The Book of Ecclesiastes

Discovery for Students

The Book of Ecclesiastes


Ecclesiastes 1:1 through 12:14

“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13)


The Book of Ecclesiastes is a series of instructions and eye-witness observations given by “the Preacher,” to the young men of Israel. Although the author never identified himself by name, Jewish tradition records that Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes during the last years of his life, probably sometime between 955 and 931 B.C. The views expressed are obviously from an individual who has spent years accumulating experiences and perspectives.

Solomon enjoyed periods of unsurpassed wisdom and immense wealth during his lifetime, and was able to gratify every personal whim and desire. However, in spite of his unlimited advantages, Solomon’s message could be summed up by the Hebrew word hebel, translated in various Biblical passages as vanity, futility, meaninglessness, mystery, or enigma. Experience had taught him that wisdom, wealth, achievement, and pleasure were not sufficient foundations upon which to build one’s life. The summary statements “All is vanity” and “This also is vanity” are repeated over and over, and a tone of disappointment and futility is apparent in all twelve chapters.

Solomon’s primary purpose in writing the book seems to have been to share his observations and ultimate conclusion with those who still had life before them. While Solomon encouraged the young to enjoy material advantages, he pointed them to the importance of committing their lives to their Creator during their youth, concluding that doing so was the only path to meaningful fulfillment in life.

Though Ecclesiastes was written thousands of years ago, it presents a question that individuals of each generation must face: what is the meaning of life? Solomon did not suggest that life has no purpose and is ultimately without profit. Rather, while he observed the futility of man’s attempts to fill the emptiness of life without God, he asserted that God’s presence was to be recognized and reckoned with at every turn during the brief days of man’s sojourn under the sun. The heart of Solomon’s advice is found in the conclusion of the book: “Fear God and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).


  1. Solomon had wealth and power, accomplishment and honor, fame and pleasure, and was deemed the wisest man in all the world (see 1 Kings 4:29-34). Yet, in Ecclesiastes 1:2-3, he stated that all is vanity. Today, mankind still strives for attainments in terms of wealth, success, and pleasure. Why do you think people fail to find satisfaction even when they achieve these goals?
  2. In Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, Solomon addressed the subject of time, opening this portion of text with the statement, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” The word translated season in this verse means “appointed time.” God has an appointed time and order for the events of our lives. While we participate in the specific activities listed, our life experiences are known and allowed by Him. What are the benefits of accepting and appreciating God’s perfect timing? What is the danger in failing to do so?
  3. In Ecclesiastes 4:8, Solomon contemplated the perils of isolation, and stated in verse 9 that “two are better than one.” In verses 9 through 12, what does Solomon say are the benefits of companionship? How might these benefits be experienced within the family of God?
  4. Vows were a common part of Israel’s religious practice during the time of Solomon. In Ecclesiastes 5, Solomon addressed making vows or promises to God. What specific warnings did he give regarding this practice? Ecclesiastes 5:1-7
  5. At times in life it will seem that evil prevails, and the wicked get away with unrestrained wrongdoing. Solomon reflected on this in his day as well. However, in Ecclesiastes 8, he asserted his faith in the ultimate justice of God. How would you summarize the principle Solomon stated in verses 11-13 of this chapter?
  6. After considering the uncertainties of the future and the certainty of death, in Ecclesiastes 9:7-9 Solomon observed that there are good things in life, and recommended that his hearers make the most of what they can understand and enjoy. He followed that with the directive found in verse 10. What was his instruction, and how might it apply to our Christian walk?
  7. Chapter 10 of Ecclesiastes begins a series of proverbs in which Solomon sought to provide some of the wisdom he wanted people to hear. There is no one theme in this compilation of practical advice, which continues through the concluding chapters. Solomon spoke of fools and folly, relationships with rulers, care in conduct, sharpness and strength, wisdom with words, indolence and industry, money and might. What lesson can we learn from the proverb given in Ecclesiastes 10:10?
  8. Solomon had set out to try all that life had to offer, and the book’s final verses offer a summation of his thoughts. At the close of his attempt to point the young to effective and successful paths in life, what did Solomon conclude was the duty of man? Ecclesiastes 12:13


Those who have a relationship with God and are living in obedience to Him have the promise of someday finding complete fulfillment and life eternal.