I recently worked through a new commentary, Ecclesiastes: The Philippians of the Old Testament, by William D. Barrick. Dr. Barrick is a Professor of Old Testament and Director of the Th.D. program at The Master’s Seminary. He has authored a number of books and journal articles. He is also the Old Testament Editor of Logos’s forthcoming 44-volume Evangelical Exegetical Commentary. He is well qualified to write a commentary on this neglected biblical book.
This commentary is one of forty-one published by Christian Focus Publications in their series Focus on the Bible. The purpose of this series is to provide commentaries on a popular level for pastors and small group leaders. These commentaries are helpful for spiritual growth and personal devotions. Ecclesiastes: The Philippians of the Old Testament lives up to this purpose.
Barrick begins with a helpful introduction (pp. 9–28) covering the following issues: Ecclesiastes contribution to theology, “vanity of vanities,” the book’s purpose, title, canonicity, authorship and date, literary description, message, and an outline of Ecclesiastes. Since the book’s outline provides the backbone for this commentary, I should note that our author takes a fourfold approach to the book’s overall outline (quoted from pp. 26–27): (1) From experience, the Preacher learned that man is powerless (1:1–2:26), (2) From observation, the Preacher learned that God has a design for all things (3:1–5:20), (3) By application, the Preacher found the explanation for apparent inequalities in divine providence (6:1–8:15), (4) In conclusion, the Preacher determined to fear God, obey God, and enjoy life (8:16–12:14). The commentary proper (pp. 29–220) develops this basic outline by providing exegetical details in a chapter-by-chapter fashion that corresponds to the twelve chapters in Ecclesiastes. The use of footnotes is helpful for serious students who want to do more research as they study this commentary. Each chapter is followed by a series of study questions. This book concludes with a bibliography, subject, and Scripture indices (pp. 221–40).
Though there are many positive features to this commentary, I will highlight four particulars. While concise, Barrick’s overview of the theology of Ecclesiastes is helpful (pp. 10–12). Further, his discussion of authorship and date is beneficial since he argues for Solomonic authorship (pp. 17–23). Since the rise of historical criticism, this has become a minority position, even among evangelical scholars. In addition, the review questions at the end of each chapter are helpful for Bible study groups. Finally, another beneficial item is Barrick’s understanding of the book’s overall positive message: “live without reserve; die without regret”…“because the divine Creator gives life and He will judge any abuse of His gift” (p. 25). Since many commentators on Ecclesiastes take a pessimistic approach to the book’s message and minimize its biblical theology, Barrick’s approach is welcome.
On a number of occasions I have been asked to recommend a commentary on Ecclesiastes that is written on a popular level for pastors and church leaders. Bill Barrick’s commentary has moved to the top of my list.