Ecclesiastes 1:1 begins the book this way: “The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem” (ESV). The Hebrew word translated here and throughout Ecclesiastes is qoheleth, a word also meaning “collector” or “convener.” Some other Bible versions translate it as “Teacher.” Who is this nameless Preacher/Teacher—Solomon, or someone else?
First, we know the Preacher was a collector of sayings. This fits the biblical description of King Solomon. First Kings 4:32 says that Solomon “spoke three thousand proverbs and his songs numbered a thousand and five.” In Proverbs 1:1 we also see that Solomon was a writer of proverbs. These were the collected sayings of Solomon, the son of David, the king of Israel. Solomon, as a “collector” of words, fits the description of Ecclesiastes 1:1. In fact, Ecclesiastes 12:9 specifically says that the Preacher “set in order many proverbs.”
Second, the phrase “son of David” limits the identification of the author of Ecclesiastes to one of David’s physical sons. Since Solomon was the only son of David that we know of to leave writings, he also fits the identity of the Preacher in this respect.
Third, the Preacher in Ecclesiastes was “king in Jerusalem.” He served as both a writer and a king—again, descriptions that fit Solomon.
Fourth, the Preacher, according to Ecclesiastes 12:9, was “wise,” and we know that King Solomon was given the gift of wisdom by God (1 Kings 4:29).
Fifth, the Preacher “imparted knowledge to the people” (Ecclesiastes 12:9). This also corresponds with what we know of King Solomon: “He spoke about plant life, from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of walls. He also spoke about animals and birds, reptiles and fish. From all nations people came to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, sent by all the kings of the world, who had heard of his wisdom” (1 Kings 4:33–34).
The word translated “Preacher” is used six other times in Ecclesiastes (in the ESV), including the following passages:
Ecclesiastes 1:2: “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, / vanity of vanities! All is vanity.”
Ecclesiastes 1:12: “I the Preacher have been king over Israel in Jerusalem.”
Ecclesiastes 7:27: “Behold, this is what I found, says the Preacher, while adding one thing to another to find the scheme of things.”
All the evidence points to Solomon as the Preacher and the writer of Ecclesiastes. As an older man, Solomon looked back at the mistakes he had made in his life and drew practical wisdom and an eternal perspective from them.