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(Ecclesiastes 1:1-3) 1 The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. 2 “Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher, “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” 3 What advantage does man have in all his work Which he does under the sun?

(Ecclesiastes 1:14) 14 I have seen all the works which have been done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and striving after wind.

(Ecclesiastes 2:1-2) I said to myself, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure. So enjoy yourself.” And behold, it too was futility. 2 I said of laughter, “It is madness,” and of pleasure, “What does it accomplish?”

I might just be asking the obvious. However, as the bible reader reads, about various verses in the Ecclesiastes, he might notice the use of literary devices like hyperbole, metaphors, similes, etc.The reason being is that the author is trying to indicate that pleasures, challenges & tasks and the subsequent completion of said tasks are just "vanity" and/or like "striving after the wind". In reality, it's obviously Not the case because working hard to make money will help us provide for our families and ourselves. However, the author is just emphasizing that the feelings and/or sense of engaging in pleasures, taking on tasks and/or challenges ultimately leads to being dissatisfied.

Is one of the main objectives of Ecclesiastes be viewed as making us ( especially overachievers, workaholics, winners, overly competitive personality types, etc ) desensitize themselves from worldly aspects ( and/or helping Christians De-idolizing/De-worshipping worldly aspects ?

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  • There were no Christians when Ecclesiastes was written.
    – fumanchu
    Nov 9, 2022 at 15:32
  • Well,The Old Testament books are part of standard Christian Bible Canon. Therefore, it might be Circuitous Logic, but we as Christians are an audience for the Old Testament Bible even though there were No Christians when the Old Testament books were written. Nov 9, 2022 at 15:44

2 Answers 2

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The author does indeed intend that his readers will not have the attitude of " overachievers, workaholics, winners, overly competitive personality types," but his main objective is to teach what he says again and again, that in the grand scheme of things we strive in vain:

“Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher; “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.”

This is not hyperbole. He means it. Nothing is new under the sun (1:9). Generations come and go but nothing really changes (1:4). The fate of the wise man and the fool is essentially the same (2:15). Ditto for man and the animals (3:19). Attaining wealth does not bring happiness (4:4). Wicked men prosper while good men die (7:15).

But he does not mean we should not work hard for our families or that we should not obey God's law (12:13). Indeed the author endorses labor, love, and even merry-making, but everything in moderation. What he wants his readers to avoid is the attitude that our labors and learning can change the fundamental realities of life. His philosophy best summed up in the following verses:

Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart; for God has already accepted your works. Let your garments always be white, and let your head lack no oil.

Live joyfully with the wife whom you love all the days of your vain life which He has given you under the sun, all your days of vanity; for that is your portion in life, and in the labor which you perform under the sun. (9:7-9)

"Nothing is better for a man" he says, "than that he should eat and drink, and that his soul should enjoy good in his labor. This also, I saw, was from the hand of God." (2:24)

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    +1 for "in the grand scheme of things we strive in vain" and "he wants his readers to Avoid is the attitude that our labors and learning can change the fundamental realities of life." Nov 10, 2022 at 12:44
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"The Purpose driven Life" by Rick Warren might answer the question. Any rational person did thing with a purpose. So if the purpose was to earn worldly substances it is a vanity. If the purpose was glorifying God there is a reward.

We are tempted to use excuses to rationalize our need of worldly substances. Pride is hidden behind praise; greed is hidden behind achievement, lust of power is hidden behind accomplishment. In earthly view, life too short and what's wrong being success. In godly view, they are all vanities that nothing can bring to heaven.

Read Ecclesiastes 2:1-2 again;

I said to myself, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure. So enjoy yourself.” And behold, it too was futility. 2 I said of laughter, “It is madness,” and of pleasure, “What does it accomplish?”

Does it sound familiar to the temptation of the Devil to Jesus in Luke 4:5-7?

5 The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7 If you worship me, it will all be yours.” (NIV)

Ecclesiastes was written by Solomon in his old age. God gave him the authority and splendor when he was a good young king who looked after His people, the Israelites. But the wealth, pride and his pleasure with foreign women (1 Kings 11:1-5) had driven him away from God, to worship other gods.

Did God choose him wrong? God had visited Solomon a second time and His last, warning him in advance the curse of betrayal (1 King 9:2-9). So God knew him well. Hence the point of attention is not Solomon, but the glory and fall of his life in corresponding to his devotion to the only true God. Ecclesiastes reveals a gloomy enlightenment of Solomon when he counted his days back. We should learn from his life, not to be regretful at age of helpless, but live a good life of purpose driven with God blessings.

Matthew 6:33 read

33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (NIV)

So all these things will not be a vanity, as long as we are always striving after the purpose of His kingdom and His righteousness. Job was a role model, and God rewarded him as his righteousness eventually won over Satan's accusation. Paul said in Romans 8:33;

33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. (NIV)

Similarly, if all these things have God's blessing, who can say they are vanities?

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