Lessing, R. Reed & Andrew E. Steinmann. Prepare the Way of the Lord: An Introduction to the Old Testament. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2014. Chapter 19, “Ecclesiastes” pp. 327-338.
Ecclesiastes is mostly narrative in the first person, a person called Qoheleth, often translated “teacher” or “preacher” (Lessing 2014, 327). This person is normally identified as Solomon, as he is the king of Israel in Jerusalem, the son of David. There are a number of third person passages, which Lessing says may suggest a later editor. Lessing discusses a variety of potential explanations for the different shifts in person and perspective. His conclusion is that Qoheleth is Solomon and that a later compler made some editorial changes to pull the text into its current form (Lessing 2014, 330).
The text of Ecclesiastes cannot be dated later than 200 B.C. as it is referred to in Ben Sira, from that time. There is an Aramaic influence, but there were interactions with those lands as far back as David’s time (Lessing 2014, 330). There are themes of the brevity of life and the tendency to change throughout. Human existence is frail and often seems futile (Lessing 2014, 332). The text does not divide clearly into a necessary outline. However, Lessing does provide an outline of sorts.
As to theological themes, life as seen “from an earthly perspective” is futile and meaningless” (Lessing 2014, 333). Yet there is a permanence which can be found in the presence of God’s provision. Death and human possessions are also important. Since we will all die, we should feel free to use and enjoy our possessions (Lessing 2014, 334).
Another important theme is that of God as the one who makes life meaningful. Finally, we find Christ in Ecclesiastes in chapter 12:4, where we find that truth is “given by one Shepherd” (Lessing 2014, 335). God is the Shepherd of Israel. Jesus identifies himself as the good shepherd. He is the one who judges all the sin and futility in the world. He is the one who can graciously give purpose and meaning to life.