Thank you for joining us as we embark on our next thought-provoking study through the book of Ecclesiastes. We are going to begin with Ecclesiastes 1:1-7
The author of this book is King Solomon. He was a king who was known for his wisdom. G-d gave him wisdom to rule the kingdom (1 Kings 3:5-14) but unfortunately Solomon did not always utilize that wisdom (marrying foreign woman for political reasons etc).
Solomon wrote this book as a confession. He had tremendous resources –king over the most powerful empire in the world at that time – able to have whatever he wanted. The problem was that, at times, he pursued things not based upon the wisdom or truth of G-d but went after whatever he desired. He did not restrain himself under the restraint of Scriptural truth (1 Kings 11:1-4).
One of the key thoughts in this book is ‘vanity’. Solomon is warning us that when we live according to our thoughts (perspective), utilizing our own intellect for the pursuit of our own desires, then everything we do will be vanity – it will come to nothing. Although Solomon had wisdom, power, prestige and anything a man could desire it did not bring him joy and nor did it satisfy him.
Many words and phrases are repeated throughout this book. G-d uses this repetition to chip away at our hard and stubborn hearts. Sometimes when we hear the same things over and over again it begins to penetrate our hearts and sink in so that we can understand G-d’s revelation and apply it to our lives.
The word “Ecclesiastes” comes from the Greek word which means to be called out (ecclesia – the congregation/church).
v1: The Preacher: Many people say that the word קֹהֶ֣לֶת (qō·he·leṯ) means ‘the preacher’ but it comes from a Hebrew word which has to do with an assembly coming together. This is speaking about those who are called out by G-d for a purpose. They come together (they assemble) to fulfil the will of G-d. Solomon, as the leader of Israel, was supposed to bring people into unity, into submissiveness to G-d’s plan, His purposes. Tragically he did not do this for much of his life.
- Son of David, King in Jerusalem: See Eccl 1:12. We can know for sure that the author of this book was King Solomon because there were only two kings who could call themselves “king over Israel (a united kingdom) in Jerusalem” – David and Solomon. After Solomon the Empire was divided (1 Kings 11:26-40). Because it says “Son of David” we can therefore conclude that it was not David who wrote this book, but had to have been Solomon.
v2: Vanity: This word is repeated five times in this verse. A close inspection of this word reveals that it is alluding to a vapour (James 4:14). In modern Hebrew this word is used for the “smoke” that rises from the asphalt on a hot day. Our lives are like this vapour – they are there for a moment and then they quickly disappear. When we live a life that’s based upon the pursuits of ourselves, based upon our own human intellect or own wisdom, when we pursue life in this way, our lives are going to be vanity – here today and gone tomorrow, with no lasting significance.
v3: Under the sun: This is a very important expression – especially in this first chapter (In some places Solomon also speaks about ‘under the heavens’). “Under the sun” is speaking about a view of life that is from a human/worldly perspective. Historically, for many generations, people worshiped the sun. They were in darkness, even though they worshiped this great light. From a human perspective there seems to be no advantage to all the work which we have to do.
v4: Although the generations are constantly changing (a man lives and dies and his son takes over, and then his grandson and etc) when we look at the earth not much has changed. A single individual doesn’t make much of an impact upon the world. The mountains from 1000 years ago are still standing in their places. The oceans are where they have always been. Although a man lives, he doesn’t make a massive impact/change on the world.
v5: Solomon again mentions the sun. G-d has established an order or a cycle in creation. We cannot alter this pattern that G-d has established. The antichrist, however, is going to seek to change the times and the laws of G-d (Dan 7:25)
v6: The wind: (הָר֔וּחַ) Although this word, in other places, is translated “The Spirit” it is very clear that here Solomon is not talking about the Holy Spirit but about the wind. We’re going to see that the wind plays a significant role, from a literary standpoint, in conveying to us what Solomon wants to teach us.
- Goes toward the south, turns to the north…whirls about continually…and comes (starts) again on its circuit (where it originated from): The wind is on the same seemingly fruitless cycle. Nothing seems to change. What is frustrating Solomon is that, like the wind, he is not having much of an impact on this world. It was G-d, however, who set all these things in motion. Things are going along on their normal course, but the problem is that if we base our observations on our own intellect, and if we don’t see things from G-d’s perspective, everything seems futile. The only way that we can have G-d’s perspective is through learning things from His Word. It’s only through Scripture that we can develop the mind of Messiah and see things from a Kingdom perspective. In the last days people are going to have this “under the sun” perspective where they think that nothing is going to change and the world is going to carry on as it always has (2 Peter 3:3-4). However, things on this earth are going to be brought to an end very rapidly/quickly in the last days (2 Peter 3, Rev 22:6-7). If we’re not perceptive, if we’re not seeing things from a prophetic standpoint, we’re going to miss out. Solomon is looking at creation – the fact that the earth was here yesterday, the day before that, a year before that, ten years before that and really nothing’s changing. He’s right. It’s not going to change until the last days.
v7: All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is not full: This doesn’t seem to make sense from a human perspective.
- There they return: At the source of the rivers the water just seems to keep flowing out of the ground without running out. It just keeps coming. Solomon sees futility in this fact that nothing seems to ever change. When we believe that there’s never going to be any change then we don’t believe in the Kingdom of G-d. When we are born again we become “new” or changed creations (2 Cor 5:17). This world too is going to be changed – become new, become different (Rev 21:5, Is 43:19). If we look at nature as our source of revelation, we are going to be misled. A change is coming.