Eighteenth in the Solomon Series
Ecclesiastes, the twenty-first book of the Bible, is a book of wisdom and of heartfelt discouragement and reaching to higher planes where acceptance in Christ steadies and comforts.
The root word of Ecclesiastes is qahal (with long marks over the a's), meaning "assembly, company, congregation." The Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Bible chose Ecclesiastes, or "a member of the assembly," because of the relation of qalal to ecclesia (assembly). The English rendering "Preacher" follows Jerome's Latin word for "speaker before an assembly." (from the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, Moody Press)
A. R. Fausset, a 19th century Irish theologian, stated in his commentary,
The Hebrew title is Koheleth, which the speaker in it applies to himself (Ecc 1:12), "I, Koheleth, was king over Israel." It means an Assembler or Convener of a meeting and a Preacher to such a meeting… The substitution of the title Koheleth for Solomon (that is, peace), may imply that, having troubled Israel, meantime he forfeited his name of peace (1Ki 11:14, 23 ); but now, having repented, he wishes to be henceforth a Preacher of righteousness."
Early in his address, Solomon observes: There is nothing new under the sun (Ec 1:9). He had been a man who looked into all matters under heaven, yet his great wisdom and seeking brought him grief and sorrow (vs 18). He tried pleasure, wine; he built houses and planted gardens, orchards and made pools for watering his orchards; he increased in servants and in cattle and gold; he brought in singers and instrumentalists for pleasure. (Ec 2:3-8)
Yet when he looked on all that his hands had made, he could see only vanity and feel only vexation. Then said I in my heart, As it happeneth to the fool, so it happeneth even to me; and why was I then more wise? " (vs 15)
He saw that in certain matters he had not been wise, and his sorrow caused him to hate the work he had done (vs 18). God will give a good man wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he gives only increase that will be given to another (vs 26). What an aggravation!
There is a time for everything; a time to rend and and a time to sew; to plant, to pluck up; but what profit is there in anything? (3:9) Well, in its time God makes everything beautiful. (3:11) We cannot understand all that God has purposed; we should instead rejoice in the Lord and do good. (vs 12) Enjoy the fruit of your labor as God's gift. (vs 13)
God's works are from all eternity and He brings into focus what has been perpetrated for evil; we should fear him (vs 15). We are like the beasts (vs 19). In that generation, Christ had not yet been incarnated, nor had the Holy Spirit been given. Yet, there was wisdom; there was God's Word, and one could commune with it. Then, faith could be nurtured.
Solomon considered the tears of the oppressed, that they had no comforter (4:1); recalled how men envied (vs 4); how the man without a family labored for no one (vs 8), and that two are better than one, for they keep warm in bed and can withstand an enemy (vs 11).
But thinking of companions, Solomon then preached, "Better [is] a poor and a wise child than an old and foolish king, who will no more be admonished." (vs 13) Those born into his kingdom would become poor (vs 14).
When you are in God's house, listen to Him and let your words be few (5:1, 2); pay your vows (vs 4); fear God (vs 7); don't be impressed or troubled with those who oppress the poor and are unjust. God sees them (vs 8). The greedy rich have only the enjoyment of beholding their wealth; the sleep of a laborer is sweet — while the abundance of the rich will not let him sleep (vss 10-12).
And what about the man to whom God has given riches, wealth and honor, who cannot enjoy it, or the man with a hundred children and a long life who departs in darkness without proper burial? There is little difference in life between fools and wise men; but stop contending with Him who is mightier than we (6:1-10).
Indeed, "sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better." (7:3) It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise than the song of fools (vs 5): Better is the end of a thing than the beginning, and the patient in spirit is better than the proud man (vs 8) or the angry one (vs 9).
Stop complaining (vs 10); neither be overly righteous or foolish or overly wicked (vss 16, 17)… We all sin (vs 20); we fail in our life's goals (vs 23); Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions. (7:29)
In chapter 8, Solomon reminds the hearers to keep the king's commands and not to challenge his judgments, for God made him the king (8:2-5).
A ruler at times governs to his own hurt (vs 9). If justice is not swiftly served, it nevertheless works to the harm of the evildoer. He begins to think he will not be judged so he becomes more persistent in his sin (vs 11) and comes under greater judgment.
It does seem at times that the righteous are as much destroyed by the wicked as vice versa, and this is another "vanity" (vs 14).
Solomon pulled back from this thought; he thought instead to eat, drink and be merry (vs 15); man cannot fathom the inscrutable ways of God (vs 17). Don't entertain frustrations, doubts, anxieties; be at peace.
Our faith in God demonstrates that we believe even though we don't see or understand. There was a time when Solomon thought he did understand the depths of God's ways, but he was much younger then.
In Ecclesiastes, we see that Solomon has returned from the heights and depths to a level place.