Preparation Prior to the study session, participants should read:
Ecclesiastes 3: 1-15: A time for everything
Ecclesiastes 5: 1-7: Advice on making promises
Ecclesiastes 7: Advice on living wisely (consider how the advice sounds like that of Proverbs).
Orientation Ecclesiastes is book #21 of 39 in the Old Testament. It is considered a book of Poetry. For more information see the Bible Overview page.
Synopsis This book is written by "The Philosopher", thought to be Solomon. He reflects on how contradictory life is,with the theme that all is vanity, and life is useless. Accomplishments and possessions do not bring happiness. While the observations may seem negative and pessimistic, they are refreshingly honest; and much practical wisdom is shown. Another theme is that we should enjoy life to the fullest while we can, for it is God's gift to us. True satisfaction comes from following God and learning his well for our lives.
While the advice portions sound quite similar to Proverbs, there is a big difference. While Proverbs contains advice sprinkled about in no obvious order, Ecclesiastes is well organized and written. See the outline below - the book is written in a scientific inquiry format: thesis, examples, proof, recommendations, conclusion.
Outline of Ecclesiastes 1:1: Thesis: All is vanity
1:4: Examples: Illustrations of vanity
1:12: Proof: from scripture
3:1: Proof: from observations
7:1: Recommendations: Advice for coping in a wicked world
10:1: Recommendations: Counsel for uncertainty
12:9: Conclusion: Fear God and obey His commandments
Discussion points Enjoy life while you can: Compare 2:24-26, 3:12-13, 5:18-20.
Ecclesiastes 9: 13-15: is the beginning of an intriguing story ... but it leaves us hanging! What happened?
Examine the 1892 illustration "All is Vanity" by Charles Allan Gilbert, (see wikipedia) based on Ecclesiastes 1:2. How does this fit in with the scripture? Can this serve as an illustration for the entire book?
Relevance Consider Ecclesiastes 7:10: Is it fruitful to dwell on the good old days?
Consider Ecclesiastes 11: 1-2: sound financial advice?
Connections Consider Ecclesiates 12:11 ... is Solomon putting in a plug for the book of Proverbs?
In Matthew 13, Jesus speaks on the same topic - fulfillment in life - through parables.
For source citations see the home page. Revised April 9 2014
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