Book of the Week 21: Ecclesiastes

Hebrew Name: Kehilat

Human Author: King Solomon                                           

OT or NT: Old Testament

Number of Chapters: 12

Basic Facts

  1. Ecclesiastes is the twenty-first book of the Bible.
  2. In terms of literary genre, Ecclesiastes is classified as wisdom literature.
  3. The Hebrew name for Ecclesiastes is Kehilat, meaning “community.”
  4. The old Greek name for the book is Ekklesiastes, meaning “teacher” or “preacher.”
  5. Ecclesiastes was written by Solomon late in his life to instill in his audience the fact that life is meaningless apart from God.

Story of the Book

Ecclesiastes contains the wisdom of King Solomon late in his reign. Even though King Solomon began his life and reign by doing right in the Lord’s eyes, he fell into idolatry later in life. Solomon begins Ecclesiastes by emphasizing the meaninglessness of life. The book begins with Solomon’s personal experience. Then, Solomon proceeds to talk about life and how there is time for everything under the sun (ex. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). Solomon talks about the judgment of God from his own personal experiences regarding oppression, labor, ambition, riches, caution before a king, and the common destiny of all mortal men to die. Solomon is searching for meaning and declares much of life to be vanity. He ends the book with a phrase that sums up how God showed him meaning: “the end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). This phrase not only serves as the climactic conclusion to the book, but also aptly sums up the duty of humanity toward God as Solomon understood it.

Jesus Foreshadowed in Ecclesiastes

At the end of the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon concludes his remarks on meaning in life with his famous statement: this is “the end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). Jesus would later be revealed as the only one who perfectly obeyed the commandments of God by living a sinless life (II Corinthians 5:18-21; Hebrews 4:15). After verse 13, the very final verse of Ecclesiastes foretells a future judgment: “For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:14). Jesus is later revealed to be the light of the world (John 8:12; John 9:15) through whom the deeds of humanity would be exposed. Jesus made the connection explicit in a late-night conversation with Nicodemus when he said, “This is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed” (John 3:19-20). The broader context makes it clear that Jesus was sent into the world not to condemn the world but so that the world might be saved through him and so that the deeds of humanity would be exposed just as Solomon predicted (John 3: 9-21). Jesus took our punishment for sin through His death on the cross so that we do not need to die as a penalty for our evil deeds that were exposed by Jesus, the light of the world.