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One of the most familiar episodes of the Old Testament is the affair between King David and Bathsheba and the resulting murder of her husband to cover up her pregnancy with David’s child. After it all took place, David and Bathsheba were married and their child was delivered. Nathan the Prophet visited David and told him the story of the two men in a city, one rich and one poor (2 Sam 12). Nathan told David that the rich man owned many sheep but the poor man owned only one ewe lamb that was more of a pet than mere livestock. Nathan continued that when the rich man entertained guests, he had his people butcher the poor man’s pet lamb rather than his own. King David was enraged and told Nathan, “As the LORD liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die” (2 Sam 125). Nathan told David that he was the man and the story he told was that of the King stealing the only wife Uriah the Hittite had and then having him killed in war.
The King repented of the sins he committed as documented in Psalms 51, but the punishment for his sins would be that his child would not live. David and Bathsheba were in deep grief because of the loss of their first son, but their second son was Solomon who became the wisest King of Israel. King Solomon wrote three Books of the Old Testament: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Songs. 2 Samuel 12:24 says that the Lord loved Solomon was also known as Jedidiah by Nathan the Prophet. The name means “beloved of the Lord.”
Proverbs was written around 1000 BC but was compiled by Hezekiah between 726 and 698 BC. Solomon was the primary author of Ecclesiastes with contributions from Agur, son of Jakeh (30:1-33) and King Lemuel (31:1-9 and possibly 31:10-31). In addition to the three Bible Books attributed to Solomon, there was one noncanonical book named the Wisdom of Solomon in the Apocrypha.
The purpose of the Book of Ecclesiastes was to document the results of Solomon’s searching for the real meaning of life, and to apply his discoveries concerning the fear of the Lord to daily living for God.
The formal study of the Bible Book of Ecclesiastes is done each Sunday morning at 9:15 in Room 150 at the Lakes Church (First Baptist Church of Lakeland, FL. All are welcome.
The seed material for the study is the SBC Bible Book material out of Nashville, TN. Our author uses the outline of the study to stay on same schedule as the handout materials. He then does the Bible study and exegeses to provide meaningful applications for those attending the classes.
The author then issues the results of the preparation to all on the Fishers of Men Blog List early each week. Questions are welcome during the formal study or directly from the Blog. Use the "Contact Us" button in the webpage. Enjoy!!
Dr Dave Felsburg
Fishers of Men Ministries
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Understand the Context (Eccl 1:1- 2:26)
The Book of Ecclesiastes documents King Solomon’s search for the meaning of life. The initial observation of Solomon is that everything around him seems to have no real meaning or value or substance worth considering. It is a feeling of reassessment after a long struggle to accomplish a major goal in life. Sometimes it occurs after completion of some milestone in life like completing high school, college or seminary. Sometimes it might be the completion of a probationary period at a new job or assignment. It might be the end of a period of military service. The common trait in all of these things is that the mind realizes a need for reassessment. In the normal determination for living a meaningful life, every period has a start, an execution period and a completion. Completion usually introduces thoughts about “what’s next?”
Ecclesiastes seems to document that period in the life of King Solomon. There seems to be a message of frustration in the words of Solomon as he says, “1 The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. 2 Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. 3 What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?” (Eccl 1:1-3). With the meaning of the Hebrew word for vanity (hebel) being something of little consequence or value, transitory or meaningless. It seems that Solomon is saying that everything he looks at or owns really has no value or meaning for him. Because the saying is at the very beginning of the Book, there is no indication whether he came to this summary after finishing some personal milestone or has just became frustrated over all his kingdom. Further, if everything seems to be vanity, what is the purpose of working at anything all across the world (under the sun)? For Solomon, the results of labor have become empty, useless and transitory (vs. 3). He looks toward the great cosmic void and sees the Earth continuing on its axis or path regardless of what else takes place. To him, it seems like reasoning through everything in sight is a frivolous effort like chasing after the wind. As we read on, we will see Solomon evaluate wisdom, pleasure, possessions, and inheriting more of the same to be just as vain as the first look at them. In short, the meaning of life cannot be found in these. It must be somewhere outside all these.
Ellicott observes in his commentary, “It is no disparagement to the authority of the Book of Ecclesiastes that no direct quotation from it is to be found in the New Testament. A few coincidences of thought or expression have been pointed out (for instance, Ec 11:5 with Joh 3:8; Ec 9:10 with Joh 9:4); but none of them is decisive enough to warrant our asserting with any confidence that the Old Testament passage was present to the mind of the New Testament writer.”
Limited Perspective (Eccl 1:12-15)
In Verse 12, Solomon identifies himself as the Preacher or the Hebrew word quoheleth. It means an assembler and briefer of information. It is interesting that he uses the feminine form of the active participle. There is no explanation of this choice; just an observation that it is. He fixes his location in Jerusalem as if to say, “from this perspective, this is how I see it.” He reports that he has applied his whole heart to doing this search for wisdom to understand all things done under heaven (here, the sky). He says this “sore travail,” that is, this great and weighty task is laborious and troublesome, but it is given to be common to all men to consider.
Solomon believes he has seen all the works or labor of man regardless of where that man might be located and they are uniformly vain (useless) and a vexation (testing) of the spirit of man (vs. 14). It appears to Solomon that everything that needs attention (crooked) cannot be fixed (made straight) and that which needs help (wanting) cannot be sufficiently quantified to effectively deal with it.
Inheritance Blown? (Eccl 2:18-21)
So, everything Solomon observed appeared to be vanity (useless and frivolous), he hated his work and wondered what the person who inherited his life’s work would do that has not been done before? (vs. 18). Beyond that, Solomon has no knowledge of whether that person will be a wise man or a fool (vs. 19). He continues, that person will rule over everything he had labored over throughout all his time under the sun and showed himself as wise in what he did. He felt the idea of such a thing was indeed the epitome of vanity and was useless, absurd and totally unfair.
Therefore, Solomon continues, he began to be sorry for all he had unvested in his important work. It was beginning to look like it his work might be wasted by an inexperienced successor. Now, he feels disappointed that he took the work so seriously and worked so hard (vs. 20). If a person inherits his work and has the wisdom, knowledge and equity to work it properly, it could continue into great success. But to the person who does not have the experience or background to work it properly, it might fade into nothingness. That would be a perfect example of the vanity and uselessness that Solomon dreads.
Enjoy Work (Eccl 2:22-26)
Solomon sums with the question, what does a man have to show for all the labor of his life? He labored with all his heart in the sun all the days of his life. He invested his emotional and physical seriousness in doing the best work he could do to achieve his personal goals. While the worker’s days are filled with sorrow and his efforts filled with grief, his nights go without rest because his mind is still fixed on the goals of the work. Solomon says, this actually defines the idea of vanity.
At the same time, there is nothing better for mankind than that he should eat, drink and enjoy the rewards of his honest labor. Solomon says he sees this as a reward from the hand of God, that mankind can enjoy the fruits of their labor and be grateful for a completed day of hard work doing what they are called to do for his livelihood. Solomon feels he has a personal testimony on this subject and inserts it here. He says who can eat or facilitate others in getting nourishment or solving other needs than I?
Now, Solomon finishes the discussion in verse 2:26 saying it is good in the sight of God’s wisdom, knowledge and joy that He gives mankind with his calling to the life’s work he does. The man may see it as travail to gather, harvest and heap up so that he might that which God intends as good for him. Nevertheless, this too is vanity and vexation of the spirit of man.
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