Many among the learned are of the opinion that Solomon wrote this book in his old age after he had for many years turned away from the right path of true godliness, but was now again converted unto God. (See the annotation at 2 Chron. 11on verse 17) He, by inspiration of the Holy Ghost before the entire congregation of God, testifies in it his earnest sorrow and repentance for the previous part of his life, loathing and abhorring it, as being vanity of vanities, whereby a man is not able to attain unto temporal rest, and contentment of mind, much less unto the supreme good, which is everlasting salvation. At the same time his intent is, by his own example and pattern, to lead all people to virtue and piety. To this end he makes in the first place a short recital of the entire course of his life, and in which he had primarily taken his delight and recreation. Then in the second place he relates also that he heeded and observed the practice and course, about which many people did most busy and trouble themselves in this life, being for the most part vanities, yea, also wicked and ungodly deliberations. He testifies with this that the All-wise and Almighty God directs and governs all things according to His will and pleasure, and that things do not fall out in the world by fortune or chance, as many people do imagine. Lastly, Solomonexhorts all people to fear and serve God uprightly, and to exercise in all good works, rejoicing in an honest and godly manner in the things which they have received at the bountiful hand of God, especially while they are yet young, strong and of a good mind, having at all times the severe and righteous judgment of God before their eyes.
As for the title of this book, this is in the Hebrew Koheleth, in the Greek Ecclesiastes. Koheleth comes from Kahal, that is, to gather, and it signifies as much as gathering, namely, a gathering soul, that is, a person. All people are by nature like scattered sheep, but God sends His ministers forth as shepherds to gather them. Some are of the opinion that Koheleth is one of king Solomon’s proper names, from which they conclude that throughout in this book it is stated in the masculine gender, amar Koheleth. This is likewise the opinion of many among the Jewish Rabbis.
Now, as concerning the Greek title of this book Ecclesiastes, that is, the Preacher, it must not be so understood here as if Solomon had in mind to preach before the congregation (this was properly the office of prophets, priests and Levites), but here in this book, with respect to it, he does it as a sermon, full of good and profitable doctrines and instructions. And it may very well be that he himself read it or caused it to be read in a full assembly of the congregation. Others understand by the word Ecclesiastes, one who makes a speech in the congregation, as they are wont to do, who do publicly confess before the congregation of the faithful the sins they have committed.