(Book review) Ecclesiastes, Reformed Expository Commentary

Reviewed by: Dr. Dennis E. Hensley, professor of communication at Taylor University, Upland, Indiana.



Title: Ecclesiastes, Reformed Expository Commentary

Author: Rev. Douglas Sean O’Donnell

Publisher: P & R Publishing

Publication Date: 2014, with reissues

Format: Hardbound book

Length: 250 pages


Examining Ecclesiastes is a task that requires an understanding of psychology, theology, business, politics, and sociology.  But even with experience in these areas, discerning Solomon’s insights still can leave a reader with messages that are bitter, negative, discouraging, and harsh.  Author and pastor Bob Hostetler, in his book Life Stinks and Then You Die (2013), felt that Ecclesiastes was more of a tome for today’s world than it was for Solomon’s time because of how modern society is utterly self-indulgent and never satisfied. This newer book’s author, O’Donnell, also sees parallels between the 21st century and the depression and sense of hopelessness that Solomon wrote about.

O’Donnell comes from a professorial critique of Ecclesiastes. His chapters are replete with cross references to other scholars, researchers, and theologians. To that end, readers receive insights on the culture, history, and religion of the era in which the king wrote this original treatise. Those folks who have spent many years reading and studying their Bibles may find such depth of material insightful and intriguing, whereas less enthusiastic biblical students may find this material overly expansive and even plodding.  O’Donnell is not one for anecdotes, side lessons, or parallel examples, although he will at times say that some things never change, such as when he says that, just as Solomon complained about, rich people today also have endless outsiders reaching into their back pockets (gardeners, housekeepers, tutors, salespeople, employees, relatives, and friends).  This is a book that cannot be read quickly, but for anyone wishing to get a better grasp of why Solomon finally concludes that only service to God is of lasting merit, this book does provide worthwhile opinions and conclusions.


Rating (1 to 5)

4 stars

Suggested Audience

Sunday school teachers, pastors, seminary professors

Christian Impact

This book gives a fair and detailed assessment of one of the most challenging books of the Bible. Its analysis of the book’s intent and message is thorough and frank.

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About Evangelical Church Library Association

The Evangelical Church Library Association, founded in 1970, is a fellowship of Christian churches, schools, and individuals.

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