Top 5 Commentaries on the Book of Ecclesiastes
Vanity of vanities! All is vanity. So begins the book of Ecclesiastes, one of the more difficult books of Scripture to interpret and apply. The book deals with questions of despair, suffering, and folly — in other words, life in a fallen world. Ecclesiastes teaches us that life without God leads ultimately to futility. There are a number of helpful commentaries on this epistle, and the following are five of the best.
1. Derek Kidner — The Message of Ecclesiastes (The Bible Speaks Today, 1984).
Derek Kidner’s commentaries are always helpful, and since one of his areas of expertise is Old Testament Wisdom Literature, his commentary on Ecclesiastes is one of his best. It is a popular level work, accessible to any reader, yet it still contains profound insight and application. Highly recommended.
2. Michael A. Eaton — Ecclesiastes (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, 1983).
Like all of the commentaries in the Tyndale series, Eaton’s work is clear and concise. Eaton views Ecclesiastes as an apologetic essay. It defends the life of faith in God by detailing how terrible the alternative is. Life without God, according to Ecclesiastes, is futile. With all of the different approaches to interpreting Ecclesiastes, I find Eaton’s particularly helpful.
3. Iain Provan — Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs (NIV Application Commentary, 2001).
With a book like Ecclesiastes, it is sometimes difficult to know how it should be applied. The very format of the NIVAC series demands reflection on application. Provan offers helpful insight into the meaning of the book and its relevance today. This work will prove especially helpful to preachers.
4. David A. Hubbard — Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon (The Preacher’s Commentary, 2002).
Another commentary that should be consulted by preachers is the contribution to The Preacher’s Commentary series by David Hubbard. Between Hubbard and Provan, preachers should be able to help their people understand more clearly this difficult portion of God’s inerrant Word.
5. Tremper Longman — The Book of Ecclesiastes (The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, 1997).
Longman’s approach to Ecclesiastes differs from that of Eaton somewhat. Like many, Longman argues that the monologue by Qohelet (the main speaker in the book) is framed by the words of a narrator. According to Longman, however, Qohelet is a skeptic with no hope. Longman argues that the narrator uses Qohelet’s monologue to teach his son about the dangers of such skepticism. The positive teaching of the book, then, is found in the words of the narrator. Not all will agree with his interpretation, but it is worth examining.
Runners Up: There are a number of other helpful commentaries on the book of Ecclesiastes. The commentary by Charles Bridges is a classic. A new major commentary by Craig Bartholomew is forthcoming and should be worth consulting.
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