Ecclesiastes 1:1-18

Talks for Growing Christians

Futility of Life Under the Sun

Ecclesiastes 1:1-18

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Lesson Number 1

Background Notes

Doctrinal Point(s)

  1. Under the sun, the cycles of life lead to futility.
  2. Under the sun, human wisdom and knowledge lead to futility.

Practical Application

  1. Set your mind on things above the sun!


  1. Who wrote the book of Ecclesiastes? When was it written?
  2. Why is this book given the name Ecclesiastes?
  3. What phrase is the key to understanding the contents of this book of Scripture? What is the meaning of this phrase?
  4. How does the author of Ecclesiastes describe the cycles of life (vs 4-11)? What is his conclusion regarding these cycles?
  5. What does the author recognize as the one source of the real meaning of life (vs 13-18)?


  1. We believe King Solomon wrote the book of Ecclesiastes. Verse 1 says that the writer was the son of David, king of Jerusalem. We believe that he wrote this book of Scripture near the end of his life after he had come back to the Lord (mid-10th century B.C.). References to Solomon’s unrivaled wisdom (v 1:16), wealth (2:7) and extensive building activities (2:4-6) as well as Jewish and Christian tradition all point to Solomon as the author.
  2. The title of this book follows the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, and comes from the word in verse 1, preacher or teacher or assembler, that is, one who speaks to assemblies of people. The closeness of Ecclesiastes to the Greek word “ecclesia”, the word for assembly or church, is recognizable.
  3. The key to understanding this book of Scripture is the phrase “under the sun.” This is a figure of speech that is used 29 times in the book and means, from the human perspective, not taking God into account, who is “above the sun.” By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Solomon had it right. Under the sun, without divine revelation, there is no meaning to life. All is vanity, futile and meaningless.
  4. Solomon describes the cycles of life in terms of the passing of generations (v 4), the rising and setting of the sun each day (v 5), the seasonal cycles of the wind (v 6), and the water and water-vapor cycles of the atmosphere replenishing the rivers and seas (v7). Solomon sees these cycles as endless and meaningless, with “nothing new” coming from them (v 10), even a lack of remembering and learning from the cycles and certainly no progress in them (v 11).
  5. Solomon realized that even with all his human wisdom and knowledge, he could not figure out the real meaning of life. He recognized that apart from divine revelation, the search for the meaning of life leads to a lifelong struggle of futility (v 14), madness and folly (v 17).


  1. As believers we constantly face the demands and temptations of this world. Discuss the means that you have to withstand those pressures so that you might keep your priorities set on serving Christ and being a witness for Him in all you do. Consider specific Bible verses that give practical guidance in this area.


  1. Are your thoughts, activities and priorities of life focused on the things of this world? Are you expending lots of effort and energy and not seeing any positive results? Take seriously the biblical guidance from Colossians 3:1, 2 and 17. “. . . seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on the earth. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”

Key Verses

  • “What profit has a man from all his labor in which he toils under the sun? Ecclesiastes 1:3
  • "Is there anything of which it may be said, ‘See, this is new’?" It has already been in ancient times before us. Ecclesiastes 1:10
  • I have seen all the works that are done under the sun and indeed, all is vanity and grasping for the wind. Ecclesiastes 1:14

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