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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 6: The Inescapable Destiny of All Men: The Inevitability of Death Motif in the Book of Qohelet 117

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CHAPTER 6 The Inescapable Destiny of All Men: The Inevitability of Death Motif in the Book of Qohelet In developing an Old Testament theology of death and the afterlife, one finds that the Old Testament is frustratingly silent regarding what many consider to be the most pressing question for religious inquiry; what, if anything, exists beyond the grave? A survey of the Old Testament reveals that the prophets and wisdom teachers of antiquity are far more interested in preparing the follower of Yahweh for life in the present realm of the living than in revealing a clear theology and description of the afterlife. 1 Old Testament theologies and the scholarly community are almost uniformly in agreement regarding the silence in the Old Testament regarding any theological or eschatological significance to death and dying. 2 Mendenhall concurs with this assessment by stating: Most of the scholarly world agrees that there is no concept of immortality or life after death in the Old Testament. The human body was shaped by God from the earth, and animated with the “breath of life” nefes hayyim (Gen 2:7–8). At death, the person becomes nefes met, literally, “a dead breath” (Numbers 6:6), and the body returns to the dust whence it came. At the same time, when people die, they descend 1 The Old Testament stands in contrast with other ancient near eastern cultures and their obsession with the subject of death and the afterlife. Most notably one sees in contrast the Egyptian...

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