Hierarchical Précis

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Ecclesiastes

Ecclesiastes is the Greek translation of Koheleth, which is generally translated as preacher. Koheleth is the name the writer gives himself in several places in this book. The word Koheleth is found only in Ecclesiastes. Although the writer isn’t named, verses 1:1, 1:12, 1:16 and 2:4–9 strongly suggest it was Solomon. As we read Ecclesiastes, it is easy to view it as Solomon’s reflections on his life and all its extravagances, and the futility of them without God. ‘Vanity’ is used thirty-eight times in Ecclesiastes. In the context of this book, it takes on the Oxford Dictionary’s second meaning: ‘the quality of being worthless or futile’, or as Strong describes it: H1892 emptiness or vanity; figuratively something transitory and unsatisfactory.

Summary

Chapter 1 Men come and go and nature goes through continuous cycles. There is nothing new under the sun. The writer gave his heart to seeking out wisdom, and in his observation of all things declares wisdom is meaningless, as the abundance of wisdom and knowledge merely exposes lack of knowledge and consequent sorrow. Chapter 2 The teacher relates his acquisition of pleasures and possessions and considers them all as vanity and waywardness of spirit; of no advantage under the sun. Even wisdom that excels folly becomes meaningless at the point of death. The toils of life are resented, they are all meaningless, for there is no satisfaction in life without God. Chapter 3 There is a time and season for everything in life and In this world. Everything that God has made is beautiful in its time and is a gift from God, for which people should be thankful. What God has done is everlasting and nothing can be added to or taken away from it. Man should be in awe of Him, for He will judge both the good and bad. All will return to dust, until which time man should enjoy the fruits of his own labour. Chapter 4 The oppressions of life have no comforter, either for the oppressed or the oppressors. There is envy and idleness. It is better to share life with another than to be alone. It is also better to be young, poor and wise than to be an old foolish king. Advancement in itself is meaningless. However, make sure your offerings are more meaningful than that of a fool. Chapter 5 Reverence is to be observed in all aspects of worship. The produce of the earth is for all, but not so riches, which are meaningless. They lead to covetousness and evil, and cannot be taken to the grave. We should be thankful and enjoy the blessings of God. Chapter 6 What Is the value of long life to a man with all his riches if his soul cannot be satisfied, and what advantage has the wise man over a fool if he doesn’t know what will satisfy his soul? Chapter 7 Here the writer quotes a series of proverbs in a style remarkably similar to Solomon’s Proverbs. They conclude with the observation that man was good as God created him; his problems are of his own making. Chapter 8 Wisdom encourages a spirit of obedience. Despite the fact that the ungodly sometimes seem to have advantage in life, it will be well for those who fear God. Man should enjoy the time God has given him. The writer set his heart to know wisdom, but God has concealed the answer to life’s mysteries. Chapter 9 The righteous are in God’s hands, but for everyone, good and bad, death is inevitable. The righteous should enjoy the time God has given them, all the while living to His glory, for there is no knowing how long a person has on this earth. Wisdom is greater than power, yet is not always recognised as one sinner can destroy much good. Chapter 10:1–11:6 A collection of proverbs on wisdom and folly. Chapter 11:7–12:7 Old age, with its problems, and death, will eventually come. So rejoice in your youth, all the while remembering God and walking blamelessly, for God will be your judge. Chapter 12:8–14 This is the conclusion: Let wisdom be your guard. Wisdom is to fear God and keep his commandments, for God will judge everything, good and evil.