Summary of Ecclesiastes

Summary of Ecclesiastes

Chapter by Chapter:

Ecclesiastes 1-2: Increase Knowledge = Increase in Sorrow/God Gives Wisdom and Knowledge
Ecclesiastes 3-4: Everything Has its Season/Strength of 2 Is Better
Ecclesiastes 5-6: God is in Heaven, We are below/Need to be Full of Works
Ecclesiastes 7-8: Wisdom Goeth Life/None Have Power over Death
Ecclesiastes 9-10: Time and Choice Happens to All Men/Fools Are Full of Words
Ecclesiastes 11-12: We Know Not the Works of God/After Death and the Plan

 

The narrator of Ecclesiastes is a nameless person who calls himself a “Preacher”and identifies himself as the current king of Israel and a son of King David. The Preacher opens with the exclamation, “Vanity of vanities … all is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). He laments that everything in life is endless and meaningless—especially human toil and the cycles of nature—for nothing is ever truly new on earth. As the wisest man in Jerusalem, the Preacher feels he is cursed with the unhappy task of discerning wisdom, for he has seen “…all the works that are done under the sun…” (Ecclesiastes 1:14). In a mixture of prose and verse, the Preacher  a.k.a Solomon… compiles his studies, hypotheses, and proverbs regarding wisdom.

The Preacher tries many earthly pleasures. He drinks, becomes wealthy, acquires power, buys property, experiences sexual gratification, and views artistic entertainment. However, none of these experiences satisfies him. Although the Preacher originally assumes that wisdom is better than folly, he realizes that achieving wisdom is a frustrating and elusive pursuit, for the wise and the foolish both die the same death. He hypothesizes that the best humans can do is to honor God and to eat, drink, and enjoy themselves.

The Preacher also surveys the general trends of human activity. He notes that just as there is time for each good thing in life, such as birth or love, there is always a time for its opposite, such as death or hate. It is often hard for mortal humans to understand the difference between wickedness and justice, but God distinguishes between the two. The Preacher notes that human labor is marked by competition, envy, and oppression. The Preacher praises the virtues of human cooperation, noting the advantages that a team of two or three individuals has over one person alone.

Next, the Preacher discusses various foolish actions, such as gluttony, the love of money, and excessive talking. The Preacher provides a series of instructions for avoiding such foolhardiness. Each saying brings negative experiences over positive ones: mourning, he claims, is better than feasting, and the end of things is better than the beginning. He also encourages people to be neither too righteous nor too wicked but to remain moderate.

Still, the Preacher remains bothered by the fact that both evil and good people meet the same fate. He grows tired of discussing the distinctions between good and bad, clean and unclean, obedient and disobedient. He ultimately decides that the only factors in determining the outcomes between life’s opposing forces are time and chance.

The Preacher gives positive exhortations. He encourages humans to enjoy their vain lives and activities to the fullest. People must embrace the unforeseen chances of life, since caution only impedes God’s providence. He urges young people to remain happy and to follow their inclinations, reminding them to always remember God. The things of earth are only temporary, and life is a cycle that eventually returns to God (Ecclesiastes 12:7). The Preacher also warns the reader against heeding too many wise sayings, for the study of wisdom never ends. The “end of the matter,” he concludes, is for humans to fear God and to obey his commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

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Ecclesiastes 11-12

Ecclesiastes 11-12

Chapter 11: We Know Not the Works of God

“As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all.” (Ecclesiastes 11:5)

I find it interesting how fast people can denounce God and say He does not exist! Some people believe that we know everything and that God never has, and never will exist. We as humans do understand a lot about the world, but there is so much that we are still learning… the reason? Because God knows all and we know very little.

Because life has no guarantees, we should seize available opportunities and not play it safe. Even though life is uncertain, it doesn’t mean that you should let it pass you by. Don’t wait for conditions that many never exist. We should enjoy every day but remember that the afterlife is eternal.

“Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment.” (Ecclesiastes 11:9)

I find it very interesting how we are supposed to follow our heart and do what we want… after all we get one life on earth to live, right? So we need to make it the best one we can! But God warns us that we are still to be held accountable for what we do, so YES we do have agency and we are encouraged to explore the world and learn, but we must know that our desires and our passions are within the bounds… the LORD sets!

Chapter 12: After Death and the Plan

                “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” (Ecclesiastes 12:7)

                Everyone will return to God as a spirit and the body will be turned into dust, until of course the resurrection.

                “And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh. Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good or whether or be evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:12-14)

Solomon concludes the book by giving his antidotes for the two main ailments that he talked about. People who lack purpose and direction in life should fear God and keep his commandments first. The people who think that life is unfair should remember that God will go back and look and everyone’s lives and make his judgment.

It is interesting that it says there is not end to many books… this means that the Bible is NOT the ONLY word of God! The Book of Mormon, if read diligently and prayed about earnestly can be manifest as truly Another Testament of Jesus Christ.

Ecclesiastes 9-10

Ecclesiastes 9-10

Chapter 9: Time and Choice Happens to All Men

Solomon believed in enjoying life as a gift from God. The world is finite, and sin has twisted life, making it something other than what God intended. Society honors many things above wisdom such as attractiveness, wealth, popularity, and success. Solomon believed that wisdom is the greatest asset even though it often goes unrecognized.

                “Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity [prideful, meaningless life]…” (Ecclesiastes 9:9) – (See Proverbs 5:18-20)

                Life is about getting married and having children… it is about spending your short life with someone that can enlighten you and make you a better person.

                “…Wisdom is better than strength: nevertheless the poor man’s wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard.” (Ecclesiastes 9:16)

                You don’t need money or fame to make you powerful and wise… even the simplest man can be filled with knowledge. This means that we need to listen to everyone and value their input.

Chapter 10: Fools Are Full of Words

By describing circumstances that are unfair or don’t make sense, Solomon is saying that wisdom alone can’t bring justice. Everything we have is nothing without God. But when he uses what little we have, it becomes all we could ever want or need. If you lack skills, you should sharpen them through training and practice. This will make you more effective for God’s work.

One particular verse really caught my eye… “A wise man’s heart is at his right hand; but a fool’s heart at his left.” (Ecclesiastes 10:2) I am not going to say it, but there is something political about this verse.

 

Ecclesiastes 7-8

Ecclesiastes 7-8

Chapter 7: Wisdom Goeth Life

In short… enjoy what you have while you can, but realize that adversity and hard times can strike at any moment. Because of this, life is short. Death is inevitable. We shouldn’t ignore it because it makes sense to plan ahead to experience God’s mercy rather than his justice. People who are too righteous and too wise are blind to their own faults. There will always be things that we don’t understand. Thinking that you have attained enough wisdom is a sure sign that you haven’t.

“Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better.” (Ecclesiastes 7:3)

                Sorrow can also bring some of the best knowledge, because by experience we learn.

                “For wisdom is a defence, and money is a defence: but the excellency of knowledge is, that wisdom giveth life to them that have it.” (Ecclesiastes 7:12)

                You can have defence with money, but only with knowledge and wisdom can you have lasting defence from your enemies.

                “For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.” (Ecclesiastes 7:20)

                We all sin. Simple as that, don’t think you are better than others. It is like the phrase; ‘everyone sins differently’ so don’t go judging people.

                “I applied mine heart to know, and to search, and to seek out wisdom, and the reason of things, and to know the wickedness of folly, even of foolishness and madness.” (Ecclesiastes 7:25)

                We need to ACTIVELY search to know the truth, don’t think you know everything. Always be open to learn. A wise man of 70 years old can still learn from a toddler, if that man wants to learn.

Chapter 8: None Have Power over Death

True wisdom comes from knowing and trusting God, not merely the way to find him. Knowing God will lead to understanding and then to sharing that knowledge with others. Even in a man could have all of the world’s wisdom, he would still know very little. No one can fully comprehend God.

“There is no man that hath power over the spirit to retain the spirit; neither hath he power in the day of death; and there is no discharge in that war…” (Ecclesiastes 8:8)

If you ever think you are invincible or special, realize that we are nothing to God. We have no power over death; if it is our time… we will die.

“When I applied mine heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done upon the earth: (for also there is that neither day nor night seeth sleep with his eyes:) Then I beheld the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun: because though a man labour to seek it out, yet he shall not find it; yea further; thou a wise man think to know it, yet shall he not be able to find it.” (Ecclesiastes 8:16-17)

                God is always working, day and night! Those who seek to know God’s work will never be able to fully understand His work, and those who claim to know His work are fools.

Ecclesiastes 5-6

Ecclesiastes 5-6

Chapter 5: God is in Heaven, We are below

In this chapter we learn that we should be open with God. We should be ready to listen and not be so hasty to dictate what we want him to do.

“Be not rash with thy mouth… hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.” (Ecclesiastes 5:2)

Solomon believed that it was not wise to make a vow to God and not keep it. It’s better to not make a vow than to make one to God and not keep it.

“When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. Better it is that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.” (Ecclesiastes 5:4-5)

Solomon says that riches are meaningless. People who obsess over it never find the true happiness that it promises. Loving money leads to sin. Don’t depend on money to make you happy. Instead, use what you have for the Lord.

“He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver…” (Ecclesiastes 5:10)

Chapter 6: Need to be Full of Works

Even though a person has lived a long and prosperous life, it is ultimately meaningless. He says this because everything that a person has accumulated is left behind at death. Many people strive to prolong life and keep in good physical health, but people don’t spend nearly enough time improving their spiritual health. Solomon also believes that human beings cannot take charge of their own destiny.

 

Ecclesiastes 3-4

Ecclesiastes 3-4

Chapter 3: Everything Has its Season

In short; Solomon believed that there is a time and place for everything, whether it be good or bad. He believes that you must seek guidance from God to truly know what your path in life is.

“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:” (Ecclesiastes 3:1) and then Solomon goes on to list all of the things that have a time and season…

“A time to be born… a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance… A time to rend, and time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time to war and a time of peace.” (Ecclesiastes 3:2-7)

                EVERYTHING has its own time and place. We need to always remember that and take Solomon’s advice that the only thing that a man/woman needs to do is “…to rejoice, and to do good in his [or her] life.” (Ecclesiastes 3:12)

                Solomon’s knowledge and wisdom was a gift from God, Solomon knew that “…whatsoever God doeth, it shall be forever: nothing can be put to it, nor anything taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him.” (Ecclesiastes 3:14)

This is yet again another unique LDS doctrine… the idea that anything God does, He does forever. In LDS temples throughout the world we perform sacred sealing ordinances that seal husbands, wives and families together FOREVER. When you marry someone, you marry them for ETERNITY, not just “until death do you part”

Another interesting point that is made is in verse 15; “That which hath been now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God required that which is past.” (Ecclesiastes 3:15) I think this verse does the best at explaining what ETERNITY IS. Everything has its TIME and PLACE, right? Well we perceive time differently than God does. To us, Time is relative… From point A to B… whereas Time to God is really a full circle, there is no point A or B… or in other words NO beginning and NO end.

Chapter 4: Strength of 2 Is Better

Solomon believed that going to the extremes of being lazy or a workaholic is foolish and irresponsible. “…yet is there no end of all his labour; neither is his eye satisfied with riches…” (Ecclesiastes 4:8) The answer is to work hard but with moderation. He believed that you should take time to enjoy God’s other gifts and realize that he gives us assignments and rewards, not man. Solomon believed that a person should seek God’s approval above all and not recognition from man.

Solomon also tells us that “Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone?” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-11)

 

Ecclesiastes 1-2

Ecclesiastes 1-2

Chapter 1: Increase Knowledge = Increase in Sorrow

Solomon looked back over all the wealth he had, his accomplishments, and his possessions. And to him it all seemed meaningless. Even though he had everything, he was still unfulfilled and dissatisfied. He believed that serving God was the most important option. In this chapter, he separates wisdom into two categories:

  1. Human knowledge, reasoning, or philosophy
  2. The wisdom that can only come from God.

                “One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth forever.” (Ecclesiastes 1:4)

                The Earth and the Kingdom of God will always stand! The Earth will go through generations of people and will always stand. This is the cycle of the Earth.

                “There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be a remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after.” (Ecclesiastes 1:11)

                This is very interesting and something I believe to be a fairly unique LDS doctrine. We believe in the Plan of Salvation and part of that plan meant we came from a pre-mortal world (pre-earth life). In this preexistence we were taught all of the things of the Gospel and this very Plan was laid out before us and those of us who have been born, or will be born ACCEPTED this plan. However, in order to be successful in this life and truly have agency we had to have our memory of the pre-existence wiped away. This memory is there, but is covered up be a “veil” which at times can be thin. This is the reason we have “psychics”.

                “For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.” (Ecclesiastes 1:18)

                This has always been a favorite scripture of mine. Partly because I LOVE studying the scriptures, and in this verse it makes it clear… the more knowledge you have the more sorrow you will also have. I know this sound odd, but it makes total sense! If you have no knowledge of anything, you are innocent. You are in a childlike state, perhaps you are mentally handicapped? OR have some other form of disability that limits your mental capacity. Think about this for a moment… have you ever met a mentally handicapped person that was always SAD? Hardly ever, it is extremely rare. Because they don’t have to worry about the things that cause everyone else so much pain, anger or fear. The more knowledge you have the higher probability of being sad for the world and its current state.

                If you never read the scriptures and never know God you can’t be judged for the things you do. But if you have a knowledge of Good and Evil and commit EVIL, knowing that it is wrong, you will be judged for that.

Chapter 2: God Gives Wisdom and Knowledge

                Solomon conducted his search for life’s meaning as an experiment. The first thing he tried to satisfy himself with was pleasure. He bought more slaves, herds, and flocks. He acquired gold, silver and peculiar treasure of kings. He surrounded himself with jesters, singers, and many beautiful women. This still did not satisfy him. He referred to it as “…vanity [excessive pride] and vexation [something that provokes irritability or anxiety] of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 2:11) In other versions of the Bible he describes it as “…a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 2:11 – NIV) We can feel it when it passes but we can’t grasp it or keep hold of it. He believed that we must not base ourselves on the pursuit of happiness, but on the solid foundation of God. He said this because our accomplishments, wealth, and materials mean nothing after death. He explains this:

 “… I hated all my labour which I had taken under the sun: because I should leave it unto the man that shall be after me. And who knoweth whether he shall be a wise man or a fool?” (Ecclesiastes 2:19-19) How much wealth in the world has been earned through hard working parents, grandparents, great grandparents, etc. Who, when they die, pass it on to their children and the children abuse or misuse the money? I think it happens often and in my personal opinion that is why there is so much entitlement in the world today. People do not know how to work with their hands anymore.

Solomon leaves us with one last piece of advice in this chapter; “… he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour…” (Ecclesiastes 2:24) This should be something we all remember, we must do something that we enjoy. It is like that saying; if you do something you love… you will never work a day in your life. Go find something you enjoy and then have pride in your work!