Philosophical Reflections from the Book of Ecclesiastees
Human Developmentalists divide human life into different stages. Some of those stages are birth, child, youth, young adult, adult, middle age, old age, and death. The philosophical reflections of the author of the book of Ecclesiastees imply some of these stages, but it considers these stages more as seasons. Some of the seasons of life implied in Ecclesiastees are birth, youth, middle age, old age, and death. Besides the theme of the seasons of life, the reader can identify two other themes in this book. The first one is the brevity of life and the other one is to find joy or pleasure in ordinary pleasure. This essay will analyze these three themes in the book of Ecclesiastees.
The philosopher, teacher, or wise man seems to be in middle age or mid-life. He seems to be writing to the youth of his day. He asserts, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die . . . (3:1-2). The author seemed to have tasted all that life offered in his youth. He tasted the pleasures of wine, women, and wisdom. He is now in middle age and he is reflecting on his experiences. He has certain regrets about the past. It seems his relationships did not turn out well. In his search for wisdom and the meaning of life he experienced much sorrow. He asserts, “So I turned to consider wisdom and madness and folly. For what can the man do who comes after the king? Only what has already been done” (2:12). It seems to him that life is a never-ending circle. Whatever he does has been done before. There is nothing new “under the sun.” In his reflection he is struggling with the idea that life lacks meaning and purpose.The philosopher reflects on both his past and future. He thinks whatever he does is temporal and it will not last. He understands that the days he has left on the earth is short. He does not seem to have the hope of life after death. He believes that life in this world is all there is. The brevity of life is a major theme of this book. It acts as bookends to the book. In the beginning he asserts, “vanity of vanities, says the preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity” (1:2). At the end of the book he observes, “vanity of vanities, says the preacher; all is vanity” (12:8). The term vanity seems to imply the brevity of life. No matter, what we do, death hangs over us like a cloud. All we have is today. Tomorrow is not promised to us. How can one find meaning and purpose in this life if all they do is futile, striving after the wind? The author offers hope. He believes that we can find joy in the ordinary, and this is a gift from God.