Thursday, 23 October 2014

Of Ecclesiastes, the futility of it all, Carpe Diem and Hey, don't forget to live!

Of Ecclesiastes, the futility of it all, Carpe Diem and Hey, don't forget to live!

Ecclesiastes is one of my favourite books in the bible ( Another one is Job, but that's a story for another day )

Ecclesiastes is a Greek word for 'Preacher'.

Why this Preacher may not be most people's favourite person:

-the prominent tone, particularly in the early chapters, is one of alienated cynicism and weary melancholy

-It's theme is: the emptiness of human effort, utter futility. All is vanity- which means it's all for nought. It's like pursuing wind

"I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind" ( Ecc 1:14 NIV )

Ecc 1:2 "Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity"

Ecc 8: 10b- 14 He is frustrated with delayed justice and the unfairness of it all. All is vanity

-Each time he tries to make sense of it, his frustration grows.

"And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit. For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow". (Ecc 1:17-18 )

9:11 - "I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all"

( this popular verse is often quoted out of context ( where is the concept of merit then? ) It is actually a lament of the great injustice of the way things occur in this world. You need to read the preceding verses to understand this )

-So, he concludes that the same fate awaits both the fool and the wise- death Ecc 2:14-17

"Therefore I hated life; because the work that is wrought under the sun is grievous unto me: for all is vanity and vexation of spirit" (Ecclesiastes 2:17)

9:2-6 The good, the evil, the righteous, the unrighteous: Death is the same fate of all

This is where it gets really interesting:

-Despite all this despair and cynicism, there is a positive note: the writer doesn't recommend nihilism or suicide (despite the lack of purpose or meaning in life). He states that every life does have its moments of meaning and happiness, and these moments should be seized when one can .

Carpe Diem (Seize the moment) -remember Jack in Titanic?

Which is why Ecc 9:7-10 makes sense - particularly relating to how one should live life

verse 7: "Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works"


Ecc 5:18 - "Behold that which I have seen: it is good and comely for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labour that he taketh under the sun all the days of his life, which God giveth him: for it is his portion"

Ecc 3:13 "And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God"

"In the end it's not the years in your life that count, but the life in your years"-Abraham Lincoln

So, Carpe Diem (seize the moment) and...

Hey, don't forget to live!

-Inspiration from Prof Christine Hayes' Lecture on 'The Hebrew Bible'


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