ECCLESIASTES SEARCHES for an answer to the question, What is the advantage of humanity's work and wisdom?
Work and wisdom comprise two main themes of the book. The word "profit" and its related words such as "advantage" (6:8) occur eighteen times. Another important word, "vanity", which conveys the notion of uselessness, occurs 38 times. This key term is used in the motto that frames the book (1:2; 12:8), which in each case is accompanied by a poem related to the motto (1:3-11; 1:7 - 12:7). Apart from these obvious literary structures, no consensus has been reached about the book's structure. Its cross-currents of optimism and pessimism make the overall intention of the book difficult to discern. Nevertheless, the blocks of material that comprise the book mostly relate to these two themes. A helpful outline arranges these blocks into three cycles (1:3 - 3:8; 3:9 - 6:7; 6:8 - 12:7), each, though formulated differently, beginning with the crucial question "what does a man gain?" The question is raised also at the end of both 5:16 and 6:11.
The first cycle contains three pairs of sections about work and wisdom (1:12-15 and 1:16-18; 2:1-11 and 2:12-17; 2:18-26 and 3:1-8) presenting the conclusion that although the employment of human labor and understanding provides satisfaction of accomplishment, the profit achieved by a person is canceled by death.
- The Reformation Study Bible
Published by Ligonier Ministries, Sanford FL
Permission to quote granted by Ligonier Ministries