Date: ca. 10th century BC
The writer calls himself Preacher. His identity is uncertain, but the description in this book most closely resembles Solomon, the king of Israel. Ecclesiastes is a difficult book, because of the fragmented structure and because there seem to be 2 different thoughts in it.
There are 2 possible interpretations of this book.
Vision 1 sees it as a pessimistic conclusion of the writer about life. The writer has studied everything and says everything is vanity.
His conclusion is: Enjoy life as much as possible, because after this life you disappear and never return. The adherents of this interpretation explain the optimistic passages, which testify to belief in GOD and righteousness, as later additions. In these skeptical times, such an interpretation has a certain appeal, but it contradicts everything the Old Testament says.
Vision 2 sees this book as a sermon or collection of sermons on the vanity of life. The writer takes this position to show how disappointing and discouraging life is. These statements reflect the ideas of the time and not his own view. The writer's view is right in the passages dealing with trust in God. He shows concretely that a life without GOD leads to frustration and an empty life. Wisdom, wealth, sensual pleasures, power and prestige do not satisfy in the end. The philosophy without God offers: Life is short, uncertain, meaningless and no inner peace. Because life ends in death, we should enjoy as much as possible and nothing more.
That's not the whole story. In addition to this philosophy, the book of Ecclesiastes continually bears the assurance that God sees through man's presumption and sorrow and comes to meet us with His love when we allow Him into our lives (3:17; 8:12; 11: 9; 12:14). The writer's conclusion is: Fear GOD and keep His commandments (12:13). Not a bad message.
Theme 1: The power of and redemption by God are always present in the background of all that is said. God is always there and waiting to be addressed by those who, after their pursuit of worldly pleasures, find that they are unsatisfactory.
Theme 2: The fact that life is unable to satisfy our deepest needs is because it is not real life. If we see life governed and governed by God, then it can be lived properly.
1. Preface (1:1-11),
2. The futility and pressure of life (1:12-4:12),
3. The vanity of life in all its forms (4:13-7:14),
4. The Failure of Worldly Philosophy (7:15-10:3),
5. Summary of Life's Vanity and How to Overcome It (10:4-12:14).