Table of Contents
The Theme of the Book of Ecclesiastes
Although Solomon was the most famous of the Hebrew kings, both in wisdom and in material prosperity, he recorded in the book of Ecclesiastes how all of his achievements failed to give him true satisfaction and fulfillment in life. He stated 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, this book presented a thorough philosophy of life, the aim of man’s existence, duty and destiny.
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 (Ecclesiastes 2:3). In his foolishness, he believed himself to be wise (verse 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 (Ecclesiastes 7:23). Such was 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
Solomon showed the uncertainty of human happiness, he saw the actual wretchedness of the world. Through his sad experiences, he had learned the vanity of a life that seeks worldly pleasures. And he did not offer any kind of “welfare state” as an answer to the social problems and misfortunes. Instead, he ended his examination, by offering practical suggestions. He suggested 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 sought to have faith in God. He told of the oppression in the world, the inequalities, the failures that might attack man’s faith in God. But he added that 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.
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” (Ecclesiastes 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 his 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 (verses 2–5).
Nevertheless, the king 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 stated in clear words his vain pursuit of pleasure, popularity, wealth, and power. And then he talked about the ultimate gain in walking with God. Thus, the book of Ecclesiastes is a record of Solomon’s sin and full repentance.
In His service,