Ecclesiastes – Outline

Thesis: How to enjoy life within God-given perimeters and God-given guidelines.


Without God everything one does is meaningless (1:1-3)

I. How to enjoy life within God-given perimeters (1:4-6:12)

     A. How to enjoy life despite tedium and insignificance (1:4-2:26)

          1. Quest for significance by doing something different (1:4-11)

               1.1 Observation: We can’t do anything different (1:4-10)

               1.2 Conclusion: Therefore, we will not be remembered (1:11)

          2. Quest for significance through wisdom (1:12-18)

               2.1 Observation: Wisdom discerns reality (1:12-17)

               2.2 Conclusion: Discerning reality only brings more sorrow (1:18)

          3. Quest for significance through hedonism (2:1-11)

               3.1 Observation: The preacher had all his desires (2:1-10)

               3.2 Conclusion: Getting all brings no satisfaction (2:11)

          4. Quest for meaning through a forage into folly (2:12-16)

               4.1 Observation: Wisdom is better than folly (2:12-15)

               4.2 Conclusion: Both end in oblivion (2:16)

          5. Summary statement on the reality of life (2:13-23)

          6. The Teacher commends God so that life is not meaningless (2:24-3:15)

               6.1 Basic pleasures and duties bring joy when it is from the Lord (2:24-25)

               6.2 The one who lives his life to please God finds wisdom and happiness but the one who lives his life without God gains nothing (2:26)

               6.3 Right relationship with God

                      6.3.1 God is in sovereign control (3:1-15)

                      6.3.2 God has assigned a lot to man (3:9-10)

                      6.3.3 God has a sovereign plan (3:11a)

               6.4 God-given perimeters (3:11b-15)

                      6.4.1 Man has a mere glimpse of eternity (3:11b)

                      6.4.2 Life is to be enjoyed in the context of God-given perimeters (3:12-15)

     B. How to enjoy life despite trouble all around us

          1. Observation on injustice (3:16-22)

               1.1 The Preacher observes the lack of justice (3:16)

               1.2 The Preacher observes that God will execute justice (3:17)

               1.3 The Preacher observes that death tests our faith in God (3:18-21)

               1.4 The Preacher observes that God wants us to enjoy this life (3:22)

          2. Observation on oppression (4:1-6)

               2.1 The Preacher observes that there is oppression (4:1-3)

               2.2 The Preacher observes the envy and emptiness of the oppressor (4:4)

               2.3 The Teacher observes the reaction of the foolish oppressed (4:5)

2.4 The Teacher observes the reaction of the wise oppressed (4:6)

          3. Observation on ambition (4:7-16)

               3.1 The Preacher observes the lonely man driven by aimless ambition (4:7-8)

               3.2 The Preacher observes that one can find comfort in another (4:9-12)

               3.3 The Preacher observes political advancement is useless (4:13-16)

          4. The Teacher commends God so that we can make sense of turmoil around us. (5:1-7)

     C. How to enjoy life though life produces many ironies (5:8-6:12)

          1. The first cycle of ironies (5:8-17)

               1.1 The irony of gaining wealth to give away (5:8-11)

               1.2 The irony of gaining wealth to lose sleep (5:12)

               1.3 The irony of gaining wealth to be impoverished by his own son (5:13-17)

               1.4 The recommendation to enjoy our lot in life (5:18-20)

          2. The second cycle of ironies

               2.1 The irony of gaining wealth but not being able to eat (6:1-2)

               2.2 The irony of gaining posterity but not remembered (6:3-6)

               2.3 The irony of wise men and fools subject to the same appetite (6:7-9)

               2.4 The irony that the strong has no power (6:10-12)

II. How to enjoy life according to God-given guidelines (7:1-8:17)

     A. How to enjoy life by living wisely-first cycle (7:1-14)

          1. Exhortations to wisdom

               1.1 Contemplations during funerals (7:1-6)

               1.2 Ideals that govern our lives (7:7-14)

               1.3 Keep our moral bearings (7:7)

               1.4 Avoid temporal success (7:8)

               1.5 Control anger (7:9)

               1.6 Avoid foolish comparisons (7:10)

               1.7 Advantage of wisdom (7:11-12)

               1.8 Accept God’s plans (7:13-14)

          2. Wisdom in the face of realities (7:15-22)

               2.1 The reality of the wicked prospering (7:15)

               2.2 The reality of extremes (7:16-18)

               2.3 The reality that wisdom is power (7:19)

               2.4 The reality that we all sin (7:20-22)

               2.5 The reality that ignorance is not always bad (7:21-22)

          3. Discourse on wisdom and folly (7:23-8:1)

               3.1 The need to understand folly in the search for wisdom (7:23-25)

               3.2 He discovers the folly of the man who falls prey (7:26)

               3.3 He discovers the limitations of inductive knowledge (7:27-28a)

               3.4 He discovers the scarcity of wisdom (7:28b)

               3.5 He discovers the perversion of uprightness (7:29-8:1)

          4. Wise conduct under a despotic king (8:2-9)

          5. Wise conduct when spiritual principles seem irreconcilable (8:10-14)

          6. The Teacher commends the enjoyment of life (8:15-9:12)

     B. How to enjoy life by living wisely-second cycle (9:13-12:8)

          1. Wisdom works but the wise may not be remembered (9:13-16)

          2. Wisdom works but folly destroys (9:17-10:3)

          3. Wisdom in the face of foolish leadership (10:4-7)

          4. Wisdom during work (10:8-11)

          5. Wisdom about words (10:12-14)

          6. Wisdom about work and revelry (10:15-19)

          7. Wisdom with regard to the government (10:20)

          8. Wisdom on work and investments (11:1-6)

          9. Wisdom on how to spend one’s youth (11:7-12:8)

III. Conclusion (12:9-14)

     A. Wisdom in what to imbibe (12:9-12)

     B. Summary statement (12:13-14)

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