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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 7: What Will the Wise Man Do? The Enjoyment of Life Conclusions in the Book of Qohelet 137

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CHAPTER 7 What Will the Wise Man Do? The Enjoyment of Life Conclusions in the Book of Qohelet Standing at the crux of the debate regarding the proper approach to Qohelet is the recurring commendation of joy, the “enjoy life” motif. Qohelet explicitly commends the enjoyment of life seven times (2:24; 3:12–13; 3:22; 5:18; 8:15; 9:7–10; 11:8–10),1 set within the text in such a manner that “virtually every literary unit” is to some degree touched by this repeated refrain. 2 The even dispersion of the refrain saturates the argument of the book in such a thorough manner that it is difficult to ignore its significance as a motif—indeed, if one were to suppress the significance of the “enjoy life” motif one could just as easily find reason to relegate the lbh motif to obscurity—an approach that is hardly tenable in the world of Qohelet studies. Brown reflects this assessment of the equal prominence between the lbh motif and the “enjoy life” motif by stating, “Given their commonality in language and repetition throughout the book, Qoheleth’s seven commendations constitute the book’s refrain as much as his lbh indictment against the created order serves as its motto and rhetorical frame.”3 Thematically, the enjoyment of life is as rooted in creation as the lbh indictment is rooted in the fall; 4 just as the two find their basis in the creation 1 Most scholars recognize these seven refrains as...

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