Course Hero. "Old Testament Study Guide." Course Hero. 27 Apr. 2018. Web. 25 May 2018. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Old-Testament/>.
Course Hero. (2018, April 27). Old Testament Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved May 25, 2018, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Old-Testament/
(Course Hero, 2018)
Course Hero. "Old Testament Study Guide." April 27, 2018. Accessed May 25, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Old-Testament/.
Course Hero, "Old Testament Study Guide," April 27, 2018, accessed May 25, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Old-Testament/.
The first half of Ecclesiastes (1:1–6:9) elaborates on a theme expressed at the outset and repeated frequently thereafter: "Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity." Supporting this theme is another repeated assertion in this section of the book: "There is nothing new under the sun."
The second half of Ecclesiastes (6:10–12:14) continues themes from the first half but adds new refrains on the limits of possible knowledge. "For who knows what is good for mortals while they live the few days of their vain life ... who can tell them what will be after them under the sun?"
Ecclesiastes is fascinating for its apparent skepticism and fatalism, and for its implicit critique of more glib expressions of wisdom literature. This skepticism is captured most memorably in the book's central refrain: "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity!" Ecclesiastes supports this case by describing the unchanging nature of all life—there is nothing new under the sun—and the ultimate unreliability of virtues that ought to improve life for people but often do not. Ecclesiastes sometimes sounds more like traditional wisdom literature in its few didactic passages. But these are all balanced with sober conclusions that even wise behavior often does not profit as it should. The universality of death for animals and humans, both righteous and wicked, also shapes the book's melancholy attitude.
The problem of how to square the book's conclusion with its central message depends in part on how much weight one gives to the epilogue. Throughout Ecclesiastes, the main advice seems to be that all anyone can do in life is enjoy good things as they come and do good work to the best of one's ability. This advice does endorse conventional wisdom to some extent and it does acknowledge God, but it recognizes that neither ultimately guarantees justice or happiness for the individual. The final word in the epilogue counsels readers to "fear God and keep his commandments." The first half of this statement has precedent earlier in the book, but the latter does not. Moreover, the final verse of Ecclesiastes asserts that God will bring all deeds into judgment. This is also difficult to reconcile with much of the preceding material in Ecclesiastes. The epilogue may have been supplied by an editor who wanted to emphasize that these notions endure in spite of everything one has just read in the book. The reader of Ecclesiastes is left to wrestle with the credibility of this conclusion. This intellectual challenge gives the book much of its timeless appeal.