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The Book of Ecclesiastes does not get used/read/considered often enough. In a similar vein to Job, Ecclesiastes explores the meaninglessness and nihilism inherent in life. Man is ignorant. Man cannot do what is best for himself.

We cannot ascribe higher powers to anything, so we should just enjoy the gifts God has given us.

That’s basically a summary. It’s startlingly eloquent, and well worth a read.

So, thoughts? Christians: are we supposed to agree or disagree? Does this fit the rest of the Bible in its depiction of God?

Atheists: As far as Bible books go, does this one resonate with you a little more than others? I can almost see that it might… Or is this part of the problem with Christianity?


You are correct that the book of Ecclesiastes does not get enough credit and the reason is that it has been buried under a thick pile of incorrect traditions and translations. “Meaningless” is not even close to what the book is about and its theme is definitely not nihilistic. Kohelet, its author, states very clearly that he is on a quest, a lifelong search to find out if there is anything of lasting benefit (yithron, a marketplace term) which we humans can gain from all the hard work that we do upon the earth. This is his one and only theme question and it appears throughout the book. He frames his conclusions with the repetition of a small Hebrew word, hebel. This is the world for breath, smoke of vapor and Kohelet uses it heavily to show that when we pursue anything as an end unto itself (wealth, wisdom, pleasure, etc.) it will certainly let us down for these things cannot provide a lasting benefit. In fact, he says, chasing them is as futile as trying to catch the wind.

But that is not the end of the story for Kohelet discovers that these very same activities can provide a great deal of enjoyment when we accept them as part of our journey. This is why he can say on one hand that the pursuit of wealth is futile yet in our daily life “if God grants us wealth and possessions and enables us to enjoy them” and then he defines enjoyment, “by accepting our lot and being happy in our work, this is God’s gift to us.”

This is a book by an eastern mind, one that like Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof”, weighs one hand against the other. He is comparing a destination mindset against a journey mindset. Will we try to “get ahead” or will we enjoy our “daily bread”.

Ecclesiastes is a fantastic book that can guide our working lives. It is the best and most complete philosophy of work that mankind has in its possession but it is functionally lost to us. Most people jump to the end of the book to make a quick point, not even noticing that the end is written by another author who is encouraging us to carefully read Kohelet because what he wrote was “honest and true.”

I have been studying Ecclesiastes for the past 30 years and recently translated the book, memorized it and now perform it wherever I find people that would like to understand the wise words of this ancient sage. It has been great to see people own his message and embrace a philosophy of work that says “one handful with rest is better than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind.”

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