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Ecclesiastes (10) Wasted words

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posted on Nov, 6 2020 @ 05:03 PM
The book of Ecclesiastes tends to be neglected.
I must admit that I’ve been neglecting it myself.
So I come to this book with no preconceptions, except that a book found in the Old Testament must be intended to have a spiritual meaning. The people who compiled the canon were not in the business of collecting an anthology of “Hebrew literature.

The main theme of the early chapters has been that natural life and human life in the natural world do not go beyond a series of cycles of alternating events. Any apparent changes are discovered to be stages within these cycles, while the overall system itself does not change.

It is “vanity” for humans to look for anything beyond these things in the natural world, trying to transcend the system on their own. It is better, and the gift of God, for them to find their enjoyment in the world as it is, maintaining themselves in the way which God has provided.

Nevertheless, God has “put eternity into man’s mind”, in such a way that eternity cannot be known completely. Thus man is made aware of something greater than himself. “God has made it so, in order that men should fear before him.”

It seems that this nearly completes the central message of the book. Much of what follows looks like an assortment of “footnotes” under the general heading “other flaws noticeable in human life when God is disregarded”.

Ch5 vv1-7

V1 “Guard your steps when you go into the house of God.”
To be specific; “To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools.”

The “house of God”, here, means the temple. What would the listener find in the temple to demand his attention?

Firstly, he would hear the psalms. Obviously the psalms are full of the knowledge of God, which he needs to absorb.

I’m convinced that he would also have the chance to listen to recitations of sacred history, the stories found in Genesis, Exodus, etc. For how were these traditions preserved before they were written down? Surely that would have been one of the tasks of the priesthood, along with their task of preserving knowledge of the law. They could have proclaimed these traditions to the people on such occasion as “the yearly feast of the Lord” (Judges ch21 v19). Thus the psalms would be urging the people to worship their God, and the histories would be reminding the people what he had done for them in the past, that he should be worshipped. So the two themes belong together, and indeed they are combined in some of the psalms, like Psalm 78.

We know that the priests were also responsible for giving decisions on matters covered by the law, and these should be heard (as long as the law is applicable).

One such occasion is recorded in Haggai ch2, when the prophet asked his two loaded questions; If you carry something holy, can you make other things holy by touching them? And if you carry something unclean, can you make other things unclean by touching them? Then he drew his own moral from the two answers. As an effective prophecy for the people of his own time, this would have worked best as a public event. I suggest that this was the norm, that the priests gave their law-decisions in public consultations rather than private consultations, so that other people could listen to them and learn the general principles. Then Haggai would simply have joined the crowd of people waiting to make enquiries, and addressed his remarks to the rest of the queue.

“For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed… to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward…” (Hebrews ch5 vv1-2). Nothing in the text of the law explains when the high priest had occasion to “deal” with people, gently or otherwise, but the implication is that the priest would sometimes first be “listening to confession”, as it were. This could fit into the procedure for giving law-decisions. The man would come to the priest and say “I did such-and-such – did I do wrong?” Then the priest would say “Yes, you did, and we will atone for your sin by offering a sacrifice which you will pay for”. By listening to the priest’s judgment on your action, you learn what to avoid in the future (which is a better remedy).

Church tradition has gone for the private confessional, but even in church tradition this was an afterthought. History tells us that confessions were public up to the day when an ordained man had to confess something which caused a great scandal. If any of these consultations were public, then all of them would have been public, so that listeners could learn the difference between right and wrong.

If “listening” and “sacrifice” are the two things men can do in the house of God, that is a good reason for contrasting them. On the face of it, “offering the sacrifice of fools” is not the exact opposite of “listening”. This is an oblique contrast of the type found in Proverbs (e.g. “the fool and the righteous man”), which oblige us to think about the hidden connection which make them opposites. The more natural contrast would have been “listening is better than speaking”. But sacrifices may be connected with “speaking”, after all, if they are prompted by the “vows” discussed in the next few verses.

V2 “Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth; therefore let your words be few.”
Taken in isolation, this resembles what Jesus tells us; “And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think they will be heard for their many words… your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew ch6 vv7-8).
I can’t help remembering my first experience of a Christian Union meeting after conversion, and somebody getting up to complain that people were coming to the daily prayer meetings ”and not praying”. I was baffled. How did he think he could tell whether people were praying or not?

Taken in context, this verse bridges the two themes of “sacrifice of fools” in v1 and “broken vows” in v4. So it can be understood, in part, as rebuking those who make vows of sacrifice too readily.

V3 “For a dream [not in the modern positive sense] comes with much business, and a fool’s voice with many words.”
This is a proverb drawn in to illustrate the overall theme. Active human energy alone does not win success.

Vv4-6 If you do make a vow to God, you must take it seriously. Do not delay paying what you have promised. If you are not going to pay, it is better not to vow at all. You must not say “before the angel” that the vow was a mistake and you are going to take it back. In other words, you must not literally “disavow” your promise.

The RSV says “before the messenger” and relegates “angel” to a footnote, but they should have stuck with “angel”. This line is not referring to any human messenger. The angel of the Lord is the sign of his presence; the point is that you need to remember that you are saying these things in the presence of God., being in the temple. He will be angry and take retribution, “destroy the work of your hands”.

V7 is another proverb, a variant of v3.

“But do you fear God”. That is, in this context, worship and obey him.

posted on Nov, 6 2020 @ 05:04 PM
The classic, extreme example of the imprudent vow is Jephthah’s badly-worded oath which led to the death of his daughter. I think it is safe to say that God would not have wanted the daughter to be sacrificed, and the vow should not have been fulfilled literally. I am not suggesting that the promise should have been broken outright, but the right legal procedure would have been to “redeem” the life of his daughter, just as the law requires a man to redeem his son, or any unclean animals like an ass, whenever they seem to be covered by the “first-born sacrifice” obligation.

posted on Nov, 8 2020 @ 09:10 AM
a reply to: DISRAELI

Disraeli, Another great world and religious history lesson. Even some nice handling of the word with cunning to get a humanist point across. Again this is not an attack on you personally but on what and how you are teaching the word of God from an inferior translation of the Bible. I am sure by the hard work you put into your lessons you must be a nice educated person with good intentions.

I will only comment on the first verse of your teaching. Mainly the text used, the text you left out and the lack of spiritual application. Don’t get that wrong you have a good start of a decent teaching as are most of your bible teachings. It is always good to give some historical background and you have done a fairly good job of that, but you almost always come short on the spiritual application. This should be the goal of any teacher of Scripture. If this is not your goal, then prayerfully consider whether God has called you to teach his word or not.

But first I want to address this statement.

“For how were these traditions preserved before they were written down?”
All the first five books of the Law Genesis through Deuteronomy and Job were inspired of God and written down by Moses. Any idea of the 17th and 18 Century critics to say there were four different authors or more of those first 5 books is in error. These five books are the only ones we have actual COPIES of n Greek dating from the time of Ptolemy II (283 to 246 BC). We currently have our God inspired preservation in our English KJKB so that none of God’s words were lost, mistranslated and or carried over any copyist errors. Since the time of Moses all Scriptures have been written down.

2 Tim 3:16-17 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
The scriptures spoken of to Timothy were copies of the OT scriptures that he was raised on.

When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.
. Jesus read from written copies, Paul had written copies and Timothy had written copies. From the time of Moses, no one was using oral traditions it was all written words. As to how they were “Preserved”, I am sure you meant “handed down”, before Moses we do not have any record of how it was done except that men SAY it was done passed down by word of mouth, if we can trust that tradition. Just some clarification on that point.

Vs 1 Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil.
If God wanted to say “Guard or Watch your steps” (plural) as other versions translated it from the 45 manuscripts used to make those translations he would have inspired it as such in the KJB. But what he did inspire was “Keep thy foot” the “Thy” tells us it is a direct spoken word of God to the individual hearer, though read to a multitude of Individuals as a whole, it is to be an application to the individual. “having the word “your” might be updated to American English, but loses the individual understanding as most hearers see it as a plural people and can easily shrug it off as for the other guy and not for them. I recommend a Booklet by James Knox called “Those Nasty Thee’s and Thou’s” a great little study on why those are used rather than ‘You or Your” it also gives us a better understainding of the Eths and Ests of the preserved scriptures.

Back to the Text. “Keep” is it a transitive or intransitive and what of the meanings? It can carry the meaning of being both and not only that even the meanings of it as a Noun could apply. Remember in 1611 they did not have the complexities of the English language so narrowly defined as we see in dictionaries today. But it is very interesting to note that the word with all the meanings no matter how it is used in the sentence all the meanings are applicable to the understanding of the word keep. So whether it means “protect, maintain, possess, control, have, balance, watch over, weigh, preserve, hold back, conduct, manage, purpose, remain, refrain, abstain, etc… the wonderful point remains there are many applications to this word that only the word Keep maintains to the understanding of the text. So many applications that no matter how many times you teach through this verse over many years you will have a different application. The use of the replacement words “Guard your steps” limits it to just that one meaning and loses the fuller blessing of God’s word for the hearer.

We mentioned “thy” so now on to foot (singular not plural). Understand that the RSV translation turns it from singular to plural, seeing in the phrase it obviously is not speaking to a person with only one foot, for that would be rare seeing in the House or Temple of God a lame person was not allowed to enter by the traditions of men. God’s word only prohibited a priest who was lame or deformed. And that tradition was not always kept, seeing they did allow a person in the synagogue who had a deformed hand which Jesus healed, albeit it may have been a plant to see if Jesus would heal on the Sabbath. A foot is a foundation upon which all else of the body stands.

edit on 11/8/2020 by ChesterJohn because: (no reason given)

posted on Nov, 8 2020 @ 09:11 AM
a reply to: ChesterJohn

Having looked at the first three words should suffice to help us give a spiritual application for the hearers/readers. However, one last thing. Let’s look at a comparison of the verse as found in the RSV and the KJB and make mention of what is left out in your teaching. I cannot say why you left out the last part of the verse in the RSV as you had. But ALL of God’s words are for our learning.

Eccl 5:1 Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil. KJB
Now look at the RSV

Eccl 5 Vs 1 Guard your steps when you go to the house of God; to draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools; for they do not know that they are doing evil. RSV
Notice how the RSV changed the words of God 1) they moved the word not around and added the word “Do” and 2) they replaced the preserved word “Consider” with “Know” this change may look innocuous but it does limit the understanding of the words of God in the later part of this verse. Consider and Know are not even remotely similar and they are never used as synonyms. This is important for once again an individual whom God is wanting to speak to may not even consider if they do evil or not because they say in their heart it is not them doing evil. The Issue is, are they considering what they are doing is evil?

Eccl 5 Vs 1 Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear,”
Keep the foundation, the very footing, the very reason of why you go to church pure. To go to be seen, heard, noticed for your wealth or abilities or to receive pity or recognition is a false premise upon which one should be going to church. If one’s motive to go to church is to hear the word of God so one can grow thereby then they have keep the foundation upon why the church was established. Hearing the word of God is for more important that sacrifices because to just go for any other reason will make one dull of hearing and then they will never consider the evil they are doing.

Heb 5:8-14 Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec. Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing. For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
So always make sure to go into the church with the right motivation.

Eccl 5:1 Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil.
In the OT Sacrifices were being substituted for their hearing of God’s words. Jesus said this about those who trusted in Sacrifices to make themselves whole and right before God

Mt 9:13 But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: . . .
Today in the church we don’t have animal sacrifices, we might think that giving is a sacrifice but that is really an ability and should be exercised in that way and not as a sacrifice. Many a prosperity teacher who lead Churches tells their hearers if they don’t have enough finances to sacrifice their electric bill and give it to God and he would return it 30, 60 or even 100 fold. Of course this goes against God’s word where he says we are to be good stewards of that which he has provided for us. We should never give of our finances sacrificially in this manner because that would be giving out of Covetousness something we were instructed not to do.

2 Cor 9:5 Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren, that they would go before unto you, and make up beforehand your bounty, whereof ye had notice before, that the same might be ready, as a matter of bounty, and not as of covetousness.

Eccl 5:1 Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil. KJB
People forget and don’t even consider that going to church or making sacrifices in a way that is not true to God’s word today puts them in a state of sin. Not being pure in motive as to why one goes to church or giving in a way not prescribed by God’s word puts the believer in opposition to God’s word and thereby they are in sin. They never even considered the fact that being disobedient to God’s word is to do evil. So always consider what is your foundational reason and motivation to go to church and be sure that the reason you go is not making you do evil in the sight of God.

I think I was able to give you a spiritual application for that first verse I hope it helps you in the spiritual understanding of God’s word. There was some more in that verse but we can save that for another time.

I won’t touch the rest of the verses as It would be a lot longer to correct them. But suffice to say your inference Jesus Teaching on prayer was only partially correct. vows needs to be deeper, and the fools in mentioned twice in this section so a little more on them could allow for an application as well. At best you tried to give a spiritual application and for that I give you kudo’s.

Are you prayerfully considering what you are doing when you teach God’s word? Are you letting the Holy Ghost lead and not your intellect when preparing your teaching and you replies?

edit on 11/8/2020 by ChesterJohn because: (no reason given)

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