Contentment in the Book of Ecclesiastes: interplay of the themes of death, the role of God, and contentment in Qoheleth’s teaching

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Levicheva, Larisa Igorevna

The purpose of this thesis is to study the development of the theme of contentment in the book of Ecclesiastes and the relationship of this theme to the themes of death and the role of God. Qoheleth’s autobiography (Eccl 1:12–2:26) serves as a lens to read and interpret his teaching on contentment throughout the book of Ecclesiastes. The theme of death informs and permeates Qoheleth’s teaching and sets the stage for his exhortations of contentment. The brevity of human life and death as the natural end of life create an urgency to live every moment with vigor and zeal, especially when the possibility of the afterlife is uncertain. According to Qoheleth, the presence and active involvement of God in the existence of humanity brings meaning and fulfillment to life. Even though human beings cannot comprehend the activities of the inscrutable God, they should find contentment and satisfaction in the allotment that God bestows on them as his gift. Qoheleth’s autobiography plays a significant role in his teaching. Qoheleth utilizes the genre of royal autobiography to convey his message throughout the book of Ecclesiastes and to connect his personal experiences and observations with his teaching on contentment in the face of death. Qoheleth teaches that contentment is an attitude that enables people to embrace life as a gift from God which may include both good and bad circumstances. Contentment empowers people to be fully engaged in every living moment in the face of death and the inscrutability of God. Life is full of contradictions and incongruities. This is why it is essential, Qoheleth admonishes, to develop an attitude of contentment which enables a person to find satisfaction in work and accept the allotment given by God. He promotes the need to give up attempts to comprehend God and his actions, and advocates the need to lead a life of generosity and hospitality, table fellowship and meaningful labour, the good life which pleases God.
  • References (21)
    21 references, page 1 of 3

    6 Abraham Ibn Ezra, El Comentario de Abraham Ibn Ezra Al Libro del Eclesiastes: Introducion, Traduccion y Edicion Critica (Textos y studios “Cardenal Cisneros” 56; ed. M. GómezAranda; Madrid: Instituto de Filologia del CSIC, 1994). See also idem, “The Influence of Isaac Ibn Ghayyat on Abraham Ibn Ezra's Commentary on Ecclesiastes,” JOJS 63.1 (2012): 84-104; idem, “The Meaning of Qohelet According to Ibn Ezra's Scientific Explanations,” Aleph: Historical Studies in Science and Judaism 6 (2006): 339-70 (344); Sandberg, “Qoheleth and the Rabbis,” 50-53.

    7 Rashbam, The Commentary of R. Samuel Ben Meir Rashbam on Qoheleth (eds. Sara Japhet and Robert B. Salters; Jerusalem-Leiden: The Magnes Press/Brill, 1985), 68. See also Sandberg, “Qoheleth and the Rabbis,” 48-53.

    8 St. Jerome, Commentary on Ecclesiastes (ACW 66; trans. and eds. Richard J. Goodrich and David J. D. Miller; New York: The Newman Press, 2012), 33. See also Roland E. Murphy, “Qoheleth Interpreted: The Bearing of the Past on the Present,” VT 32.3 (1982): 331-37.

    9 St. Jerome, Commentary on Ecclesiastes, 7, 36. See also J. Robert Wright (ed.), Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon (ACCSOT, vol. IX; Downers Grove: IVP, 2005), 282.

    10 Gregory Thaumaturgus, A Metaphrase of the Book of Ecclesiastes, (ANF 6: 19-20).

    11 St. Bonaventure, Commentary on Ecclesiastes (Vol. 7 of Works of St. Bonaventure; transl. Campion Murray and Robert J. Karris; St. Bonaventure: The Franciscan Institute St. Bonaventure University, 2005), 77.

    12 B. Smalley, The Study of the Bible in the Middle Ages (3rd ed; Oxford: Blackwell, 1983), 292; Rebecca S. Beal, “Bonaventure as a Reader of Endings: The Commentary on Ecclesiastes,” Franciscan Studies 65 (2007): 29-62; Eric S. Christianson, “Ecclesiastes in Premodern Reading: Before 1500 C.E” in The Words of the Wise are like Goads: Engaging Qoheleth in the 21th Century

    16 Doug Ingram, Ambiguity in Ecclesiastes (Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies 431; London: T & T Clark, 2006), 36-41.

    17 R. B. Salters, “Exegetical Problems in Qoheleth,” IBS 10 (1988): 44-59 (44).

    25 Samuel L. Adams, Wisdom in Transition: Act and Consequence in Second Temple Instructions (JSJSup 125; ed. John J. Collins; Leiden: Brill, 2008), 133-35.

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