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Focus on the Bible – Ecclesiastes

By William Barrick
August 2012 | Review by Roger March


What is the purpose of life? The preacher in Ecclesiastes, just like many today, is in search of life's meaning. But as they look through their limited worldview all they find is "vanity, vanity". Pure emptiness! They are in search for something which will have eternal value. To find it, we need to look beyond ourselves. This is what the preacher discovers; that man is powerless, yet God has a design and purpose for all things. He is the giver of all life. Ecclesiastes gives teaching on doctrines such as man, salvation and future judgment.

  • Publisher: Christian Focus
  • ISBN: 978-1-84450-776-3
  • Pages: 240
  • Price: 9.99
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Book Review


The Philippians of the Old Testament

William D. Barrick

Christian Focus 240 pages


ISBN 978-1-84550-776-3


Surveying my bookshelves I notice that I possess more commentaries on Ecclesiastes than any other book of the Bible. Does this indicate that I have found this part of Scripture the most difficult to understand? Does it show dissatisfaction with some of commentaries that I have read? Should I purchase this new publication from Christian Focus? Its author is William Barrick and he is Professor of Old Testament at the Master’s Seminary, Sun Valley, California.


This is no ‘bite-size’ taster but a substantial meal on the full text of Ecclesiastes. After a nineteen page introduction the main body of the commentary is divided into twelve chapters, each with review questions. There is a brief but helpful epilogue, followed by a bibliography, a subject index and a Scripture index.


The views of other commentators (including Derek Kidner, Walter Kaiser, Charles Swindoll and Michael Eaton) are helpfully presented and discussed but Barrick steers his own course. He argues strongly that Solomon is the author and that the book was written out of his own experience of terrible backsliding from the Lord and subsequent restoration. Solomon wants to instruct others that they might avoid the traps that once ensnared him. As the subtitle of the commentary suggests, the author rejects the idea that Solomon presents only a pessimistic world view. Rather, there is a clear presentation of the doctrine of God and the holding out of the possibility of a purposeful and happy life in a right relationship to that God. Vanity may be a key word in Ecclesiastes but it is not the most frequently used word, nor the conclusion. The basic message may be summarised: ‘Live without reserve, die without regret’.


Barrick takes time to deal with the meaning of the word ‘vanity’ and points out its similarity to ‘futility’ in Romans 8v20. He also shows how Solomon’s teaching rests firmly on Genesis 1-3, the doctrine of creation and the fall. He also points out the many allusions to Ecclesiastes which are to be found in the teaching of Jesus and the New Testament epistles.


The message of Ecclesiastes is particularly apt for today and should be taken up and preached more often. To that end it must be rightly understood and this commentary well serves that purpose. This is a valuable resource – thoroughly recommended.


Roger March





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