Vanity of Vanities!
The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.
Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.
What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?
Ecclesiastes 1:1ff (Spoke 21, Cycle 1)
Many people are surprised to find a Book like Ecclesiastes in the Bible. How can the
Word of God declare that all life is vain and meaningless? Is this not the exact opposite of
the Gospel message? Indeed it is, and that is the whole point of the Book!
the picture of the desolation of the soul that is scorched and withered under the sun of this world,
as taught by Jesus in the Parable of the Sower (Mat 13:6). Following His metaphor of the soul as
soil in which the Word of God is sown, the wasted soul of Ecclesiastes is well described by the
Prophet Isaiah, "Your country is desolate (shimamah), your cities are
burned (saraph) with fire (esh)" (Isa 1:7). This is the meaning of
Shin to the soul not rooted in God through faith.
This brings us to the stunning integration of the Twenty-First Book with the symbolic meaning
of the Twenty-First Letter. The graph shows the distribution of "sun" in the Bible:
The great peak arises from the constant refrain of "under the sun (shemesh)" in Ecclesiastes.
This phrase is unique to this Book and sets its whole tone, which begins with the Preacher's
search for the ultimate meaning of life:
I the Preacher was king over Israel in Jerusalem. And I gave my heart to seek and
search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven: this sore travail hath
God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith. I have seen all the works that
are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit.
Ecclesiastes 1:12ff (Spoke 21, Cycle 1)
The Preacher then catalogued the whole spectrum of human experiences and accomplishments and
declared them all to be vain and void of any real significance. He was particularly frustrated with
the labour that "God had given the sons of man to
be exercised therewith":
Yea, I hated all my labour which I had taken under the sun:
because I should leave
it unto the man that shall be after me. And who knoweth whether he shall be a wise man or a
fool? yet shall he have rule over all my labour wherein I have laboured,
and wherein I have shewed
myself wise under the sun. This is also vanity. Therefore I went about to cause my
heart to despair of all the labour which I took under the sun.
Ecclesiastes 2:18ff (Spoke 21, Cycle 1)
Finally, the Preacher concluded that the search itself was vain:
Then I beheld all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done
under the sun: because though a man labour to seek it out, yet he shall not
find it; yea further; though a wise man think to know it, yet shall he not be able to find it.
Ecclesiastes 8:17 (Spoke 21, Cycle 1)
It is no surprise that this is commonly known as "the most pessimistic Book of the Bible." But this is not
where it ends! God designed this book as a counter-point to the Gospel of John in which He reveals
the root source of all meaning - Jesus Christ - the true Light of the World that lightens every man
coming into the world [see Where is the Sun?].