Ecclesiastes is the twenty-first book of the Protestant Bible. It is classified, with Job, Psalms, Proverbs, and the Song of Solomon, as part of the "wisdom literature." It comes after the Book of Proverbs and before the Book of Isaiah. It is particularly admired as a model of clear and eloquent prose.
Meaning of Name
The word "Ecclesiastes" is derived from a Greek word meaning "gathering" or "congregation," from which come the words "ecclesiastical" (relating to the Church) and the Spanish word iglesia (church). It is an attempted translation of קֹהֶלֶת linking it to קִהֵל, though this is not a universally accepted tradtion "דִּבְרֵי קֹהֶלֶת בֶּן-דָּוִד, מֶלֶךִּ ירוּשָׁלִָם" - the words/things/sayings of Qohelet (or Kohelet, Qoheleth, or Koheleth) the son of David king of Jerusalem; the book is by tradition ascribed to King Solomon.
The book of Ecclesiastes is generally considered to have been written by Solomon as supported by Ecc 1:1, 1:12, 1:16, 2:4-9, 7:26-29, 12:9. This is especially true when crossreferencing I Kings 2:9, 3:12, 4:29-34, 5:12, 10:1-8. Others note that Ecc 4:1-2, 5:8-9, 8:2-4, 10:20 where the tone is less that of a monarch could point to another person and a later person. In the traditional view that Solomon wrote it, the original work would have been composed in the 10th century B.C., although later editing may have been possible.
With his life largely behind him, Solomon takes stock of the world as he has experienced it between birth and his inevitable death - the later a horizon beyond which man can not see The world is seen as being full of enigmas, the greatest of which is man himself. From his perspective of life experiences, he has found that his great wisdom still has limits and he can not know everything on his own. It is in many ways a brooding book, and only in the end does Solomon turn to God for answers with the admonition to trust in Him. Due to Solomon's life of sin, he appears to be a man from the outside looking in and trying to see what he missed in life. Whether or not he truly embraces God with his whole heart or merely responds to what he missed and knows the answer intellectually is unclear.
Many phrases and passages in it are famous: "to eat, and to drink, and to be merry," "there is no new thing under the sun," "the race is not to the swift." The titles of Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises, Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth, and George Stewart's Earth Abides are all phrases from Ecclesiastes. Folksinger Pete Seeger made a passage from it into the song "Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season)" which, when recorded by The Byrds, was a #1 hit in the United States in 1965.
The speaker begins "Vanity of vanities(הבל הבלים), saith Qohelet, vanity of vanities; all is vanity." (Ecc 1:2) Here, vanity means "empty" or "useless" or "in vain." The speaker says that everything that can be accomplished by human effort is empty, fleeting, and repetitious: "Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us." (Ecc 1:10) "I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit." יֵשׁ דָּבָר שֶׁיֹּאמַר רְאֵה-זֶה, חָדָשׁ הוּא: כְּבָר הָיָה לְעֹלָמִים, אֲשֶׁר הָיָה מִלְּפָנֵנוּ(Ecc 1:14)
Consequently, he advises living in the moment: "Then I commended mirth, because a man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry." (Ecc 8:15) He praises life, saying כִּי-לְכֶלֶב חַי הוּא טוֹב מִן-הָאַרְיֵה הַמֵּת, literally "a live dog is good from [or better than] a dead lion." (Ecc 9:4)
George Orwell, in his essay Politics and the English Language, contrasted the beautiful language of the Bible with the way he says the same thing might be expressed today in "modern English":
- Objective considerations of contemporary phenomena compel the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account.
Six verses before the end the tone shifts abruptly. Beginning with the words "and moreover," a new perspective takes over that ties in the true answer. Solomon does seem to suggest that there is a danger in being overly intellectual: "by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh." (Ecc 12:12) Finally he reaches the conclusion: "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man."
Ecclesiastes should not be confused with the completely different apocryphal book of Ecclesiasticus, which is found in some editions of the Bible. (While Roman Catholics consider the Apocrypha canonical, Protestants consider it sometimes valuable but not authoritative, inspired Scripture.)
<ref>tags exist, but no
<references/>tag was found