The Flow and Highlights of Ecclesiastes

Ecclesiastes – The Author

“Certain evidence may be adduced that Solomon himself wrote the book as a product of his later years of declension…reflecting his lifelong search for the real meaning of life.”[1] Early in life, God promised Solomon wisdom and piled on top riches, wealth, and honor.

God said to Solomon, “Because you desire this, and did not ask for riches, wealth, and honor, or for vengeance on your enemies, and because you did not ask for long life, but requested wisdom and discernment so you can make judicial decisions for my people over whom I have made you king, you are granted wisdom and discernment. Furthermore I am giving you riches, wealth, and honor surpassing that of any king before or after you.” 2 Chronicles 1:11-12[2]

Living with an “under the sun” perspective, Solomon, in the later years of his life came to realize the futility of life, especially related to the riches, wealth, and honor that God blessed him with.

The LORD was angry with Solomon because he had shifted his allegiance away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him on two occasions and had warned him about this very thing, so that he would not follow other gods. But he did not obey the LORD’s command. 1 Kings 11:9-10

Ecclesiastes – The Purpose

Ecclesiastes teaches the reader to develop a God-centered worldview while recognizing the dangers of a self-centered worldview.[3] This book demonstrates the absurdity of man to be happy apart from God. “God showed Job, a righteous man, that he was a sinner in God’s sight. In Ecclesiastes God showed Solomon, the wisest man, that he was a fool in God’s sight.”[4]

Ecclesiastes – Highlights and Summary

            Ecclesiastes is a book of contrasts viewing life from one of two perspectives – with God or without God – “Under the sun” or “Beyond the sun”.

Chapter 1 – Solomon was a thinker, a cogitator.

            Solomon reflected on all of God’s creation: people [the earth] (vss. 3-4); the sun, wind, streams [sea] (vss. 5-7); eyes and ears (v. 8). The totality of God’s creative work (vss. 9-10), including the inefficiency of man’s memory (v. 11).

His examinations were “careful” and “thorough” (v. 13)

“I examined” – “I concluded” (v. 13)

            “I reflected” – “I concluded” (v. 14)

To the wisdom and knowledge given him by God, he attributed frustration and heartache (v. 18).

Chapter 2 – The activities and pursuits of man.

            Under the sun pursuits – –

            Pursuit of pleasure (vss. 1-3)

            Pursuit of material possessions (vss. 4-11)

                        Vineyards (v. 4)

                        Gardens and parks (v. 5)

                        Pools (v. 6)

                        Slaves and livestock (v. 7)

                        Silver and gold, entertainment (vss. 8-11)

            Contrasts of life (vss. 11-17)

                        Wisdom vs. folly [foolishness]

                        Light vs. darkness

                        Common fate: death

                        Common conclusion: futility

            Efforts and benefits of work (vss. 18-26)

                        The end results of work

                        The personal cost associated with work

                        God as the source of work

            Considering Solomon’s self-indulgence, the following highlights are presented:

I increased; I designed; I planted; I constructed; I purchased; I owned; I possessed; I amassed; I acquired. To that, Solomon said, I reflected (v. 11), and I concluded (v. 11), it was profitless, “like chasing the wind”.

            Beyond the sun conclusion – all enjoyment in life comes from God (vss. 24-26)    

Chapter 3 – God’s organized creation of life.

            Birth – death; plant – uproot (v. 2)

            Kill – heal; breakdown – buildup (v. 3)

            Cry – laugh; mourn – dance (v. 4)

            Throw away – gather; embrace – stop embracing (v. 5)

            Search – stop searching; keep – throw away (v. 6)

            Rip – sew; keep silent – speak (v. 7)

            Love – hate; war – peace (v. 8)

            Man is ignorant of God’s ways because God made it that way (v. 11)

Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NASB) He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end.

Note the focus on God: God has given (v. 10), God has made (v. 11), God has placed (v. 11), and God has ordained (v. 11) which shows God’s involvement in all of creation. Nothing happens in life without God’s involvement and Solomon knows that. Solomon knows the mortality rate for the human race is 100%.

Chapter 4 – Solomon cogitates.

            Observe how Solomon gave thought to life’s imperfections; he “considers” (vss. 1, 2, 4, 7, 15). Solomon was a thinker and perhaps this day was not so good.

            Considered the oppressed (v. 1)

            Considered the dead (v. 2)

            Considered the emptiness of competition of labor (v. 4)

            Considered those who are alone in life (v. 8)

            Considered the living on earth and their successors (v. 15)

            The conclusion: emptiness, “like chasing the wind” (v. 16)

Chapter 5 – Dealing with God; observing rulers; complexities of wealth.

            Benefits of listening over talking, especially with God (vss. 1-7)

            Government has a chain-of-command reaching God (vss. 8-9)

            Money/wealth is a two-edged sword (vss. 10-30)

                        Money/wealth do not satisfy (v. 10)

                        Money/wealth causes anxieties (v. 11)

                        Labor permits sleep: wealth robs of sleep (v. 12)

                        Misery of hoarding or losing wealth (vss. 13-14)

                        Inevitability of the end of life (vss. 15-17)

            Enjoyment from wealth needs to have a divine perspective (vss. 18-20)

Chapter 6 – Life’s possessions become “hand-me-downs”.

            The endless pursuit of nothing permanent (vss. 1-9)

            Arguing with God is useless (vss. 10-12)

Chapter 7 – Certainty of death – therefore, make the most of life.

            Guard your integrity (v. 1)

            Life in light of eternity (vss. 2-4)

            Be willing to accept life’s corrective measures (vss. 5-10)

            Wisdom makes wise (vss. 11-12)

            Never lose sight of the One who can do anything (vss. 13-14)

            Maintain balance in your life (vss. 15-18)

            Wisdom provides limited protection (vss. 19-24)

            Wisdom and righteousness are hard to find (vss. 25-29)

Chapter 8 – The value of wisdom.

            Wisdom provides a bright demeanor (v. 1)

            Wisdom encourages obedience to authority (vss. 2-6)

            Wisdom is limited in knowledge and control.

                        Does not know the future (v. 7a)

                        Cannot predict the future (v. 7b)

                        Does not have power over the wind (v. 8a)

                        Does not have power over death (v. 8b)

            Life’s enigmas

                        Wickedness in place of holiness (v. 10)

                        Punishment delayed (v. 11)

                        Wicked not stopped immediately, but stopped eventually (vss. 12, 13)

                        Wicked and righteous receiving what the other deserves (v. 14)

            True enjoyment in life recognizes God (v. 15)

            Wisdom has limited value (vss. 16-17)

Chapter 9 – Death is inevitable to all men (vss. 1-3)

                        To the righteous and to the wicked

                        To the good and the bad

                        To the ceremonially clean and the unclean

                        To those who sacrifice and those who do not

                        To the good person and the sinner

                        To those who make vows and those who do not

                        Evil and folly is part of everyone’s heart while living – then they die…

            Death is inevitable so make the most of life (v. 10)           

            The ironies of life: the race of life; the battles of life; the prosperity of life; the successes of life, all may be upended without warning at an inopportune time (vss. 11-12)

            Wisdom is rejected by the arrogant (vss. 13-18)

Chapter 10 – Proper use of wisdom

            Small bits of foolishness can destroy large amounts of wisdom (v. 1)

            Wisdom is neutralized: by foolishness (v. 2-3); anger vs. calmness (v. 4); wrong people in positions of leadership (vss. 5-6)

            Wisdom is needed in day-to-day activities (vss. 8-11)

            A wise man makes his words count (vss. 12-14)

            Fools do not know when to quit (vs. 15)

            Unwise leaders have unwise followers (v. 16)

            Wise leaders set a good example (vss. 17-20)

Chapter 11 – Wisdom and the thought of being prepared.

            The uncertainty of the future demands wise preparation (vss. 1-6)

            Life is short; make the most of it (vss. 7-10)

            Make sure God is part of your decision process (v. 9)

Chapter 12 – The conclusion

            Learn who God is when you are young; it will benefit you when you are old (vss.1-7)

            Repeat: everything under the sun is futile (v. 8)

            Solomon taught from example (vss. 9-11)

            Studying is exhausting; let your attention be on God (vss. 12-14)

Ecclesiastes is a book of contrasts:

            Life under the sun perspective – life beyond the sun perspective

            Thinking – doing

            Upright – evil

            Wise – unwise

            Clean – unclean

            Alive – dead

            Wisdom – ignorance

            Rich – poor

The thoughts presented by Solomon in this book are just as appropriate today as when he wrote them!

Failure to acknowledge God is futile. It is like “Chasing the Wind.”


Cone, Christopher, Life Beyond the Sun: An Introduction to Worldview & Philosophy Through the Lens of Ecclesiastes, Ft. Worth, TX: Tyndale Seminary Press, 2009

Constable, Thomas L. Notes on Ecclesiastes: e-Sword Edition, Published by Sonic Light:

McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible. 5 Vols. for e-Sword PC.

Unger, Merrill F. Unger’s Commentary on the Old Testament, Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2002

[1] Merrill F. Unger, Unger’s Commentary on the Old Testament, (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2002), 1069

[2] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations used in this report are from the NET Bible®, copyright © 2005 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C.

[3] Thomas Constable, Notes on Ecclesiastes: e-Sword Edition, Published by Sonic Light:

[4] J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible, 5 Vol. for e-Sword Edition, s.v. “Ecclesiastes” Book Comments – Introduction