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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 5: How Inscrutable Are the Ways of God! The Relationship Between God and Man in the Book of Qohelet 95

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CHAPTER 5 How Inscrutable Are the Ways of God! The Relationship Between God and Man in the Book of Qohelet As a wisdom text, the book of Qohelet does not lend itself to theological exposition, for wisdom is by its very nature practical, and as already argued, the primary thrust of Qohelet’s purpose is to establish a practical, if not paradigmatic, wisdom based approach to living in a fallen world. However, in the pursuit of this practical end, Qohelet nevertheless explores the nature of the cosmos, God, and humanity to such an extent that one cannot help but extrapolate significant theological insight from the written text. Furthermore, the relationship between God and man is intricately tied to the line of argument throughout the book, and the theology of both is demonstrated to be foundational to an accurate understanding of the cosmos, wisdom, and the everyday part man plays in the “Grand Scheme” of things.1 From the perspective of motif, Qohelet’s theology of God and theology of man function as contrastive and complementary, with the sovereign determinacy of the deity set in relationship to and against the imposition of limitation upon humanity. Throughout the book of Qohelet one finds cosmological tension between the infinite Creator and his finite creation, and this relationship between the two forms a primary area of inquiry for the reflective sage. As with the other motifs explored by Qohelet, the motif of “sovereign imposition of limitation” does not function as independent from the other motifs under consideration,...

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