People often read the book of Ecclesiastes and wonder if this book actually belongs in the Bible. How could God write a book with such a pessimistic and dark outlook on the world? Although God is mentioned plenty of times in the book, he is seldom the central subject, often orbiting around Solomon’s writing on wisdom, work, and life under the sun and often pointed to being the source of Solomon’s problems. Where is God in Ecclesiastes?
It is important, when reading Scripture, to never lose sight of the author of Scripture in the background of the text. The eternal God who breathed out Scripture’s words is present within the events and themes of the text themselves, and Ecclesiastes is no exception. Just like in the book of Esther, where God is mentioned exactly zero times and yet whose providential control is undeniably evident, God is always and everywhere present in Ecclesiastes as well.
When we reflect on the character and attributes of God – his infinite being and perfection, a pure and invisible spirit, without body, parts, and passions, his unchangingness, his eternality, and all the life, glory, goodness, and blessedness self-sufficiently in and of himself (just to name a few!) – we can read the book of Ecclesiastes with a set of contrasting perspectives. Everything under the sun is vapor; the eternal God is not. Everything under the sun breaks down and turns to dust; God, who is not made of parts, cannot break down. Everything under the sun is changing and unstable; God is unchanging, the one true solid rock everything is built on. The goodness and life we find under the sun is imperfect and incomplete; God is goodness and life itself, and does not derive this from anything outside himself. This isn’t even the tip of the iceberg of all that could be said here!
When kept in the forefront of Ecclesiastes, it becomes clear that the entire book is about the goodness of the eternal God and all things in relation to him. Under the sun, we search for God in the created world, not realizing the insatisfaction of this brief life is meant to point us to the eternal One who created us to find our eternal rest and satisfaction in worshipping him.