Jehovah’s Word Is Alive
Highlights From the Book of Ecclesiastes
1 “MAN, born of woman, is short-lived and glutted with agitation,” observed the patriarch Job. (Job 14:1) How vital that we do not waste our short life on worthless concerns and endeavors! What pursuits should occupy our time, energy, and resources? Which ones should be avoided? The words of wisdom recorded in the Bible book of Ecclesiastes give sound guidance in this regard. The message they convey “is able to discern thoughts and intentions of the heart” and can help us live a meaningful life.
2 Written by a man renowned for his wisdom, King Solomon of ancient Israel, the book of Ecclesiastes contains practical advice on what is truly worthwhile in life and what is valueless. Since Solomon refers to some of the building projects he had undertaken, he must have written Ecclesiastes after their completion and before his deflection from true worship. (Nehemiah 13:26) That places the time of writing before 1000 B.C.E., toward the end of Solomon’s 40-year reign.
WHAT IS NOT VANITY?
3 “Everything is vanity!” says the congregator, who asks: “What profit does a man have in all his hard work at which he works hard under the sun?” (Ecclesiastes 1:2, 3) The expressions “vanity” and “under the sun” appear repeatedly in Ecclesiastes. The Hebrew word for “vanity” literally means “breath” or “vapor” and suggests a lack of substance, permanence, or enduring value. The expression “under the sun” means “on this earth” or “in this world.” Hence, everything
4 “Guard your feet whenever you go to the house of the true God,” says Solomon, “and let there be a drawing near to hear.” (Ecclesiastes 5:1) Engaging in the true worship of Jehovah God is not vanity. In fact, giving attention to our relationship with him is the key to living a meaningful life.
Scriptural Questions Answered:
6 2:1, 2
Lessons for Us:
9 1:15. It is futile to spend time and energy trying to correct the oppression and injustice that we see today. Only God’s Kingdom can do away with wickedness.
10 2:4-11. Cultural activities, such as architecture, gardening, and music, as well as luxurious living are “a striving after wind” because they neither make life truly meaningful nor bring lasting happiness.
11 2:12-16. Wisdom has the advantage over folly in that it can help solve certain problems. Concerning death, however, human wisdom has no advantage. And even if one may have gained fame because of having such wisdom, one is soon forgotten.
12 2:24; 3:12, 13, 22. Enjoying the fruits of our labor is not wrong.
13 2:26. Godly wisdom, which brings joy, is given to ‘a man who is good before Jehovah.’ It is impossible to gain this wisdom without having a good relationship with God.
14 3:16, 17. To expect justice in every case is unrealistic. Rather than feel anxious about what is happening in the world today, we should wait on Jehovah to set matters straight.
15 4:4. Hard work skillfully done can bring satisfaction. Working hard simply to outshine others, however, promotes competition and can breed feelings of ill will and jealousy. Our hard work in the Christian ministry must stem from right motives.
16 4:7-12. Human relationships are more important than material possessions and should not be sacrificed in the pursuit of riches.
17 4:13. Position and age do not always win respect. Those in responsible positions should act wisely.
18 4:15, 16. “The child, who is second”
19 5:2. Our prayers should be thoughtful and reverential, not wordy.
20 5:3-7. Preoccupation with material concerns can prompt one to daydream about selfish interests. It can also put one in a restless, dreamy state of mind at night, depriving one of sweet sleep. An abundance of words can make a person appear foolish to others and can cause him to make a rash vow before God. ‘Fearing the true God’ prevents us from doing either of these things.
21 6:1-9. What good are riches, glory, long life, and even a large family if circumstances prevent us from enjoying them? And “better is the seeing by the eyes,” or facing realities, than “the walking about of the soul [“soulful desire,” footnote],” that is, striving to gratify desires that are impossible to satisfy. The best way to live, then, is to be content with “having sustenance and covering” while enjoying wholesome things in life and focusing on maintaining a close relationship with Jehovah.
COUNSEL TO THE WISE
22 How can we safeguard our good name, or reputation? What should be our attitude toward human rulers and injustices that we may witness? Since the dead are conscious of nothing, how should we use our life now? In what way can youths use their time and energy wisely? The congregator’s sound advice on these and other matters is recorded for us in chapters 7 to 12 of Ecclesiastes.
Scriptural Questions Answered:
25 11:7, 8
Lessons for Us:
26 7:6. Laughter at an inappropriate time is as irritating and useless as the crackling of thorns burning under a pot. We do well to guard against it.
27 7:21, 22. We should not be overly concerned about what others say.
28 8:2, 3; 10:4. When we are criticized or corrected by a supervisor or an employer, it is wise to remain calm. This is better than to ‘hurry and go out from before him,’ that is, to resign hastily.
29 8:8; 9:5-10, 12. Our life can end as unexpectedly as when fish are caught in a net or birds in a trap. Moreover, no one can restrain the life force from departing at death, nor can anyone be discharged from the war that death wages against mankind. Hence, we should not idly waste time. Jehovah wants us to value life and enjoy it in a wholesome way. To do this, we should give Jehovah’s service the first place in our life.
30 8:16, 17. The full scope of everything that God has done and has allowed to happen among mankind cannot be fathomed, even if we were to lose sleep over it. Worrying about all the wrongs that have been committed will only rob us of enjoyment in life.
31 9:16-18. Wisdom is to be valued even when there is a general lack of appreciation for it. The calmly spoken words of a wise person are to be preferred to the boisterous shouts of a stupid one.
32 10:1. We must be careful about our speech and actions. Just one indiscretion, such as an angry outburst, one act of the misuse of alcohol, or an incident involving unchaste sexual behavior, is enough to ruin the good reputation of a respected person.
33 10:5-11. An incompetent person in high office is not to be envied. Incompetence in performing even a simple task can have bad consequences. Rather, cultivating the ability to ‘use wisdom to succeed’ is advantageous. How important it is that we become competent in the Kingdom-preaching and disciple-making work!
34 11:1, 2. We should practice wholehearted generosity. It begets generosity.
35 11:3-6. Life’s uncertainties should not make us indecisive.
36 11:9; 12:1-7. Young people are accountable to Jehovah. Therefore, they should use their time and energy in God’s service before old age robs them of their vigor.
“THE WORDS OF THE WISE ONES” TO GUIDE US
37 How should we view “the delightful words” that the congregator sought to find and write? In contrast with the “many books” of human wisdom, “the words of the wise ones are like oxgoads, and just like nails driven in are those indulging in collections of sentences; they have been given from one shepherd.” (Ecclesiastes 12:10-12) The words of wisdom given from the “one shepherd,” Jehovah, have a stabilizing effect on our life.
38 Applying the wise counsel found in the book of Ecclesiastes will indeed help us to lead a meaningful and happy life. Moreover, we are assured: “It will turn out well with those fearing the true God.” Let us, then, be firm in our determination to “fear the true God and keep his commandments.”
[Picture on page 15]
One of the prettiest of God’s handiworks will become a reality at its right time
[Picture on page 16]
God’s gifts include food, drink, and seeing good for all our hard work