"THE BOOK OF ECCLESIASTES"
OBJECTIVES IN STUDYING THIS CHAPTER
1) To consider the author, theme, and underlying question of this book
2) To note the Preacher's observations about the cycles of life, and
his conclusion regarding the value of human wisdom
Ecclesiastes opens with a prologue in which the author identifies
himself, declares his theme, and introduces the question addressed in
this book. He describes himself as "the Preacher, the son of David,
king in Jerusalem" (cf. 1:12). As he begins his "sermon", he does so
in way that certainly grabs your attention: declaring all to be vanity
(meaningless). Having our attention, he asks the question that will be
answered in the course of his sermon: what profit does a man have from
all his labor in which he toils under the sun (1-3)?
It is a question that is prompted by what he sees in the cycles of
life. Generations of people come and go. The sun rises and sets, only
to do the same day after day. Wind currents and water cycles are
constantly repeated, and man is never satisfied with what he sees or
hears. While we think new things are being done, it is only because we
don't remember the past. In reality there is nothing new under the sun
With the question introduced, the Preacher describes his own search.
As king over Israel in Jerusalem, he wanted to know what everyone one
wants to know - what profit is there for all the labor done under the
sun? Right up front he tells us what he found: all is vanity and
grasping for the wind. Having been blessed with greatness and wisdom
(from God, cf. 1Ki 3:12-13), he began his search exploring wisdom,
madness and folly. He found that much wisdom and knowledge (i.e.,
human wisdom) was only the source of much grief and sorrow (12-18).
I. PROLOGUE TO THE BOOK (1:1-3)
A. AUTHOR IDENTIFIED (1)
1. The words of the Preacher
2. The son of David, king in Jerusalem
B. THEME STATED (2)
1. "Vanity of vanities...vanity of vanities, all is vanity"
2. All is futile, useless, meaningless!
C. QUESTION RAISED (3)
1. "What profit has a man from all his labor in which he toils
under the sun?"
2. This is the question the "Preacher" sought to answer
II. FUTILITY OBSERVED IN THE CYCLES OF LIFE (1:4-11)
A. NOTHING SEEMS TO CHANGE (4-7)
1. Generations come and go, while the earth abides forever
2. The sun is constant with its rising and setting
3. The winds continue their whirling cycle
4. The water cycle also, as rivers run into the seas, and then
through evaporation and rain return to the rivers again
B. NOTHING SEEMS TO SATISFY (8)
1. Despite all our labors, man is never truly satisfied
2. The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with
C. NOTHING IS NEW UNDER THE SUN (9-11)
1. What will be done is that which has been done
2. If thought to be new, it is has been done in ancient times
3. We simply don't remember the past, nor will the future
remember the present
III. THE FUTILITY OF HUMAN WISDOM (1:12-18)
A. THE PREACHER DESCRIBES HIS SEARCH (12-15)
1. He was king over Israel in Jerusalem
2. He determined to use wisdom to seek and search all that has
been done "under heaven"
3. A task that he understood God had given to all men, to
4. He summarizes what he found, having seen all the works done
"under the sun"
a. They are vanity and grasping for the wind
b. For there is little one can do to make significant changes
B. THE PREACHER APPLIED HIS GOD-GIVEN WISDOM (16-17a)
1. He acknowledged the greatness and wisdom he had attained
2. He therefore sought to apply it to understand wisdom, madness,
C. THE PREACHER CONCLUDES (HUMAN) WISDOM IS FUTILE (17b-18)
1. It was like grasping for wind
2. More wisdom and knowledge just increases grief and sorrow
REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THE CHAPTER
1) What are the main points of this chapter?
- Prologue to the book (1-3)
- Futility observed in the cycles of life (4-11)
- Futility of human wisdom (12-18)
2) How does the author describe himself? (1)
- The Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem
3) What is the theme of this book, as stated in verse 2?
- "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity"
4) What is the key question that this book seeks to address? (3)
- "What profit has a man from all in his labor in which he toils
under the sun?"
5) What illustrations are given to show the futility observed in the
cycles of life? (4-7)
- The passing of generations
- The rising and setting of the sun
- The whirling cycles of the wind
- The water cycle, from rain to sea back to rain
6) What is never satisfied? (8)
- The eye with seeing, the ear with hearing
7) Why is there nothing new under the sun? (9)
- History simply repeats itself
8) Why do we think something is new? (10-11)
- We have forgotten what has happened in history
9) What did the Preacher determine to do? Why? (13)
- To seek and search out by wisdom concerning all that is done under
- It was something God has given man to do
10) Having seen the works done under the sun, what did he conclude?
- All is vanity and grasping for the wind
- Because one cannot make any significant changes that are lasting
11) What did he acknowledge he had attained? (16)
- Great wisdom and understanding
12) What did he set his heart to know? (17)
- Wisdom, madness, and folly
13) What conclusion did he draw? Why? (18)
- It was grasping for the wind
- For in much wisdom is much grief, and increasing knowledge