Shining a light on the weekly Bible Lessons published in the Christian Science Quarterly®


What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun? One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever. . . . All things are full of labour; man cannot utter it: the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing. The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. . . . I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit.

Understood to be a teacher or preacher of wisdom, the writer of Ecclesiastes attempts to make sense of everything that happens “under the sun” (a phrase that appears over two dozen times in the book). “Like all of wisdom literature, both courtly and popular,” a commentator remarks, “the focus is on human nature, and the goal is to guide human beings into the path of successful living.” 

The author’s outlook for humanity, however, is bleak. And few mentions of God occur in Ecclesiastes, at least in proportion to the overarching theme of the futility of human endeavor. (Notable exceptions include 2:263:14, 157:29.) Yet he concludes his work with the counsel “Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man” (12:13, citation 12).

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Resources quoted in this issue

RR: Keck, Leander E., et al., eds. The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary. Vol. 3, Introduction to Hebrew Poetry, Job, Psalms, Introduction to Wisdom Literature, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs. Nashville: Abingdon, 2015; Alter, Robert. The Hebrew Bible, Vol. 3, The Writings: A Translation with Commentary. New York and London. W.W. Norton & Company, 2019; Perowne, John J.S., Alexander F. Kirkpatrick, Frederic H. Chase, Reginald St. John Parry, and Alexander Nairne, eds. The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges. 58 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1882–1922. Also available at

Cit. 2: Buttrick, George Arthur, Nolan B. Harmon, et al., eds. The Interpreter’s Bible: A Commentary in Twelve Volumes. Vol. 5, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Isaiah, Jeremiah. Nashville: Abingdon, 1951–57.

Cit. 9: Keck, Leander E., et al., eds. The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary. Vol. 8, Luke, John. Nashville: Abingdon, 2015.

Cit. 12: Poole, Matthew. Annotations upon the Holy Bible. 3 vols. London, 1685. Reprint, New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1853. Also available at

Letters & Conversations
March 28, 2022

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