Lange Commentary - Ecclesiastes

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Lange Commentary - Ecclesiastes

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Verse Commentaries:







Prof. Of Theology, Greifswald.





together with




Of Schenectady, N. Y.




professor of the german language and literature, union college, n. y.





§ 1. Name And Character Of The Book

According to the title: “The words of Koheleth, Son of David, King of Jerusalem,” this book contains the discourses or reflections of a king whom the author presents as Solomon, but whom he designates with the peculiarly symbolical appellative ÷ֹäֶìֶú This expression, which is not used outside of this book, is used again in it several times, and twice with the article (Ecc_7:27; Ecc_12:8; comp. Ecc_1:2; Ecc_1:12; Ecc_12:9-10). It is clearly allied with ÷ָäָì assembly, congregation of the people, and, as there is no such verb in Kal, is to be connected with Hiphil, ä÷äéì (Num_8:9; Num_10:7; Num_20:8; Job_11:10), and is accordingly to be considered as the feminine participial form with the signification of one holding an assembly, preaching. This signification which the oldest translators and expositors express (Sept.: ἐêêëçóéáóôÞò ; Hieronymus: concionator; hence Luther: “Preacher”) appears to stand in direct relation to the Chokmah of the Old Covenant, the personified Wisdom, preaching in the streets and on the market places, gathering around it all who were eager to learn (Pro_1:20 sqq.; Ecc_8:1 sqq.; Ecc_9:1 sqq.). From an original designation of this wisdom, the name Koheleth seems to have become the surname of Solomon, the teacher of wisdom êáô ἐîï÷Þí , or, as it were, wisdom incarnate,—a surname that with special propriety could be conferred on the great King, when he was represented as teaching and preaching, as in the apocryphal book of wisdom (Ecc_7:1 sq.; Ecc_9:7-8, etc.), or as in ours. If one does not wish thus to explain the feminine form, Koheleth, as a designation of a male individual (with Ewald, Köster, Hengstenberg, Hitzig, and others), there is nothing left but to accept an abstractum pro concreto, or, what is the same thing, to derive the feminine ending from the character of the name as an official name; for which analogies may be quoted in the Syriac and Arabic, as in the later Hebrew (e.g., îַìְëåּú = îֶìֶêְ , ôֵּçָä administrator, ëְּðָú fellow-citizen, etc.; comp. J. D. MICHAELIS, Supplement to Heb. Lex., p. 2168; Gesenius, Lehrgebäude, p. 468, and KNOBEL Commentary, 10.)—In any case, Solomon, who was pre-eminently and emphatically the wise man among the kings of Israel, must be understood under the peculiar name of Koheleth; as is shown not only by the title, but also by the studied description of the learning of Koheleth, comprehending every thing under heaven (Ecc_1:13; Ecc_8:9), and by his zealous searching after wisdom and truth (Ecc_1:13; Ecc_12:9), his transcendent fame as a sage (Ecc_1:16; Ecc_2:15), and finally his activity as a teacher of wisdom and author of proverbs (Ecc_12:9). For these are all characteristics which the book of Kings attribute honorably to Solomon, and of all the posterity of David, to him only (1Ki_2:9; 1Ki_3:12; 1Ki_5:9-13; 1Ki_10:1; see the Introduction to the Literature of Solomon in general (in the beginning of this volume).

The whole literary character of the book proves also that it belongs to the circle of the Solomonic writings on wisdom, if not in the narrower then in the broader sense, and raises it to a certainty, that under the Koheleth, therein appearing as speaker, none other can be meant than Solomon. For the book belongs clearly to the class of didactic teachings, and is distinguished from the Proverbs as the characteristic and principal representative of this poetic style in the Old Testament, mainly by the fact that it does not range numerous individual proverbs loosely and without consecutive plan, but rather develops one narrow and close circle of thoughts and truths in poetical and rhetorical form. The idea of the vanity of all human things clearly forms the centre of this circle of thought, the common theme of the four discourses, into which the whole falls according to the division mainly corresponding to the intention and plan of the author. To the dialectically progressive development and illumination in various directions which these discourses cast upon the theme in question, there corresponds an appropriate change from special moral maxims to longer or shorter descriptions of conditions, citations of doctrines or examples, observations regarding personal experience, and reflections on prominent and subordinate truths. There is also, in a formal view, a strophic division of the discourse, marked by formulas and terms repeated either literally or in sense, and a fitting diversity of style corresponding to the various objects, expressed in rhythmical prose, or lofty rhetorical and poetical diction. As the shortest expression for the designation of these peculiarities, the term “Philosophical and Didactic Poem” might be used; but in this, however, the idea of the philosophical must embrace the characteristic peculiarities of the spiritual life and aspirations of the Hebrews, or rather of the Shemitic people in general (comp. Introd. to Proverbs, § 2, p. 5 sqq.).

Observation 1.—The tracing of the name ÷äìú to ÷äì , ç÷äéì in the sense of congregare, conscionari, has the best authority, and is supported by the oldest as well as by the most numerous and critical among the modern expositors of this book. Hieronymus says, Comment, in Ecc_1:1 : “Coëleth, i.e., Ecclesiastes. ’ ÅêêëçóéáóôÞò autem Grœco sermone appellator, qui coetum, i. e., ecclesiam congregat, quem nos nuncupare possumus concionatorem, eo quod loquatur ad populum, et sermo ejus non specialiter ad unum, sed ad universos generaliter dirigatur.” Later expositors and lexicographers have fixed the fundamental meaning of the root ÷äì properly as that of “calling,” and hence compare ÷åֹì Arabic quâla, and Greek êáëÝù ., with Latin, calare, clamare. ÷ֹäֶìֶú “the caller, the preacher,” is clearly nearest allied to the synonymous äַ÷ּåֹøֵà Isa_40:3. On account of this fundamental signification of “calling,” we condemn these expositions of the name which proceed from the supposed root idea of gathering or collecting. To these belong 1) the opinion of Grotius, Herder, Jahn, etc.: that the word means collector sententiarum, a collector of sentences—a view that some ancient translators have already expressed, e.g., Aquila ( óõíáèñïéóôÞò ); Symmachus ( ðáñïéìéáóôÞò ); 2) Van der Palm’s modification of this view from a partial consideration of 1Ki_8:1; in which Solomon is spoken of as the assembler of his people and his elders ÷ֹäֶìֶú i.e., congregator, coactor; 3) the view of Nachtigal and Döderlein, that ÷äֶֹìֶú =congregatio, consessus, “learned assembly, academy,” according to which the book would be marked as a collection of philosophical disputations in the style of the Seances of Hariri, or the Collectiones Patrum of Cassian (an acceptation clearly at variance with such passages as Ecc_1:12; Ecc_12:9-10, etc.); 4) the strange assertion of Kaiser: that ÷äֶֹìֶú is the same as collectivum, and means the whole of the Davidic Kings, from Solomon to Zedekiah, whose history the book delineates in chronological order (Kaiser, Koheleth, the Collectivum of the Davidic Kings, Erlangen, 1823, comp. § 6).—-That no one of these explanations deserves attention, in view of the illustrations already given, is quite as certain as that it must also remain doubtful which of the two efforts to explain the feminal form of the name, which our paragraph has named as the principal, or, rather, only possible ones, deserves the preference. For the view of the expression taken by Ewald and Köster, that it is synonymous with wisdom, and in so far a fitting designation of Solomon, the embodied wisdom, various significant parallels besides those above quoted press themselves on our attention; e.g., in an extra-biblical field the surname given to the sophist Protagoras, Óïößá , and, what is more important, the self-designation of Christ, the New Testament Solomon, as the Óïößá or Óïößá ôïῦ èåïῦ (Mat_2:19; Luk_11:49), with which, according to Bengel’s example, may be directly combined the declaration concerning the desire of gathering the children of Jerusalem under his wings (Mat_23:37; Luk_13:34). The view first advanced by Michaelis, and then adopted by Gesenius, Knobel, Elster, Vaihinger, Hahn, Keil, and others, now again appears, namely, that the feminine ending is explained by the character of the name as an official name, besides the already quoted names, ôֵּçָä , îַìְëåּú , ëְּðָú and still more are we aided by the analogies of expression such as ñֹôֶøֶú “the writer,” Ezr_2:55; Neh_7:57; and ôּëֶøֶú “the catcher, hunter” (contained in the proper name ôּëֶֹøֶú äַöְּáָéִéí i.e., gazelle-hunter, Ezr_2:57; Neh_7:59); for these names are closely allied with ÷ֹäֶìֶú And, moreover, since the Koheleth of our book appears every where as a real person, and no where clearly as a personified idea, and since expressions such as those contained in Ecc_1:16 f.; Ecc_2:12, etc.; according to which the speaker attributes to himself an effort, a seeking, an obtaining, would not be especially appropriate in the mouth of personified wisdom, the weightiest arguments seem to declare in favor of the second mode of explanation, but without the absolute exclusion of the other.—But in any case we must adopt for the explanation of the feminine form one or the other of the above quoted hypotheses, and not the opinion of Mercerus, that by the feminine ending there is an intimation of the senile weakness of the preacher, and consequently of the advanced age at which Solomon wrote the book; nor the view of Zirkel (see § 6), that the feminine ending is chosen because of the delicate and graceful style of the book, nor the still more fanciful assertion of Augusti (Introd. to the O. T., § 172), that Koheleth is the spirit of Solomon returned to the realm of the living, and now represented as the preacher of wisdom, and that its feminine designation is to be understood in the neutral sense, because those deceased and living after death were considered destitute of gender, in harmony with Mat_22:30. It has been justly made to appear in opposition to this latter view, by Knobel, Elster and others, that the book itself no where hints at the character of the speaker, as of a spirit from Scheol, and that apparitions in the Old Testament, as 1Sa_28:11 ff. proves, clearly appear as something rare and abnormal, and that on account of the well known prohibition of conjuration of the dead (Lev_19:31; Lev_20:6; Deu_18:11; Isa_8:19) even the poetic fiction of an apparition of Solomon could hardly occur, especially in religious writings laying claim to canonicity.

Observation 2

The character of this book has suffered manifold misapprehensions, as well in a theological point of view (for which see below § 5) as in the rhetorical and esthetical. It has been accused of numerous contradictions with itself, of absence of plan and connection, on account of a faulty perception of its inner economy, and the development of its thoughts. It has been declared inconsistent that passages like Ecc_1:11; Ecc_2:15-16; Ecc_3:19-20; Ecc 9:25, etc., assert the complete equality of the final fate of the godly and the ungodly; whilst others, as Ecc_3:17; Ecc_8:12-13; Ecc_11:9; Ecc_12:13-14, promise a corresponding divine reward for each individual moral act, and therefore expressly exhort to uprightness and the fear of God. It has also been found contradictory, that the author sometimes praises wisdom as bringing profit and blessings (Ecc_2:3; Ecc_2:12-14; Ecc_7:10-12; Ecc_8:1-6; Ecc_10:2; Ecc_10:13-16), and sometimes declares that it is injurious, making men ill-humored, and not leading to the goal of its endeavors; sometimes indeed causing more unhappiness than does folly, (Ecc_1:18; Ecc_8:14; Ecc_9:11; Ecc_9:18; Ecc_10:1). It is not less contradictory that at one time he praises his own wisdom, and at another maintains that he has not acquired wisdom (Sec. 16; Ecc_2:3; Ecc_2:9; Ecc_2:15, with Ecc_7:23-24); that now he praises women, and recommends association with them and now warns us against their seductive and immoral nature. (Comp. Ecc_2:8; Ecc_9:9, with Ecc_7:7; Ecc_7:26-29); at one time recommends repose, at another activity (see Ecc_4:6, with Ecc_9:10); again he praises obedience to authority as being not without profit, and then he complains of the unjust oppression of subjects by their superiors (comp. Ecc_8:5, with Ecc_3:16; Ecc_5:7; Ecc_10:4 ff.), and finally he declares the dead and the unborn as happier than the living, and soon again calls life sweet, and greatly prefers it to death, (comp. Ecc_4:2-3, with Ecc_9:4-6; Ecc_11:7).—But aside from the fact that many of these so-called contradictions are but apparent, and become perfectly harmonious in view of the diverse tendency and surroundings of the individual assertions, or indeed through the double signification of one and the same word, as is here and there the case, comp. (e.g. ëַּéæַí Ecc_7:3, with the same word in Ecc_7:9; çֵï in Ecc_9:11, with çֵï in Ecc_10:12, etc.,) a certain vacillation and unsteady effort in the presentation of the author is a necessary condition of his peculiar theme—the doctrine of the vanity of all earthly things. The most contradictory experiences which he may have made in life, he seeks to reproduce in a corresponding and often abrupt change of his feelings, a vivid transition of his thoughts and expressions,—a peculiarity which Umbreit has not inappropriately characterized by his designation of the entire contents of the book as a “soul struggle, an inner strife between the judgment and the feelings of a wise old King;” (comp. § 6).

In this respect, also, Vaihinger strikingly observes, (“Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon,” p. 8, f.): “It must be acknowledged that the preacher is not free from a timid uncertainty, from a doubting vacillation and striving in his mode of reflecting; that he strikingly depicts the want of a perfect clearness regarding human life and divine providence, in the varied experiences of man. The reason of this may be easily discovered by a consideration of the general and special stand-point on which he rests. He was once as Job, a thinking mind, that did not accept the traditional faith untried, that did not stop at the poetry of life, but penetrated into its prose. In this direction he necessarily entered into a contest when he compared the daily experiences of life, in which men are often left to their own impulses, with the promises of the divine word, in which a sure punishment is announced to the sinner. He could not but perceive how evil often has a wonderful and incomprehensible success, whilst the good is not rewarded. At the same time he himself may have variously experienced the buffetings of life, and have passed through highly repulsive trials that unsettled his mental repose, and shook his faith in the eternal wisdom, goodness, and providence of God, and disposed him to be discontented with life and traditional prejudices. In this frame of mind, and with such experiences, his faith contended with the thought and the reality with the poetry of life, until, like Job, he had conquered a new stand-point. And from just this view is this book so instructive, lifting us out of a partial, arbitrary, and thoughtless faith, showing us the struggles of the thinking mind, and yet ever leading us back to the true faith. And this is the real profit of the genuine life of faith. If it is to be freed from the dross of thoughtlessness and self-sufficiency, from an idle clinging to tradition, it must be seemingly lost in the struggle of life to be found again in loftier purity. Divine truths must all be questioned, in order that we may find them again by inward struggles, and new experiences of God in a sanctified form; (Ps. 62:12, 13); and in this relation also avails the expression: “He who loses his life, shall find it again.” The author presents to us also in this respect, the true life of faith in his conflicts.

Besides the intention of presenting to the reader an intuitive vision of his inward strifes and contests, many reasons of a more formal and external nature may have exerted an influence on the vacillating and contradictory recital of the author; e.g., the intentional interweaving of many digressions (see e.g. Ecc_12:2-6), and especially the direct introduction of the expressions of contrary thinkers for the purpose of immediate refutation. Thus appears in Chap. Ecc_4:5, an apparently antagonistic assertion, which in the sixth verse is disapproved and rejected; the same relation is held by Ecc_10:16-19, and Ecc_10:20. In any case it is perfectly proper and just to consider what Hitzig says, (Preliminary Observations, No. 5, p. 125): “It wouldseem that much that the author says possesses but a momentary influence as a link in the chain of deductions.” It performs its duty and is neutralized; the latter assertion abolishes the former; and at the close Koheleth teaches only that which finally remains uncontradicted. Comp. below exegetical explanations to Ecc_2:1 ff., No. 1.

Observation 3

It cannot much surprise us now, after the above demonstrations, that the plan and thread of thought in the book have been very variously comprehended, and that the schemes adopted for the subdivision of its contents have deviated strongly from one another; and indeed to speak with Vilmar (Art. Koheleth, Pastoral Theological Journal, vol. 5. p. 253), “the economy of the book bears almost exactly as many forms as it has found expositors.” Of these views and treatises the principal ones will be summarily recounted in Observation 1 of the following paragraph: The poetical form of the book will also receive more critical attention in the following paragraphs, on account of the close connection of its strophical design with its subdivision and the logical progress of its thoughts.

2. Contents And Plan

“All is vanity,” a sentence that appears no less than twenty-five times, forms the fundamental thought of the book; an assertion of the vanity of all human relations, destinies, and efforts, based upon experience. As there is in the objective phenomena of this world, i.e., in nature and history, no true progress, but ever a constant return of old things that long have been, a perpetual monotony, a continual circle of things (Ecc_1:4-7; Ecc_1:9-10; Ecc_3:15); thus man, with all his efforts, attains to nothing new, but rather shows himself, in everything that he wishes to investigate, fathom and acquire, most manifoldly limited and controlled by the all-pervading and all-powerful hand of God; (Ecc_3:1-8; Ecc_3:11; Ecc_3:13; Ecc_8:6; Ecc_8:17; Ecc_9:1; Ecc_9:5; Ecc_9:11-12, etc.). On the way of his own efforts and strivings, man is able to arrive at no true and lasting happiness; for neither sensual pleasures (Ecc_2:2; Ecc_2:11; Ecc_7:6, etc.) nor earthly possessions and treasures (Ecc_3:9-16; Ecc_6:1-7, etc.), nor wisdom (Ecc_1:13-18; Ecc_2:14-18; Ecc_9:1; Ecc_9:11; Ecc_10:6, etc.), not even virtue and the fear of God (Ecc_3:16-18; Ecc_4:1; Ecc_7:15-17; Ecc_8:10; Ecc_8:14); help here below to lasting happiness. But we are not the less to doubt of the presence of a personal God, and of a moral system of the world regulated and watched over by him, (Ecc_3:11; Ecc_3:13; Ecc_3:17; Ecc_5:5; Ecc_5:7; Ecc_5:17-19; Ecc_6:2; Ecc_7:13-14; Ecc_11:5; Ecc_11:9; Ecc_12:7; Ecc_12:14), and the belief of this activity of God governing and directing the world, lends to all sensual and moral blessings of life their only worth (Ecc_11:9; Ecc_12:13-14). On the basis of this belief it behooves us to enjoy the pleasures of this life in a cheerful, thankful, and contented manner (Ecc_2:24; Ecc_3:12-13; Ecc_5:17-18; Ecc_8:15; Ecc_9:7-9; Ecc_11:8-10), but we must combine this cheerful enjoyment of life with an earnest endeavor after wisdom as a truly lofty and valuable treasure (Ecc_7:11-12; Ecc_9:13-16; Ecc_8:1-6, etc.), and above all this strive after the fear of God as the source of the highest happiness and peace, and the mother of all virtues (Ecc_5:6; Ecc_7:18; Ecc_8:12-13; Ecc_12:1; Ecc_12:13). In short, the author regards as end and aim of human life on earth, a joy in the blessings and enjoyments of this world, consecrated by wisdom and the fear of God, with renunciation of a perfect reconciliation of existing contrasts, difficulties, and imperfections, and an eye steadily fixed on the future and universal judgment, as the final solution of all the mysteries of the universe.

These contents of the book, as was remarked in § 1, are divided into four discourses of about equal length:

I. Discourse: Chap. 1 and 2.—The theoretical wisdom of men, directed to the knowledge of the things of this world, is vanity (Ecc_1:2-18), as well as the practical, aiming at sensual enjoyments, great worldly enterprises, creations, and performances, (Ecc_2:1-19); neither of these leads to lasting happiness, or to any good that may be considered as the actual fruit of human labor (as the actual éִúְøåֹï of man), and not rather an unconditional gift of Divine Providence, (Ecc_2:20-26).

II. Discourse: Chap. 3–5.—In view of the complete dependence of human action and effort on an immutable and higher system of law (Ecc_3:1-11) the answer to the inquiry after earthly happiness (or éִúְøåֹï ) must be that there is no higher good for man than to enjoy this life and to do good, (Ecc_3:12-22); a good that is not easily attained in the diversely changing circumstances of fortune, and the frequently unfavorable situations in private, social, and civil life (Ecc_4:1-16), but a blessing, nevertheless, after which we must strive by piety, conscientiously honest actions, and a spirit sober, contented, and confiding in God, (Ecc_4:16; Ecc_5:19).

III. Discourse: Chap. Ecc 6:1–8, 15. Since worldly goods and treasures in themselves cannot lead to true happiness, but are rather vain and transitory, (Ecc_6:1-12), we must strive after the true practical wisdom of life, which consists of patience, contempt of the world, and fear of God (Ecc_7:1-22); and we must seek to gain and realize it, in spite of all the allurements, oppressions, injustices and misfortunes of this world, (Ecc_7:23, Ecc_8:15).

IV. Discourse: Chap. Ecc_8:16 to Ecc_12:7.—As the providence of God in the allotment of human destinies is, and will ever remain, unfathomable, and apparently has little or no reference to the moral and religious conduct of men in this world (Ecc_8:16; Ecc_9:16), and as there are no other means for the wise man to preserve his peace of soul in presence of the arrogance, impudent assumption, and violence of fortunate and powerful fools, than godly patience, silence, and tranquility (Ecc_9:17; Ecc_10:20): therefore benevolence, fidelity to duty, a contented and serene enjoyment of life, and sincere fear of God from early youth to advanced age, are the only true way to happiness in this world and the world beyond, (Ecc_11:1; Ecc_12:7).

Epilogue: Chap. Ecc_12:8-14. This contains a comprehensive view of the whole, and a recommendation of the truths therein taught, with reference as well to the personal worth of the author (9–11), as to the serious and important contents of his teachings (12–14).

Each of these principal divisions falls into subdivisions, already indicated by the preceding scheme, and within these are again separate paragraphs or verses. These smaller divisions are either marked by the mere inward progress of the thought, or by certain other external signs, as here and there by peculiar, cumulative, closing sentences, (Ecc_1:15 : Ecc_1:18; Ecc_2:11; Ecc_2:19; Ecc_2:23; Ecc_2:26), or also by like formulas and turns in the beginning (e.g. by the opening formula: “I saw:” Ecc_3:10; Ecc_3:16; Ecc_4:1; Ecc_4:7; Ecc_4:15), or by other similar expressions and sentences (e.g. Ecc_7:26; Ecc_8:5; Ecc_8:12). In accordance with this the first discourse contains three divisions (Ecc_1:1-11; Ecc_1:12, till Ecc_2:19; Ecc_2:20; Ecc_2:26), of which the first has three, the second six, and the third two strophes. The second discourse consists of three divisions (Ecc_3:1-22; Ecc_4:1-16; Ecc_4:16; Ecc_5:19), each of three strophes; the third of three divisions, (Ecc_6:1-12; Ecc_7:1-22; Ecc_7:23; Ecc_8:15), of which the first counts two, the second and third each of three strophes; the fourth of three divisions, of three strophes each, (Ecc_8:16-17; Ecc_9:17, till Ecc_10:20; Ecc_11:1; Ecc_12:7). The conclusion comprises two strophes or also half strophes (Ecc_12:9-11; Ecc_12:12-14), together with a shorter proposition (Ecc_12:8). More about this division into strophes may be found in Vaihinger, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon, pp. 26–44 (also in Studien und Kritiken, 1848, 11); and in Haevernick, Introduction to the Old Testament, edited by Keil, Vol. III. p. 438 ff.

Observation 1

With the arrangement of the contents of Ecclesiastes above given, which we designate according to its principal representatives, as that of Vaihinger and Keil, correspond most nearly the divisions of Köster (the Book of Job and Ecclesiastes, Schleswig, 1831), of H. A. Hahn (Comment. on Ecclesiastes of Solomon, 1860), and of Ewald (The Poetical Books of the Old Testament, 1 ed. 4:193; 2 ed. 11, 284ff.). That of the latter, to which Heiligstedt subscribes, (Commentar. in Eccl. et. Cant. Cantic. 1848), corresponds almost exactly with the one accepted by us, only that the second of the four discourses laid down in it, extends from Ecc_3:1 till Ecc_6:9, (and consequently the third from Ecc_6:10 to Ecc_8:15),—which seems scarcely in harmony with the subordinate of the new thought beginning with Ecc_6:10. Ewald and Heiligstedt also avoid, without sufficient reason, a more special classification of the separate discourses, according to strophes and sections. Köster, who also accepts four principal divisions or discourses, has attempted a more special division into strophes, but in the whole, as in the individual parts, indulges in many arbitrary assertions. His divisions are a, introduction: 1, 2–11, consisting of a proposition as a theme, and two strophes; b. I. Sec.: Ecc 1:12, 13, 22, containing eight strophes; c. II. Sec.: Ecc_4:1-6; Ecc_4:12, containing nine strophes; d. III. Sec.: Ecc_7:1-9; Ecc_7:16, containing nine strophes; e. IV. Sec. Ecc_9:17 to Ecc_12:8, of eight strophes; f. conclusion:12:9–14, of two strophes. Hahn makes nearly the same classification, only he extends the third part merely to Ecc_9:10, instead of to Ecc_9:16, and adds the introduction I. 2–11 to part 1.—Of the remaining modes of classification we notice the following: M. Geier: Solomon tells I. wherein happiness does not consist; and this 1) from his own experience (1, 2); 2) from the experiences of others, namely, a. from the change in the times (3) b. from the character of persons, of the unjust, the envious, the avaricious, and of godless kings and the rich, (4, 5), c. from the uncertainty of earthly things, a. of wealth (6, 7), ß. from the arrangement of human as well as divine things (8, 9); II. wherein true happiness consists, 1) in upright conduct towards superiors (10); 2) in beneficence towards the poor (11); 3) in the fear of God (12).

Sebastian Schmidt: Three parts: I. Treatise concerning the highest good, 1) negative, showing wherein it does not consist (Ecc_1:2-3; Ecc_1:11); 2) positive, wherein it is to be placed (Ecc_3:12-14); II. six instances by which man may be prevented from obtaining the highest good (Ecc_3:15 till Ecc_4:16); III. guide to the true worship of God, and the way to happiness, contained in fourteen rules of conduct (Ecc_4:16; Ecc_12:7), together with a summary (Ecc_12:8-14).

Starke: Three parts: I. wherein the highest good is not to be found (Ecc_1:2 till Ecc_3:11); II. wherein it is to be found (Ecc_3:12; Ecc_4:16); III. of our demeanor after finding this good, taught in fourteen rules (Ecc_4:16 till Ecc_12:7); then the close, (thus differing but little from the previous division).

Oetinger: Two parts: One must not let himself be driven by the prevalence of vain things into folly, avarice, and temerity (Ecc_1:7); II. one should not be led astray by vanity from the fear of God (Ecc_8:12).

Paulus: As the former, only pointing out that in chap. 1–7 Solomon speaks, and in chap. 8–12 another person answers him.—Van der Palm: Two parts: I. Theoretical part: illustration of the vanity of human endeavors (chap. 1–6); II. practical part: rules that are to be followed under such circumstances (chap. 7–12). J. Dav. Michaelis: I. Theoretical part: the great insufficiency of the happiness of a man left to himself, and isolated from God (Ecc_1:2; Ecc_4:16); II. practical part: the means leading to a true and lasting happiness in this life (Ecc_4:16; Ecc_12:14); the first of these parts containing four, and the second six subdivisions.—Fr. Seiler: As the preceding, only that he accords to the theoretical part six, but to the practical part eleven subdivisions. So also Rosenmullek and others.

Mendelsohn: Thirteen sections: 1) Ecc_1:1-11; 2) Ecc_1:12; Ecc_2:11; 3) Ecc_2:12-26; 4) Ecc_3:1; Ecc_4:3; 5) Ecc_4:4-16; 6) Ecc_4:16; Ecc_5:20; 7) Ecc_6:1; Ecc_7:14; 8) Ecc_7:15; Ecc_8:9; 9) Ecc_8:10; Ecc_9:12; 10) Ecc_9:13; Ecc_10:15; 11) Ecc_10:16; Ecc_11:6; 12) Ecc_11:7, till Ecc_12:7; 13) Ecc_12:8-14.

E. Chr. Schmidt: also thirteen sections: but which correspond with the preceding in scarcely any point, and of which the last, Ecc_12:8-14, is regarded as the addition of a younger hand. Knobel and Umbreit take the same position; (consult the following paragraph concerning them and other contestants of the genuineness of the conclusion, Ecc_12:8-14).

Hitzig: Three main divisions: I. The theoretical foundation, or investigation for the reader regarding the situation (Ecc_1:2; Ecc_4:16); II. Recommendation to enjoy the pleasures of life cheerfully, with various provisions and restrictions (Ecc_4:16; Ecc_8:15); III. Positive and direct illustration of what it is salutary for man to do, or development of the principles of a genuine and practical wisdom, (Ecc_8:16 till Ecc_12:14).

R. Stier: Introductory Preface (Ecc_1:2-11), and then three main divisions: I. To the natural man all is vanity; he falls into confusion and trouble, as long as he does not look to God, (Ecc 1:12; 7:30); II. Various passages alluding in various ways to the foregoing, but illuminating everything with the light found in the first part (Ecc_8:1; Ecc_11:10); III. The teaching of the Book, “Regard thy Creator before thou becomest old, for this yields an immortality;” together with conclusion and recapitulation (Ecc_12:1-14);—each of these principal divisions falls into several subdivisions; the first into four, the second into three, and the third likewise into three.

Fr. De Rougement: Two main divisions of very unequal length: I. Philosophical discourse (Ecc_1:2; Ecc_12:10); II. inspired teaching (Ecc_12:11-14). The first of these parts is introduced by the presentation of the problem to be solved, (Ecc_1:2-11), and then divided into three books: 1) the vanities of human existence (Ecc_1:12; Ecc_4:16); 2) the human conditions of happiness (Ecc_5:1; Ecc_7:14); 3) the divine conditions of happiness (Ecc_7:15; Ecc_11:6): each of these books is again divided into three or four paragraphs, and the last is accompanied by a special conclusion: “life and death,” (Ecc_11:7; Ecc_12:10).

A. F. C. Vilmar: Seven divisions (mainly for practical utility). I. General introduction: everything on earth is transitory, and returneth to the place whence it came, etc. (chap. 1.); II. deeds in life are vanity; God alone carries their success in his hand; we see no profit of our labors, and no result of our life (Ecc_2:1; Ecc_3:15); III. to expect a recompense on earth, is a deceptive hope (Ecc_3:16; Ecc_5:8); IV. riches, with all that they are permitted to accomplish and effect, are vain and transitory (Ecc_5:9; Ecc_7:9); V. wisdom on earth is no avail, for it can find out much but not all things, and the end of the wise man is (externally) like the end of the fool (Ecc_7:10 till Ecc_10:4); VI. result: our unsuccessful labors, the inequality of the things of the world, the nothingness of riches, and the insufficiency of worldly wisdom must not deceive us in what we have to do in our narrow circle, and least of all the youth (Ecc_10:5; Ecc_12:7); VII. conclusion: repeated summary of the result more circumstantially given in No. VI.

Observation 2

Many commentators deny that there is any evidence of a well-arranged and systematic train of thought, and have considered the book an immethodical collection of individual thoughts, views and expressions, that have simply a loose connection by the assertion that all is vanity, and for whose grouping the usual division into chapters presents a sufficient means. This is the view of the older commentators, as also of Luther, Melanchthon, Drusius, Mercerus, Bauer, Hansen, Spohn, etc., and it yet appears in the most recent period of Elster, and Hengstenberg. The two latter form, it is true, certain sections, and groups of verses in the course of their exegesis of the book, but bring these divisions together in no unitary and well-arranged scheme. Gurlitt (Studies and Criticisms of the Book of Koheleth, 1865, II. 321 ff.) has also declared this book “anything but a systematically arranged writing, to bring whose contents in the form of a logical scheme, would be a fruitless undertaking.”—Even those exegetists who see a colloquial character in the book, aim at no regular arrangement of its contents, and consider the whole, therefore, as a conversation or disputation between the representatives of two antagonistic views. A few older commentators inclined to this view, especially Hieronymus (comp. e.g. his remarks on Ecc_9:7-8); “et hœc, inquit, aliquis loquatur Epicurus et Aristippus et Cyrenaici,” and other similar passages, which show a certain inclination to a dramatizing of the contents, and Gregory the Great, who (Dialog. IV. 4), seems to give the book almost directly the character of a dramatic colloquy between Solomon and various opponents of his religious views. Among the moderns these views are represented by the Englishman, Matt. Poole, (Annotations on the Bible, London, 1683), F. Geard, (a Paraphrase on Ecclesiastes, London, 1701), of whom the latter considers: That the Preacher introduces a refined sensualist or a sensual worldling, who interrupts him, in order to attack and ridicule his doctrine. This colloquial hypothesis has received its most refined form from Herder and Eichhorn. According to Herder’s eleventh letter on theological study, there are to be distinguished in the book two voices, that of a hypercritic who seeks truth in the tone of one speaking in the first person, and mostly ends with the assertion that all is vanity, whilst another voice in the tone of “Thou,” often interrupts him, represents to him the temerity of his investigations, and mostly ends with the question: what remains as the result of a whole life? It is not fully question and answer, doubt and solution, but something that out of the same mouth resembles both, and is distinguished by interruptions and continuations. One can therefore divide the book into two columns, of which one belongs to the exhausted seeker, and the other to the warning teacher. Under these two columns Herder distributes the separate sections of the book as follows:

1. The Seeker 2. The Teacher
Ecc_4:1-16 Ecc 4:17
Ecc_7:1. Ecc_7:2-15.
Ecc_7:16. Ecc_7:17-23.
Ecc_8:1. Ecc_8:2-13.
Ecc_9:1-3. Ecc_9:4-10.
Ecc_10:1-3. Ecc_10:4.
Ecc_10:5-7. Ecc_10:8-19.
Ecc 11:12.
Eichhorn, independent of Herder, arrived at a very similar view, on the path of more careful critical and scientific procedure. According to his Introduction to the Old Testament (3:648 ff.) two kinds of persons clearly alternate in the book, a contemplator, observer, investigator, who regards with gloomy eyes the life and destiny of men, and in youthful fervor exaggerates the deductions from his observations and seldom does justice to the good of this world; by his side stands an aged man of wisdom, who tempers the fire of ardent youth, and brings him back to the path of truth beyond which he in his excitement has hurried, and even shows how evil has a good side. The former ends with the lamentation that all is vanity, the latter with the deductions that a wise man will draw from the course of the world. In sympathy with this Eichhorn’s divisions are:

1. The Seeker 2. The Teacher
Ecc_1:2; Ecc_4:16. Ecc_4:16; Ecc_5:11.
Ecc_5:12; Ecc_6:12. Ecc_7:1-14.
Ecc_7:15. Ecc_7:16-22.
Ecc_7:23-29. Ecc_8:1-8.
Ecc_8:9; Ecc_9:6. Ecc_9:7-10.
Ecc_9:11-18. Ecc_10:1-4.
Ecc_10:5-7. Ecc_10:8; Ecc_12:7.
Conclusion: Ecc_12:8-14.   Similar, but deviating frequently in details, is the view of Bergst, in Eichhorn’s Repertory, 10:963 ff. From these efforts at introducing dialogues, in which but one thing can be acknowledged as true and tenable, namely, that in some few passages the author introduces his opponent as speaking, in order immediately to contradict them (see above § 1, Obs. 2, towards the end) there is clearly only one step to that view which regards the whole as a compilation of various investigations, reflections, and songs or sententious poems of Israelitish philosophers, a view directly destructive to the unity of the book; as is done by Döderlein and Nachtigal in connection with their already mentioned peculiar explanations of the name Koheleth by “session, assembly” (comp. § 1, Obs. 1). According to this view of Döderlein, presented in his scholia in libros poeticos V. T., t. 1, (1779), but at a later period (Solomon’s Song, and Ecclesiastes, 1784) again rejected and opposed, (which however found a so much more zealous and determined advocate in Nachtigal) the whole is a collection by some later hand of various philosophical and didactic poems, sayings of wise men, obscure questions, together with their solutions, and a few additions in prose, The entire contents are classified therefore in eight divisions, together with a supplement:

Section: Poems (Pro_1:2; Pro_4:16);
Proverbs (Pro_4:17; Pro_5:8);
Poems (Pro_5:9; Pro_6:9);
Proverbs (Pro_6:10; Pro_7:22);
Obscure questions and their solution (Pro_7:23; Pro_8:7);
Poems (Pro_8:8; Pro_10:1);
Proverbs (Pro_10:2; Pro_11:6);
Poems (Pro_11:7; Pro_12:7). Supplement: Additions in prose (Pro_12:8-14).

This view, as well on account of its denial of all connection between the individual parts, as of progressive thought within them, falls into the class of those expositions which are capable of vindicating a logically arrayed train of ideas in the book only at the sacrifice of its unity. With these the following paragraph will be more especially occupied.

Observation 3

As to the literary form of the book, its close connection with that of the older Maschal poetry in the Proverbs, and its occasional transition into complete prose, comp. especially Ewald, Poets of the Old Testament, p. 285 f.: “It is not to be denied that our didactic poet has much that is delicate and refined in expression, and finished in the composition of individual thoughts and proverbs, such as one would scarcely have expected at this late and depressed period. A genuine poetic spirit pervades everything;—our poet understands how to give a poetic mould to the most brittle material, to bring the most distant fields into clear view, to unite the most dissonant elements, to smooth what is rough, and either harmlessly to bend the views to be opposed, or get rid of them before they become too marked. But in one direction he far surpasses the limit even of the freest of the earlier proverbial poetry, and creates something entirely new. He no longer gives every where pure poetic lines, but lets the discourse here and there be concluded, without retaining the strict law of metrical construction. When he desires to interpolate in his freer reflection something purely historical, he dispenses with the restraint of poetic measure (e. g. Pro_1:12; Pro_2:4 ff.; Pro_9:13-15); for in the process of accurate and clear thought, many things may be expressed most curtly and sharply without the trammel of measure. Thus there is found in our poet a variegated form of discourse, and he is also creative as a composer of proverbs. The Arabs understand this change from verse to prose in many half poetic works, and in the Indian drama it is universal; even in the prophets of the Old Testament we find much that is similar, and thus it became so much the more easy for this poet to yield to it. When the thought soars, the pure height of poetic style always appears with him (comp. as example of the highest poetic flight especially Pro_12:1-6). But especially where teaching and admonition appear, there the language rises to the sharp brevity and genuine character of the ancient proverb; to this our later poet has clearly devoted all care and skill, so that it also in this production beams forth in the highest beauty. It is neatly polished, sharply stamped, briefly and pointedly completed; and he especially rejoices in retaining the old style of genuine Hebrew speech, whilst this is already inclined to lower itself to the more modern language of intercourse. It appears thus separately intertwined, or in series; either in strictest poetic style, or in somewhat weakened fetters, but may even then be recognized by the pure doctrine that it imparts. Where several proverbs follow each other, there are formed well connected links of a strong chain of thought, which separates into its parts: but such a chain has at most seven parts or individual proverbs (Pro_4:16; Pro_5:6; Pro_7:1-7; Pro_7:8-14), so that we can here every where in the entire composition recognize the significance of the old Hebrew strophes. For the whole construction of each of the four separate discourses of the book clings to the structure of strophes, and nowhere oversteps the limits of this structure.” With reference to the limits of these strophes, Ewald differs in many particulars from Vaihinger and Keil, whom we in this respect have followed as in the paragraph above; just as Köster, who first perceived and pointed out the strophical arrangement of the book in general, differs from the three others in various respects. This uncertainty regarding many of the specialties of the strophical construction, need not mislead us as to the fact in general, nor carry us to the view taken by Hengstenberg, Bleek, Kahnis, etc., that the character of the style of the book is entirely without form and plan. Comp. Vaih., Art. Solomon the Preacher, in Herzog’s Real-Encyclopedia, Vol. XII. p.100 ff.

3. Unity And Integrity

That Ecclesiastes forms one connected whole, appears from the uniform character of its language, and the universal reference of its individual sentences and expressions to the fundamental thought of the vanity of all earthly things. It appears also from the unmistakable progress of its reflections throughout the whole, as it goes on from the unharmonious incongruity of the beginning to the increasing clearness, certainty and confidence of the final judgment. However one may regard the internal law of this progress, and in accordance with it interpret the plan and order of the whole, it cannot be doubted, in the main, that it is a work from one mould, and that only isolated inequalities and coarse asperities of structure remain for the candid critical observer, a characteristic peculiarity of the book which can by no means be denied, and which may not, without farther regard, be explained as a defect of rhetoric or style (see § 1, Obs. 2). In just appreciation of this peculiarity, nearly all the latest exegetists have opposed the hypercritical procedure of their predecessors, towards the end of the last century, extending to the arbitrary dismemberment and mutilation of the whole (e.g., Spohn, Schmidt, Nachtigal, Paulus, Stäudlin, and partially, also, Grotius and Whiston), and have, at the same time, with the internal uniformity and continuity of the style, also acknowledged the integrity of the traditional text. Only in reference to the closing section (Ecc_12:8-14) has it been doubted down to the latest period by certain expositors, whether this may be regarded as an authentic and integral part of the whole. But even these doubts have justly been rejected by the most, as unfounded, because the pretended contradiction which the doctrine of happiness, immortality and judgment as found in this closing part presents to that of the book itself, is merely apparent, and because the circumstance that therein Koheleth is spoken of, not as formerly in the first, but in the third person, is by no means an isolated case, but has in Ecc_1:2 and Ecc_7:27 perfect analogies preceding it.


Concerning Nachtigal’s strange experiments in tracing back the contents to divers wholly unconnected compositions and aphorisms, see previous Paragraph 2, Obs. 2. H. Grotius is to be named as the earliest representative of this mutilating method, which in many respects reminds us of Herder’s, Eichhorn’s, and Magnus’ treatment of the Song of Solomon. The former, in his Annotationes in V. T., describes the origin of Ecclesiastes in these words: “redactas esse in hunc librum varias hominum, qui apud suos quisque habebantur, opiniones, ðåñὶ ôῆò åὐäáéìïíßáò , quare mirari non debemus, si quædem hic legimus non probanda; omnes enim sententias cum suis argumentis recitanti necesse erat id accidere.” He strangely imagined Zerubbabel to be the instigator of the collecting of these proverbs. “Qui hæc colligerent ac sub persona Solomonis in unum corpus congererent, mandatum habuerunt ab uno pastore, i.e., ut puto, Zorobabele, qui ob res tenues Judæorum et Persici imperii reverentiam, regem se dicere non ausus, quamquam inter suos pro rege habebatur, nomen usurpavit modestius Pastoris” [Annot. ad c. xii. 11).—Besides Nachtigal. and (for a while) Döderlein, it was especially H. E. G. Paulus (Comment., 1790) and Stäudlin (History of the Moral Teachings of Jesus, I., 1799), who maintained towards the end of the last century the fragmentary and compilatory character of the book, at the same time with its post-Solomonic origin; and each in his peculiar way; Paulus inclining to the view of Herder, i.e., of a dialogue between scholar and teacher; Stäudlin, with the effort to trace as many things as possible to Solomon himself as originator. The vacillating and doubtful condition of Solomon towards the end of his life he has depicted in isolated paragraphs, which a later Hebrew found, and from them took the main material of which he composed the book, as from certain hitherto uncollected sayings of Solomon. This collector then added in his own name some remarks at the end of the book, by which the fate of the whole is indicated, and some account of the origin of the book is given.—This hypothesis of Stäudlin forms the transition to the second principal form in which the critical efforts directed against the unity of the book have appeared. This consists in the acceptance of one author, perhaps Solomon, who wrote at various times the single paragraphs, sayings and reflections which form the book, and finally united them into one rather unfinished and unharmonious whole. Thus, at first, Wm. Whiston († 1752), who, under the supposition of Solomonic authorship, says: “in librum Ecclesiastæ tamquam in unum, systema redactas esse plures Solomonis observationes, super rebus gravissimi momenti, sed factas diversis temporibus, ut longe maxima pars ab eo perfecta sit, quum solius Jehovæ cultui addictus de vera religione bene sentiret, nonnullæ autem, cum per illecebras voluptatum ab hoc cultu desci visset.” Thus also J. Chr. Schmidt (1794), according to whom the book, as it appears, consists of paragraphs written in various moods and times, and does not yet seem a book fully finished for the public, but rather a mere sketch drawn up (!) by the author for himself, as a guide for further labor. And there are several similar exegetists about this time, namely, Middledorpf (1811), also Spohn (1785), according to whom the book consists of moral sentences which more or less cherish genuine reverence of God, and call attention to His wisdom in the government of the world, in order thereby to lead to a firm trust in God, to alienate the mind from the world, direct it to virtue, etc.; and in the same strain writes Zirkel (1792), to whom the whole appears as a reading book for the young inhabitant of the world, etc.—This view, denying the unity and integrity of the book, appears in its most modest form, and with the greatest semblance of scientific support in Van der Palm, Döderlein, Bertholdt, Herzfeld, Knobel, and Umbreit, who think the unity only here and there destroyed by certain changes of the text, alterations, and interpolations, or at least consider the closing section (Ecc_12:8-14) as a later addition, either of the author himself (as Herzfeld) or of a later interpolator (as Berth., Knob., Umbr., etc.). In support of this latter view, Knobel says: 1) the whole addition is superfluous, because the author in Ecc_12:8 (which verse Knobel still considers genuine) brings the whole to a satisfactory conclusion; 2) Koheleth is not therein introduced, as in the book itself, in the first person speaking of himself, but he is referred to as a third person; 3) the thought of a future judgment of God in verse 14 contradicts the earlier denial of immortality on the part of the author; 4) presenting the fear of God and piety as the aim of all wisdom does not comport with the earlier recommendation of a gladsome, sensual enjoyment of life; 5) the expression in verse 12 that “of the making of many books there is no end,” does not accord with the epoch of Koheleth, since this period, that of Persian rule, is rather supposed to have been poor in the literary activity of the Jews. None of these reasons will stand a test. For to the 1) a very clear and expressive prominence of the principal didactic thoughts was by no means superfluous, in the obscure and casual way in which these had been previously expressed (e.g., Ecc_11:9); to the 2) Koheleth is spoken of in the third person already in the Ecc_1:2; Ecc_7:27, and even in verse 8 of the 12th chapter, recognized by Knobel as genuine; and again, the fact that an author alternately speaks of himself in the first and third person has its analogies in other fields (e.g., Sir_1:29 ff.; to the 3 and 4), neither the doctrine of happiness, nor that of immortality and retribution is at variance with the corresponding views and principles of that closing section, since the eudemonism (or blessedness) previously taught is by no means partial, sensual, or even epicurean, but is rather coupled with frequent direct and indirect exhortations to piety (see Ecc_3:14; Ecc_5:6; Ecc_8:12 f.), and since the final judgment in Ecc_11:9 has been specially and clearly enough alluded to (comp. § 5). In regard to the 5th, the presumption of a comparative literary inactivity and unproductiveness of the Jews of the Persian period is destitute of all proof, as the learned activity of the elders of the synagogue, and the collectors and multipliers of the sacred writings beginning with Ezra, proves; but since the author, as is probable from other signs, possessed a learned culture extending beyond the circle ofIsraelitish writings (see the following paragraph), and consequently “with the making of many books,” was thinking of the literary activity of the Greeks, Persians, Egyptians (for whose immense religious and profane literature, even in the pre-Alexandrine age, comp. Diodorus Siculus, I., 49), and other contemporary nations, therefore the expression in question proves more for than against the appropriateness of that part to the whole. Two arguments also of Umbreit against the genuineness of the section are decidedly untenable; one consisting in the marked self-laudation of the author in verses 9 and 11, and the other in the pretended change of expression and tone of the discourse from verse 8 onward. For the laudatory expressions of the author concerning his own wisdom and learning have their complete and significant parallel in Pro_2:1-15; Pro_3:1 ff; Pro_4:1 ff; Pro_5:1 ff; Pro_7:1 ff.; in Job_32:6-19; in Sir_1:30; and indeed in many earlier expressions of Koheleth himself, as Ecc_1:16; Ecc_2:3; Ecc_7:23;—and the change of diction from verses 8 or 9 is simply an internal one, affecting the tone of the discourse and not the individual linguistic peculiarities, and is therefore satisfactorily explained by the essential contrast existing between the epilogue and the contents of the first part (comp. e.g., also Sir_1:29-30, with the foregoing; and also 2Ma_15:38-39; Joh_20:30-31, etc.). One need not even consider (with Herzfeld) Ecc_12:9-14 as a later addition from the author’s own hand to his book. For if, indeed, verse 9 treated of a later activity of Koheleth, this would only then prove a later addition of the section, if Koheleth, i.e., Solomon, were the real and not the pretended author of the book. As for the rest, Umbreit, apart from his exclusion of the ending as a false addition, has decidedly defended and maintained the unity and continuity of all the preceding; comp. his valuable treatise on the &