How would you respond if a mature-aged person told you that everything is meaningless? You might conclude, “Well, I guess the poor cynic is right about himself.”
So, is the book of Ecclesiastes meaningless? Or is it a sharp tool to carve away the meaningless layers and sculpt something of significance from our existence?
Logos Bible Software gives away a free book each month. For August 2016, it’s a very good commentary on Ecclesiastes. Bible commentaries are a great way to gain insight into parts of the Bible we find hard to understand. (Hint: it’s probably not meaningless!)
This particular commentary is surprisingly good. It’s very accessible. You get the feeling that Miller enjoys facing the challenges that the Wisdom Teacher (Qohelet) throws at us. Again, without getting technical, Miller does an excellent job of appraising how the conclusion relates to the book as a whole.
As well as working through Ecclesiastes verse-by-verse, there’s a bunch of bonus articles on topics like “Approaches to the Book of Ecclesiastes” and “Special Terms.”
An appetizer from Douglas B. Miller, Ecclesiastes, Believers Church Bible Commentary (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 2010), 17:
In varying degrees, all people face the issues that are addressed by Ecclesiastes: lack of satisfaction or sense of purpose, financial catastrophe, personal tragedy, societal injustice, fear, frustration, chance, uncertainty, physical suffering, old age, and death. The book has proved to be timeless, continually valuable for persons in different locations, life situations, and cultures. Though it is partly accurate to acknowledge that Ecclesiastes is a difficult book and not for everyone, it is better said that sooner or later the message of this book will become both relevant and essential for each person’s life.
In important ways the book faces the “dark side” of faith, issues that are often troublesome for those who seek to affirm the goodness, power, and love of God.
It’s worth learning Qohelet’s technique. There’s a time to comfort the disturbed, and there’s a time to disturb the comfortable.