Third Assertion: Wisdom, pleasure, work, advancement, and wealth do not bring ultimate satisfaction.
Some of the translations say wisdom, pleasure, and toil are meaningless or vanity. However, there are three reasons that we should not take it literally and instead settle on different phrase. First, the book clearly differentiates between a work or pleasure that is frenzy and transitory and the work or pleasure that is given to human as God’s gift (Ecc. 2:24-26). Second, the teacher or writer of Ecclesiastes makes these statement while comparing several attitudes. So wisdom is better than folly (Ecc. 1:14). The work is not worth of obsession because our enjoyment of its fruits is limited by time. At the end we will leave it to others (Ecc. 2:17-23).
The teacher seeks satisfaction and by trying out pleasure, intellectual knowledge, and involvement in activities for public good he comes to realize that all of them bring with themselves some other problems and therefore none gives ultimate satisfaction. His conclusion is that in grand scheme of life neither wisdom, nor pleasure, nor toil are things to chase after. Thus, they are — in that grand perspective — vanity. Third, the author employs literary technique of repetition and dramatization to strongly impress upon us his conclusions.
Fourth Assertion: Wisdom that Brings Fellowship and Moderation is More important than speculative and endless seeking.
Another teaching that shows up several times is the emphasis on togetherness, fellowship, and moderation in life. The teacher says, “Whoever fears God will avoid all extremes.” (Ecc.7:18) Moderation helps to avoid foolishness, rash judgments, and excessive speculation in matters of God’s mystery. (Ecc. 7:10, 12, 13, 8:1) Togetherness and Fellowship implies rejection of aloneness (Ecc.4:8-12) but also mutual dependence in troubles of life. However, this is not just togetherness for the sake of overcoming challenges. One’s own life and accomplishments, according to the Book of Ecclesiastes, extends beyond our lives now and after death. Working to share with others is proper approach to human work opposite of which is rebuked.
Fifth Assertion: Instead of speculating and waiting invest yourself in several ventures and relationships.
Well, as you can see the book gives pretty modern advice. The teacher says, “Ship your grain across the sea; after many days you may receive a return. Invest in seven ventures, yes, in eight; you do not know what disaster may come upon the land.” It is like an ancient investor who says to you diversify your investments. But in the context of the whole book where listening to authorities is encouraged and togetherness is applauded the author promotes long-term involvement in several activities whose fruit may not be seen immediately. It seems the teacher calls us to balance living in the moment with the planning for future.
Sixth Assertion: Death evens out all; so enjoy your life while you have been given time.
The somber, solemn moment of the teacher comes when he highlights the truth of death. He says, “all share a common destiny — the righteous and the wicked, the good and the bad, the clean and the unclean, those who offer sacrifice and those who do not.” The “so what?” part comes a bit later. So “Go, eat your food with gladness and drink your wine with joyful heart, for God has already approved what you do.” His idea of enjoying life without being jealous or hateful to those who we consider made it all is further strengthened by two other assertions. A) No one knows when their hour will come. B) Circumstances (“time and chance…evil times”) that we can’t control happen to all without regard whether they are good or bad.
So what do you think? Would you agree that my reading of the Book of Ecclesiastes is fair to book’s themes. Comment and let me know.
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