CHAPTER 8: What Will the Wise Man Do? The Fear of God Conclusions in the Book of Qohelet 161
CHAPTER 8 What Will the Wise Man Do? The Fear of God Conclusions in the Book of Qohelet Derived from Qohelet’s observations of life in a lbh world, the two-fold response admonishing the enjoyment of life and the fear of God function together to provide a balanced paradigm for living in expectation of the inevitability of death. 1 However, at first glance, one may tend to see these two as incompatible. All too often, hedonistic excess is read into the first admonition and pietistic asceticism into the other—two ideas that are at the very least in tension with each other, and at the most in irreconcilable contradiction. As is so often the case with Qohelet, scholars are divided over how one should read these motifs, and few have developed any explanation regarding how the two should be read in relationship to one another. Often the situation is resolved by elevating one conclusion to a prominent role, while diminishing the other to obscurity. However, there is absolutely no indication within the text itself that either one of these motifs should be dismissed as a lesser consideration. Both of these motifs are presented as imperative conclusions in Qohelet’s rhetoric, and as such, it behooves us to understand their relationship to each other if we are to ultimately understand the message of the book itself. Prior to understanding this relationship, however, we must first establish the fear of God as motif, and in doing so, come to an understanding of its breadth...
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