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Ecclesiastical Details

While he never gives his own name, "the preacher" has been traditionally identified as Solmon.  I concur with that assessment based on Ecclesiastes 1:12, 1:16, and other details within the book.  Thus, I may refer to the speaker of Ecclesiastes as "the preacher" and "Solomon" interchangeably in this discussion.

Ecclesiastes differs from Proverbs in several respects. The content of Proverbs, though necessarily pragmatic at times, is unabashedly optimistic, while Ecclesiastes is decidedly darker and more pessimistic when it is not being pragmatic.  Proverbs is a textbook intended to instill wisdom within the heart of the reader and test for its presence, while Ecclesiastes is more like a retrospective collection of observations of life and its meaning viewed through the lens of that wisdom.  Proverbs is addressed to the relatively young, while Ecclesiastes is addressed to the already wise that are more mature and experienced   Proverbs looks forward while Ecclesiastes looks backward.  The locale of Proverbs is that of the classroom where the teacher interacts with the students, while that of Ecclesiastes can be likened to the traditional american barbershop or the front porch of the general store where the wiser elders (John Eldredge's Sages) discuss the nature and meaning of life with each other, with the relatively younger ones on the sidelines strive to keep up as they listen.  And while the Ancients did not make a fetish of consistency and structure as obsessive as that of the technological sector of our modern world, there is a structure of sorts to Proverbs while the layout of Ecclesiastes is more like that of a modern blog without the benefits of formatting to separate the entries.  Comparing Ecclesiastes to a modern blog isn't that much of a stretch: Proverbs was written by a man with a goal in mind, while Ecclesiastes appears to be him kvetching about life.

The Major Themes

One may think that the major theme of the book is "all is vanity", but that is merely a catch-all label for the cumulative effects of the interactions of four different and distinct processes that serve as the true themes of the book.  These themes/processes are Cyclicity, Profit, Justice, and Death.  Though the Preacher does not label them as such (modern literary criticism being, after all, modern), I do so as an aid to my modern readers to facilitate the discussion.

What I call Cyclicity is the label for the phenomon that the Preacher observed of the seemingly infinite repetitiveness of existence, inferring from the cycles that exist in nature that human life also manifests a cyclic nature of sorts. 

The Preacher himself used the word "profit" in 1:3 to generally describe benefits, increase, and earned wealth.  The New Testament term "Fruit" would equally serve, but it is a noun while profit can be both a noun and a verb.  I hope my readers do not regard the word I use with a neo-marxian attitude, since the theme of Profit embraces the idea of general progress as well.  The parables of the talents and the pounds were given by Jesus to emphasize the fact that it is the divine expectation that one should end up with more than what one started with.

The theme called Justice includes the idea of legal justice, but also includes the concept of people getting what they work for and what they deserve.  The concept of "righteousness" as applied to God includes the idea of Him rendering to everyone that which they deserve.

The last theme, Death, needs no special definition.  However, it should be kept in mind that the view of Death under the Old Testament is different from that of the New Testament in several points because the Hebrew conception of it changed over time.

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