Module 28: The Illustration of the Teacher - Wisdom
Module Guide: Job - The Problem of Pain; and Proverbs - Practical Wisdom; and Ecclesiastes - The Vanity of Materialism
This pre-read guide is taken from the public domain source "The Analysed Bible in 3 Volumes" by G. Campbell Morgan.
In magnificence of argument and beauty of style this book is one of the grandest in the Divine Library. It is enshrouded in mystery, as to authorship, as to the characters presented, as to the geographical location of the scenes, and as to date. There are differences of opinion as to whether this story is historically true. Some look upon it as a dramatic poem intended to teach certain truths, but having no actual historic basis. I hold, upon the testimony of other parts of Scripture (Ezek. 14:14,20; James 5:2), that the man Job actually lived, and that the story of his experiences as here set forth is a true one. This view does not for a moment interfere with the fact that the book is a dramatic poem, and therefore it is not necessary to suppose that either Job or his friends uttered their speeches in the exact form in which they are here presented to us; but the views they held, and the arguments they advanced, are accurately set forth.
There is every internal evidence that this is an ancient story, probably patriarchal. Its great problem is that of pain. Its relations are three-fold: first, of the relation of man to the spirit world - evil and good; second, of the inadequacy of human philosophies to account for human problems; third, of the purpose of God as gracious.
The analysis is an attempt to show the form and content of the book.
The book opens with a picture full of sunshine and beauty. Job is seen in a three-fold greatness. The first fact of that greatness is that of his wealth; the second is that of his family relationships; and the third is that of his relation to God. As to material wealth, he was "the greatest of all the children of the East. "As to his family, he is seen rejoicing in the joy of his children, while caring for them in fatherly intercession. As to his God, he is declared to be "perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil."
The Controversy between Heaven and Hell
This is a somewhat brief section, and yet absolutely necessary to a study of all that follows. In it, the veil is drawn aside, and we are given a view of councils in the spiritual world concerning man. The messengers of God are seen presenting themselves before Him. Among them comes one who is called Satan, or the adversary. He expresses his opinion concerning Job in the words, "Doth Job fear God for nought?" The question suggests that Job's confidence in God, his faith and loyalty, are due to the fact that God has cared for him. In other words, he declares that man's faith is based on selfishness, affirming that if the things he possesses be taken from him, his fear of God will cease. In answer to this challenge he is given permission to test Job within the limits of his own suggestion, "All that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand." Immediately we have the story of the calamities which overtake Job. The life which was seen in the prologue in calm and sunshine is merged in storm and strain, in agony and pain. Its strength, however, is proved in the fact that when stripped of everything Job is able to say, "The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." Thus the enemy is defeated and his slander disproved.
Again the council in the spiritual world assembles. Satan, compelled to admit his defeat so far, suggests new methods of attack, and again he is permitted to go forth to do all that he has suggested. He is strictly limited, however, by the fiat of God. Job is now seen plunged into yet deeper darkness, and more terrible circumstances of trial, and the first section ends with the picture of a man despoiled of earthly possessions, bereaved of children, and tempted to the uttermost by the suggestion of his wife that he should "curse God and die." He is still able to resist, and does not sin with his lips.
Controversy between Job and His Friends
In order to a true appreciation of all that is to follow, it is necessary that the condition of Job be clearly apprehended. With no knowledge of what has passed in the councils of the spiritual world, he sits in the midst of desolation and darkness, filled with physical, mental, and spiritual pain. His greatest anguish is that he cannot understand why these things have come to him. His life has been one of faith in God, and he has no consciousness of having committed sin. Why, then, has he been plunged into the midst of such circumstances?
While in the midst of this desolation, and on the very verge of despair, his three friends come to him. Their coming is prompted by love of him, and sympathy for him. In the later movements of the book, Job, in keen disappointment, inquires what has become of all the people he had helped in the day of his prosperity, and the question is a pertinent one. The day of darkness had sifted the crowds of his professed friends. For the three who come we can have nothing but admiration. So terribly was Job changed by his experiences that these men are overwhelmed with astonishment as they behold him, and for seven days and seven nights they sit in silence in the presence of his grief.
Their silent sympathy appeals to him so that he pours out his great lamentation in their listening ears. It was a terrible cry pulsating with pain. He first curses the day of his birth, and the night of his conception. He then laments his preservation, and thinks of the quietness which would have been his if he could but have ceased to be. Finally he mourns his continued being, seeing that he is in circumstances of such unceasing and irremediable sorrow. So overwhelmed is he that he has lost his sense of the greatness of personality which he had affirmed at the close of the first attack of the adversary. He has, moreover, lost his clear sense of relation to God in his perplexity concerning the trial through which he has passed. The lamentation is a great cry for escape.
In answer to this lamentation the friends speak, and the controversy commences. It moves forward in three cycles, in the whole of which they speak from the standpoint of their own philosophy of life, and he answers out of the midst of his consciousness of the actual experiences through which he is passing.
In the first cycle the three friends speak to him in turn, he replying to each one in order. Their statement of the case may be briefly summarized thus. God is righteous: He punishes the wicked; He blesses the good. It is perfectly obvious that the deduction which they expect he will make is that they hold him guilty of some sin, of which sin all his sufferings constitute the Divine punishment. There is an evident method in their statement of the case, Eliphaz, in his speech, declares the principle in general terms. Bildad, in his turn, illustrates the principle, while Zophar applies it more directly to the case of Job. To each of these Job replies, with varying emphases, according to their differing methods, that he is not wicked but just, and yet he is afflicted, his main contention being that he is innocent, and yet God has afflicted him, and his principal desire being some explanation of this mystery.
In the second cycle again the three friends address Job in the same order, and he replies to each in turn. Their view-point is not changed, but throughout these addresses they state it within narrower limits. The whole argument in this case may thus be expressed: It is the wicked who are afflicted. Job answers by declaring that the righteous also are afflicted, and that the wicked are not always afflicted. On the part of the friends there is now evidence of some anger growing out of personal resentment. In his first reply Job has treated them with scorn and sarcasm, and their consideration for him is not as great as it was in the beginning. While they are profoundly convinced that such suffering can only be accounted for by the fact of definite sin having been committed, they look upon his attitude toward God as being impious, and therefore their words are less considerate and their method of attack more direct. Job, on the other hand, while treating them with scorn, seems throughout the movement to be more than ever determined to make his appeal directly to God, and thus is seen forcing his way to the point of direct dealing with Him.
In the third cycle we have a change. Eliphaz and Bildad are the only speakers. Their philosophy is still unchanged, only now they state it with more absolute directness of application to the case of Job. They charge him definitely with having sinned, and declare that this is the reason of his suffering. He replies to Eliphaz and Bildad, denying their affirmations concerning himself; and then, after a pause, in which he seems to have waited for Zophar, who does not speak, he makes a lengthy and solemn protestation of innocence. This takes a legal form, such as a man would adopt in some high court of justice, where upon oath he avows his innocence of the charges made against him.
The last voice of the earthly controversy is now heard. It is a new voice, and opportunity never comes to Job to answer it. Elihu introduces himself, with apologies to the ancient men, and yet expresses his disappointment that they have been unable to deal with Job.
The argument of Elihu moves forward in three sections. He first of all, at great length, declares that through suffering God is dealing with man to some higher issue. According to this argument suffering is educational. He closes this first movement by challenging Job to hear him while he speaks, and to answer him if he has anything to say.
Job gives no answer, and Elihu proceeds. He then makes two quotations from things which Job had said in the course of the previous controversy. The first may be summarized as a contention that he has been afflicted by God, notwithstanding his integrity. The second is one which suggests that nothing is gained by loyalty to God. In answer to the first, Elihu declares that God cannot do wickedness. In the case of the second, he affirms that when Job questions the advantage of serving God, he sets up his righteousness as being "more than God's."
After a pause, Elihu commences his last address, which is intended to be a defence of God against Job, and proceeds to illustrate it by reference to a storm. The dramatic setting of the story makes it probable that he described a storm which was actually gathering at the time, out of the midst of which presently the voice of God was heard.
Controversy between Jehovah and Job
Out of the midst of the whirlwind speaks the Divine voice, for which Job has long been waiting. This speech of Jehovah is first of all a setting forth in language of inimitable splendour of the truth concerning the creation and sustenance of the material universe, at the close of which He challenges Job to answer. The answer is full of suggestiveness. The man who in mighty speech and strong defiance had been of unbroken spirit in the presence of the arguments of his friends now cries out, "Behold, I am of small account." He has yet to be taught that he is of much account to God.
Again Jehovah proceeds, and this time sets forth, in language equally sublime, the facts of His government of the material universe, ending with another challenge to Job. Job's answer is full of the stateliness of a great submission. This utterance of surrender is God's victory of vindication.
The great victory being won in the soul of Job, Jehovah deals with his friends. His wrath is kindled against them, yet it is mingled with mercy. Their intention was right, but their words were wrong. Jehovah's vindication of Job is marked by the fact that He speaks of him as "My servant," and also by His appointment of Job as intercessor on behalf of his friends. They had attempted to restore Job to God by philosophy. He is to be the means of restoring them by prayer. As at the beginning there were things to be said in their favour, so at the close. Their sincerity is manifest in the fact that they submit. The rest is told in brief sentences. The latter days of Job on earth were characterized by greater prosperity than the earlier ones.
THE PROLOGUE - Job 1:1-1:5
The Man before the Process
Part A: THE DRAMA: CONTROVERSY BETWEEN HEAVEN AND HELL - Job 1:6-2:10
A.1. The First Cycle - Job 1:6-1:22
- Council in Heaven - 1:6-1:12
- Conflict on Earth - 1:13-1:22
A.2. The Second Cycle - Job 2:1-2:10
- Council in Heaven - 2:1-2:6
- Conflict on Earth - 2:7-2:10
Part B: THE DRAMA: CONTROVERSY BETWEEN JOB AND HIS FRIENDS - Job 2:11-37:24
B.1. Their Coming - Job 2:11-3:26
- Their sympathy - 2:11-2:13
- Job's lament - 3:1-3:26
B.2. The Controversy - Job 4:1-31:40
- First Cycle - 4:1-14:22
- The argument: God is righteous; He punishes the wicked, He blesses the good
- The answer of Job: He is not wicked but just, and yet he is afflicted
- Second Cycle - 15:1-21:34
- The argument: It is the wicked who are afflicted
- The answer of Job: The righteous also are afflicted, the wicked are not always afflicted
- Third Cycle - 22:1-31:40
- The argument: Job has sinned therefore he suffers
- The answer of Job: Solemn protestation of innocence
B.3. The Last Voice - Job 32:1-37:24
- Suffering is educational
Part C: THE DRAMA: CONTROVERSY BETWEEN JEHOVAH AND JOB - Job 38:1-42:6
C.1. Jehovah, the First Unveiling - Job 38:1-39:30
- The Creation and Sustainance of the material Universe
- A Challenge to Job
C.2. Interlude - Job 40:1-40:5
- Jehovah's Challenge - 40:1-40:2
- Job's answer - 40:3-40:5
C.3. Jehovah, the Second Unveiling - Job 40:6-41:34
- The Government of the material Universe
- A Challenge to Job
C.4. Job's Answer - Job 42:1-42:6
Part D: EPILOGUE - Job 42:7-42:17
D.1. The Man beyond the Process
The book of Proverbs is one of the wisdom books of the Hebrew people. That is to say, its theme and purpose is wisdom. The word itself occurs frequently, and there are others which in some senses are synonymous with it - knowledge, understanding, discretion, subtlety. Each of these expresses some application of wisdom, the word wisdom itself being greater than any, because including all. In all its teaching this book takes for granted the wisdom of God, and seeks to instruct man concerning what His wisdom really is.
The underlying conception of all the wisdom books of the ancient writings is that of God Himself, the All-Wise. They also recognize that His wisdom is expressed in all His works and words. Man is wise in proportion as he recognizes these truths and answers them in the conduct of his life. The perfectly wise man is the one who in his whole being lives and thinks and acts in right relationship to the All-Wise God. His wisdom commences emotionally in the fear of God; is manifest intellectually in his acquaintance with the manifestations of the Divine nature in word and work; is active volitionally in obedience to the will of God, as revealed in word and work. The word translated proverb really means likeness, and we come nearest to the thought in our word parable. In this book we have the setting forth of the underlying wisdom by discourses on its value, and declarations of its practical application.
The book may be divided thus : Introduction (1:1-7); Instructions on Wisdom (1:8-9:18); First Collection of Proverbs (10-24); Second Collection of Proverbs (25-29); Appendix (30-31).
The first verse constitutes the title of the book, and the following six contain what we should today speak of as a preface. That preface first declares the purpose of the book in terms so simple as to need no comment. Then follows a statement of method which is necessary to the right use of the whole book. The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord. The fact of God, and of man's relation to Him must be taken for granted and answered if there is to be any true wisdom.
Instructions on Wisdom
These general instructions prepare the way for the proverbs proper. The first is a parental counsel, in which the wisdom of recognising true friends is set forth in words which urge the habit of loyalty to father and mother; and the folly of forming false friendships is set forth in a series of warnings.
Then Wisdom is personified, and her first call is stated. It is an appeal to turn from simplicity and scorning and hatred of knowledge, with the promise that she will reward such as search after her. This is succeeded by a warning that Wisdom neglected, at last refuses to answer.
Following the first call of Wisdom we have a series of parental counsels, all of which begin with the words "my son." They deal with the value of wisdom, and make practical application of the teaching. The first of these addresses deals with the search for wisdom, as to its method, and as to its value. In the search there must be willingness and desire to know, accompanied by devotion. The values of the search are the discerning and discreet heart, which enables man to understand his pathway; the consequent ability to refuse false friendships; and the resulting choice of the path of good, with all the benefits arising therefrom. The next address is an appeal to cultivate wisdom. It consists of a declaration of the essence of wisdom, a description of its excellences, and a declaration of the safety which it brings. In the next address the father urges his own experience. His father had given him advice, which he declares was good. This personal testimony lends urgency to his exhortations to his son. Then, conscious of the temptations which beset the path of the young, he urges to obedience. The attitude toward temptation is to be that of avoiding it completely. Wisdom in the heart, persistent looking straight ahead, and untiring caution, are the things necessary to fidelity. Then follows an exhortation against impurity, expressed in words of great delicacy and beauty. The allurement of evil is vividly described. It is put into immediate contrast with the issue of yielding thereto. It is a change from honey to wormwood, from the smoothness of oil to the sharpness of a sword, from the path of life to the highway to death. Impurity of conduct may seem to be of silken texture in its enticement; it becomes a hard and unyielding cable when it binds the life in slavery. The parental exhortations are continued against suretiship, indolence, the evil in man, and certain specific things which the Lord hates. These counsels close with two solemn warnings on the same subject. Each commences with tender and urgent entreaties to attend to what is said, because the advice is for the good of the son to whom it is addressed. In the hour of sin's glamour it is good for the soul to look through to the end, which is in Sheol and the chambers of death. When the voice of the siren is heard, it is good to pause and listen to the moan of the breakers on the shore of darkness and death, for to that shore the way of impurity assuredly leads.
The division containing the instructions on wisdom ends with two discourses, the first of which is a great call of Wisdom. This takes up and deals more minutely with the call in the earlier part of the book. It opens with an announcement that Wisdom is making her appeal everywhere amid the busy activities of human life. Then follows her call. This is first, an appeal to men to attend. This they should do because Wisdom speaks excellent things, and speaks in righteousness. Moreover, they are plain words, and more valuable than all riches. The foundations of Wisdom are next declared. Essentially these are prudence, knowledge, discretion. As to man, the foundation is the fear of the Lord, which expresses itself in hatred of all He hates. In such Wisdom lie the secrets of strength. Then the values of Wisdom are described. All authority is based on it. She is the lover of such as love her. She yields all highest wealth to such as yield to her. Next, Wisdom claims age-abiding relation to Deity. Ere the beginnings of creation, Jehovah possessed Wisdom. Through all the processes Wisdom wrought with God, and God delighted in Wisdom, until man, the crowning glory of all, gave Wisdom chief delight. This passage may be set side by side with the prologue to John's Gospel for fuller understanding. The call ends with a final appeal. Those who attend to the call of Wisdom are blessed indeed, and those who sin against Wisdom wrong their own soul.
The last address is a contrast between Wisdom and Folly. Each is personified as a woman calling to youth. Wisdom has built her house and spread her feast in the high places of the city. She calls to a feast of life. Folly, in the garb of the evil woman, sits at the door of the house also in the high places of the city. She also calls to a feast, but it is a feast of death. Between the two descriptions there is a passage revealing the fact that the effect produced will depend upon the attitude of those who hear. The man who scorns gets shame, and it is useless to reprove him. The wise man is willing to be taught, and it is worth while reproving him. What, then, is this first Wisdom which expresses itself in willingness to learn, and gains yet greater Wisdom? It is the fear of the Lord and the knowledge of the Holy One. In every city, on every street, by every door of opportunity, these two voices of Wisdom and Folly are appealing to men. To obey the call of Wisdom is to live; to yield to the clamour of Folly is to die. How shall we discern between the voices? By making the fear of the Lord the central inspiration of the life; by yielding the being at its deepest to Him for correction and guidance.
First Collection of Proverbs
Here begin the proverbs proper. In this first collection they are antithetical. They present a sharp contrast between wisdom and folly in the outworking of each in practical life. Seeing that this is indeed a collection of proverbs, there is no direct connection or system save this underlying purpose of contrast. No exposition is possible save that of taking each proverb and considering it in its separate value. This in the majority of instances is unnecessary, because they are self-evident expositions of one abiding truth.
Second Collection of Proverbs
These, as the title specifically declares, constitute a posthumous collection, having been gathered together in the days of Hezekiah. Speaking generally, the proverbs in this collection are more picturesque than the former. They were for the most part antithetical and logical. These are pictures, and are more perfectly parabolic.
In this appendix we have the words of Agur and Lemuel.
It is impossible to say who Agur was. In this selection from his writings, we have, first, an introduction, in which he affirms the fact of human incompleteness in wisdom, and then utters the memorable prayer, in which he reveals his faith in the Lord, and his desire for that balanced life which is one of safety. From the prayer to the end of the chapter we have his observations on various matters affecting conduct. In these observations we have, first, a proverb. This is followed by two groups of four things - four evil things and four things perpetually dissatisfied. Then follows another proverb, and four groups of four things. The first four are such as excite wonder. The second four cause terror. The third four are little things, but exceeding wise. The final four are things of stateliness. The whole movement ends with a proverb.
There have been many conjectures as to the identity of King Lemuel, but nothing can be certainly affirmed. His words recorded here fall into two parts. The first of these consists of his mother's advice to him, wherein she urged him against becoming the slave of passion, warning him that while there may be some excuse for the man who is ready to perish if he takes strong drink, it must utterly be avoided by kings and princes. Finally, there is set before him the first duty of the kingly office - that of caring for all who are oppressed and needy. The second part consists of a beautiful picture of a virtuous woman, and may be supposed to be King Lemuel's picture of his mother. After a fine description of her beauty and her diligence, and the helpful influence she exerted in bringing her husband to places of power, he ends with the declaration:
Many daughters have done virtuously,
But thou excellest them all,
and with a blessing pronounced upon her.
INTRODUCTION - Proverbs 1:1-1:7
1. The Title - Prov. 1:1
2. The Purpose - Prov. 1:2-1:5
3. The Method - Prov. 1:6-1:7
Part A: INSTRUCTIONS ON WISDOM - Proverbs 1:8-9:18
A.1. Parental Counsel - Prov. 1:8-1:19
- Wisdom - True Friends - 1:8-1:9
- Folly - False Friends - 1:10-1:19
A.2. Wisdom's Call - Prov. 1:20-1:33
- The Announcement - 1:20-1:21
- The Call - 1:22-1:33
A.3. Parental Counsels - Prov. 2:1-7:27
- On Wisdom - 2:1-3:35
- A Personal Testimony - 4:1-4:9
- Exhortations - 4:10-7:27
A.4. Wisdom's Call - Prov. 8:1-8:36
- The Announcement - 8:1-8:3
- The Call - 8:4-8:36
A.5. A Contrast - Prov. 9:1-9:18
- Wisdom - 9:1-9:12
- Folly - 9:13-9:18
Part B: PROVERBS FIRST COLLECTION - Proverbs 10:1-24:34
B.1. Proverbs - Prov. 10:1-22:16
- A Collection of Proverbs which cannot be Analysed
B.2. A Series of Proverbial Discourses - Prov. 22:17-24:34
- A Social Admonition - 22:17-23:14
- Parental Counsels - 23:15-24:22
- Concerning Social Order - 24:23-24:34
Part C: PROVERBS SECOND COLLECTION - Proverbs 25:1-29:27
C.1. Title - Prov. 25:1
C.2. Proverbs - Prov. 25:2-29:27
- A posthumous collection. Another collection of Proverbs. These in some senses are more picturesque than the former. They were statements. These are pictures.
APPENDIX - Proverbs 30:1-31:31
1. The Words of Agur - Prov. 30:1-30:33
- Title - 30:1
- Human Incompleteness in Wisdom - 30:2-30:6
- Prayer - 30:7-30:9
- Conduct - 30:10-30:33
2. The Oracles of Lemuel - Prov. 31:1-31:31
- His Mother's Counsel - 31:1-31:9
- His Mother's Picture - 31:10-31:31
The word Ecclesiastes means preacher or teacher, and this book is, in matter of fact, one set and systematic discourse. The theme of the book is the "vanity" of everything "under the sun." This is first announced, then proved from the preacher's personal experience, and from his wide-reaching observation. Finally, by appeal and declaration, he shows that the whole of life is only found as there is recognition of things above the sun as well as of those under the sun - of things spiritual as well as material.
It is a living book because it still faithfully mirrors the experiences of such as dwell wholly in the material realm, and because it makes the one and only appeal which, being obeyed, issues in the correction of the despair. It may be thus divided: The Theme stated (1-1:11); the Evidence massed (1:12-8:17); the Effect revealed (9:1-11:8); the Correction declared (11:9-12:14).
The Theme stated
In the statement of his theme the preacher employs phrases which recur through the whole of the book - "vanity," "what profit," "under the sun." The statement is a declaration of the emptiness of life when it is wholly conditioned in material things.
In this first division, beyond the preliminary declaration, there is a more particular statement in terms of general illustration. The generations come and go, while the earth abides. The sun rises and sets. The wind moves in a ceaseless circuit. Rivers run into the sea only to return to the places from which they came. Man comes to the scene with desires which are never satisfied, and passes away into a land of forgetfulness. The intention of the whole passage is to impress upon the mind the fact of the constant grind of the mechanism of the universe in the midst of which man lives his day briefly, and passes out to forget and to be forgotten. This is still the consciousness to which men come who have lost their vision of the spiritual realities which constitute the upper half of human life.
The Evidence massed
The discourse now proceeds to state the ground upon which such conclusions have been arrived at. They are two-fold. First, the actual experiences of the king; and secondly, the widespread observation of other men, and of matters in general.
Commencing with his own experience, he states the vanity of knowledge, of mirth, of wealth. As to knowledge, he had applied his heart to seek and search out all works done under the sun, and had come to the conclusion that they were all vanity, and that knowledge of them was grief. Knowledge unilluminated by spiritual consciousness is utterly unsatisfying.
Turning from the pursuit of knowledge to the pathway of pleasure, the king had given himself up to mirth, seeking the false stimulus of wine. In this also he had been disappointed, finding that mirth was madness, and all pleasure incompetent to satisfy.
He next turned to his great possessions, attempting to make such use of them as to bring satisfaction not found elsewhere. He surrounded himself with every kind of luxury, gathered large possessions, gave himself over to music and to women, allowing full rein to all his desires. All this he had found to be vanity, nothing but a striving after wind, and he had again been driven to the conclusion that there was no profit under the sun.
Once again he had tried a new pathway. He turned himself from the things that were almost exclusively physical to those of the mind. These were better, and he found that "wisdom excelleth folly." Yet he also perceived that "one event happeneth to all," both the fool and the wise pass on to death, so that this also ended in disappointment as keen as the others. He then summarizes the results of his own experience of life "under the sun" in the terrible words: "I hated life ... I hated all my labour ... under the sun." The very exercise of wisdom resulted in the gathering of results into which the toiler did not enter, but which he left to another. Everything was vanity. The ultimate conclusion of his own experience was that there was nothing better than to eat and drink. Materialism necessarily becomes fatalism.
Turning from his personal experience to the evidence gained by observation, he again, but in greater detail, describes the mechanism of the universe, referring to its ceaseless routine, deducing therefrom a conception of God as a Being Who is absolutely inexorable, and from Whom there is no escape. The issue of this is confusion rather than order. In the place of judgment and of righteousness, wickedness exists. After all man is no better than the beasts.
From this general survey the preacher returns to examine the condition of the beings whom he has described as being no better than the beasts. He sees everywhere the suffering of society, and even where men are successful enough to amass wealth, they find themselves in circumstances of pitiable loneliness. Kingship itself is empty and disappointing.
The observation of the religious life brings no truer satisfaction. The preacher expresses no contempt for religion; but there is in his outlook, no joy, no satisfaction. The recognition of God is irksome, and issues, at its best, in a caution based on fear. Turning again to a general survey of the conditions under which men live, the preacher appeals against surprise at oppression. Poverty is preferable to wealth. Wealth is disappointing. His advice, in view of his observations, may be summarized thus : Do not hoard anything, but enjoy it. It is the advice of utter selfishness.
Being experimentally far better acquainted with wealth than with poverty, he returns to a full declaration of the sorrows of the wealthy. His evident thought is that the more a man possesses under the sun, the more profoundly conscious does he become of the vanity and vexation of it all.
He then proceeds to the inculcation of indifference toward all the facts of life as the only attitude which is in the least likely to be satisfactory. He recommends that men should take things as they come. This general advice he emphasizes by particular illustrations. Righteousness does not always pay; wickedness sometimes does. Therefore morality is to be a thing of calculation. Men are urged to walk the middle way. The whole attitude of mind revealed is that of cynicism; but it is the attitude of a man who had lived his life "under the sun."
The Effect revealed
In view of the evidences of the truth of his affirmation, "vanity ... all is vanity," the preacher now turns to the effect of this fact on the mind of the man living "under the sun." He extols worldly wisdom. It is to be granted that all things are in the hand of God, and this being so, men do not know them, nor can they. The only certain thing is that there is one event to all — righteous and wicked, clean and unclean, the worshipper and the man who fails in worship, the good and the sinner, the swearer and the man who fears an oath. All these are really evil, with madness in their heart during life, and move toward death. Therefore there is nothing for it other than to enjoy the present life, to eat and drink, and to dress; to enter into the experiences of the life of vanity. Everything is to be done in the present moment, and that with might, because there is cessation beyond. Wisdom under the sun is granted to be of some relative value, but in the long issue it is of little worth. How, then, does worldly wisdom work? The preacher shows that its first manifestation is that of discretion based upon selfishness. It is, moreover, that of diligence in the midst of the things of this life. Almost weirdly, this setting forth of the value and method of worldly wisdom ends in the same wail of disappointment which has characterized the whole discourse. "If a man live many years, let him rejoice in them all ; but let him remember the days of darkness, for they shall be many. All that Cometh is vanity."
The Correction declared
The first word of the last division of the book, like the first word of the Manifesto of the King in later days, indicates the true thought and desire of God for man: "Rejoice." A statement of life which includes all of truth recognized in the discourse, and yet which far transcends the whole of it, is first made. A man is to enter into life - his own life and his present life - with avidity; and he is constantly to do so in the sight of God, remembering his relationship to Him. Judgment here does not mean punishment, but verdict. Everything is to be tested first by the supremacy of God. To attempt to find Him through the medium of our self-pleasing use of life is utterly to fail. To enthrone Him first, and then to attempt to find life through Him, is to cancel for ever the word "vanity."
The preacher proceeds in language full of poetic beauty to urge the young to remember the Creator. We then reach the epilogue of the sermon. It first repeats the theme as announced at the beginning, and tells how the preacher, through study and diligence, still attempted to teach the people knowledge; and finally, in the concluding two verses, a great statement of truth is made, understanding and acting upon which, the pessimistic views of life resulting from materialism will never be known.
At the centre is this statement: "This is the whole of man." The word "duty" has no real place in the sentence. What is the whole of man? "To fear God and keep His commandments" To do this is to find life not merely under the sun, but over it as well, to pass from the imperfect hemisphere into the perfect sphere. To do this is to have light upon the facts and problems of life, which otherwise are dark and dismal.
PART A: THEME - Ecclesiastes 1:1-1:11
A.1. Inclusive Statement - Eccl. 1:1-1:3
- Title - 1:1
- Vapour of Vapours - 1:2-1:3
A.2. Elaboration - Eccl. 1:4-1:11
- Generation. Sun. Wind. Rivers. Man. The consciousness of the grind of material forces.
Part B: THE EVIDENCE - Ecclesiastes 1:12-8:17
B.1. Personal - Eccl. 1:12-2:26
- Knowledge - 1:12-1:18
- Mirth - 2:1-2:3
- Wealth - 2:4-2:11
- Life - 2:12-2:26
B.2. Relative - Eccl. 3:1-8:17
- The Mechanism of the Universe - 3:1-3:22
- Sociological Oppressions - 4:1-4:16
- Religion. This is also wholly of fear - 5:1-5:7
- Poverty and Prosperity - 5:8-6:12
- Indifference - 7:1-8:17
Part C: THE EFFECT - Ecclesiastes 9:1-11:8
C.1. Worldly Wisdom Extolled - Eccl. 9:1-9:16
- One event to all - 9:1-9:6
- Enter into Life - 9:7-9:10
- Advantages are of little worth - 9:11-9:12
- Wisdom under the Sun - 9:13-9:16
C.2. Worldly Wisdom Exemplified - Eccl. 9:17-11:8
- Discretion - 9:17-10:20
- Diligence - 11:1-11:7
- Darkness - 11:8
Part D: THE CORRECTION - Ecclesiastes 11:9-12:14
D.1. Started - Eccl. 11:9-11:10
D.2. Urged - Eccl. 12:1-12:12
D.3. Summarized - Eccl. 12:13-12:14
Note: To the best of our knowledge we are of the understanding that the above material, being published in 1907 and freely available elsewhere on the internet in various formats, is in the public domain.