American novelist Thomas Wolfe wrote: "[O]f all I have ever seen or learned, that book seems to me the noblest, the wisest, and the most powerful expression of man's life upon this earth—and also the highest flower of poetry, eloquence, and truth.
I am not given to dogmatic judgments in the matter of literary creation, but if I had to make one I could say that Ecclesiastes is the greatest single piece of writing I have ever known, and the wisdom expressed in it the most lasting and profound." Ecclesiastes is presented as an autobiography of "Kohelet" (or "Qoheleth").
His journey to knowledge is, in the end, incomplete.
In light of this, Kohelet advocates enjoying our short and meaningless lives while (and if) we still can: eating, drinking, having marital sex, doing one's work well.The frame narrator returns with an epilogue: the words of the wise are hard, but they are applied as the shepherd applies goads and pricks to his flock.The original ending of the book was probably the words: "The end of the matter" () but the text we have continues: "Fear God" (a phrase used often in Kohelet's speech) "and keep his commandments" (which he never uses), "for God will bring every deed to judgement." The book takes its name from the Greek ekklesiastes, a translation of the title by which the central figure refers to himself: Kohelet, meaning something like "one who convenes or addresses an assembly".The presence of Ecclesiastes in the Bible is something of a puzzle, as the common themes of the Hebrew canon—a God who reveals and redeems, who elects and cares for a chosen people—are absent from it, which gives it tone that Kohelet had lost his faith in his old age.The problem to understand the book has been there from the earliest recorded discussions (the hypothetical Council of Jamnia in the 1st century CE).Kohelet's story is framed by voice of the narrator, who refers to Kohelet in the third person, praises his wisdom, but reminds the reader that wisdom has its limitations and is not man's main concern.