The morning class will be studying the book of Ecclesiastes for the next month or so. Please join us to discover the ONE TRUE experience that WILL give you what it is you are looking for; all else will fall away. Some may say this book is too depressing when in actuality it offers the only true answer that man invests his whole life in seeking, and here it is tucked away in this jewel of a book! The answer to the question: what will make me happy on this earth?
About the Book of Ecclesiastes (online Bible study)
The word ‘Ecclesiastes’ tells us about the author of this book. This word means ‘someone who gathers a group of people together’. So, the author of this book was an official who had responsibility for other people. He was leading his people as they searched for the truth about God. There are various English translations of this word: 1) *Preacher; 2) Teacher; 3) Philosopher (wise person who thinks a lot about everything).
The words at the end of this book show that the author was a wise man. He was a teacher and he was a skillful writer (Ecclesiastes 12:9-12). He collected special phrases that people say. These are called ‘proverbs’. And there is a book in the Bible called Proverbs.
The author of Ecclesiastes calls himself the ‘king in the city called Jerusalem’ (Ecclesiastes 1:1). He also says that he ruled over *Israel (Ecclesiastes 1:12). He was famous because he spoke wise words (Ecclesiastes 12:9).
King Solomon was famous because of his wisdom (1 Kings 4:29-34; 10:6, 24). But this book does not use Solomon’s name. It seems to be clear, especially in Ecclesiastes chapter 2, that the author is teaching lessons from Solomon’s life. But other passages cause people to think that the author is not actually King Solomon. (See, for example, Ecclesiastes 8:2; 9:15 and 10:20.)
So perhaps the best opinion is that the author or editor was a ‘wise man’ in *Israel. These were men that most people in Israel respected because of their wisdom. He intended that the book should give honor to Solomon. And he wanted his readers to learn lessons from Solomon’s life.
The message that Ecclesiastes teaches
The author of Ecclesiastes writes about our lives that are ‘in this world’. He connects this phrase with a word that means ‘a breath’ or ‘wind’. And it also means ‘a mystery’ or ‘something that is difficult to understand’.
The author writes about many things that are not fair in this world. For example:
•People are cruel to other people, but they suffer no punishment.
•People work hard, but they do not benefit from their efforts.
•Good people suffer, but bad people receive rewards.
•Both good people and bad people die in the same manner.
•Wise people and foolish people all die.
At that time, most people believed that God punishes evil people during their lives in this world. Most people did not understand that there will be a judgment after death. But the author proves that sometimes, bad people have pleasant lives. And he also proves that good people often suffer during their lives in this world. These things are not fair. But God is always fair. So the author thinks about whether people’s *spirits continue to live after the death of their bodies (Ecclesiastes 3:21). If they do, then God could issue a fair judgment about each person after that person’s death.
However, the author does not answer his own question that is in Ecclesiastes 3:21. In many other places, the Bible says clearly that there will be a judgment after death. (See, for example, Revelation 20:11-15.) God will be the judge of every person. And God’s judgments will all be fair and they will all be right. The author of Ecclesiastes does not explain these things. Instead, he emphasizes things that seem unfair to us.
People have 2 main ideas about the author’s attitude:
1. The author’s attitude is complete despair OR
2. The author has an attitude of both despair and hope.
Our opinion is that the second idea is right.
It is clear that there is a sense of despair in this book. The author has had sad experiences. So he often expresses his sad thoughts. He believes that our lives have no permanent value. It is impossible for people to know the answers to all their questions. Some writers who study Ecclesiastes emphasize this attitude. They believe that the author was a man without any hope. He did not believe that God ruled.
However, Ecclesiastes is a book that a ‘wise man’ wrote. These were men that most people in Israel respected because of their wisdom. *Israel’s ‘wise men’ in the Books of Proverbs and Job believed strongly that God does control things. And they believed that God is good, kind and fair. But they were not afraid to discuss things that seem unfair. They tried hard to understand these things. And they believed that genuine wisdom comes only from God (Job chapter 28; Proverbs 3:5-6).
That is why the Book of Ecclesiastes seems to contain two different opinions. Sometimes those opinions seem to be the opposite of each other. The writer of Ecclesiastes discusses many unfair things. But he also shows that God is generous. God wants people to enjoy their life and their work (Ecclesiastes 2:24-26). God shows people how they must act in order to please him (Ecclesiastes 5:1-7). And God has taught people that wisdom is a wonderful thing (Ecclesiastes 10:13-17).
The writer urges people to live wisely. People can live wisely only if they have a relationship with God. That is why the author urges people to remember God’s gifts. Young people in particular should remember that God made them (Ecclesiastes 12:1). He created them, and so their lives belong to him. Of course, older people should remember this too. But people should start to serve God before they become old. That is much better. People should not neglect God until they are old and weak. That is a foolish attitude. We should not waste our opportunity to live in a manner that pleases God.
People who are wise will be afraid to make God angry. They will realize that they cannot expect to solve all their problems. They will trust God. So they will believe that they are alive for a purpose. And there will be a time when God will be the judge. Everyone will stand in front of him and they will hear his judgment. Therefore people can be confident. But also they should be cautious about what happens after death.
The title – Ecclesiastes 1:1
v1 These are the words of the man who was called the Teacher. He was the son of King David. And he was king in the city called Jerusalem.
Verse 1 Our translation here uses the word ‘Teacher’. The word means someone who gathered people together to speak to them. Some translations use the word ‘Speaker’ or ‘*Preacher’. King David’s son might mean Solomon. Or it might mean another king who was from David’s family. Solomon was famous because he was wise (1 Kings 10:24). The writer or editor was someone who was like Solomon. He wanted to understand why we are alive.
The problem – Ecclesiastes 1:2-3
v2 ‘What a mystery!’ says the Teacher.
‘What a big mystery!
There seems to be no purpose in anything.’
v3 You work hard for the whole of your life in this world.
But you gain no benefit that lasts.
Verses 2-3 The words ‘in this world’ show what the Teacher is thinking. (The *Hebrew words say ‘under the sun’.) The Teacher speaks about people who think only about their life in this world. He shows what their life is like for them here. They have left God out of their lives. People cannot trust that anyone or anything in this world will make them completely happy. They cannot achieve anything that will last. And soon, their life ends. Work is hard. And although you work during your whole life this seems to have no real reward. The Teacher thinks in the end that this is a puzzle. We cannot understand it.
Nothing changes in the world. Neither nature nor people change. – Ecclesiastes 1:4-11
v4 People are born and people die.
But the earth always stays the same.
v5 The sun rises and the sun sets.
Then it hurries back again to the place where it rises.
v6 The wind blows to the south,
and the wind blows to the north.
The wind continues to return as it moves round and round.
v7 All streams flow to the sea,
but the sea is never full.
The water returns to the place from where the streams came.
Then the streams flow again.
v8 Everything in his life tires a person.
Things make people more tired than they can explain.
Our eyes can never see enough,
and our ears can never hear enough.
v9 Whatever things existed in the past will continue to exist.
Whatever has happened before will happen again.
There is nothing new in this world.
v10 Nothing can make someone say,
‘Look at this! It is new!’
It was already here a long time before we were born.
v11 Nobody remembers people who lived before us.
And nobody will remember people who will be born in the future.
[to be continued next week. Please join us!]
Morning Bible Studies are held every Wednesday morning @ 11:00 am ET. Those studies will be posted her for those that missed the live study.
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