I, the preacher, have been king over Israel and in Jerusalem. And I applied my heart to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven. It is an unhappy business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind. -Ecclesiastes 1:12-14
There is a tradition that attributes the book of Ecclesiastes to king Solomon, and as you read the first few chapters you’ll find clues that generate this theory. The speaker’s name is defiantly hidden, but listen to the name he gives his kingdom, the capital from which he reigns, and the wealth and glory that is ascribed to him… and remember your history. However, since the speaker only goes by the name of “Preacher,” that’s what we’ll call him.
The spring-like joy of the Song of Songs yields to an autumnal chill in Ecclesiastes. The Preacher looks backward, not forward, remembering everything he has seen under the sun, and behold, all is vanity…empty…meaningless…and striving after the wind. This word “vanity” and its variants appear at least 37 times in this short book; evil, another 22.
Notice also how the themes of memory and legacy occupy his mind. Though he looks for meaning in his work, in pleasure, in wisdom, it gnaws at him that “…sometimes a person who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave everything to be enjoyed by someone who did not toil for it…”
All of this has a way of playing with the reader’s mind. Read the Preacher’s arguments carefully but also remember his place, time, position, and understanding of life and the afterlife. It’s important to pay close attention to your own emotions, which may respond to the author as well as his words. Allow yourself to feel, to respond to the text, as the Preacher lays out his acquisitions. And remember that his search has only begun.
Our verse for this week is Ephesians 6:12: For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
Ecclesiastes 1 and 2. Now let’s read it!
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.