By William P. Brown
"Ecclesiastes" is a suite of sayings by means of Qoheleth (meaning "preacher" or "teacher"), who has launched into a trip to find the aim of human lifestyles. This statement presents an interpretation of this vintage textual content.
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Additional info for Ecclesiastes (Interpretation, a Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching)
Although Judah enjoyed a measure of autonomy (relative at least to what it suffered under earlier empires), it still had to contend with surviving under foreign control. C. D. ), certain socioeco- Page 9 nomic developments occurred that dramatically and indelibly changed the social landscape of Palestine. In contrast to the largely subsistence agrarian economy of preexilic Judah, the economy became increasingly commercialized beginning in the fifth century (Seow, Ecclesiastes, p. 23). A standardized monetary currency was introduced for the first time in order to facilitate commerce from Egypt to Persia.
There is, of course, much distinctive about Ecclesiastes in comparison to the Babylonian epic. The biblical book was written in a time far removed from the Old Babylonian empire. Once the central power in the ancient Near East, Babylon was no more from the author's historical standpoint. Yet the ancient epic remained well known and its themes universalthe dread of death, the futility of human existence, the bond of fellowship, the import of joy and contentment, the inscrutable will of the divine, and the bankruptcy of heroism.
But just such a commentary, in its purest form at least, will have to wait. For now, the way is open for the commentator to acknowledge his or her critical biases in working with the text, while allowing the text to question and probe the commentator in all its strangeness. Hence, a hermeneutics of trust and a hermeneutics of suspicion must remain simultaneously operative, as they were for Qoheleth in his quest to understand his "text," namely, the world of experience. As a minister of the Word and Sacrament, I initially found myself coming to Ecclesiastes with a negative bias against Qoheleth's rampant skepticism and despairing tone.