My daily exploration of the Bible, taking it one chapter at a time. If I do it everyday, it'll take 1189 days.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Ecclesiastes 9

It's all by chance

You can't tell whether you're heading towards love or hate. Everyone ends up in the same place, no matter whether they've been good or bad. This is evil.

At least you have hope when you're still alive. You know you're going to die, but at least you know something.

So, enjoy your life and your wife. Work hard, whlist you still can. Everything happens by chance.

A wise man saves a small town against a big army, but he is forgotten. Wisdom is better than power.

Key verse:
3. This is the evil in everything that happens under the sun: The same destiny overtakes all.

My thoughts:
The Teacher as an early existentialist? I think so. Here he states that nothing has any purpose, but everything is by chance, so we just make the most of our lives. It lacks the sharp rejection of conformity of post-modern existentialism, but the concepts are in there perhaps.


Anonymous Mark said...

"The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favour to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all." Ecc 9:11

I think this is one of the most fascinating verses in the Bible. "[Time] and chance happen to them all". Sh*t happens. Everyone is subject to arbitrary forces, regardless of whether they are wise or foolish, righteous or unrighteous, good or evil, etc.

In this regard Ecclesiastes seems to counter the prevailing view of the Old Testament which states that if you are good, you will be rewarded and if you are bad, you will be punished (Job is similar to Ecclesiastes up until the tagged-on happy ending...). Ecclesiastes says that everyone is subject to chance and that the righteousness of the righteous doesn't ensure them rewards or protection from harm. I also see Ecclesiastes as an antidote to Prosperity doctrine and the Evangelical approach of "life goes better with Jesus".

But that's just my way of interpreting it, based largely on a single verse...

"When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other." Ecc 7:14

"[God] causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." Mt 5:45

10:14 am

Blogger Pete W said...

Yea, and we also see in Luke 13:4 that the same concept is there.

I think you'll actually find that a lot of the Bible outside of the Deuteronomistic History and its wannabes (I'm looking at you, Jeremiah) seem to recognise that there is an inherent injustice, or randomness to the way things are.

Yea... It's dumb to think that life is easier with Jesus. Not many of my Christian (read Evangelical) mates think that these days.

5:04 pm

Blogger Huggies said...

on a (slightly) related subject; this verse came up in our OT readings for 20 somethings.

found it a bit disturbing really, but I'm sure some smart boy can explain it for me (since there are so many commenting on this blog)

my thoughts on it so far are that, although evil may not come from God, he can still use it. or something.


10:22 am

Blogger Pete W said...

It derives from the Biblical ideology before Satan became part of religious thought.

God is responsible for absolutely everything. He is God. Even in Job, Satan appears to be sent from God. Though the Hebrew word 'ra' generally does mean evil, the extreme contrast modern thought has between God and evil makes this translation of 'ra' as 'evil' look particularly bad.

I suggest reading Romans 9, and also comparing 2 Samuel 24:1 (and old pre-Satan text) and 2 Chronicles 21:1 (a newer text).

5:33 pm

Blogger Huggies said...

thank you smart boy :)

9:40 pm

Anonymous Mark said...

So I was searching for some stuff on Ecclesiastes and I came across a long, rambling blog post where a guy has said the same as me:

"Man, I love Ecclesiastes; it's the most un-religious book in the Bible. Recently, I read that there was a reason why Ecclesiastes comes directly after Proverbs. Proverbs says, "Be a good boy and good things will happen to you. Be a bad boy, and bad things will happen to you." Ecclesiastes say, "Oh really? Have you stopped to take a look around? Bad things happen to good people. Good things happen to bad people, and, after all that, EVERYBODY DIES!" Man, that's funny. It's even in the Bible. The Bible isn't as shallow as I was led to believe."

10:13 am

Blogger Pete W said...

heh heh... yea...

Uncle Spikey is obviously a Biblical cynic though...

He probably forgets that a lot of Psalms and a lot of the Prophets are people complaining to God about how the wicked get sweet lives. The difference is that those texts are appealing to God that he might show justice (like Job), whereas Ecclesiastes has concluded that it's meaningless and there is no justice (like Job... almost).

1:20 pm

Anonymous Mark said...

True, true. Since I still have no work to do I'm just going to keep on posting about Ecclesiastes...

Here's the best short account of Ecclesiastes I've come across. It's taken from the first comment on Uncle Spikey's blog post.

The comment says that there are two "great refrains" running through Ecclesiastes.

The first is the theme of the meaningless of life – nothing is new, work serves no purpose, fools prosper and the wise suffer, etc...

And the second:

"But another theme, another refrain, is equally marked, and this one is missed by the cynic. This is the refrain which sings the great gift of God. Under the sun, vanity is God's scepter (5:18, 8:15, 9:9). For those who fear Him, He gives the gift of being able to actually enjoy this great big marching band of futility...God gives to the wise man the gift of watching, with a pious and a grateful chuckle, one damn thing after another. All things considered, the furious activity of this world is about as meaningful as the half-time frenzy at the Super Bowl. But a wise man can be there and enjoy himself. This is the gift of God. The wise will notice how this point is hammered home, throughout the book, again and again. Slowly it dawns on a man that this is really a book of profound...optimism.

All these things are done by those who fear God under the sun, just as the miserable will constantly sweat and labor under the sun. But the distinction, as always, is to be found in the sovereignty and grace of God. This is why the doctrinal foundation for joy – joy that lives at the end of the tether - must first be understood. When he understands, and not until then, a man may eat his bread, drink his wine, and rejoice. He may work hard, digging a hole that another will someday fill up. If he is a wise man, he will know that this work is vain, and he will rejoice in it anyway. This is the gift of God."

From the intro to Joy at the end of the tether, by Douglas Wilson.

3:13 pm

Blogger Pete W said...


5:11 pm


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