- The Contents (ý 1).
- Who is the "Preacher"? (ý 2).
- The Date (Â§ 3).
- Egypt the Place of Composition (ý 4).
- The Author's Viewpoint (ý 5).
the title of the
book which in the English Bible stands between
Proverbs and the Song of Songs. A prologue, i.
2-11, and an epilogue, xii. 9-14, enclose the body
of the book, and in both
is spoken of in the third person. The prologue
gives the theme of the composition: All is vanity;
man has no abiding profit from his toil; there is
nothing new under the sun. The key-note is
struck in i.
vanity," and the book proper
ends with the same note (xii.
z. The i.
the Preacher, in the first person,
Contents begins his proof of the fruitlessness of
all man's striving, and presents in the
first section, i. 12-ii.
the results of his collected
experience as king in Jerusalem. Striving after
wisdom, enjoyment, possessions, contented activ
ity, he found unsatisfying, and the results insecure.
This, however, is not the consequence of chance,
but is the ordering of God which stands fast (ii.
Fear of God and moderation are the
duties of man. The next section, iv.-vi., contains
a series of observations and statements, the result
of experience, which supplement and
what precedes. The best rule of living is, according
to the next division, vii. 1-ix. 10, to get out
of life the moat enjoyment possible. For although
wisdom is beat, yet the riddle of life is that re
wards are proportionate neither to wisdom nor
virtue. The last section, ix. 11-xii. 8, commends
a prudential morality and grasping of present opportunities. The epilogue adds some words on
the Preacher's wisdom, on wisdom-literature in
general, and the conclusion: Fear God and keep
Who is the person whose "I" appears so often
in the book? In i.
2, vii. 27,
he is called
i. 12 he gives himself this name and
identifies himself with a wise, rich, brilliant king
over Israel in Jerusalem who, according to the
conception of the author, can
be no other than
Solomon. Of the many meanings of the word
proposed only two call for serious conaideraLion: (1) The word is a participial form with feminine ending but masculine meaning such as is
found in late Hebrew (Poahereth,
Ezra ii. 57;
Neh. vii. 57),
taken to mean "he who
calls the assembly together" (and
a. Who harangues). (2) The feminine sense
is the of the ending is retained and some
"Preacher"? personified being (expressed in Greek
Ha ekklftiazousa, " she
angue _) is represented as speaking. This can
be no other than
,Hokhma, " Wisdom,"
specialized wisdom which deals with practicalities,
with the art of living (of.
Prov. i. 21, viii. 1-3, ix. 3;
Is. xl. 9).
Herself timeless, in the days of
Solomon (whore person was more or less in the
writer's eye) she had begun to make observations,
which she had continued through the
only to find ceaseless repetition characterizing the
issue of events up to the time of the writing of the
All data,-the historical references, the linguistic character, marking it as at the transition from
the use of Hebrew to that of Mishnaic Aramaic,
and the general tone of the work-compel the
of the book at the end of the period when
Hebrew was used. 'To secure a more exact dating
than this is difficult. The view of Grastz that the
book belongs to the time of Herod the
3. The Great involves a series of impoenibil-
Date. ities and contradictions. Nor is the
assignment by Jewish tradition to the
"Men of Hezekiah" or to Solomon himself any
more defensible. A more definite datum seems
to be furnished in the fact that the Wisdom of
Solomon stands to this book in a
relation of hos
tility (of. Wisd. of Sol. ii. 1-5, iii. 2-3 with
Eccles. ix. 2, 5, 10, viii. 8, i. 11
etc., and Wisd. of Sol. ii. 6-9
Eccles. ix. 7-9, iii. 22, v. 17
If the Wisdom
of Solomon can be placed about 100
furnishes the date than which >~oheleth can not
be later. Whether the book of Sirach,
of which does not go back of 200
prior existence of Ecclesiastes can not with cer
tainty be decided. The parallels between the two
do not prove the dependence of Sirach, though it
does seem possible that in
Ecclus. xi. 11, xiv. 18, xxi. 12
the influence of
Eccles. i. 2
can be dis
cerned; similarly in the parallels
Eccles. ix. 11
Ecclus. xi. 12-13
the latter seems the younger.
%oheleth gives no sign that its author had shared
in the awakening of patriotism and zeal for the
national religion which the
Maccabean rising in
spired. The atmosphere of the book is that of the
Wisdom literature, cosmopolitan rather than na
tional. The limits of data "^e 430-200
age of Nehemiah exhibits many characteristics
which fit the -datoric situation presented by $o
tile other hand the philosophy of the
book shows Greek influence in its terminology and
its agreement with Stoic and Epicurean thought.
In iii. 11, v.18 the word yaphe occurs in the exact
sense of the philosophic kalon;
in iii. 12 "to do
good " has the meaning of the Greek eu Prattein;
and these data involve a time when the Greek ferment
had had time to work. On the other hand,
the niceties and fine distinctions of the two schools
of thought find no echo, only the commonplaces
and superficialities of the Greek are reproduced.
Not even the allegory in chap. xii. makes against
this conclusion, since the thought is clearly con
veyed in an Egyptian piece of poetry found in the
tomb of Neferhotep (Records of the Past
, vi. 129,
cf. the "Festal Dirge," idem,
This, as well as many other items, speaks for
the writing of the book in Egypt. For its compo
sition in Jerusalem only one passage speaks (v. 1).
The frequent mention (v. 8, viii. 2-5, x. 4-7, ll3
20) of the nearness of the king's house suite Egypt,
since in the times in which the book falls no king
resided in Jerusalem. Residence near the sea is
implied in xi. 1, reminding one of
4. Egypt Alexandria, at the time the royal city,
the Place and the seat of a great Jewish settle
of Com- went. The expression " king in Je
poaition. rusalem " is peculiar to this book
in the Old Testament; thoroughly
Egyptian is the designation of the grave as the
" everlasting house " (xii. 5 " long home "). The
time and the place are indicated as that of the
Ptolemies and their court, and before the oppres
sion of the Jews under Ptolemy IV. Philopator;
between 320 and 217
and at Alexandria
(cf. viii. 2, 8, with Josephua, Ant., XII. i. 1).
coldness with which the author seta forth the
worthlessness of wealth as an end for which to
strive, the persistence with which he endures a
mode of life which he would not choose and wishes
to forget, the intensity with which he seta forth
the humiliation to man from his zeal for knowl
edge in the face of the ordering and ]imitations of
fate, all speak for such a setting.
It is entirely comprehensible from these expres
sions how the newer exegesis comes to call the
book "Skepticism's Song of Songs." But such a
conception is a mistaken one. Beneath the ques
tioning of the book .lie strong religious convictions,
the assurance that God Almighty
5. The rules the world. He is the creator
Author's (vii. 29, xii. 1), he is lord of life and
Viewpoint. the beatower of life on man (viii. 8,
15), he has allotted to man the quest
and its toil (i. 13, iii. 10, 18, viii. 17), so that entire
existence, vanity as it is, must be accepted as of
God's ordering (ii. 26), though in the labor and
the quest of life he grants joy to man (ii. 24, v. 18,
vii. 18). How tragic it is that though the con
ception of eternity is in man's heart (iii. 11), yet
its depths he can not fathom (vii. 23-24, viii. 17
ix. 1)1 The purpose of God was to plant in the
heart of man the fear of God (iii. 14, vii. 18), for
God is the judge of compliance with the laws he
has established (iii. 17, viii. 8,8). Things ethically good in the world are life (ix. 4-5),
companionship (iv. 7-12), success, and enjoyment
of labor and its results (ii. 24, iii. 1-2, 22, ix. 7-8).
Since issues are uncertain, the more urgent is the
duty of constant striving (ix. 10, xi. 1-6). So
that the sum to which a fading Judaism reduced
the wealth of the prophetical faith is the certainty
of one eternal God, creator and ruler of the world,
and the certainty of his judgment. The method
of reaching this conclusion is to put thesis and
antithesis together so that the mean stands out
from the very juxtaposition (iv. ", v. 7-S, vii.
16-18). Yet this method of composition gave
rise to the earlier suppositions that this juxtaposition of contradictory theses pointed to a discussion between two persons, or to an anthology, or
to a mistake of the binder (or copyist). Similarly,
the moat opposite views of the teaching of the
book have been held-that it involves the consequences of a sheer yet somewhat spiritual skepticism, and that it is a book of consolation.
It is not surprising therefore that its position in
the canon should have been questioned, for ex
ample, in the debate in the first century between
the schools of Hillel and Gamalie]. The integrity
the book is rightly questioned so far as the
epilogue is concerned. But the remark of Graetz
that xii. 11 sqq. refer not to this book but to the
entire third division of the canon, and its corollary,
that Ecclesiastes stood at the end of the Old Tes
tament, are both in error. Indeed Graetz thinks
that the entire epilogue was affixed by the Synod
at Jabneh, c. 90
a conclusion demonstrably
wrong. The book was read by the Jews at the
Feast of Booths.
For literature on Ecclesiastes consult: A.
Palm, Die Qohekhlrakratur, Mannheim, 1888, and the
work of C. H. H. Wright, below. On the text,
Der Maaeorahtext les Kohekth, Leipsic.
translations are found in moat of the commentaries;
special and noteworthy are those by [N. Higgins], London, 1778, and P. Haupt, ib. 1905, both metrical. The
Commentaries are very numerous, the beet are: J. H.
van der Palm, Leyden, 1784; F. Hitsig, Leipsic, 1847;
E. W. Hengetenberg, Berlin, 1859, Eng, travel., Edinburgh, 1889; C. Bridges, London, 1880; C. D. Ginsburg,
ib. 1881 (noteworthy); M. Stuart, Andover, 1882 (philological): L. Young. Philadelphia, 1888; J. N. Coleman,
Edinburgh, 1887; H. Greets, Leipsic, 1871; T. P. Dale,
London, 1873; W. H. B. Proby, ib. 1874; T. H. Leale,
ib. 1877 (homiletical); E. H. Plumptre, Cambridge, 1881;
E. Renan, Paris, 1882; G. G. Bradley, Oxford, 1885, new
ed., 1898: T. C. Finlsyeon, Meditationa. and Maxims of
%hekN, London, 1887; W. Volek, Munich, 1889; M. J.
Boileau, Paris, 1892; J. Strong, New York,' 1893; C.
Siegfried, GÃ¶ttingen, 1898; G. Wildeboer, TÃ¼bingen,
1898; A. W. Streams, London, 1899; A. von Soho!:,
Leipsic, 1901; J. F. Genung, Boston, 1904; G. A. Burton,
New York, 1908.
The works cited under
Biblical Introduction, I. generally treat of the book, especially Driver, Introdgdiqn.
pp. 438-449. On questions of this nature consult: A.
Introduction to Ecclesiastes, New York, 1904
(the beat); J. S. Bloch, Ursprung and Entekhunpesei6
les Bathes Kohekt, Bamberg, 1872; A Treatise on the
Authorship of Ecclesiastes, London, 1880; C. H. H.
Kohekth . . . in Relation to Modern
Criticism sad . . . Pessimism, ib. 1883; T. K. Cheyne,
Job sad Solomon, pp. 199-285, New York, 1889; P.
Menzel, Dar pricchische EinRuea a
Prediper, Halle, 1880.
on the similarity to Omar Khayyam: J. F. Genang,
Ecctra and Omar Khayyam
, Boston. 1901; A.
Essence of Ecclesiastes in Metre o1 Omar Khan-
London, 1904. On the history of interpretation!
Dos Buck Cohelefh each Talmud and Mu3rasch
path and God
1880. Consult also: