Reading Assignment: Ecclesiastes 1:1-18
Did you understand what you read?
- The name of the author is not given in this book, but there are many clues given as to his identity. From this chapter, prove who wrote the book.
- What is the stated purpose of this book?
- How is the author qualified to address such an ambitious goal? What method will be used to find the answer?
- What is it about this world that gives rise to the question raised by the author?
- The author chooses to look for the answer on a personal basis. Changing the world is a solution often advocated by other people who look at this question. Why is this not practical, according to the author?
The authorship of Ecclesiastes is often debated in scholarly circles. However, if we accept the book as inspired by God, then the answer is simple to determine. The author never directly states his name, but he gives us a number of clues. He was a son of David and a king in Jerusalem (Ecclesiastes 1:1). He was a king over Israel in Jerusalem (Ecclesiastes 1:12). Old Testament writers often use the term son as an equivalent to descendent. Using the more general term, the writer is a descendant of David who ruled from Jerusalem over Israel. Starting with David's grandson, Rehoboam, the kingdom of Israel was divided into two parts. The northern kingdom was called Israel and its capital was Samaria. The southern kingdom was called Judah and its capital was Jerusalem. Hence, the only descendant of David to rule from Jerusalem over Israel was Solomon.
Other verses in Ecclesiastes confirm that Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes. We are told that the author had more wisdom than all men before him (Ecclesiastes 1:16; I Kings 3:12-13); the author had built great buildings (Ecclesiastes 2:4-6; I Kings 7:1-12); and the author had immense wealth (Ecclesiastes 2:8; I Kings 9:28, 10:10, 10:14, 10:21).
More important than who wrote the book is why was it written. Solomon asks the question "What is the meaning of life?" (Ecclesiastes 1:13). Even today, we frequently ask why we are here. Everything that occurs in this world seems to be worthless. Time marches on, but people come and go without making a major impact. The world is in constant motion, yet somehow it remains the same. There is really isn't anything new in world. Discoveries are just a recognition of what exists. Often times a new idea is just an old idea that we had forgotten about through the years.
So how are we going to find an answer to Solomon's question? Solomon's approach is to use his gift from God that makes him unusually qualified to find an answer. Remember, that God gave Solomon more wisdom than any man before or after him (I Kings 3:12-13). Solomon also was in a good position to try things that most of us can only dream about. He was a king so he could basically do as he pleased. Solomon also had fame and fortune. With all of these resources at his disposal, surely he could find out why we have been placed into this world.
Before we can start our research project, we need to define the limits of what we will be looking at. Solomon gives two axioms:
Axiom #1: We can't change the world. God made the world and it is in his hands.
Axiom #2: We can't fix the world. There are too many things that are broken.
Solomon also made a preliminary note. While we will use wisdom to find the answer to our question, wisdom is not the answer. The more we learn, the more we see how bad off we are.
- What criteria can we use to decide what life is all about? In other words, how are we going to determine what is worthwhile and what is junk?
- Is it worthwhile to try to find the meaning to life? Why or why not?