Ecclesiastes Chapter Summary Ecclesiastes Chapter Summary Ecclesiastes Chapter Summary Ecclesiastes Chapter Summary

The following is taken from the Book of Old Testament Summaries

  1. (977 B.C.?) Words of (Solomon?), son of David, king of Jerusalem, concerning the vanity of the life and labor of man under the sun. It seems that everything is in a cycle; man is born and dies and another generation comes while the Earth remains. The sun rises and sets; the wind goes and comes again; the rivers fill the sea, but it is never full. Nothing is new and we forget quickly what was before. God has given every man the troublesome task to seek the end of all things through wisdom (that he might find rest for his soul in God). Every work under the sun is vain and does not give this rest to the spirit of man. (Nothing under the sun can quench a longing spirit. For what it yearns can only be found in the bosom of its Creator.) The more knowledge one has the more sorrowful he becomes. Solomon knows this by his own search for it.
  2. He first searches satisfaction in pleasure, then laughter, mirth, and wine, all to no avail. Next he turns to acquisitions of great houses, gardens, pools, servants, cattle, gold, silver, treasures of kings (harem), singers, and musicians. He obtained all his heart's desire, and looking upon it, declared it to be vanity, without profit to man. All done after this, would only be anticlimactic (vs.12). But he learned several lessons: Wisdom excels folly; A wise man has light, the fool darkness; One thing is common: both the wise and fool perish alike. The wise is remembered no more, as the fool, therefore, it was vain to get wisdom. Thus knowing this, he abhors life and its labor; for the next generation will receive its benefits, not him, unknowing whether he will be a fool or wise as he. This is a great evil: that another should possess and enjoy the fruits of his labor. With great despair he finds no rest for his heart, concluding then there is nothing better for man to do than eat, drink, and enjoy himself of the good of his labor: for God gives such to the wise, but to the sinner He gives sorrow. Still, all is vain and troubles the spirit.
  3. He proceeds to list 14 pairs of dichotomous purposes which have their own time under the heaven:
    Born and die.
    Embrace and refrain.
    Plant and pluck up.
    Get and lose.
    Kill and heal.
    Keep and castaway.
    Break down and build up.
    Rend and sew.
    Weep and laugh.
    Silence and speak.
    Mourn and dance.
    Love and hate.
    Castaway stones and gather.
    War and Peace.
    He has seen these tasks given by God, each appearing beautiful in its own time. Man's heart is filled with these worldly things that hide God and His works from him. Man derives no lasting good from these, only in doing good. God's gift is to enjoy the fruit of one's own labor. God's work is supreme and eternal. All of man's work is temporal and can add nothing to it. All men are alike. Sin is universal. The wise has iniquity as the fool, and all will one day be judged alike. Man is no better than the beast: for God's breath is in both; and when He withdraws it they both will perish. So, one should be content in his own portion for now, not being able to see what will come after him.
  4. He now considers the oppressed who have no comforter. The dead and unborn are in a better state than these. He also sees every man's work is envied by another. This is vain. It is better to be satisfied with what one has, however small, than to trouble one's spirit with great worldly care, or working just to gain more. He now compares the state of the single laborer to that of partnership; there is strength in numbers. The poor but wise is better than a foolish king. Observing the march of man through time, he sees that each generation forgets the previous.
  5. He offers excellent advice for going into the house of God. Be not quick to speak, but listen. Be careful of what you say to God or in His name. The fool is known for his many words. Be careful to fulfill any vow taken, not making excuses when failed, for this is a great sin. Better not to vow at all and fear God. God sees all injustice, and the Earth's profit is for all. Whatever one loves, he will never be satisfied with his present portion of it. Sleep will escape him, unlike the laborer who takes rest from his work. He follows with a contrast between a man with a sorrowful heart and one which is joyful. He sees a great evil: the rich man's unquenchable thirst for more. It destroys him, robbing him of sleep and rest, filling him with sorrow and worry, knowing that eventually he will die and leave it to another. For we die as we are born, naked, with nothing in our hands. Again it is better to take rest from one's labor and eat and drink of one's portion from God. This man's heart is joyful unto the Lord for what he has, unlike the other who is sorrowful for what he doesn't have.
  6. A common evil, a disease, is that many men are given great riches who never cease from their thirst for more to enjoy it, then die and leave it for another. This man enters the world blind, speeds through it, never looking up, ever accumulating, and dies in darkness never seeing the light, or having a clue as to the true purpose in life, his soul never being filled. It is better to see and be content than never be satisfied with one's portion. Riches of no use are vain. Every kind of man that will ever live has already lived and God knows each; therefore, what one knows better than God what is good for man in his life? God, not man, knows man's future and what is best for that man, hence, why should or how can a man contend with God about his present state?
  7. One's reputation is better for his soul than all the medicine of the world. Man is born to suffer and dies to rest in peace. A funeral will teach man more about life than all the merrymaking combined, showing one that better is the end of a thing than its beginning, thus teaching him patience. The wise man has life and considers his days, as God ordered them, and is not taken by surprise. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away; therefore, fear God and don't think you know everything, but don't act like a fool either, destroying yourself in both cases. No one is sinless, so be careful not to say anything about someone you wouldn't want to hear said about yourself. More to be feared than death is the snare of an evil woman. There is not one woman in a thousand that will not snare the soul of a foolish man. Although God has made man in His own image, every man's imagination is evil.
  8. No one is wiser and more powerful than God whose commandments are to be kept, if he is to escape evil and be prepared for judgment, not knowing when his will come. No one can control his time and no one can escape it. Because God does not punish sin immediately, at times, the heart of the evil one will continue in sin, thinking he has escaped God's eye. But with those who fear God it shall be well. A great perplexity is seen: the apparent injustice between the righteous and the wicked. Again man should be happy with his present state, as God has provided, seeing it is impossible to know all the secret things of God under the sun.
  9. It is seen that there are things in common which occur to all men, good or bad, and death is a common event in the course of all creatures. Better to be a living dog than a dead lion. The dead's portion is passed, so work while it is still day, for the night is coming when no man will work. The future is uncertain to all alike and sudden destruction can appear to anyone at any time; so be prepared at all times. A parable of a small city is given, illustrating that the wisdom of a poor man saves much, though soon forgotten, but one sinner destroys much good.
  10. The stink from a dead fly in a medicine is the same as a little folly in an honorable wise man. There are many things which are seen of man that are foolish, so remember, the fool is full of words and does not know wisdom, nor his own way in life. He wearies everyone around him, including himself, with his busyness. The kingdom that is blessed is one whose rulers are noble and wise, not young fools, because they are servants to the people, taking for themselves lastly. Therefore, curse not the king, nor the rich ruler, for he is for your good, lest he hear and you be cut off.
  11. One should be benevolent and not horde to himself. Do not be discouraged by the circumstances of your present, but prepare for tomorrow and trust God to give the increase. The light days are pleasant, but man's days on Earth are mostly spent in sorrow. Remember, young person, you will reap what you sow, and God will judge you for all your ways; so put away sorrow and evil and do good unto others and live unto God. For everything is vanity, and your youth will also pass, sooner than you think.
  12. Don't forget God in your early years, when it is going well for you, for soon the silver cords of life will snap and death will release your spirit to return to God. Solomon concludes with an admonishment by stating that as good as knowledge and wisdom are to be taught and searched out, too much is wearisome to the flesh. The bottom line of all this, which is the whole duty of man, is to fear God and keep His commandments. That's it! This is what God will judge you in, not how much knowledge and wisdom you have obtained, but how much good and evil you have done, and in your heart retained.
- Author: Ken Livingston
Read more summaries and studies in our Studies Area.
Previous Page