Ecclesiastes: What's the point? no pun intended

Reading through the Bible per Dr. Horner’s method and Ecclesiastes is up right now. I thought Jeremiah as the weeping prophet was difficult but Ecc. takes the cake. Ch.7:28 comments on finding 1 man among 1,000, but not a woman. I am having a hard time connecting this to what exactly is he looking for and why the gender difference?
Ecc 8:15 commends pleasure. This has the famous line- “eat, drink, and be merry,” but it seems to condone it?
Then in Ecc 9: 10(whatever your hands find to do, verily, do it with all your might, for there is no activity or planning or wisdom in Sheol) - is this a contrast between who is going to heaven and who is going to hell?
And verse 12(moreover, man does not know his time: like fish caught in a treacherous net, and birds trapped in a snare, so the sons of men are ensnared at an evil time when it suddenly falls on them)- what is the pronoun “it” referring to? the terrible time? Is this in the past, present, or future, or anytime?

I am only reading one chapter a day and maybe this isn’t something the holy Spirit wants to teach me right now, but I don’t like being confused! I am not even sure I am asking the correct questions. With what attitude or frame of mind should I be reading Ecc.? thank you

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Hello Kathleen,

That is a great question and thank you for asking it. The book of Ecclesiastes is a very different type of book from the others in the Bible. It is written to show us an overarching perspective on life that many people sometimes do not recognize. That is the perspective that life is not something that we can control. The author begins with a statement on how life is like a vapor, or chasing after wind. No matter what we do, it always seems that there is no meaning in the end, because the world spins on, and the universe continues to tick away, and life always comes to an end with no real lasting memory of those that passed before. This is extremely distressing and depressing to think of, but the book has a point, and that point, while mentioned at certain places throughout, culminates at the end of the book.

Ecclesiastes 12
“Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”; before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened and the clouds return after the rain, in the day when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those who look through the windows are dimmed, and the doors on the street are shut—when the sound of the grinding is low, and one rises up at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of song are brought low—they are afraid also of what is high, and terrors are in the way; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself along, and desire fails, because man is going to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets—before the silver cord is snapped, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher is shattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern, and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher; all is vanity.

Besides being wise, the Preacher also taught the people knowledge, weighing and studying and arranging many proverbs with great care. The Preacher sought to find words of delight, and uprightly he wrote words of truth.
The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd. My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.
The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.”

This is a lot to take in, but the general idea of this statement is what the author has built towards. Do not be lost to the chasing of the wind in life, and to meaningless pursuits(careers, pleasures, vanities, etc…), for they will fail you. Nor be consumed with the pursuit of knowledge to the point that you drive yourself into the ground, for that will not satisfy you, or help you either. The meaning of life is instead, simple. “Fear God and keep His commandments, this is the whole duty of man.”
Our whole lives will be so much more fulfilled and happy if we first pursue a relationship with our Creator. If we will seek to know Him, serve Him, and follow His guidelines for life, then we will find the only true fulfillment and meaning of life, and all other things will fall into place. We must first relinquish our imagined control in life and trust the only one who truly has any control, God.

I have also included a couple of videos that provide an overview and understanding of the book of Ecclesiastes. These videos are available on YouTube for all the books of the Bible and can be a helpful resource.

I hope that this helps you to find the truth and understanding that God desires for you Kathleen. If you have any other questions then please do not hesitate to ask them. God bless you and thank you.

Overview of Ecclesiastes - The Bible Project

The Wisdom Series - Ecclesiastes - The Bible Project

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Hey @plantaseed. I am so glad you are delving into the bible. As we abide in him, he will as well. I am working on the OT myself and at times it is not easy and context is always key. I saw that Matt already responded to your question, but I just wanted to say something as the word “Sheol” caught my attention. Now this is my bias and take it with grain of salt. So when I try to read to understand, I always want to read with the original translation of the bible. The word by word translation. Yes, sometimes the older texts can be harder to understand and thus I always try to use the NKJV compared to the KJV. Now the reason I say this is, if you search the word “Sheol” in the KJV or NKJV or even in the NIV, you wont find it anywhere in this versions. And my 2 cents here is, I love translations but I dont want to have people putting in words or their own translation of the text if it was not there in the original KJV. Sheol has a specific meaning and if that was not what was intended, then I dont want to take it at face value. Because we all have brains and I want to also come up with the understanding. Sure it does not hurt to see the different translation of the bible and see how much the meaning of the verse has changed. Just my 2 cents.

God Bless and may he guide you in your search for wisdom, truth, and the eternal life. Amen.

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Kathleen
I too struggled somewhat with Ecclesiastes as it seemed to say there was no point to anything we do. It made sense to me after I realized what the author is saying by the constant statement Under the Sun, that is living with only an earthly perspective. This book is the Biblical statement about classic Existentialism and the result of this philosophy. That is there is no point to life under the sun. What it is saying is that without God life is meaningless and this is brought out in Ec 12:13-14 The conclusion, when all has been heard, is : fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. 14 For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.

I would also note that these 2 verses are the only place in Scripture that state the unique purpose of mankind’s creation. All other statements concerning mankind’s purpose share those purposes with other creative things and beings. This brings about another question: Why is the whole purpose of mankind to fear God and keep His commandments? I believe that in part this purpose is to bring judgement on Satan who being the wisest of all created beings rejected God, while mankind only seeing shadows of things spiritual accepts God and this leaves Satan without excuse. But that is another discussion
Dan

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Good morning, @plantaseed - you are right about Ecclesiastes being a unique book. And you’ve gotten some good responses to your questions. @dan0647 has made a key point about the phrase under the sun. You should approach what the Preacher is saying throughout these chapters from the secular point of view - if this world under the sun is all there is, then life is vanity of vanities - pointless! And most atheists will immediately vindicate that conclusion - without God, there really is no overarching point to our existence. Ecclesiastes sounds very dreary because secularism is dreary!

As for the specific questions you’ve asked, let me take them one at a time.

Your first one is about the one man in a thousand, but not a woman. I’ll offer you my thought on that passage.

I Kings 4:32 says that Solomon wrote 1005 songs. Many may well have been for his favorites among the 1000 women in his harem – but 1004 of those songs have been lost forever.

But out of all the thousand women that King Solomon ever had, there was one – way back in the springtime of his youth, before everything became all complicated and political – there was a barefoot, country girl, poor and sunburnt, from a family of lowly vine dressers – and she was the only one he ever married that wasn’t part of some political treaty or alliance, an innocent child whose purity and simple trust taught him more lessons about love than the other 999 combined – the one in a thousand that he ever truly loved. The Shulamite was the girl he could have been happy with for a lifetime.

So what happened that led him to amass a harem of a thousand women? Well, my best guess is that she died young. The Bible never explicitly records this, so we cannot be dogmatic about it – but it makes the best sense of all that we know.

It also explains a lot about what follows. If we fast forward to the end of Solomon’s life, we find the passage you’re asking about. He writes in Ecclesiastes 7:25-28 that his heart had gone on a quest to search out the wickedness of folly, even of foolishness and madness, and in the next verse we see that he’s talking about women – and not devout Jewish women who followed Jehovah. He says, and I find more bitter than death the woman, whose heart is snares and nets, and her hands as bands: whoso pleaseth God shall escape from her, but the sinner shall be taken by her .

No one knew this better than Solomon who, after the Egyptian princess, began marrying a host of women who worshipped false gods and seduced Solomon to join them in their cultic practices. Why on earth was Solomon doing this? He says in the next verses that his soul was counting one by one, seeking something he could not find – one man among a thousand have I found, he says, but a woman among all those have I not found .

What do you think Solomon spent the rest of his life looking for among a thousand wives that he could never find? I think he was driven on a quest to find again that love and beauty he had once known in the spring time of his life in the arms of a simple country Jewess who, without practice or art, innocently surprised him with pleasure in herself alone. I think he wanted just one more time to lie all night between her breasts – to fall asleep to the rhythm and warmth of her beating heart.

Who knows – maybe if he had left the idol worshipping princesses alone and gone in search of a daughter of Ruth, he may have found what he was looking for after all – not another Shulamite, there could never be another of her – but another worshipper of God whose true beauty arose from the love of God within her.

What do you think? Does this make sense of the passage?

Hi Kathleen, wow, you have recieved amazing insights from all who have responded thank you to each of you.
I am not trying to be a spoiler.
Ecclesiastes was written during the last years of Solomons life that was filled with much study of many cultures, peoples, religions, and everything under the son that was available to him. and its profound nature is timeless even today.

I studied and read this book for what it was to me, a book written by the wisest man known until Jesus time.

With being the wisest man and heralded as such, even during his life which he knew he was, his final words say it all.

“Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher, “All is vanity.”
Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, Including every secret thing, Whether good or evil.
Ecclesiastes 12:13‭-‬14 NKJV

Perhaps a different take to look at to help you see in a different light.
Be secure in Him.
Mike

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Thank you for pointing out “Under the sun.” I only read one chapter a day so I don’t see the whole picture right away. This part about the unique purpose behind the creation of man and the contrast with Satan is certainly something to think about. Kathleen