We just wrapped up a study of Ecclesiastes at Redemption Hill Church that was started in September. While Ecclesiastes certainly presents its challenges, it was one of the most fun series' I have ever preached. The work it took to make a fresh gospel tie every week throughout what can feel like a repetitive book was part of what made it fun. You can listen to the whole series on RHC's website or app. Each week I begin my study by digging into the passage at hand, developing and outline of the text, moving toward a sermon outline with one "big idea", and then I turn to other resources to check my work and find insights I have missed. The order here is critical. Study begins with God's Word and prayerful attentiveness to it. The commentators are voices in the dialog as the sermon is refined. Some of you may be interested to know what I turned to each week in preparation. Because of its bleakness and difficulty, Ecclesiastes is often avoided and there aren't nearly as many resources available as for other sections of Scripture. Here are some of the resources I used throughout the series:
The New International Commentary on the Old Testament: The Book of Ecclesiastes, Tremper Longman III. The NICOT series is consistently good. Longman has a solid combination of Hebrew language and biblical scholarship while also reaching toward discussion of implications. This text has helpful discussion of various options regarding authorship, the identity of Qoheleth, framing the narrative of the book, and other issues that ultimately shape the interpretation one will develop throughout.
The Message of Ecclesiastes, Derek Kidner. Kidner is incredibly helpful, but I found myself wishing again and again that this volume could have been more fully developed. It serves as a great introduction and the author has extraordinarily insight that is very concise and condensed. Because of these factors, if I quoted a commentator in the series, it was almost always Kidner.
An Introduction to Wisdom Literature: The Wisdom of Proverbs, Job & Ecclesiastes, Derek Kidner. Similar notes to the volume above.
Preaching Christ from Ecclesiastes, Sidney Greidanus. The introductory material Greidanus provides is pure gold. He lays out various approaches interpreters can take to make ties to the good news of Jesus' work for us and the broader biblical and redemptive-historical narrative. Throughout the remainder of the book Greidanus then provides background discussion and sermon manuscripts through the book. I didn't divide the book at the same points as Greidanus, which made much of the material less helpful. Still, the introductory material was foundational for my approach to the text throughout the series and I referred to it often.
The Word Biblical Commentary: Ecclesiastes, Roland Murphy. This commentary series can be very helpful, but I find the format to make it almost unusable. This commentary was no exception. It was helpful when I needed to explore difficult passages or translation issues much more deeply and see the the technical undergirding, but it was not an every-week aide.
The NIV Application Commentary, Iain Provan. The NIVAC series can be surprisingly helpful at times. This volume was not so, at least for me. Provan's approach throughout is to focus in on the practical aspects of living life, while very rarely trying to connect into Christ's accomplished work. It is certainly not a wrong approach, but I didn't feel it is the best approach. I referred to it weekly, but did not find great benefit in this one.
Ecclesiastes: Why Everything Matters, Philip Graham Ryken. This is a collection of a sermon series Ryken preached on Ecclesiastes. He is a very different preacher than I am, which made it a fun and helpful read. Ryken is a master illustrator and author who kept his focus on Christ throughout. It was extraordinarily helpful.
Various other preachers. I also benefitted from the work of other preachers who have taken this book on. Mark Driscoll's approach was fun to read. Tim Keller only preached 6 sermons out of this book because, as he told his church, he didn't think they could emotionally handle more than that. I also found help in various sections of the book from men like Charles Spurgeon, Martyn Lloyd Jones, and John Calvin.