convinced that it is, but this writer says he tried this competitive-enterprise approach and saw that it resulted in injustices and oppression. And he discovered that selfish motivation lies behind it, resulting in inequities. So, he says it all comes to the same thing: ... In chapter 7 Solomon approaches life from the standpoint of *stoicism - *a cultivated indifference to events - and his conclusion is that in order to view life this way, aim for a happy medium. Be moderate ... Chapters 8 through 10 and the first eight verses of chapter 11 are a connected discourse examining what might be referred to as the *wisdom of the world, or the *common-sense view of life. In chapter 8 anyone approaching life from this point of view is exhorted to master the power structures of the world in which he lives. He says, "Try to understand who is an authority and who isn't, and do your best to be on the right side at the right time." That is his philosophy. You recognize that, don't you? ... Then in chapter 9 he examines the world's value judgments and points out again that they all come to the same thing: Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to the men of skill; but time and chance happen to them all (Ecclesiastes 9:11 RSV). What difference, then, do worldly values make? In chapter 10 he exhorts us to maintain discretion in life -- be temperate, diligent, cautious, accommodating - try to get by as best you can. But this is only an enlightened expression of selfishness, which is the motive underlying it all. We read in chapter 11 that success is simply a matter of diligence - in order to get something out of life, you need to work and apply yourself: [link]

The Bible Collection: (5 DVD Box Set) – A set of 5 DVD’s from a 12 DVD Series (DVD’s)

Product Description: Experience the beauty and majesty of the grandest collection of the greatest stories ever told, magnificently produced to bring these epic tales to life. All five of these award-winning feature films, richly illustrates the strength, courage, and weakness of man and the faith that has sustained mankind for generations. Coded for all regions. 5 DVDs, approx. 11 hours. -- Solomon: Defeating his older brother, Solomon is crowned King of Israel and rules the land with love, peace and respect. While visiting the city, Solomon meets the beautiful Queen of Sheba and falls in love at first sight. When the time comes for her to return to her homeland, Solomon is unable to convince her to stay. Bereft of her beauty and companionship, he falls into a deep depression, departing from his once idyllic world of peace and luxury while his kingdom threatens to collapse. 172 minutes, closed captioned, viewer discretion advised. [link]

Ecclesiastes 1-2 – The Book of Ecclesiastes King Solomon’s final book of his Trilogy of Wisdom [Proverbs, Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes] — ‘Ecclesiastes 1:1 The words of the Preacher [Seeker], the son of David, King in Jerusalem. … Ecclesiastes 1:12-14 I the Preacher [Seeker] was King over *Israel in *Jerusalem. And I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning *all things that are done under heaven [not in heaven – under heaven – from a strictly earthly, human point of view]: this sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith. I have seen all the works that are done under the sun [upon the earth]; and, behold, all is vanity [emptiness] and vexation [frustration] of [human] spirit.’ – Note: Only three men were King over Israel in Jerusalem, King Saul [a type of Satan], King David [a type of Jesus Christ] and King Solomon [a type of the Antichrist]. After Solomon’s reign a civil war ensued in Israel and Israel was divided into two parts a Northern Kingdom (Samaria) and a Southern Kingdom (Jerusalem).

King Solomon the 'Searcher' begins his search for the meaning of life by trying to find eternal meaning in exaggerated joy, significant satisfaction, through momentous accomplishments and by seeking worldly wisdom. - Ecclesiastes 2:1-11 I said in mine heart, Go to now, I will prove thee with mirth [partying], therefore enjoy pleasure: and, behold, this also is vanity [emptiness]. I said of laughter, It is mad: and of mirth, What doeth it? I sought in mine heart to give myself unto wine, yet acquainting mine heart with wisdom; and to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was that good for the sons of men, which they should do under the heaven all the days of their life. I made me great works; I builded me houses; I planted me vineyards: I made me gardens and orchards, and I planted trees in them of all kind of fruits: I made me pools of water, to water therewith the wood that bringeth forth trees: I got me servants and maidens, and had servants born in my house; also I had great possessions of great and small cattle above all that were in Jerusalem before me: I gathered me also silver and gold, and the peculiar treasure of kings and of the provinces: I got me men singers and women singers, and the delights of the sons of men, as musical instruments, and that of all sorts. So I was great, and increased more than all that were before me in Jerusalem: also my wisdom remained with me. And whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy; for my heart rejoiced in all my labour: and this was my portion of all my labour. Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.

When Heaven Scrapes The Pavement – Music Video (Youtube)

What is the significance and meaning to life? - (4:40 min). [link]

Ecclesiastes 3 – King Solomon’s famous a Time and a Season for everything under the sun — ‘Ecclesiastes 3:1 To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven …’

Ecclesiastes 3:1-11 To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace. What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth? I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it. He hath made everything beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.

Ecclesiastes 4-5 – King Solomon sees the unjust oppression in a cruel world both to the oppressed and the oppressor — ‘Ecclesiastes 4:1 So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they [the powerful] had no comforter.’

Ecclesiastes 5:1-10 Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil. Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter anything before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few. For a dream cometh through the multitude of business; and a fool's voice is known by multitude of words. When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay. Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel, that it was an error: wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work of thine hands? For in the multitude of dreams and many words there are also diverse vanities: but fear thou God. If thou seest the oppression of the poor, and violent perverting of judgment and justice in a province, marvel not at the matter: for he that is higher than the highest regardeth; and there be higher than they. Moreover the profit of the earth is for all: the king himself is served by the field. He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity.

Ecclesiastes 6-7 – King Solomon remarks that our life physically is more of a short term shadow than a long term permanent impression — ‘Ecclesiastes 6: 12 For who knoweth what is good for man in this life, all the days of his vain life which he spendeth as a shadow [a vague presence]? for who [the Messiah – Jesus Christ] can tell a man what shall be after him under the sun?’

Ecclesiastes 7:7-12 Surely oppression maketh a wise man mad; and a gift destroyeth the heart. Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof: and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit. Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools. Say not thou, What is the cause that the former days were better than these? for thou dost not enquire wisely concerning this. Wisdom is good with an inheritance: and by it there is profit to them that see the sun. For wisdom is a defense, and money is a defence: but the excellency of knowledge is, that wisdom giveth [eternal] life [over money] to them that have it.

Ecclesiastes 8-10 – King Solomon observes that earthly status and circumstances are not a true representation of the worth of the individual — ‘Ecclesiastes 8:1 Who is as the wise man? and who knoweth the interpretation of a thing? a man’s wisdom maketh his face to shine, and the boldness of his face shall be changed. – ‘Ecclesiastes 9:18 Wisdom is better than weapons of war: but one sinner destroyeth much good.’

Ecclesiastes 10:1-7 Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour: so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour. A wise man's heart is at his right hand; but a fool's heart at his left. Yea also, when he that is a fool walketh by the way, his wisdom faileth him, and he saith to everyone that he is a fool. If the spirit of the ruler rise up against thee, leave not thy place; for yielding pacifieth great offences. There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, as an error which proceedeth from the ruler: Folly is set in great dignity, and the rich sit in low place. I have seen servants upon horses, and princes walking as servants upon the earth.

Ecclesiastes 11-12 – King Solomon notes that in the meaning to a person’s life God’s judgment is the final say — ‘Ecclesiastes 11:9-10 Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment. Therefore remove sorrow from thy heart, and put away evil from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity.’

The Bible's book of Ecclesiastes concludes: Ecclesiastes 12:6-14 6 Or ever the silver cord [the cord that keeps the soul/spirit inside the human body] be loosed, or the golden bowl [life] be broken, or the pitcher [life] be broken at the fountain, or the wheel [of life] broken at the cistern. Then shall the dust [human body] return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it. Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher [searcher]; all is vanity [emptiness]. And moreover, because the preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yea, he gave good heed, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs. The preacher [searcher] sought to find out acceptable words: and that which was written was upright, *even words of truth [the meaning of life]. The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from **one shepherd. And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh. ***Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole (duty) of man [lit this is what makes man whole - Salvation]. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.

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