Meeting Qoheleth

Jeff Munroe

Read: Ecclesiastes 1:12-18

I have acquired great wisdom, surpassing all who were over Jerusalem before me. (v. 16)

In this passage the author of Ecclesiastes identifies himself as the Preacher. In Hebrew the word is Qoheleth. It means one who convenes or addresses a group or congregation. Some translations use “the Teacher,” “the Philosopher” or even “the Quester,” which also seem appropriate. In Greek, this word is Ecclesiastes. Qoheleth is not a name; it’s a role.

Qoheleth says he is the son of David and king in Jerusalem, but there is strong evidence to conclude that he is not Solomon. Ancient writers would sometimes put familiar names on their work for various reasons, including extracanonical books such as the Wisdom of Solomon and the Psalms of Solomon that clearly weren’t written by Solomon. As Old Testament scholar David Hubbard puts it, the writer of Ecclesiastes “reached back to Solomon’s experiences of wisdom, pleasure, and achievement and used them as the core of his curriculum” (Communicator’s Commentary 15B, p. 19).

Some scholars think this book’s message is more philosophical than religious, but I think it is important to remember that this wasn’t slipped into the Bible when God wasn’t paying attention. This is God’s Word, and there is much to ponder. Qoheleth doesn’t write about the weather or sports; he tackles big themes like life’s meaning, death, vanity, and joy. This book is a gift to us to savor and explore. —Jeff Munroe

Prayer: Lord, reveal true wisdom to us through your Word.