My Least Favorite Book of the Bible

I don’t like admitting it. I mean, all Scripture is profitable, given for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness, so I feel like I shouldn’t have dis-favorites.

It’s OK, I guess, to have favorites. People have life verses, for instance, and particular passages they turn to in times of great need. But somehow, admitting there’s a book I don’t like very much just seems wrong. But it’s a fact.

What makes this worse is that a good number of people I “met” in my first online writing community, Faith in Fiction, declared this book their favorite. Yikes! I thought, how can this be?

I thought the same thing again this morning as I finished reading Ecclesiastes. Yep, Solomon’s angst-filled existential treatise is my least favorite book.

And why shouldn’t it be? After all, like the violent, anarchic, everyone-did-what-was-right-in-his-own-eyes book of Judges, Ecclesiastes shows life without God in control—until the very end. (With maybe a glimpse or two of Him along the way).

Somehow, Ecclesiastes seems worse to me than Judges. After all, I know Solomon. Of course, some people don’t think he was the writer, and honestly, I’d feel better if I believed that. Then the wrong decisions and fallacious thinking would belong to someone other than David’s son. God’s chosen ruler. His beloved. The wisest man who ever lived.

How, I keep wondering, could a wise man come to some of the conclusions Solomon came up with in Ecclesiastes? Things like, wisdom and foolishness don’t really matter because we all die. Or, there is one fate for the righteous and the wicked. Or, whatever you decide to do, do it with all your might because there’s nothing after you die. (Ironic that the first half of 9:10 is often quoted as a verse to inspire industry when it’s actually the beginning of a statement of existential fatalism).

In the end, I guess I can be glad for Ecclesiastes because it helps me understand how people without God may think. But Solomon? With all his advantages? I mean, he met with God, had an “ask Me for anything” moment, and was rewarded four-fold for answering selflessly.

His destiny was set. His father had been collecting the materials he would need for his life’s work—building God’s temple. Solomon didn’t ever have to figure out what his purpose was. In addition, he had admirers, success, influence, wealth.

And from it all, he concluded it was all vanity.

Yikes! I really don’t like Ecclesiastes. I want to shake Solomon and say, Don’t you realize you’re studying life without factoring God into the equation? He changes everything!

And of course, Solomon came to that realization in the end:

The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.

– Ecc 12:13-14

Well, I suppose this statement puts Solomon ahead of a good number of professing Christians today who deny that God will in fact bring every act to judgment. I just wish it hadn’t taken him twelve chapters (thankfully, short ones) to get there. 😕

12 Comments

  1. Heh, when I first started reading, I thought you were going to say Leviticus. I find that book difficult to get through because of the dryness of all that text on the laws.

    Somehow, it seems like you’ve totally reversed the point of Ecclesiastes. Solomon is keenly aware that he was studying life without God. That’s what the phrase “under the sun”, repeated over and over throughout the book, means. When man factors out God, all that he does in his life is vanity. Man has the same chance to suffer or prosper on this earth, whether he is wicked or righteous. Solomon, with his God-given wisdom, spends Ecclesiastes proving this point. It is only when God is added into the equation, and man seeks to keep His commandments, that there is any fulfillment in this life.

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  2. There’s another thing to remember about Solomon – that was the name his parents gave him, but Nathan prophetically called him: ‘Jedidiah’ – beloved of God.

    I think it’s a very reassuring book. It always seems to me to have been written by someone who started out as incredibly idealistic, lost faith completely but, by some mysterious grace, was able to admit at the end of his life that God was the only true fulfilment of life.

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  3. What a great exercise, Cuz! It’s easy to profess our support and attachment to the Biblical in general, but perhaps more spiritually illuminating to confront areas where that support and attachment is weaker or all together absent.

    I blow warm and cold on Job. Love the thundering voice of God “Where were you when…” but can’t help feeling like Job got a raw deal.

    For me I get more tripped up in Revelations than any other book Old or New Testament. As a chapter in a Sci-Fi thriller, I could accept it, even if it would not particularly be to my tastes. As part of Gospel (generally construed, not just the first four books of new Testament), coooome onnn…. But that’s my terrestial opinion. My spiritual opinion? Mostly bafflement, not a result I’m usually looking for in my biblical wonderings…

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  4. Interesting article. I disagree, however, I think.

    Ecclesiastes is very powerful. It seems to me that Solomon examines our ability to choose to live just for the sake of living, or live to enjoy the life we have. His admittal that everything is vanity reminds us that this life is only a passing shadow (chap. 6:12). We can be great in this world but it won’t matter in the next. This book is one of my favorites (sorry Becky) it deals with the everyday choices of man. God gave us a will to freely choose of everything and Ecclesiastes examines all the choices we can make and concludes, accurately, that they all lead to death one route or another. In some ways Ecclesiastes is a humbling book, reminding us that everything we do is vain. Ultimately God’s work is what really counts.
    Chapter 5 verse 16 is powerful: “…what profit hath he that hath labored for the wind?” Ah, and it is beautifully poetic.

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  5. I too failed to truly understand the point of Ecclesiastes, until, while reading a secular science “indoctrination” book, I realized the Solomon actually wrote the book as a warning not to waste your life.

    Solomon realized unless one truly serves God, happiness and fulfillment are not achievable, a direct contradiction to what society has always told us.

    This of it as the OT version of “Don’t Waste Your Life” or “Do Hard Things.”

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  6. Byron! Thanks for stopping by and giving your feedback, dear Cousin. Great to read your thoughts.

    I struggled for years with just understanding Job. Had a break through about a year ago and blogged on what I learned. Maybe the same will happen some day with Ecclesiastes. 😕

    Becky

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  7. Kameron, Leviticus was on my “disfavorites” list for quite a while. I’m not sure when it came off. I actually get caught up in some of the genealogy passages, and I like the laws because of the contrast with the grace available through Christ. I also like the obvious theme of holiness and God’s high standard and the reminders and metaphors about sin.

    Leviticus isn’t a book I look forward to yet, but I’m not sorry when it is time to work my way through it. Maybe that means there’s hope for me with Ecclesiastes, too. 😉

    Becky

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  8. Anne, Scott, Neil, what can I say? You all are just like those friends at FIF years ago, all saying how much they loved Ecclesiastes.

    It is God’s word, so I won’t stop reading it, and I’m glad others find encouragement and hope. But me? I still feel very sad while I read it and think how horrible that Solomon had such a position of influence that he squandered. If he’d only applied his wisdom! But disobedience demands a heavy price, and I guess that’s ultimately the truth that comes through clearest to me in Ecclesiastes. It’s an important truth, but sad.

    Anyway, thinks for your feedback. Interesting to read others’ thoughts.

    Becky

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  9. But Solomon wrote this after his wisdom strayed and he disobeyed God. It also shows us that the world cannot satisfy the soul. Solomon had riches, wives and power but he wrote all is vanity, not exactly a cherry, merry statement.Toward the end of his life He missed God and all the things of the world could not make up for that. He retained enough wisdom to say you should follow the Lord. In the latter part of his life he didn’t and the result was a rather sad book and testimony,

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  10. I just have to comment on what Byron said, especially the part about where God appears and asks, “Where were you…?”

    That is just the most awesome and fantastic ending in all literature as far as I’m concerned. How can anyone top that? God appears! He rocks up in a whirlwind and gives Job some one-on-one personal attention while others are looking. He’s got a few questions but they are really profound ones. My heart starts singing when I read the ending of Job. I am assured from the moment God turns up that the fairytale ending “happily ever after” is meant to be true in this life, not just in heaven.

    Annie

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  11. […] couple years ago I dubbed the book of Ecclesiastes as my least favorite book of the Bible, but I think I’m going to revise that. I no longer care for the Song of Solomon. Not that God […]

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  12. […] of Israel, son of David. I’ve complained about his life style and even declared his book of Ecclesiastes my least favorite book of the Bible . . . until his book of Song of Solomon edged it out this […]

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