The Old Testament | The Books of Poetry


Things to know
Where does the book begin?

The book begins with a poem. ‘Life is like a mist.’

Where does the book end?

The book ends with a declaration. ‘This is the whole duty of all people.’

People to know

The Teacher

Places to go

Everything is empty
Ecclesiastes 1:1-11

Guard your steps
Ecclesiastes 5:1-7

The teacher described wise men and fools
Ecclesiastes 7:1-13

Remember your creator
Ecclesiastes 12:1-8

The writers told the end of the matter
Ecclesiastes 12:9-14

The Story of Ecclesiastes

The book of Ecclesiastes is one of the wisdom books in the Old Testament*. Ecclesiastes is a word that means teacher. We do not know for sure who wrote the book. Many people believe that Solomon wrote the book. Solomon was the son of King David. He was also a great king. Solomon knew many things about life. He went through many of the experiences that this book talks about. He was very rich. He was very wise. He filled his life with pleasures. He worked very hard. He was a ruler. The writer of Ecclesiastes knew about these things too. He talked about these things all through the book. But the writer only called himself the teacher.

The book is like a story in some ways. It tells about what one man did and what he learned about life. The book tells those stories and gives those lessons.

We call this book one of the wisdom books in the Old Testament*. But much of the book tells us that human wisdom has its limits. But God’s commands show us the way to true wisdom. This is like what Moses said in Deuteronomy.[1]

We need to remember this as we read the book. Not everything that the teacher says is good advice. He was speaking as if this world is all there is. He was thinking about what life seems like if there were no life beyond this life. That is why his words sometimes seem sad. That is why he said that hard work is a waste of time. He even said that we are foolish if we try to enjoy life. If there is no life beyond this one, life can seem empty and lonely. Life can seem like it has no meaning.

Parts of the book include poems. This teacher used them to help us learn. He used poems to help us remember those lessons.

Ecclesiastes 3:1–8 is an example of one of these poems.

1There is a time for everything.
    There’s a time for everything that is done on earth.

2There is a time to be born.
    And there’s a time to die.
There is a time to plant.
    And there’s a time to pull up what is planted.

3There is a time to kill.
And there’s a time to heal.
There is a time to tear down.
And there’s a time to build up.

4There is a time to cry.
And there’s a time to laugh.
There is a time to be sad.
And there’s a time to dance.

5There is a time to scatter stones.
And there’s a time to gather them.
There is a time to hug.
And there’s a time not to hug.

6There is a time to search.
And there’s a time to stop searching.
There is a time to keep.
And there’s a time to throw away.

7There is a time to tear.
And there’s a time to mend.
There is a time to be silent.
And there’s a time to speak.

8There is a time to love.
And there’s a time to hate.
There is a time for war.
And there’s a time for peace*.

At the end of the book, someone else added his own words. He added some notes[2] about the lessons in the book. The writer said that the words of the book are ‘good and true’. But they are not the whole truth. We can learn many things about life from wise men. We should listen to their words. But we can only find true wisdom when we listen to God. We must always remember to do what God says.

Respect God. Obey God’s commands. Because he knows about everything people do. He knows about all of the good things we do. He knows about all of the bad things we do. He even knows our secrets. And some day he will judge people.[3] We can not hide from him.

That is why the final message is important. There is something beyond this life. In that life, God will reward what is right and destroy what is wicked. And this life only has meaning when we understand that. If you do not remember this, you will be confused by parts of the book.

  • [1] Deuteronomy 4:5-7
  • [2] Ecclesiastes 12:9-14
  • [3] Ecclesiastes 3:17

The Old Testament | The Books of Poetry