The perspective of youth is refreshing. Life is stretching out before you and there are many dreams to fulfill. There is great value, however, in the perspective of a wise, older believer. With a retrospective survey of life, they can helpfully share with us what they have experienced, helping us to live a truly good life. This is what Solomon provides for us in Ecclesiastes: wise advice, with words that are ultimately from the One Shepherd (Ecc 12:11).
It is somewhat popular today for “scholars” to deny Solomon’s authorship of this book. Remembering that the Scriptures are God’s breathed out words, the issue of who penned a particular book and when they wrote it is not the most important thing. However, it is helpful. When the link is broken between the books of the Bible and their evident authors, it is a step in the direction toward denying their legitimacy and authority.
Though his name isn’t mentioned, there is internal evidence that Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes. The opening words are very clear: he is “the son of David, king in Jerusalem” (1:1). Plus, Solomon is actually the only one after David to have been king over all Israel in Jerusalem as 1:12 indicates. Other helpful indicators of authorship are his great wisdom (1:16), his many servants and great wealth (2:7-8), and his pathetic reflections on a spiritually barren period of his life (1Kings 11).
But there are three main arguments against Solomon being the writer. First, his vocabulary reflects an influence of other cultures and fits best with other books written after Judah’s exile to Babylon. But that argument ignores that there are many differences between Ecclesiastes and post-exile books like Nehemiah or Malachi. Additionally, it should not be the least bit surprising that Solomon was influenced by neighboring cultures’ vocabulary. He had great wisdom, was well-read, and had expansive business relationships with nations throughout the region. The second argument is that his comparative reference to all that went before him in Jerusalem (1:16) shows there were many kings in Jerusalem before this writer, whereas only David preceded Solomon. But there were surely kings in the land before Israel’s kingdom, and the verse doesn’t even actually mention “kings” that were before Solomon, just people – and there were many people who lived in the land long before David and Solomon. Third, people pounce on Solomon’s words that he “was king over Israel in Jerusalem” (1:12) and say that implies he is no longer king as he writes the book. Really? It doesn’t say that he isn’t king when he writes. In fact, the ESV legitimately translates it, “I have been king.”
The purpose in speaking of his kingship, though, is likely to emphasize that when he experienced the things of which he speaks in Ecclesiastes, he sat on the throne at the pinnacle of human greatness. He didn’t go through all of this having been dealt a bad hand from the world. No, Solomon had it good. These are not the words of a poor, lazy complainer. These are the words of great King Solomon. And with his great wisdom, education, wealth, power, and pleasure, he looked back and said, “It’s all vanity.”
Interesting perspective! And his wise words of counsel will be worth exploring in the next few issues.