Overview of Ecclesiastes

Ecclesiastes 1:1-18 — Solomon introduced the theme of futility in the opening verses of the book. He observed the fleeting and transient nature of everything under the sun and concluded that fulfillment is not found in these.

Ecclesiastes 2:1-11 — Solomon experimented with pleasure and possessions to see if these avenues led to fulfillment in life. He tried wine and folly and the accumulation of possessions. Solomon found that these pursuits failed to satisfy and were futile.

Ecclesiastes 2:12-26 — Solomon bemoaned the fact that even his work failed to satisfy. He hated to think that all he had worked for would be bequeathed to others who may be wise or foolish. He concluded that the best thing to do was to simply enjoy the normal activities of daily life as gifts from God.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-15 — Solomon declared that there is “a time for every activity under heaven” (3:1 . He listed a variety of human experiences that come from God and are good in their time. Solomon also affirmed that life is a gift from God and should be enjoyed and lived with eternity in mind.

Ecclesiastes 3:16-22 — Like others before him, Solomon acknowledged the mystery of the wicked prospering in their sin and the righteous suffering in their obedience. Solomon found comfort in the assurance that there is an appointed time when God’s judgment will set matters straight.

Ecclesiastes 4:1-16 — Solomon lamented the oppression and sadness he observed in the world. He said that the dead are better off than the living because they do not have to put up with this evil. He also commented on the loneliness of wealth. Solomon did not see the point in a man without an heir working hard all of his life to acquire wealth. It is better to go through life with friends than to try to make it alone.

Ecclesiastes 5:1-20 — Solomon cautioned against making and breaking vows to God. He also said that bureaucracy and corruption are facts of life and should not surprise us. Returning to the topic of wealth, Solomon stated that wealth cannot satisfy people’s deepest longings. Wealth cannot solve all of the problems of the poor and creates problems for the rich.

Ecclesiastes 6:1-12 — Solomon noted that some who have great wealth are not able to enjoy it at all. Some die with so little that their families are not even able to provide them with a decent burial. Both the wise and the poor give themselves to the futile pursuit of wealth and never seem to get enough.

Ecclesiastes 7:1-13 — Solomon wrote a series of proverbs that illustrate some of the lessons that are learned only when facing death or thinking about it. The inevitability of death gives one a needed perspective on the realities of life. God’s wisdom reminds us of the brevity of life and encourages us to listen to wise critics.

Ecclesiastes 7:14-29 — God allows us to experience days filled with prosperity and days filled with adversity. He uses each of these extremes to give balance to our lives and to help us grow. Solomon also observed other of life’s extremes and urged that one follow a course of wisdom through these.

Ecclesiastes 8:1-17 — Life is filled with all sorts of injustices and inequities that we must deal with. Among these are bad rulers and people who do not get what they deserve. Solomon concluded that while wisdom cannot explain every mystery under the sun, we need wisdom in order to get the most out of life.

Ecclesiastes 9:1-10 — Death is inevitable for the righteous and the wicked. However, the reality of death should not overshadow the enjoyments of life. God wants us to enjoy feasts, family, and our work. And, in doing this, we should allow God’s wisdom to guide us in living each day for His glory.

Ecclesiastes 9:11-18 — Life is not fair and is often unpredictable. At times there seems to be no relation between what we deserve and what we actually receive. Sometimes the race goes to the swift and at other times it does not. Nevertheless, we should look to God for the wisdom to live each day for His glory.

Ecclesiastes 10:1-20 — Just as a dead fly in ointment will cause it to stink, so a little folly can destroy the character and reputation of a wise person. The wise person and the fool can be identified by the way in which they live. The wise display calmness in tense situations and know how to offer gracious words. Unfortunately, kings often make the mistake of promoting fools to positions of power. Fools have a high regard for their opinions, give bad advice, and even presumptuously try to predict the future.

Ecclesiastes 11:1-6 — Solomon counseled that it is best to diversify investments, work hard, and take calculated risks. The one who sits and waits for every condition to be perfect before acting will miss valuable opportunities in life.

Ecclesiastes 11:7-10 — Solomon advised people to enjoy every minute of being young. Young people should live their lives within the boundaries of God’s revealed will because they will one day give an account to God for everything they have done.

Ecclesiastes 12:1-8 — Solomon said that people should make the most of life and its many opportunities while they are young. The young are irresistibly and steadily drawn toward old age and progressively lose the capacity to pursue many opportunities. Solomon poetically and graphically described the physiological changes we undergo as we grow older.

Ecclesiastes 12:9-14 — Regardless of our age, we should continuously seek to learn and to apply the truths of God’s Word. Solomon concluded Ecclesiastes with sober advice — “fear God and keep His commands” and live each day with the knowledge that God “will bring every act to judgment.”

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