The Old Testament Lesson for this Sunday is from Solomon’s writing entitled Ecclesiastes. The text is Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14; 2:18-26 and provides some pivotal verses which lay out the proper understanding of this writing. Beginning with 1:2, we have the theme of the entire book laid out, “Vanity of vanities… All is vanity!” Then, as the pericope closes with verse 24-26, we find a summary of the whole point of Ecclesiastes, “Eat, drink and see good in your toil… this is from the hand of God.” Thus, this supports 12:13 which tells us there is no meaning, all is vanity unless one fears God and keeps His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. In other words, Ecclesiastes focuses on who God is and who man is and the relationship they have with one another. When man becomes confused as to what “life” is all about and seeks after the world, then the despair and depression of vanity sets in.

From the words of Ecclesiastes, it seems obvious the author is King Solomon. In 1:12 the “Preacher” describes himself as one who has been king over Israel in Jerusalem and since there were only two kings this could fit, David and Solomon, the rest of the text points positively toward Solomon especially with its emphasis on wisdom, the pursuit of worldly wealth, etc. Traditionally, Ecclesiastes has been viewed as Solomon’s confession of sin and then his confession of faith. After pursuing life down many worldly paths which are nothing but vanity, Solomon has come to understand the truth, and he confesses clearly. There is no meaning, life is all vanity, if one is not in relationship with God. Keep life simple—trust in God and enjoy the life He has given.

Thanks needs to be expressed to James Bollhagen and the work he has done with his commentary on Ecclesiastes in the Concordia Commentary Series. It is a helpful resource.

1:2 הֲבֵל (ha-Vel) “vanity” This word is used 38 times in Ecclesiastes (five times in this verse alone) and is Solomon’s word to describe the futility of human effort in this sinful world without the help of God.

קֹהֶלֶת (ko-He-let) Usually translated as “the Preacher.” Could also be the leader of an assembly or a collector of sentences. This is Solomon’s designated title for himself in this writing.

1:12 הָיִיתִי (ha-Yi-ti) root: היה (haw-yaw) Qal, perfect: “to be” in this context has a durative sense, “I have been (king)”

1:13 לִבִּיi (lib-Bi) “my heart” This is a Hebrew idiom usually translated as “my attention” “have devoted my attention”. It is interesting to see Bollhagen’s excellent discussion here: “In modern Western anthropology, the “heart” of man is the seat of romance, passion, and other emotions and feelings that may override rational thought processes. However, in Hebrew anthropology, the “heart” is the seat of cognition and the instrument of intelligence, where a person resolves his will and determination. Thus, here Solomon is summoning his brainpower and utilizing his fell intellect, not laying it aside” (p. 64-65).

וְלָתוּר (ve-la-Tur) root: תור (toor) Qal, infinitive: “to spy out; to discover; to explore”

לִדְרוֹשׁ (lid-Roosh) root: דרשׁ (daw-rash) Qal, infinitive: “to explore; to seek out”

עִנְיַןI (in-Yan) “business; task” This word occurs eight times in the OT, all in Ecclesiastes.

נַעֲשָׂה: (na-a-Sah) root: עשׂה (aw-saw) Niphal: “to do”

לַעֲנוֹת; (la-a-Not) root: ענה (aw-naw) Qal: “to be troubled; to be occupied”

1:14 רָאִיתִי (ra-I-ti) root: ראה (raw-aw) “to see” “I observed”

וּרְעוּת (u-re-Ut) “to strive after; longing; striving”

2:18 וְשָׂנֵאתִי (ve-sa-Ne-ti) root: שׂנא (saw-nay) Qal: “to hate”

עָמֵל (a-Mel) “becoming anxious; toiling”

שֶׁאַנִּיחֶנּוּ (she-an-ni-Chen-nu) root: נוּח (yaw-nakh) with שֶׁ, as a relative pronoun. Hiphil: “to leave” “which I will leave it”

2:19 יוֹדֵעַ (yo-De-a) Qal, participle: “to know”

סָכָל (sa-Chal) “fool; foolish”

וְיִשְׁלַט> (ve-yish-Lat) root: שׁלט (shaw-lat) Qal: “to have power over; to be master; to be lord”

שֶׁעָמַלְתִּי, (she-a-Mal-ti) root: עמל (aw-mal) with v as relative pronoun. Qal: “to exert oneself; to labor; to toil”

וְשֶׁחָכַמְתִּי> (ve-she-cha-Cham-ti) root: חכם (khaw-kam) Qal: “to act wisely”

2:20 וְסַבּוֹתִי> (ve-sab-Bo-ti) root: סבב (saw-bab) Qal: “to turn (in a new direction)”

לְיַאֵשׁ (le-ya-Esh) root: יאשׁ (yaw-ash) Piel, infinitive: “to cause to despair”

2:21 וּבְדַעַת (u-ve-Da-at) from: דעת (dah-ath) “knowledge; wisdom; discernment; understanding”

וּבְכִשְׁרוֹן (u-ve-chish-Ron) from: כִשְׁרוֹן (kish-rone) “success; skill” This word originates from the root rvk (kaw-share) “to be fitting; to be proper; to be kosher”

חֶלְקוֹ, (chel-Ko) “inheritance; reward; claim”

2:22 הֹוֶה (ho-Veh) root (rare): הוה (haw-vaw) Qal: “to be; to happen; to befall; to become; to get; to be given”

וּבְרַעְיוֹן (u-ve-ra-Yon) “striving; longing”

2:23 מַכְאֹבִים; (mach-o-Vim) “pain; sorrowful”

וָכַעַס (va-Cha-as) “grief; frustration; burdensome”

2:24 וְהֶרְאָה> (ve-her-Ah) root: ראה (rah-ah) Hiphil: “to cause to see; should enjoy” Literal translation: “and that he causes his soul to see good in his toil”

2:25 יָחוּשׁ (ya-Chush) root: חושׁ (koosh) Qal: “to be delighted; to enjoy” Most likely a ‘Hapax Legomena’.

2:26 וְשִׂמְחָה> (ve-sim-Chah) “joy; pleasure; gaiety”

לֶאֱסֹף (lee-Sof) root: אסף (aw-saf) Qal, infinitive construct: “to gather”

וְלִכְנוֹס (ve-lich-Nos) root: כנס (kaw-nas) Qal, infinitive construct: “to collect; amass”

וּרְעוּת (u-re-Ut) “strive after; longing; striving” Occurs seven times in the OT always in Ecclesiastes and always in this phrase: וּרְעוּת רוּחַ (u-re-Ut Ru-ach) Literally: “and striving after the wind”

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Additional Resources:

Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12–14; 2:18–26.

Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12–14; 2:18–26.