Ecclesiastes: “Fear the Lord”

Read: Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

Ecclesiastes was written by one who identifies himself as the “Preacher”, “son of David” and “King of Jerusalem” (Ecclesiastes 1:1). The author himself is anonymous, but has been traditionally associated with Solomon who was known for his wisdom. The vocabulary and style of the book, however, resemble literature from a much later period from Solomon’s era. While the author is unknown, the books canonicity has rarely been challenged, and most early canons and translations have included it.

Ecclesiastes is wisdom literature. Wisdom in Western thought is generally thought of as principally cognitive, but the wisdom in the Ancient Near East was more practical associated with skill – they saw a wise person as one who lives skillfully. The Jews had the law already. They desired to live according to the law to the fullest. The sages among the Jews collated and recorded a set of “best practices” for living out the law. In a manner of speaking, wisdom literature was a commentary on living life according to the law. Wisdom was offered as generalized statements about particular subjects such as money, family, friends, work, and government among many other topics. When reading literature one should be careful not to over extend it, thinking of wisdom as commandments, but neither should one diminish wisdom literature as irrelevant or unimportant.

Ecclesiastes was written by someone who had experienced many things. He had pursued wisdom, pleasures, and wealth and his conclusion on the fulfillment all these pursuits bring is “vanity” – that is it is empty and meaningless. That is fruitless endeavors that ultimately leave one empty, yearning for more. The vanity of these things however, is interspersed with commandments to “Fear the Lord” (Ecclesiastes 3:14, 5:7, 8:12-13, 12:13) – that is revere and respect the Lord. The pursuits themselves do not have meaning, but the writer seems to think that when one connects them with the Lord, realizing the blessings from the Lord, it corroborates the ultimate conclusion on the matter that the writer gives in Ecclesiastes 12:13.

Ecclesiastes is often seen as pessimistic and brooding, but this is only because the author is speaking truth about matters of life apart from God. At the end of the book, the author, as mentioned, things that fear of the Lord gives meaning to existence, and that is best for man to fear the Lord and keep his commandments. Rather than pursue things that result in emptiness, it is certainly better to pursue something that results in something eternal. The results of living a life of godliness is storing up treasures in heaven that do not rust (Matthew 6:19-21). If is best to fear the Lord and keep his commandments to store up this treasure.

Lord, help me to fear you and keep your commandments, for this is best!