Leslie S. Rainey

The Book of Ecclesiastes is a book of much mystery until the key is discovered which unlocks its true meaning. The name, as we have it, is the Latinized form of the Greek, and may be interpreted as, “One who sits and teaches.” It has been called the “Sphinx of Hebrew literature, with its unsolved riddles of history and life.” It has always been a favorite book with Atheists. You may prove almost any of the teachings of skeptical philosophers like Voltaire or Volney by isolating parts of the first eleven chapters of Ecclesiastes from “the conclusion of the whole matter” in the last chapter (1:17, 22:24, III:3, 4, 8, 11, 19, 20; VII: 16, 17: VIII:15).

Key Word: Vanity. Key Verse-2:11.


The Solomonic authorship is defended by some, and denied by others. Various dates are assigned ranging over 1000 years. There are four reasons for ascribing the Book to Solomon: The Book indirectly so claims (1:11; 1:12). General opinion of Jews and Christians from early days. Solomon’s fitness to write such a book. Lack of agreement as to any other author.


The theme of the Book is to show that all earthly pursuits, in themselves, as the chief purpose of life, are insufficient to give real happiness. W. J. Erdman calls it, “The Book of the Natural Man.” The writer becomes representative of the human race in asking the great question, “Is life worth living?” The answer is given by earth’s wisest and wealthiest king in the language which is the key of the Book, “All is vanity and vexation of spirit.” The quest of the author is, What is the chief good? — Is there any profit? By personal experience, by observation, by human induction, he wills to explore all treasures of the earth and taste of all human springs in his search for lasting happiness. Yet over all must be written his one and only text— “Vanity of Vanities, all is vanity.”

The Key Phrases:

“All is vanity” — 34 times.

“Under the sun” — 29 times.

“Under the Heaven” — 3 times.

“Upon the earth” — 7 times.

“The Search of the Natural Man for the chief good for all men at all times in all places under the sun.” —W. J. Erdman.

“It is the New Testament Commentary on the words of Christ.” (John 4:13) “Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again.”


In Proverbs the message found is The Wisdom of the Creator, above the sun, for man’s guidance. In Ecclesiastes it is the Wisdom of the Creature, under the sun, with its goal “Vanity of Vanities.”

Its conclusions are not always dependable; They are the reasonings of a natural man apart from revelation (2:24; 3:19-22; 9:2).

Just as the Book of Proverbs abounds with topics for interesting and illuminating study so this Book of natural reasoning: Labour (1:1-11), Knowledge (1:12-18), Pleasure and Wealth (2:1-9), Life and Labours (3 and 4), Religion (5), Character and Conduct (6 and 7), Early Training (12), etc.

Though the Book is difficult to understand and the name of God is left out, man in his unredeemed state, unrenewed nature is seeking out God along the pathway of rationalism. The existence of God is recognized, but not His redeeming mercy nor man’s saving faith — The Book is quoted in the New Testament. (Matt. 5:3 cf. 7:2); (Matt. 5:3, v.2); (Matt. 6:7; 5:2); (Luke 12:20 cf. 6:25); (1 Cor. 2:2 with v.6);(John 3:8 cf. 19:5); (2 Cor. 5:10 cf. 5:1); (1 Tim. 3:15:5v1).


1. The Exercise (1:1-11):

The problem how to be happy and satisfied without God is stated by a threefold cord: Inspiration (2). Interrogation (3). Illustration (4-11).

2. The Experiment (1:12- XII:8):

The procedure followed is human and earthly in such things as Pleasure, Philosophy, Possessions, Religion, Culture, Art, etc., —. All ends in despair and disappointment.

3. The End (12:8-14):

The permanent conclusion for all time is summed. (1) The Preacher’s Text V:8. (2) The Preacher’s Task V:9-12. (3) The Preacher’s Testimony V:13-14.