For the next four weeks, we will be taking a break from our regular schedule for this year, as we begin the Book of Ecclesiastes tomorrow. We will continue through all 12 chapters, and then read the 8 chapters of Song of Solomon. It will surely be a blessed month in God’s word!
The English title for the Book of Ecclesiastes comes from the Latin Vulgate heading “Libre Ecclesiastes.” The word that we derive it from comes from the Greek translation for the title the writer gives himself in Ecclesiastes 1:1. The Greek word is “ekklēsiastēs.” The Hebrew is “Qoheleth,” and the general consensus is that it denotes something akin to “one who addresses an assembly.” But it is more often translated as a teacher or preacher, as in the ESV of the text. There is some disagreement on whether Solomon is himself the author, but considering all of the factors (not the least of which is the reference to the preacher as the son of David, a king, and wise), it seems very unlikely that it was someone else.
This book is viewed so differently by different scholars, one might think that they are all reading different books. Some see it as optimistic, some pessimistic, poetic, sacrilegious, a book of wisdom, a dialog between a believer and an infidel, and on and on. The best observances we have gleaned from it is that the writer is acutely aware of the consequences of “the fall” and the resulting condition of man, and that of creation itself. But more than that, he has learned great gratitude for the blessed gifts God has given us, his saving grace, and why man has the duty and, more importantly, the genuine need to love, serve, and fear Him all at the same time.
The word vanity is used 38 times in this book in many different contexts, which some say makes it very difficult to translate. Literally the word most closely aligns with “vapor,” which makes perfect sense when one uses it in practically any of those contexts, where vapor would easily be seen as something without substance, fleeting – evaporating into meaninglessness. It is interesting to note that the word used in the Septuagint is the same word Paul used in Romans 8:20-23, when he speaks of the whole creation being “subjected to futility.”
Many believe that Solomon wrote these words in his later years, and that the book strongly indicates that he had repented for his idolatry. This blogger, for one, genuinely hopes that is the case.
image © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog. All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility. When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.