Book summary

The title in Hebrew is Qoheleth or Kohelet, which literally means “one who holds and addresses an assembly”. It’s often translated as “Preacher” or “Teacher”, and is the pseudonym used by the author of the book.

Ecclesiastes provides wisdom concerning wise behaviour, righteousness, justice, equity and more. The phrase “under the sun” is used thirty times, which speaks of life on earth, perhaps with connotations of the meaninglessness of life without God.

Chapters 1-2 — Futility of self-centered life from personal experience

Ch 1:1-11 — Everything is meaningless

“Meaningless! Meaningless!”
says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!
Everything is meaningless.” (Eccles. 1:2)

Ch 1:12-18 — Wisdom is meaningless

I, the Teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. I applied my mind to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under the heavens. What a heavy burden God has laid on mankind! I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind. (Eccles. 1:12-14)

Ch 2:1-11 — Pleasures are meaningless

I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. (Eccles. 2:9)
Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
nothing was gained under the sun. (Eccles. 2:11)

Ch 2:12-16 — Wisdom and folly are meaningless

For the wise, like the fool, will not be long remembered;
the days have already come when both have been forgotten.
Like the fool, the wise too must die! (Eccles. 2:16)

Ch 2:17-26 — Toil is meaningless

So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. (Eccles. 2:17)

Chapters 3-8 — Reflections on life

Ch 3 — A time for everything

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot… (Eccles. 3:1-2)

Ch 4:1-12 — Oppression, toil, friendlessness

Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. (Eccles. 4:12)

Ch 4:13-16 — Advancement is meaningless

Better a poor but wise youth than an old but foolish king who no longer knows how to heed a warning. (Eccles. 4:13)

Ch 5:1-7 — Fulfill your vow to God

When you make a vow to God, do not delay to fulfill it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. (Eccles. 5:4)

Ch 5:8 to 6:12 — Riches are meaningless

Whoever loves money never has enough;
whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.
This too is meaningless. (Eccles. 5:10)

Ch 7:1 to 8:1 — Wisdom

So I turned my mind to understand,
to investigate and to search out wisdom and the scheme of things
and to understand the stupidity of wickedness
and the madness of folly. (Eccles. 7:25)

Ch 8:2-17 — Obey the king

Obey the king’s command, I say, because you took an oath before God. (Eccles. 8:2)

Chapters 9-12 — Conclusions on life

Ch 9:1-12 — A common destiny for all

So I reflected on all this and concluded that the righteous and the wise and what they do are in God’s hands, but no one knows whether love or hate awaits them. (Eccles. 9:1)

Ch 9:13 to 10:20 — Wisdom better than folly

As dead flies give perfume a bad smell,
so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor. (Eccles. 10:1)

Ch 11:1-6 — Invest in many ventures

Ship your grain across the sea;
after many days you may receive a return.
Invest in seven ventures, yes, in eight;
you do not know what disaster may come upon the land. (Eccles. 11:1-2)

Ch 11:7-12:8 — Remember your creator while young

Remember your Creator
in the days of your youth,
before the days of trouble come
and the years approach when you will say,
“I find no pleasure in them” (Eccles. 12:1)

Chapter 12:9-14 — Final conclusions

Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the duty of all mankind.
For God will bring every deed into judgment,
including every hidden thing,
whether it is good or evil. (Eccles. 12:13-14)