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Ecclesiastes

Ecclesiastes Bible Study Notes

Overview of Ecclesiastes

The Hebrew name for Ecclesiastes is Koheleth which is taken from the beginning statement “The words of the Preacher.” The Hebrew verb kohel means “to assemble or convene a meeting.” This has a slightly different connotation than preach in English.

Anciently in the Middle East wisdom was highly respected. The wise formed a class of people somewhat like the prophets. Hence great moral authority was given the pronouncements of those numbered among the wise. Solomon’s status would perhaps have given him the respect necessary to be considered the final authority regarding the question treated in the Book of Ecclesiastes. Following his pronouncements in Ecclesiastes those with differing opinions would find it difficult to obtain support for opposing views.

There is some question among scholars about who wrote Ecclesiastes. Some have noted aspects of the language it contains that seem to indicate it was written after the “golden age” of Solomon by an imposter attempting to gain credibility for his position by impersonating Solomon. The majority view, however, is that Solomon wrote The Book of Ecclesiastes.

Ecclesiastes, classified in the Hebrew Scriptures as part of the Hagiographa or The Writings, is the most philosophical book in the Bible. It is also one of the most misunderstood books in the Bible. (The Song of Solomon is perhaps the most misunderstood Biblical book, although it is poetic, not philosophic, in nature.) People use verses in Ecclesiastes out of context to support doctrines contrary to the gospel and the intent of its author more frequently, perhaps, than with any other Biblical book.

The Book of Ecclesiasts deals with questions about the purpose of life—or lack thereof—and if it is better to live for the moment or for the future. Solomon begins by presenting in the first ten chapters of Ecclesiastes the case that materialists and atheists give for living for today: eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die. In presenting the materialist’s position—that there is no life after death—the author makes statements such as “…for a living dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten” (Ecclesiastes 9:4-5Ecclesiastes 9:4-5
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

4 For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope: for a living dog is better than a dead lion. 5 For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.  

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.) Some people try using such statements to support doctrinal teachings. This is a serious error since Ecclesiastes makes it plain these are the beliefs of “the man under the sun” or those living without the truths the gospel teaches. (The concept that the dead have no reward is so contrary to the overall gospel message that I find it strange that some people are comfortable using the first part of these verses to oppose a belief in the spirit world and life after death.)

The last two chapters of Ecclesiastes are devoted to debunking the beliefs of the materialists (as presented in the first ten chapters). The author concludes there is life after death; hence the acts of man during mortality are of great importance. The author points out the life as the materialist envisions it—without an after life in which good is rewarded—is in vain. If existence ultimately ends in death, there is purpose is striving for wealth or fame or wisdom; however, since life continues after dead and mankind is in fact rewarded in the hereafter for his acts on earth, this life is full of purpose and mankind should strive to be righteousness thus maximizing his eternal reward.

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.
Ecclesiastes 11:9Ecclesiastes 11:9
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

9 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.  

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What the author of Ecclesiastes recommends is “cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.” (Ecclesiastes 11:1Ecclesiastes 11:1
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

11 1 Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days. upon...: Heb. upon the face of the waters  

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) In other words, the works that a man does during mortality will ultimately benefit him. Hence there is purpose in life, and a purpose to live righteously.

The Book of Ecclesiastes ends with the conclusion to the philosophical questions of does life have a purpose and should man seek pleasure or obey God’s commandments with the following statement:

[13] Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.
[14] For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.
Ecclesiastes 12:13-14Ecclesiastes 12:13-14
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. Let...: or, The end of the matter, even all that hath been heard, is 14 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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