Literature / Book of Ecclesiastes

"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die..."

One of the Books of The Bible. This book focuses on a weary and wise writer, known as "The Preacher" (often identified as King Solomon), lamenting on the one important question: what is the meaning of life if everything turns to dust?

Contrary to the identification of King Solomon, scholars often state that this book actually is the youngest book in the Old Testament, possibly written under hellenistic influence as late as 200 BC. In any case, the Book takes a bleak tone focused on impermanence that will jar those expecting it to be written just like one of The Four Gospels.

Tropes:

  • Anti-Nihilist: A rare theistic example, although justified as it is from an ancient Jewish source. The author seems to spend large amounts of time going through the whole of human experience and showing how meaningless it all is, and how we can barely fathom the way of things, or of God, the evils that occur, and how no matter what you do we all die anyway; yet still finds time to point out that some things are better than others, to make the most of life, and above all to remember God.
  • Big Brother Is Watching: Ecclesiastes 10:20 is a warning to those who would do, say, or think ill against those who are in high authority. One interpretation is that the king happens to be God Himself.
  • Cessation of Existence: Solomon, calling upon his life experiences, reasons that even "a live dog is better than a dead lion," because while the dog may be weaker than a lion, the dog can at least hope to God while the dead lion can do nothing, since death obliterates all memory and knowledge in Ecclesiastes 9:4-6. The whole things fits with the somber nature of the Jewish afterlife of Sheol.
  • Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: What Solomon laments about, but he finds them vanity. However, he eventually comes to this conclusion:
    Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.
  • Dumb Is Good: Solomon muses over this trope and concludes that smart may be good but it sure is sad and it is temporary as we all die anyway.
  • The Eeyore: Qoheleth/Kohelet, the traditional author/narrator of Ecclesiastes. Given his title "Son of David, King in Jerusalem," he's probably also Solomon. (Kohelet is the Hebrew and original name of Ecclesiastes, but it's not uncommon for something in K'tuvim (the last third of the Old Testament) to be anonymous.)
  • Eternal Recurrence: Ecclesiastes 1:9-14 (New International Version):
    "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one can say, 'Look! This is something new'? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time. There is no remembrance of men of old, and even those who are yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow. I, the Teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. I devoted myself to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under heaven. What a heavy burden God has laid on men! I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind."
  • Greed: Ecclesiastes 5:10-12 says that those who love money will never have enough, so chasing wealth is meaningless. "The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether they eat little or much, but as for the rich, their abundance permits them no sleep."
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: This is a consequence of a fool who tends to say the wrong things in Ecclesiastes 10:12.
  • It's Been Done: Says quite a lot that there's nothing new under the sun.
  • List of Transgressions: According to the 12th and last verse of Ecclesiastes 12, God will judge every works, even in secret, regardless whether it's good or bad.
  • Market-Based Title: Ecclesiastes has nothing to do with ecclesiastical matters (i.e. how to organize a church). Its original name was Koheleth, which means "The Teacher," and actually fits the content of the book.
  • Lonely at the Top: What one king of Israel (presumably Solomon) was lamenting about the vanity in his life.
  • Nostalgia Filter: From Ecclesiastes 7:10:
    "Say not, 'Why were the former days better than these?' For it is not from wisdom that you ask this."
  • The Philosopher King: The author. He says he "was king over Israel in Jerusalem," and he writes philosophically about his experiences.
  • Polyamory: In his pursuit of pleasure, Solomon mentions that he "acquired a harem"; elsewhere in The Bible it's stated he had 700 wives and 300 concubines. And still, he admits his harem, like nearly everything he had acquired, was a vanity that did not profit him in the least.
  • The Power of Friendship: Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 assures that friendship is valuable and that things won't suit well for those who work alone.
  • Right Way/Wrong Way Pair: The contrast of the wise and the fool are described in some of the passages.
  • The Sons and the Spears: Ecclesiastes 4:12 - "Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken."
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: In Ecclesiastes 4:13, a poor and wise child is better to have than an old and foolish king.

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