Ecclesiastes 1:1-2 [32:59]
One Rabbi argued that Solomon wrote three Old Testament books in this order: Song of Songs first, Proverbs second and Ecclesiastes last, because, “When a man is young he sings songs. When he becomes an adult he utters practical proverbs. When he becomes old he voices the vanity of things”.
There is debate among scholars if in fact it was Solomon alone who wrote the book and they give various arguments as to their opinion but the bottom line is that the ultimate Author is the Lord through the Holy Spirit for the Jewish people accepted it as given by God and as the New Covenant bears witness unto them the oracles of God were committed (Romans 3:2).
Moreover we are told that all Scripture is from God (2 Timothy 3:16 KJV) All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. The main purpose of this book is to show the futility of human existence apart from God.
It is designed to challenge the thinking of those who cling to this world as their hope to wake up to the transience of life and when God is included this pessimistic view is replaced with a proper understanding of life that gives meaning and purpose (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14). King Solomon had it all. He had money – more than he could ever spend. He had possessions – more that he could ever enjoy. He had wives – more than could ever please him fully. He even had wisdom far greater than anyone else in his day. He had it all. Yet for a while at least, he didn’t have a real grasp on the purpose of life.
(Ecclesiastes 1:1) The Book of Ecclesiastes draws its name from the Hebrew word used in vs. 1 קֹהֶלֶת qōheleṯ which means a collector of wisdom. All Hebrew words have a root word unless they are the root word and the root of this word comes from the word קָהֵל meaning to gather or to assemble. So it speaks of a person who gathered wisdom. The word Ecclesiastes is a translation of this Hebrew word into Greek and referred to someone who addressed a public assembly. This is another meaning of the word based on the fact that the gatherer used his knowledge to speak about life.
Solomon used the word to describe himself as one who gathered wisdom (Ecclesiastes 12:9-10; 1 Kings 4:32-34). As we will see as we study this book Solomon’s purpose was to show how utterly meaningless life is apart from God. This verse all tells us that the author is a son of David who was King in Jerusalem. While there is no mention of name of the author no other kingly son of David measures up to this author with regard to his wisdom (Ecclesiastes 1:16), wealth (Ecclesiastes 2:8), servants (Ecclesiastes 2:7), his pursuit of worldly pleasures (Ecclesiastes 2:3), and elaborate building activity (Ecclesiastes 2:4-6).
Ecclesiastes 1:2 – The word vanity is the Hebrew word הֶבֶל, and refers to vanity, emptiness, meaninglessness and idols. It appears 70 times in the Old Testament of which 35 are in Ecclesiastes. It refers to breath or vapor and always points to something which is weak or transitory or in some way futile. It is often used to describe the gods of other people, powerless idols (Isaiah 57:13; Jeremiah 8:19; 10:8).
It is also used as a symbol for life (Job 7:16). It refers to the ultimate emptiness and meaninglessness of all things in this life, whether good or bad. When it is used the verb הָבַל hāḇal, it means to speak idle or vain words (Job 27:12; Matthew 12:36). When you don’t know the purpose of life, life will seem empty. In this verse Solomon’s conclusion is “Meaningless, Meaningless” Everything is meaningless.” Without some guiding purpose, life doesn’t make much sense at all.