posted on Mar, 12 2021 @ 05:02 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”.
From ch11 v7 to ch12 v1
Now the writer is returning to and completing the original argument.
There are three positive statements about the necessity to enjoy life, which was the point he had reached previously, but each one is now matched by a
counter-balancing statement, drawing upon some of the reflections in the intervening passages. We are being warned, at the same time, of what we must
expect at the end of our lives. This also completes the thought of the first half of the chapter, which was reminding us of the uncertainties of life,
including the fact that our entrance into life is a mystery in itself (v5).
Vv7-8 “Light is sweet, and it is pleasant for our eyes to behold the sun. For if a man live many years, let him rejoice in them all..”
In a previous chapter, he said “I hated life, because what was done under the sun was grievous to me”, but he added “There is nothing better for
a man than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil” (ch2 v17, v24). Now he has moved on to something even more affirmative.
“But let him remember that the days of darkness will be many. All that comes is vanity”
The newer, counter-balancing, theme is that we all come to death in the end. The balancing works both ways, for remembering that death will come is
also an additional reason to make the very best of the life that is made available to us. We are not to be either thoughtless or gloomy, but soberly
joyful, if that can be managed.
V9 “Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth; walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of
your eyes. “
An elaboration of “light is sweet”.
“But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgement.”
This does not mean that God will condemn them all. Their acts will be “judged” in the sense of being “critically examined”.
Incidentally, this is what Jesus meant when he said we would have to account for “every idle word” (Matthew ch12 v36). He did not mean “Every
idle word will be condemned because it is idle”, as the Victorians seemed to think.
I believe this is the first time that the word “judgement” has come up in this book. As I observed previously, the concept of future judgement is
the only way to resolve the dilemma of “there are righteous men to whom it happens according to the deeds of the wicked, and there are wicked men to
whom it happens according to the deeds of the righteous” (ch8 v14). However, the writer’s own thought had not quite got that far at the time. He
could see the dilemma, but not yet the solution. He’s using the concept now as a reason why the young men he’s addressing should not drift into
V10 “Remove vexation from your mind, and put away pain from your body; for youth and the dawn of life are vanity.”
I think his meaning is this; the youthful and active stage of our life is short-lived. As the song in Twelfth Night says, “Youth’s a stuff will
not endure.” Therefore we need to make the most of it. Therefore we cannot afford to be distracted from this enjoyment of life by our comparatively
trivial (compared with old age) vexations and pains. A sense of perspective is necessary. Put them aside.
Ch12 v1 “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth.”
That is, before you die, to face judgement, and preferably before you get old.
The chapter division makes this sentence look like the start of a fresh theme. In fact we can see it as the climax of the counter-balancing
Remember your Creator.
That is also the climax and the revised completion of the argument. The rest of the book is offering different ways of saying “before you get old”
and “before you die”.
Taking the book of Ecclesiastes as a whole, it is possible to see “Remember your Creator” as the overriding theme. Everything that seems to be
wrong is the consequence of not being mindful of our God. That is why I have reserved that phrase for the intended Index Thread, instead of using it
as the title of this thread.