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Ecclesiastes

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by

Peter Sabo

on 5 February 2018

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Transcript of Ecclesiastes

Ecclesiastes
The Hebrew name for the book is
Qoheleth
, as the author/narrator is introduced with this name (1.1). It literally means "gatherer" and is often translated as "teacher."
Skeptical questioning of tradition in the biblical corpus reaches its high point in this book. The major issue with which it deals is the fundamental question, "Is life worth living?"
Vanity of Vanities (
havel havalim
) (1.1-11)
Keyword to the entire book is the Hebrew word
hebel
(it appears 38 times in the book), which is often translated as "vanity" but literally means "breath, whiff, puff," or something of the like.
Hebel
refers to anything that is superficial or ephemeral--something that cannot be controlled or grasped, and Qoheleth uses this as a metaphor for life, existence, and memory.
Qoheleth is identified as the "son of David" and later as "king in Jerusalem" both suggesting association with Solomon (and thereby Solomon's association with great widsom and wealth).
Qoheleth's Experiments in Living (1.12-2.24)
Pleasure, wealth, even wisdom--do they make life worthwhile?
The question here is posed in terms of "profit" (
yithron
)--is there anything about certain people's lives that makes it better than others?
Qoheleth is also haunted by another thought--can you tell what it is?
A Time For Everything (3.1-9)
How do we know what time is the right time? (3.9-4.2)
Qoheleth does not deny that God perhaps has a time for everything, as he so eloquently puts in this poem--where he differs from the rest of biblical tradition, however, is in his lack of confidence that human beings can know the right time.
What then is the paradox that Qoheleth points out about human existence?
And how would you classify Qoheleth's system of argumentation?
The End of the Book and the End of Life (12.1-8, 9-10, 11-12, 13-14.
12.1-8 is commonly interpreted as a poem about old age, but it is also obviously about death, and not just of a single human but also of all humanity.
1st Epilogue: 9-10. Affirmation of Qoheleth's Words.
2nd Epilogue: 11-12. Justification of Qoheleth's words?
3rd Epilogue: 13-14. Don't really pay attention to this book.
Another important keyword is "toil" (
amal
), where have we seen this concept before?
Full transcript