←Books ←Chapters ←Previous Next→

Ecclesiates and the Song of Solomon


The book of Ecclesiastes gets its name from the Greek word for congregation, but the Hebrew title refers to the teacher or speaker to the congregation. The teacher was possibly Solomon, and if so, it was likely written after he traded his wisdom for a huge harem of foreign women, and possibly after repenting. Its theme is the futility and meaninglessness of mortal life. All the teacher could conclude is that meaning is found only through faith in God and living accordingly.

The Song of Solomon (or Song of Songs) could have been written by someone other than Solomon, possibly even a woman, since it seems to be more from the woman’s perspective. That is, Solomon’s Song could mean the song about him rather than by him. It’s written as drama or at least a vivid love poem.

Rather than restate the many ways in which the futility of life is expressed, we will only touch on highlights of Ecclesiastes and then move on to the Song of Solomon.


We see in 1:5 the description of the sun from our perspective, and again we see that any description of earth as moving is absent from scripture. 1:9 shows that there is nothing new under the sun, that whatever will be done has been done before. We today might think that we’ve invented many new things, but we really don’t know the level of technology before the Great Flood, since God’s purpose was to wipe everything out. There is evidence that it could have matched or exceeded what we have today.

1:12 begins the Teacher’s own experiences with trying everything the world had to offer, to see if anything had enduring meaning. But it was all chasing the wind, purposeless in itself. If this life is all there is, no meaning or purpose can be found in it.

1:16 asks whether all the wisdom we learned about in the Proverbs is really worthwhile. Similar to a line from the movie Spiderman (which may have gotten it from this passage), With great wisdom comes great frustration. The deeper we look into the ways of the world, the uglier the picture gets, and there’s little the average person can do to bring real, lasting change. Yet Jesus never taught us to try and topple the dark forces of the world, but to change it one life at a time wherever we can. So while the message of Proverbs has value in this life, it only has ultimate meaning in eternity.

2:1 begins the Teacher’s tests for meaning from many angles. First was the indulgence test, denying himself no pleasure. Next was the materialism test, including beautiful public works, then the wisdom test, and then the workaholic test.

3:1 begins with a well-known passage that’s also been put to music, a time for everything. The gist of it is discernment, knowing when to do what. But God also has times for everything, and we can’t know what that is until he tells us. So as the Teacher will also conclude at the end of the book, verses 12-13 say that the meaning of life is to try and enjoy our time here and find some pleasure in whatever it is we have to do.

3:14 emphasizes the point that meaning only lasts if it is grounded in God. But notice also that the repetition of history (”nothing new”) is a principle found throughout scripture regarding prophecy as well. Just because something was fulfilled in the past doesn’t mean it can’t apply again in the future.

In 3:16 the Teacher observs the rampant injustices of life. But then he observes that both people and animals die and their bodies return to dust. Verse 21 asks how anyone can know whether people’s spirits rise and animal spirits fall— which at least seems to say that animals have spirits. But until Jesus came, no part of scripture really explained the details.

In 4:1 is the observation of oppression and wickedness, and how the dead or never-born are better off than the living under such conditions. Then we see the issue of working to keep up with the Joneses, and that the lazy are actually better off compared to those who work hard just to appear successful. It’s a form of greed, and hard work only has meaning if the fruit of the labor is shared; teamwork is better than doing everything alone. Then 4:13 goes back to the value of wisdom in this life.

5:1 addresses the issue of not taking our promises and commitments seriously, then turns to corrupt government officials and the love of money and power, and that such people constantly have to worry about protecting what they’ve acquired. 5:13 continues on the issue of materialism, including the familiar phrase that we will leave the earth with as much as we arrived: nothing. Then 5:18 repeats the theme of finding a balance between labor and pleasure.

6:1 continues with the fuitility of having to leave the fruit of our labor when this life is over. Though some might take as the Calvinistic idea of predestination, it’s talking about mortality rather than free moral choice. We won’t go over the rest of the book, since it’s pretty much made its point already.

Song of Solomon

Caution should be used against the temptation to interpret this book the way many have over the years, whether concerning prophecy or the church or a hundred other things. The text itself doesn’t give any indication that deeper meaning is intended, but the main assertion for it being allegory is that it otherwise seems to be out of character for sacred writings. Yet remember two points: that including a book in the Bible had more to do with who wrote it than the subject matter, and that allegory can mean pretty much anything and everything without the text itself giving us the meaning.

So although there certainly is symbolism in the book, the primary meaning is that it describes a real couple. It’s just a love story, and an illustration of the happiness God intended for us from the beginning of creation. And because it’s a love story, analysis seems rather out of place. The best advice is probably not to read too much into it at all.

↑ Page Top