Outline for the Book of Ecclesiastes

EcclesiastesContrary to popular belief, Ecclesiastes is not a book about despair in the midst of existential meaninglessness. Rather, the Book of Ecclesiastes is a book about profound joy. Not a silly joy. Not a trite joy. Not a shallow joy. Not a superficial joy. But a joy which thinks deeply, and allows God’s people alone to enjoy the vanity which surrounds us on every side.

Ecclesiastes has four basic division. These divisions will helps us understand what the author is trying to accomplish as we study through this book together.

First Division: Ecclesiastes 1:2-2:26 – Satisfaction cannot come from anything within man’s power.

  • Subdivision 1: Ecclesiastes 1:2 – 1:11 – Nature repeats itself again and again and again.
  • Subdivision 2: Ecclesiastes 1:12 – 2:11 – Empty experiences show Solomon that experience is empty.
  • Subdivision 3: Ecclesiastes 2:12 – 2:26 – Wisdom is better than foolishness, but only God knows why.

Conclusion to First Division: God is the one who gives things, and God is the one who gives His people the power to enjoy things.

Second Division: Ecclesiastes 3:1 – 5:20 – God is sovereign over everything. Thus, Solomon answers objections to God being sovereign over everything.

  • Subdivision 1: Ecclesiastes 3:1 – 3:15 – God sovereignly puts everything in its place.
  • Subdivision 2: Ecclesiastes 3:16 – 4:16 – Solomon addresses six objections to God’s sovereignty.
  • Subdivision 3: Ecclesiastes 5:1 – 5:20 – Practical applications and cautions to God’s sovereignty.

Conclusion to Second Division: The basis for our joy is God’s divine sovereignty.

Third Division: Ecclesiastes 6:1 – 8:15 – Solomon applies the doctrine of sovereignty to show that God alone gives enjoyment in the midst of vanity (incomprehensible repetitiveness).

  • Subdivision 1: Ecclesiastes 6:1 – 7:15 – We must evaluate our outward condition properly.
  • Subdivision 2: Ecclesiastes 7:16 – 7:29 – We must evaluate humanity properly.
  • Subdivision 3: Ecclesiastes 8:1 – 8:15 – The sin of powerful men can sometimes block our view.

Conclusion to Third Division: The fact that sinful men wield their power unrighteously gives us occasion to enjoy life with others who have been given God’s gift of wisdom.

Fourth Division: Ecclesiastes 8:16 – 12:14 – Various obstacles to our joy (discouragements) are addressed and removed.

  • Subdivision 1: Ecclesiastes 8:16 – 9:9 – Remaining incongruities must not diminish our joy.
  • Subdivision 2: Ecclesiastes 9:10 – 11:6 – We must work hard and be sensible despite the remaining incongruities.
  • Subdivision 3: Ecclesiastes 11:7 – 12:12 – We must prepare for our journey through old age and into eternity.

Conclusion to Fourth Division: Fear God by keeping His commands for this is the whole duty of man.

*This outline was taken from Douglas Wilson’s Joy at the End of the Tether: The Inscrutable Wisdom of Ecclesiastes. I have made small structural and wording adjustments. However, Doug Wilson’s main content remains intact.


2 Responses to “Outline for the Book of Ecclesiastes”

  1. Super…good job.

  2. […] Outline for the Book of Ecclesiastes (kevinwilkening.wordpress.com) […]

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