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An Analysis of the Inter-Dependency of the Prominent Motifs Within the Book of Qohelet

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Richard Alan Jr. Fuhr

The key to a balanced and accurate understanding of the book of Ecclesiastes lies in the inter-dependent relationships between the prominent motifs within the book. An Analysis of the Inter-Dependency of the Prominent Motifs Within the Book of Qohelet explores this dynamic. The final outcome of such an approach is a wisdom-based paradigm for living «under the sun», a wise man’s approach to living in a fallen world. Qohelet’s conclusions are two-fold and balanced. First, in light of the fact that life is fleeting, death is inevitable, and one’s future lies outside of the realm of human control, the wise will enjoy life as a gift from God, recognizing that joy is ultimately a responsibility and a mandate placed upon them. Second, in light of the fact that life is fleeting, death is inevitable, and God’s enigmatic ways on earth are sure to be followed by an equitable future judgment, the wise will fear God and keep his commandments. Therefore, the wise man or woman will enjoy life but not enjoy sin, living each day to its fullest but in sobriety, knowing that for all our actions there is a coming judgment. This is the wisdom of Ecclesiastes.

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CHAPTER 3: Living “Under The Sun”: The Question of Theological Context and Perspective in the Book of Qohelet 65

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CHAPTER 3 Living “Under the Sun”: The Question of Theological Context and Perspective in the Book of Qohelet In a book saturated with “catch” words and phrases, perhaps no other phrase, aside from those associated with the word lbh, is more characteristic of Qohelet than the descriptive phrase vmvh txt, translated universally in English versions as “under the sun.”1 The phrase vmvh txt, along with variant phrases such as ~ymvh txt (“under the heavens”; 1:13; 2:3; 3:1) and #rah-l[ (“on the earth”; 5:1 [Hebrew]; 8:14, 16) are found some 33 times in Qohelet, with “under the sun” having the special distinction of being used in the Hebrew Bible exclusively within the book of Qohelet. 2 The phrase is distributed quite evenly throughout the book, with its exclusion in chapters 11 and 12 being the only noteworthy exception. 3 The phrase is utilized with such frequency that it defies simple correlation to unique companion phrases, although the term is almost always used in connection with the common terms hv[ (“do, make”) and lm[ (“work,” “toil”), thus demonstrating that the phrase vmvh txt likely pertains to the realm in which human endeavor is performed. Furthermore, as noted by Ingram, the phrase “seeing the sun” is found elsewhere in Qohelet to refer metaphorically to the experience of living: “in 6:5 the stillborn child is described as not seeing the sun; in 7:11 1 Exegetical concerns over this phrase relate more to thematic contributions and meaning...

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