Introduction to Ecclesiastes
The name “Ecclesiastes” is the Greek Septuagint word equivalent to the Hebrew word translated “The Preacher” (Ecclesiastes 1:1). The writer claims to be “the son of David, king in Jerusalem”—hence Solomon, and this is the traditional view of both Jews and Christians. However, many scholars, including a number of conservatives, have argued that, while the purported speaker is Solomon, it was actually written long after his day. Nevertheless, there is good reason to believe that Solomon wrote it himself, probably in his old age, as he was looking back on the happy early years of his reign and regretting his tragic failures in his later years. He could give wise counsel if anyone ever could, concerning the “vanity” of a life centered “under the sun,” in contrast to a life dedicated to the spiritual realm “above the sun.”
The deeper purpose of Ecclesiastes seems to be to convince younger people of the futility of worldly learning, riches and pleasures, as ends in themselves, with the goal of exhorting them to “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth” (Ecclesiastes 12:1).
The book contains a number of striking scientific insights (Ecclesiastes 1:4-7; 3:14,15; 11:5), as well as powerful theological truths (Ecclesiastes 3:11; 4:13; 7:20; 11:1). There are numerous individual wise sayings, similar in style to the book of Proverbs. Indeed, the Preacher claims to have “sought out, and set in order many proverbs” (Ecclesiastes 12:9).
Despite the book’s enigmatic questioning of a future life, the Preacher never doubts the existence of God or a future judgment (note the final verses of the book—Ecclesiastes 12:13,14). In sum, the book of Ecclesiastes, despite its superficial pessimism, is actually a fascinating treasure of deeper spiritual insights and faith.