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Ecclesiastes: Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching Hardcover – March 1, 2000
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The commentary follows Ecclesiastes linearly, and the introduction locates it with other works of wisdom literature of the Ancient Near East—in fact, Brown often refers to the epic of Gilgamesh in making his reflective points. The epilogue is a succinct summary of the entire commentary and if you wanted to “cheat” in order to get the basic themes of the entire book, one would only need to read this section. However, the epilogue is much more than a summary in that it seeks to understand Ecclesiastes theologically in the context of the entire Biblical canon as opposed to just reading verses as verses.
Ecclesiastes Interpretation excels in some areas: extrapolating the meaning of hebel and “all is vanity” in the contemplation of life; the vestiges of joy and the task of receiving; the subordination of human effort in God-driven affairs; the inherent value in work; explaining the root causes of addiction and anxiety in spiritual terms; the point of wisdom; and, of course, the key(s) to living a happy, joyful life. Brown also does a tremendous job of juxtaposing the wisdom of the writer of Ecclesiastes to the writer of Proverbs (presumably the same person). The two books superficially appear to give divergent advice but the author carefully harmonizes the two streams of thought in context.
It goes without saying that to write a commentary of nearly 150 pages on a book of the Bible that has less than 15 pages runs the risk of being overly wordy and goes over (and over) certain ideas.Read more ›
Concerning authorship, Brown says that because the Psalter became associated with King David, so Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs came to be identified with David's son. It is taught by some that the Song of Songs was written by Solomon in his youth, Proverbs in his prime, and Ecclesiastes in his old age. Brown thinks that this is historically suspect. He says that the character of Solomon serves as both Qoheleth's guise and foil. "Qoheleth is the author's nom de guerre [pseudonym], and Solomon is his alter ego."
After the 18-page introduction, Brown treats us to 102 pages of superb exposition ending with a 17-page epilogue. Williams is a profound thinker and an elegant writer. I thoroughly enjoyed his commentary and, to a degree, it has transformed my mind. Following are a few of his thoughts.
"Qoheleth's odyssey is not a happy journey, but it is an enlightening one. . . . Preaching requires interpreting both the Word and the world."
"By coming to terms with absurdity, Qoheleth is able to discern the sublime within the mundane and the glory within the ordinary."
"People are not so much the shapers as the recipients of life."
Willliams finds no less than the key to life in Ecclesiastes: "The key to life, as the sage has intimated earlier, is found in the ability to enjoy the temporary, relative goods, given by God, on their own terms.Read more ›