What’s the Meaning of Ecclesiastes?

What is the meaning of Ecclesiastes? This book in the Hebrew Bible tends to puzzle us with its pessimistic tone and philosophical orientation. What we find as we explore the message and meaning of Ecclesiastes, however, is an honest exploration of the best life has to offer—out from under God’s authority—from a person who was positioned to know. As such, its message is incredibly valuable to anyone who thinks life apart from God can yield meaning and satisfaction. This is an excerpt from Tina Wilson’s forthcoming book Step into Scripture: A Daily Journey to Understanding Your Bible

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” (Ecc. 3:11, NIV) 

We see in name of the book Ecclesiastes the root word ekklesia, which is Greek for “assembly” or “church.” Ecclesiastes means “the speaker to the assembly.” Thus the book opens: “The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem” (Ecc. 1:1, NIV).

The teacher, King Solomon, wasted no time getting to his main point:

“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” (Ecc. 1:2, NIV)

This is a massive statement to make, and Solomon is uniquely qualified to draw this conclusion. We read in 2 Chronicles about God’s offer to Solomon: “Ask for whatever you want me to give you” (2 Chron. 1:7). Because God was pleased with Solomon’s request for wisdom to rightly govern his people, God gave him much more.

“God said to Solomon, ‘Since this is your heart’s desire and you have not asked for wealth, possessions or honor, nor for the death of your enemies, and since you have not asked for a long life but for wisdom and knowledge to govern my people over whom I have made you king, therefore wisdom and knowledge will be given you. And I will also give you wealth, possessions and honor, such as no king who was before you ever had and none after you will have.’” (2 Chron. 1:11–12, NIV)

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