Cutting Room: Ecclesiastes 1

Cutting Room is a blog featuring content from our research team that did not “make the cut” for a Sunday sermon at Shoreline. Take advantage of this content to supplement your study and go deeper! Enjoy!
— Pastor Pilgrim

"Son of David, King of Israel"

There were only 4 kings in Israel who reigned in Jerusalem, before it was a part of Judah, the southern kingdom. Saul, David, Solomon, and Rehoboam. So clearly this has to be Solomon.

 

Ambition

The 119th-century Bible scholar G. S. Bowes pointed out the ultimate futility of ambition that isn’t accompanied by dedication to God. Citing four powerful world rulers of the past, he wrote:

“Alexander the Great was not satisfied, even when he had completely subdued the nations. He wept because there were no more worlds to conquer, and he died at an early age in a state of debauchery.

Hannibal, who filled three bushels with the gold rings taken from the knights he had slaughtered, committed suicide by swallowing poison. Few noted his passing, and he left this earth completely unmourned.

Julius Caesar, ‘staining his garments in the blood of one million of his foes,’ conquered 800 cities, only to be stabbed by his best friends at the scene of his greatest triumph.

Napoleon, the feared conqueror, after being the scourge of Europe, spent his last years, in banishment.” No wonder Solomon warned of the poor prospects for anyone who strives to succeed without relying on God.

 

Meaningless

Like arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, or tapping the "clear" button multiple times on a calculator, life under the sun really is a treadmill that isn't going anywhere.

Ralph Barton, one of the top cartoonists of all time, left this note pinned to his pillow before taking his own life: "I have had few difficulties, many friends, great successes; I have gone from wife to wife, from house to house, visited great countries of the world, but I am fed up with inventing devices to fill up twenty-four hours of the day." 

 

Overview of the book of Ecclesiastes

    • Authorship: Solomon (most likely)
    • Date: Solomon's reign as king of Israel lasted from around 970 B.C. to around 930 B.C. The Book of Ecclesiastes was likely written towards the end of his reign, approximately 935 B.C.
    • Unique place in the canon: was fought about by rabbi's for a long time before it was finally accepted universally

 

Good, short Quotes

    • G Campbell Morgan - Ecclesiastes is an inspired confession of failure and pessimism, when God is excluded, when man lives under the sun, and forgets the larger part, which is always over the sun, the eternal and abiding things.
    • Ray Stedman - Ecclesiastes is a collection of what man is able to discern under the sun, i.e., in the visible world. The book does not take into consideration revelation that comes from beyond man's powers of observation and reason. It is an inspired, an accurate book. It guarantees that what it reports is what people actually believe. but it is an examination of those beliefs.
    • “What, then, is the purpose of Ecclesiastes? It is an essay in apologetics. It defends the life of faith in a generous God by pointing to the grimness of the alternative.” (Eaton)
    • “Ecclesiastes does not pretend to preach the Gospel. Rather, it encourages the reader to a God-centered worldview rather than falling victim to frustrations and unanswered questions. None of its contents has to be rejected in the light of the New Testament.” (Wright)
    • McArthur: While the context in each case will determine which meaning Solomon is focusing upon, the most recurring meaning of vanity is “incomprehensible” or “unknowable,” referring to the mysteries of God’s purposes. Solomon’s conclusion to “fear God and keep His commandments” (12:13, 14) is more than the book’s summary; it is the only hope of the good life and the only reasonable response of faith and obedience to sovereign God.
    • Spurgeon; Nothing can satisfy the entire man but the Lord's love and the Lord's own self.

 

Word study: VANITY (v.2)

    • In common parlance "vanity" and "vain" apply to conceited persons with exaggerated self-opinions. While the biblical usage includes this nuance, it describes the world as having as no ultimate meaning, a concept shared with some philosophies. The meanings of emptiness and lacking in reality are already present in the Latin vanitas, from which the English word "vanity" is derived. This approaches the chief Old Testament understanding that human life apart from God, even at its best, has no ultimate significance and consequently is valueless. This theme characterizes the Book of Ecclesiastes, which begins with "Vanity of vanities! All is vanity" (1:2 NRSV), words that have become classical in the languages into which the Bible has been translated. In viewing life without God the believer is on the same level as the unbeliever in recognizing the desperateness of life. Hebel [l,b,h], the Hebrew for vanity, as its Arabic cognate, suggests a wind or vapor. Man's life is like a breath ( Psalm 39:5 ).

 

Word study: UNDER THE SUN (v.14)

    • The phrase “under the sun” is used 29 times in Ecclesiastes and nowhere else in Scripture. The intended meaning in Ecclesiastes is that what happens “under the sun” in a life separated from God is universal—the point of view in Ecclesiastes is an earth-bound perspective.
    • human nature never changes, men and women, apart from grace, always look for answers to these questions in things that cannot satisfy. http://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/nothing-new-under-sun/
    • To say there is nothing new under the sun means there is nothing really new on the earth. All the activity of a man during his lifetime is lost in the grander scheme of things and will soon be forgotten

 

Wisdom (vv.12-18)

  • In Ecclesiastes, Solomon is seeking wisdom “under the sun” (cf. 1:3), that is, apart from God, as the source of happiness. This he rightly concludes is “vanity and grasping for the wind” (1:14). However, if wisdom is viewed as based in “the fear of the Lord” (Prov. 1:7), then it is the very means of obtaining true happiness. Indeed, Solomon came to this very conclusion in Ecclesiastes (see 8:12; 12:13). Also, the OT understanding of wisdom is not the accumulation of great amounts of knowledge. For Solomon, wisdom is first and foremost living a successful life of righteousness and peace in obedience to God. Knowledge alone does not bring wisdom. Indeed, the message of Ecclesiastes is that knowledge alone brings only sorrow. Wisdom is the accumulation of the right kind of knowledge coupled with a life that is in harmony with God’s commands and at peace with Him.

 

What are things that people strive after?

  • money
  • status
  • power
  • security
  • love
  • happiness
  • influence
  • meaning
  • purpose
  • excellence
  • truth
  • fulfillment
  • satisfaction