The Five “W’s” of Ecclesiastes

Who wrote it? Since the author didn’t give his name, but referred to himself only as “the teacher” or “preacher” (Hebrew: Qōheleth, Greek: ekklēsiastēs), we cannot be certain. However, most of the evidence suggests that King Solomon was the author. We can conclude this because the writer identified himself as a son of David and king over Israel in Jerusalem (Ecclesiastes 1:1, 12). He also said he was the wisest person to rule Jerusalem (1:16), built extensive projects (2:4-6), and had great wealth (2:7-8).

What is it? Ecclesiastes is probably best understood as a “journal” of Solomon’s reflections on meaning and purpose from the world’s limited perspective. It is his presentation of evidence and conclusions based on observations and experiences for those who have neither the time nor the resources to take the journey themselves.

Where was it written? Solomon said repeatedly that he was king over Jerusalem in Israel (1:1, 12), and this book was probably written there.

When was it written? Ecclesiastes was probably written about 925 BC, toward the end of Solomon’s life. As an old man, Solomon wisely reflected on his journey through life, including his drift away from and back to God.

Why was it written? While affirming a high view of God’s sovereignty and humanity’s utter dependence on Him (Ecclesiastes 3:4), Ecclesiastes was written to show that life apart from God is empty and meaningless. Verse 2:11 says, “Thus I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labour which I had exerted, and behold all was vanity and striving after the wind and there was no profit under the sun.” Yet Solomon ended by saying, “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep his commandments” (12:13). While life apart from God is frustrating, life with God and enjoying His gifts with thanksgiving can be abundant, regardless of our daily circumstances.

Adapted from Charles R. Swindoll, Living on the Ragged Edge: Finding Joy in a World Gone Mad Workbook, (Nashville: Nelson Reference & Electronic, A Division of Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2005), 3. Copyright © 2005 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Accuracy, clarity, and practicality all describe the Bible-teaching ministry of Charles R. Swindoll. Chuck is the chairman of the board at Insight for Living and the chancellor of Dallas Theological Seminary. Chuck also serves as the senior pastor of Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas, where he is able to do what he loves most—teach the Bible to willing hearts. His focus on practical Bible application has been heard on the Insight for Living radio broadcast since 1979.