BibleProject - Old Testament - Lesson 21

Ecclesiastes - BibleProject

In this lesson on Ecclesiastes, you will explore the unique and enigmatic book of the Old Testament, delving into its authorship, date, and literary genre. You'll examine the structure and themes of the book, focusing on the search for meaning, the concept of vanity, and the human condition. The lesson also highlights the importance of fearing God and enjoying life within its context. Furthermore, you will gain an understanding of the challenges in interpreting Ecclesiastes and its relevance to today's readers, as well as its place within the broader context of the Old Testament.
Taught by a Team
Taught by a Team
BibleProject - Old Testament
Lesson 21
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Ecclesiastes - BibleProject

BP100-21: Ecclesiastes

I. Introduction to Ecclesiastes

A. Authorship and Date

B. Literary Genre

II. Structure and Themes of Ecclesiastes

A. The Search for Meaning

B. Vanity and the Human Condition

C. The Fear of God and Enjoyment of Life

III. Interpretation and Significance of Ecclesiastes

A. Challenges in Interpretation

B. Relevance for Today's Readers

C. Ecclesiastes in the Context of the Old Testament

  • By watching this video, you will gain a comprehensive understanding of the Old Testament, including its literary design and flow of thought. You will learn about the different sections of the Old Testament, including the Pentateuch, Historical Books, Wisdom Literature, Major Prophets, and Minor Prophets. You will also gain insights into the stories, themes, and messages of each of these sections and how they contribute to the overall narrative of God's relationship with humanity.
  • By studying Genesis, you will gain a deeper understanding of the Old Testament and its key themes and characters, as well as the literary features of the book, such as its structure, style, and genre. The creation story is a key part of the book, as are the stories of Abraham and the patriarchs, the fall and sin, the flood and Noah, and God's covenant with Israel. Additionally, Genesis introduces readers to the Old Testament and sets the stage for the Pentateuch and Books of Moses, while also introducing many themes and motifs that continue throughout the Bible.
  • Discover the captivating stories of the patriarchs in Genesis Part 2, exploring themes of covenant, God's sovereignty, human responsibility, faith, and obedience.
  • Explore the Bible's book of Exodus to gain insight into God's rescue of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, the significance of the covenant and law, and its connection to the New Testament.
  • Gain insight into the book of Exodus and its themes of salvation and redemption, revealing God's character through his interactions with Israel, with significant influence on Jewish and Christian traditions and connections to the New Testament through its foreshadowing of Jesus Christ.
  • By studying Leviticus with The Bible Project, you will gain a comprehensive understanding of the historical and literary context, themes, and structure of this important book in the Old Testament. You will also learn about the significance of Leviticus for understanding the Torah and its relevance for Christians today.
  • By studying The Bible Project's lesson on Numbers, you'll comprehensively understand its structure, themes, and significance, gaining insight into the journey of the Israelites in the wilderness, God's guidance, rebellion, priesthood, and offerings, as well as its historical, theological, and contemporary relevance.
  • Explore Numbers' authorship, context, structure, and theology to gain a comprehensive understanding of its significance to the Pentateuch and the Old Testament, as well as its relevance to the Christian faith today.
  • You will gain knowledge and insight into the book of Joshua, including its historical context, literary genre, and summary. You will learn about the book's themes, such as God's faithfulness, obedience, and judgment, and its significance in foreshadowing Christ's work and providing historical and theological implications.
  • Explore the historical and cultural context, literary design, and theological significance of the book of Judges in the Old Testament, and learn how it fits into the broader biblical storyline, including its relevance for today.
  • Explore the Book of Ruth to understand its historical context, literary features, themes of loyalty and faithfulness, redemption, the kinsman-redeemer's role, and its Old Testament significance.
  • Studying the Book of Samuel provides insight into the rise of the Israelite monarchy, the lives of Saul and David, and the importance of obedience to God, covering themes of leadership and kingship with the presence of the Ark of the Covenant.
  • By exploring the story of Absalom in 2 Samuel and the broader context of the Old Testament Historical Books, you will gain insight into the themes and messages of these books, as well as their historical and modern-day significance.
  • Through the study of 1 Kings and 2 Kings, you will gain a deeper understanding of the history of Israel and Judah, as well as valuable spiritual lessons from these Old Testament books.
  • By studying this lesson, you understand the historical and literary aspects of 1 and 2 Chronicles, emphasizing God's sovereignty, covenant faithfulness, worship, and obedience.
  • Through this lesson, you grasp the historical context, key themes, and modern applications of the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, enriching your understanding of faith, community, and commitment to God's Word.
  • You will gain an understanding of the book of Esther, a narrative in the Hebrew Bible that tells the story of a Jewish woman named Esther who becomes queen in the Persian court and, with the help of her cousin Mordecai, saves the Jews from genocide orchestrated by the villain Haman. The story highlights God's sovereignty and providential care, and the feast of Purim celebrates the Jews' victory.
  • By studying the Book of Job, you will explore the complexities of human suffering, the search for divine wisdom, and the tension between God's sovereignty and human limitations within a unique literary structure.
  • You will gain a comprehensive understanding of the book of Psalms, including its background, structure, authorship, and theology. You will also learn about the various themes and motifs present in the Psalms, which will help you better understand and appreciate this important book in the Old Testament.
  • By studying Proverbs, you will understand the definition and purpose of wisdom, the fear of the Lord, and the personification of wisdom in the book. You will also gain insights into the literary structure of Proverbs and the themes of the book, including the importance of listening to wisdom, the power of words, and the value of hard work.
  • In the Ecclesiastes lesson, you gain insights into the book's structure, themes, and significance, while exploring the search for meaning, vanity, and the importance of fearing God and enjoying life.
  • You will gain an understanding of the literary features, interpretation, theology, and application of the book Song of Songs, including its authorship, historical and cultural context, allegorical and literal interpretation, and its teachings on God and human love, sexuality, and relationships.
  • Through this lesson, you gain insight into Isaiah's historical context, literary features, major themes, and its significance in the Old Testament.
  • Discover how Isaiah's prophetic message of judgment and hope for Jerusalem evolves, as it predicts the fall of Israel's kingdom and envisions a new, purified Jerusalem where God's kingdom will be restored through a future messianic king, uniting all nations in peace.
  • Through this lesson, you will gain understanding of the book of Jeremiah, including its historical and cultural context, literary features, major themes and message, and significance in the Old Testament.
  • In this lesson, you learn about the Book of Lamentations, its structure, themes, and the role of God in the midst of suffering and divine judgment, while ultimately highlighting His faithfulness and mercy.
  • In the book of Ezekiel, you follow the story of a priest named Ezekiel who has a vision of God's glory riding on a royal throne chariot, and is commissioned by God to accuse Israel of rebellion and warn them of their impending destruction due to their covenant violations and rampant social injustice, while also providing a small glimmer of hope for the future.
  • By viewing this lesson on Daniel, you will gain understanding of its structure, themes, and significance in the Old Testament, gaining knowledge about living as faithful exiles in a hostile culture, God's sovereignty and faithfulness in times of trial, and remaining faithful to God even in difficult circumstances.
  • Through this lesson, you grasp the complexities of Hosea, discovering the book's themes, messages, and its role in the Old Testament, emphasizing the relationship between Israel's unfaithfulness and God's unwavering love.
  • By studying the book of Joel, you will gain insight into the historical and cultural context of Judah, the literary features of prophetic literature, and the themes of repentance, restoration, and the Day of the Lord. Joel's prophecy also has significance in the New Testament as it is quoted by Peter at Pentecost, emphasizing the fulfillment of Joel's vision through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
  • In the Amos lesson, you explore its historical context, literary features, and themes, enhancing your understanding of justice, the Day of the Lord, and God's sovereignty within the Old Testament.
  • By studying Obadiah, you will gain insight into the historical context and literary features of this prophetic oracle. You will learn about the pride of Edom, their judgment, and the hope for Israel. Through understanding the significance of Obadiah in the Old Testament, you will have a deeper appreciation for the themes and message of this book.
  • Through this lesson, you gain insight into Jonah's themes, including God's mercy, human rebellion, repentance, and the significance of mission, while also understanding its connections to other biblical narratives.
  • Studying the book of Micah will give you an understanding of its historical context, literary genre, prophetic message of judgment and restoration, and insights into God's character and how He interacts with His people.
  • In this lesson, you gain insight into the historical context, structure, and themes of the book of Nahum, learning about God's sovereignty, justice, and the relevance of these concepts in today's world.
  • Studying Habakkuk will deepen your understanding of how to wrestle with difficult questions about God's character and the problem of evil and respond with faith and trust in God's sovereignty.
  • In this lesson, you explore the book of Zephaniah, gaining insights into its background, context, literary features, themes, and significance in the Old Testament, including the central message of the Day of the Lord and the promise of future hope.
  • You will gain an in-depth understanding of the Book of Haggai, including its historical and cultural context, literary structure, purpose and themes, individual sections, and theological significance in relation to the Exile, Restoration, and Messiah.
  • In this lesson, you gain insights into Zechariah's historical context, structure, themes of restoration, the coming Messiah, God's sovereignty, and its significance in the Old Testament.
  • Discover the last book of the Old Testament and its themes, such as God's love for Israel, the importance of worship, and the coming of the messenger and the day of the Lord, as well as its connection to the New Testament, which prophesies the coming of John the Baptist and Jesus and calls for a return to God.
BP100-21 Ecclesiastes.L.wav The Book of Ecclesiastes. It's part of the Bible's wisdom literature, and it opens with this line the words of qohelet, the son of David King in Jerusalem. Now in Hebrew, the word qohelet, means someone who has gathered people together. And in this case, it's to learn. So it's often translated in English as teacher. And the teacher is said to be a son or a descendant of King David. And so there are different views about who this figure might have been. Many think that it refers to King Solomon, others to maybe one of the later kings of David's line. And still others think that it's actually a later Israelite teacher who has adopted a Solomon like persona as a teaching aide. Whichever of these views is correct, the key thing is to recognize that the teacher is a character in the book and is different than the author of the book who remains anonymous. So we do hear the teacher's voice for most of the book, but it's actually a different voice. The author, who introduces us to the teacher in the first sentence and then at the end concludes the book by summarizing and evaluating everything the teacher just said. So the author is someone who wants us to hear all that the teacher has to say and then help us process it and form our own conclusion. So what does the teacher have to say? Well, the author summarizes the teacher's basic message at the beginning and right at the end. And it's hevel, hevel. Everything is utterly hevel. Now, most English Bibles translate this word hevel as meaningless, but that doesn't quite capture the heart of the idea. In Hebrew, hevel literally means vapor or smoke. And the teacher uses this word 38 times in the book as a metaphor to describe how life is, first of all, temporary or fleeting, like a wisp of smoke, but secondly also how life is an enigma or a paradox. Like smoke. It appears solid. But when you try and grab on to it, there's nothing there. So there's so much beauty or goodness in the world, but just when you're enjoying it, tragedy strikes and it all seems to blow away. We all have a strong sense of justice. But all the time, bad things happen to good people. So life is constantly it's unpredictable, it's unstable, or in the teachers words, like chasing after the wind, hevel. Now, that's kind of a downer. So why is he saying all of this? The author's basic goal is to target all of the ways that we try to build meaning and purpose in our lives apart from God. And He lets the teacher deconstruct this. So the author thinks we spend most of our time investing energy and emotion in things that ultimately have no lasting meaning or significance. And he lets the teacher give us a hard lesson in reality. You can see this most clearly in the opening and closing poems, which focus, first of all on time and then on death. So the teacher says you can spend your whole life working and achieving because you think that makes your life meaningful. You should really stop and consider the march of time for all of the human effort that takes place in the world. Nothing really ever changes. So sure, we develop technology and we build nations that rise and fall, but go climb a mountain and see if it cares. It was there long before any of us, and it will be here long after. I mean, no one's even going to remember you or anything you did. A hundred years from now. But that mountain, it'll still be there and the ocean will still be breaking on the beach and the sun will still rise and set. And so time will eventually a race, you and me and everything that we care about. And if that's not disheartening enough, the teacher also can't stop talking about death all the way through the book, but especially in this poem. Near the end, he says Death is the great equalizer and it renders meaningless most of our daily activities. It devours the wise and the fool, the rich and the poor. No matter who you are, what you've done, good or bad, we're all going to die. And it's inescapable. So with these two ideas in hand, the teacher goes on to consider all the activities and false hopes that we invest our lives in to find meaning and significance, like wealth or career or social status or pleasure. So you think working hard is going to make a life worth it? Think about the stress and the toll that that takes on you. All the anxiety and the sleepless nights. And by the time you actually earn some wealth, you're going to be too old to enjoy it anyway. And then by the time that you have to pass it on to someone, they may not even be someone who cares about anything that you did. Or maybe you think pleasure is going to make life worth it for you. Go for it, you know, live for your vacations, live for the weekend party. Monday always comes, hevel, hevel, everything is utterly hevel. So what does the teacher advocate then, that we become pure hedonist or relativist? Well, know that would be helpful to the teacher acknowledges the ideas from proverbs that living by wisdom in the fear of. Lord, that these have real advantages on the whole life will probably go better for you. See, but the problem is that even living by wisdom in the fear of the Lord, they're heavy too, because they don't guarantee a good life. Good people die tragically and horrible. People live long and prosper. There's just too many exceptions. And so even wisdom is hevel. Again, not meaningless, but an enigma. Wisdom doesn't work the way you think it should all of the time. So what's the way forward in the midst of all this hevel? And here, paradoxically, the teacher discovers the key to the true enjoyment of life under the sun. It's accepting, hevel, it's acknowledging that everything in your life is totally out of your control. About six different times at some of the bleakest moments in his monologue, the teacher talks about the gift of God, which is the enjoyment of simple good things in life like friendship or family, a good meal or a sunny day. You can't control these things. You're certainly not guaranteed them, but that's their beauty. When I come to adopt a posture of total trust in God, it frees me to simply enjoy my life as I actually experience it, not as I think it ought to be. Because even my expectations about what life ought to be are ultimately hevel, hevel. Everything under the sun is utterly hevel. And so the teacher's words come to a close right here at the end, the author speaks up again and he brings it all to a conclusion. He says, The teacher's words are very important for us to hear. He likens them to a shepherd's staff with a goat, a pointy end, which might hurt when it pokes you. But he says the teacher is trying to poke you to get you to move in the right direction towards greater wisdom. The author then warns us that you can actually take the teacher's words too far, and you could spend your whole life buried in books trying to answer life's existential puzzles. Don't try, he says. You'll never get there. And so instead, the author offers his own conclusion. And it's this fear God and keep his commandments. This is the whole duty of humans, for God will bring every deed into judgment, every hidden thing, whether good or evil. And so the author thinks it's good to let the teacher challenge your false hopes and remind you that time and death make most of life completely out of your control. But what gives life true meaning is the hope of God's judgment. The hope that one day God will clear away all of the hevel and bring true justice to our world. And it's that hope that should fuel a life of honesty and integrity before God. Despite the fact that I remain puzzled by most of life's mysteries and that's the wisdom of the book of Ecclesiastes is.