What is the theme of the book of Ecclesiastes?

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Although Solomon was the most famous of the Hebrew kings, both in wisdom and in material prosperity, he records in the book of Ecclesiastes how all of his achievements failed to give him true satisfaction and fulfillment in life. He states that the only way a man can be truly happy is to acknowledge his Creator and know the divine reason that brought him into existence (ch. 12:13,14). Thus, Ecclesiastes presents a thorough philosophy of life, the aim of man’s existence, duty and destiny.

Solomon’s pursuit of pleasure

When entering upon his quest of pleasure and sin, Solomon tried to enjoy all the pleasures of sin and at the same time keep his wisdom and sound judgment unaffected (ch. 2:3). In his foolishness, he believed himself to be wise (ch. 2:9), but didn’t realize until many years later, and, like the prodigal (Luke 15:17), that he became a sad and unwise man (ch. 7:23). Such is the foolishness of sin that first deceived Eve (Genesis 3:5–7).

When Solomon ignored the source of divine wisdom and power, natural inclinations overpowered his sound mind. Faith in God and dependence on His leading gave way to increasing self-trust and the seeking of one’s own way. As his body took over his mind, his moral capabilities were dulled, his conscience seared, and his judgment corrupted. worldliness blinded his heart, stained his moral principles, tarnished his life, and finally led to his full apostasy.

The vanity of the world

After acknowledging the uncertainty of human happiness, Solomon sees the actual wretchedness of the world. Through his sad experiences, he had learned the vanity of a life that seeks worldly pleasures. And he does not offer any kind of “welfare state” as an answer to the social problems and misfortunes. Instead, he ends his examination, by offering practical suggestions. He suggests that humans should help the poor and suffering but most importantly to have a relationship with their Creator, to obey Him, and be ready for end time judgment.

By offering his personal experiences, Solomon seeks to have faith in God. He tells of the oppression in the world, the inequalities, the failures that might attack man’s faith in God. But even though injustices continue for a time in this world, they only serve to correct man. Therefore, a person’s duty and eternal happiness depends on facing life with the purpose to seize its opportunities and to use it for good.

His repentance

Finally, at the end of his life, Solomon’s conscience awoke and he started to see sin in its true light, to see himself as God saw him, “an old and foolish king” who would “no more be admonished” (ch. 4:13). And he repented from his sins and turned from earth’s broken cisterns to drink once more at the fountain of life.

But restoration to God did not miraculously restore Solomon’s lost physical and mental strength of his early years. His repentance did not stop the consequences of the evil he had sown. For his body and mind were weakened by indulgence (vs. 2–5). Nevertheless, he did recover some measure of the wisdom he had so thoughtlessly rejected in his pursuit of foolishness. Gradually, he came to understand the evil of his past and tried to warn others from his own sad experiences. And he attempted to counteract the malignant influence of his foolishness.

Therefore, through the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, Solomon wrote about his wasted years, with their lessons of warning and admonition. He states in clear words his vain pursuit of pleasure, popularity, wealth, and power. And then he talks about the ultimate gain in walking with God. Thus, the book of Ecclesiastes is a record of Solomon’s sin and repentance.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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