This chapter contains some truth and some good advice. But you have to sort them out, just like in Proverbs. For example, v 7 “Talk is cheap, like daydreams and other useless activities. Fear God instead.” We’re back to that again! V 8-11 are astute observations about human nature, and it’s sad that they’re still true, because it means humanity hasn’t learned much in the last couple of millennia. V 14-15, ditto. The advice in v 18-20 seems well-meaning. But I’m a little concerned about the admonition in v 19 to “accept your lot in life”. Yup, religion has always excelled at keeping people in their place.
Verse 1 has been used as a book title by both Agnes de Mille and Agatha Christie. And the monologue about the meaningless of life continues. Look at the fatalism apparent in v 10 “Everything has already been decided. It was known long ago what each person would be. So there’s no use arguing with God about your destiny.” Wow, how depressing – why bother?
The author is obsessed with death, and the first 6 verses of this chapter are miserable. There are some interesting observations in the middle section, about wisdom. But then at the end, v 26-29, there’s a vicious diatribe aimed at women.
The author comes out swinging. V 2-6 tell us to obey, shut up, and stay out of trouble. Another frequent theme. The middle section, v 9-14, ponders the unfairness of life. And the author concludes that we had better enjoy what we can, ’cause you never know (v 15). I think we could have figured that out for ourselves.