Ecclesiastes is the collected words of a “teacher” or “preacher.” The Teacher is described as having been king over Israel in Jerusalem, and as the son of David. Both of these mean that he was in the royal line of Judah. He is not further identified, and while tradition identifies him with Solomon, it is appropriate to leave this cloak of anonymity in place.
The repeated phraseMeaningless! Meaningless! Everything is meaningless! warns us that life’s rewards are uncertain and ultimately unsatisfying. The Teacher pursues this insight in a long discourse that shifts between prose and poetry, and between autobiography and straightforward teaching. The book makes observations and poses questions, returning to themes like the wind— round and round it goes, ever returning on its course.
When the Teacher says What is crooked cannot be straightened, he reminds us that something wrong has intruded into our world. This fits the larger Jewish story told in the rest of the Scriptures. Setting things right again is what this bigger drama is about. The Teacher, however, does not tell us about God’s attempts at straightening the world. He is content to say that God is sovereign over all things and it is our duty to follow his ways for living, since God will bring every deed into judgment.