Ecclesiastes

General Christian Theology
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lesterb
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Re: Ecclesiastes

Postby lesterb » Thu Jan 26, 2017 4:04 pm

The deeper I become involved in Ecclesiastes, the more I'm persuaded that Solomon was searching for God. He doesn't seem to have identified this at the start of the book, but his search for some vaguely defined "fountain of meaning" finally takes him to God.

I'm not sure if this was what he intended, and the book doesn't really include any personal response to what he found. But it is a philosophical book and he sticks to his subject on a philosophical level.

Searching for meaning in life without God is like a blind man looking for the famed Aztec "city of gold". Even if he should accidentally stumble onto it, he wouldn't know what it was.

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I'M JUST RECORDING A SERIES OF IMPRESSIONS IN THIS THREAD. READ THEM OR IGNORE THEM OR REACT TO THEM AS YOU WISH.
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When a man's ways please the LORD, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. (Pro 16:7 ESV)

silentreader
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Re: Ecclesiastes

Postby silentreader » Thu Jan 26, 2017 4:35 pm

lesterb wrote:The deeper I become involved in Ecclesiastes, the more I'm persuaded that Solomon was searching for God. He doesn't seem to have identified this at the start of the book, but his search for some vaguely defined "fountain of meaning" finally takes him to God.

I'm not sure if this was what he intended, and the book doesn't really include any personal response to what he found. But it is a philosophical book and he sticks to his subject on a philosophical level.

Searching for meaning in life without God is like a blind man looking for the famed Aztec "city of gold". Even if he should accidentally stumble onto it, he wouldn't know what it was.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
I'M JUST RECORDING A SERIES OF IMPRESSIONS IN THIS THREAD. READ THEM OR IGNORE THEM OR REACT TO THEM AS YOU WISH.


And yet it seems evident that at an early point in his life he did know God, so what happened?
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lesterb
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Re: Ecclesiastes

Postby lesterb » Thu Jan 26, 2017 4:46 pm

On Ecc 2:1-11


Pleasure Without God

God created pleasure. Pleasure is not sinful of itself. But pleasure without God is terrible. It becomes completely self-centered and seeks self-gratification at any cost. It doesn’t matter who else suffers because of it, if I get my fulfillment from it. Solomon used the pronouns I, me, my, and mine 41 times in this passage. That focus on self is very typical of pleasure seeking, self-gratifying people.

Martin Luther once said, “He who loves not wine, women and song remains a fool his whole life long.” A modern paraphrase puts it as, “drugs, sex and rock ‘n roll”. In this passage, we see Solomon trying to find meaning in life by letting his passions have free reign. This thought is obnoxious to most Christian people, but it isn’t as far removed from us as we might think. For us it might be “good food, romance novels and country gospel”. Today, romance novels are giving way to “Christian” movies. And you can insert a lengthy list of other things that tingle our senses and gratify our longings for pleasure.
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When a man's ways please the LORD, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. (Pro 16:7 ESV)

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lesterb
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Re: Ecclesiastes

Postby lesterb » Thu Jan 26, 2017 4:52 pm

silentreader wrote:
lesterb wrote:The deeper I become involved in Ecclesiastes, the more I'm persuaded that Solomon was searching for God. He doesn't seem to have identified this at the start of the book, but his search for some vaguely defined "fountain of meaning" finally takes him to God.

I'm not sure if this was what he intended, and the book doesn't really include any personal response to what he found. But it is a philosophical book and he sticks to his subject on a philosophical level.

Searching for meaning in life without God is like a blind man looking for the famed Aztec "city of gold". Even if he should accidentally stumble onto it, he wouldn't know what it was.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
I'M JUST RECORDING A SERIES OF IMPRESSIONS IN THIS THREAD. READ THEM OR IGNORE THEM OR REACT TO THEM AS YOU WISH.


And yet it seems evident that at an early point in his life he did know God, so what happened?

Jury is still out on that question. I'm portraying Ecclesiastes as a gallery of paintings, each of which leaves us with an impression. Solomon is doing this deliberately, I think and as such the impression is more important than the details. So interpreting Ecclesiastes (or Revelation, or Song of Solomon, for that matter) is somewhat like interpreting Christ's parables. You actually can destroy His main thrust by trying to work all of the details into your analysis. I struggled a long time to try to make sense out of Ecclesiastes until I finally figured this out.

It is possible that Solomon wasn't as far from God as he lets on. We'll never know that for sure. But we can know for sure that what this book is telling us is a series of lessons that are very helpful in sorting out life.

EDITED TO ADD: Kings tells us that Solomon was led astray because he loved many strange women. So his wives had a lot to do with your question.
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When a man's ways please the LORD, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. (Pro 16:7 ESV)

silentreader
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Re: Ecclesiastes

Postby silentreader » Thu Jan 26, 2017 4:58 pm

lesterb wrote:
silentreader wrote:
lesterb wrote:The deeper I become involved in Ecclesiastes, the more I'm persuaded that Solomon was searching for God. He doesn't seem to have identified this at the start of the book, but his search for some vaguely defined "fountain of meaning" finally takes him to God.

I'm not sure if this was what he intended, and the book doesn't really include any personal response to what he found. But it is a philosophical book and he sticks to his subject on a philosophical level.

Searching for meaning in life without God is like a blind man looking for the famed Aztec "city of gold". Even if he should accidentally stumble onto it, he wouldn't know what it was.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
I'M JUST RECORDING A SERIES OF IMPRESSIONS IN THIS THREAD. READ THEM OR IGNORE THEM OR REACT TO THEM AS YOU WISH.


And yet it seems evident that at an early point in his life he did know God, so what happened?

Jury is still out on that question. I'm portraying Ecclesiastes as a gallery of paintings, each of which leaves us with an impression. Solomon is doing this deliberately, I think and as such the impression is more important than the details. So interpreting Ecclesiastes (or Revelation, or Song of Solomon, for that matter) is somewhat like interpreting Christ's parables. You actually can destroy His main thrust by trying to work all of the details into your analysis. I struggled a long time to try to make sense out of Ecclesiastes until I finally figured this out.

It is possible that Solomon wasn't as far from God as he lets on. We'll never know that for sure. But we can know for sure that what this book is telling us is a series of lessons that are very helpful in sorting out life.

EDITED TO ADD: Kings tells us that Solomon was led astray because he loved many strange women. So his wives had a lot to do with your question.


I guess I was thinking of 1Kings chapters3&8, for instance. And does him being led astray need to be factored into our understanding of Ecclesiastes?
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Re: Ecclesiastes

Postby lesterb » Thu Feb 02, 2017 2:36 pm

Here's another synopsis...

The book of Ecclesiastes seems to have at least two turning points. The first two chapters seem to dwell on the process of disillusionment. Chapters two to seven, are more philosophical in nature, and more balanced. He still speaks of being disillusioned with life, but he has shifted from an agnostic, emotional viewpoint to a more intellectual, philosophical perspective. He examines time and work, then looks at the frailty of life. Then he switches to injustice, bunny trails to a warning about fearing God, and ends up with a lengthy treatise about the meaninglessness of wealth and human honor. In chapter seven, he bunny trails again to contrast wisdom and folly.

Chapter eight marks what seems to be the second turning point in the book of Ecclesiastes. Here he looks more closely at God, comparing God to an earthly king, and ending up proclaiming the impossibility of understanding God or His ways. From here on Solomon is on the home stretch, having accepted the fact that God is real and interacts with men. God is still somewhat distant to Solomon, and the relationship between him and God is a bit stiff, but it seems to be growing.

In the last two chapters, Solomon drops his philosophical façade and speaks directly to us about relating to the God he has rediscovered in his journey. His idea of relating to God is somewhat like he would expect his subjects to relate to him as king. This perspective seems lacking in warmth to us, but we live in a new dispensation, one where the relationship between man and God is more like the relationship between a father and his children. Try as we might, we don’t really understand the perspective of the OT, which in most cases was like subjects relating to their king.
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When a man's ways please the LORD, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. (Pro 16:7 ESV)

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lesterb
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Re: Ecclesiastes

Postby lesterb » Thu Feb 02, 2017 2:44 pm

silentreader wrote: ... does him being led astray need to be factored into our understanding of Ecclesiastes?


I think so. The book would be almost impossible to fathom if we didn't have the backdrop of history given in Kings. Chronicles is interesting too, but the writer doesn't color Solomon's end like the writer of Kings does. I'm not sure why this difference exists.

Normally people accept that Chronicles was compiled by Ezra and his scribes. Ezra doesn't seem to me to be the kind of person who would try to hide uncomfortable details about someone. Especially not these kind of details - which would fall right in line with some of the major concerns that Ezra had with Israel. So maybe Ezra knew something about Solomon that we don't, and maybe he assumed that his readers would have access to that information.

I can answer this better down the road a ways, when I've had a chance to talk it over with Ezra.
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When a man's ways please the LORD, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. (Pro 16:7 ESV)

haithabu
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Re: Ecclesiastes

Postby haithabu » Tue Feb 07, 2017 11:59 am

Here's another thought; Job and Solomon alike struggle with the problems of injustice and suffering in this life, but Solomon finds no resolution to it because he has no conception of the resurrection or of life in the hereafter. All he knows is that we were made to desire something better (eternity in the heart of men), but what it is he can't say.

The revelation given to Job of resurrection is usually viewed on a stand alone basis as a prophecy pointing forward to God's plan of salvation, but it occurs to me that in the context of the book as a whole it is really God's answer to Job's questions.

The injustices and sufferings that are unresolved in this life will indeed be resolved in the next. Without that God's justice would be left eternally unsatisfied. Although I believe that this revelation is Godgiven, from a human point of view Job seems to be driven to it by his intense concern for God's character. The life to come is almost a mathematical necessity for him to reconcile God's righteousness with the injustice he sees around him.

Solomon's emphasis is less on the character of God and more on his personal discontent with the human condition. I think this difference of spiritual orientation is at the nub of the difference between the two men and where they come out at the end of each book.
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Re: Ecclesiastes

Postby lesterb » Tue Feb 07, 2017 12:14 pm

haithabu wrote:Here's another thought; Job and Solomon alike struggle with the problems of injustice and suffering in this life, but Solomon finds no resolution to it because he has no conception of the resurrection or of life in the hereafter. All he knows is that we were made to desire something better (eternity in the heart of men), but what it is he can't say.

The revelation given to Job of resurrection is usually viewed on a stand alone basis as a prophecy pointing forward to God's plan of salvation, but it occurs to me that in the context of the book as a whole it is really God's answer to Job's questions.

The injustices and sufferings that are unresolved in this life will indeed be resolved in the next. Without that God's justice would be left eternally unsatisfied. Although I believe that this revelation is Godgiven, from a human point of view Job seems to be driven to it by his intense concern for God's character. The life to come is almost a mathematical necessity for him to reconcile God's righteousness with the injustice he sees around him.

Solomon's emphasis is less on the character of God and more on his personal discontent with the human condition. I think this difference of spiritual orientation is at the nub of the difference between the two men and where they come out at the end of each book.

Good thoughts. This is the kind of input I need.

Did Solomon have access to the book of Job? I guess there is no way of knowing. But I keep tossing around the idea of making a study of God as revealed in Job for a follow-up project.
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When a man's ways please the LORD, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. (Pro 16:7 ESV)

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Re: Ecclesiastes

Postby lesterb » Wed Feb 08, 2017 1:50 pm

He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world [eternity] in their heart...


I recall driving home late one night after a hard day of teaching. At that point life for me seemed very full of “travail” and it seemed like I could hardly handle it anymore. I was driving down a dark country road. It was a beautiful, clear night and the stars were shining clearly. I pulled to the side of the road and wound my window down, laid my head on the door, and just looked at the stars. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, the stars shone brighter and brighter, and I started to see details in the heavens that I didn’t even know were there.

We spend so much of our time surrounded by light, that we seldom realize what beauties we miss. But that night I just gazed and meditated. God had made all of this beauty, and much more that I couldn’t see with the naked eye. I’m not sure why he bothered, unless it was just that He could do it, and wanted to show us just a bit of His glory.

I sat there for at least fifteen minutes, forgetting everything else. When I pulled back on the road, I was refreshed. The day’s “travail” had fallen away. I had a glimpse of God that night that I have never forgotten. Well, maybe I have, at times, but every so often I remember. And it works its miracle in me anew.
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When a man's ways please the LORD, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. (Pro 16:7 ESV)


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