Superscription. Like many Psalms, the book begins with an editorial comment; it alludes to Solomon. Teacher: Hebrew Qoheleth; a form of “qhl” (“assembly”), its meaning is not clear.
The book's theme.
Vanity: In Hebrew “hevel,” meaning “vapor, wind,” things transient and impermanent. Vanity of vanities is Hebrew superlative: “the most insubstantial thing.”
The dominant question. Is there any benefit from life? The reader is introduced to vocabulary that will be repeated throughout the book: Under the sun refers to wearisome earthly existence, and toil bears a negative connotation.
Nothing ever changes. The Teacher laments the inability of human activity to alter the flow of the existence. The sun, wind, and streams repeat their predictable, “no sum” circuits, just as humans are never satisfied with what they see or hear.
Throughout the book, the Teacher grieves that even righteous ones are not remembered after death.
The Teacher's experiment. Though any king of the southern kingdom would fit this description, Solomon is likely implied.
Mind: In Hebrew, “heart,” the seat of thinking. Wisdom refers to practical, as well as speculative, knowledge. The Teacher begins an empirical investigation into what is useful
Chasing after wind: Literally, “shepherding the wind,” a futile exertion of energy. This phrase will be repeated eight more times in Ecclesiastes.
Given the proverbial ring of the statement, some suggest that the Teacher is quoting a well-known saying.
Wisdom, madness, folly: The list of items from one extreme to the other suggests the complete range of experience.
A second proverbial statement, likely original to the Teacher.
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