Technically speaking, we do not know who wrote Ecclesiastes. The name we are given is “Qoheleth” (the title of the book in Hebrew), which is not a proper name but a title or role. Although the book has been attributed to Solomon since antiquity, he does not explicitly identify himself as he does in the other two books that explicitly name him as the author. Modern critical scholarship even speculates that “Qoheleth” may be a fictional construct, an artificial voice narrating the life of a king to provide commentary about the dangers of living a futile life without God1.
There are plenty of good reasons to think that the author is Solomon, however. We know Solomon was a prolific writer and collector of wise sayings. We know that Solomon abused his God-given wisdom and lived in sin and idolatry, which harmonizes quite well with the book’s subject matter. The first verse identifies Qoheleth as being “the son of David, king in Jerusalem”, and later Qoheleth claims to “have been king over Israel in Jerusalem” – while David had many sons, Solomon was the only king to rule over Israel in Jerusalem, as after Solomon the kingdom became divided2. All of these facts, combined with the historical witness of the church catholic, create a solid case for Solomon being the author of Ecclesiastes, and I will use Solomon/Qoheleth interchangeably for each other throughout this series.
Aside from good historical/textual reasons to affirm Solomon as the author, there are good theological reasons to do so as well. Solomon was a real king who lived in the 10th century BC, and the record of his accomplishments and possessions is indisputable. There is nothing that the world offered that Solomon lacked, and yet at the end of his life Solomon’s own estimation of his accomplishments and possessions – including his wisdom – was that there is no lasting satisfaction to be had in any of it. There is nobody more qualified to write a book about the dangers of turning from God to the world to find fullness than Solomon, and if Solomon could not find satisfaction in his abundant sin or success, why do we repeat his mistakes and expect to find what he couldn’t?
1: Ryken, Philip Graham. Ecclesiastes: Why Everything Matters. Preaching the Word. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2010.