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