What Is Really Important: The Message of Ecclesiastes

by Robert Driskell · Print Print · Email Email

There is a book of the Bible that is often overlooked. The name of the book is Ecclesiastes and it is found in the Old Testament after the book of Proverbs and before Song of Solomon. Ecclesiastes’ authorship is usually attributed to Solomon based on the first verse of the book which reads, “The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem” (Ecclesiastes 1:1 ESV). Considering the fact that Solomon was given great wisdom with which to rule Israel, the fact that he was King David’s son, and the fact that he wrote many of the sayings in the book of Proverbs, his authorship of Ecclesiastes makes good sense.

Many people, believers included, do not know what to make of the Book of Ecclesiastes because much of it seems so negative. There are also some troublesome verses and passages contained within it. Let us examine this Old Testament book to unravel its mystery and see what Words of God it contains.

Is Ecclesiastes a negative book?

“I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind” (Ecclesiastes 1:14 ESV, cf. 2:1, 11; 3:19; 4:4; 6:9 for similar verses). Repeatedly we find verses such as these that seem to say that everything is a waste of time. Solomon says quite bluntly, “All is vanity” (v. 1:2). The word ‘vanity’ means, “emptiness or vanity; fig. something transitory and unsatisfactory” (1892, ‘habel’; The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. Thomas Nelson Publisher, 2010). Therefore, we have here a man to whom God granted great wisdom, saying that everything is useless. This sounds like a very depressing message on the surface.

At least twenty-six times in the book of Ecclesiastes the phrase “under the sun” appears.

At least twenty-six times in the book of Ecclesiastes the phrase “under the sun” appears.

However, when one understands the overall viewpoint of Ecclesiastes, the big-picture, its message becomes clear. Solomon was given great amounts of wisdom by God; however, Solomon began to trust more in his own wisdom than he did God’s guidance. Ecclesiastes is Solomon’s evaluation of life lived according to a wisdom that is not guided by God’s gracious presence. At least twenty-six times in the book of Ecclesiastes the phrase “under the sun” appears. This phrase indicates a life lived for this world; a life that does not have God as its focus, but lives for some other thrill, accomplishment, experience, or goal. Ecclesiastes is Solomon’s evaluation of this type of life, “All this I have tested by wisdom” (7:23 ESV). Judging by his collection of wives and horses, and by the way he failed to live a godly life, this ‘worldly’ life was probably a life which Solomon lived himself.

Vain things

Throughout the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon lays out things that are ‘vain’ or ‘useless’ when gained apart from God. Even though there are many wise and correct sayings in Ecclesiastes, Solomon says that even those things, apart from a relationship with God, are ‘vanity and striving after wind’.

Work, whether performed by man or nature:  Solomon says that a man works all his life only to die and leave all that he worked for behind for someone else to have (verses 1:3-11).

Wisdom: (verses1:12-18; 2:12-) Solomon, after admitting that being wise is better than being stupid, says that both are ‘vanity and striving after wind.

Pleasure, including wine, building structures, gardens, and pools; great possessions; gold and silver; slaves and concubines: (verses 2:1-11)

Nuggets of true wisdom from Ecclesiastes

Solomon reminds us to be clear about our position before God; He is God, we are to worship Him as such (Ecclesiastes 5:5-7). We are exhibiting the height of arrogance when we call into question God’s judgments or when we think God should be required to answer to us.

Every good thing we have is from God; including the breath in our bodies (2:24).

One can rejoice when one attains wealth and possessions in service to God. When we worship God, whatever we receive in life is His will. Whether rich or poor, God gives us the inner joy to enjoy the life He has given us (5:19-20).

Do not miss this central, foundational, and vitally important summation of all Solomon has to say in Ecclesiastes; it pertains to every single generation of humans who has ever lived, who is alive today, or ever will live in the future:

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil”

Solomon says the ‘whole duty of’ humanity, why we exist, is to fear God and keep His commandments. We ‘fear’ God when we correctly acknowledge that He is God and we are His creations. He has the right to be worshiped and we have the responsibility to worship Him. Apart from this relationship, nothing else amounts to anything at all.


The message of Ecclesiastes is a message that is much needed today. That message tells us that our endless pursuit of money, wealth, and fame, even if we have good intentions, amounts to nothing if it is done apart from a relationship with God. Solomon warns humanity that the energy, time, and talents we expend on things isolated from God’s will are a waste of time. These things might be enjoyable here on earth (under the sun), they might even be good things, but apart from God, they are merely selfish indulgences for our own sake and have no eternal value. In a nutshell, Solomon says that, for anything to be worthwhile, it must be connected to a living, vital, relationship with the Creator and Sustainer of the universe…God. All else is ‘vanity and striving after wind’.

Take a look at these Bible verses about wisdom:

Bible Verses About Wisdom

Resources – The Holy Bible, English Standard Version “Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

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