All is Vanity
Ecclesiastes is full of refrains, repeated words and phrases. The Hebrew word hebel, often translated as “vanity” or “meaningless”, appears 38 times in Ecclesiastes. Solomon uses this word to describe the human experience.
The Hebrew word hebel literally means breath, vapor or mist. It is used in two manners throughout this book.
- Brevity – For example Ecclesiastes 6:12 or 11:10. Most frequently related to the transitory nature of life.
- Incomprehensibility – Hebel also describes things that are difficult to understand. See Ecclesiastes 2:26.
Ecclesiastes 1 Outline
Poem of weariness
Wisdom does not satisfy
Chasing After Wind
This refrain is related to the vanity refrain. The poem of weariness in Ecclesiastes 1:4-11 sets out to prove that life is full of “everlasting sameness.” One who chases the wind is engaged in a futile act. Many aspects of life are futile.
Under the Sun
This phrase first appears in Ecclesiastes 1:3. Contrary to common belief, this phrase does not describe life without God. It describes the earthly experience of this life. The living have a share in this life. See Ecclesiastes 9:5-6
Ecclesiastes is a book of both wisdom and poetry. Unlike English poetry that usually rhymes, Hebrew poetry often employs a device called “parallelism.” Parallel sentences repeat one thought, and are symmetrically constructed.
An example of “Antithetic Parallelism” is in Proverbs 10:1.
"A wise son gladdens his father,
But a foolish son grieves his mother."
Other types of Hebrew parallelism include synonymous, constructive, introverted, climactic, and rhythmical.