My Least Favorite Book of the Bible

I don’t like admitting I have a least favorite book of the Bible. 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 recently as I plowed thro read a portion of Ecclesiastes. Yep, Solomon’s angst-filled, nihilistic, 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, beloved by God, 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 life was all vanity.

Poor guy. First he relied on himself, not God when he made decisions: “I said to myself, “Come now . . . (Ecc 2:1a)

Then he went through a wisdom phase in which he tried to make sense of life from the standpoint of wisdom. He reasoned out what was generally true about the wise and what was generally true about the foolish. The conclusion he came up with? They both die in the end, no matter what.

He also went through a pleasure phase during which he enjoyed all the pleasures a man could want: sex, wine, all the foods that pleased his palate. But again, the end of this phase met with the same nihilistic conclusion: after all the merriment, we die.

His third phase was a work phase: build, and they will come, or something similar. He poured himself into doing, building, acquiring. And as his desire for more and still more faded, he concluded, all this labor is for nothing because when I die, whoever inherits may or may not take care of what I’ve build.

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 that 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. 😕

But I also wish he had seen the joy of the LORD in the legitimate pleasure God give us to enjoy; that he would have offered his work as a sacrifice to God; that he had seen his wisdom as a means by which he could glorify his Creator.

There are hard, important lessons in Ecclesiastes, as there are in all books of the Bible. I just don’t look forward to climbing into the bleak outlook on life that Solomon had when he wrote the book. All the same, I’m not going to stop reading it.

Not everything we eat can be chocolate or cake, and not everything that nourishes our soul can be happily-ever-after. Sometimes it’s good to look at what life is like “under the sun,” without God’s counsel and guidance.

Honestly, it makes me happily run back to a passage like the end of Romans 8—“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Now that’s the kind of passage I’d put on a list of favorites.

A portion of this post is a revised and edited version of one that first appeared here in Mar. 2010.


  1. Well Rebecca, I hadn’t thought of this before, but I suppose if forced to choose, I probably agree with you.

    Maybe for a less direct reason. I spend a fair amount of time teaching scripture to new believers and this book seems to most often be the toughest one to explain.

    Here is the word of almighty God with all this wrong stuff in it from the wisest king who was chosen to build the Lord’s temple. Yes, Solomon son of David.

    One fella not that long ago was REALLY exercised over this and it was no mean feat to get him settled down.

    P.S. I know who has this as her favorite book too 🙂 (or at least one of them)


    • I’m exercised over the same thing, Greg. I am at a lost, in large part, how the wisest man on earth could cut out God and think he’d find meaning and purpose in . . . anything.

      I did a little comparative look at David, Solomon, and Rehoboam, one time, though, and that helped. David had God’s Spirit and trusted God. Solomon had God’s gift and trusted in the gift. Rehoboam had his own counselors and trusted in them. Reminds me how easy it is to go astray when we put our eyes on anything but God.


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  2. Job is my favorite book of all, but Ecclesiastes is a close second. I find it really comforting. It’s all just vanity, our fame, our fortune, our own wisdom, even our theological debates. We people can so easily forget that, we’re all about serving these worldly things and trying to lean into our own understanding.

    9:11 is good, “Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to the skillful; but time and chance happen to them all.”


    • Well, I certainly like the conclusion of the book, and the reminder that all is not right apart from God. I still feel sorry for Solomon, thinking he could find meaning and purpose “under the sun,” only to realize time after time that there was nothing for him, for any of us. I think living life as a nihilist might be the most depressing: to wake up every morning and instead of thinking, The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, to think instead, Vanity, vanity, all is vanity. YIKES! Poor, poor man.



  3. Without God, yes it’s all meaningless “under the sun”
    We find our meaning “under His Son”
    Praise God!
    I tend to like the bleak picture that is painted in Ecclesiastes because it shows how dark and without hope this life truly is without God, it then makes the good news more than just something we visit on Sunday morning or some cliche or self motivation feel good message. It literally is transformative and life giving. Our only hope! Great post! You got me thinking about this book again.

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    • Thanks, Johanna. I have to think you’ve hit on God’s intention for including the book in the canon of Scripture. Same with Judges. What a bleak, sad picture of people who were intended to be a light to the nations. But God transforms those pictures of futility into a snapshot showing us the reason we need a Savior. Thanks for sharing you thoughts.


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  4. Ecclesiastes is a good exercise in dialectic thinking. It examines the futility of human ambition, but here and there, it offers some good statements on ethics (what is truly good). I agree that it’s an uncomfortable read, but I think it’s a necessary one. And, yes, Solomon must have learned much of this the hard way.

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