Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Little Snippet, part 4

Ecclesiastes is the original source for phrases like “the sun also rises” and “there’s nothing new under the sun”. In fact, the word sun (shemesh in Hebrew) is found more in this book than any other book in Scriptures. I have the Bible on my laptop and I used the search option to verify this fact. I found that there are 32 verses in Ecclesiastes that contain one or more instances of the word sun. Every chapter in Ecclesiastes contains at least one and as many as five verses with sun.

Yet with all this sunshine Ecclesiastes is often called the most pessimistic book in the Bible. Why? We’ll see.

Tradition assigns authorship to Solomon. The word Ecclesiastes comes from the Greek word Ekklesiastes which means “speaker of a called out assembly”. The Hebrew Bible calls this book Qoheleth from the word in verse 1, chapter 1, that many translations have as “preacher” or “teacher”, but the original means “assembler” or “collector” of wisdom. That information, plus the fact that verse one also reveals the writer as the son of David, makes Solomon seems to be the obvious answer. After his scandalous backsliding he made public what he learned from his experiences. Whereas in Proverbs he reveals God’s wisdom, in Ecclesiastes he despairs over the complexity of life, the failure of natural wisdom and the futility of looking for truth and happiness apart from God. The major theme of the book is that without God’s blessing nothing satisfies, not wisdom, power, pleasure or riches. In fact, without God those things bring disillusionment and disappointment. Solomon says it right away. Read verse 2:

2 “Meaningless! Meaningless!”
says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!
Everything is meaningless.”

Many translations use the word “vanity” instead of “meaningless”. Other interpretations are “worthlessness” or “emptiness”. The Hebrew Bible translates this word with the word “futility”. So now you see why Ecclesiastes is the most pessimistic book in the Bible. Vanity. Meaningless. Worthlessness. Emptiness. Futility. The sun may shine, but it’s all hopelessness unless you have the light of the Son.