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Who wrote the book of Ecclesiastes? Who was the author of Ecclesiastes?

author of Ecclesiastes

The books of Ecclesiastes and Job boldly address life’s discomforts. While Job centers on the suffering of the innocent, Ecclesiastes adopts a more cynical tone on life in general, proclaiming that all human endeavors are ultimately fleeting and meaningless. The theme “all is vanity” is established in the book’s opening verses (Ecclesiastes 1:2, ESV), along with the author of Ecclesiastes: “The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem” (verse 1, ESV).

The author’s name is not given, but he introduces himself as “the Preacher” (ESV) or “the Teacher” (NIV); the Hebrew word is qoheleth. The term Ecclesiastes originates from the Greek word ekklesia and commonly refers to a teacher or, more accurately, “one who convenes an assembly.” This teacher is described as “son of David, king in Jerusalem'' (Ecclesiastes 1:1), strongly suggesting Solomon as the author. The author appears to be of old age, and in his philosophizing he reminisces on his past life, his diverse pursuit in search of meaning, and his despair at the lack of satisfaction found even in good things like wisdom and work. His self-description as a king who had “increased in wisdom more than anyone who has ruled over Jerusalem before me” also fits the historical account of Solomon (Ecclesiastes 1:16; cf. 1 Kings 4:29–34). Further clues that Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes include the fact that the author “undertook great projects” such as houses, vineyards, gardens, parks, and water reservoirs (Ecclesiastes 2:4–6). He was very rich, as measured by the number of slaves and livestock herds he possessed and the amount of silver and gold in his treasury (Ecclesiastes 2:7–8a). And he had a harem (Ecclesiastes 7:8b). This all corresponds with what we know of Solomon’s reign (see 1 Kings 7; 10:4–5, 14–29; 11:3; Song of Solomon 8:11). For these reasons, we can safely conclude that Solomon wrote the book of Ecclesiastes.

There are other theories concerning the authorship of Ecclesiastes. Could the introduction and conclusion have been written by someone else who was setting the stage for Solomon’s musing? Three possibilities emerge: 1) Solomon himself wrote the whole book, 2) later scribes compiled Solomon’s writings as instructive material, or 3) the Qoheleth was another king in the line of David. The traditional view, unquestioned until the rise of higher criticism in the eighteenth century, is that Solomon is the sole author.

Considering Solomon’s spiritual downfall in his later years (1 Kings 11:4–8), the book of Ecclesiastes was likely written at the end of his life. The book’s cynical tone aligns with his experience. As a king who once had it all, he rues the emptiness of worldly pursuits, warns youths to remember the Creator, and laments the futility of a naturalistic existence.

In a world where God often takes the back seat to idols like sexuality, money, and worldly success, Ecclesiastes admonishes us to “fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). As the Westminster Catechism states, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever” (Q. 1).

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Who wrote the book of Ecclesiastes? Who was the author of Ecclesiastes?
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This page last updated: March 4, 2024