Ecclesiastes 9: 2 – 18
Ecclesiastes is an interesting Biblical book, simply because it was written by a religious skeptic, calling himself the Qoheleth or the Preacher, whose seeming indifference to the things of God pervades his advocacy for several down-to-earth issues, including injustice. Life is unfair, and the world can be cruel and miserable. One moment, a person thinks that all is well, and at the next, life is maimed or snatched away suddenly. The recent terror killings in Paris, Beirut, and Bamako illustrate his point. It is immaterial who you are, where you happen to be, or what you are doing, whether you are old or young, pious or an unbeliever, this horror can indiscriminately hit anyone! (Eccl 9:11-12). Qoheleth’s perspective is not that the righteous are being prejudiced and the wicked preferred in society, but that whoever you are and despite your accomplishments, they will come to nothing, since no one will ever remember them despite our carefully crafted legacies and monuments (Eccl 9:2-3,5). So, he concluded, everything is absurd or senseless, as the expected outcome do not line up with the actual consequences in life.
That is not all, as the Preacher piles it on, obviously taking great delight in pushing all our buttons with his provocative assessments! Enjoy your life with all that has come your way with God’s approval – delectable food that gives you happiness and cheers you up, beautiful clothes and pristine grooming, a lovely wife and a fairy tale life, but like everything else, they too will not amount to anything. Whatever you do, do it well for there is really nothing in Hell! (Eccl 9:7-10). His disrespectful comparative of the Middle Eastern personification between the scavenging dog and the noble lion, crudely drives his point home, that it is worthwhile being alive as a corrupted individual rather than a dead righteous person. And the reason being that it makes no difference whether you are spiritually alive or dead because at the end of the day, if this is life, then moral distinctions no longer matter, for evil pervades everything and will outlast the upright (Eccl 9:3-5).
However, there is a spark of prophetic light as he dwells on wisdom, where he determines that the wisdom of a poor man is able to deliver his small sieged city from a great king. And even though this poor guy died ignominiously, wisdom is held up as exemplary before strength and wars (Eccl 9:13-18). In bits and pieces throughout the Book, Qoheleth assigns this infinite wisdom to God that is beyond the capacity of man to grasp (Eccl 3:11,14; 8:17). Life is multifaceted and our desire to comprehend its complexity, and to reign it in to our advantage, would always be found wanting, regardless of human wisdom. Therefore, it makes sense to centre our faith ultimately in our Creator God, who alone appoints the times and the seasons with His hidden purposes, but always with our best interests at heart. The Preacher paradoxically reckons as he finally concludes, ‘when everything is finalized, fear God and keep His commandments’ (Eccl 12:13).