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Relationship to Old Testament. The relationship of Ecclesiastes to the Old Testament as a whole is discussed at Old Testament: Organization.
Message. Ecclesiastes is known as wisdom literature. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Ecclesiastes include:
This heading should be brief and explain facts about the historical setting that will help a reader to understand the book. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →
A broader treatment of the history of ancient Israel, including Ecclesiastes, is found at Old Testament: Historical Overview.
This heading is for more detailed discussions of all or part of a passage. Discussion may include the meaning of a particular word, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout the passage, insights to be developed in the future, and other items. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →
- Eccl 1:2, etc.: Vanity. "Vanity" is a key word in Ecclesiastes. The Hebrew word here is hebel. The literal and probably original meaning of the word was "breath" or "wind." The image it conveys it conveys is that of a person's breath on a cold day — certainly visible, but also transitory and with little lasting substance. It eventually came to be used in a figurative manner. Modern translators have variously interpreted hebel in this verse as "foolishness," "fleetingness," "emptiness," "meaninglessness," "vapor," "mist," "futility" and "pointlessness." The word chosen for English translation in the King James Version, "vanity," has changed in its primary meaning over time. The 1828 Webster's Dictionary gives its meaning as "emptiness; want of substance to satisfy desire; uncertainty; inanity," and that is what is meant here in verse 2. (This meaning of the root word survives today in the phrase "in vain.")
Complete outline and page map
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Points to ponder
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I have a question
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- Eccl 9:5. What should we make of the statement "the dead know not any thing"?
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- Amplified • The Amplified Bible, 1987 update
- NASB • New American Standard Bible, 1995 update
- NIV • New International Version
- RSV • Revised Standard Version
Joseph Smith Translation
The Joseph Smith Translation made no changes to the book of Ecclesiastes.
- Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "Proverbs & Ecclesiastes: Wisdom Is the Principal Thing; Therefore Get Wisdom." In Old Testament: First Kings to Malachi (Institute Manual), vol. 2, third ed. (PDF version), ch. 2, p. 13-21. Salt Lake City, Utah: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2003.
- For a poetic attempt to think about the reference to the four elements in 1:4-7, see User: Joe Spencer/hineni shalachni.
Footnotes are not required but are encouraged for factual assertions that average readers cannot easily evaluate for themselves, such as the date of King Solomon’s death or the nuanced definition of a Greek word. In contrast, insights rarely benefit from footnoting, and the focus of this page should always remain on the scriptures themselves rather than what someone has said about them. Links are actively encouraged on all sections of this page, and links to authoritative sources are preferable to footnotes.
- Wayment, The Complete Joseph Smith Translation of the Old Testament, p. 175-76.
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