Lesson 1 of 6
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Summary of Ecclesiastes


Ecclesiastes is the 21st book of the Old Testament, falling between Proverbs and the Song of Solomon (Song of Songs). It is one of several books that come between the books recounting Israel’s history and the books of prophecy


The opening line of the book attributes its content to “Qoheleth,” Hebrew for “Teacher” or “Leader of the Assembly.” It further specifies this Qoheleth as “son of David, king in Jerusalem,” implying Solomonic authorship without using Solomon’s name. However, the grammar and style of the Hebrew in the book suggest the author lived many centuries after King Solomon. IIt is best to understand Qoheleth as a persona created by an anonymous author: someone steeped in Israel’s wisdom traditions (see 12:9-10), preparing a lesson for people who needed to hear what that wisdom had to say to their own lives. The attribution to the king is important inasmuch as it sets the social location for that persona; Qoheleth has acquired much wealth and wisdom and has accomplished many things, and still he continues to search for the meaning of it all.


While a few scholars would date the book in the fifth or fourth century BCE, the consensus of contemporary scholarship understands it to have been written in Jerusalem around 250 BCE, when Judah was ruled by the Hellenistic (Greek) Empire.


Ecclesiastes offers honest reflections on the human quest for meaning, on the realities of life on this earth and under God, avoiding pious clichés and advising the enjoyment of the gifts God gives.


Do not expect this book to retell the story of the mighty acts of God or to bring prophetic words from God on the great themes of justice, peace, or messianic hope. Nor should you look for prayers of lament or songs of praise. Rather, sit back and listen to what this always critical and sometimes crotchety teacher has to say about life and death, God and love, sorrow and joy.