Solomon concludes the book by giving his antidotes for the two main ailments that he talked about. People who lack purpose and direction in life should fear God and keep his commandments first. The people who think that life is unfair should remember that God will go back and look and everyone’s lives and make his judgment.
1 Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them;
2 While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain:
3 In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened,
4 And the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of musick shall be brought low;
5 Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets:
6 Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern.
7 Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.
8 Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity.
9 And moreover, because the preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yea, he gave good heed, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs.
10 The preacher sought to find out acceptable words: and that which was written was upright, even words of truth.
11 The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd.
12 And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.
13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.
14 For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.
Because life has no guarantees, we should seize available opportunities and not play it safe. Even though life is uncertain, it doesn’t mean that you should let it pass you by. Don’t wait for conditions that many never exist. We should enjoy every day but remember that the afterlife is eternal.
1 Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.
2 Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth.
3 If the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth: and if the tree fall toward the south, or toward the north, in the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be.
4 He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap.
5 As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all.
6 In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good.
7 Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun:
8 But if a man live many years, and rejoice in them all; yet let him remember the days of darkness; for they shall be many. All that cometh is vanity.
9 Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment.
10 Therefore remove sorrow from thy heart, and put away evil from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity.
By describing circumstances that are unfair or don’t make sense, Solomon is saying that wisdom alone cant bring justice. Everything we have is nothing without God. But when he uses what little we have, it becomes all we could ever want or need. If you lack skills, you should sharpen them through training and practice. This will make you more effective for God’s work.
1 Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savor: so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honor.
2 A wise man’s heart is at his right hand; but a fool’s heart at his left.
3 Yea also, when he that is a fool walketh by the way, his wisdom faileth him, and he saith to everyone that he is a fool.
4 If the spirit of the ruler rise up against thee, leave not thy place; for yielding pacifieth great offences.
5 There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, as an error which proceedeth from the ruler:
6 Folly is set in great dignity, and the rich sit in low place.
7 I have seen servants upon horses, and princes walking as servants upon the earth.
8 He that diggeth a pit shall fall into it; and whoso breaketh an hedge, a serpent shall bite him.
9 Whoso removeth stones shall be hurt therewith; and he that cleaveth wood shall be endangered thereby.
10 If the iron be blunt, and he do not whet the edge, then must he put to more strength: but wisdom is profitable to direct.
11 Surely the serpent will bite without enchantment; and a babbler is no better.
12 The words of a wise man’s mouth are gracious; but the lips of a fool will swallow up himself.
13 The beginning of the words of his mouth is foolishness: and the end of his talk is mischievous madness.
14 A fool also is full of words: a man cannot tell what shall be; and what shall be after him, who can tell him?
15 The labor of the foolish wearieth every one of them, because he knoweth not how to go to the city.
16 Woe to thee, O land, when thy king is a child, and thy princes eat in the morning!
17 Blessed art thou, O land, when thy king is the son of nobles, and thy princes eat in due season, for strength, and not for drunkenness!
18 By much slothfulness the building decayeth; and through idleness of the hands the house droppeth through.
19 A feast is made for laughter, and wine maketh merry: but money answereth all things.
20 Curse not the king, no not in thy thought; and curse not the rich in thy bedchamber: for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter
Solomon believes in enjoying life as God’s gift. The world is finite, and sin has twisted life, making it something other than what God intended. Society honors many things above wisdom such as attractiveness, wealth, popularity, and success. Solomon believed that wisdom is the greatest asset even though it often goes unrecognized.
1 For all this I considered in my heart even to declare all this, that the righteous, and the wise, and their works, are in the hand of God: no man knoweth either love or hatred by all that is before them.
2 All things come alike to all: there is one event to the righteous, and to the wicked; to the good and to the clean, and to the unclean; to him that sacrificeth, and to him that sacrificeth not: as is the good, so is the sinner; and he that sweareth, as he that feareth an oath.
3 This is an evil among all things that are done under the sun, that there is one event unto all: yea, also the heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live, and after that they go to the dead.
4 For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope: for a living dog is better than a dead lion.
5 For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not anything, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.
6 Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion forever in anything that is done under the sun.
7 Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works.
8 Let thy garments be always white; and let thy head lack no ointment.
9 Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which he hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity: for that is thy portion in this life, and in thy labor which thou takest under the sun.
10 Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.
11 I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.
12 For man also knoweth not his time: as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare; so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them.
13 This wisdom have I seen also under the sun, and it seemed great unto me:
14 There was a little city, and few men within it; and there came a great king against it, and besieged it, and built great bulwarks against it:
15 Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same poor man.
16 Then said I, Wisdom is better than strength: nevertheless the poor man’s wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard.
17 The words of wise men are heard in quiet more than the cry of him that ruleth among fools.
18 Wisdom is better than weapons of war: but one sinner destroyeth much good.
Ecclesiastes and The Epic of Gilgamesh
The longest literary composition known from Mesopotamia is the Epic of Gilgamesh, the tale of an ancient king’s failed quest for immortality. It is a very ancient work, dating to at least 2000 B.C., that follows the trials and adventures of Gilgamesh, King of Uruk.
The Gilgamesh Epic has come to us in a more than one version (there is an Old Babylonian and a standard Assyrian version), but the message is essentially the same.
A tavern-keeper’s advice to the hero, Gilgamesh, summarizes its message: In view of the impending death of all humankind, the task of mortals is to make the most of life:
To eat, drink, be merry, be clean, dress radiantly, delight in one’s children and provide joy for one’s spouse (Old Babylonian).
Scholars have long noted the similarity of this admonition to that of the “Teacher” in Ecclesiastes, whose personal wrestling with life’s meaning, transience and enigmas led him to conclude that people do well to seize the day, finding satisfaction in all that God gives (Ecc 9:3, 7-10, 11:7-12:1).
The Teacher also concluded that the accumulated works that have been accomplished under the sun of essentially “meaningless, a chasing after the wind” (Ecc 1:14, 2:11, 17, 26; 5:10, 16; 6:9).
The outlook corresponds closely to one of Gilgamesh’s statements: Only the gods live forever under the sun. as for mankind, their days are numbered; whatever they achieve is but wind!”
Other parallels to Ecclesiastes found in Gilgamesh include the mention of a three-stranded cord when commenting on friendship (cf Ecc 4:9-12) and the point that no aspect of life is permanent (Ecc 1:4, 11: 2:16; 3:18-19; 9:5-6).
In view of these similarities, it appears that the author of Ecclesiastes, King Solomon, writing from Israel during the first millennium B.C., knew and appreciated the Gilgamesh Epic, a Mesopotamian work completed early in the second millennium B.C. Because a copied fragment on the Epic, dating to the 14th century B.C., was discovered in northern Israel, we know that the story of Gilgamesh was at least known in the region at an early time. It is important to keep the following in mind:
The “Teacher’s” apparent use of Gilgamesh does not diminish his book’s canonical status. It’s not uncommon for Biblical texts to follow the pattern of non-biblical counterparts, even to the point of citing them directly. For example, Deuteronomy follows the pattern of an ancient Near Eastern treaty and the Apostle Paul cited a poets description of Crete (Tit 1:12).
There is no suggestion that Ecclesiastes as a whole was modeled after Gilgamesh. There are enormous differences between the two. Ecclesiastes, for example, is not an epic poem and doesn’t tell a story.
Although the call to joy in Ecc 9:7-10 finds its closest and ancient parallel in the Gilgamesh Epic, the wording isn’t exact. No scholars suggest that Ecclesiastes simply lifted times from Gilgamesh.
The probability that the author of Ecclesiastes was familiar with Gilgamesh actually supports the traditional view of the book’s Solomonic authorship. It’s doubtful that an anonymous, postexilic Jew, living in an impoverished cultural environment (the Jerusalem of this time) would have demonstrated intimate familiarity with this very ancient Akkadian text.
On the other hand, the age of Solomon constituted the high-water mark of Israel’s history, as well as its literary golden age. Akkadian was still widely spoken, and cuneiform was still in use in Solomon’s day.
Some of the concepts found in Ecclesiastes also have strong parallels in Egyptian literature. This suggests that Ecclesiastes wasn’t simply borrowing from Gilgamesh but making use of wisdom literature from the great centers of learning in the ancient world.
Ecclesiastes and the Gilgamesh Epic wrestle with the same human question: How is one to live when life appears to make no sense? Despite the literary link between the two, they are worlds apart theologically. The Epic challenges people to enjoy life but holds out no lasting source of hope. Within Ecclesiastes, on the other hand, life’s enigmas and sorrows are tempered by the hope that endures when an individual remembers and fears God (Ecc 5:7; 8:12; 12:1, 13-14).
True wisdom comes from knowing and trusting God, not merely the way to find him. Knowing God will lead to understanding and then to sharing that knowledge with others. Even in a man could have all of the world’s wisdom, he would still know very little. No one can fully comprehend God.
1 Who is as the wise man? And who knoweth the interpretation of a thing? A man’s wisdom maketh his face to shine, and the boldness of his face shall be changed.
2 I counsel thee to keep the king’s commandment, and that in regard of the oath of God.
3 Be not hasty to go out of his sight: stand not in an evil thing; for he doeth whatsoever pleaseth him.
4 Where the word of a king is, there is power: and who may say unto him, What doest thou?
5 Whoso keepeth the commandment shall feel no evil thing: and a wise man’s heart discerneth both time and judgment.
6 Because to every purpose there is time and judgment, therefore the misery of man is great upon him.
7 For he knoweth not that which shall be: for who can tell him when it shall be?
8 There is no man that hath power over the spirit to retain the spirit; neither hath he power in the day of death: and there is no discharge in that war; neither shall wickedness deliver those that are given to it.
9 All this have I seen, and applied my heart unto every work that is done under the sun: there is a time wherein one man ruleth over another to his own hurt.
10 And so I saw the wicked buried, who had come and gone from the place of the holy, and they were forgotten in the city where they had so done: this is also vanity.
11 Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.
12 Though a sinner do evil an hundred times, and his days be prolonged, yet surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him:
13 But it shall not be well with the wicked, neither shall he prolong his days, which are as a shadow; because he feareth not before God.
14 There is a vanity which is done upon the earth; that there be just men, unto whom it happeneth according to the work of the wicked; again, there be wicked men, to whom it happeneth according to the work of the righteous: I said that this also is vanity.
15 Then I commended mirth, because a man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry: for that shall abide with him of his labor the days of his life, which God giveth him under the sun.
16 When I applied mine heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done upon the earth: (for also there is that neither day nor night seeth sleep with his eyes:)
17 Then I beheld all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun: because though a man labor to seek it out, yet he shall not find it; yea further; though a wise man think to know it, yet shall he not be able to find it.
1 A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth.
2 It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart.
3 Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better.
4 The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.
5 It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools.
6 For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool: this also is vanity.
7 Surely oppression maketh a wise man mad; and a gift destroyeth the heart.
8 Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof: and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.
9 Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools.
10 Say not thou, What is the cause that the former days were better than these? for thou dost not inquire wisely concerning this.
11 Wisdom is good with an inheritance: and by it there is profit to them that see the sun.
12 For wisdom is a defense, and money is a defense: but the excellency of knowledge is, that wisdom giveth life to them that have it.
13 Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight, which he hath made crooked?
14 In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: God also hath set the one over against the other, to the end that man should find nothing after him.
15 All things have I seen in the days of my vanity: there is a just man that perisheth in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man that prolongeth his life in his wickedness.
16 Be not righteous over much; neither make thyself over wise: why shouldest thou destroy thyself?
17 Be not over much wicked, neither be thou foolish: why shouldest thou die before thy time?
18 It is good that thou shouldest take hold of this; yea, also from this withdraw not thine hand: for he that feareth God shall come forth of them all.
19 Wisdom strengtheneth the wise more than ten mighty men which are in the city.
20 For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.
21 Also take no heed unto all words that are spoken; lest thou hear thy servant curse thee:
22 For oftentimes also thine own heart knoweth that thou thyself likewise hast cursed others.
23 All this have I proved by wisdom: I said, I will be wise; but it was far from me.
24 That which is far off, and exceeding deep, who can find it out?
25 I applied mine heart to know, and to search, and to seek out wisdom, and the reason of things, and to know the wickedness of folly, even of foolishness and madness:
26 And I find more bitter than death the woman, whose heart is snares and nets, and her hands as bands: whoso pleaseth God shall escape from her; but the sinner shall be taken by her.
27 Behold, this have I found, saith the preacher, counting one by one, to find out the account:
28 Which yet my soul seeketh, but I find not: one man among a thousand have I found; but a woman among all those have I not found.
29 Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.
The epilogue of Ecclesiastes identify the writer as a sage or wise man (Ecc 12:9). His teachings are viewed as part of “the words of the wise,” which are like goads. Those who master thee teachings are said to be firmly embedded nails (Ecc 12:11).
Such ideas represent the outlook of Biblical Wisdom Literature. Although the theme of wisdom is present throughout the Bible, most scholars consider Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes to be Biblical Wisdom Literature in the strictness sense. Outside the Bible, in both Jewish and pagan writings, there are many other texts that could be called wisdom literature, a genre that can be recognized both by how it speaks and by what it says.
Wisdom texts frequently assume the posture of a parent addressing a child. The reader is often addressed as “my son” (cf Prov 1:8, 10, 15; 2:1; 3:1; 5:1; Ecc 12:12).
Wisdom Literature uses proverbial sayings and parables, as well as mnemonic (intended or arranged to assist the memory) or numerical lists (e.g., Prov 1:1, 10:1, 30:15-16, 18-19, 21-23, 29-31; Ecc 12:9).
Wisdom literature concentrates on ethical themes within wisdom texts, even to the extent of addressing the conduct of God himself (as is done several times in the book of Job).
The figure of the sage is at the center of the wisdom tradition.
Sometimes “wise” is simply an adjective to connote that an individual was thoughtful, intelligent, skilled, or devout (Deut 1:13; 1 Kgs 2:9). In other instances, a wise person was assumed to have been a member of a social class of sages whose functions included those of teacher, government counselor or scribe.
The sage was the embodiment of wisdom, the master of tradition and the teacher of all who craved instruction. The sage was the opposite of the fool (Prov 3:35, 10:1, 14:1; Ecc 10:12).
The Bible attest to the presence of sages in a technical sense in Egypt (Gen 41:8), Babylon (Dan 2:12-18), Persia (Est 1:13), and Israel itself (Prov 1:16, 13:20; Ecc 12:11).
Significant examples of wisdom literature have been discovered throughout the ancient Near East. Egyptian examples can be seen in The Instruction of Ptahhotep and The Instruction of Ani. Mesopotamian examples are found in texts such as The Wisdom of Ahiqar, The are found in texts such as The Wisdom of Ahiqar, The Babylonian Theodicy and even aspects of The Epic of Gilgamesh. Many of these texts contain ideas and terms that are similar to what is seen in the Biblical wisdom traditions. For some scholars the contact between the Bible and other ancient Near Eastern literature seems closest in this area.
Easter literature continued in the Jewish literature of the post-Biblical period. Texts in the Apocrypha such as the Wisdom of Sirach (or Ecclesiasticus) and The Wisdom of Solomon attest to the vibrancy of the tradition. After the destruction of Herod’s temple in A.D. 70, the Judaism of the rabbinic sages was constructed around wisdom central call that “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” (Prov 1:7, 22:4; Ecc 12:13). The voluminous Jewish literary production of Misnah, Midrash, and Talmud has been affectionately deemed the “literature of the sages.”
Enjoy what you have while you can, but realize that adversity and hard times can strike at any moment. Because of this, life is short. Death is inevitable. We shouldn’t ignore it because it makes sense to plan ahead to experience God’s mercy rather than his justice. People who are too righteous and too wise are blind to their own faults. There will always be things that we don’t understand. Thinking that you have attained enough wisdom is a sure sign that you haven’t.
Even though a person has lived a long and prosperous life, it is ultimately meaningless. He says this because everything that a person has accumulated is left behind at death.
Many people strive to prolong life and keep in good physical health, but people don’t spend nearly enough time improving their spiritual health. Solomon also believes that human beings cannot take charge of their own destiny.
1 There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, and it is common among men:
2 A man to whom God hath given riches, wealth, and honor, so that he wanteth nothing for his soul of all that he desireth, yet God giveth him not power to eat thereof, but a stranger eateth it: this is vanity, and it is an evil disease.
3 If a man beget an hundred children, and live many years, so that the days of his years be many, and his soul be not filled with good, and also that he have no burial; I say, that an untimely birth is better than he.
4 For he cometh in with vanity, and departeth in darkness, and his name shall be covered with darkness.
5 Moreover he hath not seen the sun, nor known any thing: this hath more rest than the other.
6 Yea, though he live a thousand years twice told, yet hath he seen no good: do not all go to one place?
7 All the Labour of man is for his mouth, and yet the appetite is not filled.
8 For what hath the wise more than the fool? what hath the poor, that knoweth to walk before the living?
9 Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the desire: this is also vanity and vexation of spirit.
10 That which hath been is named already, and it is known that it is man: neither may he contend with him that is mightier than he.
11 Seeing there be many things that increase vanity, what is man the better?
12 For who knoweth what is good for man in this life, all the days of his vain life which he spendeth as a shadow? for who can tell a man what shall be after him under the sun?
We should be open to God. We should be ready to listen and not be so hasty to dictate what we want him to do. Solomon believed that it was not wise to make a vow to God and not keep it. It’s better to not make a vow than to make one to God and not keep it.
Solomon says that riches are meaningless. People who obsess over it never find the true happiness that it promises. Loving money leads to sin. Don’t depend on money to make you happy. Instead, use what you have for the Lord.
1 Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil.
2 Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter anything before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.
3 For a dream cometh through the multitude of business; and a fool’s voice is known by multitude of words.
4 When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed.
5 Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.
6 Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel, that it was an error: wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work of thine hands?
7 For in the multitude of dreams and many words there are also divers vanities: but fear thou God.
8 If thou seest the oppression of the poor, and violent perverting of Judgment and justice in a province, marvel not at the matter: for he that is higher than the highest regardeth; and there be higher than they.
9 Moreover the profit of the earth is for all: the king himself is served by the field.
10 He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity.
11 When goods increase, they are increased that eat them: and what good is there to the owners thereof, saving the beholding of them with their eyes?
12 The sleep of a laboring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much: but the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep.
13 There is a sore evil which I have seen under the sun, namely, riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt.
14 But those riches perish by evil travail: and he begetteth a son, and there is nothing in his hand.
15 As he came forth of his mother’s womb, naked shall he return to go as he came, and shall take nothing of his Labour, which he may carry away in his hand.
16 And this also is a sore evil, that in all points as he came, so shall he go: and what profit hath he that hath labored for the wind?
17 All his days also he eateth in darkness, and he hath much sorrow and wrath with his sickness.
18 Behold that which I have seen: it is good and comely for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all his Labour that he taketh under the sun all the days of his life, which God giveth him: for it is his portion.
19 Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his Labour; this is the gift of God.
20 For he shall not much remember the days of his life; because God answereth him in the joy of his heart.
The Authorship of Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon
Few topics related to Biblical archaeology have generated more scholarly debate than that of the authorshi
p of Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon (also called Song of Songs).
This is largely due to the unusual nature of the Hebrew used in these books. The two employ similar vocabulary, suggesting a common author.
Further, a number of Biblical Hebrew words occur only in these two books, and others appear in higher frequency in these books than in others. Neither uses God’s personal name, Yahweh, as is so common in other books.
Although Ecclesiastes doesn’t name Solomon, its description of the author as “a son of David, king in Jerusalem” (1:1; cf 1:12) leaves little room for other conclusions. The association with Solomon is strengthened by 12:9, which describes the author as a wise man who “pondered and searched out and set in order many proverbs” (cf 1 Kgs 4:32).
Ironically, the claim in Ecclesiastes 1:12, “I the Preacher was king over Israel in Jerusalem,” has been taken as evidence against Solomonic authorship due to the verb’s past tense. But this can be regarded as a retrospective statement and translated as “I have been king over Israel.”
I communed with mine own heart, saying, Lo, I am come to great estate and have gotten more wisdom than all they that have been before me in Jerusalem: yea, my heart had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.
The declaration of the above scripture is meaningful when we remember that Jebusite kings had ruled over Jerusalem since ancient times.
Other objections to Solomonic authorship have been raised on the basis of language. The high number of Aramaic words in Ecclesiastes has been considered evidence of a postexilic date of writing. It is now recognized, however, that Aramaic influence on Hebrew began very early. Moreover, the vocabulary identified as Aramaic may actually have represented a northern dialect of Hebrew or a nonstandard, colloquial dialect.
Some words in both books were once alleged to have been borrowed long after Solomon’s death from Persian or Greek. Examples include pardes (“park” or “orchard” in 2:5 and SOS 4:13, respectively) and appiryon (“carriage” in SOS 3:9). In reality, such words are of very ancient origin, some going back to Sanskrit originals. Solomon’s commercial projects (see 1 Kgs 5; 9:26-28; 10:22) involved numerous international contacts, a possible explanation for the international vocabulary.
Wall, wall! Reed wall, reed wall! Atra-Hasis, pay heed to my advice, That you may live for ever! Destroy your house, build a boat; Spurn property and save life! Draw out the boat that you will make On a circular plan; Let her length and breadth be equal, Let her floor area be one field, let her sides be one nindan high, You saw kannu ropes and aslu ropes/rushes for [a coracle before!] Let someone (else) twist the fronds and palm-fibre for you! It will surely consume 14,430 (sutu)!” “I set in place thirty ribs Which were one parsiktu-vessel thick, ten nindan long; I set up 3,600 stanchions within her Which were half (a parsiktu-vessel) thick, half a nindan high; I constructed her cabins above and below.” “I apportioned one finger of bitumen for her outsides; I apportioned one finger of bitumen for her interior; I had (already) poured out one finger of bitumen onto her cabins; I caused the kilns to be loaded with 28,800 (sutu) of kupru-bitumen And I poured 3,600 (sutu) of ittu-bitumen within. The bitumen did not come to the surface [lit. up to me]; (so) I added five fingers of lard, I ordered the kilns to be loaded … in equal measure; (With) tamarisk wood (?) (and) stalks (?) …(= I completed the mixture).
These quantities are enormous, enough palm-fiber rope, wooden ribs and stanchions to build a coracle 3,600 square meters in area, almost two-thirds the size of a soccer field, with walls 20 feet high. If the amount of rope described here were laid out in a single line, it would reach from London to Edinburgh. The vats of bitumen were necessary to waterproof a boat whose hull is, after all, made of rope.The mention of numerous varieties of flora and fauna is consistent with Solomon’s interest in natural history (1 Kgs 4:33). The Song’s spectacular vocabulary for exotic spices and other vegetation, as well as for gold, alabaster and jewels, suggests that the book was written by someone familiar with these thigns. It’s improbable that both Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon were written during the postexilic period, when Jerusalem was a poor backwater town among the nations of the world, by no means awash in exotic spices and precious stones.
Finally, literature parallels and allusions in both Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon suggest an earlier rather than a later date for their composition.
Ecclesiastes 9:7-9, for example, strongly resembles Tablet 10, section 3, of the Epic of Gilgamesh, where the hero is urged to enjoy life, wear clean clothing and enjoy his wife’s love.
In addition, the love poetry of the Song is similar to Egyptian poetry of this genre that flourished in the late second millennium B.C. it is likely that Solomon, at the height of Israel’s power, would have known this literature, but quite unlikely that obscure post-exilic writers would have been familiar with it or expected their readers to appreciate it.
He believed that going to the extremes of being lazy or a workaholic is foolish and irresponsible. The answer is to work hard but with moderation. He believed that you should take time to enjoy God’s other gifts and realize that he gives us assignments and rewards, not man.
Solomon believed that a person should seek God’s approval above all and not recognition from man.
1 So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter.
2 Wherefore I praised the dead which are already dead more than the living which are yet alive.
3 Yea, better is he then both they, which hath not yet been, who hath not seen the evil work that is done under the sun.
4 Again, I considered all travail, and every right work, that for this a man is envied of his neighbor. This is also vanity and vexation of spirit.
5 The fool foldeth his hands together, and eateth his own flesh.
6 Better is an handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit.
7 Then I returned, and I saw vanity under the sun.
8 There is one alone, and there is not a second; yea, he hath neither child nor brother: yet is there no end of all his Labor; neither is his eye satisfied with riches; neither saith he, For whom do I Labor, and bereave my soul of good? This is also vanity, yea, it is a sore travail.
9 Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their Labor.
10 For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.
11 Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone?
12 And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
13 Better is a poor and a wise child than an old and foolish king, who will no more be admonished.
14 For out of prison he cometh to reign; whereas also he that is born in his kingdom becometh poor.
15 I considered all the living which walk under the sun, with the second child that shall stand up in his stead.
16 There is no end of all the people, even of all that have been before them: they also that come after shall not rejoice in him. Surely this also is vanity and vexation of spirit.
Solomon believed that there is a time and place for everything, whether it be good or bad. He believes that you must seek guidance from God to truly know what your path in life is.
1 To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
9 What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth?
10 I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it.
11 He hath made everything beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.
12 I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life.
13 And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his Labour, it is the gift of God.
14 I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be forever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him.
15 That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past.
16 And moreover I saw under the sun the place of Judgment, that wickedness was there; and the place of righteousness, that iniquity was there.
17 I said in mine heart, God shall Judge the righteous and the wicked: for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work.
18 I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts.
19 For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity.
20 All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.
21 Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?
22 Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better, than that a man should rejoice in his own works; for that is his portion: for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him?
The Harper Song from the Tomb of King Intef
Dating from the late 14th through the early 13th centuries B.C., three funerary banquet sons have been discovered on the walls of a tomb near Thebes, Egypt.
The tomb belonged to a certain Neferhotep, the deceased whom the songs honor. Two of them offer somewhat contradictory attitudes regarding death and the afterlife.
In Song I the harpist sings of the passing generations in which children are born, breathe life and begin moving inexorably toward the grave. The sun deity rises and sets continuously, but death is inevitable. The singer urges Neferhotep to forget the evil past and to remember only joyous occasions, for death is the great equalizer – indiscriminately claiming those with full granaries and those with nothing.
Song III has a more positive tone. Although it too declares that death is inescapable, it asserts that people are not equal after this event. Neferhotep’s devotion to the Egyptian gods will be rewarded in the afterlife; he will be remembered both by his god and by people for his religiosity.
Because of his piety, Neferhotep’s enemies will be eternally defeated and his soul declared justified. In fact, he will be happier in the afterlife than he ever was on Earth.
Parallels for both songs can be found in Ecclesiastes. Ecclesiastes 1:4-5 speaks of generations coming and going and of the continual cycle of the rising and setting of the sun. surely death is inevitable and overtakes us all (2:14, 16; 9:2-3).
Indeed, it equalizes humanity, since no one can take his or her achievements into the afterlife, but must leave them to the next generation (cf 2:18-19).
In his summary statement, however, the Teacher concludes that a person should honor God and obey His commandments, because every action will be judged by Him (12:13-14).
Unlike Neferhotep’s Song III, the Teacher does not suggest that outward religiosity and cultic piety will be rewarded. God sees the hidden things as well as the obvious, and living a life of true wisdom begins with proper understanding and fear of the Lord (cf Prov 1:7).