“The words of the Qoholet (Preacher), the son of David, king in Jerusalem.” Ecclesiastes 1:1
“In short, both the tenor of the book and the language in which it is written render IMPOSSIBLE the indentification(of Ecclesiastes) with Solomon or any Hebrew. (Word Biblical Commentary, Ecclesiastes, p. xxi, by Roland E. Murhpy).
The quote from the scripture above and from the commentary are in conflict with one another. This highlightS the difficult question of who actually authored the book of Ecclesiastes. This book of the Old Testament has always faced much criticism, rejection or has just been ignored. For those of us who believe that every word of the Bible is God’s Word we must take every page with the gravity it deserves.
So, did Solomon write the book of Ecclesiastes? What are the arguments for and against? Does it matter?
First, the identity of the author does NOT change the message of the book. Knowing whether it was Solomon or not does not impact the message of the book of Ecclesiastes. The message is clear; without God life makes no sense.
That being said, I do think that it makes a bit of difference who the author is. I believe that it is Solomon and think there is ample evidence to draw that conclusion.
Arguments Against Solomonic Authorship
The denial of Solomonic authorship is actually relative knew on the Biblical studies landscape. Much of the Bible and it’s authorship was thrown into question with the advent of the Higher Criticism movement that began in the late 18th and early 19th century. The couple of thousands of years before that, the book of Ecclesiastes was almost universally attributed to Solomon. Roland Murphy acknowledges that truth, “David’s son, in the superscription is the basis for the long standing tradition of the book’s Solomonic authorship.” (ibid) The main problem with Higher Criticism are the presuppositions carried into the research. It begins with a presupposition that the Bible is not the Word of God, that it is not authoritative, that it is not the truth of God. I, obviously, begin with the opposite starting point.
Most of the rejection of Solomon’s authorship of Ecclesiastes is based off of the type of language used in Ecclesiastes. This is a complicated issue. The Hebrew and Aramaisms found in the book are difficult to find correlations that match a certain time period that would be associated with the timeline of Solomon. I admit, that one would need a Phd in Hebrew and Aramaic to be able to dive in to the issues of language found in this ancient book. I do not have that Phd. But, scholars who do, have come down on both sides of the debate. I think Walt Kaiser’s investigation bears a longer quote:
Furthermore, many of he 29 alleged Aramaism are actually of Canaanite-Phoenecian vintage, according to Mitchell Dahood. In fact, it is almost impossible to avoid the conviction that Ecclesiastes is of such a unique and special genre that it currently fits into no known period of the history of the Hebrew language. Archer and Dahood both repEat Jastrow’s and Margoliouth’s judgment that it is impossible to explain the peculiarities of Qoholeth’s grammar, syntax, and orthography on the basis that it is late Mishnaic Hebrew or late Aramaic.
But, if the internal evidence, with its similarities to the phrases, style of life, and experience of the Davidic King Solomon depicted in 1 Kings 1-11, and the external linguistic evidence argue for orthography, lexicography, and even syntax that reaches back into the 10th century BC, THERE IS NO REASON WHY WE SHOULD NOT CONCLUDE THAT THE WRITE AND SPEAKER WAS SOLOMN, SON OF KING DAVID. (emphasis mine)
End Quote (Walt Kaiser, Ecclesiastes: Total Life, p. 28-29)
The best starting place for authorship is the text itself. Similar to NFL review, I think there needs to be “indisputable” evidence to overturn the witness of the text itself. The internal evidence in Ecclesiastes is strong for Solomon.
If one were to simply, without prejudice, read verse 1 the author that immediately jumps to mind is Solomon. The verse says that this Preacher is the son of David and the king in Jerusalem. Look at verses 12-13. There is another reference to being King in Jerusalem. Now, the ESV reads, “He WAS king in Jerusalem.” The English seems to indicate a past tense. That this author was, or used to be a king, but no longer is the king. That doesn’t fit with the record of Solomon’s life. The problem is that “WAS” is in the perfect tense. That is not the equivalent of our English past tense. The perfect indicates a past occurrence with ongoing present results. He was and is king in Jersulam as he is writing this book.
Ecclesiastes also tells us that this king in Jerusalem applied his heart to search out wisdom. What was Solomon known for? His wisdom. In fact, turn to 1 Kings 3:10-14 and see how that matches up. The author of Ecclesiastes also mentions other things about his life. The author had much wisdom and wealth, he applied himself to work, he had honor and power, he gave proverbs of wisdom and foolishness. All of those fit perfectly with what the Bible tells us about Solomon.
Does This Make a Difference
As a young adult Solomon wrote Song of Songs. That book is a book of passion, faithfulness, and love between a man and woman. It details their heart to remain faithful to the Lord. In the middle of his life Solomon wrote the book of Proverbs. This would happen after God gave Solomon more wisdom than anyone else. That book not only gives insight in how to live, but it details that the greatest wisdom is in knowing God. The book of 1 Kings details most of Solomon’s life. In those details we learn that Solomon was the king of Jerusalem during the glory years of the Israelite empire. It was a glorious time for Solomon and Israel. There was immense wealth and prosperity. And 1 Kings also details the fall of Solomon. With much wealth and prosperity comes much temptation. And Solomon gave in. It was a ruinous downfall to his life. But, that was not the last chapter of Solomon’s life.
Like the repentant Manassah, I believe Solomon came back around. I believe that the book of Ecclesiastes is the final message of a man who has been to the mountain top, and then fell down to the bottom of the valley. Ecclesiastes is Solomon’s regretful retrospective on his life. His message is, “I’ve done it all. I’ve tried it all. I had all the glory, all the blessing. I have also blown it big time. I have tasted the life of sin and chased the after the pleasures and sin this life offers. I’ve been up, I’ve been down. Here is what I discovered. Learn from my mistake. Here is the conclusion of the matter.”
"The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil."