I’m always saying that context is important when we read Scripture. Which, when I think about it, is odd. We know that context is important in life and that taking things out of context can lead to misunderstanding and pain. So, why do we take Scripture out of context then?

Meaningless!

I started my study of Ecclesiastes today and thought I’d share my thoughts on it with you. 

Ecclesiastes starts out with a comment on what would appear to be the futility of life.

“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”

Ecclesiastes 1:2 (NIV)

A depressing way to start a book if you ask me, but the author (Solomon) is commenting on the futility of humanity and everything it strives for in the world after the fall. As we read through Ecclesiastes, we don’t want to get sidetracked and think that this perspective is just from someone old and rich who had done everything there was to do. However, it’s not uncommon for those with great riches to get bored of the things in this life and continually turn to “new” things for “fulfillment.” 

This verse tells us that everything we strive for that doesn’t have eternal value is meaningless. We must keep this in mind as we read through Ecclesiastes. 

Another verse that adds context to the rest of Ecclesiastes is found in verse 14. 

I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

Ecclesiastes 1:14 (NIV)

The expression “under the sun” is used throughout this book. When I read it, I think of everything done by humans that isn’t eternal and done outside of Heaven. The phrase “chasing after the wind” adds to the context, revealing the futility of investing in things that aren’t eternal in this fallen world. 

Under Heaven

Here’s a popular verse from Ecclesiastes 3.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens (emphasis added).

Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NIV)

I see the phrase “under the heavens” as a differentiator between human ways and the purposes of God. Much like how “under the sun” talks about the affairs of humans. Therefore, when we read the next eight verses about different aspects of life. From birth and death to war and peace, I see these as things ordained by God to happen at specific times according to his will. 

Humans and Animals

Surely the fate of human beings is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; humans have no advantage over animals. Everything is meaningless. All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return.

Ecclesiastes 3:19-20 (NIV)

I had to think a moment when I read these verses, and after some thought, I realized that Solomon was saying that humans might be superior to animals, but we all die. The “same place” he refers to is the earth. Hence, the coming and returning to dust. The next verse could still add confusion to what Solomon is saying. 

“Who knows if the human spirit rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?”

Ecclesiastes 3:21 (NIV)

Solomon is referring to the ability to discern such a thing merely through observation. Again, we’re considering the theme of everything “under the sun” after the fall as seen by the flesh.

I enjoyed sharing these notes today, and thank you for stopping by! I pray this day finds you well.