Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures

























According to the title: “The words of Koheleth, Son of David, King of Jerusalem,” this book contains the discourses or reflections of a king whom the author presents as Solomon, but whom he designates with the peculiarly symbolical appellative קֹהֶלֶת This expression, which is not used outside of this book, is used again in it several times, and twice with the article (7:27; 12:8; comp. 1:2, 12; 12:9, 10). It is clearly allied with קָהָל assembly, congregation of the people, and, as there is no such verb in Kal, is to be connected with Hiphil, הקהיל (Numb. 8:9; 10:7; 20:8; Job 11:10), and is accordingly to be considered as the feminine participial form with the signification of one holding an assembly, preaching. This signification which the oldest translators and expositors express (Sept.: ἐκκλησιαστής; HIERONYMUS: concionator; hence LUTHER: “Preacher”) appears to stand in direct relation to the Chokmah of the Old Covenant, the personified Wisdom, preaching in the streets and on the market places, gathering around it all who were eager to learn (Prov. 1:20 sqq.; 8:1 sqq.; 9:1 sqq.). From an original designation of this wisdom, the name Koheleth seems to have become the surname of Solomon, the teacher of wisdom κατ’ ἐξοχήν, or, as it were, wisdom incarnate,—a surname that with special propriety could be conferred on the great King, when he was represented as teaching and preaching, as in the apocryphal book of wisdom (Ecc 7:1 sq.; 9:7, 8, etc.), or as in ours. If one does not wish thus to explain the feminine form, Koheleth, as a designation of a male individual (with EWALD, KÖSTER, HENGSTENBERG, HITZIG, and others), there is nothing left but to accept an abstractum pro concreto, or, what is the same thing, to derive the feminine ending from the character of the name as an official name; for which analogies may be quoted in the Syriac and Arabic, as in the later Hebrew (e.g., מַלְכוּת=מֶלֶךְ,פֵּחָה administrator, כְּנָת fellow-citizen, etc.; comp. J. D. MICHAELIS, Supplement to Heb. Lex., p. 2168; GESENIUS, Lehrgebäude, p. 468, and KNOBEL Commentary, 10.)—In any case, Solomon, who was pre-eminently and emphatically the wise man among the kings of Israel, must be understood under the peculiar name of Koheleth; as is shown not only by the title, but also by the studied description of the learning of Koheleth, comprehending every thing under heaven (1:13; 8:9), and by his zealous searching after wisdom and truth (1:13; 12:9), his transcendent fame as a sage (1:16; 2:15), and finally his activity as a teacher of wisdom and author of proverbs (12:9). For these are all characteristics which the book of Kings attribute honorably to Solomon, and of all the posterity of David, to him only (1 Kings 2:9; 3:12; 5:9–13; 10:1; see the Introduction to the Literature of Solomon in general (in the beginning of this volume).

The whole literary character of the book proves also that it belongs to the circle of the Solomonic writings on wisdom, if not in the narrower then in the broader sense, and raises it to a certainty, that under the Koheleth, therein appearing as speaker, none other can be meant than Solomon. For the book belongs clearly to the class of didactic teachings, and is distinguished from the Proverbs as the characteristic and principal representative of this poetic style in the Old Testament, mainly by the fact that it does not range numerous individual proverbs loosely and without consecutive plan, but rather develops one narrow and close circle of thoughts and truths in poetical and rhetorical form. The idea of the vanity of all human things clearly forms the centre of this circle of thought, the common theme of the four discourses, into which the whole falls according to the division mainly corresponding to the intention and plan of the author. To the dialectically progressive development and illumination in various directions which these discourses cast upon the theme in question, there corresponds an appropriate change from special moral maxims to longer or shorter descriptions of conditions, citations of doctrines or examples, observations regarding personal experience, and reflections on prominent and subordinate truths. There is also, in a formal view, a strophic division of the discourse, marked by formulas and terms repeated either literally or in sense, and a fitting diversity of style corresponding to the various objects, expressed in rhythmical prose, or lofty rhetorical and poetical diction. As the shortest expression for the designation of these peculiarities, the term “Philosophical and Didactic Poem” might be used; but in this, however, the idea of the philosophical must embrace the characteristic peculiarities of the spiritual life and aspirations of the Hebrews, or rather of the Shemitic people in general (comp. Introd. to Proverbs, § 2, p. 5 sqq.).

OBSERVATION 1.—The tracing of the name קהלת to קהל, חקהיל in the sense of congregare, conscionari, has the best authority, and is supported by the oldest as well as by the most numerous and critical among the modern expositors of this book. HIERONYMUS says, Comment, in Eccles. 1:1: “Coëleth, i.e., Ecclesiastes. ’ Εκκλησιαστής autem Grœco sermone appellator, qui coetum, i. e., ecclesiam congregat, quem nos nuncupare possumus concionatorem, eo quod loquatur ad populum, et sermo ejus non specialiter ad unum, sed ad universos generaliter dirigatur.” Later expositors and lexicographers have fixed the fundamental meaning of the root קהל properly as that of “calling,” and hence compare קוֹל Arabic quâla, and Greek καλέω., with Latin, calare, clamare. קֹהֶלֶת “the caller, the preacher,” is clearly nearest allied to the synonymous הַקּוֹרֵא Isaiah 40:3. On account of this fundamental signification of “calling,” we condemn these expositions of the name which proceed from the supposed root idea of gathering or collecting. To these belong 1) the opinion of GROTIUS, HERDER, JAHN, etc.: that the word means collector sententiarum, a collector of sentences—a view that some ancient translators have already expressed, e.g., AQUILA (συναθροιστής); SYMMACHUS (παροιμιαστής); 2) VAN DER PALM’S modification of this view from a partial consideration of 1 Kings 8:1; in which Solomon is spoken of as the assembler of his people and his elders קֹהֶלֶת i.e., congregator, coactor; 3) the view of NACHTIGAL and DÖDERLEIN, that קהֶֹלֶת=congregatio, consessus, “learned assembly, academy,” according to which the book would be marked as a collection of philosophical disputations in the style of the Seances of Hariri, or the Collectiones Patrum of CASSIAN (an acceptation clearly at variance with such passages as 1:12; 12:9, 10, etc.); 4) the strange assertion of Kaiser: that קהֶֹלֶת is the same as collectivum, and means the whole of the Davidic Kings, from Solomon to Zedekiah, whose history the book delineates in chronological order (KAISER, Koheleth, the Collectivum of the Davidic Kings, Erlangen, 1823, comp. § 6).—-That no one of these explanations deserves attention, in view of the illustrations already given, is quite as certain as that it must also remain doubtful which of the two efforts to explain the feminal form of the name, which our paragraph has named as the principal, or, rather, only possible ones, deserves the preference. For the view of the expression taken by EWALD and KÖSTER, that it is synonymous with wisdom, and in so far a fitting designation of Solomon, the embodied wisdom, various significant parallels besides those above quoted press themselves on our attention; e.g., in an extra-biblical field the surname given to the sophist Protagoras, Σοφία, and, what is more important, the self-designation of Christ, the New Testament Solomon, as the Σοφία or Σοφία τοῦ θεοῦ (Matth. 2:19; Luke 11:49), with which, according to BENGEL’S example, may be directly combined the declaration concerning the desire of gathering the children of Jerusalem under his wings (Matth. 23:37; Luke 13:34).1 The view first advanced by MICHAELIS, and then adopted by GESENIUS, KNOBEL, ELSTER, VAIHINGER, HAHN, KEIL, and others, now again appears, namely, that the feminine ending is explained by the character of the name as an official name, besides the already quoted names, פֵּחָה, מַלְכוּת, כְּנָת and still more are we aided by the analogies of expression such as סֹפֶרֶת “the writer,” Ezra 2:55; Neh. 7:57; and פּכֶרֶת “the catcher, hunter” (contained in the proper name פּכֶֹרֶת הַצְּבָיִים i.e., gazelle-hunter, Ezra 2:57; Neh. 7:59); for these names are closely allied with קֹהֶלֶת2 And, moreover, since the Koheleth of our book appears every where as a real person, and no where clearly as a personified idea, and since expressions such as those contained in 1:16 f.; 2:12, etc.; according to which the speaker attributes to himself an effort, a seeking, an obtaining, would not be especially appropriate in the mouth of personified wisdom, the weightiest arguments seem to declare in favor of the second mode of explanation, but without the absolute exclusion of the other.—But in any case we must adopt for the explanation of the feminine form one or the other of the above quoted hypotheses, and not the opinion of MERCERUS, that by the feminine ending there is an intimation of the senile weakness of the preacher, and consequently of the advanced age at which Solomon wrote the book; nor the view of ZIRKEL (see § 6), that the feminine ending is chosen because of the delicate and graceful style of the book, nor the still more fanciful assertion of AUGUSTI (Introd. to the O. T., § 172), that Koheleth is the spirit of Solomon returned to the realm of the living, and now represented as the preacher of wisdom, and that its feminine designation is to be understood in the neutral sense, because those deceased and living after death were considered destitute of gender, in harmony with Matth. 22:30. It has been justly made to appear in opposition to this latter view, by KNOBEL, ELSTER and others, that the book itself no where hints at the character of the speaker, as of a spirit from Scheol, and that apparitions in the Old Testament, as 1 Sam. 28:11 ff. proves, clearly appear as something rare and abnormal, and that on account of the well known prohibition of conjuration of the dead (Lev. 19:31; 20:6; Deut. 18:11; Isa. 8:19) even the poetic fiction of an apparition of Solomon could hardly occur, especially in religious writings laying claim to canonicity.


The character of this book has suffered manifold misapprehensions, as well in a theological point of view (for which see below § 5) as in the rhetorical and esthetical. It has been accused of numerous contradictions with itself, of absence of plan and connection, on account of a faulty perception of its inner economy, and the development of its thoughts. It has been declared inconsistent that passages like 1:11; 2:15,16; 3:19, 20; 9:25, etc., assert the complete equality of the final fate of the godly and the ungodly; whilst others, as 3:17; 8:12, 13; 11:9; 12:13, 14, promise a corresponding divine reward for each individual moral act, and therefore expressly exhort to uprightness and the fear of God. It has also been found contradictory, that the author sometimes praises wisdom as bringing profit and blessings (2:3,12–14; 7:10–12; 8:1–6; 10:2; 10:13–16), and sometimes declares that it is injurious, making men ill-humored, and not leading to the goal of its endeavors; sometimes indeed causing more unhappiness than does folly, (1:18; 8:14; 9:11, 18; 10:1). It is not less contradictory that at one time he praises his own wisdom, and at another maintains that he has not acquired wisdom (Sec. 16; 2:3, 9, 15, with 7:23, 24); that now he praises women, and recommends association with them and now warns us against their seductive and immoral nature. (Comp. 2:8; 9:9, with 7:7 26–29); at one time recommends repose, at another activity (see 4:6, with 9:10); again he praises obedience to authority as being not without profit, and then he complains of the unjust oppression of subjects by their superiors (comp. 8:5, with 3:16; 5:7; 10:4ff.), and finally he declares the dead and the unborn as happier than the living, and soon again calls life sweet, and greatly prefers it to death, (comp. 4:2, 3, with 9:4–6; 11:7).—But aside from the fact that many of these so-called contradictions are but apparent, and become perfectly harmonious in view of the diverse tendency and surroundings of the individual assertions, or indeed through the double signification of one and the same word, as is here and there the case, comp. (e.g. כַּיזַם 7:3, with the same word in 7:9; חֵן in 9:11, with חֵן in 10:12, etc.,) a certain vacillation and unsteady effort in the presentation of the author is a necessary condition of his peculiar theme—the doctrine of the vanity of all earthly things. The most contradictory experiences which he may have made in life, he seeks to reproduce in a corresponding and often abrupt change of his feelings, a vivid transition of his thoughts and expressions,—a peculiarity which UMBREIT has not inappropriately characterized by his designation of the entire contents of the book as a “soul struggle, an inner strife between the judgment and the feelings of a wise old King;” (comp. § 6).

In this respect, also, VAIHINGER strikingly observes, (“Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon,” p. 8, f.): “It must be acknowledged that the preacher is not free from a timid uncertainty, from a doubting vacillation and striving in his mode of reflecting; that he strikingly depicts the want of a perfect clearness regarding human life and divine providence, in the varied experiences of man. The reason of this may be easily discovered by a consideration of the general and special stand-point on which he rests. He was once as Job, a thinking mind, that did not accept the traditional faith untried, that did not stop at the poetry of life, but penetrated into its prose. In this direction he necessarily entered into a contest when he compared the daily experiences of life, in which men are often left to their own impulses, with the promises of the divine word, in which a sure punishment is announced to the sinner. He could not but perceive how evil often has a wonderful and incomprehensible success, whilst the good is not rewarded. At the same time he himself may have variously experienced the buffetings of life, and have passed through highly repulsive trials that unsettled his mental repose, and shook his faith in the eternal wisdom, goodness, and providence of God, and disposed him to be discontented with life and traditional prejudices. In this frame of mind, and with such experiences, his faith contended with the thought and the reality with the poetry of life, until, like Job, he had conquered a new stand-point. And from just this view is this book so instructive, lifting us out of a partial, arbitrary, and thoughtless faith, showing us the struggles of the thinking mind, and yet ever leading us back to the true faith. And this is the real profit of the genuine life of faith. If it is to be freed from the dross of thoughtlessness and self-sufficiency, from an idle clinging to tradition, it must be seemingly lost in the struggle of life to be found again in loftier purity. Divine truths must all be questioned, in order that we may find them again by inward struggles, and new experiences of God in a sanctified form; (Ps. 62:12, 13); and in this relation also avails the expression: “He who loses his life, shall find it again.” The author presents to us also in this respect, the true life of faith in his conflicts.3

Besides the intention of presenting to the reader an intuitive vision of his inward strifes and contests, many reasons of a more formal and external nature may have exerted an influence on the vacillating and contradictory recital of the author; e.g., the intentional interweaving of many digressions (see e.g. 12:2–6), and especially the direct introduction of the expressions of contrary thinkers for the purpose of immediate refutation. Thus appears in Chap. 4:5, an apparently antagonistic assertion, which in the sixth verse is disapproved and rejected; the same relation is held by 10:16–19, and 10:20. In any case it is perfectly proper and just to consider what Hitzig says, (Preliminary Observations, No. 5, p. 125): “It wouldseem that much that the author says possesses but a momentary influence as a link in the chain of deductions.” It performs its duty and is neutralized; the latter assertion abolishes the former; and at the close KOHELETH teaches only that which finally remains uncontradicted. Comp. below exegetical explanations to Ecc 2:1ff., No. 1.


It cannot much surprise us now, after the above demonstrations, that the plan and thread of thought in the book have been very variously comprehended, and that the schemes adopted for the subdivision of its contents have deviated strongly from one another; and indeed to speak with VILMAR (ART. KOHELETH, Pastoral Theological Journal, vol. 5. p. 253), “the economy of the book bears almost exactly as many forms as it has found expositors.” Of these views and treatises the principal ones will be summarily recounted in Observation 1 of the following paragraph: The poetical form of the book will also receive more critical attention in the following paragraphs, on account of the close connection of its strophical design with its subdivision and the logical progress of its thoughts.


“All is vanity,” a sentence that appears no less than twenty-five times, forms the fundamental thought of the book; an assertion of the vanity of all human relations, destinies, and efforts, based upon experience. As there is in the objective phenomena of this world, i.e., in nature and history, no true progress, but ever a constant return of old things that long have been, a perpetual monotony, a continual circle of things (1:4–7, 9,10; 3:15); thus man, with all his efforts, attains to nothing new, but rather shows himself, in everything that he wishes to investigate, fathom and acquire, most manifoldly limited and controlled by the all-pervading and all-powerful hand of God; (3:1–8, 11,13; 8:6, 17; 9:1, 5, 11, 12, etc.). On the way of his own efforts and strivings, man is able to arrive at no true and lasting happiness; for neither sensual pleasures (2:2, 11; 7:6, etc.) nor earthly possessions and treasures (3:9–16; 6:1–7, etc.), nor wisdom (1:13–18; 2:14–18; 9:1,11; 10:6, etc.), not even virtue and the fear of God (3:16–18; 4:1; 7:15–17; 8:10, 14); help here below to lasting happiness. But we are not the less to doubt of the presence of a personal God, and of a moral system of the world regulated and watched over by him, (3:11, 13, 17; 5:5, 7, 17–19; 6:2; 7:13, 14; 11:5, 9; 12:7, 14), and the belief of this activity of God governing and directing the world, lends to all sensual and moral blessings of life their only worth (11:9; 12:13, 14). On the basis of this belief it behooves us to enjoy the pleasures of this life in a cheerful, thankful, and contented manner (2:24; 3:12, 13; 5:17, 18; 8:15; 9:7–9; 11:8–11), but we must combine this cheerful enjoyment of life with an earnest endeavor after wisdom as a truly lofty and valuable treasure (7:11, 12; 9:13–16; 8:1–6, etc.), and above all this strive after the fear of God as the source of the highest happiness and peace, and the mother of all virtues (5:6; 7:18; 8:12, 13; 12:1, 13). In short, the author regards as end and aim of human life on earth, a joy in the blessings and enjoyments of this world, consecrated by wisdom and the fear of God, with renunciation of a perfect reconciliation of existing contrasts, difficulties, and imperfections, and an eye steadily fixed on the future and universal judgment, as the final solution of all the mysteries of the universe.

These contents of the book, as was remarked in § 1, are divided into four discourses of about equal length:

I. DISCOURSE: Chap. 1 and 2.—The theoretical wisdom of men, directed to the knowledge of the things of this world, is vanity (1:2–18), as well as the practical, aiming at sensual enjoyments, great worldly enterprises, creations, and performances, (2:1–19); neither of these leads to lasting happiness, or to any good that may be considered as the actual fruit of human labor (as the actual יִתְרוֹן of man), and not rather an unconditional gift of Divine Providence, (2:20–26).

II. DISCOURSE: Chap. 3–5.—In view of the complete dependence of human action and effort on an immutable and higher system of law (3:1–11) the answer to the inquiry after earthly happiness (or יִתְרוֹן) must be that there is no higher good for man than to enjoy this life and to do good, (3:12–22); a good that is not easily attained in the diversely changing circumstances of fortune, and the frequently unfavorable situations in private, social, and civil life (4:1–16), but a blessing, nevertheless, after which we must strive by piety, conscientiously honest actions, and a spirit sober, contented, and confiding in God, (4:17; 5:19).

III. DISCOURSE: Chap. 6:1–8, 15. Since worldly goods and treasures in themselves cannot lead to true happiness, but are rather vain and transitory, (6:1–12), we must strive after the true practical wisdom of life, which consists of patience, contempt of the world, and fear of God (7:1–22); and we must seek to gain and realize it, in spite of all the allurements, oppressions, injustices and misfortunes of this world, (7:23, 8:15).

IV. DISCOURSE: Chap. 8:16–12:7.—As the providence of God in the allotment of human destinies is, and will ever remain, unfathomable, and apparently has little or no reference to the moral and religious conduct of men in this world (8:16; 9:16), and as there are no other means for the wise man to preserve his peace of soul in presence of the arrogance, impudent assumption, and violence of fortunate and powerful fools, than godly patience, silence, and tranquility (9:17; 10:20): therefore benevolence, fidelity to duty, a contented and serene enjoyment of life, and sincere fear of God from early youth to advanced age, are the only true way to happiness in this world and the world beyond, (11:1; 12:7).

EPILOGUE: Chap. 12:8–14. This contains a comprehensive view of the whole, and a recommendation of the truths therein taught, with reference as well to the personal worth of the author (9–11), as to the serious and important contents of his teachings (12–14).

Each of these principal divisions falls into subdivisions, already indicated by the preceding scheme, and within these are again separate paragraphs or verses. These smaller divisions are either marked by the mere inward progress of the thought, or by certain other external signs, as here and there by peculiar, cumulative, closing sentences, (1:15: 1:18; 2:11,19, 23, 26), or also by like formulas and turns in the beginning (e.g. by the opening formula: “I saw:” 3:10, 16; 4:1, 7, 15), or by other similar expressions and sentences (e.g. 7:26; 8:5, 12). In accordance with this the first discourse contains three divisions (1:1–11; 1:12, till 2:19; 2:20, 26), of which the first has three, the second six, and the third two strophes. The second discourse consists of three divisions (3:1–22; 4:1–16; 4:17; 5:19), each of three strophes; the third of three divisions, (6:1–12; 7:1–22; 7:23; 8:15), of which the first counts two, the second and third each of three strophes; the fourth of three divisions, of three strophes each, (8:16–19; 9:17, till 10:20; 11:1; 12:7). The conclusion comprises two strophes or also half strophes (12:9–11; 12:12–14), together with a shorter proposition (12:8). More about this division into strophes may be found in VAIHINGER, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon, pp. 26–44 (also in Studien und Kritiken, 1848, 11); and in HAEVERNICK, Introduction to the Old Testament, edited by KEIL, Vol. III. p. 438 ff.


With the arrangement of the contents of Ecclesiastes above given, which we designate according to its principal representatives, as that of VAIHINGER and KEIL, correspond most nearly the divisions of KÖSTER (the Book of Job and Ecclesiastes, Schleswig, 1831), of H. A. HAHN (Comment. on Ecclesiastes of Solomon, 1860), and of EWALD (The Poetical Books of the Old Testament, 1 ed. 4:193; 2 ed. 11, 284ff.). That of the latter, to which HEILIGSTEDT subscribes, (Commentar. in Eccl. et. Cant. Cantic. 1848), corresponds almost exactly with the one accepted by us, only that the second of the four discourses laid down in it, extends from 3:1 till 6:9, (and consequently the third from 6:10–8:15),—which seems scarcely in harmony with the subordinate of the new thought beginning with 6:10. EWALD and HEILIGSTEDT also avoid, without sufficient reason, a more special classification of the separate discourses, according to strophes and sections. KÖSTER, who also accepts four principal divisions or discourses, has attempted a more special division into strophes, but in the whole, as in the individual parts, indulges in many arbitrary assertions. His divisions are a, introduction: 1, 2–11, consisting of a proposition as a theme, and two strophes; b. I. Sec.: 1:12, 13, 22, containing eight strophes; c. II. Sec.: 4:1–6, 12, containing nine strophes; d. III. Sec.: 7:1–9, 16, containing nine strophes; e. IV. Sec. 9:17–12:8, of eight strophes; f. conclusion:12:9–14, of two strophes. HAHN makes nearly the same classification, only he extends the third part merely to 9:10, instead of to 9:16, and adds the introduction I. 2–11 to part 1.—Of the remaining modes of classification we notice the following:4 M. GEIER: Solomon tells I. wherein happiness does not consist; and this 1) from his own experience (1, 2); 2) from the experiences of others, namely, a. from the change in the times (3) b. from the character of persons, of the unjust, the envious, the avaricious, and of godless kings and the rich, (4, 5), c. from the uncertainty of earthly things, a. of wealth (6, 7), ß. from the arrangement of human as well as divine things (8, 9); II. wherein true happiness consists, 1) in upright conduct towards superiors (10); 2) in beneficence towards the poor (11); 3) in the fear of God (12).

SEBASTIAN SCHMIDT: Three parts: I. Treatise concerning the highest good, 1) negative, showing wherein it does not consist (1:2–3, 11); 2) positive, wherein it is to be placed (3:12–14); II. six instances by which man may be prevented from obtaining the highest good (3:15 till 4:16); III. guide to the true worship of God, and the way to happiness, contained in fourteen rules of conduct (4:17; 12:7), together with a summary (12:8–14).

STARKE: Three parts: I. wherein the highest good is not to be found (1:2 till 3:11); II. wherein it is to be found (3:12; 4:16); III. of our demeanor after finding this good, taught in fourteen rules (4:17 till 12:7); then the close, (thus differing but little from the previous division).

OETINGER: Two parts: One must not let himself be driven by the prevalence of vain things into folly, avarice, and temerity (Ecc 1:7); II. one should not be led astray by vanity from the fear of God (Ecc 8:12).

PAULUS: As the former, only pointing out that in chap. 1–7 Solomon speaks, and in chap. 8–12 another person answers him.—VAN DER PALM: Two parts: I. Theoretical part: illustration of the vanity of human endeavors (chap. 1–6); II. practical part: rules that are to be followed under such circumstances (chap. 7–12). J. DAV. MICHAELIS: I. Theoretical part: the great insufficiency of the happiness of a man left to himself, and isolated from God (1:2; 4:16); II. practical part: the means leading to a true and lasting happiness in this life (4:17; 12:14); the first of these parts containing four, and the second six subdivisions.—FR. SEILER: As the preceding, only that he accords to the theoretical part six, but to the practical part eleven subdivisions. So also ROSENMULLEK and others.

MENDELSOHN: Thirteen sections: 1) Ecc 1:1–11; 2) Ecc 1:12; 2:11; 3) Ecc 2:12–26; 4) Ecc 3:1; 4:3; 5) Ecc 4:4–16; 6) Ecc 4:17; 5:20; 7) Ecc 6:1; 7:14; 8) Ecc 7:15; 8:9; 9) Ecc 8:10; 9:12; 10) Ecc 9:13; 10:15; 11) Ecc 10:16; 11:6; 12) Ecc 11:7, till 12:7; 13) Ecc 12:8–14.

E. CHR. SCHMIDT: also thirteen sections: but which correspond with the preceding in scarcely any point, and of which the last, Ecc 12:8–14, is regarded as the addition of a younger hand. KNOBEL and UMBREIT take the same position; (consult the following paragraph concerning them and other contestants of the genuineness of the conclusion, Ecc 12:8–14).

HITZIG: Three main divisions: I. The theoretical foundation, or investigation for the reader regarding the situation (Ecc 1:2; 4:16); II. Recommendation to enjoy the pleasures of life cheerfully, with various provisions and restrictions (4:17; 8:15); III. Positive and direct illustration of what it is salutary for man to do, or development of the principles of a genuine and practical wisdom, (8:16 till 12:14).

R. STIER: Introductory Preface (Ecc 1:2–11), and then three main divisions: I. To the natural man all is vanity; he falls into confusion and trouble, as long as he does not look to God, (Ecc 1:12; 7:30); II. Various passages alluding in various ways to the foregoing, but illuminating everything with the light found in the first part (8:1; 11:10); III. The teaching of the Book, “Regard thy Creator before thou becomest old, for this yields an immortality;” together with conclusion and recapitulation (12:1–14);—each of these principal divisions falls into several subdivisions; the first into four, the second into three, and the third likewise into three.

FR. DE ROUGEMENT: Two main divisions of very unequal length: I. Philosophical discourse (1:2; 12:10); II. inspired teaching (12:11–14). The first of these parts is introduced by the presentation of the problem to be solved, (1:2–11), and then divided into three books: 1) the vanities of human existence (1:12; 4:16); 2) the human conditions of happiness (5:1; 7:14); 3) the divine conditions of happiness (7:15; 11:6): each of these books is again divided into three or four paragraphs, and the last is accompanied by a special conclusion: “life and death,” (11:7; 12:10).

A. F. C. VILMAR: Seven divisions (mainly for practical utility). I. General introduction: everything on earth is transitory, and returneth to the place whence it came, etc. (chap. 1.); II. deeds in life are vanity; God alone carries their success in his hand; we see no profit of our labors, and no result of our life (2:1; 3:15); III. to expect a recompense on earth, is a deceptive hope (3:16; 5:8); IV. riches, with all that they are permitted to accomplish and effect, are vain and transitory (5:9; 7:9); V. wisdom on earth is no avail, for it can find out much but not all things, and the end of the wise man is (externally) like the end of the fool (7:10 till 10:4); VI. result: our unsuccessful labors, the inequality of the things of the world, the nothingness of riches, and the insufficiency of worldly wisdom must not deceive us in what we have to do in our narrow circle, and least of all the youth (10:5; 12:7); VII. conclusion: repeated summary of the result more circumstantially given in No. VI.


Many commentators deny that there is any evidence of a well-arranged and systematic train of thought, and have considered the book an immethodical collection of individual thoughts, views and expressions, that have simply a loose connection by the assertion that all is vanity, and for whose grouping the usual division into chapters presents a sufficient means. This is the view of the older commentators, as also of LUTHER, MELANCHTHON, DRUSIUS, MERCERUS, BAUER, HANSEN, SPOHN, etc., and it yet appears in the most recent period of ELSTER, and HENGSTENBERG. The two latter form, it is true, certain sections, and groups of verses in the course of their exegesis of the book, but bring these divisions together in no unitary and well-arranged scheme. GURLITT (Studies and Criticisms of the Book of KOHELETH, 1865, II. 321 ff.) has also declared this book “anything but a systematically arranged writing, to bring whose contents in the form of a logical scheme, would be a fruitless undertaking.”—Even those exegetists who see a colloquial character in the book, aim at no regular arrangement of its contents, and consider the whole, therefore, as a conversation or disputation between the representatives of two antagonistic views. A few older commentators inclined to this view, especially HIERONYMUS (comp. e.g. his remarks on Ecc 9:7, 8); “et hœc, inquit, aliquis loquatur Epicurus et Aristippus et Cyrenaici,” and other similar passages, which show a certain inclination to a dramatizing of the contents, and Gregory the Great, who (Dialog. IV. 4), seems to give the book almost directly the character of a dramatic colloquy between Solomon and various opponents of his religious views. Among the moderns these views are represented by the Englishman, Matt. Poole, (Annotations on the Bible, London, 1683), F. GEARD, (a Paraphrase on Ecclesiastes, London, 1701), of whom the latter considers: That the Preacher introduces a refined sensualist or a sensual worldling, who interrupts him, in order to attack and ridicule his doctrine. This colloquial hypothesis has received its most refined form from HERDER and EICHHORN. According to HERDER’S eleventh letter on theological study, there are to be distinguished in the book two voices, that of a hypercritic who seeks truth in the tone of one speaking in the first person, and mostly ends with the assertion that all is vanity, whilst another voice in the tone of “Thou,” often interrupts him, represents to him the temerity of his investigations, and mostly ends with the question: what remains as the result of a whole life? It is not fully question and answer, doubt and solution, but something that out of the same mouth resembles both, and is distinguished by interruptions and continuations. One can therefore divide the book into two columns, of which one belongs to the exhausted seeker, and the other to the warning teacher. Under these two columns HERDER distributes the separate sections of the book as follows:































EICHHORN, independent of HERDER, arrived at a very similar view, on the path of more careful critical and scientific procedure. According to his Introduction to the Old Testament (3: 648 ff.) two kinds of persons clearly alternate in the book, a contemplator, observer, investigator, who regards with gloomy eyes the life and destiny of men, and in youthful fervor exaggerates the deductions from his observations and seldom does justice to the good of this world; by his side stands an aged man of wisdom, who tempers the fire of ardent youth, and brings him back to the path of truth beyond which he in his excitement has hurried, and even shows how evil has a good side. The former ends with the lamentation that all is vanity, the latter with the deductions that a wise man will draw from the course of the world. In sympathy with this EICHHORN’S divisions are:



1:2; 4:16.

4:17; 5:11.

5:12; 6:12.






8:9; 9:6.





10:8; 12:7.

CONCLUSION: 12:8–14.

 Similar, but deviating frequently in details, is the view of BERGST, in EICHHORN’S Repertory, 10: 963 ff. From these efforts at introducing dialogues, in which but one thing can be acknowledged as true and tenable, namely, that in some few passages the author introduces his opponent as speaking, in order immediately to contradict them (see above § 1, Obs. 2, towards the end) there is clearly only one step to that view which regards the whole as a compilation of various investigations, reflections, and songs or sententious poems of Israelitish philosophers, a view directly destructive to the unity of the book; as is done by DÖDERLEIN and NACHTIGAL in connection with their already mentioned peculiar explanations of the name KOHELETH by “session, assembly” (comp. § 1, Obs. 1). According to this view of DÖDERLEIN, presented in his scholia in libros poeticos V. T., t. 1, (1779), but at a later period (Solomon’s Song, and Ecclesiastes, 1784) again rejected and opposed, (which however found a so much more zealous and determined advocate in NACHTIGAL) the whole is a collection by some later hand of various philosophical and didactic poems, sayings of wise men, obscure questions, together with their solutions, and a few additions in prose, The entire contents are classified therefore in eight divisions, together with a supplement:



Poems ( 1:2; 4:16);



Proverbs (4:17; 5:8);



Poems (5:9; 6:9);



Proverbs (6:10; 7:22);



Obscure questions and their solution (7:23; 8:7);



Poems (8:8; 10:1);



Proverbs (10:2; 11:6);



Poems (11:7; 12:7).

SUPPLEMENT: Additions in prose (12:8–14).

This view, as well on account of its denial of all connection between the individual parts, as of progressive thought within them, falls into the class of those expositions which are capable of vindicating a logically arrayed train of ideas in the book only at the sacrifice of its unity. With these the following paragraph will be more especially occupied.


As to the literary form of the book, its close connection with that of the older Maschal poetry in the Proverbs, and its occasional transition into complete prose, comp. especially EWALD, Poets of the Old Testament, p. 285 f.: “It is not to be denied that our didactic poet has much that is delicate and refined in expression, and finished in the composition of individual thoughts and proverbs, such as one would scarcely have expected at this late and depressed period. A genuine poetic spirit pervades everything;—our poet understands how to give a poetic mould to the most brittle material, to bring the most distant fields into clear view, to unite the most dissonant elements, to smooth what is rough, and either harmlessly to bend the views to be opposed, or get rid of them before they become too marked. But in one direction he far surpasses the limit even of the freest of the earlier proverbial poetry, and creates something entirely new. He no longer gives every where pure poetic lines, but lets the discourse here and there be concluded, without retaining the strict law of metrical construction. When he desires to interpolate in his freer reflection something purely historical, he dispenses with the restraint of poetic measure (e. g. 1:12; 2:4 ff.; 9:13–15); for in the process of accurate and clear thought, many things may be expressed most curtly and sharply without the trammel of measure. Thus there is found in our poet a variegated form of discourse, and he is also creative as a composer of proverbs. The Arabs understand this change from verse to prose in many half poetic works, and in the Indian drama it is universal; even in the prophets of the Old Testament we find much that is similar, and thus it became so much the more easy for this poet to yield to it. When the thought soars, the pure height of poetic style always appears with him (comp. as example of the highest poetic flight especially Ecc 12:1–6). But especially where teaching and admonition appear, there the language rises to the sharp brevity and genuine character of the ancient proverb; to this our later poet has clearly devoted all care and skill, so that it also in this production beams forth in the highest beauty. It is neatly polished, sharply stamped, briefly and pointedly completed; and he especially rejoices in retaining the old style of genuine Hebrew speech, whilst this is already inclined to lower itself to the more modern language of intercourse. It appears thus separately intertwined, or in series; either in strictest poetic style, or in somewhat weakened fetters, but may even then be recognized by the pure doctrine that it imparts. Where several proverbs follow each other, there are formed well connected links of a strong chain of thought, which separates into its parts: but such a chain has at most seven parts or individual proverbs (4:17; 5:6; 7:1–7; 7:8–14), so that we can here every where in the entire composition recognize the significance of the old Hebrew strophes. For the whole construction of each of the four separate discourses of the book clings to the structure of strophes, and nowhere oversteps the limits of this structure.” With reference to the limits of these strophes, Ewald differs in many particulars from VAIHINGER and KEIL, whom we in this respect have followed as in the paragraph above; just as KÖSTER, who first perceived and pointed out the strophical arrangement of the book in general, differs from the three others in various respects. This uncertainty regarding many of the specialties of the strophical construction, need not mislead us as to the fact in general, nor carry us to the view taken by HENGSTENBERG, BLEEK, KAHNIS, etc., that the character of the style of the book is entirely without form and plan. Comp. VAIH., Art. Solomon the Preacher, in HERZOG’S Real-Encyclopedia, Vol. XII. p.100 ff.


That Ecclesiastes forms one connected whole, appears from the uniform character of its language, and the universal reference of its individual sentences and expressions to the fundamental thought of the vanity of all earthly things. It appears also from the unmistakable progress of its reflections throughout the whole, as it goes on from the unharmonious incongruity of the beginning to the increasing clearness, certainty and confidence of the final judgment. However one may regard the internal law of this progress, and in accordance with it interpret the plan and order of the whole, it cannot be doubted, in the main, that it is a work from one mould, and that only isolated inequalities and coarse asperities of structure remain for the candid critical observer, a characteristic peculiarity of the book which can by no means be denied, and which may not, without farther regard, be explained as a defect of rhetoric or style (see § 1, Obs. 2). In just appreciation of this peculiarity, nearly all the latest exegetists have opposed the hypercritical procedure of their predecessors, towards the end of the last century, extending to the arbitrary dismemberment and mutilation of the whole (e.g., SPOHN, SCHMIDT, NACHTIGAL, PAULUS, STÄUDLIN, and partially, also, GROTIUS and WHISTON), and have, at the same time, with the internal uniformity and continuity of the style, also acknowledged the integrity of the traditional text. Only in reference to the closing section (Ecc 12:8–14) has it been doubted down to the latest period by certain expositors, whether this may be regarded as an authentic and integral part of the whole. But even these doubts have justly been rejected by the most, as unfounded, because the pretended contradiction which the doctrine of happiness, immortality and judgment as found in this closing part presents to that of the book itself, is merely apparent, and because the circumstance that therein Koheleth is spoken of, not as formerly in the first, but in the third person, is by no means an isolated case, but has in 1:2 and 7:27 perfect analogies preceding it.


Concerning NACHTIGAL’S strange experiments in tracing back the contents to divers wholly unconnected compositions and aphorisms, see previous Paragraph 2, Obs. 2. H. GROTIUS5 is to be named as the earliest representative of this mutilating method, which in many respects reminds us of HERDER’S, EICHHORN’S, and MAGNUS’ treatment of the Song of Solomon. The former, in his Annotationes in V. T., describes the origin of Ecclesiastes in these words: “redactas esse in hunc librum varias hominum, qui apud suos quisque habebantur, opiniones, περὶ τῆς εὐδαιμονίας, quare mirari non debemus, si quædem hic legimus non probanda; omnes enim sententias cum suis argumentis recitanti necesse erat id accidere.” He strangely imagined ZERUBBABEL to be the instigator of the collecting of these proverbs. “Qui hæc colligerent ac sub persona Solomonis in unum corpus congererent, mandatum habuerunt ab uno pastore, i.e., ut puto, Zorobabele, qui ob res tenues Judæorum et Persici imperii reverentiam, regem se dicere non ausus, quamquam inter suos pro rege habebatur, nomen usurpavit modestius Pastoris” [Annot. ad c. xii. 11).—Besides NACHTIGAL. and (for a while) DÖDERLEIN, it was especially H. E. G. PAULUS (Comment., 1790) and STÄUDLIN (History of the Moral Teachings of Jesus, I., 1799), who maintained towards the end of the last century the fragmentary and compilatory character of the book, at the same time with its post-Solomonic origin; and each in his peculiar way; PAULUS inclining to the view of HERDER, i.e., of a dialogue between scholar and teacher; STÄUDLIN, with the effort to trace as many things as possible to Solomon himself as originator. The vacillating and doubtful condition of Solomon towards the end of his life he has depicted in isolated paragraphs, which a later Hebrew found, and from them took the main material of which he composed the book, as from certain hitherto uncollected sayings of Solomon. This collector then added in his own name some remarks at the end of the book, by which the fate of the whole is indicated, and some account of the origin of the book is given.—This hypothesis of STÄUDLIN forms the transition to the second principal form in which the critical efforts directed against the unity of the book have appeared. This consists in the acceptance of one author, perhaps Solomon, who wrote at various times the single paragraphs, sayings and reflections which form the book, and finally united them into one rather unfinished and unharmonious whole. Thus, at first, WM. WHISTON († 1752), who, under the supposition of Solomonic authorship, says: “in librum Ecclesiastæ tamquam in unum, systema redactas esse plures Solomonis observationes, super rebus gravissimi momenti, sed factas diversis temporibus, ut longe maxima pars ab eo perfecta sit, quum solius Jehovæ cultui addictus de vera religione bene sentiret, nonnullæ autem, cum per illecebras voluptatum ab hoc cultu desci visset.” Thus also J. CHR. SCHMIDT (1794), according to whom the book, as it appears, consists of paragraphs written in various moods and times, and does not yet seem a book fully finished for the public, but rather a mere sketch drawn up (!) by the author for himself, as a guide for further labor. And there are several similar exegetists about this time, namely, MIDDLEDORPF (1811), also SPOHN (1785), according to whom the book consists of moral sentences which more or less cherish genuine reverence of God, and call attention to His wisdom in the government of the world, in order thereby to lead to a firm trust in God, to alienate the mind from the world, direct it to virtue, etc.; and in the same strain writes ZIRKEL (1792), to whom the whole appears as a reading book for the young inhabitant of the world, etc.—This view, denying the unity and integrity of the book, appears in its most modest form, and with the greatest semblance of scientific support in VAN DER PALM, DÖDERLEIN, BERTHOLDT, HERZFELD, KNOBEL, and UMBREIT, who think the unity only here and there destroyed by certain changes of the text, alterations, and interpolations, or at least consider the closing section (Ecc 12:8–14) as a later addition, either of the author himself (as HERZFELD) or of a later interpolator (as BERTH., KNOB., UMBR., etc.). In support of this latter view, KNOBEL says: 1) the whole addition is superfluous, because the author in 12:8 (which verse KNOBEL still considers genuine) brings the whole to a satisfactory conclusion; 2) Koheleth is not therein introduced, as in the book itself, in the first person speaking of himself, but he is referred to as a third person; 3) the thought of a future judgment of God in verse 14 contradicts the earlier denial of immortality on the part of the author; 4) presenting the fear of God and piety as the aim of all wisdom does not comport with the earlier recommendation of a gladsome, sensual enjoyment of life; 5) the expression in verse 12 that “of the making of many books there is no end,” does not accord with the epoch of Koheleth, since this period, that of Persian rule, is rather supposed to have been poor in the literary activity of the Jews. None of these reasons will stand a test. For to the 1) a very clear and expressive prominence of the principal didactic thoughts was by no means superfluous, in the obscure and casual way in which these had been previously expressed (e.g., 11:9); to the 2) Koheleth is spoken of in the third person already in the 1:2; 7:27, and even in verse 8 of the 12th chapter, recognized by KNOBEL as genuine; and again, the fact that an author alternately speaks of himself in the first and third person has its analogies in other fields (e.g., Sir. 1. 29 ff.; to the 3 and 4), neither the doctrine of happiness, nor that of immortality and retribution is at variance with the corresponding views and principles of that closing section, since the eudemonism (or blessedness) previously taught is by no means partial, sensual, or even epicurean, but is rather coupled with frequent direct and indirect exhortations to piety (see 3:14; 5:6; 8:12 f.), and since the final judgment in Ecc 11:9 has been specially and clearly enough alluded to (comp. § 5). In regard to the 5th, the presumption of a comparative literary inactivity and unproductiveness of the Jews of the Persian period is destitute of all proof, as the learned activity of the elders of the synagogue, and the collectors and multipliers of the sacred writings beginning with Ezra, proves; but since the author, as is probable from other signs, possessed a learned culture extending beyond the circle ofIsraelitish writings (see the following paragraph), and consequently “with the making of many books,” was thinking of the literary activity of the Greeks, Persians, Egyptians (for whose immense religious and profane literature, even in the pre-Alexandrine age, comp. Diodorus Siculus, I., 49), and other contemporary nations, therefore the expression in question proves more for than against the appropriateness of that part to the whole. Two arguments also of UMBREIT against the genuineness of the section are decidedly untenable; one consisting in the marked self-laudation of the author in verses 9 and 11, and the other in the pretended change of expression and tone of the discourse from verse 8 onward. For the laudatory expressions of the author concerning his own wisdom and learning have their complete and significant parallel in Prov. 2:1–15; 3:1 ff.; 4:1 ff.; 5:1 ff.; 7:1 ff.; in Job 32:6–19; in Sirach 1. 30; and indeed in many earlier expressions of Koheleth himself, as 1:16; 2:3; 7:23;—and the change of diction from verses 8 or 9 is simply an internal one, affecting the tone of the discourse and not the individual linguistic peculiarities, and is therefore satisfactorily explained by the essential contrast existing between the epilogue and the contents of the first part (comp. e.g., also Sir. 1. 29–31, with the foregoing; and also 2 Macc. 15:38–40; John 20:30, 31, etc.). One need not even consider (with HERZFELD) 12:9–14 as a later addition from the author’s own hand to his book. For if, indeed, verse 9 treated of a later activity of Koheleth, this would only then prove a later addition of the section, if Koheleth, i.e., Solomon, were the real and not the pretended author of the book. As for the rest, UMBREIT, apart from his exclusion of the ending as a false addition, has decidedly defended and maintained the unity and continuity of all the preceding; comp. his valuable treatise on the “Unity of the Book of Koheleth,” Studien und Kritiken, 1857, 1:1–56. Next to him, of the latest exegetists, EWALD, VAIHINGER and ELSTER have done the best service in proving the unitary character and integrity of the book. Compare what the last named of these beautifully as strikingly remarks concerning this subject (Preface, Sec. III. f.): “As in landscapes, whose forms, in consequence of previous struggles of contending elements, contrast in a manner apparently lawless and wild, the eternal law of all natural formation is stamped, but in another form; thus the Divine impulse that appears to every candid mind in the book of Koheleth, cannot be wanting in regularity and unity in its revelation. Although permeated by the most ardent contest of a human heart full of inward glow, it presents in the forms of its revelation, and in consequence of this previous strife, something of the not entirely lawless dismemberment of a volcanic region. Yes, as landscapes of this kind present to the eye of the artist an especially rich material with which to express his indwelling idea of beauty in bold and stupendous forms, so may we say that the sublimity of the Divine mind is most deeply felt in the rough and dismembered form of the book of Koheleth.”


Neither the title nor the contents of this book can be used to sustain the traditional opinion that Solomon is the author of it (though it presents the fundamental features of the physics of Solomon, as the proverbs those of his ethics, and the Song those of his logic—comp. the general introduction to the Solomonic writings, § 1, Obs.). For the manner in which the self-designating Koheleth speaks of himself, Ecc 1:1; 12:16, as the Son of David and King of Jerusalem, and then attributes to himself works, undertakings, and qualities, whose originator and bearer history teaches to be Solomon alone (2:4 till 12:15; 8:9 ff.; comp. § 2), indicates rather a literary fiction and an artful self-transposition of the author into the place of Solomon, than the direct Solomonic authorship. For the author says 1:12: that he, Koheleth, has been king in Jerusalem, and speaks, 7:15, of the “days of his vanity,” as if he had long been numbered with the dead! And again, what he says of himself, 1:16; 2:7, 9: that he was wiser and richer than all before him in Jerusalem, points, under unbiassed exposition, clearly to an author different from the historical Solomon; and, moreover, the allusions to his prosperity, as not less the boasting expressions regarding his own wisdom in 1:16; 2:3, 9, and finally the remarks in reference to him as a person belonging to history, 7:27; 12:9–11, are scarcely in harmony with the authorship of Solomon the son and successor of David. And that also which is said, 7:10, of the depravity of the times, accords as little with the age of Solomon, the most brilliant and prosperous of Israelitish history, as the manner in which, 4:13–16; 5:7 ff.; 8:2–10; 10:4 ff.; 16 ff., it is spoken of princes and kings, indicates the man as speaker who himself is king. And altogether unkingly sound the complaints in 3:17; 4:1; 10:5–7 concerning unjust judges, violent tyrants, officers given to imposition, and slaves and fools elevated to high offices and honors, etc.; these are all lamentations and complaints natural enough in a suffering and oppressed subject, but not in a monarch called and authorized to abolish the evils (comp. Obs. 1).

To these references to an author other than Solomon, and an origin considerably later than the Solomonic period, may be added also the linguistic peculiarities of the book, which point with great definiteness to an epoch after the exile. Compared with the prosaic and poetic diction of writings antecedent to the exile, that of this book shows a comprehensive breadth and superfluity of Aramaic words, forms, particles and significations only comparable with similar appearances of well-known productions of post-exile literature, e.g., the Books of Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, the earliest prophetic writings. The linguistic character of the book is, on the whole, in such direct contrast with that of the genuine and old Solomonic writings, especially of the constituent parts of the Proverbs, and in the use and formation of certain favorite philosophical expressions, that these isolated contacts with the old Solomonic thesaurus and custom are necessarily attributable to a direct use of these older writings on the part of the author; while in other regards a most radical difference is observable in the two spheres of language and observation. We condemn, however, as an unscientific subterfuge, the opinion of some that Solomon purposely used in Ecclesiastes the Chaldaic mode of expression of the philosophers of his age (comp. Obs. 2).

For a more exact determining of the person of the author, and the epoch in which he wrote, the descriptions given by him of the religious and moral conditions of his nation and its cotemporaries, offer some hints and assistance. According to 4:17; 5:5 and 9:2, the temple worship was assiduously practiced, but without a living piety of heart, and in a hypocritical and self-justifying manner; the complaints in this regard remind us vividly of similar ones of the prophet Malachi (e.g., Mal. 1:6 to 2:9; 3:7 ff.), with whose book, moreover, our own comes in striking contact in some points of language, namely, in the use of the expression הַמַּלְאָךְ “the angel” in the sense of “priest” (Ecc 5:5; comp. מַלְאַךְ יְהוָֹה Mal. 2:7). Other expressions of the author, regarding the religious, moral, and social vices and evils of his age, remind us of the lamentations of Ezra and Nehemiah in reference to the misery under the Persian Satraps, e.g., what he says about the decline of public justice (3:17), the violent oppression of the innocent (4:1; 7:5), the perversion of judgment in the provinces (5:8), the advancement of idle, incapable, and purchasable men to high honors and places (7:7; 10:5–7; 17;19), the debauchery of officers and lofty ones of the realm (10:16–19), informers and secret police (10:20), the increase of immoral, unrighteous, and selfish conduct of the great multitude (4:4, 8; 5:9; 8:10, 11; 9:3). The harmony of these passages with much that is similar in the books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther (comp. e.g., Ez.4:1 ff.; 9:1 ff.; Neh. 1:3 ff.; 2:10, 19; 3:33 ff.; 4:1 ff.; 13:10 ff.; Esth. 3:1 ff.; 5:9 ff.), is the more significant because our book uses in common with these very literary productions of the Persian period a word indisputably Persian, (פִּתְגָֹּם edict, command, Ecc 8:11; comp. Ez. 4:17; Esth. 1:20, etc.). There is no exact indication in the book of a later period of authorship than that of the books of Nehemiah and Malachi, or than the last decades of the fifth century before Christ,—neither in the gloomy view of the world and the melancholy philosophy of the author extending at times to inconsolable doubts of Providence, which might have been easily indulged in immediately after the exile,—nor in the complaint about the making of many books (Ecc 12:12), to which by no means the last period of Persian rule should be the first to offer an inducement, nor finally in the apparent controversy against Pharisaical, Sadducean and Essæan principles (4:17; 5:6; 7:2–6; 9:2); for this is a controversy which in truth refers only to the germs and additions of the mode of thinking of these parties extant since the exile, or since the period immediately preceding the exile, and not referring to the life and doctrine of these sect-like parties as they were in the last century before Christ. The fact that this book hints no where in the slightest at the political condition of the Jewish people under the Ptolemaic and Seleucidan rulers, and not less the fact that it has been accepted in the canon of the Old Testament, while the book of Sirach, composed soon after the commencement of the Macedonian rule, was excluded from it, as from an already finished collection, testifies pretty clearly against the composition of the book in so late a post-Persian period (comp. Obs. 3).

If this book may therefore be very probably considered as about contemporary with Nehemiah and Malachi, or between 450 and 400, then we may find the inducement and aim of its production in the fact that the sad condition of his nation, and the unfortunate state of the times, led the author to the presentation of grave reflections as to the vanity of all earthly things, and to the search after that which, in view of this vanity, could afford him consolation and strength of faith, and the same to other truth-loving minds led by the sufferings of the present into painful inward strife and doubts. The result of these reflections, the author—a God-fearing Israelite, belonging to the caste of the Chakamim, or wise teachers of that time (Ecc 12:9–11; comp. 1 Kings 4:31), whose personal relations cannot be more clearly defined, thought to bring most fittingly to the knowledge and appropriation of his contemporaries, by presenting King Solomon, the most distinguished representative of the Israelitish Chakamim, and the original ideal conception of all celebrated wise men of the Old Testament, as a teacher of the people, with the vanity of earthly things as his theme. And he puts into the mouth of this kingly preacher of wisdom (Koheleth—comp. § 1) as his alter ego, mainly two practical and religious deductions from that theme; 1) the principle that while renouncing the traditional belief of a temporal adjustment of Divine justice and human destinies, we must seek our earthly happiness only in serene enjoyments, connected with wise moderation and lasting fidelity to our trusts; and 2) the exhortation to a cheerful confidence in the hope of a heavenly adjustment between happiness and virtue, and to a godly and joyous looking to this future and just tribunal of God (comp. Obs. 4).


The Talmud seems to express a certain doubt of the traditional Jewish and Christian view, that Solomon himself wrote this book when it, Baba Vathra, f. 14, 15 (comp. Schalschelleth Hakkabala, f. 66), makes the assertion that Hezekiah and his philosophers (Prov. 25:1) wrote Isaiah, Proverbs, the Song of Solomon, and Ecclesiastes. But this assertion does not so much regard the actual composition of these books as their final revision and introduction into the Canon; the origin of their entire contents from the authors named, and consequently their authenticity in the strict sense of the word, is not called into question. of a more serious character are the objections raised by LUTHER against the Solomonic origin of Ecclesiastes. In his preface to the German translation of this book, written in 1524, he says: “The book was not written or arranged by King Solomon himself with his own hand, but was heard from his mouth by others, and collected by the learned men. As they themselves finally confess when they say: These words of the philosophers are spears and nails, arranged by the masters of the congregation, and presented by one shepherd; i. e., certain chosen ones at that time were ordered by kings and people, this and other books of Solomon, presented to the one shepherd, so to place and arrange, that no one should have need to make books according to his desire; as they therein complain that of book-making there is no end, and forbid others to undertake it. Such people are called the masters of the congregation, so that the books must be accepted and ratified by their hand and office. For the Jewish people had an external government established by God, in order that these things might be surely and justly arranged. Thus also the book of the Proverbs of Solomon was put together by others, and at the close the teachings and sayings of some wise men were added. Thus also the Song of Solomon seems like a pieced book, taken by others from his mouth. Therefore also is there no order in these books, but one part is mingled with the other, since they did not hear all at one period, nor at once, as must be the way with such books.”—He judges still more boldly about the same book in one of those casual remarks of his “Table Talk,” to which, however, he would himself scarcely have given any scientific value ( WORKS, ERLANGEN ED., Vol. 62,128): “This book ought to be more complete; there is too much broken off from it—it has neither boots nor spurs—it rides only in socks, just as I did when in the cloister.—I do not believe that Solomon was damned, but it was thus written to terrify kings, princes and rulers. Thus he did not write Ecclesiastes, but it was composed by Sirach at the time of the Maccabees. But it is a very good and pleasant book, because it has much fine doctrine concerning the household. And, moreover, it is like a Talmud, composed of many books, perhaps from the library of King Ptolemy Evergetis in Egypt. As also the Proverbs of Solomon were brought together by others,” etcLUTHER seems by no means to have always entertained this opinion of the book, disputing its authenticity as well as its unity; in his Latin Commentary at least (Ecclesiastes, Solomonis cum annotationibus, 1532, Ed. Erlang., Lat. T, XXI. p. 1 ss.), he presents the immediate hearers and contemporaries of King Solomon, as writing the pronounced contents of Koheleth: “Titulum Ecclesiastæ sive concionatoris magis referendum puto ad ipsius libri, quam ad autoris nomen, ut intelligas hæc esse verba per Salomonem publice dicta in concione quadam suorum principum et aliorum. Cum enim rex esset, non erat sui muneris neque officii docere, sed sacerdotum et Levitarum. Quare hæc arbitror dicta a Salomone in conventu quodam suorum, seu a convivio, vel etiam intra convivium, præsentibus aliquot magnis viris et proceribus, postquam apud se diu et multum cogitasset de rerum humanorum s. potius affectuum conditione et vanitate, quæ sic postea (ut fit) illis præsentibus effuderit, deinde ab illis ipsis magistris communitatis vel ecclesia excepta et collecta.—Unde et in fine fatentur hæc se accepisse a pastore uno et congessisse. Sicut nostrum quispiam posset in convivio sedens de rebus humanis disputare, aliis, quod diceretur, excipientibus. Ut scilicet sit publica concio, quam ex Salomone audierint, a qua concione placuit hunc librum Coheleth appellare, non quod Salomon ipse concionator fuerit, sed quod hic liber concionetur, tamquam publicus sermo.” As the direct Solomonic authorship appears here decidedly retained, so LUTHER in other places names Solomon without restriction as the immediate author, just as do MELANCTHON, BRENZ, and the other contemporary and next following exegetists throughout. GROTIUS was the next one to take up again the denial of the Solomonic-authenticity, and indeed in a far more distinct and consistent manner than LUTHER. See the Obs. to the last paragraph, p. 15 f. He sought in some measure to give ȧ scientific foundation to the assertion of a post-Solomonic origin by reference to the later Chaldean style. “Ego Salomonis non esse puto,” he says, “sed scriptum serius sub illius regis tamquam pænitentis ducti nomine. Argumenta ejus rei habeo multa vocabula, quæ non alibi, quam in Daniele, Esdra et Chaldæis, interpretibus reperias.” Another opponent of the genuineness of the book appeared then in HERM. v. d. HARDT (de libro Coheleth, 1716), who, however, did not, as GROTIUS, and as subsequently and more decidedly G. PH. CHR. KAISER (comp. § 1, Obs.1), think ZERUBBABEL to be the author of the book, but his younger contemporary, JESUS, son of the high priest JOIADA. Although these rather arbitrary and poorly supported assertions met strong opposition among all contemporaries, and J. D. MICHAELIS declared himself decidedly in favor of the direct Solomonic origin of the book (Poetic Outline of the Thoughts of Ecclesiastes of Solomon, 2d ed., 1762), nevertheless, since the epoch of genuine rationalism, the belief of its composition in a post-exile era, and by a philosopher identified with Solomon by means of free poetic fiction, has become so general, that since that time, even from orthodox quarters, only a rather isolated opposition has appeared. The defence of the Solomonic origin has been attempted by SCHELLING (Salomonis quæ. supersunt, etc., 1806), F. DE ROUGEMENT (Explication du livre de l’ Ecclésiaste, Neuchatel, 1844), H. A. HAHN (Commentary, 1860), WANGEMAN (Ecclesiastes practically treated according to contents and connection, 1856), ED. BÖHL (see Obs. 2), and also the Catholics, WELTE (HERBST’S INT., II., 2, 252 ff.), LUDW. VAN ESSEN (Ecclesiastes, Schaffhausen, 1856), and others; while the opposite view has found representatives not only in EWALD, UMBREIT, ELSTER, VAIHINGER, BLEEK (Int. to the O. T., p. 641 ff.), H. G. BERNSTEIN (comp. Obs. 3), etc., but also in HAVERNICK, KEIL, HENGSTENBERG, O. V. GERLACH, VILMAR, DELITZSCH, and others.


The numerous Aramaisms in the book are among the surest signs of its post-exile origin; of these nearly every verse presents some: For example, אִלּוּ if (6:6; Esth. 7:14); בָּטַל to cease, rest (12:3; Dan. 5:19; Esth. 5:9); זְמָן time (3:1; Neh. 11:6; Esth. 9:27, 31); כָּשַׁר to succeed, prosper (10:10; 11:10; Esth. 8:5); מְדִינָה province (11:8; 5:7); פִּתְגָּם edict (compare what is said above, (p. 14); פֵּשֶּׁר, interpretation, meaning (8:1; comp. Dan. 11:5ff.); מִבְּלִי אֲשֶר לֹא so that not (3:11); כָּלֹ־עֻמַּת exactly like (5:15); שָׁלַט to rule (2:19; 5:18; Neh. 5:15; Esth. 9:1); שִׁלְטוֹן authority, ruler (8:4, 8; Dan. 3:2, 3); תָּקֵן to be right (1:15; 7:13; 12:9; comp. Dan. 4:33); תַּקִּיף powerful (6:10; Dan. 2:40, 42; 3:3); likewise the particles כְּבָר long since (1:10; 2:12,16); חוּץ מִן without (2:25); עַל דִּבְרַת on account of (7:19); מָה שֶׁ what was (1:9; 3:15).—ED. BÖHL has lately tried in vain to weaken the testimony against the Solomonic origin of the book, contained in these numerous direct and indirect parallelisms with the books of Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, etc. (Dissertatio de Aramaismis libri Koheleth, qua librum Salomoni vindicare conatur, Erlang., 1864). To these we may add the many peculiar philosophical expressions, as: יִתִרוֹן advantage, gain, excellence (1:3; 2:13); רַעְיו̇ן ,רְעוּת ,חֶשְבּוֹן ,חֶלֶק ,כִּשְׁרו̇ן, together with numerous abstract forms in וּת as הֹלֵלוּת madness (10:13) סִכְלוּת foolishness (1:17; 2:3); שַׁחֲרוּת morning red, youth (11:10); שִׁפְלוּת sluggishness (10:18), etc. Where there appear, on the contrary, characteristic expressions and terms from the old Solomonic language, there every time the thought of borrowing is patent. Thus the expression בַּעַל כָנָף the bird (10:10; comp. Prov. 1:17); that favorite conception הֶבֶל 1:2, etc.; comp. Prov. 13:11; 21:6; 31:30); the expression חָבַק יָדַיִם fold the hands, as a picture of idleness (3:5; 4:5; comp. Prov. 6:10; 24:33); מַרְפֵּא remissio (10:4; comp. Prov. 14:30; 15:4); עַצְלָה laziness (10:10; comp. Prov. 19:15); שׁוּק street (12:4, 5; comp. 7:8; Cantic. 3:2); the word play in שֵׁם and שֶׁמֶן (7:1; comp. Cantic. 1:3);. תַּעֲנֻגוֹת delights (2:8; Cantic. 7:7; Prov. 19:10). Compare HÄVERNICK, Introduction to O. T., I., p. 233; EWALD, Poets of O. T., II., 268 f. The Hebrew is here so strongly permeated with the Aramaic, that there are not only many individual words entirely Aramaic, but the foreign influence extends into the smallest veins, while at the same time the material remaining from the old language has been farther developed under Aramaic influence. Indeed this book deviates farther than any other in the O. T. from the ancient Hebrew, so that one is easily tempted to believe that it was the latest of them all. But this would be a hasty and erroneous conclusion, for the Aramaic penetrates not suddenly and violently, but by degrees; so that in this period of intermingling, the one writer might adopt a much stronger Aramaic tint than the other. We see from this, and from many idioms here ventured on for the first time, and wholly absent elsewhere (e.g., “under the sun,” i.e., on the earth) only so much, that this book comes from an author from whom we have nothing else in the O T.; to all appearances he lived not even in Jerusalem, but in some country of Palestine; for we can safely enough thus conclude from the proverbial phrase, “To go to the city,” i.e., Jerusalem, 10:15, compared with similar expressions, 7:19; 8:10 (בָּעִיר in the city), and on the contrary מְדִינָה 5:7, or שָׂדֶה 5:8, the field (or soil).—Whether this conclusion, as well as that one for the same reason based on the expression “King in Jerusalem,” 1:1, is so perfectly well assured, might well be doubted; comp. for the phrase בָּעִיר also Song of Solomon, 3:2, 3; 5:7; Deut. 28:3; and also the exegetical explanations to 10:15. What EWALD (p. 269, note 1) adduces concerning the linguistic probabilities in favor of Galilee as the residence of the author, is in any case insufficient.


HÄVERNICK, KEIL, HENGSTENBERG, etc., accord with our above transfer of the epoch of the composition of Ecclesiastes into the second-third of the Persian period, or into the times of Nehemiah and Malachi (450–400). ROSENMÜLLER, DE WETTE, KNOBEL, EWALD, VAIHINGER, ELSTER, BLEEK, et al. go a little farther down; they think it could not have originated until the last years of the Persian rule, or perhaps (so at least the first three) even not until the beginning of the Macedonian period. As reasons for this view they say (ELSTER, p. 7 f.; VAIH. p. 51 ff.): 1) the period of Nehemiah, and indeed also the next following decades, (mainly therefore the years 460 till 360), could not be brought into consideration, they being the happiest periods of Israel during the Persian rule; the origin of KOHELETH must occur in a time of greater national adversity and sorrow, such as did not begin till after Artaxerxes II. (Mnemon); 2) the complaint about the making of many books (12:12), points to a period “in which a diffuse and unfruitful literature has been formed by a peculiar learning of the schools,” (ELSTER and EWALD); 3) the commencement of sectarianism which did not appear until after the peaceful period of Artaxerxes II. (404–358), forms the historical inducement to many of the expressions in the book, as 4:17; 5:6; 7:2–6; 9:2, (VAIH.); 4) in the same way the book presupposes the entire disappearance of prophetic literature, and must therefore have been written a considerable period after Malachi; 5) the author points on the one hand to the occasional desire of apostacy from the Persian Kings (8:2), on the other, he foresees the fall of the Persian realm, and admonishes them to wait for the fitting time, adding a warning against precipitate action (8:5; 10:8–11, 18; 20); these are all references to the last decades of the Persian period, or to the years 360–340, as the probable era of the origin of the book (VAIH.). HENGSTENBERG has answered the first of these arguments in a thorough manner, and has shown that nothing very definite is known of a more oppressive and violent character of the Persian rule during its last period, but that this from the beginning to the end was severe and tyrannical for the Jews, and that especially under Nehemiah there was much cause for complaint, deep mourning, and despair, as may be clearly enough seen from Neh. 5:15, 18; 8:9; 9:36, 37; 13:10,11, 15 ff. Against the second argument, taken from KOH. 12:12, we would refer to what has already been said (§ 3, Obs.) on the reference of the expression “making many books” not only to the Jewish, but also to the entire oriental as well as the Grecian literature; whereby this argument is lost for a later period of composition. No. 3, includes the wholly untenable assumption that the germs of the “sects” of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes were not known before the year 400 before Christ; a view so much the more groundless, the more distinctly the germs to these peculiar religious and moral tendencies may be traced back to a considerably earlier period; as for instance in the second part of the prophet lsaiah, Sadducean unbelief and materialism (Ecc 57:3 ff.; 59:1, ff.), and Pharisaic justification by works, and hypocrisy are deprecated, and the same may be shown in Jeremiah (comp. REUSS, History of Christian Theology in the Apostolic Age, I. p. 126 ss.). Though it may be a fact that according to the many quoted passages 4:17; 5:6; 7:2–6, etc., in KOHELETH, there appear, in the germ, the scepticism of the Sadducees, the anxiety and timidity of the Pharisees, the pleasure in morose retirement of the Essenes (EWALD, Hist, of Israel, IV. 495); nevertheless, from this fact but the one probability for determining the period of this book is to be deduced, and that is that it belongs to the time of the exile, or to one subsequent; any thing more definite cannot be deduced from it. Comp. also the exegetical illustrations to the passages quoted, and to 9:2.—The fourth of the above arguments is based on the erroneous supposition that the labors of the prophets were unknown to the author and distant from him, and that with him appeared a new mode of understanding the divine truth of revelation, beside which a prophetic literature could not well be imagined (ELSTER). To which we reply that there is nowhere in this book so decided an ignoring of the presence of the prophets as that contained in Macc. 14:41, and that the author did not find sufficient inducement to refer to the labors of the few bearers of prophetic truth whom he and his contemporaries may perhaps have known,—men like Zachariah, Haggai, and Malachi—any more distinctly than he had already done in speaking of wisdom and wise men. As to the fifth reason for the composition of the book in the last decades of the Persian rule, it rests on exegetical supports entirely too insecure to permit us to attach any weight to it. The desire of apostacy from the Persian king, or the wavering in loyalty (VAIH.) in passage 8:2, must be artificially introduced; and that the passage in Ecc 10:18, “By much slothfulness the building decayeth; and through idleness of hands the house droppeth through,” is a special reference to the near approach of the ruin of the Persian kingdom, is quite as untenable, as it is arbitrary to find in 8:5; 10:8–11, 20, warnings against a national rebellion, or immature efforts for throwing off the Persian yoke. And in general it is advisable to refrain as much as possible from introducing political references into the book, and instead of that to devote so much greater attention to its allusions to the religious and esthetical conditions of its period. These allusions however present many strikingly close parallelisms with the book of Malachi; as whose most immediate contemporary in the whole of the Old Testament literature, KOHELETH may therefore very properly be considered. On account of this unmistakable connection with the “seal of the prophets,” this book can scarcely be brought down lower than the year 400 before Christ, and the hypothesis nearest to our own, of BERNSTEIN (Quæstiones Kohelethanæ) and of DELITZSCH (Commentary on Job, p. 15) must therefore be rejected, according to which it originated under Artaxerxes II. therefore between 400 and 360, B. C. Still more decidedly must we reject the views of BERGST, BERTHOLD, SCHMIDT, et al., which accept the period between Alexander the Great and Antiochus Epiphanes, those of ZIRKEL and HARTMANN which adopt the epoch of MACCABEAN struggles for liberty, as well as those of HITZIG, who takes the precise year 204 B. C. as the period of the composition. The arguments presented by the latter for this exact period, are mostly the merest assumptions; e. g. the assertion that Ecc 8:2, points to the period after Ptolemy Lagi, who was the first to demand an oath of allegiance from the Jews (Josephus, Archæology, 12:1); the opinion that Ecc 10:16–19 refers to the commencement of the government of Antiochus Epiphanes, who at his father’s death was only five years old; that the little city, Ecc 9:14f. is the little marine city of Dora with its victorious resistance to King Antiochus the Great, 218 B. C.; that the amorous woman, Ecc 7:26, is Agathoklea, the concubine of Ptolemy Philopator †(20:3): that the former days were better than these of Ecc 7:10, point to the more happy periods for the Jews of the first three Ptolemys. How poorly the acceptance of such special references harmonizes with the otherwise general contents of the respective passages, the separate exegesis of each will show more pointedly. The affinity between the Book of Wisdom and KOHELETH, adduced by HITZIG, does not therefore prove the composition of the latter in the Alexandrine era, because the “Wisdom” is the original Greek product of a later imitator of the ancient Hebrew Chokmah-literature, but KOHELETH is an original production of this latter, and of a specific Hebrew character, whose isolated parallelisms with that apocryphal writer must arise from the use made of him by the author of it. (Comp. HAHN, in Reuter’s Repert. 1838, Vol. XIV. p. 104, ff.)


The aim of Ecclesiastes has ever been defined in very different ways. HIERONYMUS understood it almost wholly in a theoretical sense, when he made its object the teaching of the vanity of all earthly things; a view in which many modern men have followed him, as HERDER, EICHHORN, FRIEDLÄNDER, DATHE, and others. All these define its object mainly or exclusively according to Ecc 1:2; 12:8, and similar passages, whilst again PAULUS, UMBREIT, KÖSTER, EWALD, et al. look solely to such passages as 1:3; 3:9; 6:11, etc., and make the aim of the book the demonstration of the nature of the highest good. The view of DESVOEUX belongs also to the theoretical comprehension of the book (§ 6): viz., that the author of it would prove the immortality of the soul, and a future reward in another world, with which undue appreciation of the religious character of the book, others substantially coincide, as M. FR. ROOS (Footsteps of the Faith of Abraham, p. 76), RHODE (de vett. poetarum sapientia gnomica, p. 223), etc. KAISER has given to the book an historical and didactic aim, by supposing that he finds therein an allegorical presentation of the secret history of the Davidic kings from Solomon to Zedekiah, (See § 1 and 6). DE ROUGEMENT, UMBREIT, and VATKE have, on the contrary, declared it to be a philosophical composition, with the difference, however, that the first designates its tendency as specifically religious, the second as skeptical, and the third as nihilistic. Luther makes the aim of Ecclesiastes wholly practical in his preface to the books of Solomon (ERL. Ed., Vol. LXIV. p. 37); “The second book is called Koheleth, what we call Ecclesiastes, and is a book of consolation. If indeed a man will live obediently to the teachings of the first book, (i. e., Proverbs) and obey its commands, he is opposed by the devil, the world, and his own flesh, so that he becomes weary of his condition, and averse to it. As now Solomon in his first book teaches obedience in contradistinction to mad frivolity and frowardness, so in this book he teaches us to be patient and constant in obedience against dissatisfaction and opposition, and to await our hour with peace and joy.” Comp. his Latin Comment, p. 8: Esther ergo summa et scopus hujus libri, quod Solomon vult nos reddere pacatos et quietis animis, in communibus negotiis et casibus hujus vitæ, ut vivamus contenti præsentibus sine cura et cupiditate futurorum, sicut Paulus ait: “Sine cura et sollicitudine agentes,”—futurorum enim curam frustra affligere. Ibid. p. 12: “Est ergo (ut repetens dicam) status et consilium hujus libelli, erudire nos, ut cum gratiarum actione utamur rebus præsentibus et creaturis Dei, quæ nobis Dei benedictione largiter dantur ac donatæ sunt, sine sollicitudine futurorum, tantum ut tranquillum et quietum cor habeamus, et animum gaud plenum, contenti scilicet verbo et opere Dei.” Against the traditional Catholic conception of the book, as a substantially theoretical representation of the worthlessness and baseness of earthly things, Luther argues with energy: “Nocuerunt multum hæc libro false intellecto Plurimi sanctorum patrum, qui sense-runt Solomonem h. I. docere contemptum mundi, i.e., rerum creatarum et ordinatarum a Deo,” etc.—The Catholic Hardouin, quite independent of Luther, has given to the book an object closely allied to his when he says: “That the best, that is the most tranquil, the most innocent and the most happy thing in this life, is to enjoy with his family in their repasts, the gain that a legitimate labor may have acquired, and to acknowledge that to be able to do so is a gift of God, which we should consequently use with thanks, not forgetting that we shall all be summoned to the judgment of God for these as for all other things.” This purely practical and moral tendency of the conception of most expounders of the rationalistic school, appears debased to a meaningless simplicity; for example, in ZIRKEL, SPOHN, BERTHOLDT, SCHMIDT, GAAB (Contributions to the exegesis to the Song of Solomon, p. 48), G. L. BAUER, (Int. to the O. T., p. 411) etc. According to them Ecclesiastes teaches “how one can enjoy a happy life and avert evils,” (ZIRKEL); or also: “How a youth, who wishes to enter the great world, may demean himself sagely in many of the scenes of human life, and deferentially towards God, religion, and virtue,” (SPOHN); or: “How one should accept fortune and misfortune, joy and sorrow,” (BERTHOLDT); or: “How one, with all the imperfection of his destiny, may live cheerful and happy,” (GAAB, BAUER), or: “How laws may be ascribed to human effort, to keep it within proper bounds, and point out the limit beyond which it may not pass,” (SCHMIDT), etc.—The just medium between the practical and the theoretical in fixing the aim of this book, is found substantially with GREGORY OF NYSSA; he in his first homily regarding it, places its tendency in the elevation of the mind above all sensual perceptions, and above what is apparently greatest and most magnificent, to the super-sensual, and in the awakening of a strong desire for this super-sensual; and later, he declares the constant joy in good works that springs from the performance of them to be substantially identical with that elevation, to something beyond the sensual; (ἡ διηνεκὴς ἐπὶ τοῖς καλοὶς εὐφροσύνη, ἥτε ἐκ τῶν ἀγαθῶν ἔργων γεννᾶταὶ).6 Just so writes Augustine, (de Civ. Dei XX. 3): Totum istum librum vir sapientissimus deputavit, non utique ob aliud, nisi ut eam vitam desideremus, quæ, vanitatem non habet sub hoc sole, sed veritatem sub illo, qui fecit hunc solem. Several expounders of the period of the reformation, have more fully and concretely comprehended the object of this book in its theoretical as well as in its practical side, e. g., BRENZ, who finds its benefits and excellences as follows: “quod ad timorem et fiducian in Deum recte nos erudit ac ducit, quibus seu indicibus quibusdam ad pium creaturarum usum pertingamus;MELANCHTHON, who finds its principal aim in the confirmatio sententiæ de providentia, of the doctrina de obedientia et patientia, of the asseveratio futuri judicii, and encouragement to the duties of one’s calling. DRUSIUS, according to whom, … “agit hic liber de fine bonorum;—suadet autem, ut ab hac vanitate animum attollamus ad sublimia. MERCERUS, according to whom Solomon aperte docet presentibus pacatis et tranquillis animis frui, abjecta humani cordis irrequieta curiositate et inconstantia, quum divitiæ, honores, magistratus, uxor et ceteræ hujus seculi creaturæ bonæ sint, si illis cum gratiarum actione et Dei timore utaris, animo semper in Deum sublato nec his terrenis adicto,” et al. STARKE (in his Int. § 9) finds a double aim in the author; a.) in reference to himself, he had the intention publicly to confess and regret his foolish striving after peace of soul in vain things; b.) in reference to his readers, he desired to warn them against epicureanism, and to inculcate therefore especially these three rules: 1.) that one must despise all earthly things as vanity; 2.) that one must enjoy the present good with calmness and cheerfulness; 3.) that one thereby must fear God and serve Him. The latest exegetists are mostly in harmony in their acceptance of a practical as well as theoretical aim, (namely, all those who, in accordance with this, distinguish two main divisions of the book, one theoretical and the other practical, comp. § 2, obs. 1). On the basis of this view, HENGSTENBERG, VAIHINGER, and ELSTER have given the best development of the peculiar tendency of the book; the latter in connection with a detailed historical summary of the most important views of the earlier exegetists regarding its fundamental thoughts and aim.


On account of the apparent leaning of this book towards skeptical, fatalistic, and Epicurean teachings, it early became the object of doubts in regard to its inspired character, and of attacks on its canonical dignity. According to the Talmud, the philosophers (i. e. the collectors of the canon, or also the learned of the most ancient period) intended to suppress it on account of the contradictions within itself, and the apparent moral levity of its teachings; but this intention remained unexecuted in view of the fact, “that its beginning and its end are words of the law.”7 That the author of the “Wisdom of Solomon” belonged to these earliest critical opponents of the book, is an erroneous opinion entertained by AUGUSTI, SCHMIDT, et al. (partly also by KNOBEL); for the controversy supposed to be contained in chap. 2 of that work, against the doctrines of the Preacher, amounts in part simply to seeming points of contact, and it is in part directed against those lawless and immoral men who were accustomed to misuse many assertions of the Preacher for the purpose of glossing over their base conduct. With much greater certainty, however, the book found various opponents in the ancient church; as PHILASTRIUS (hær. 130) speaks of heretics who condemn the Preacher, because he at first proclaims that all is vanity, and then permits but one thing to remain, viz., that one should eat, drink, and be merry. Theodorus of Mopsuestia soon afterwards joined these opponents with the assertion, that Solomon composed Ecclesiastes only in accordance with human wisdom, and not by virtue of divine inspiration; this, together with other heresies attributed to him, was condemned at the fifth Ecumenical Council at Constantinople. At a still later period of the middle ages the Jacobite Barhebræus († 1286) ventured the assertion, that Solomon in Koheleth had defended the view of Empedocles the Pythagorean, (whom he considered a contemporary of Solomon), that there is no immortality of the soul.—The opinion of HIERONYMUS was authoritative for the middle-age theology of the Occident, viz., that Ecclesiastes taught the vanity of earthly things, and contempt of the joys of this world (comp. § 4, obs. 4.). Under the protection of this view of the book, entertained by Hugo of St. Victor, Bonaventura, Nicolaus of Lyra, et al., it maintained its authority and acceptability with most of the theologians of the Reformation and the next following period. Luther, indeed, gave here and there a free and bold opinion of the book; viz., “that it has neither boots nor spurs, and rides only in socks, as he himself formerly in the cloister;” (see § 4, obs. 1); but again he recommended it with special emphasis as a “noble book which for good reasons was worthy of being daily read with great diligence by all men.” He declared this wisdom taught therein, as higher than any under the sun, namely, “that every one should perform his duty with diligence in the fear of God, and therefore should not grieve if things do not go as he would have them, but should be satisfied and allow God to control in all things great and small; he called it a “book of consolation” for every one, and especially for princes and kings, to whom it might serve in some measure as a consolatory, didactic, and satisfying manual of “politics and economies.”8 All evangelical theology till near the end of the last century, agreed in their favorable judgment of the religious and moral worth, and the theological character of the book, a few quite insignificant and isolated cases excepted; as for example, those Dutch opposers of whom Clericus speaks.

The vulgar rationalism was the first to disseminate that low opinion of the book which has since been maintained in many circles, and whose practical consequence is its degradation below the better class of the Apocryphas of the O. T.; e. g., below Sirach and the Book of Wisdom. On this platform HARTMANN affirms “Ecclesiastes to be the labor of a fretful Hebrew philosopher, composed in a morose mood, and exceedingly tedious at times;” SCHMIDT declares that it is not a work fully prepared for the public, but a hasty outline of the author for his own subsequent revision,” (see § 3 obs.); DE WETTE: “Koheleth represents the last extreme of skepticism within the Hebrew philosophy, and this in a barbarous style, by means of which he shows himself partial and sensually prejudiced in the maxims of the cheerful enjoyment of life, and in virtue of which his system is no system, his consistency inconsistency, and his certainty uncertainty;” BRUCE: “The skepticism of this book extends to a painful, internal disorganization, and to a perfect despairing of all order and aim in human life;” finally KNOBEL says: All ethical teachings and admonishings in Koheleth, end in the convenience and enjoyment of life.

The refutation of these accusations, is contained mainly in the foregoing, viz., in what has been said in § 2 about the contents and plan, and § 4 about the aim of the work. The decidedly pious and sternly moral stand-point of the author, appears above all in the closing passage, chap. 12, 13, 14, which lays down, as the sum of the whole, the advice to fear God, and keep His commandments, and also a warning against punishment in His future judgment. But this conclusion is not detached from the religious contents of what precedes, is not connected in a mere outward manner with the whole as if there existed no deeper organic connection between this closing “inspired teaching” and the preceding “philosophical discourse;” (expressions of ROUGEMENT, comp. § 2. obs. 1). But, as is clearly pointed out in paragraph 3, the conclusion forms the pinnacle projecting with organic necessity from the whole; it is the concentrated collection of the rays of higher truth penetrating and illuminating the whole work, which are designed to pour forth their glorifying light with full power only at the very end. The author has also every where in the preceding paragraphs distinctly announced that God is the Almighty from whom every thing originates, and especially every thing that is precious to men in body and soul, (2:26 ff.; 3:10 ff.; 5:1; 7:17-19–19; 8:14; 9:1–3); that this Almighty God, according to the measure of strict justice will deal out moral reward to the good and evil (3:17; 8:12 ff.; 9:9); that man, even where he does not understand the works of God, where they are and remain incomprehensible to him, may not cavil with God, but must humbly submit to the command to fear God (3:11–18; 5:6, 17 ff.; 7:18; 8:16 ff.); and that therefore also the enjoyment of temporal blessings must ever be accompanied with thanks to God, and with contentment and moderation, 3:12 f. 22; 5:11 ff., 17 ff.; 6:2 ff.). The conclusion draws from all only this result reduced to the shortest possible expression, and gives to it intentionally a form and shape which reminds us of the sum and quintessence of all other teachings of wisdom in the Old Testament, (comp. ver. 13 with Prov. 1:7; 9:10; Ps. 3:10; Sir. 1:16, 25, etc.). It also declares distinctly enough that the teachings of the book are testimonies of truth pertaining to the “words of the wise,” which must cling closely “as goads and fastened nails” to the hearts of the people (12:9–11); whereby the author clearly wishes not only to rank himself as in the class of the Chokamin, but also to embody his work into the mass of sacred literature, and separate it from the massive productions of profane literature; (ver. 12). In view of this so emphatic testimony of the author himself and the manifold direct and indirect references of his book to the older writings of the canon (namely, to Proverbs and the Song of Solomon, comp. § 4, Obs. 2; to Job: Ecc 5:14; 7:28; to the Pentateuch: Ecc 5:3, 4; 12:7; and to the Psalms: 7:6; 11:5), we need not assume that “the antagonism between the divine perfection and the vanity of the world is represented as unreconciled, or but partially reconciled” (OEHLER), or what is the same thing, that the Preacher harmonizes the traditional belief in Jehovah, and his unbelief to a simply external agreement between the fear of God and the cheerful enjoyment of the moment,” (KAHNIS). The reconciliation between faith and doubt is actually effected; the contest between a God-fearing life and an irreligiousness serving the world and the flesh, has been fought out to the decided victory of the former; and the account could only acquire the appearance of lingering in the earlier stages of this conflict, and of favoring skeptical uncertainty, looseness, and indecision, (Jas. 1:8), by purposely lingering with great minuteness over the description of the conflict of the thoughts of the doubter, “accusing and excusing one another,” in order thus to afford a most intuitive picture of the vanity, unrest, and joylessness of a consciousness detached from God and devoted solely to the impressions of worldly vanity, (§ 4, Obs. 2). It was the philosophical tendency of the author that forced him to this thorough development of the dialectics of doubting consciousness; and it was also the same religious and speculative tendency, philosophizing in the sense of the Old Testament, Chokmah doctrine, which probably induced him always to dispense with the sacred name of Jehovah where he speaks of God (in all 39 times); and ever adopt the more general designation of Elohim, usual also outside of the sphere of the positive revelation of the Old Testament. As the representative of such a philosophical standpoint and aim, the Preacher could lay no claim to being so direct an organ of divine revelation as the lawgiver, or as the prophets of God’s ancient people. But he certainly considered his writings as a book fully harmonizing with divine revelation in the law and the prophets, if we consider the closing words already prominently alluded to, (12:9–12). And the excellent practical wisdom, full of significant references to the most precious truths of the entire word of God, and full of the richest consolation for earthly need and temptation of every kind, as the glorious book lavishes from beginning to end,—this, we say, is a well attested claim, that it belongs to the series not of the secondary, but of the primary canonical writings of the Old Testament.


OEHLER (Prolegomena to the Theology of the O. T., p. 90) maintains that there is an externally-dualistic juxtaposition of the religious and worldly-skeptical character in this book. “The antagonism between the divine perfection and the vanity of the world, is represented as unreconciled; the latter as an inevitable experience, the former as a religious postulate. Thus the only wisdom of life lies in resignation, in which man profits of the nothingness of life as best he can, but therein commits all to God.” With a still sharper censure of the skeptical standpoint of the author, KAHNIS (LUTH. Dogmatics, I., p. 309) declares: “Trite sounding words, many assertions not easily reconcilable, and only relatively true, and, to say the least, easily misunderstood expressions, show to him who reads this book with unprejudiced mind how, in ancient and in modern times, it could be read with anxious eyes. In it traditional faith and a skeptical view of the world, which sees vanity in all spheres of nature and human life, are united in a covenant between the fear of God and the cheerful enjoyment of the moment. However easy may be the historical comprehension of such a standpoint, it is difficult to justify its truth.”—In reply to these reproaches, BLEEK has strikingly observed, in favor of the religious character of the book, that “it is affecting and elevating to see how the faith in God’s reconciling justice is nevertheless retained amidst all doubt, and how the poet ever returns to it.” (Int. to the O. T., p. 644). HENGSTENBERG has replied in a manner still more definite and thorough to these censures “It is not correct that the book presents an unreconciled contradiction between faith and knowledge, idea and experience. It certainly permits doubt to appear, as do the Psalms; this is the truth of the view which would distinguish two voices in the book; but this every where occurs only in order to conquer the doubt immediately. Nowhere stand, as in imitation of DE WETTE’S theology, doubt and faith as equally authorized powers opposed to each other, but every where, when the voice of the flesh has spoken, it is confronted by the voice of the Spirit, as in Psalms 39; 42; 43. This meets us most strikingly in the very passage in which doubt is poured forth like a mighty stream in Ecc 9:7–10. The expression of a feeling that is skeptical and dissatisfied with life, extends only to verse 6; in verses 7–10 it is immediately conquered with the sword of faith.—It is also not correct that the author knows no higher wisdom of life than “resignation.” It is true, he teaches that human life often presents difficult enigmas, that it is very difficult to comprehend the providences of God, and that we not seldom find ourselves committed to blind faith (Ecc 3:11; 7:24; 8:17; 11:5). But who could not see that these are truths that yet have their force for those who walk in the light of the gospel? Not in vain does the Lord declare those blessed, who, seeing not, yet believe. The apostle enjoins upon us, that we walk by faith and not by sight. The clearest human eye is not clear enough to see every where the causes of divine guidance, and to penetrate the ways of God so frequently mysterious. In the epoch of the author, it was so much the more necessary to make this view prominent, since at that time so many of the clear eyes lacked that perception of sin which gives the key to the sanctuary of God, if we will there seek the solution of the enigma of earthly life. But the author has no thought of committing every thing to blind faith; it does not occur to him to yield the field of knowledge to unbelief. “Who is as the wise man?”—thus he exclaims in Ecc 8:1.—“And who knoweth the interpretation of a thing?” There is therefore for him a wisdom which leads into the essence of things, illuminates the mysterious depths of the cross, and justifies the ways of God. HENGSTENBERG has already illustrated (—p. 23 ff.) the philosophical character of Koheleth in his relation to revelation, and demonstrated the exclusive use of the more general name of God as a necessary consequence of the fact that the author did not wish to teach direct prophetic revelation, but simply sacred philosophy; (referring to a treatise by KLEINERT in the Dorpat Supplement to Theological Sciences 1, where also are considered similar passages in the books of Job, Nehemiah, etc.).—VILMAR, in the treatise quoted above, (§ 1, Obs. 3), has supplied an important aid to the justification of the book against the usual reproaches of skepticism, fatalism, and Epicureanism. He shows how the real weight of the paranetic (the hortatory) as well as the paracletic (the consolatory) powers of the author, the true fundamental thought of his practical philosophy of life, consists in the effort truly to fulfil individual earthly duty, even where there is no prospect of a rich worldly success, and the willingness cheerfully and continuously to labor without seeking reward or gain; (comp. 2:10; 3:22; 5:17 f.; 8:15; 11:6 ff.).“ Success is of God alone, and we are nothing more and nothing less than God’s servants.” There is really for us no יִתְרוֹן not even in the kingdom of God in the New Testament. We are to look for no result; but unconcerned as to success or failure, and unaffected by the unfruitfulness of our efforts, and without being excited or spurred by the hope of any success whatever, or of results that are all far-reaching, we are to do day by day, and day after day, only that, and all that, which lies within our mandate.—It is true the temptation which befalls us on account of this failure of our efforts, by this apparent immovability and retrogression in the kingdom of God, and by apparent הֶבֶל even in divine things, if it is not early conquered, will inevitably become moroseness, dissatisfaction with life, renunciation of the world, and misanthropy; “so that one will let hands and feet go, and do nothing more,” from which at last may proceed the almost unpardonable sin of ἀκήδεια (recklessness, indifference). Such an actual disdain of the gifts of God because he does not satisfy us, is (as ἀκήδεια) nothing but defiance of God. The natural and God-created strength, courage, and cheerfulness of life must therefore be preserved (this is the desire of the Preacher) in order that we may move according to God’s will in the narrow circle which in the will of God still remains to us. The חֶלֶק is not alone, is not indeed in the first place, eating, drinking, and being merry, which finally would be nothing else than Dulce desipere in loco; but the חֶלֶק consists in the pleasure of fatiguing labor, in the שָׂמַח בַּעֲמָלוֹ (3:12, 22; 5:17,etc.). It is here a duty to assume the curse of the labor, and the sterility of labor, and to bear them cheerfully for the sake of God. In thus accepting and cheerfully bearing this curse, lies the only condition of its removal, yes, in no small degree the removal itself lies therein. We must especially preserve that God-created, cheerful, vital strength, and the fresh courage of youth, which may not carry the bitter experiences of advanced age into its sphere of life without destroying the divine work which it bears in itself—for such is indeed youth with its unconcerned and courageous spirit,” (11:9; 12:1 ff.). As a comprehensive, final judgment of the theological value and canonical dignity of the book, we may finally consider what is said by ELSTER, p. 33 f.: “The book bears not only a decidedly ethical and religious character, it forms also a material epoch in the connection of revelation, a peculiar stage of development of the Old Testament religion, an important link in the transition from the old to the new covenant, and therein is its canonicity safely grounded, so that we may say with CARPZOV. (Int. in V. T. II., 221): “Divinæ et Canonicæ libri auctoritati utut testimonium perhibeat universa tum synagoga vetus tum primitiva Christi ecclesia, quæ in Protocanonicorum numero eum unanimi semper habuit consensu, fidem tamen præterea conciliant indubia divinitatis documenta ipsis textus visceribus innexa.”


I. COMMENTARIES PREVIOUS TO THE REFOEMATION:—GREGORII THAUMATURGI Metaphrasis in Ecclesiasten Salomonis, ex. ed. ANDR. SCHOTTII; Antwerp. 1613; also in Opp. GREG. NAZIANZENI ed. Morell. , T. I., p. 749 ss. (Paris, 1630). GREGORY of NYSSA, ’Ακριβὴς εἰς τὸν ’Εκκλησιαστὴν ἐξήγησις (in eight Homilies): Opp. T. I., p. 373 ss. ed. Paris, 1615.—HIERONYMUS, Commentarius in Ecclesiasten, Opp. T. III., p. 383 ss. ed. Vallars., Venet, 1766.—OLYMPIODORUS, in Ecclesiast. Commentarii. Bibl. Patrum max., Tom. 18 p. 490 ss. SALONIUS (sec. 5), Expositio mystica in Ecclesiasten. ŒKUMENIUS, Catena in Ecclesiast. Veron, 1532.—HONORIUS of AUTUN (Augustodunensis), Expositio in Ecclesiasten Salom. BONAVENTURA, Expositio in librum Ecclesiastes. Opp. T. I., p. 294 ss. ed. Moguntin. 1609.

II. MODERN COMMENTARIES SINCE THE REFORMATION:—a.) Jewish Expositors: DAVID of POMI, 1571; SAMUEL ARIPOL, 1591; BARUCH BEN BARUCH (double Commentary, grammatical and allegorical). Venice, 1599; MOSES ALSCHECH, 1605; SAMUEL KOHEN of PISA, 1661; MOSES MENDELSOHN (The Preacher Solomon, by the author of the Phädon pub. by RABE. Anspach, 1771); DAVID FRIEDLÄNDER, 1788; MOSES HEINEMANN, 1831; B. HERZFELD, Brunswick, 1838.

b.) ROMAN CATHOLIC EXPOSITORS:—JOH. of KAMPEN (Campensis) Psalmorum et Ecclesiastes paraph, interpretatio. Paris, 1533.—JOH. MALDONATUS, Commentarii in præcipuos Sacræ Scripturæ libros veteris Testamenti. Par., 1643 f.—CORNELIUS A LAPIDE, Commentarius in Ecclesiasten. Antv. 1694; also in the collected Comment, in V. et. N. T., 10: vol. Venet., 1730.—CORNEL JANSEN, Commentarius in Ecclesiasten, Antverp, 1589. JOH. DE PINEDA, Comment. in Eccles. Antv. 1620.—DU HAMEL, Salomonis libri III. cum annotationibus. Rotomagi, 1703. AUGUSTIN CALMET, Commentaire literal sur la Bible. Par. 1707 ss.—J. HARDOUIN, Paraphrase de ’l Ecclesiaste avec des remarques. Par., 1729. THADD. DERESER, The Sacred writings of the O. T., III. Parts. Frankfort, 1797—1832.—L.VAN ESSEN: The Preacher Solomon; a supplement in illustration of the O. T. Schaffhausen, 1856.

c.) PROTESTANT EXPOSITORS: JOH. BRENTIUS, Ecclesiastes Salomonis cum Commentariis, per HIOB. GAST e Germano in Lat. translatus et per auctorem, quantum ad sententiarum cognitionem satis est, restitutius. Hagenov., 1529.—M. LUTHER, Ecclesiastes Salomonis cum annotationibus. Vitemb., 1532, Opp., lat. ed. Erlang. T. XXI. (also German by JUST. JONAS, 1533).—PH. MELANCHTHON, Ennaratio brevis concionum libri Salomonis, cujus titulus est Ecclesiastes, Opp. ed. Bretschneid., T. XIV.—THEODOR. BEZA., Ecclesiastes Salomonis paraphrasi illustratus. Genev. 1558.—JOH. MERCERUS, Commentarii in Jobum, Proverbia, Ecclesiasten, etc., Ludg. Bat., 1573, 1651.—JOH. DRUSIUS, Annotationes in Coheleth. Amstelod, 1635.—PAUL EGARD, Theologia practica sapientissimi regis Israelitarum, seu Salomon Ecclesiastes, 1619.—THOM. CARTWRIGHT, Metaphrasis et Homiliæ in libr. Salomonis, qui inscribitur Ecclesiastes. London, 1604.—HUGO GROTIUS, Annotationes in V. Test. Par., 1644; Basil, 1732, T. I.—JOH. COCCEIUS, Comm. in libros Salomonis (1658) Opp. omn., VIII. Vol. Amstelod. 1675 ss,—MART. GEIER, Commentarius in Salomonis Ecclesiasten. Lips., 1647, 1711.—ABR. CALOV, Biblia Testamenti veteris illustrata, II. Vol. Francof., 1672.—SEBAST. SCHMIDT, Commentarius in Coheleth. Argentor. 1691,1704.—F. YEARD, A Paraphrase upon Ecclesiastes. London, 1701.—J. W. ZIEROLD, the Preacher Solomon, translated in the spirit of the Hebrew idiom, and thoroughly explained. Leip., 1715.—CHR. WOLLE, Rest of the Soul, i.e., the Preacher Solomon translated and enriched with moral annotations. Leips., 1729.—JOH. JAC. RAMBACH, Annotationes in Eccles., in J. H. MICHAELIS, Uberiores adnotationes in Hagiogr. Hal., 1720.—JOH. CLERICUS, Commentarius in Hagiographa. Amstel., 1731.—CHR. FR. BAUER, The text of Ecclesiastes explained, which is a systematically connected discourse, in which is found Solomon’s last wisdom and penance. Leips, 1732.—PH. CHR. ZEYSS, Exegetical Introduction to Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon. Zullichau, 1735.—PETRUS HANSEN, Reflections on Ecclesiastes, Sec. ed. Lübeck, 1744.—FR. AD. LAMPE, Commentar in Psalmos graduates, Apocalypsin et Ecclesiasten. Groning. 1741.—STARKE, Synopsis bibliothecæ exegeticæ in V. T. etc., Vol. IV. Halle, 1768.—FR. CHR. OETINGER, The truth of the Sensus Communis in the Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. Stuttg., 1753.—JOH. DAVID, MICHAELIS, Poetical outline of the thoughts of Ecclesiastes. Bremen and Leipsic, 1751, 1762.—A. V. DESVŒUX, Philosophical and Critical Essay on Ecclesiastes. London, 1760 (German by J. P. BAMBERGER; Berlin, 1764).—J. F. KLEUKER, Solomon’s Writings, 1st part. Leipz., 1777.—J. T. JACOBI, Ecclesiastes. Celle, 1779.—VAN DER PALM, Ecclesiastes philologice et critice illustratus. Ludg. Bat., 1784.—J. CHR. DÖDERLEIN, Solomon’s Ecclesiastes and Song, newly translated with short explanatory notes. Jena, 1784, 1792.—G. L. SPOHN, Ecclesiastes, newly translated from the Hebrew, with Critical Notes. Leips., 1785.—G. ZIRKEL, Ecclesiastes, a Reading book for the young, translated and explained. Würzb., 1792.—The same author, Investigations into Ecclesiastes, together with Critical and Philological Observations.J. E. DATHE, Job, Prov. Salomonis, Eccles., Cantic. Canticor. Eat. vers, notisque philol. et crit. illustr. Hal., 1789.—J. C. CH. SCHMIDT, Ecclesiastes, or Teachings of Koheleth. Giessen, 1794.—H. EBERH. G. PAULUS, Ecclesiastes, 1790.—FRIED. SEILER, Biblical Book of Devotion, 6 parts. Erlangen, 1791.—J. CHR. NACHTIGAL, Koheleth, or the Collection of the Wise men, usually called Ecclesiastes. Halle, 1798.—F. W. C. UMBREIT, The Soul-struggle of Koheleth the Wise King. Goth., 1818.—The same, Coheleth scepticus de summo bono. Götting., 1820.—The same, What Remains? Reflections of Solomon on the vanity of all earthly things, translated and explained. Hamb and Gotha., 1849.—G. PH. CH. KAISER, Koheleth, the Collectivum of the Davidic Kings in Jerusalem, an historical and didactic poem on the Downfall of the Jewish state, translated and enriched with historical, philological, and critical observations. Erlang, 1823.—H. W. SALTMANN, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, translated from the original text. Dortmund, 1828.—C. F. C. ROSENMÜLLER, Scholia, in Vet. Test., P. 9: Vol. 2. Leips., 1830.—F. B. KÖSTER, The Book of Job and Ecclesiastes, translated according to their strophical arrangement, Schleswig, 1831.—AUG. KNOBEL, Commentary on the Book of Koheleth, Leips., 1836.—H. EWALD, The Poetical Books of the Old Testament; Part IV: Gött., 1837. Second ed. under the title Books of the Old Testament; Part II, 1867.—FR. DE ROUGEMENT, Illustration of the Book of Ecclesiastes. Neufchatel, 1844.—WOHLFARTH and FISHES, Preacher’s Bible, Vol. IV. Neustadt on the Oder, 1841.—O. V. GERLACH, The Old Testament according to Luther’s translation, with Introduction and explanatory remarks, Vol. III. Berlin, 1849.—F. HITZIG, Ecclesiastes explainedin a concise exegetical Manual to the Old Testament;” 7 numbers. Leipsic, 1847.—A. HEILIGSTEDT, Commentarius in Ecclesiasten et Cantic. Canticorum, (in Maurer’s Commentarius grammaticus criticus, in V. Test., Vol. IV. 2). Leips., 1848.—BURGER, Commentarius in Ecclesiasten, 1854.—E. ELSTER, Comment, on Ecclesiastes. Göttingen, 1855.—WANGEMANN, Ecclesiastes of Solomon, according to contents and connection practically explained. Berlin, 1856.—J. G. VAIHINGER, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon, in accordance with the original text rythmically translated and annotated. Stuttg., 1858.—C.W. HENGSTENBERG, Ecclesiastes, exegetically treated, 1859.—H. A. HAHN, Commentary on Ecclesiastes. Leipsic, 1860.—P. KLEINERT, Ecclesiastes; translation, philological remarks, and explanatory discussions. Berlin, 1864 (Gymnasial Programme).—L. YOUNG, A Commentary on the Book of Ecclesiastes. Philadelphia, 1865.

III. MONOGRAPHS:—HERMAN V. D. HARDT, Schediasma de libro Coheleth, 1716.—DINDORF, Quomodo nomen Coheleth Salomoni tribuatur. Leips., 1791.—BERGST, on the Plan of Koheleth, in EICHHORN’S Repertory, Vol. X. p. 963 ff.—H. F. PFANNKUCHE, Exercitationes in Ecclesiasten. Götting., 1794. J. P. GAAB, Aids to the Exegesis of the Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, and the Lamentations. Tübingen, 1795.—A. TH. HAETMANN, Linguistic Introduction to the Book of Koheleth, in Winer’s Journal, Vol. I. s. 29 ff.—R. HENZI, Programma quo libri Ecclesiastes arguments brevis adumbratio continetur. Dorpat, 1827.—R. STIEE, Hints for a faithful understanding of the Scriptures, Königsberg, 1824.—F. LUHES, Ecclesiastes, in the Quarterly for Theology and the Church, 1847; Vol. III.—VAIHINGER, On the Plan of Ecclesiastes, Essays, and Reviews, 1848, H. II.—The same, Art. Ecclesiastes, in Herzog’s Peal Encyclopedia, Vol. XII., p. 92 ff.—UMBREIT, Unity of the Book of Koheleth, Studien und Kritiken 1857, H. I.—Ed. Bohl, Dis-sertatio de Aramaismis libri Koheleth, qua librum Salomoni vindicare cvnatur., Erlang, 1860.—A. F. C. VILMAR, On Koheleth, Journal for Pastoral Theology, 1863, p. 241 ff—Fe. Bött-chee, New Exegetical Gleanings from the Old Test., Sec. 3, p. 207 ff.—J. F. K. GURLITT, Studien und Kritiken,in illustration of Koheleth, 1865, II., p. 321 ff. Bernstein Quaistiones Kohelethanœ.GELBE, Supplement to the Introduction to the O. T., p. 129 ff. Leips., 1866.

SPECIAL EXEGESIS of the PASSAGE Chap. 12:1–7: CASP. SIBEL († 1658), Frœnum juveniutis, seu perspicua et raphica descriptio incommodorum seneclulis a Salomone, Eccles. 12:1–9 tradita homiliis 33 explicata. Deventer, 1639 (also in his Opp. Theologica, Tom. I.).—J. F. WINZER, Commentatio de loco Kohel. 40:9; 12:7; 3 programme. Leips., 1818, 19.—Gurlitt a. a. O., p. 331 ff.—The older literature (e. g., JOHN SMITH, Regis Salomonis descriptio senectutis; WEDEL, de moribus senum Salomoniacis; SCHEUCHZER, Physica sacra, T. IV:., p. 819 ss.; JABLONSKI, Last Speeches of Solomon; PRAUN, Physico-anatomica analysis cap, 12: Ecclesiastes; PAPE, Weekly Sermons, etc.) is quite fully enumerated by Starke on this passage.

[Works on Ecclesiastes not mentioned by Zöckler. A Commentary on Ecclesiastes by Moses Stuart, Prof, of Sacred Literature in the Theological Seminary, Andover, Massachusetts. New York, 1851.

Very full and minute, containing valuable introductions on the design and method of the book, its time and authorship, with an account and description of the ancient versions. The Book of Ecclesiastes, with Notes and Introduction, by Charles Wordsworth, D.D., Archdeacon of Westminster. London, 1868; a condensed but valuable commentary in one volume with Proverbs and the Song of Solomon. It maintains the ancient view of the date and authorship, and is very full of the patristic interpretations, whilst exhibiting a good acquaintance with the modern German Exegesis. To these add (mainly from the lists given in Horne’s Introduction, and Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible) a philosophical and critical essay on Ecclesiastes, with Philological Observations, by A. V. Desvœux. London, 1762, 4to., (see a notice of it in the Monthly Review, O. S., Vol. XXVI. p. 485): Ecclesiastes translated with a Paraphrase and Notes, by Stephen Guernay. Leicester, 1781, 8vo.—Ecclesiastes.: A New Translation from the Original Hebrew, by Bernard Hodgson, LL.D., Principal of Hartford College, Oxford. London, 1791, 4to.—An Exposition of the Book of Ecclesiastes, by Edward Reynolds, D. D., Bishop of Norwich. Revised and corrected by the Rev. Daniel Washbourne, London, 1811, 8vo.; a work that formed part of the collection of Notes on the Bible, usually called the Assembly’s Annotations. London, 1822.—An attempt to illustrate the Book of Ecclesiastes by a Paraphrase (similar to Doddridge’s Family Expositor) in which the expressions of the Hebrew author are interwoven with a Commentary; accompanied by valuable Notes on the scope and design of the book.—The Synopsis Criticorum of Matthew Pole will be found a great store-house of the opinions of the Biblical scholars of the 16th and 17th centuries. Among these the Commentary of Martin Geier, barely mentioned by Zöckler, stands preëminent. It is still a most valuable guide to the meaning of the old book, and, in regard to its essential meaning, is unsurpassed by later criticisms. There may also be mentioned, here, Scott’s Commentary, and especially the Commentary of Matthew Henry, as contained in his general commentary on the Bible. It makes no show of learning, though in reality the product of more erudition than is commonly claimed for it. It shows how the deep and difficult things of Scripture are, ofttimes, better comprehended by the spiritual than the merely critical mind.—T. L ].


[THE ANTIQUITY AND AUTHORSHIP OF KOHELETH.—Notwithstanding the plausible arguments adduced by Zöckler, § 4, and the authorities he quotes, the antiquity and the Solomonic authorship of this book of Koheleth are not lightly to be given up. The rationalistic interest contradicts itself. At one time it is argued for the late date of the work, that it contains a recognition of a future life. This is grounded on the assumption, so freely entertained without proof, that the Jews derived their knowledge of a future life from the Persians, during and after the captivity. Another class of rationalists, for a different reason, yet with the same purpose of disparaging the book, strenuously maintain that all its teachings are confined to this world, and that there is no recognition whatever of any life or judgment beyond it. Again, the difficulty of fixing any period for its authorship, if we depart from the date of Solomon, is another proof that no other time is genuine. The reader will see how great this difficulty is by simply adverting to the different views presented by Zöckler, all of which are held with equal confidence, and yet, in every way, are opposed to each other. Once set it loose from the Solomonic time, and there is no other place where it can be securely anchored.

The internal evidence of the Solomonic authorship, when viewed by itself, or without reference to the argument from what are called later words, or Chaldaisms, is very strong. Independent of any influence from such an objection, the reader, whether learned or unlearned, could hardly fail to be struck with the harmony between the character of the book and the commonly alleged time of its composition. It is just such a series of meditations as the history of that monarch would lead us to ascribe to him in his old age, after his experience of the vanity of life in its best earthly estate, and that repentance for his misuse of God’s gifts, in serving his own pleasure, which would seem most natural to his condition. The language which he uses in respect to kingly power, and the oppression of the poor, has been made an argument, by some, against the authenticity of the book as ascribed to him. To another class of readers, viewing the whole case in a different light, this very language would furnish one of the strongest arguments in its favor. Even if we do not regard him as referring directly to himself, yet his experience in this respect, greater than that of others in a lower position, may well be supposed to have given him a knowledge of the evils of despotic power, and of government in general, whether in his own dominions or in those of other monarchs, which could not so well have come from any other position. It agrees, too, with what we learn of the character of Solomon in other respects, that though fond of great works, and of a magnificent display of royal state, he was, by no means, a tyrant, but of a mild and compassionate disposition towards his own subjects, and all whom he might regard as the victims of oppression; hence his studious love of peace, and the general prosperity of his reign, which the Jews regarded as their golden age.

In regard, too, to its literary claims, its ornate style and diction, and other excellencies of composition usually conceded to it, which period, ït may well be asked, is to be regarded as best adapted to such a work,—that splendid era of national prosperity, such as in other historical periods has ever been found most favorable to literary effort, the time when Solomon wrote his three thousand parables, his poems one thousand and five, and his discourses on Natural History, from the cedar on Lebanon to the hyssop growing out of the wall, containing also a treasure of knowledge concerning domestic animals, birds, reptiles, and fishes—such an era, we say, of national splendor, and consequent intellectual life, or that time of darkness, retrogradation, obscurity, and semi-barbarism, contemporaneous with and following the captivity, that historical twilight and confusion, in which almost any thing may be found, or invented, by those who would throw discredit on the received Scriptures? If Koheleth is to be assigned to a later date, the Book of Kings, it would seem, must go still later; for nothing, so far as the thought is concerned, would be in better harmony with the account there given of Solomon’s splendid reign and the sorrows of his old age, than this production wherein both are so graphically portrayed, and set forth as a lesson of warning. The most stubborn rationalist must admit the historical account, we have, to have been founded, at least, on credible tradition. Every thing goes to show that Solomon was distinguished for literary as well as imperial eminence. Some of the books he wrote retained their hold upon the national memory long after the greater part had been lost by failure of transcription, or a diminution of interest, or obsoleteness arising from any other causes. We can account for the minor portion that remained. The sacred mystic song was written in Solomon’s pure youth, when his name was Jedediah, the beloved of Jehovah, whose voice, in the visions of the night, he had heard responding to his earnest cry for wisdom. Its preservation was, doubtless, owing, in a great degree, to the very aspect of mystery which it presented from the beginning. It was early seen that it could have no consistent meaning given to it as an ordinary epithalamium, or even as a picture of the better human conjugal life. Its rapt, ecstatic, dream-like, transitions, its most sudden and inexplicable changes of scene, the strange purity of its language, even when it seemed to be the vehicle of the most ardent love, would bear no Anacreontic or Sapphic interpretation. Its ethereal chasteness, repelled, as it ever has repelled, all approaches of sensual feeling.9 Hence very early must have arisen the thought of its containing that idea of a Divine bridal relation which was so precious to the pious in Israel, as the chosen people, the “beloved of God.” This gives us the reason why a production so strange, so unearthly, we may say, was preserved from becoming obsolete like the rest of Solomon’s numerous songs. It accounts, too, for the tenacity with which, against the strongest objections seemingly, it ever kept its place among the Scriptures deemed canonical or inspired,—being thus ever regarded in the Jewish Church, even until the bridegroom came. A similar argument may be maintained in respect to the Proverbs. Out of the “three thousand” mentioned, 1 Kings 5:12, less than a third of that number entered into the national ethics, and were arranged, in the days of Hezekiah (see Prov. 25:1), in the form in which we now have them. All this favors the idea that out of Solomon’s numerous writings, or, rather, utterances, as they are called, 1 Kings 5:12 [וַיְדַבֵּר שֶׁלשֶׁת אֲלָפִים מָשָׁל], there was, also, preserved this precious discourse on life’s vanity, this series of meditations so addressing themselves to the universal human heart, and especially to the Jews as reminding them, by contrast, of the period of their highest national greatness. Thus viewed, it is more easy to account for the preservation of Koheleth than for that of any other book in the canon except the Psalms and the Pentateuch. There may be allowed the idea of a later editor, or recensor, who may have added some of the short prose scholia by way of explanation, even as they were added to the Pentateuch—some few parenthetical insertions of the name Koheleth where it was deemed necessary more clearly to announce the speaker, and perhaps some comparative modernizations of the language, or the adaptation of it to a later period. But the book itself, in its plan, its ideas, its great lesson, belongs to the Solomonic time beyond all others, as is shown by intrinsic evidence, by the extreme difficulty which the opponents of its antiquity find in adapting it to any other period, and the endless disputes and contradictions in which they mutually involve themselves in the effort.

In nothing is this more evident than in the attempts that have been made to explain what have been called its historical allusions, such as Ecc 4:13–16; 9:15; 12:12, etc. If they are such, they may be referred to events preceding, or cotemporaneous with, the time of Solomon, with as much clearness, or with as little difficulty, it may rather be said, as to any times following. But these critics will have them to be much later. It is essential to their argument; but it is wonderful to see how, in fixing them, they continually unsettle previous views just as confidently held, and directly contradict each other. HITZIG goes down to the time of Ptolemy Euergetes, king of Egypt about 230 B. C., and finds “the old and foolish king” (4:13) in the High Priest Onias (no difficulty in making a king out of a priest), and the wise young man in his nephew Joseph, who wrested his kingdom (his priesthood) from him, etc. Ergo, Koheleth was written after this. Another critic refutes HITZIG, as he might easily do, and then he himself is refuted by a third, and so they go on, in respect to this and similar plans, refuting one another, until there is nothing left of them, whilst the old book and the old account of it stand in their historical integrity, unaffected by any such self-destroying criticism. The “old and foolish king” has been referred to Rehoboam (see WORDSWORTH and others of the more orthodox commentators), but there is equal, if not greater difficulty in that. Better take it as a general illustration, of which history furnishes frequent examples, such as Solomon would easily have known from his royal experience, or have presented by the aid of his imagination, as something which would not fail to find its confirmation, in some form, in the annals of almost every people. The “old and foolish king,” born to royalty, בְּמַלְכוּתוֹ נוֹלַד, and the ambitious young man, coming out of obscurity and restraint, מִבֵּית, הָסוּרים who rises to great power, either becoming king himself, or, what is better, sometimes, Mayor of the Palace, with an “impoverished” (רָשׁ) and humbled king under him, are quite common characters in history. It needs no 

hunting among the dark times of the later Jewish history, or the assigning any prophetic spirit to Solomon, making him to see what a fool Behoboam would be when he came to the throne, to find cases in abundance, either for the most ancient or the most modern times. And so of what follows, about the “second child standing up in his stead,” it is quite a serious question whether they have not made a particular historical allusion out of a general and most affecting picture of the flowing generations: I saw all the living (all the human race as presented to his imagination) walking (passing on, sub sole) beneath the sun, and the second child, the second generation (as the offspring of the one before), that shall stand in its place. How exactly does this harmonize with what follows there is no end to all the people, to the all (literally) that was before; yea, those who come after have no joy in it [בּוֹ in the singular as referring to the collected all (כל) that is past]. It is highly poetical this treating all the long past as one antecedent, dead and gone, of no account in comparison with the boasting self-satisfied present. It certainly seems out of place to make any application of this graphic language [“all the living”—“people without end”] to Jeroboam, or to the man whom HITZIG has dug out of obscurity, or to any of the later events of Jewish history. See more fully on this and the preceding verse the exegetical appended note, p. 84. The same may be said of “the poor wise man (9:15) who saves the city.” It has been again and again repeated in history. Solomon must have known enough to warrant the illustration without having in view any circumstantial event that has come down to us. Again, the “many books,” of Ecc 12:12, has furnished a most fruitful subject of dispute about the period to which it best applies, and by which these critics would determine the date of Koheleth. If סְפָרִים here means books at all, in the modern sense of separate treatises on various subjects, it may have a very fair application to the many writings which the account, 1 Kings 5:12, 13, ascribes to Solomon himself; but there is another view of the matter which may be fairly taken. Instead of referring to Persian, Greek, or Babylonian literature, to Ptolemaic collections, or Alexandrian libraries, the language may be used simply of this little book, or collection, styled Koheleth. It may well be doubted whether סְפָרִים here means books at all, in the large plural sense of separate treatises on every variety of subject, or collections of volumes, according to the idea of the critics referred to. The word ספר seems to be sometimes used for a book in this separate sense, as “the Book of the Covenant” (סֵפֶר הַבְּרִית), Exod. 24:7; 2 Kings 23:2; The Book of the Law (סֵפֶר הַתּוֹרָה) Josh. 1:8, or the Book of Life, Ps. 69:29, but in these cases it may more strictly be regarded as meaning an account, roll, catalogue, or writing in general, long or short, either as a whole, or a part. Thus in Job 31:55: “O that mine enemy had written a book,”—that is, his accusing declaration, or bill of indictment. And so it is used of a bill of divorce, Deut. 24:1, 3. In 2 Samuel 11:14 it means a letter, the very curt epistle that was sent by David to Joab about Uriah; so in 2 Kings 10:1. Again, the plural may be used, like the corresponding Greek and Latin, phrases, to denote a writing collectively, or as a collection of words and sentences—πολλὰ γράμματα, multæ literæ—much writing, or many sentences, though referring to single treatises, as Xen. Mem. IV. 2, 1. In this collective way, the plural form, in Greek, may be used to denote a single law or precept, as ARISTOPH. Ecclesias. 1047, γραμμάτων εἰρηκότων Or lastly, and most probably, it is used in the plural like the Latin libri, and the Greek βίβλοι, for the different parts or sections of the same work, as CICERO says in his treatise De Divinatione, II. 1, 3, tres libri perfecti sunt de Natura Deorum. So in the Greek, βίβλοι was early used of the different parts of one work, as in the suppliants of ÆSCHYLUS, 944, ἐν πτυχαῖς βίβλων κατεσφραγισμένα, does not mean in separate books, as we take the term, but in the compartments of one and the same book. There is every thing to favor the idea that it is so used by Koheleth. The whole aspect of the passage, too, aside from any exegesis of the single word ספרים, shows that the writer had in his mind only this single brief discourse, or meditation, or collection of thoughts, which he is just bringing to a close: “There is only one thing remains to be said” (וְיֹתֵר מֵהֵמַּה, τὸ λοιπόν, ver. 12): “Of making many chapters (as we have rendered it in the Metrical Version), sections, cantos, or books, there is no end.” Or, to make a great book of it, there is no need (as קֵץ like the Latin finis, the Greek τέλος, and the synonymous Hebrew עֵקֶב will well bear to be rendered). Or, “there is no end” to such a train of reflections, if we choose to carry it on.10 But enough has been said; “hear then the conclusion of the whole matter.” If this be a right view, then all that learning and argumentation to which ZÖCKLER refers go for nothing. Along with it, becomes wholly irrelevant the dispute in respect to the literary era to which it is supposed to refer, whether the Solomonic, the Persian, or the Ptolemaic.

The most plausible arguments against the Solomonic authorship have been derived from certain words, which have been assigned (many of them on the slightest grounds) to a later time. There is, without doubt, something peculiar in the style of this book, but whether it is owing to the peculiar nature of the subject requiring a different phraseology, or to its meditative philosophical aspect demanding abstract terms with varieties of form or termination not elsewhere required, or to the royal position of the writer, giving him a more familiar acquaintance with certain words really-foreign, or seemingly such [because not ordinarily used, or because they belong to a courtly dialect], or to all of these causes combined, it may all be reconciled with the idea of its true and Solomonic authenticity. Wordsworth has given a condensed but very thorough treatment of this question in the Introduction to his valuable Commentary, together with a close examination of all the words of this kind cited by ZÖCKLER. It is derived from L. V. ESSEN, der Prediger Salomo, p. 42–45, where they are all taken up as they are objected to by KNOBEL and others. To this is added some admirable reasoning by Dr. PUSEY, with a reference to a similar refutation by WANGEMANN. He gives, also, what to some would seem to be of still more value, if we consider their source, namely, from HERZFELD, himself a rationalist, refuting the philological views, in respect to these words, of other rationalists, and thus showing that, in regard to most of them, these critics have so differed as to refute one another.

A great part of these words the present editor of ZÖCKLER has examined in exegetical notes appended to the translation; but there are two or three of so much importance, and so much insisted upon by the deniers of the Solomonic authenticity, that he has deemed them worthy of especial attention in this place. Great stress has been laid upon such words as פִּתְגַּם פַּרְדֵּם and מְדִינָה as Proving the late date of Koheleth. The only proof is that they are found, besides their use here, in Ezra, Esther, Daniel, and Nehemiah. But certainly it cannot be pretended that the words themselves are of this late date, or that they were not known very widely, and at a much earlier time, and in such a way that the knowledge of them by a person in the condition of Solomon would be not only possible, but highly probable. In fact, these words, although, philologically, they may be assigned to some particular speech, rather than to others, belong, in use, to all the principal Oriental tongues allied to, or territorially near, the Hebrew. פַּרְדֵּם, paradise, for example, may properly be called Persian, as the thing denoted, a magnificent garden, was more peculiarly Persian; but the word may be Shemitic too [פרד, to divide, cut off in portions, lay out, or with another sense, like the Arabic فرد denoting something rare and costly as being separate], with a foreign termination. Though rendered garden, it denotes something more magnificent than the common Hebrew גּן. It is found in the Greek of XENOPHON, Παράδεισος, but used in such a familiar way as to show that it was very early imported into the language from the East, like other names of a similar kind. There is every probability that it had come in at the earliest intercourse, peaceful or warlike, between the Greeks and Persians, or the Greeks and Babylonians. Why, in making this transition to the remoter West, may it not Have stopped, at a still earlier day, at the courts of David or Solomon, and been employed, in their courtly dialect, for things to which the more ordinary vernacular was not so well adapted? Certainly it was the very term wanted here (Ecc 2:5, גַּנּוֹת וּפַרְדֵּסִים gardens and parks) to express the higher luxury, and no other word, in the whole range of Eastern tongues, as they then were, could have been so well adapted to it. Splendid gardens, or parks, were more common among the Persians and Babylonians; but even should we grant that the word is wholly foreign, there is nothing strange in the idea of its being well known to Solomon, without our supposing that he intimately understood or could speak those foreign tongues. The word was certainly in the Chaldaic as well as in the Persian, and the former tongue must have differed less from the Hebrew in the days of David and Solomon, than in those of Ezra. As a term of luxury, its transference to the courtly or loftier language of another neighboring kingdom is just what might be expected. This justifies us in saying that its use by Solomon appears more natural than would have been its employment by an ordinary Hebrew writer of the later time of Malachi. The great king of Israel was the literary superior among the neighboring co-temporary monarchs, and his knowledge of other royal terms and ideas was enough to warrant him in calling his own pleasure grounds by a foreign name that had been widely appropriated to such a purpose. Such a transference, in respect to things of luxury and magnificence, belongs to modern as well as to ancient times. The names of things rare or precious, such as gems, costly fabrics imported from abroad, or other things peculiar to certain lands, are retained in their native form, and easily pass into other languages. There is the term קִנָּמוֹן (cinnamon) which we find Exod. 30:23; Prov. 7:17. It must have come into Hebrew as early as the thing itself was known, which was doubtless coeval with the earliest Phœnician or Egyptian traffic. It came from the far East, yet how unchangeable its form (in this respect like the word paradise) even to the present day. So in 1 Kings 10:11, 22, we have the names of rare commodities brought by the ships of Solomon and the Phœnician king from the far land of Ophir. They have strange names, שֶׁנְהַבִּים (shenhabbim), קוֹפִים (kophim), תֻּכִּיִּים (tukkiyyim), and are rendered in various ways—in our version, ivory, apes, and peacocks. They kept these names in Hebrew, for there were no others to be used. Now had it so happened that there had been occasion to speak of them by a late writer, like Ezra, or the author of the book of Esther, it would have been said that Kings too was a book of the later Hebrew [Sequioris Hebraismi). The argument is an absurd one, though carried sometimes to an extravagant length. It is all the more inconclusive, this manner of determining the date of books, when there is taken into view the scanty literature to which it is so confidently applied.

A similar method of reasoning is applicable to the word פִּתְגָּם which is found Ecc 8:11. This word is Persian—that is, there is something like it in use in that language, though its derivation, as a native term, is by no means clear. It appears to have been still more ancient in the Aramaic, where it is used (especially in the Syriac branch) very frequently, and with such familiarity that we can hardly help regarding it as vernacular. It is not at all treated as a foreign term. The Syriac פֶּתְגָּם or, in the emphatic form, פֶּתגָּמָא is as common as the Hebrew דבר. It is used, however, in a higher sense, to denote edict, royal or judicial sentence. When the Babylonian or Assyrian was the greater power, it was more likely to have come from the Aramaic into the Persian, than the contrary way. How much more likely, then, its still earlier passage into the near Shemitic branch of the Hebrew, even as a word generally understood, and more especially as a courtly or legal term, such as it has ever been the way to introduce from foreign, though not remote, languages. Among all nations what is called their law language, and, in a more general sense, their technical language, is more or less of this kind. We go for our law terms to the Latin and the Norman French; the Latins had many words of this kind from the Greek. There seems a necessity for such a course in the case of things or ideas demanding peculiar exactness in their expression, because of the generality and indefiniteness which the attrition of very common use brings into words from native roots, though originally as clear as any that are thus received. There is, therefore, the same reason for the transference of such a word as פִּתְגָּם as has been given in the case of פַּרְדֵּם. It is a courtly term, and has, moreover; a judicial sense, which the most ordinary national intercourse would bring into notice. There was, besides, the extensive dealing of Solomon with the nations around, excelling in this respect any of the kings of Israel before or after him. This extended to Egypt, to Syria, to the remote Southern Arabians, or Ethiopians, and, doubtless, to Persia and lands still farther east. His ships went to Ophir, and his intimacy with the Phœnicians put him in possession of much of that wide knowledge which they possessed beyond all other peoples. See this fully stated 1 Kings 5, 6, 9, and 10. Such an intercourse must have not only increased his own vocabulary, but brought many new words into the common Hebrew language. In view of this, the wonder ceases that a few such words should be found in the Solomonic writings. It is in fact a proof, rather than a disproof, of authenticity. However surprised we might be to find such words in Amos or even in the later Malachi, they appear perfectly natural in the learned and kingly Solomon, as they do also in the later writings of the courtly Daniel and Ezra, who, with all their foreign intercourse, were not perhaps equal in political and statistical knowledge to the ancient monarch. Their dialect marks their position rather than their time. And this is confirmed by what is well said by LUDWIG EWALD (Salomo, Versuch, p. 429): “Solomon had such a variety of knowledge and intercourse with foreigners, by his extensive commerce and dominions, and by his relations with strange women, that his style, especially in old age, must have been influenced thereby. With his paradise-like parks the word paradise came into the Hebrew language” (see WORDSWORTH, Int., p. 3, note).

The word פִּתְגָּם, therefore, so much used in all the East, would be known to him from kingly and ambassadorial intercourse, in which juridical and diplomatic language especially occurs, and he would be more likely to use it in the ornate style of Eeclesiastes, than an ordinary term of less state and magnificence. Besides, it admirably suits the passage in which it is found in conveying an idea for which the common Hebrew מִשְׁפָּט would have been hardly adequate. It is intended to be in the most precise style of forensic diction: “Because sentence against an evil work is not speedily executed,” etc. It is the figure of an edict issued from the royal chancery, but suspended over the head of the threatened subject—an “arrest of judgment,” as we say in our law language. It was a term probably much used in such a style of proceedings, though not common in the vulgar speech.

One more example of this kind may be given here. The word מְדִינָה as used 2:8, and especially ver. 7 (“when thou seest injustice in a province,” etc.), is cited as evidence of cotemporaneity with Esther, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Daniel, where the great Persian satrapies are expressed by the term. [It occurs, however, Lam. 1:1 and Ezek. 19:8.] But besides the argument that no personator of Solomon, of ordinary intelligence, would subject himself to the charge of such a glaring anachronism, there is the strongest etymological proof to the contrary. There is no word in the Old Testament more purely Hebrew in form, as well as in derivation. מְדִינָה means literally place of judgment. Now Solomon gave great attention to the administration of justice. He had the land divided into administrative departments, as we learn from 1 Kings 4:7, etc., and these, as appears from other places, and the practices of later kings, were also judicial circuits. Had a word for such a province not existed in the language before, this is just the one that must have been formed for that purpose from a root denoting judgment, and the usual prefix מ denoting place. The oppression mentioned is just that which would be likely to occur in the departments of Israel as described 1 Kings 4:7 with the names of the governors or satraps there named, and such cases of wrong may have often come up before the higher chancery of the king, who, with all his fondness for power and magnificence, is represented to us as a great lover of justice, and noted for the equity of his decisions. If, afterwards, the same word, or one formed on the same model, came to be used by the Babylonians and Persians, it was because no one was better adapted to express the idea of provinces whose governors or judges represented the ultimate sovereignty. The word in the later language came from the older, to which, in its etymological purity, it so strictly belongs.—T. L.]


[1]Comp. BENGEL’S remarks on Luke 10:49 in the Gnomon, N. T., p. 164: ἠ σορία τοῦ θεοῦ, Sapientia Dei, Suave nomen. Koheleth, congregatrix, chap.13:34 (ποσάκις ὴθέλησα ἐπισυνάξαι κ. τ. λ.). Comp. also STARKE (Pref. to Ecclesiastes. § 2), who also considers Koheleth synonymous with wisdom, following the example of GEIER, SEB. SCHMIDT, RAMBACH, et al; also DINDORF, Quomodo nomen Koheleth, Solomoni tribuatur, Lips.; 1791, and GURLITT: “Studien and Kritiken” in explanation' of the Book of Koheleth, 1865. II., 325 ff.

[2][The strongest confirmation of all this is found in the use of the Greek feminine noun ἀρχὴ, for ruler, magistrate, as though it were equivalent to ἄρχων, just as we use the word authority, or the authorities, for magistrates. See especially Paul’s remarkable use of this feminine noun for authorities, powers, “Principalities, in the heavens,” Rom. 8:35; Eph. 1:21; 3:10; 6:12; Col. 1:16; 2:15; Titus 3:1—T. L.]

[3][These admirable remarks of VAIHINGER suggest a thought of great value to one who would read the Scriptures with spiritual profit. In such books as Job and Ecclesiastes, the lesson is in the picture, the dramatic representation, as we may call it. It is to be found in the total impression, and not in any separate texts or precepts. The struggle, the doubt, the erroneous sentiment, often, are necessary to this total effect. Its very contradictions, when rightly viewed, furnish the strongest arguments for the truth ultimately brought out. This does not affect the idea of its plenary inspiration. It is all given to us by the ultimate divine Author, all intended for one great purpose, and thus all of it, even its peculiar diction “profiteth for our instruction in righteousness.”—T. L.]

[4]For the titles of the expositions here quoted, comp. § 6

[5]Many trace to Luther the assertion of a post-Solomonic origin of Ecclesiastes, carrying it back to several collectors, but this occurs solely on the basis of his “Preface” of the year 1524, not of his Annotationes in Ecclesiastes of 1532, a far more thoughtful and conservative work of a calmer and maturer period. Comp. § 5.

[6]Ἡ γὰρ τῶν ἐντολῶν ἐργασία νῦν μὲν διὰ τῆς ελπίδος εὐφραίνει τὸν τῶν καλῶν προιστάμενον ἔργων̓ μετὰ ταῦτα δὲ ἀπόλαυσιν τῶν ἀγαθῶν ἐλπίδων δεξαμένη ἴδιον τοῖς ἄξίοις τὴν ἐυφροσύνην προστίθησιν.

[7] FR. SCHABB. f. 30, b: “The philosophers wished to supperess the book of Koheleth, because it contains contradictions. Why then did they not suppress it? Because its beginning and its end are words of the law.”—Comp. MIDR. KOHELETH f. 114, a: The philosophers wished to suppress the book of Koheleth because its wisdom all tends to what is written in Ecc 9:9; “Rejoice, O young man in thy youth;” (which is incompatible with Numbers 15:39, etc.). But because Solomon adds: “Know, that for all these things God will bring thee unto judgement”—they declare that Solomon spake well (יפה אמר שלמה) comp. Pesikta Rabb. f. 33, a. Vajikra R. f. 161, b.: Midr. Kohel. f. 311, a, where we notice the bearing of certain assertions of the book to the side of the heretics (מיגים) perhaps of the sadducees; Tr. Edajoth, c. 5; Jadaim, c. 3, where direct divine prompting is denied, etc. And finally also HIERONYMUS: “Aiunt Hebræi quum inter cetera scripta Salomononis, quæ antiquita sunt nec in memoria duraverunt, et hic liber obliterandus videtur, eo quod vanas assereret Dei creaturas et totum putaret esse pro nihilo et cibum et potum et delicias trans euntes præferret omnibus, ex hoc uns capitulo meruisse auctoriotem, ut in divinorum voluminum numero poneretur, quod totam disputatlionem suam et omnem catalogum hac quasi ἀνακεφαλαιώσει coarctaverit, et dixcrit finem sermonum suorum auditu esse Promptlissimum, nec aliquid in se habere difficile: ut scil. Deum timeamus et ejus præcepta faciamus.

[8]“Hunc librum Ecclesiasten rectius nos vocaremus Politica vel Œconomica Salomonis, qui viro in politia versanti consulat in casibus tristibus et animum erudiat ac roboret ad patientiam”. As an example of a prince who in accordance with Luther’s advice, read Ecclesiastes with special pleasure, we may quote Frederic the Great. That he was in the habit of considering it a genuine “mirror of princes,” is proven by the fact that he was not drawn to it simply by the skeptical character of its contents,

[9]It has been said that this portion of Scripture has a tendency to stir up licentious passions; and even most pious men, like WORDSWORTH and MATTHEW HENRY, have felt themselves called upon to give a caution against reading it in a wrong spirit, lest it have this dangerous result. But it may well be a question, whether any such caution is really needed, or whether such an effect was ever produced in the thorough sensualist. In his ignorance, he might try the experiment, but we may well doubt whether such a one ever read a single chapter without getting wearied and discouraged in the unholy attempt. He can make nothing of it. There is Something here too pure—too dreamy and unintelligible, he would say—to kindle a licentious flame. There pervades it a holy, spiritual, unearthly air, which chills every effort to treat it as a mere love song. This is confirmed by the fact that no such attempted abuse of it is to be found, or rarely found, in the licentious literature of any, even an infidel, age. When, or where, was ever love song so written? When, in any composition of the Kind, was there ever such a combination of power and brightness, or so much of an indescribable awe mingling with its serene beauty? When was the object of affection ever thus described: “Who is she that looketh forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners?” It is the spotless Church, the Bride of the Lamb, arrayed in the white and glorious apparel that He has given her. “Arise, my love, my fair one, arise and come away.” It is the Bridegroom’s resurrection voice, calling to the Beloved who lies sleeping “in the clefts of the rocks” (see the frequent allusions to this in the Syriac liturgical hymns, and compare Isaiah 24:19: “Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust”). Surge formosa mea, “arise, my sister, bride [יֹונַתִי —רַעְיַתִי —כַּלַּתִי — אֲתוֹתִי] my love, my dove, my perfect one, arise and come away.” for lo, the morning breaks, “the shadows flee”—death’s ”winter night is past, the rain is gone, the flowers (of Paradise) again appear, the voice of the turtle [the song of love ] is heard in our land.” How heavenly chaste is this language, though so tender and impassioned! How repellent of all impurity! It is some feeling of this, even in the most licentious, that makes it impossible to treat Solomon’s Song of Songs like the amatory strains of MOORE, or the erotics of OVID and CATULLUS.—T. L.

[10][The true grammatical construction is to take אין קץ, not as the predicate, but as qualifying ספרים, books, or, a book, without end,—to make a never ending book, or to go on in this way ad infinitum. It is the Hebrew mode of expressing such negation—comp. אֵין מִסְפָּר innumerable, Joel 1:6, et al. So לא is used, and sometimes אַל, as in Prov. 30:31 and Prov. 12:28, אַל־מָוֶת, like a compound word—no death=Gr. ἀ·θανασία—Lat. im-mortalitas. An endless book; of course taken hyperbolically, as a mode of expressing the inutility of a prolonged discourse.—T. L.]

Lange, John Peter - Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical

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