The opening verse leaves us in no  doubt as to the  author of this unusual book: Solomon, the son of David, the king in Jerusalem.  On reading it one can become rather discouraged! But when its message is understood and how it relates to the NT revelation then all becomes clear.


In this book the phrase 'Under the sun'  occurs  some 29 times; 'Under the heaven ' 3 times; 'Upon the earth'  7 times and vanity 37. 

The message  is that  life is vain and empty without  God. For the Christian, however, life is not 'under  the sun' but in the heavenlies Eph.2:6 and  being  in Christ  is not futile and empty but full of meaning and purpose.

Key words

Vanity = empty, that which vanishes like a vapour

Vexation = torment of spirit

Consider = see with thought and reflection

Vanity of vanities is a Hebrew idiom. Usually when wanting to state the ultimate of anything the Hebrews would repeat the word in question. So 'Holy of holies' means the ultimate holy place. Perfect peace ( Isa 26:3) is literally 'peace, peace' meaning that the ultimate peace is to those whose mind is stayed on God. Contrast this to: vanity of vanities, this being  the ultimate emptiness, and that is a result of life without God, as the book shows us.


Here is a suggested outline; but do remember than  when looking at the message, it shows what life is like  WITHOUT God.

note:   uts = under the sun

1. Introduction
Ch. 1:1-11
Ref. Section Notes Conclusion
1:1-3 Vanity of vanities    Ps.39:5; Mk.8:36; Jms.4:14; I Pet.7-8 All is vanity    v2
1:4-11 One generation passes, another comes Things uts are never satisfied vv7-8 No new thing uts v9

2. Things seen (1)
Ch. 1:12-18
Ref. Section Notes Conclusion
1:12-14 All the works done uts   vanity and vexation of spirit v. 14
1:15-18 My heart had [=saw] great  experience and wisdom   Vexation of spirit v.17

3. Things proved (1)
Ch. 2:1-11
Ref. Section Notes Conclusion
2:1-3 With mirth prove = put to the test vanity  v.1
2: 4-11 Great works   Vanity and vexation v.11

 4. Things seen (2)
Ch. 2:12-3:22
Ref. Section Notes Conclusion
2:12-15 Wisdom, madness and folly One event happens to all v.15 This also is vanity v.15
2:16-17 No more remembrance of the wise than the fool Solomon declares hatred of life. v.17 Vanity and vexation of spirit v.17
2:18-26 My labour uts Solomon's heart despaired v.20 Vexation and vexation of spirit v.19, 21,  23, 26
3:1-15 The travail which God gives No man can find out the work of God v.11 ...God requires that which is past. v. 15
3:16-22 The place of Judgement    All is vanity v.19

5. Things considered (1)
Ch. 4:1-6
Ref. Section Notes Conclusion
4:1-3 The oppressions uts   Better the dead than the living v.3
4:4-6 All travail and every right work right = suitable / convenient Better a handful with quietness than both hands full with travail and vexation v.4, 6

6. Things seen (3)
Ch. 4:7-14
Ref. Section Notes Conclusion
4:7-14 The vanity uts, there is one alone   Vanity v.8

7. Things considered (2)
Ch. 4:15-16
Ref. Section Notes Conclusion
4:15-16 All the living walking uts   Vanity and vexation v.16

8. General counsel (1)
Ch. 5:1-12
Ref. Section Notes Conclusion
5:1-7 Be not rash with thy mouth   Fear God  v.7
5: 8 If you see oppression   Marvel not  v.8
5:9-12 The profit of the earth is for all   Sleep of a labouring man is sweet, ...abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep v. 12

 9. Things seen (4)
Ch. 5:13-6:12
Ref. Section Notes Conclusion
5:13-17 Riches kept for their owners thereof to  their hurt   What profit hath he that laboured for the wind..? v.17
5:18-20 It is good to enjoy the good of labour   God answers the joy of his heart v.26
6:1-2 An evil, a man doesn't enjoy the fruits of his labour   Vanity and an evil disease v.2
6:3-12 A soul not filled [=satisfied] with good Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of desire [=soul] v.9 Vanity and vexation  v. 9

10. Things compared
Ch. 7:1-12
Ref. Section Notes Conclusion
7:1-12 Some things better a) A good name than ointment Prov. 22:1
b) Day of death than the day of birth  
b) House of mourning than feasting
c) Sorrow than laughter  
d) Rebuke of the wise, than the song of fools  
e) The end of a thing than the beginning.  
f) Patient in spirit than the proud in spirit  
g) Say not ' What is the cause that the former days were better than these' God hath set the one over against the other to the end that man should find nothing after him.

11. Things seen(5)
Ch. 7:15-22
Ref. Section Notes Conclusion
7:15-22 A just man perishes in his righteousness..a wicked man prolongeth his life in his wickedness   There is not a just man on the earth that doeth good and sinneth not v.20

12. Things proved (2)
Ch. 7:23-29
Ref. Section Notes Conclusion
7:23-29 To be wise , far from him prove = put to the test God has made man upright, but they sought out many inventions [=devices] v.29

13. General counsel (2)
Ch. 8:1-17
Ref. Section Notes Conclusion
8:1-5 Keep the king's commandments Rom.13:1-7 Whosever keepeth the commandment shall feel [know] no evil....v.5
8:6-8 The misery of man is great upon him   No man has the power over the spirit  v. 8

14. Things seen(6)
Ch. 8:9-10
Ref. Section Notes Conclusion
8:9-10 A time where one man rules over another to his hurt    This is also vanity v.20

15. General counsel (3)
Ch. 8:11-15
Ref. Section Notes Conclusion
8:11-15 The heart of the sons of men is fully set to do evil   It shall not be well with the wicked v.13

16. Things seen(7)
Ch. 8:16-17
Ref. Section Notes Conclusion
8:16-17 The business upon the earth   A man cannot find out the work uts v17

17. Things considered (3)
Ch. 9:1-10
Ref. Section Notes Conclusion
9:1-10 One event happens to all Jn.9:4; Col.3:17 Whatever your hand finds to do do it with all your might v. 10

18. Things seen(8)
Ch. 9:11-10:20
Ref. Section Notes Conclusion
9:11-12 The race is not to the swift   Sons of men snared in an evil time v.12
9:13-18 No one remembers a poor wise man   Wisdom is better than war, but  a sinner destroys much good v.18
10:1-20 Error proceeds from a ruler, folly set in dignity v.1 is an introduction to v.5 Curse not the king nor the rich v.20

19. General counsel (4)
Ch. 11:1-12:7
Ref. Section Notes Conclusion
11:1-6 Cast thy bread on many waters Gal.6:9 You don't know what will prosper v.6
11:7-10 Rejoice O young man in thy youth   Childhood and youth are vanity
12:1-7 Remember thy creator in thy youth ( i.e. while you can) This section describes old age and death. The spirit shall return to God v.7

20. Conclusion
Ch. 12:8-14
Ref. Section Notes Conclusion
12:8-11 Vanity of vanities   The words of the wise are goads v.11
12:12-14 Be admonished   Fear God and keep His commandments v.13

Some NT answers

Many of Solomon's conclusions are depressing and pessimistic. But we have to remember that Solomon is speaking of life without God. For the Christian life is not like this at all. And here is a table comparing some of what what Solomon says with  what the NT reveals to those who are born again.

  I Cor.15:19
Eccl.  NT.
1:2 Jms. 4:14
1:9 II Cor.5:17;
1:14 Col.3:1-4
2:22 Mtt.16:26
5:18 I Tim.6:17
6:2 Lk.12:20-21
7:12 Jn.17:3
8:2 Rom.13:1-7
8:17 Rom. 11:33
9:10 Jn.9:4;
11:1 Gal.6:9