Author and Date
No time period or writer's name is mentioned in the book, but several passages suggest that King Solomon may be the author ( ; cf. ). On the other hand, the writer's title ("Teacher," Hebrew qoheleth; ), his unique style of Hebrew and his attitude toward rulers (suggesting that of a subject rather than a monarch -- see, ) may point to another person and a later period (see ).
Purpose and Teaching
The author of Ecclesiastes puts his powers of wisdom to work to examine the human experience and assess the human situation. His perspective is limited to what happens "under the sun" (as is that of all the wisdom teachers). He considers life as he has experienced and observed it between the horizons of birth and death -- life within the boundaries of this visible world. His wisdom cannot penetrate beyond that last horizon; he can only observe the phenomenon of death and perceive the limits it places on human beings. Within the limits of human experience and observation, he is concerned to spell out what is "good" for people to do. And he represents a devout wisdom. Life in the world is under God -- for all its enigmas. Hence what begins with "Meaningless! Meaningless!" () ends with "Remember your Creator" () and "Fear God and keep his commandments" ().
With a wisdom matured by many years, he takes the measure of human beings, examining their limits and their lot. He has attempted to see what human wisdom can do ), and he has discovered that human wisdom, even when it has its beginning in "the fear of the Lord" (), has limits to its powers when it attempts to go it alone -- limits that circumscribe its perspectives and relativize its counsel. Most significantly, it cannot find out the larger purposes of God or the ultimate meaning of human existence. With respect to these it can only pose questions.
Nevertheless, he does take a hard look at the human enterprise -- an enterprise in which he himself has fully participated.
He sees a busy, busy human ant hill in mad pursuit of many things, trying now this, now that, laboring away as if by dint of effort humans could
master the world, lay bare its deepest secrets, change its fundamental structures, somehow burst through the bounds of human limitations, build
for themselves enduring monuments, control their destiny, achieve a state of secure and lasting happiness -- people laboring at
life with an overblown conception of human powers and consequently pursuing unrealistic hopes and aspirations.
He takes a hard look and concludes that human life in this mode is "meaningless," its efforts all futile.
What, then, does wisdom teach him?
Therefore wisdom counsels:
To sum up, Ecclesiastes provides instruction on how to live meaningfully, purposefully and joyfully within
the theocratic arrangement -- primarily by placing God at the center of one's life, work and activities, by contentedly accepting
one's divinely appointed lot in life, and by reverently trusting in and obeying the Creator-King.
Note particularly .