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Regarding Scripture: Ecclesiastes 1.2, 1.14; 2.17; 3.19; 12.8

This month we will take our articles from the book of Ecclesiastes examining a few of the thoughts contained therein.

One has said that Ecclesiastes has a “pessimistic tone that pervades the book” and further described it as a “profound… [recording of] an intense search for meaning and satisfaction in life on this earth, especially in view of all the injustice and apparent absurdities that surround us.”1

This description seems quite balanced considering the opening lines of Ecclesiastes, “vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1.2).

So profound is the thought that all is vanity that the very phrase “all is vanity” is stated five times2. The individual word “vanity” is in all twelve chapters, except chapter ten, giving 33 occurrences2. The book itself is opened and closed by the phrase “vanity of vanities” (1.2; 12.8). Additionally, the writer used the word vexation 10 times.2

With Ecclesiastes 2.17 we can see how the author truly feels consumed by the vanity and vexation of lie, this is where he gives all is vanity a dark emphasis stating, “I hated life…for all is vanity and vexation of spirit.”

By tradition and references to Ecclesiastes 1.1, 12, Solomon is credited with authoring Ecclesiastes. As king, he “drank deeply from all the fountains of life mentioned in this book. He had an abundance of riches, which enabled him to indulge every sense of pleasure and luxury. He had the distinction to gratify every passion for fame. … He had every opportunity to gratify every wish.”3

Solomon stands alone as having the unique opportunity to engage in the varied aspirations and desires of life paying no attention to imposed limits. But as a writer, he seems to be reflecting on and reviewing his life, pondering and wondering: “was the life I had really worthwhile in any conceivable or permanent way?”

During the month of November, we will spend time reflecting on these writings, and answering: is life really a vexation of spirit summarized in the phrase vanity of vanities?

1 Nelson’s Complete Book of Bible Maps and Charts, p. 190.
2 King James Version Word Search, Logos 2.0.
3 Dickson New Analytical Study Bible KJV, p. 785.