This is the fourth book of the Bible that is intended to be used for wisdom (the first three being Job, Psalms, and Proverbs). The author refers to himself as a son of David which could be read as Solomon but many other kings were referred to this way back in Kings. I think it just means that he comes from the house of David, but it could also be Solomon.
This first one reads quite a bit like a sermon, and a heated one at that. It could be summed up by saying that everything, even wisdom, is vanity. Nothing survives death. It’s a little strange after so much emphasis was put on the importance of wisdom in Proverbs.
It seems like this “preacher” as he calls himself is going through a bit of an existential crisis.
This one continues the vanity theme but includes specific vanities, two of which are often thought of as virtues. I find this interesting and do wonder a little why it isn’t preached more. I understand that laws not being a thing from modern Christians, but wisdom is wisdom. the proverbs were mostly things that we still share and mostly seem fairly accurate today and these vanities also ring true. Of course, there are schools of thought and sayings that people have that a little research will debunk.
The vanities mentioned are self-indulgence, living wisely, toil.
It’s easy to recognize the vanity in self-indulgence. The only thing I want to mention about it is that he includes slaves and concubines as some of his indulgences. The concubines are mentioned as “the delight of the sons of man”. While I get that a certain amount of that is writing from his time, it still give me an “ick” feeling.
The other two are typically considered virtues, but there is an extent to which they become vanities and I appreciate acknowledgement of that.
This is where we come across the famous passages about a time for everything. It’s followed up by two passages. One is titled The God Given Task about how God has given everything their “toil” to do and that it’s the best thing for them. The other is From Dust to Dust where we get the famous quote “All are from dust and to dust all return.”
The “preacher” goes on about the vanity of being skilled and how people work at it out envy more than anything else. Personally, I find this a little short sighted, but I think I get his overall message. It could still be easy to say that people go after skills to be admired for them and to make enough money to be comfortable with them. Then it goes on that it is better for two people to work together anyway because they can lean on. The chapter ends with how even a good king is forgotten by later generations.
This begins with a gorgeous passage on fearing God and then goes on to The Vanity of Wealth and Honor that goes on to finish in chapter six.