12I the Preacher have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13And I applied my heart to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven. It is an unhappy business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. 14I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind.
(Ecclesiastes 1:12-15 ESV)
The author of Ecclesiastes, the Preacher, is thought by many to be King Solomon. But there are some who dispute that for reasons that include today and tomorrow’s passages.
The author states that he has been king over Israel in Jerusalem. Considering that this statement is in the past tense some think it could not have been Solomon who wrote it as there was not a time that Solomon was not king after he became king.
But there are a couple of reasonable objections to this. First, considering the subject matter – the author was writing about what he learned about life – it’s certainly possible that King Solomon intentionally wrote in the past tense because he was writing to future generations.
Secondly, there were only three kings who ever ruled over Israel in Jerusalem: King David, his son King Solomon, and Solomon’s son Rehoboam. After Rehoboam Israel was divided into two nations: Israel in the north and Judah in the south. Jerusalem was in Judah, not Israel. So only one of these three men could say they were King over Israel in Jerusalem.
Third, King Solomon was known for his great wisdom [1 Kings 3:5-28, 4:29-34] and this book clearly reveals the wisdom of its author.
So it seems to make sense that King Solomon was the author. But since the author does not identify himself we need to keep an open mind about the authorship of Ecclesiastes.
Whoever the author was he applied his heart to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven. The author used his wisdom to conduct a wide-reaching and deep diving investigation of the things human beings do on earth. And he concludes that everything that is done under the sun is vanity and striving after wind.
Man cannot correct that which is broken (the crooked cannot be made straight). Nor can he even fathom all that is missing from life (what is lacking cannot be counted). So no matter how hard we try, we will not be able to fix the problems that we experience on this earth. I think this is obviously true. None of our major problems in life as a society ever seem to get resolved.
But notice something very interesting: our lives are this way because God has made them so.
The futility of life comes from God. He has deliberately given to man a system that can only make us unhappy. And while critics will object to God’s doing this, it is actually evidence of His great love and mercy.
God created us with a desire to be fulfilled and to have meaning. But that fulfillment and meaning cannot come from our own efforts. It can only come from God Himself. As Blaise Pascal wrote, God has made a God-shaped hole in each of us. That hole can only be filled with Him.
Our lives on this earth are temporary; they are like the tip of the iceberg. As eternal creatures, there is much more to our existence than the several decades we spend here. God does not want us to find fulfillment here, otherwise we might not seek after Him and get to spend eternity in His presence.
Although admittedly difficult to understand at times, all the frustrations of life are actually a blessing from God. They lead us away from ourselves and to Him.
Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.