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