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                       "THE BOOK OF ECCLESIASTES"

                   Introduction And Prologue (Ec 1:1-3)

INTRODUCTION

1. The book of Ecclesiastes has long fascinated many people...
   a. Many feel it is one of must puzzling books in the Old Testament
   b. It is considered by some the most melancholy book of the Bible
   c. It is often quoted by those who deny that man has a soul which
      continues after death

2. It is not a book Christians should ignore...
   a. In our materialistic society, there is a great need to understand
      its basic message
   b. In our youth-oriented society, it is of special value as its
      message appears directed to the young

3. As with all Old Testament scripture, it was written...
   a. For our learning - Ro 15:4 
   b. For our admonition - 1 Co 10:11 
   c. For doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in
      righteousness - 2 Ti 3:16-17 

[With this lesson, therefore, we begin a series of studies based upon
this book.  We begin with...]

I. AN INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK

   A. TITLE...
      1. In the Hebrew Bible, the book is called "Qoheleth"
         a. Which means "the words of the preacher" - cf. Ec 1:1
         b. The term suggests one who speaks to an assembly, an
            ecclesiastic or preacher
      2. The translators of the Septuagint version called it
         "Ekklesiastes"
         a. Which also means "preacher"
         b. Derived from the word "ekklesia" (assembly)

   B. AUTHORSHIP...
      1. Jewish and early Christian tradition attribute the book to
         Solomon
      2. The author identifies himself only as "the son of David, king
         in Jerusalem" - Ec 1:1
      3. Internal references certainly point to Solomon:
         a. His wisdom - Ec 1:16; cf. 1 Ki 3:12 
         b. His building activities - Ec 2:4-6; cf. 1 Ki 7:1-12 
         c. His wealth - Ec 2:7-9; cf. 2 Chr 9:13-28

   C. DATE...
      1. Assuming that Solomon is indeed the author
      2. That would place the date of the book around 945 B.C.

   D. MESSAGE...
      1. The futility of life "under the sun" - cf. Ec 1:2; Ec 1:14
         a. A key word is "vanity" (occurs 35 times in 29 verses),
            which means "futility, uselessness, nothingness"
         b. A key phrase is "under the sun" (occurs 29 times in 27
            verses), which suggests "from an earthly point of view"
         -- The book illustrates the vanity of life when looked at
            solely from an earthly perspective
      2. The importance of serving God throughout life -
            cf. Ec 11:9-10; Ec 12:1; Ec 12:13-14
         a. The meaning of life is not found in experiencing the things
            of this world
         b. The meaning of life is found in serving the Creator of this
            world!

   E. THE BOOK CONTAINS "GOADS" AND "NAILS" - Ec 12:13-14
      1. Words of the wise, designed to "goad" or "prod" our thinking
      2. Words of the preachers (lit., masters of the assemblies),
         given to "nail" or "anchor" our lives
      -- In this book we will find statements that prod our thinking,
         and exhortations that provide stability and direction for
         living!

[With this brief introduction, let's now consider....]

II. THE PROLOGUE TO THE BOOK

   A. AUTHOR IDENTIFIED  - Ec 1:1
      1. "the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem"
      2. These are the words of Solomon...
         a. A dramatic autobiography of his experiences and
            observations
         b. Some of which, perhaps, while alienated from God! -
            cf. 1 Kings 11:1-13 
         c. Some of the preliminary conclusions expressed throughout
            the book may have been those drawn while he was still
            alienated and searching for meaning
      -- If written by Solomon, and penned toward the end of his life,
         this would be evidence that Solomon repented before his death

   B. THEME STATED - Ec 1:2
      1. "Vanity of vanities...vanity of vanities, all is vanity"
      2. All is futile, useless, meaningless!
      3. Of course, this vanity pertains to life "under the sun" -
         cf. Ec 1:14
      -- All the effort one makes in life, as far as "this life" is
         concerned, is like "grasping for the wind"!

   C. QUESTION RAISED - Ec 1:3
      1. "What profit has a man from all his labor in which he toils
         under the sun?"
      2. This is the question the "Preacher" sought to answer
         a. Is there any value or profit for all the things we do on
            this earth?
         b. If our labor is meaningless as far as this life is
            concerned, what can we do?
      3. In this book he will share...
         a. What he learned from personal experience
         b. What he learned from personal observations
         c. Wise counsel based upon the wisdom and inspiration God gave
            him

CONCLUSION

1. Solomon begins to answer his own question in the next verse, which
   we will save for our next study

2. It has been said that the Bible answers life's most often asked
   questions; e.g...
   a. Who am I?
   b. Where did I come from?
   c. Why am I here?
   d. What am I to be doing?

3. The book of Ecclesiastes certainly addresses such questions; which
   is why...
   a. It is worthy of our careful study
   b. It is of value to all, especially the young
   -- I pray, therefore, that we will hear what the "Preacher" will
      have to say to us!

There is another "Preacher", also "the son of David", who is "king in
Jerusalem" as well as everywhere else.  His name is Jesus...
"in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" - Col 2:3 

Have you heeded the words of that Preacher (cf. Mt 7:21-23; Mk 16:15-16)...?
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