Ivrit Facebook Twitter LinkedIn

Ecclesiastes: Fleeting and Timeless

October 3, 2017 | By: Ethan Dor-Shav

The Book of Ecclesiastes is one of the most challenging in the entire Hebrew Bible. Authored in the name of “Kohelet son of David”—identified by Jewish tradition as King Solomon—the book is a deeply philosophical meditation on the search for happiness by a man who has everything. Often misunderstood, argues Ethan Dor-Shav, Kohelet’s thought  is best understood as “part of…a broader biblical tradition.” Read in this light, it becomes clear that Ecclesiastes is a profound meditation on the transience of life, the importance of joy, and endurance of true wisdom.

The search for meaning is an eternal one, but the use of Solomon’s voice carries special importance for the modern reader. Unlike other biblical Jewish leaders, Solomon lived in a time of unparalleled prosperity and freedom. As opposed to the quest of Job, Solomon’s search for wisdom did not arise from a desire to make sense of either personal misfortune or national catastrophe. Indeed, his was a life of unrepentant indulgence: He tempted himself with wine, entertained himself with male and female performers, and amassed untold treasures and hundreds of wives and concubines.

Rather, Kohelet sets out on his inquiry from the perspective of a life replete with fortune and opportunity. He takes as his starting point not revelation, but man’s personal need for meaning. In other words, Ecclesiastes is not about what God wants of us, but about what we want for ourselves. This approach may resonate especially strongly with Western readers of today, since few Westerners appreciate doing things simply because they aretold, regardless of who does the telling. We moderns are thus in a unique position to identify with Kohelet’s quest.

Read the entire article in Azure.

More about: Theology