Ecclesiastes

Introduction

The title Ecclesiastes given to this book is the Greek translation of the Hebrew name Qoheleth meaning, perhaps, "one who convokes an assembly." The book, however, does not consist of public addresses, but is a treatise, more or less logically developed, on the vanity of all things. Reflections in prose and aphorisms in verse are intermingled in Ecclesiastes, which contains, besides, an introduction and an epilogue.

The book is concerned with the purpose and value of human life. While admitting the existence of a divine plan, it considers such a plan to be hidden from man, who seeks happiness without ever finding it here below (Eccl 3:11; 8:7, 17). Ecclesiastes applies his "Vanity of vanities" to everything "under the sun," even to that wisdom which seeks to find at last a semblance of good in the things of the world. Merit does not yield happiness for it is often tried by suffering. Riches and pleasures do not avail. Existence is monotonous, enjoyment fleeting and vain; darkness quickly follows. Life, then, is an enigma beyond human ability to solve.

While Ecclesiastes concedes that there is an advantage for man in the enjoyment of certain legitimate pleasures lest he lapse into pessimism and despair, he nevertheless considers this indulgence also vanity unless man returns due thanks to the Creator who has given him all. Under this aspect, earthly wisdom would rise to the higher level of true spiritual wisdom. This true wisdom is not found "under the sun" but is perceived only by the light of faith, inasmuch as it rests with God, who is the final Judge of the good and the bad, and whose reign endures forever. The Epilogue gives the clue to this thought (Eccl 12:13, 14).

The moral teaching of the book is imperfect, like the Old Testament itself (Hebrews 7:19), yet it marks an advance in the development of the doctrine of divine retribution. While rejecting the older solution of earthly rewards and punishments, Ecclesiastes looks forward to a more lasting one. The clear answer to the problem was to come with the light of Christ's teaching concerning future life.

The author of the book was a teacher of popular wisdom (Eccl 12:9). Qoheleth was obviously only his literary name. Because he is called "David's son, king in Jerusalem," it was commonly thought that he was King Solomon. Such personation, however, was but a literary device to lend greater dignity and authority to the book-a circumstance which does not in any way impugn its inspired character. The Epilogue seems to have been written by an editor, probably a disciple of Qoheleth. The entire work differs considerably in language and style from earlier books of the Old Testament. It reflects a late period of Hebrew, and was probably written about three centuries before Christ.

†† Ecclesiastes From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Ecclesiastes, Kohelet in Hebrew, is a book of the Hebrew Bible. The title derives from the Greek translation of the Hebrew title: קהלת (variously transliterated as Qoheleth, Qohelethh, Kohelet, Koheleth, or even Coheleth).

The author represents himself as the son of David, and king over Israel in Jerusalem (1:1, 12, 16; 2:7, 9). The work consists of personal or autobiographic matter, largely expressed in aphorisms and maxims illuminated in terse paragraphs with reflections on the meaning of life and the best way of life. There is a long excursus on death.

"Kohelet" and "Ecclesiastes"

The Hebrew קהלת is related to the root קהל meaning "to gather." Thus the nominal form קהל means "gathering, congregation." The Hebrew קהלת is probably a title (rather than a name) referring to one who gathers something. That something, given the context, is probably either aphorisms or a group of people for the purposes of instruction in wisdom.

The English title of the book, Ecclesiastes, comes from the Septuagint translation of Qoholet, Εκκλησιαστής. It has its origins in the Greek word Εκκλησία (originally a secular gathering, although later used primarily of religious gatherings, hence its New Testament translation as church).

The word Qoheleth has found several translations into English, including "the Preacher" (translating Jerome's ecclesiastes and Luther's der Prediger). Since preacher implies a religious function, and the contents of the book do not reflect such a function, this translation has largely been rejected by modern translations and scholars. A better alternative is teacher, although this also fails to capture the fundamental idea behind the Hebrew.

Author

In the two opening chapters the author describes himself as the son of David, and king over Israel in Jerusalem, presenting himself as a philosopher at the center of a brilliant court. This could apply only to king Solomon, for his successors in Jerusalem were kings over Judah only. Consequently, the traditional Rabbinic and early Christian view attributed Ecclesiastes to king Solomon. This view has been abandoned by many modern scholars, who now assume that Qoheleth is a work in the pseudepigraphical tradition that borrowed weight for a new work by putting it in the mouth of a well-known sage. The modern view is that Ecclesiastes was written around 250 BCE by a non-Hellenized intellectual in the milieu of the Temple in Jerusalem. The latest possible date for it is set by the fact that Ben Sirach (written cca 180 BCE) repeatedly quotes or paraphrases it, as from a canonic rather than a contemporary writing.

Language

The Hebrew of Ecclesiastes was not common in the era of Solomonís reign, and the book contains words borrowed from other languages. For example, the book contains several Aramaic and Persian words. The influence of these two languages is characteristic of late Hebrew, and is thought to have occurred after Jerusalem was taken captive by Babylonian forces in 587 BCE. However, the use of these languages could also be a reference by the author to the language skills Solomon would have accumulated through his development of international trade and industry, as well as from traveling dignitaries and other contacts with the outside world (1 Kings 4:30, 34; 9:26-28; 10:1, 23, 24).

Dating Ecclesiastes

Dominic Rudman, Determinism in the Book of Ecclesiastes (JSOTSup. 316; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2001, p. 13) cites the modern commentaries supporting this dating.

"Most current commentators e.g., R. N. Whybray, Ecclesiastes [NCB Commentary; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans; London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1989] 4-12) argue for a mid-tolate-third-century date. Others, among them N. Lohfink (Kohelet [NEchtB; Wurzburg: Echter Verlag, 1980] 7) and C. E Whitley (Koheleth: His Language and Thought [BZAW 148; Berlin/ New York: de Gruyter, 1979] 132-46), have suggested an

Placement in canon

The book of Ecclesiastes uses the expression haelohim, "the God", 32 times. Clarkeís Commentary, Volume III, page 799, states: The book, entitled Koheleth, or Ecclesiastes, has ever been received, both by the Jewish and Christian Church, as written under the inspiration of the Almighty; and was held to be properly a part of the sacred canon.

Ecclesiastes also appears in harmony with other Scriptures where they treat the same subjects. It agrees with Genesis on manís being made up of a body composed of the dust of the ground and having the spirit (or life-force) from God and the breath that sustains it (Ecclesiastes 3:20, 21; 12:7; Genesis 2:7; 7:22; Isaiah 42:5). Ecclesiastes also affirms the Bible teaching that man was created perfect and upright but willfully chose to disobey God (Ecclesiastes 7:29; Genesis 1:31; 3:17; Deuteronomy 32:4, 5). Ecclesiastes also acknowledges God as the Creator (Ecclesiastes 12:1; Genesis 1:1). Also, Ecclesiastes concurs with the rest of the Hebrew Bible as to the state of the dead (Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10; Genesis 3:19; Psalms 6:5; 115:17).

"Vanity"

Qoheleth's stated aim is to find out how to ensure one benefits in life, an aim in accord with the general purposes of Wisdom Literature. For Qoheleth, however, any possible advantage in life is destroyed by the inevitability of death. As such, Qoheleth concludes that life (and everything) is senseless. In light of this conclusion, Qoheleth advises his audience to make the most of life, to seize the day, for there is no way to secure favorable outcomes in the future. Although this latter conclusion has sometimes been compared to Epicureanism, for Qoheleth it comes about as the inevitable result of his failure to make sense of existence.

This conclusion is reflected in the refrain which both opens and closes Qoheleth's words:

"Utterly senseless" says Qoheleth, "Utterly senseless, everything is senseless!"

The word translated senseless, הבל, literally means vapor, breath. Qoheleth uses it metaphorically, and its precise meaning is extensively debated. Older English translation often render it vanity, but in modern usage this word has come to mean "self-pride" and lost its Latinate connotation of emptiness and is thus no longer appropriate. Other translations include meaningless, absurd, fleeting or senseless. Some translations use the literal rendering vapor of vapors and so claim to leave the interpretation to the reader.

Readings

††††††††† ††ECCLESIASTES

†††††††††

††††††††† I. Author.1:1Solomon appears to be the author of the book.He

††††††††† was the most famous and powerful man in the world in his day.His

††††††††† wisdom and literary attainments were unequaled by any other.

†††††††††

††††††††† II. Key Word."Vanity" occurs some 37 times, and the phrase

††††††††† "under the sun" some 28 times and refers to worldly life and wisdom.

†††††††††

††††††††† III. Theme.The theme of Ecclesiastes is that all earthly life is vanity

††††††††† (empty, futile).The experiences of Solomon prove this.This book

††††††††† is a dramatic autobiography of his experiences and reflections as he

††††††††† searched for satisfaction in life.

†††††††††

††††††††††† Solomon could not find happiness and meaning in a worldly

††††††††† sensuous life.Solomon saw earthly life at its best, yet his soul was

††††††††† never satisfied.Solomon tried to find satisfaction in the wisdom of

††††††††† science (1:4-11) and turning to a materialistic philosophy (1:12-18)

††††††††† but it was all empty.He turned to the pleasures of building (2:4),

††††††††† gardening (2:5), cattle breeding (2:7), art collecting and music (2:8).

††††††††† He sought satisfaction in fatalism (3:1-15) and in the stoic's

††††††††† philosophy (ch 4), ritualism and ceremony (ch 5) but these were all in

††††††††† vain.He tired wealth (ch 6), and the enjoyment of a reputation (ch 7)

††††††††† but he found all these vain and futile.

†††††††††

††††††††††† There is no hope found in anything this world offers.It is only

††††††††† in the hope of immortality which God gives us that we have real hope

††††††††† (ASV 3:11 the word "eternity" is considered a better translation than

††††††††† the term "world.")Solomon's soul was never satisfied though he had

††††††††† everything this world could offer one.Full satisfaction can only be

††††††††† found in what God has for man.We are blessed because Christ has

††††††††† brought life and immortality to light (2 Tim. 1:10).

†††††††††

††††††††† Careful StudySomeone selecting a few verses from this book

††††††††without understanding the whole could be left with a wrong

††††††††† impression.One must read the whole book and get Solomon's grand

††††††††† conclusion in the last chapter to understand the message of

††††††††† Ecclesiastes.

†††††††††

††††††† ††††Solomon's conclusion is that life without God is full of weariness

††††††††† and disappointment.The turning point in the book is Eccl. 8:12 "Yet

††††††††† surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God."The full

††††††††† meaning of the book is found in the last chapter-- "Fear God and keep

††††††††† his commandments for this is the whole duty of man." (12:13).

†††††††††

†††††††† ††††SONG OF SOLOMON

†††††††††

††††††††† I.Title and Author.This little book of eight chapters has been title

††††††††† many ways.The Hebrew title is "the Song of Songs," which means

††††††††† the most superlative song or as we would say, "the Best of Songs."

††††††††† Verse 1 asserts that Solomon wrote this song among the 1005 which

††††††††† we wrote (I Kings 4:32).

†††††††††

††††††††† II.The Content of the Song.††† The son is a poetic representation of

††††††††† the sentiment of lovers, some of it quite frank in intimate admiration

††††††††† and desire for each other.It is plain from the spacing in the Hebrew

††††††††† and the change of person, number and gender of the personal

††††††††† pronouns and verb endings that the speakers shift from male to

††††††††† female and from the single male and female to a plurality of women

††††††††† termed in the text the "daughters of Jerusalem."But there is no scene

††††††††† description or stage or drama directions.

†††††††††

††††††††††† The traditional view is that there are two lovers, Solomon and a

††††††††† woman of Shulam, a town seemingly in northern Palestine, and a

††††††††† chorus of women from Jerusalem (either court attendants or the royal

††††††††† harem).

†††††††††

††††††††† III. Interpretation.There have been many different methods

††††††††† employed to discover the meaning and significance of the book.

†††††††††

††††††††††† 1.The Allegorical Interpretation.†† The Jewish attempt to make

††††††††† it an allegory see the story as love of God for Israel.This view seems

††††††††† to account for the Song as the scripture to be read at the Passover

††††††††† festival by later Judaism.

†††††††††

††††††††††††† A variant of this view held by some early church fathers

††††††††† thought the song dealt with the Christ and His love for his bride the

††††††††† church.This view has been widely accepted and accounts for many

††††††††† of the interpretative chapter headings in many versions (e.g. ch. 1-3

††††††††† "The Mutual Love of Christ and His Church").It is seen in the poetic

††††††††† adoptions in our songs as "Jesus, Rose of Sharon" and "the Lily of the

††††††††† Valley."Oddly enough however, if the interpretations were carried

††††††††† through correctly, the church, not Christ, would be represented by

††††††††† these titles.

†††††††††

††††††††††† J.W. McGarvey said of this view: "I tried hard to see

††††††††††††††††††††† something prophetic in it, but I failed, and I have never yet

††††††††††††††††††††† succeeded.I am not surprised, therefore, that all very recent

††††††††††††††††††††† interpreters have abandoned the idea that the Shulamite in

††††††††††††††††††††† some way represented the church, and Solomon the Lord

††††††††††††††††††††† Jesus.There is no sustained analogy in any part of the song

††††††††††††††††††††† to anything connected with Christ or the church."

†††††††††

†††† †††††2.The Dramatic View.A view that originally the poem was a

††††††††† drama in which the settings and actions were supplied by pantomime

††††††††† or stage curtains.Some see the story as a love play in which

††††††††† Solomon's love for a young Jewish country maiden is portrayed.

†††††††††

††††††††† 3.The Collection View.Some think the book is not a unit but

††††††††† rather a collection of wedding songs such as were used at wedding

††††††††† festivals and as are still used today in some middle eastern countries.

††††††††† But the "Song of Solomon" does seem to have a plot which develops

††††††††† throughout and it is not likely that a collection of isolated poems

††††††††† would give a story like this.

†††††††††

††††††††† 4. A Modernist View.One recent modernistic view (cf. Interpreters'

††††††††† Bible) has claimed the song was borrowed from pagan religious rites.

††††††††† This views proposes that the song was taken over by Israel and

††††††††† gradually lost its identity with paganism. This view has nothing but

††††††††† conjecture to support it.

†††††††††

††††††††† 5. A View of Pure Married Love.†† The Bible Commentary says "The

††††††††† simplest and most natural (interpretation) appears to be that which

††††††††† regards it as a poem of pure wedded love."Edward J. Young says,

††††††††† "And it reminds us, in particularly beautiful fashion, how pure and

††††††††† noble true love is."

†††††††††

††††††††††† The Song of Solomon is a song about the beauty and holiness of

††††††††† married love.In the context of Solomon's political marriages, the

††††††††† Shulamite taught him the beauty of monogamous love.The book has

††††††††† some great lessons for a time when we face the abuse of marriage and

††††††††† the perversion of sexuality in our time.

 

--- SERMON

 

†††††††††††††††††††††††††† ††Two Are Better Than One

†††††††††

††††††† †††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

†††††††††

††††††††† 9 Two are better than one;

††††††††††††† because they have a good reward for their labour.

††††††††† 10For if they fall, the one will lift up his companion:

††††††††††††† but woe to him who is alone when he falls;

††††††††††††† for he has no one to help him up.

††††††††† 11Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm:

††††††††††††† but how can one be warm alone?

††††††††† 12Though one may be overpowered by another,

††††††††††††† two can withstand him;

††††††††††††† and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

†††††††††

††††††††† (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12; The New King James Bible)

†††††††††

††††††††† Introduction:

 

††††††††† 1.Following a period of dissatisfaction with marriage there is now a

††††††††††††††††††††††† growing trend of respect for the Biblical arrangement of marriage.

 

††††††††† 2.Still far too many marriages are ending in divorce.There is evident

††††††††††††††††††††††† something serious is happening between "here comes the bride" and

††††††††††††††††††††††† "here comes the judge."

 

††††††††† 3.The strength and value of marriage can be seen in this passage.

††††††††††† "Two are better than one: because they have a good reward for their

††††††††††††††††††††† labour."Why are two better than one?

†††††††††

††††††††† 1.Support

 

††††††††††† 1.†† Two are better than one because you have someone to support you

†††††††††††††††††††††††††† and someone you can support.V. 10.

 

††††††††††† 2.†† The importance of the home in this "dog eat dog" age.

†††††††††

††††††††† 2.Share

 

†††††† †††††1.†† Two can be better than one because we have someone to share

†††††††††††††††††††††††††† with.Verse 11 says, "Furthermore if two lie down together they

†††††††††††††††††††††††††† keep warm, but how can one be warm alone?" (NASV)

 

††††††††††††† a. A basic purpose of marriage is intimacy (Gen. 2:24).

 

††††††††††† 2.†† Do you recall the sharing of decisions in the beginning? How

†††††††††††††††††††††††††† wonderful and helpful.

†††††††††

††††††††† 3.Strengthen

 

††††††††††† 1.†† Two are better than one because there is strength in numbers.(cf.

†††††††††††††††††††††††††† Verse 12 "And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can

†††††††††††††††††††††††††† resist him."NASV).

 

††††††††††† 2.†† Marriage provides strength for facing the dilemmas of life.

 

††††††††††† 3.†† Marriage provides strength for avoiding the deception of life.

 

††††††††††† 4.†† Marriage provides strength for filling the demands of life.

†††††††††

††††††††† Conclusion:

-- Windell Gann -- Walking Thru the Bible -- http://fly.hiwaay.net/~wgann/walk_ot/eccl-sos.htm