Ecclesiastes


#1

“Vanity of vanities! All is vanity. What advantage does man have in all his work which he does under the sun? That which has been is that which will be, and that which has been done is that which will be done. So there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one might say, ‘See this, it is new’? Already it has existed for ages which were before us. There is no remembrance of earlier things, and also of the later things which will occur; there will be for them no remembrance among those who will come later still.”
–Ecclesiastes 1:2-3, 7-11

How do people interpret this passage of Scripture? Figuratively, literally? Joyful, depressing? I see it as being literal, and a little depressing, intermixed with joy and LOVE.

LOVE! :heart:


#2

I interpret it as extremely true without any form of sugar-coating.


#3

When I read it years ago I thought it was depressing. I haven’t read anything to change my mind and I’m still looking for something new under the sun. NOT. Isn’t the internet new? Aren’t there new inventions every day? I just think the author was depressed! Each one of US is new, a new creation. And NO ONE is like you or me. The author who wrote that was living in a small closed world, maybe…


#4

Extremely depressing, but the fact is that as human beings subject to the tyranny of death, we SHOULD be depressed!

ICXC NIKA.


#5

I take Ecclesiastes literally. Who’s not to say that the ‘inventions’ of today were actually available in ages past? It amazes me at how mankind is going through an amnesia where we cannot remember what took place just a few hundred years ago. To believe that we humans are responsible for all the technology that we see around us is egotistical.

LOVE! :heart:


#6

If any technological appurtenances such as we have now existed in the past, there would be traces of them in the fossil record; there are not.

ICXC NIKA.


#7

Perhaps they did not live on this earth. In any event, I believe that all our technology ultimately comes from God. It’s all known beforehand.

LOVE! :heart:


#8

I view it as an extremely uplifting and positive passage. Why? The author I think is reflecting upon the humane condition not necessarily new inventions etc. And is saying that since time begun the humane condition has not changed even though the vanities we invent to surround ourselves with may have.
Just like Adam and Eve our lives are a free gift, we have done nothing to earn life, life has been gifted to us and our choice in the use and purpose of this gift is simple. Go chasing after pretentious vanities in the misguided notion that we have discovered something new in this world or choose a life of service and embark on the narrow but righteous path with the word of the lord as a lamp for our feet.


#9

I like this explanation… Thanks!


#10

Kohelet, the writer of Ecclesiastes, states just before this section that his goal in writing was to answer the question, “What do we gain from all the work at which we toil under the sun?” He will repeat this question in various forms throughout his book as he explores various ways in which people try to “get ahead” in life through the pursuit of various goals (wealth, knowledge, pleasure etc.) His conclusions will be framed by two key premises found in the book of Genesis. The first is the reality that God has twisted the world and introduced thorns, thistles and death in order to keep us understanding that we are created beings, not gods. The second is the permanence of the seasons and cycles of the earth we have been placed upon.

With these two thoughts in mind his opening remarks are that no matter how hard we choose to work the earth will not change for us. The thorns and thistles and also the randomness that God has introduced into creation cannot be conquered no matter how hard we work. God has decreed that by the sweat of our brow we shall “eat our daily bread,” not “get ahead.” He proves, in poetic form, that the endless cycles of nature will always wipe out our best achievements.

As a prologue to the actual message of the book, this section is not designed to be either uplifting or depressing; it is just a statement of fact. A reality designed by God that we can never overcome.

If you will understand this first section you may be ready to hear the true message of what I call “The lost book of the Bible,” a message that we desperately need but one that is buried under incorrect translations and traditions.

Vance - www.artofwork.ca


#11

In his book Reflections on the Psalms, C.S. Lewis says

“Nor would (I now) willingly spare from my Bible something in itself so anti-religious as the nihilism of Ecclesiastes. We get there a clear, cold picture of man’s life without God. That statement is itself part of God’s word. We need to have heard it. Even to have assimilated Ecclesiastes and no other book in the Bible would be to have advanced further towards truth than some men do.”

but, then the next thing he says…

“But of course these conjectures as to why God does what He does are probably of no more value than my dog’s ideas of what I am up to when I sit and read.”

But, he does have a point, I think.


#12

While it is true the internet is fairly new, but the verse is basically saying at some point in the future, new inventions will come along and then no one will even think about the internet anymore, it will be ‘old news’, and then everyone will be focused on that new thing.

This is just how things work though, that is what progress is all about.


#13

When discussing scripture we can get stuck on a phrase and miss the intent. We read “there is nothing new under the sun” and think immediately of our smart phone. We are certain the author was disconnected from the reality of how much technology has changed our lives.

Ecclesiastes is examining life to see if there is any lasting gain (yithron) from all our hard work under the sun. That is his quest and he does not deviate it throughout his book. To frame that discussion he opens his book by showing us that no matter how hard we work, the cycles of the earth do not change and we still live and die the same as we always have.

“Everything goes on in endless cycles, yet our mouths never tire of speaking, our eyes never finish looking, and our ears never get their fill of listening. How we live and work under the sun does not change. Even though people say, “Things are different now,” it was this way long before we were born. We have forgotten what happened before our time, and in the future the memory of what is taking place now will also vanish.”

His point is that the general principals of how we live and work under the sun have remained constant since creation. Humans will always relate to each other whether it be through an instant text message or a papyrus scroll. How we must work to earn our daily bread will never change and the thorns and thistles of creation cannot be conquered by technology (although we are arrogant enough to think they can). Technology has become a new messiah and we actually believe mankind can finally beat God’s curse against the ground we live upon. Thorns and thistles can be sprayed with herbicide and the randomness of God’s twisted world can be mitigated by our growing ability to control and forecast what the future holds.

Kohelet’s words have lasted for 2500 years for they are “honest and true”. We may want to believe that we have advanced as a race but you don’t have to lift the veil of human advancement very high to see the truth.

Vance - www.artofwork.ca


#14

In 1964, when C. S. Lewis wrote a book on the Psalms he made a passing reference to Ecclesiastes (see post above). He was speaking of how even the most dire parts of the Bible can still shed light upon our understanding of God. He chapter argues against dissecting these difficult texts through exposition and instead, letting them wash over our souls to impart the truth they do contain.

Unfortunately, C. S. Lewis lived in an era where the prevailing winds of scholarship blew only in the direction of seeing Ecclesiastes as a nihilistic book written by a bitter old man who had fallen away from God. That idea of the book was firmly entrenched for hundreds of years and it hindered even the best thinkers from seeing what Ecclesiastes was seeking to teach us. C. S. Lewis was correct for the expositional and systematic theologies that sought to explain the Bible did us a great disservice and robbed scripture of its potency. artofwork.ca/?p=189

Recently I have embarked on a project where I perform the entire book of Ecclesiastes while cooking a simple shepherd’s meal over a brazier. Last weekend, after the performance, a man in his 90’s told me that he had been reading Ecclesiastes all his life but this was the first time he actually understood it. His next comment echoed C. S. Lewis. “It seems I have spent too much time listening to people tell me what they think the Bible says instead of listening to what it is saying to me.”

Vance – www.artofwork.ca


#15

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