Ecclesiastes In View:
Ecclesiastes – This Is One of the most misunderstood book in the Bible. Christians have tended either to ignore the message of the book of Ecclesiastes or to regard it as the testimony of a man living apart from God. This is unfortunate, for the book asks relevant, searching questions about the meaning of life. And it declares the utter futility of an existence without God. Like all Scriptures, the book of Ecclesiastes benefits and edifies God’s people.
Negative descriptions such as “cynical,” “fatalistic;” or “existential” do not do the book of Ecclesiastes justice. There is too much evidence of robust cheerfulness throughout its pages. “So I commended enjoyment” (8:15) is a recurrent theme that pervades the book. In fact, for gladness and being glad appear seventeen times in Ecclesiastes. The underlying mood of the book is joy finding pleasure in life despite the troubles that often plague it. Those who fear and worship God should experience this joy; they should rejoice in the gift God has given them.
Ecclesiastes About The Author:
The writer says that he was “the son of David, King in Jerusalem” (1:1, 12, and 16). These words have led many to assume that the writer was Solomon. Evidence in the book itself points to Solomon. (1) The author had “more wisdom that who were before” him (1:16, see 1 Kings 3:12). (2) He gathered for himself “silver and gold and the special treasure of kings” (2:8, see 1 Kings 10: 11-23. (3) He “acquired male and female servants in great numbers” (2:7 see 1 Kings 9:20-23). (4) Also he engaged in extensive building projects (2:4-6 see 1 Kings 9: 1-19). (5) He developed a great understanding of plants, birds and natural phenomena (2:4-7 see 1 Kings 4:33).
(6) Again, he declared, “there is not a just man on earth who does good and odes not sin” (7:20 see 1 Kings 8:46). And (7) “he pondered and sought out and set in order many proverbs (12:9 see 1 Kings 4:32).
Nevertheless, some scholars argue that Solomon is not the author. They point two passages to make their case: 1:12 and 1:16. The pass tense of the verb in 1:12: “I…was King over Israel in Jerusalem” may lead the reader to think that the author was no longer King when he wrote this work. But the verb can denote a state of action that began in the past and continues into the present. Hence 1:12 could be translated, “I have been [and am] king”.
Also, the phrase in 1:16 suggests there were many kings before Solomon in Jerusalem since David was the first Hebrew King in Jerusalem. The argument goes; the writer must have lived many generations after the time of David. Yet we should recall that the history of Jerusalem can be traced to the early Canaanite settlement. The kings of Jerusalem may well have included Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18), Adoni-Zedek (Joshua 10:1), and AbdiKhepa (mentioned in the Amarna Letters) to name just a few. Therefore it can reasonably be asserted that Solomon is the author of this wonderful but unusual book.
The Purpose Of The Book Of Ecclesiastes:
Solomon probably wrote this book towards the end of his life, after he had repented of idolatry of his pursuit of foreign wives. Thus the book of Ecclesiastes is both a monument to Solomon’s recommitment to the living God and a guide for others through the pitfall and perils of life. In fact Solomon might have written this wisdom book as a tract for other nations. That would explain why he did not write about the Law, and why he used the divine title Elohim. This means “Exalted God,” instead of the conventional name Yahweh in the book (Exodus 3:14, 15). Solomon had entertained many dignitaries from other nations, including the queen of Sheba.
The queen’s questions concerning the basic meaning of life might have prompted him to write the book of Ecclesiastes. This is in order to teach the Gentiles about the living God and their need to worship only Him. Centuries before, Moses had called for this type of treatise to the pagan nations (Deuteronomy 4:6-8). The nations that had heard of Israel’s success needed to know about the living and exalted God who had blessed Israel with wealth and wisdom.
The Theme Of The Book Of Ecclesiastes:
Sometime it’s better to read the end of a book to understand better the direction in which the book is headed. This is certainly true of Ecclesiastes. The book should be interpreted in light of its conclusion. It states, “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all” (12:13). To fear God means to revere, worship, and serve God. Or to turn from evil and turn in awe to the living God. This was the attitude of Abraham (Genesis 22;12), Job (Job 1:1, 8, 9; 2:3), and the Egyptian midwives (Exodus 1:17, 21).
It does not involve dread, but instead a proper respect for obedience to our Creator. Why should we respect and obey God? The book of Ecclesiastes answers this question in its concluding verse (12:14). God will judge everyone – both the righteous and the wicked. Life cannot be lived with abandon, as if God will not see or remember the deeds of the past. For on the final day, he will call forth all men and women to account for their actions. The admonition to fear God and the expectation of divine judgment are two great themes that conclude the book and provide an interpretative framework for the rest of it. (see 12:13, 14).
The journey of Solomon to his conclusion “to fear God” is founded on the human search for meaning in life. In 3:11, Solomon eloquently expresses humankind’s dilemma: God has placed eternity in our hearts. A search for true meaning in this life – in money or fame, for instance – will only leave us empty-handed.
This is because our souls yearn for something that will last. Our frustration arises from a hunger to fellowship with our eternal Creator. The only One who can give meaning to our lives. In Ecclesiastes, Solomon takes us on a tour of all of life and concludes that all of it is vanity. Pleasures and riches lead merely to boredom and despair. Only a relationship with the One who created us and continues to care for us will truly satisfy. Troubles and uncertainty will continue to plague us, but even these times we can find in a secure trust in our father.
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