Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
The Book of Ecclesiastes
If we look at the world without God, it appears what it is - a magnificent, graduated combination of diverse classes of beings, connected causes and effects, well-calculated means and ends. But thus contemplated, the world as a whole remains a mystery. If, with the atheist, we lay aside the idea of God, then, notwithstanding the law of causation, which is grounded in our mental nature, we abandon the question of the origin of the world. If, with the pantheist, we transfer the idea of God to the world itself, then the effect is made to be as one with the cause - not, however, without the conception of God, which is inalienable in man, reacting against it; for one cannot but distinguish between substance and its phenomena. The mysteries of the world which meet man as a moral being remain, under this view of the world, altogether without solution. For the moral order of the world presupposes an absolutely good Being, from whom it has proceeded, and who sustains it; it demands a Lawgiver and a Judge. Apart from the reference to this Being, the distinction between good and evil loses its depth and sharpness. Either there is no God, or all that is and happens is a moment in the being and life of God Himself, who is identical with the world: thus must the world-destructive power of sin remain unrecognised. The opinion as to the state of the world will, from a pantheistic point of view, rise to optimism; just as, on the other hand, from an atheistic point of view, it will sink to pessimism. The commanding power of goodness even the atheist may recognise by virtue of the inner law peculiar to man as a moral being, but the divine consecration is wanting to this goodness; and if human life is a journey from nothing to nothing, then this will be the best of all goodness: that man set himself free from the evil reality, and put his confidence in nothing. "Him who views the world," says Buddhism, "as a water-bubble, a phantom, the king of death does not terrify. What pleasure, what joy is in this world? Behold the changing form-it is undone by old age; the diseased body - it dissolves and corrupts! 'I have sons and treasures; here will I dwell in the season of the cold, and there in the time of the heat:' thus thinks the fool; and cares not for, and sees not, the hindrances thereto. Him who is concerned about sons and treasures - the man who has his heart so entangled - death tears away, as the torrent from the forest sweeps away the slumbering village." The view taken of the world, and the judgment formed regarding it, in the Book of Ecclesiastes, are wholly different. While in the Book of Esther faith in God remains so much in the background that there is nowhere in it express mention made of God, the name of God occurs in Ecclesiastes no fewer than thirty-seven times,
(Note: האלהים, Ecc 2:24, Ecc 2:26; Ecc 3:11, Ecc 3:14 (twice), 15, 17, 18; Ecc 5:1, Ecc 5:5-6, Ecc 5:17-18 (Ecc 5:1, Ecc 5:2, Ecc 5:6-7, Ecc 5:18-19), 19 (20); Ecc 6:2 (twice); Ecc 7:13-14, Ecc 7:26, Ecc 7:29; Ecc 8:15, Ecc 8:17; Ecc 9:1, Ecc 9:7; Ecc 11:5, Ecc 11:9; Ecc 12:7, Ecc 12:13-14. אלהים, Ecc 3:10, Ecc 3:13; Ecc 5:3, Ecc 5:18; Ecc 7:18; Ecc 8:2, Ecc 8:13.)
and that in such a way that the naming of Him is at the same time the confession of Him as the True God, the Exalted above the world, the Governor and the Ruler over all. And not only that: the book characterizes itself as a genuine product of the Israelitish Chokma by this, that, true to its motto, it places the command, "Fear Thou God," Ecc 5:6, Ecc 5:7, Ecc 12:13, in the foremost rank as a fundamental moral duty; that it makes, Ecc 8:12, the happiness of man to be dependent thereon; that it makes, Ecc 7:18; Ecc 11:9; Ecc 12:14, his final destiny to be conditioned by his fearing God; and that it contemplates the world as one that was created by God very good, Ecc 3:11; Ecc 7:29, and as arranged, Ecc 3:14, and directed so that men should fear Him. These primary principles, to which the book again and again returns, are of special importance for a correct estimate of it.
Of like decisive importance for the right estimate of the theistic, and at the same time also the pessimistic, view of the world presented by Koheleth is this, that he knows of no future life compensating for the troubles of the present life, and resolving its mystery. It is true that he says, Ecc 12:7, that the life-spirit of the man who dies returns to God who gave it, as the body returns to the dust of which it is formed; but the question asked in Ecc 3:21 shows that this preferring of the life-spirit of man to that of a beast was not, in his regard, raised above all doubt. And what does this return to God mean? By no means such a return unto God as amounts to the annihilation of the separate existence of the spirit of man; for, in the first place, there is the supposition of this separate existence running through the Bible; in the second place, נתנה, Ecc 12:7, does not point to an emanation; and in the third place, the idea of Hades prevailing in the consciousness of the ages before Christ, and which is also that of Koheleth, proves the contrary. Man exists also beyond the grave, but without the light and the force of thought and activity characterizing his present life, Ecc 9:5, Ecc 9:10. The future life is not better, but is worse than the present, a dense darkness enduring "for ever," Ecc 9:6; Ecc 11:8; Ecc 12:5. It is true, indeed, that from the justice of God, and the experiences of the present life as standing in contradiction thereto, Ecc 8:14, the conclusion is drawn, Ecc 12:14; Ecc 11:9, that there is a last decisive judgment, bringing all to light; but this great thought, in which the interest of the book in the progress of religious knowledge comes to a climax, is as yet only an abstract postulate of faith, and not powerful enough to brighten the future; and therefore, also, not powerful enough to lift us above the miseries of the present.
That the author gives utterance to such thoughts of the future as Ecc 12:7 and Ecc 11:9; Ecc 12:14 - to which Wisd. 3:1 ("The souls of the righteous are in God' hand, and no trouble moves them") and Dan 12:2 ("Many that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt") are related, as being their expansion, - warrants the supposition that he disputes as little as Job does in chap. 14 the reality of a better future; but only that the knowledge of such a future was not yet given to him. In general, for the first time in the N.T. era, the hope of a better future becomes a common portion of the church's creed, resting on the basis of faith in the history of redemption warranting it; and is advanced beyond the isolated prophetic gleams of light, the mere postulates of faith that were ventured upon, and the unconfirmed opinions, of the times preceding Christ. The N.T. Scripture shows how altogether different this world of sin and of change appears to be since a world of recompense and of glory has been revealed as its background; since the Lord has pronounced as blessed those who weep, and not those who laugh; and since, with the apostle (Rom 8:18), we may be convinced that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed to us. The goal of human life, with its labour and its sufferings, is now carried beyond the grave. That which is done under the sun appears only as a segment of the universal and everlasting operation, governed by the wisdom of God, the separate portions of which can only be understood in their connection with the whole. The estimate taken of this present world, apart from its connection with the future, must be one-sided. There are two worlds: the future is the solution of the mystery of the present.
A N.T. believer would not be able to write such a book as that of Job, or even as that of Ecclesiastes, without sinning against revealed truth; without renouncing the better knowledge meanwhile made possible; without falling back to an O.T. standpoint. The author of the Book of Ecclesiastes is related to revealed religion in its O.T. manifestation, - he is a believer before the coming of Christ; but not such an one as all, or as most were, but of peculiar character and position. There are some natures that have a tendency to joyfulness, and others to sadness. The author of this book does not belong to the latter class; for if he did, the call to rejoice, Ecc 11:9, Ecc 8:15, etc., would not as it does pervade his book, as the χαίρετε, though in a deeper sense, pervades the Epistle to the Philippians. Neither does he belong to those superficial natures which see almost everything in a rosy light, which quickly and easily divest themselves of their own and of others' sorrows, and on which the stern earnestness of life can make no deep and lasting impressions. Nor is he a man of feeling, whom his own weakness makes a prophet of evil; not a predominatingly passive man, who, before he could fully know the world, withdrew from it, and now criticises it from his own retired corner in a careless, inattentive mood; but a man of action, with a penetrating understanding and a faculty of keen observation; a man of the world, who, from his own experience, knows the world on all its sides; a restless spirit, who has consumed himself in striving after that which truly satisfies. That this man, who was forced to confess that all science and art, all that table dainties, and the love of women, and riches, and honour yielded him, was at last but vanity and vexation of spirit, and who gained so deep an insight into the transitoriness and vanity of all earthly things, into the sorrows of this world of sin and death, and their perplexing mysteries, does not yet conclude by resigning himself to atheism, putting "Nothing" (Nirvna), or blind Fate, in the place of God, but firmly holds that the fear of God is the highest duty and the condition of all true prosperity, as it is the highest truth and the surest knowledge - that such is the case with him may well excite our astonishment; as well as this also, that he penetrates the known illusory character of earthly things in no overstrained manner, despising the world in itself, and also the gifts of God in it, but that he places his ultimatum as to the pure enjoyment of life within the limits of the fear of God, and extends it as widely as God permits. One might therefore call the Book of Koheleth, "The Song of the Fear of God," rather than, as H. Heine does, "The Song of Scepticism;" for however great the sorrow of the world which is therein expressed, the religious conviction of the author remains in undiminished strength; and in the midst of all the disappointments in the present world, his faith in God, and in the rectitude of God, and in the victory of the good, stands firm as a rock, against which all the waves dash themselves into foam. "This book," says another recent author,
(Note: Hartmann's Das Lied vom Ewigen, St. Galle 1859, p. 12.)
"which contains almost as many contradictions as verses, may be regarded as the Breviary of the most modern materialism, and of extreme licentiousness." He who can thus speak has not read the book with intelligence. The appearance of materialism arises from this, that the author sees in the death of man an end similar to that of beasts; and that is certainly so far true, but it is not the whole truth. In the knowledge of the reverse side of the matter he does not come beyond the threshold, because His hand was not yet there - viz. the hand of the Arisen One - which could help him over it. And as for the supposed licentiousness, Ecc 9:7-9 shows, by way of example, how greatly the fear of God had guarded him from concluding his search into all earthly things with the disgust of a worn-out libertine.
But there are certainly self-contradictions in the Book of Ecclesiastes. They have a twofold ground. They are, on the one hand, the reflection of the self-contradicting facts which the author affirms. Thus, e.g., Ecc 3:11, he says that God has set eternity in the heart of man, but that man cannot find out from the beginning to the end the work which God maketh; Ecc 3:12-13, that the best thing in this world is for a man to enjoy life; but to be able to do this, is a gift of God; Ecc 8:12, Ecc 8:14, that it goes well with them that fear God, but ill with the godless. But there is also the contrary - which is just the ground-tone of the book, that everything has its But; only the fear of God, after all that appertains to the world is found to be as vanitas vanitatum, remains as the kernel without the shell, but the commandment of the fear of God as a categorical imperative, the knowledge that the fear of God is in itself the highest happiness, and fellowship with God the highest good, remain unexpressed; the fear of God is not combined with the love of God, as e.g., in Ps 73 it serves only for warning and not for comfort. On the other hand, the book also contains contradictions, which consists in contrasts which the author is not in a condition to explain and adjust. Thus, e.g., the question whether the spirit of a dying man, in contrast to that of a beast, takes its way upwards, Ecc 3:21, is proposed as one capable of a double answer; but Ecc 12:7 answers it directly in the affirmative; the author has good grounds for the affirmative, but yet no absolute proofs. And while he denies the light of consciousness and the energy of activity to those who have gone down to Hades, Ecc 9:10, he maintains that there is a final decisive judgment of a holy and righteous God of all human conduct, Ecc 11:9; Ecc 12:14, which, since there is frequently not a righteous requital given on earth, Ecc 8:14, and since generally the issue here does not bring to light, Ecc 9:2, the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, will take place in eternity; but it is difficult to comprehend how he has reconciled the possibility of such a final judgment with the shadowy nature of existence after death.
The Book of Koheleth is, on the one side, a proof of the power of revealed religion which has grounded faith in God, the One God, the All-wise Creator and Governor of the world, so deeply and firmly in the religious consciousness, that even the most dissonant and confused impressions of the present world are unable to shake it; and, on the other side, it is a proof of the inadequacy of revealed religion in its O.T. form, since the discontent and the grief which the monotony, the confusion, and the misery of this earth occasion, remain thus long without a counterbalance, till the facts of the history of redemption shall have disclosed and unveiled the heavens above the earth. In none of the O.T. books does the Old Covenant appear as it does in the Book of Koheleth, as "that which decayeth and waxeth old, and is ready to vanish away" (Heb 8:13). If the darkness of earth must be enlightened, then a New Covenant must be established; for heavenly love, which is at the same time heavenly wisdom, enters into human nature and overcomes sin, death, and Hades, and removes the turning-point of the existence of man from this to the future life. The finger of prophecy points to this new era. And Koheleth, from amid his heaps of ruins, shows how necessary it is that the heavens should now soon open above the earth.
It is a view of the world, dark, and only broken by scattered gleams of light, not disowning its sullenness even where it recommends the happy enjoyment of life, which runs through the book in a long series of dissonances, and gives to it a peculiar character. It is thus intentionally a homogeneous whole; but is it also divided into separate parts according to a plan? That we may be able to answer this question, we subject the contents of the book to a searching analysis, step by step, yet steadily keeping the whole in view. This will at the same time also serve as a preparation for the exposition of the book.
Here below, all things under the sun are vanity. The labour of man effects nothing that is enduring, and all that is done is only a beginning and a vanishing away again, repeating itself in a never-ending circle: these are the thoughts of the book which stand as its motto, Ecc 1:2-11.
Koheleth-Solomon, who had been king, then begins to set forth the vanity of all earthly things from his own experience. The striving after secular knowledge, Ecc 1:12., has proved to him unsatisfactory, as has also the striving after happiness in pleasure and in procuring the means of all imaginable gratifications, Ecc 2:1-11; wisdom is vanity, for the wise man falls under the stroke of death as well as the fool, and is forgotten, Ecc 2:12-17; the riches are vanity, for they become the inheritance, one knows not whether or a worthy or of an unworthy heir, Ecc 2:18-21; and, besides, pure enjoyment, like wisdom and knowledge, depends not merely on the will of man, but both are the gift of God, Ecc 2:22. Everything has its time appointed by God, but man is unable to survey either backwards or forwards the work of God, which fills eternity, notwithstanding the impulse to search into it which is implanted within him; his dependence in all things, even in pure enjoyment, must become to him a school in which to learn the fear of God, who maintains all things unchangeably, for forms the course of that which is done, Ecc 3:1-15. If he sees injustice prevailing in the place of justice, God's time for righteous interference has not yet come, Ecc 3:16-17. If God wishes to try men, they shall see that they are dependent like the beasts, and liable to death without any certain distinction from the beasts - there is nothing better than that this fleeting life should be enjoyed as well as may be, Ecc 3:18.
Koheleth now further records the evils that are under the sun: oppression, in view of which death is better than life, and not to have been at all is better than both, Ecc 4:1-3; envy, Ecc 4:4; the restlessness of labour, from which only the fool sets himself free, Ecc 4:5-6; the aimless trouble and parsimony of him who stands alone, Ecc 4:7-12; the disappointment of the hopes placed on an upstart who has reached the throne, Ecc 4:13-16.
Up to this point there is connection. There now follow rules, externally unconnected, for the relation of man to Him who is the Disposer of all things; regarding his frequenting the house of God, Ecc 5:1; prayer, Ecc 5:2; and praise, Ecc 5:3-6.
Then a catalogue of vanities is set forth: the insatiable covetous plundering of the lowly by those who are above them in despotic states, whereat the author praises, Ecc 5:7-8, the patriarchal state based on agriculture; and the nothingness and uncertainty of riches, which do not make the rich happier than the labourer, Ecc 5:9-11; which sometimes are lost without any to inherit them, Ecc 5:12-14; and which their possessor, at all events, must leave behind him when he dies, Ecc 5:15-16. Riches have only a value when by means of them a purer enjoyment is realized as the gift of God, Ecc 5:17. For it happens that God gives to a man riches, but to a stranger the enjoyment thereof, Ecc 6:1-2. An untimely birth is better than a man who has an hundred children, a long life, and yet who has no enjoyment of life even to his death, Ecc 6:3-6. desire stretching on into the future is torment; only so much as a man truly enjoys has he of all his labour, Ecc 6:7-9; what man shall be is predestinated, all contendings against it are useless: the knowledge of that which is good for him, and of the future, is in the power of no man, Ecc 6:10.
There now follow, without a premeditated plan, rules for the practical conduct of life, loosely connecting themselves with the "what is good," Ecc 6:12, by the catchword "good:" first six (probably originally seven) proverbs of two things each, whereof the one is better than the other, Ecc 7:1-9; then three with the same catch-word, but without comparison, Ecc 7:10-14.
This series of proverbs is connected as a whole, for their ultimatum is a counsel to joy regulated by the fear of God within the narrow limits of this life, constituted by God of good and bad days, and terminating in the darkness of death. But this joy is also itself limited, for the deep seriousness of the memento mori is mingled with it, and sorrow is declared to be morally better than laughter.
With Ecc 7:15, the I, speaking from personal experience, again comes into the foreground; but counsels and observations also here follow each other aphoristically, without any close connection with each other. Koheleth warns against an extreme tendency to the side of good as well as to that of evil: he who fears God knows how to avoid extremes, Ecc 7:15-18. Nothing affords a stronger protection than wisdom, for (?) with all his righteousness a man makes false steps, Ecc 7:19-20. Thou shalt not always listen, lest thou hear something about thyself, - also thou thyself hast often spoken harshly regarding others, Ecc 7:21-22. He has tried everything, but in his strivings after wisdom, and in his observation of the distinction between wisdom and folly, he has found nothing more dangerous than the snares of women; among a thousand men he found one man; but one woman such as she ought to be, he found not; he found in general that God made men upright, but that they have devised many kinds of by-ways, Ecc 7:23.
As the wise man considers women and men in general, wisdom teaches him obedience to the king to whom he has sworn fealty, and, under despotic oppression, patient waiting for the time of God's righteous interference, Ecc 8:1-9. In the time of despotic domination, it occurs that the godless are buried with honour, while the righteous are driven away and forgotten, Ecc 8:10. God's sentence is to be waited for, the more deliberately men give themselves to evil; God is just, but, in contradiction to His justice, it is with the righteous as with the wicked, and with the wicked as with the righteous, here on earth, Ecc 8:11-14. In view of these vanities, then, it is the most desirable thing for a man to eat and drink, and enjoy himself, for that abides with him of his labour during the day of his life God has given him, Ecc 8:15. Restless labour here leads to nothing; all the efforts of man to comprehend the government of God are in vain, Ecc 8:16. For on closer consideration, it appears that the righteous also, with all their actions, are ruled by God, and generally that in nothing, not even in his affections, is man his own master; and, which is the worst thing of all, because it impels men to a wicked, mad abuse of life, to the righteous and the unrighteous, death at last comes alike; it is also the will of God towards man that he should spend this transient life in cheerful enjoyment and in vigorous activity before it sinks down into the night of Hades, Ecc 9:1-10. The fruits of one's labour are not to be gained by force, even the best ability warrants it not, an incomprehensible fate finally frustrates all, Ecc 9:11-12.
There now follows, but in loose connection as to thought with the preceding, a section relating to wisdom and folly, and the discordances as to the estimate of both here below, along with diverse kinds of experiences and proverbs, Eccl 9:13-10:15. Only one proverb is out of harmony with the general theme, viz., Ecc 10:4, which commends resignation under the abullition of the wrath of the ruler. The following proverb, Ecc 10:5-6, returns to the theme, but connecting itself with the preceding; the relation of rulers and the ruled to each other is kept principally in view by Koheleth.
With a proverb relating to kings and princes, good and bad, a new departure is made. Riotous living leads to slothfulness; and in contrast to this (but not without the intervention of a warning not to curse the king) follow exhortations to provident, and, at the same time, bold, and all-attempting activity; for the future is God's, and not to be reckoned on, Eccl 10:16-11:6. The light is sweet; and life, however long it may last, in view of the uncertain dark future, is worthy of being enjoyed, Ecc 11:7-8. Thus Koheleth, at the end of this last series of proverbs, has again reached his Ceterum censeo; he formulates it, in an exhortation to a young man to enjoy his life - but without forgetting God, to whom he owes it, and to whom he has to render an account - before grey-haired old age and death overtake him, into a full-toned finale, 11:9-12:7. The last word of the book, Ecc 12:8, is parallel with the first (Ecc 1:1): "O! vanity of vanities; All is vain!"
An epilogue, from the same hand as the book seals its truth: it is written as from the very soul of Solomon; it issues from the same fountain of wisdom. The reader must not lose himself in reading many books, for the sum of all knowledge that is of value to man is comprehended in one sentence: "Fear God, for He shall bring every work into judgment," Ecc 12:9.
If we look back on this compendious reproduction of the contents and of the course of thought of the book, there appears everywhere the same view of the world, along with the same ultimatum; and as a pictorial overture opens the book, a pictorial finale closes it. But a gradual development, a progressive demonstration, is wanting, and so far the grouping together of the parts is not fully carried out; the connection of the thoughts if more frequently determined by that which is external and accidental, and not unfrequently an incongruous element is introduced into the connected course of kindred matters. The Solomonic stamp impressed on chap. 1 and 2 begins afterwards to be effaced. The connection of the confessions that are made becomes aphoristic in chap. 3; and the proverbs that are introduced do not appropriately fall into their place. The grounds, occasions, and views which determine the author to place confessions and moral proverbs in such an order after one another, for the most part withdraw themselves from observation. All attempts to show, in the whole, not only oneness of spirit, but also a genetic progress, an all-embracing plan, and an organic connection, have hitherto failed, and must fail.
(Note: "Ajunt Hebraei, quum inter cetera scripta Salomonis, quae antiquata sunt nec in memoria duraverunt, et hic liber obliterandus videretur, et quod vanas assereret Dei creaturas et totum putaret esse pro nihilo, et potum et cibum et delicias transeuntes praeferret omnibus, ex hoc uno capitulo (Ecc 12:13) meruisse auctoritatem, ut in divinorum voluminum numero poneretur." - Jerome.)
In presenting this view of the spirit and plan of the Book of Koheleth, we have proceeded on the supposition that it is a post-exilian book, that it is one of the most recent of the books of the O.T. It is true, indeed, that tradition regards it as Solomonic. According to Bathra 15a, the Hezekiah-Collegium vid., Del. on Proverbs, p. 5] must have "written" - that is, collected into a written form - the Book of Isaiah, as also the Proverbs, the Song, and Koheleth. The Midrash regards it as Solomon's, and as written in the evening of his days; while the Song was written in his youth, and the Proverbs when he was in middle age (Jalkut, under Pro 1:1). If in Rosch haschana 21b it is said that Koheleth sought to be a second Moses, and to open the one of the fifty gates of knowledge which was unopened by Moses, but that this was denied to him, it is thereby assumed that he was the incomparable king, as Moses was the incomparable prophet. And Bloch, in his work on the origin and era of the Book of Koheleth (1872), is right in saying that all objections against the canonicity of the book leave the Solomonic authorship untouched. In the first Christian century, the Book of Koheleth was an antilegomenon. In the Introduction to the Song we have traced to their sources the two collections of legal authorities according to which the question of the canonicity of the Book of Koheleth is decided. The Synod of Jabne (Jamnia), about 90, decided the canonicity of the book against the school of Shammai. The reasons advanced by the latter against the canonicity are seen from Shabbath 30b, and Megilla 7a. From the former we learn that they regarded the words of the book, particularly Ecc 2:2 (where they must have read מהוּלּל, "worthy to be praised"), cf. Ecc 7:3, and Ecc 8:15, 22, as contradictory (cf. Proverbs, p. 31); and from the latter, that they hence did not recognise its inspiration. According to the Midrash Koheleth, under Ecc 11:9, they were stumbled also by the call to the enjoyment of pleasure, and to walk in the way of the desire of the heart, which appeared to stand in contradiction to the Tra (cf. Ecc 11:9 with Num 15:39), and to savour of heresy. But belief in the Solomonic authorship remained, notwithstanding, uninjured; and the admonitions to the fear of God, with reference to the future judgment, carried them over the tendency of these observations. Already, at the time of Herod the Great (Bathra 4a), and afterwards, in the time of R. Gamaliel (Shabbath 30b), the book was cited as Holy Scripture; and when, instead of the book, the author was named, the formula of citation mentioned the name of Solomon; or the book was treated as equally Solomonic with Proverbs and the Song (Erubin 21b).
Even the doubtfulness of its contents could give rise to no manner of doubt as to the author. Down till the new era beginning with Christianity, and, in the main, even till the Reformation-century, no attention was paid to the inner and historico-literary marks which determine the time of the origin of a book. The Reformation first called into existence, along with the criticism of dogmatic traditions, at the same time also biblical criticism, which it raised to the place of an essential part of the science of Scripture. Luther, in his Tischreden (Table-Talk), is the first who explained the Preacher as one of the most recent books of the O.T.: he supposed that the book had not reached us in its completed form; that it was written by Sirach rather than by Solomon; and that it might be, "as a Talmud, collected from many books, perhaps from the library of King Ptolemy Euergetes, in Egypt."
(Note: Tischreden, ed. Frstemann-Bindseil, p. 400f. The expression here almost appears as if Luther had confounded Ecclesiastes (Koheleth) with Ecclesiasticus (Sirach). At a later period he maintained that the book contained a collection of Solomonic sayings, not executed, however, by Solomon himself.)
These are only passing utterances, which have no scientific value; among his contemporaries, and till the middle of the century following, they found no acceptance. Hugo Grotius (1644) is the first who, like Luther, rejects its Solomonic authorship, erroneously supposing, with him, that it is a collection of diverse sayings of the wise, περὶ τῆς εὐδαιμονίας; but on one point he excellently hits the nail on the head: Argumentum ejus rei habeo multa vocabula, quae non alibi quam in Daniele, Esdra et Chaldaeis interpretibus reperias. This observation is warranted. If the Book of Koheleth were of old Solomonic origin, then there is no history of the Hebrew language. But Bernstein (Quaestiones nonnullae Kohelethanae, 1854) is right in saying that the history of the Hebrew language and literature is certainly divided into two epochs by the Babylonish exile, and that the Book of Koheleth bears the stamp of the post-exilian form of the language.
Words in Koheleth (Eccelsiastes)
List of the Hapaxlegomena, and of the Words and Forms in the Book of Koheleth belonging to a more recent Period of the Language
Aviyonah, 12:5; cf. Ma'seroth 4:6, Berachoth 36a.
Adam, opp. ishah, only at 7:28.
Izzen, Pi., only 12:9; not Talm.
אי, Ecc 10:16; אילו, Ecc 4:10, instead of the older אוי; cf. הי, Eze 2:10; like אי ל, Shemoth rabba, c. 46; אי ם, "Alas, now bad!" Targ. Jer 2; Lev 26:29; אי ע, "Alas for the meek!" Berachoth 6b; cf. Sanhedrin 11a.
Illu, "if," Ecc 6:6; Est 7:4, of אם (אין) and לוּ (לא, read לא, Eze 3:6); Targ. Deu 32:29 = Heb. לוּ, common in the Mishna, e.g., Maccoth i. 10.
Asurim, only Ecc 7:26; cf. Jdg 15:14; Seder olam rabba, c. 25; cf. at Ecc 4:14.
Baale asupoth, only Ecc 12:11; cf. Sanhedrin 12a, Jer. Sanhedrin x. 1.
Bihel, only Ecc 5:1; Ecc 7:9; as Hiph. Est 6:14; cf. the transitive use of the Pih. Est 2:9, like Targ. bahel (= ithbehel) and behilu, haste.
Bur, only Ecc 9:1; cf. the Talm. al buriv, altogether free from error and sin.
Behuroth, only Ecc 11:9; Ecc 12:1; cf. Mibehurav, Num 11:28.
Batel, Ecc 12:3; elsewhere only in the Chald. of Ezra; common in the Mishna, e.g., Aboth i. 5.
Beth olam (cf. Eze 26:20), 12:5; cf. Tosifta Berachoth iii., Targ. Isa 14:18; Isa 42:11.
Bechen, Ecc 8:10; Est 4:16; elsewhere only Targ., e.g., Isa 16:5.
Baal hallashon, Ecc 10:11; cf. baal bashar, corpulent, Berachoth 13b; ball hahhotam, the large-nosed, carrying the nose high, Taanith 29a.
Gibber, only at Ecc 10:10, to exert oneself; elsewhere: to prevail.
Gummats, only Ecc 10:8, Syr., and in the Targ. of the Hag. (cf. Targ. Psa 7:16).
Divrath, vid., under שׁ.
Hoveh, Ecc 2:22; cf. Shabbath vi. 6, Erubin i. 10, Jebamoth xv. 2.
Holeloth, Ecc 1:17; Ecc 2:12; Ecc 7:25; Ecc 9:3; and holeluth, madness, only in the Book of Koheleth, Ecc 10:13.
Zichron, as primary form, Ecc 1:11; Ecc 2:16; vid., at Lev 23:24, the connecting form.
Zeman, Ecc 3:1; Neh 2:6; Est 9:27, Est 9:31; elsewhere only in the bibl. Chald. with שׁעה, ὧρα, the usual Mishnic word for καιρός and χρόνος.
Holah (malum), aegrum, Ecc 5:12, Ecc 5:15; for this nahhlah is used in Isa 17:11; Nah 3:19; Jer 10:19; Jer 14:17.
Ben-hhorim (liber, in contrast to eved, servus), Ecc 10:17; cf. חרות (freedom) on the coins of the Revolution of the Roman period; the usual Talm. word, even of possessions, such as praedium liberum, aedes liberae of the Roman law.
Hhuts min, only at Ecc 2:25 (Chald. bar min); frequent in the Mishna, e.g., Middoth 2:3.
Hhush, Ecc 2:25; in the Talm. and Syr. of sorrowful experiences; here (cf. Job 20:2), of the experiences derived from the senses, and experiences in general, as in the Rabb. the five senses are called חושים.
Hhayalim, Ecc 10:10; everywhere else, also in Aram., meaning war=hosts, except at Isa 30:6, where it denotes opes, treasures.
Hhesron, Ecc 1:15, a common word in the post-bibl. language.
(Note: Vid., my Geschichte der jd. Poesie, p. 187f.)
Heephets, Ecc 3:1, Ecc 3:17; Ecc 5:7; Ecc 8:6; cf. Isa 58:3, Isa 58:13. The primary unweakened meaning is found at Ecc 5:3; Ecc 12:1, Ecc 12:10. The weakening of the original meaning may have already early begun; in the Book of Koheleth it has advanced as far as in the language of the Mishna, e.g., Mezia iv. 6.
Hheshbon, Ecc 7:25, Ecc 7:27; Ecc 9:10. Plur. at Ecc 7:29, machinationes; only in Ch2 26:15 in the sense of machinae bellicae; but as in Koheleth, so also in Shabbath 150a.
Hhathhhatim, only at Ecc 12:5.
Tahhanah, Ecc 12:4; cf. tehhon, Lam 5:3, which is foreign to the Mishna, but is used as corresponding to the older rehhaim, in the same way as the vulgar Arab. mathanat and tahwan, instead of the older raha.
(Note: Vid., Eli Smith in my Jud.-Arab. Poesien aus vormuh. Zeit. (1874), p. 40.)
יאשׁ, Pih., only Ecc 2:20. Talm. Nithpa. נתיאשׁ, to abandon hope, e.g., Kelim xxvi. 8.
Yegiyah, only Ecc 12:12; an abstract such as may be formed from all verbs, and particularly is more frequently formed in the more modern than in the more ancient language.
Yother, as a participial adj.: "that which remains" (cf. Sa1 15:15) = "gain," Ecc 6:11; Ecc 7:11; or "superiority," Ecc 6:8. As an adv.: "more" (cf. Est 6:6), "particularly," Ecc 2:15; Ecc 7:16; Ecc 12:9, Ecc 12:12. In the Talm. Heb., used in the sense of "remaining over" (Kiddushin 24b); and as an adv., in the sense of plus or magis (e.g., Chullin 57b).
Yaphěh, Ecc 3:11; Ecc 5:17, as e.g., Jer. Pesachim ix. 9 (b. Pesachim 99a): "Silence is well-becoming (יפה) the wise; how much more fools!"
Yithron, Ecc 2:13 (twice), Ecc 7:12 (synon. mothar, Ecc 3:1); more frequently "real gain," Ecc 1:3; Ecc 2:11; Ecc 3:9; Ecc 5:15; Ecc 10:10; "superiority and gain," Ecc 5:8. Peculiar (= Aram. yuthran) to the Book of Koheleth, and in Rabb., whence it is derived.
Keěhhad, Ecc 11:6; Isa 65:25, Chron., Ezra, Nehem., the Chald. kahhada; Syr. okchado; frequent in the Mish., e.g., Bechoroth vii. 4; Kilajim i. 9.
Kevar, adv., Ecc 1:10; Ecc 2:12, Ecc 2:16; Ecc 3:15; Ecc 4:2; Ecc 6:10; Ecc 9:6-7; common in the Mishna, e.g., Erubin iv. 2, Nedarim, v. 5; in Aram., more frequently in the sense of "perhaps" than of "formerly."
Kasher, Ecc 11:6; Est 8:5; in the Mishna, the word commonly used of that which is legally admissible; Hiph. verbal noun, hachsēr, only at Ecc 10:10; in the Mishna, of arranging according to order; in the superscription of the tract, macshirin, of making susceptible of uncleanness. Cf. e.g., Menachoth 48b. The word is generally pointed הכשרּ, but more correctly הכשׁר.
(Note: Vid., my Heb. Rmerbrief, p. 79. Cf. Stein's Talm. Termin. (1869), under כּשׁר and הכשׁר.)
Kishron, only at Ecc 2:21; Ecc 4:4; Ecc 5:10; not found in the Mishna.
Levad, tantummodo, Ecc 7:29; similar, but not quite the same, at Isa 26:13.
Lǎhǎg, exclusively Ecc 12:12; not Talm.; from the verb lāhǎg (R. לה), to long eagerly for; Syr. lahgoz, vapour (of breathing, exhalare); cogn. Higgāyon (hěgěh), according to which it is explained in Jer. Sanhedrin x. 1 and elsewhere.
Lavah, Ecc 8:15, as in the Mishna: to conduct a guest, to accompany a traveller; whence the proverb: לוואיי לווניה, he who gives a convoy to the dead, to him it will be given, Kethuboth 72a; cf. לוּוּי, a standing surname, Negam xiv. 6.
Medinah, Ecc 5:7, and in no book besides before the Exile.
Madda', Ecc 10:20; elsewhere only in the Chr. and Dan.; Targ. מנדּע.
Meleah, gravida, only Ecc 11:5, as in the Mishna, e.g., Jebamoth xvi. 1.
Mǎlāk, Ecc 5:5; cf. Mal 2:7, in the sense of the later sheluahh shamaim, delegated of God.
(Note: Vid., my "Discussion der Amtsfrage in Mishna u. Gemara," Luth. Zeitsch. (1854), pp. 446-449.)
Miskēn, only Ecc 4:13; Ecc 9:15-16; but cf. miskenuth. Deu 8:9, and mesukan, Isa 40:20.
Masmeroth, Ecc 12:11 = מס, Jer 10:4; cf. Isa 41:7; Ch1 22:3; Ch2 3:9.
Meattim, Ch2 5:1,; a plur. only at Psa 109:8.
Mikrěh, more frequently in the Book of Koheleth than in any other book; and at Ecc 3:19, used as explained in the Comm.
Mērots, exclusively Ecc 9:11 (elsewhere merutsah).
Māshǎk, Ecc 2:3; cf. Chagiga 14a, Sifri 135b, ed. Friedmann.
Mishlahhath, Ecc 8:8 (cf. Psa 78:49).
Nāga', Hiph. with ěl, Ecc 8:14, as at Est 9:26; Aram. מטא ל, e.g., Targ. Jer. to Exo 33:13.
Nāhǎg, Ecc 2:3, as in the Mishna, e.g., Aboda Zara iii. 4, 54b; cf. Targ. Koh. x. 4.
Nahhath, Ecc 6:5, as in the common phrase nahhath ruahh; cf. נוח לו וגו, "It were better for him," etc., Jer. Berachoth 1:2. This נוח לו, for Koheleth's נחת לו, is frequent.
Nātǎ', Ecc 12:11 (for which, Isa 22:23, tākǎ'; Mishna, קבא; Jer. Sanhedrin x. 1), as Dan 11:45.
סבל, Hithpa., only at Ecc 12:5.
Sof, Ecc 3:11; Ecc 7:2; Ecc 12:13; Joe 2:20; Ch2 20:16, the more modern word which later displaced the word ahharith, Ch2 7:8; Ch2 10:13 (cf. Berachoth i. 1), but which is not exactly equivalent to it; for sof dāvār, Ecc 12:13,
(Note: Vid., Heb. Rmerbrief, pp. 81, 84.)
which has the meaning of summa summarum, ahharith davar, would be inapplicable.
Sāchāl, Ecc 2:19; Ecc 7:17; Ecc 10:3 (twice), Ecc 10:14; Jer 4:22; Jer 5:21; in the Book of Koheleth, the synon. of the yet more frequently used כּסיל, the Targ. word.
Sěchěl, exclusively Jer 10:6.
Sichluth, Ecc 1:17 (here with שׂ), Ecc 2:3, Ecc 2:12-13; Ecc 7:25; Ecc 10:1, Ecc 10:13 (synon. kesiluth, Pro 9:13).
סכן, Niph. Ecc 10:9; cf. Berachoth i. 3. The Targ.-Talm. Ithpa. אסתּכּן, "to be in danger," corresponds with the Niph.
‛Avād, exclusively Ecc 9:1, like the Syr. 'bad, Jewish-Aram. עובד.
‛Aděn (formed of עד†אÅ¸ fo de), adhuc, with לא, nondum, Ecc 4:3.
‛Aděnāh (of ǎḋhēnnāh), adhuc, Ecc 4:2; Mishnic עדין, e.g., Nedarim xi. 10.
עות, Hithpa. only at Ecc 12:3.
‛Amǎd, Ecc 2:9; Ecc 8:3, as Jer 48:11; Psa 102:27.
Ummǎth, vid., under שׁ.
‛Anāh, Ecc 5:19; Ecc 10:19.
Inyān, exclusively in the Book of Koheleth, Ecc 1:13; Ecc 2:23, Ecc 2:26; Ecc 3:10; Ecc 4:8; Ecc 5:2, Ecc 5:13; Ecc 8:16, one of the most extensive words of the post-bibl. Heb.; first, of the object of employment, e.g., Kiddushin 6a, "occupied with this object;" also Aram. Bathra 114b.
‛Atsǎltǎyim, double impurity, i.e., where the one hand is as impure as the other, only at Ecc 10:18.
‛Asāh, with lěhhěm, Ecc 10:19, as at Dan 5:1 : ǎvǎd lěhhěm; in the N.T. Mar 6:21, ποιεῖν δεῖπνον. Otherwise Eze 4:15, where asah lehhem is used of preparing food. With the obj. of the time of life, Ecc 6:12; cf. Act 15:33. With tov, not only "to do good," Ecc 7:20, but also "to act well," "to spend a pleasant life," Ecc 3:12.
Pardēs (Sol 4:13; Neh 2:8), plur. Ecc 2:5, flower-gardens, parks, as Mez'a 103a, פרדיסי.
Pēshěr, explicatio, Ecc 8:1, elsewhere only in the Chald. parts of Dan. Ara. for the older פּהרון and שׁבר, of which the Targ. word is פּשׁר and פּוּשׁרן, Talm. pishraah, "adjustment of a controverted matter."
Pithgam in the Chald. parts of Ezra and Daniel, but only as a Hebraised Persian word in Dan 8:11; Est 1:20; common in the Targ. and in the Syr., but not in the Talm.
Kilkǎl (Kālāl, Eze 1:7; Dan 10:6), exclusively at Ecc 10:10 (on the contrary, at Eze 21:26, it means "to agitate").
Reuth, only Ecc 5:10; Keri, for which Chethî̂b ראית, which may be read ראית, ראית (cf. Eze 28:17), or ראיּת; the latter two of these forms are common in the Mishna, and have there their special meanings proceeding from the fundamental idea of seeing.
רדף, Niph. part., only Ecc 3:15.
Reuth, besides the Chald. parts of Ezra, occurs only seven times in the Book of Koheleth, Ecc 1:14; Ecc 2:11, Ecc 2:17, Ecc 2:26; Ecc 4:4, Ecc 4:6; Ecc 6:9.
Raeyon, Ecc 1:17; Ecc 2:22; Ecc 3:16; elsewhere only in the Chald. parts of Daniel and in the Targ.
שׁ, this in and of itself is in no respect modern, but, as the Babyl.-Assyr. אש, the Phoen. sa, shows, is the relative (originally demonstrative) belonging to the oldest period of the language, which in the Mishna has altogether supplanted the אשׁר of the older Heb. book-language. It is used in the Book of Koheleth quite in the same way as in the Mishna, but thus, that it stands first on the same line (rank) with אשׁר, and makes it doubtful whether this or that which occurs more frequently in the book (שׁ, according to Herzfeld, 68 times, and אשׁר 89 times) has the predominance (cf. e.g., Ecc 1:13., Ecc 8:14; Ecc 10:14, where both are used promiscue). The use of asher as a relative pronoun and relative conjunction is not different from the use of this in the older literature: 'ad asher lo, in the sense of "before," Ecc 12:1-2, Ecc 12:6, Mishnic עד שׁלא, is only a natural turn to the fundamental meaning "till that not" (Sa2 17:13; Kg1 17:17); and mibeli asher lo = nisi quod non, Ecc 3:11 (cf. bilti, Dan 11:18), for which the Mishnic ובלבד שלא (e.g., Erubin i. 10), is only accidentally not further demonstrable. But how far the use of שׁ has extended, will be seen by the following survey, from which we exclude s, standing alone as a relative pronoun or relative conjunction:-
Beshekvar, Ecc 2:16. Beshel asher, eo quod, Ecc 8:17 (cf. Jon 1:7-8, Jon 1:12), corresponding to the Talm. בּדיל דּ. Kol שׁ, Ecc 2:7, Ecc 2:9, and Ecc 11:8. Kol-ummath שׁ, Ecc 5:15, corresponding to the Chald. kol-kavel דּי, Dan 2:40, etc. ksh, Ecc 5:14; Ecc 12:7, and in the sense of quum, Ecc 9:12; Ecc 10:3. mah-שׁ, Ecc 1:9; Ecc 3:15; Ecc 6:10; Ecc 7:24; Ecc 8:7; Ecc 10:14; meh שׁ, Ecc 3:22. משּׁ, Ecc 5:4. ‛Al-divrath shello, Ecc 7:14 (cf. Ecc 3:18; Ecc 8:2). Shěgam, Ecc 2:15; Ecc 8:14.
Shiddah and plur. Shiddoth, exclusively Ecc 2:8.
Shaharuth, exclusively Ecc 11:10, to be understood after Nedarim 3:8, "the black-headed," opposed to בעלי השיבות, "the grey-haired."
שכח, Hithpa., only Ecc 8:10, the usual word in the Talm., e.g., Sanhedrin 13b.
Shalat, Ecc 2:19; Ecc 8:9, besides only in Nehemiah and Esther (cf. Bechoroth, Est 7:6, etc.); Hiph. Ecc 5:18; Ecc 6:2, elsewhere only Psa 119:133.
Shilton, Ecc 8:4, Ecc 8:8, nowhere else in O.T. Heb., but in the Mishna, e.g., Kiddushin iii. 6.
Shallith, with ב, only Ecc 8:8 (cf. Eze 16:30); on the contrary, Ecc 7:19; Ecc 10:5, as Gen 42:6, in the political signification of a ruler.
שׁמם, Hithpo., Ecc 7:16.
Shiphluth, Ecc 10:18, elsewhere only Targ. Jer 49:24.
Shithi, only Ecc 10:17.
Tahath hashshěměsh, Ecc 1:3, agreeing with the Greek ὑφ ̓ ἡλίῳ, ορ ὑπὸ τὸν ἥλιον.
Takkiph, in the O.T. Heb. only Ecc 6:10; elsewhere in the Chald., Targ., Talm.
Takan, Ecc 1:15; Pih. Ecc 7:13; Ecc 12:9, a Mishna-word used in the Pih. and Hiph., whence tikkun ("putting right," e.g., in the text-hist. terminus technicus, tikkun sopherim, and "arrangement," e.g., Gittin iv. 2, "the ordering of the world") and tikkānāh (e.g., Gittin iv. 6, "welfare," frequently in the sense of "direction," "arrangement").
This survey of the forms peculiar to the Book of Koheleth, and only found in the most recent books of the O.T., partly only in the Chaldee portions of these, and in general use in the Aramaic, places it beyond all doubt that in this book we have a product of the post-exilian period, and, at the earliest, of the time of Ezra-Nehemiah. All that Wagenmann (Comm. 1856), von Essen (Der Predeger Salomo's, 1856), Bhl (De Aramaismis libri Coheleth, 1860), Hahn (Comm. 1860), Reusch (Tbinger Quartalschr. 1860), Warminski (Verfasser u. Abfassungszeit des B. Koheleth, 1867), Prof. Taylor Lewis (in the American ed. of Lange's Bibelwerk, 1869), Schfer (Neue Untersuchungen d. B. Koheleth, 1870), Vegni (L'Ecclesiaste secondo il testo Ebraico, Florenz 1871) have advanced to the contrary, rests on grounds that are altogether untenable. If we possessed the original work of Sirach, we should then see more distinctly than from fragments
(Note: Vid., the collection of the Heb. fragments of the Book of Ben-Sira in my Gesch. der jd. Poesie, p. 204f.)
that the form of the language found in Koheleth, although older, is yet one that does not lie much further back; it is connected, yet loosely, with the old language, but at the same time it is in full accord with that new Heb. which we meet with in the Mishna and the Barajtha-Literature, which groups itself around it. To the modern aspects of the Heb. language the following forms belong: -
1. Verbs Lamed-Aleph, which from the first interchange their forms with those of verbs Lamed-He, are regularly treated in certain forms of inflexion in the Mishna as verbs Lamed-He; e.g., יצאהis not used, but יצתה.
(Note: Vid., Geiger's Lehrbuch der Mishna-Sprache, p. 46.)
This interchange of forms found in the later language reveals itself here in יצא, Ecc 10:5, used instead of יצאת; and if, according to the Masora, חוטא (חטא) is to be always written like מוצא at Ecc 7:26 (except Ecc 7:26), the traditional text herein discloses a full and accurate knowledge of the linguistic character of the book. The Aram. ישׁנא for ישׁנה, at Ecc 8:1, is not thus to be accounted for.
2. The richness of the old language in mood-forms is here disappearing. The optative of the first person (the cohortative) is only represented by אחכּמה, Ecc 7:23. the form of the subjunctive (jussive) is found in the prohibitive clauses, such as Ecc 7:16-18; Ecc 10:4; but elsewhere the only certain examples found are שׁיּלך, quod auferat secum, Ecc 5:14, and וגּיד, Ecc 10:10. In Ecc 12:7, וישׁב may also be read, although וישׁב, under the influence of "ere ever" (Ecc 12:6), is also admissible. On the contrary, יהוּא, Ecc 11:3, is indic. after the Mishn. יהא, and so also is וינאץ (derived from נצץ, not נצץ), Ecc 12:5. Yet more characteristic, however, is the circumstance that the historic tense, the so-called fut. consecutivum, which has wholly disappeared from the Mishna-language, also here, notwithstanding the occasions for its frequent use, occurs only three times, twice in the unabbreviated form, Ecc 4:1, Ecc 4:7, and once in the form lengthened by the intentional ah, Ecc 1:17, which before its disappearance was in frequent use. It probably belonged more to the written than to the spoken language of the people (cf. the Sol 6:9).
3. The complexion of the language peculiar to the Book of Koheleth is distinguished also by this, that the designation of the person already contained in the verbal form is yet particularly expressed, and without there being a contrast occasioning this emphasis, by the personal pronoun being added to and placed after it, e.g., Ecc 1:16; Ecc 2:1, Ecc 2:11-13, Ecc 2:15, Ecc 2:18, Ecc 2:20; Ecc 3:17-18; Ecc 4:1, Ecc 4:4, Ecc 4:7; Ecc 5:17; Ecc 7:25; Ecc 8:15; Ecc 9:15. Among the more ancient authors, Hosea has the same peculiarity (cf. the Sol 5:5); but there the personal pronoun stands always before the verb, e.g., Ecc 8:13; Ecc 12:11. The same thing is found in Psa 39:11; Psa 82:6, etc. The inverse order of the words is found only at Ecc 2:14, after the scheme of Job 1:15, as also 2:15 follows the scheme of Gen 24:27. Mishna-forms of expressions such as מודרני, Nedarim i. 1, מקבּלני, Jebamoth xvi. 7, are not homogeneous with that manner of subordinating the personal pronoun (cf. Ecc 7:26; Ecc 4:2). Thus we have here before us a separation of the subject and the predicate, instead of which, in the language of the Mishna, the form אמר הייתי (אני) and the like (e.g., Berachoth i. 5) is used, which found for itself a place in the language of Koheleth, in so far as this book delights in the use of the participle to an extent scarcely met with in any other book of Scripture (vid., e.g., Ecc 1:6; Ecc 8:12; Ecc 10:19).
4. The use of the demonstrative pronoun זה bears also a Mishnic stamp. We lay no particular stress on the fact that the author uses it, as regularly as the Mishna, always without the article; but it is characteristic that he always, where he does not make use of the masculine form in a neuter sense (as Ecc 7:10, Ecc 7:18, Ecc 7:29; Ecc 8:9; Ecc 9:1; Ecc 11:6, keeping out of view cases determined by attraction), employs no other feminine form than זה, Mishnic זו, in this sense, Ecc 2:2; Ecc 5:15, Ecc 5:18; Ecc 7:23; Ecc 9:13. In other respects also the use of the pronouns approaches the Mishna language. In the use of the pronoun also in Ecc 1:10 and Ecc 5:18 there is an approach to the Mishnic זהוּ, nic est, and זהי, haec est. And the use of הוּא and המּה for the personal verb reaches in Ecc 3:18; Ecc 9:4 (vid., Comm.), the extreme.
The enumeration of linguistic peculiarities betokening a late origin is not yet exhausted; we shall meet with many such in the course of the Exposition. Not only the language, however, but also the style and the artistic form of the book, show that it is the most recent product of the Bibl. Chokma literature, and belongs to a degenerated period of art. From the fact that the so-called metrical accent system of the three books - Psalms, Job, and Proverbs - is not used in Ecclesiastes, it does not follow that it is not a poetical book in the fullest sense of the word; for the Song and Lamentations, these masterpieces of the שׁיר and קינה, the Minne-song and the Elegy, are also excluded from that more elevated, more richly expressive, and more melodious form of discourse, perhaps to preserve the spiritual character of the one, and not to weaken the elegiac character of the other, to which a certain melancholy monotone andante is suitable. So also, to apply that system of accentuation to the Book of Koheleth was not at all possible, for the symmetrical stichs to which it is appropriate is for the most part wanting in Koheleth, which is almost wholly written in eloquent prose: unfolding its instruction in the form of sentences without symmetrical stichs. - It is, so to speak, a philosophical treatise in which "I saw," and the like, as the expression of the result of experience; "I said," as the expression of reflection on what was observed; "I perceived," as the expression of knowledge obtained as a conclusion from a process of reasoning; and "this also," as the expression of the result, - repeat themselves nearly terminologically. The reasoning tone prevails, and where the writer passes into gnomic poetry he enters into it suddenly, e.g., Ecc 5:9, or holds himself ready to leave it quickly again, e.g., Ecc 5:12; Ecc 7:13. Always, indeed, where the Mashal note is struck, the discourse begins to form itself into members arranged in order; and then the author sometimes rises in language, and in the order of his words, into the true classic form of the proverb set forth in parallel members, e.g., Ecc 7:7, Ecc 7:9; Ecc 9:8. The symmetry of the members is faultless, Ecc 5:5; Ecc 8:8; Ecc 9:11; but in other places, as Ecc 5:1; Ecc 7:26; Ecc 11:9, it fails, and in the long run the book, altogether peculiar in its stylistic and artistic character, cannot conceal its late origin: in the elevated classical style there quickly again intermingles that which is peculiar to the author, as representing the age in which he lived, e.g., Ecc 7:19; Ecc 10:2, Ecc 10:6, Ecc 10:8-10, Ecc 10:16., Ecc 11:3, Ecc 11:6. That in the age of the Mishna they knew how to imitate classic masterpieces, is seen from the beautiful enigma, in the form of a heptastich, by Bar-Kappara, jer. Mod katan iii. 1, and the elegy, in the form of a hexastich on the death of R. Abina, by Kar-Kippuk, b. Mod katan 25b.
(Note: Given and translated in Wissenschaft, Kunst, Judenthum (1838), p. 231f.)
One would thus be in error if he regarded such occasional classical pieces in the Book of Koheleth as borrowed. The book, however fragmentary it may seem to be on a superficial examination, is yet the product of one author.
(Note: Renan, in his Histoire des Langues Smitiques, supposes that a work of so bold a scepticism as Ecclesiastes could not have originated in the post-exilian period of the severely legal rabbinical Judaism; it may be an old Solomonic work, but as it now lies before us, revised by a more recent hand-an untenable expedient for establishing an arbitrary supposition.)
In its oratorical ground-form, and in the proverbs introduced into it, it is a side-piece to Prov 1-9. We have shown, in the introduction to the Book of Proverbs, that in these proverbial discourses which form the introduction to the older Solomonic Book of Proverbs, which was probably published in the time of Jehoshaphat, the Mashal appears already rhetorically decomposed. This decomposition is much further advanced in the Book of Ecclesiastes. To it is applicable in a higher degree what is there (Proverbs, p. 10f.) said of Prov 1-9. The distich is represented in the integral, Ecc 7:13, synonymous, Ecc 11:4, and synthetic, Ecc 7:1, and also, though rarely, in the antithetic form, Ecc 7:4; but of the emblematic form there is only one example, Ecc 10:1. The author never attempted the beautiful numerical and priamel forms; the proverbial form also, beyond the limits of the distich, loses the firmness of its outline. The tetrastich, Ecc 10:20, is, however, a beautiful exception to this. But splendour of form would not be appropriate to such a sombre work as this is. Its external form is truly in keeping with its spirit. In the checkered and yet uniform manner of the book is reflected the image of the author, who tried everything and yet was satisfied with nothing; who hastened from one thing to another because nothing was able to captivate him. His style is like the view he takes of the world, which in its course turned to him only its dark side. He holds fast to the fear of God, and hopes in a final judgment; but his sceptical world-sorrow remains unmitigated, and his forced eudaemonism remains without the right consecration: these two stars do not turn the night into day; the significance of the book, with reference to the history of redemption, consists in the actual proof that humanity, in order to its being set free from its unhappiness, needs to be illuminated by the sun of a new revelation. But although the manner of the author's representation is the reflection of his own inner relation to the things represented, yet here and there he makes his representation, not without consciousness and art, the picture of his own manner of thought. Thus, e.g., the drawling tautologies in Ecc 8:14; Ecc 9:9, certainly do not escape from him against his will. And as was rightly remarked under Gen 2:1-3, that the discourse there is extended, and forms itself into a picture of rest after the work of the creation, so Koheleth, in Ecc 1:4-11 and Ecc 12:2-7, shows himself a master of eloquence; for in the former passage he imitates in his style the everlasting unity of the course of the world, and in the latter he paints the exhausted and finally shattered life of man.
Not only, however, by the character of its thought and language and manner of representation, but also by other characteristic features, the book openly acknowledges that it was not written by Solomon himself, but by a Jewish thinker of a much later age, who sought to conceive of himself as in Solomon's position, and clothed his own life-experiences in the confessions of Solomon. The very title of the book does not leave us in doubt as to this. It is in these words: The words of Koheleth, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. The apposition, "king in Jerusalem," appertains, like e.g., Ch2 35:3, to the name of the speaker who is introduced; for nothing is here said as to the place in life held by David, but to that held by him who is thus figuratively named. The indeterminate "king" of itself would be untenable, as at Pro 31:1. As there the words "king of Massa" are to be taken together, so here "king" is determined by "in Jerusalem" added to it, so far that it is said what kind of king Koheleth was. That by this name Solomon is meant, follows, apart from Ecc 1:12., from this, that David had only one son who was king, viz., Solomon. The opinion of Krochmal, that a later David, perhaps a governor of Jerusalem during the Persian domination, is meant,
(Note: Vid., Kerem chemed v. 89, and his More necobhe ha-seman (Director errnatium nostrae aetatis), edited by Zunz, 1851, 4.)
is one of the many superfluities of this learned author. Koheleth is Solomon, but he who calls him "king in Jerusalem" is not Solomon himself. Solomon is called "king of Israel," e.g., Kg2 23:13; and as in Ecc 1:12 he names himself "king over Israel," so, Neh 13:26, he is called "king of Israel," and along with this designation, "king over all Israel;" but the title, "king in Jerusalem," nowhere else occurs. We read that Solomon "reigned in Jerusalem over all Israel," Kg1 11:42, cf. Kg1 14:21; the title, "king in Jerusalem," is quite peculiar to the title of the book before us. Eichhorn supposes that it corresponds to the time subsequent to the division of the kingdom, when there were two different royal residences; but against this view Bloch rightly remarks, that the contrasted "in Samaria" occurs only very rarely (as Kg2 14:23). We think that in this expression, "king in Jerusalem," there is revealed a time in which Israel had ceased to be an independent kingdom, in which Jerusalem was no more a royal city.
That the book was not composed immediately by Solomon, is indicated by the circumstance that he is not called Solomon, nor Jedidiah (Sa2 12:25), but is designated by a hitherto unheard of name, which, by its form, shows that it belongs, at earliest, to the Ezra-Nehemiah age, in which it was coined. We consider the name, first, without taking into account its feminine termination. In the Arab., ḳahal (cogn. ḳaḥal) signifies to be dry, hard, from the dryness and leather-like toughness of the skin of an old man; and, accordingly, Dindorf (Quomodo nomen Coheleth Salomoni tribuatur, (1791) and others understand Koheleth of an old man whose life is worn out; Coccejus and Schultens, with those of their school, understand it of the penitent who is dead to the world. But both views are opposed by this, that the form קהל (קהל, cf. כּהל) would be more appropriate; but above all by this, that קהל, in this meaning aridum, marcidum esse, is a verbal stem altogether foreign to the northern Semitic. The verb קהל signifies, in the Heb., Aram., and Assyr., to call (cf. the Syr. kahlonitho, a quarrelsome woman), and particularly to call together; whence קהל, of the same Sanscrit-Semit. root as the words εκ-κλη-σία and con-cil-ium,
(Note: Vid., Friedr. Delitzsch's Indogermanisch-Semitische Studien, p. 90.)
- an extension of the root קל, which, on another side, is extended in the Arab. ḳalaḥ, Aethiop. kaleḥa, to cry. This derivation of the name Koheleth shows that it cannot mean συναθροιστής (Grotius, not Aquila), in the sense of collector sententiarum; the Arab. translation alajam'at (also van Dyk) is faultless, because jam' can signify, to collect men as well as things together; but קהל is not used in that sense of in unum redigere. In close correspondence with the Heb. word, the lxx translates, ὁ ἐκκλησιαστής; and the Graec. Venet., ἡ ἐκκλησιάστρια (Ecc 12:9 : ἡ ἐκκλησιἀζουσα). But in the nearest signification, "the collector," this would not be a significant name for the king represented as speaking in this book. In Solomon's reign there occurred an epoch-making assembly in Jerusalem, Kg1 8:1; Ch2 5:2 - viz for the purpose of consecrating the temple. The O.T. does not afford any other historical reference for the name; for although, in Pro 5:14; Pro 26:26, בּקהל signifies coram populo, publice, yet it does not occur directly of the public appearance of Wisdom; the expressions for this are different, Pro 1:20., Ecc 8:1-4; Ecc 9:3, though cognate. But on that great day of the consecration of the temple, Solomon not only called the people together, but he also preached to them - he preached indirectly, for he consecrated the temple by prayer; and directly, for he blessed the people, and exhorted them to faithfulness, Kg1 8:55-61.
Thus Solomon appears not only as the assembler, but also as the preacher to those who were assembled; and in this sense of a teacher of the people (cf. Ecc 12:9), Koheleth is an appropriate name of the king who was famed for his wisdom and for his cultivation of the popular Mashal. It is known that in proper names the Kal is frequently used in the sense of the Hiph. thus Koheleth is not immediately what it may be etymologically = קרא, caller, proclaimer; but is = מקהלת, from הקהיל, to assemble, and to speak to the assembly, contionari; according to which Jerome, under Ecc 1:1, rightly explains: ἐκκλησιαστής, Graeco sermone appellatur qui coetum, id est ecclesiam congregat, quem nos nuncupare possumus contionatorem, eo quod loquatur ad populum et ejus sermo non specialiter ad unum, sed ad universos generaliter dirigatur. The interpretation: assembly = academy or collectivum, which Dderlein (Salomon's Prediger u. Hoheslied, 1784) and Kaiser (Koheleth, Das Collectivum der Davidischen Knige in Jerusalem, 1823), published, lightly disregards the form of the n. agentis; and Spohn's (Der Prediger Salomo, 1785) "O vanity of vanities, said the philosopher," itself belongs to the vanities.
Knobel in his Comm. (1836) has spoken excellently regarding the feminine form of the name; but when, at the close, he says: "Thus Koheleth properly signifies preaching, the office and business of the public speaker, but is then = קהל, מקהיל, public speaker before an assembly," he also, in an arbitrary manner, interchanges the n. agentis with the n. actionis. His remark, that "the rule that concreta, if they have a fem. termination, become abstraccta, must also hold for participia," is a statement that cannot be confirmed. As חתמת signifies that which impresses (a seal), and כּתרת that which twines about (chapiter), so also חברת, Exo 26:10, that which joins together (the coupling); one can translate such fem. particip., when used as substantives, as abstracta, e.g., כּלה (from כּלה), destruction, utter ruin; but they are abstracta in themselves as little as the neutra in τὸ ταὐτόν, which may be translated by "identity," or in immensum altitudinis, by immensity (in height). Also Arab names of men with fem. forms are concreta. To the participial form Koheleth correspond, for the most part, such names as (Arab.) rawiyaton, narrator of tradition (fem. of rawyn); but essentially cogn. also are such words as 'allamat, greatly learned man; also khalyfaton, which is by no means an inf. noun, like the Heb. חליפה, but is the fem. of the verbal adj. khalyf, successor, representative. The Arabic grammarians say that the fem. termination gives to the idea, if possible, a collective signification, e.g., jarrar, the puller, i.e., the drawer of a ship (Helciarius), and jarrarat, the multitude drawing, the company (taife) drawing the boat up the stream; or it also serves "as an exhaustive designation of the properties of the genus;" so that, e.g., ‛allamat means one who unites in himself that which is peculiar to the very learned, and represents in his own person a plurality of very learned men. They also say that the fem. termination serves in such cases to strengthen the idea. But how can this strengthening result from a change in the gender? Without doubt the fem. in such cases discharges the function of a neut.; and since doctissimus is heightened to doctissimum, it is thereby implied that such an one is a pattern of a learned man-the reality of the idea, or the realized ideal of such an one.
From these Arab. analogues respecting the import of the name Koheleth, it follows that the fem. is not to be referred to Chokma in such a way as that Solomon might be thereby designated as the representative, and, as it were, the incarnation of wisdom (Ewald, Hitzig, etc.), - an idea which the book by no means supports; for it the author had designed, in conformity with that signification of the name, to let Wisdom herself speak through Solomon's mouth, he would have let him speak as the author of Prov 1-9 speaks when he addresses the reader by the title, "my son," he would not have put expressions in his mouth such as Pro 1:16-18; Pro 7:23. One should not appeal to Ecc 7:27; for there, where the subject is the dangers of the love of women, Koheleth, in the sense of Wisdom preaching, is as little appropriate as elsewhere; just here as the masculine gender of the speaker to be accented, and Amrah Koheleth is thus an incorrect reading for Amar HakKoheleth (Ecc 12:8). The name Koheleth, without Chokma being supplied, is a man's name, of such recent formation as Sophereth, Neh 7:5, for which Ezr 2:55, Hassophereth; cf. also Ezr 2:57, 'פּך הץ. The Mishna goes yet further in the coining of such names for men generis fem. As it generally prefers to use the part. passivi in an active sense, e.g., סבוּר, thinking; רכוּב, riding; שׁתוּי, having drunk; so also it forms fem. plurals with a masculine signification, - as Hadruchoth, press-treaders, Terumoth iii. 4; Hammeshuhhoth, surveyors, Erubin iv. 11; Halleuzoth, speakers in a foreign tongue, Megilla ii. 1, - and construes these with mas. predicates.
(Note: Vid., Geiger, Lehrbuch, xvi. 6, and cf. Weiss' Studien, p. 90, who arbitrarily explains away this linguistic usage. Duke, in his Sprache der Mishna, p. 75, avoids the difficulty by the supposition of inadmissible ellipses.)
In these there can be nowhere anything said of a heightening of the idea effected by the transition to fem. forms. But the persons acting, although they are men, are thought of as neut.; and they appear, separated from the determination of their gender, as the representatives of the activity spoken of. According to this, Koheleth is, without regard to the gender, a preaching person. The Book of Koheleth thus bears, in its second word, as on its very forehead, the stamp of the Ezra-Nehemiah era to which it belongs.
As the woman of Endor, when she raised Samuel out of Hades at the request of Saul, sees "gods ascending out of the earth" (Sa1 28:13), so it is not the veritable Solomon who speaks in this book, but his spirit, for which this neut. name Koheleth is appropriate. When he says, Ecc 1:12, "I, Koheleth, have been king over Israel in Jerusalem," he recognises himself not as the reigning monarch, but as having been king. The Talmudic Aggada has joined to this הייתי, the fable that Solomon was compelled to descend from the throne on account of his transgression of the law, which was then occupied by an angel in his stead, but externally bearing his likeness; and that he now went about begging, saying: "I, Koheleth, have been king over Israel in Jerusalem;" but that they struck him with a stick, and set before him a plate of groats; for they said to him: "How canst thou speak thus? There the king sits in his palace on this throne."
(Note: Jer. Sanhedrin ii. 6 goes further into the story; b. Gittin 68b, where the angel is designated by the Persian name Ashmodee, cf. Jellinek's Sammlung kleiner Midrashim 2. xxvi.)
In this fiction there is at least grammatical intelligence. For it is a vain delusion for one to persuade himself that Solomon in his advanced age could say, with reference to the period of his life as ruler, "I have been king," fui rex - he was certainly always so during the forty years of his reign, and on to the last moment of his life. Or can the words מלך הייתי means sum rex? The case is as follows: הייתי is never the expression of the abstract present, or of existence without regard to time; "I am king" is expressed in this sense by the substantival clause ani mělěk. In every case where one can translate הייתי by "I am," e.g., Psa 88:5, the present being is thought of as the result of an historical past (sum = factus sum). But at the most, הייתי, when it looks from the present back upon the past, out of which it arose, signifies "I have become," Gen 32:11; Psa 30:8; Jer 20:7; or when it looks back into the past as such, "I have been," Jos 1:5; Jdg 12:2; Psa 37:25. Whether this word, in the former sense, corresponds to the Greek perfect, and in the latter to the Greek aorist, is determined only by the situation and connection. Thus in Exo 2:22 it signifies, "I have become a stranger" (γέγονα = εἰμί); while, on the other hand, in Deu 23:8, "thou hast been a stranger" (ἐγένου, fuisti). That where the future is spoken of, הייתי can, by virtue of the consecutio temporum, also acquire the meaning of "I shall become, I shall be," e.g., Kg1 1:21, cf. Ch1 19:12, is of no importance to us here. In the more modern language the more delicate syntax, as well as that idea of "becoming," primarily inherent in the verb היה, is disappearing, and הייתי signifies either the past purely, "I have been," Neh 13:6, or, though not so frequently, the past along with the present, "I was," e.g., Neh 1:11. Accordingly, Solomon while still living would be able to say מלך הייתי only in the sense of "I have become (and still am) king;" but that does not accord with the following retrospective perfects.
(Note: If ואתּן followed, then הייתי (as Reusch and Hengstenberg interpret) might be a circumstantial perfect; vid., under Gen 1:2.)
This also does not harmonize with the more modern linguistic usage which is followed by Koheleth, e.g., Ecc 1:9, מה־שׁ, id quod fuit; Ecc 1:10, היה כבד, pridem fuit. In conformity with this, the lxx translates הייתי by ἐγενόμην, and the Graec. Venet. by ὑπῆρξα. But "I have been king," Solomon, yet living, cannot say, only Salomo redivivus here introduced, as the preacher can use such an expression.
The epilogue, Ecc 12:9., also furnishes an argument in favour of the late composition of this book, on the supposition that it is an appendix, not by another hand, but by the author himself. But that it is from the author's own hand, and does not, as Grtz supposes, belong to the period in which the school of Hillel had established the canonicity of the book, follows from this, that it is composed in a style of Hebrew approaching that used in the Mishna, yet of an earlier date than the Mishna; for in the Talmuds it is, clause by clause, a subject of uncertain interpretation, - the language used is plainly, for the Talmudic authorities, one that is antiquated, the expressions of which, because not immediately and unambiguously clear, need, in order to their explanation, to be translated into the language then in use. The author of the book makes it thus manifest that here in the epilogue, as in the book itself, Solomon is intentionally called Koheleth; and that the manner of expression, as well as of the formation of the sentences in this epilogue, can in all particulars be supported from the book itself. In "fear God," Ecc 12:13, the saying in Ecc 5:6, which is similarly formed, is repeated; and "this is the whole of man," Ecc 12:13, a thought written as it were more in cipher than in extenso, is in the same style as Ecc 6:10. The word יותר ("moreover"), frequently used by the author and בעל, used in the formation of attributive names, Ecc 10:11, Ecc 10:20; Ecc 5:10, Ecc 5:12; Ecc 8:8, we meet with also here. And as at Ecc 12:9-11 a third idea connected ἀσυνδέτως follows two ideas connected by vav, so also at Ecc 1:7; Ecc 6:5. But if this epilogue is the product of the author's own hand, then, in meaning and aim, it presents itself as its sequel. The author says that the Koheleth who appears in this book as "wise" is the same who composed the beautiful people's-book Mishle; that he sought out not only words of a pleasing form, but also all words of truth; that the words of the wise are like goads and nails which stand in collected rows and numbers - they are given from one Shepherd. The author of the book thereby denotes that the sentences therein collected, even though they are not wholly, as they lie before us, the words of Solomon, yet that, with the Proverbs of Solomon, and of the wise men generally, they go back to one giver and original author. The epilogue thus, by its historic reference to Solomon, recognises the fiction, and gives the reader to understand that the book loses nothing in its value from its not having been immediately composed by Solomon.
Of untruthfulness, of a so-called pia fraus, we cannot therefore speak. From early times, within the sphere of the most ancient Israelitish authorship, it was regarded as a justifiable undertaking for an author to reproduce in a rhetorical or poetical form the thoughts and feelings of memorable personages on special occasions. The Psalter contains not a few psalms bearing the superscription le-David, which were composed not by David himself, but by unknown poets, placing themselves, as it were, in David's position, and representing him, such e.g., as 144, which in the lxx excellently bears the superscription pro's to'n Golia'd. The chronicler, when he seeks to give the reader an idea of the music at the festival of the consecration of the tabernacle and then of the completed temple, allows himself so great freedom, that he puts into the mouth of David the Beracha of the fourth book of the Psalms (Psa 106:48), along with the preceding verse of Ps 106 (Ch1 16:35.), and into Solomon's mouth verses of Ps 132 (Ch2 6:41.). And the prophetical discourses communicated in the O.T. historical books are certainly partly of this sort, that they either may be regarded as original, as e.g., Sa1 2:27., or must be so regarded, as 2 Kings 18-20; but not merely where the utterances of the prophets are in general terms reproduced, as at Jdg 6:8-10; Kg2 17:13; Kg2 21:10-15, but also elsewhere in most of the prophetic discourses which we read in the Books of Kings and Chronicles, the style of the historian makes itself perceptible. Consequently (as also Caspari in his work on the Syro-Ephraimite War, 1849, finds) the discourses in the Chronicles, apart from those which are common to them, bear an altogether different homogeneous character from those of the Book of Kings. It is the same as with the speeches, for instance, which are recorded in Thucydides, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Livy, and other Greek and Roman historians. Classen may be right in the opinion, that the speeches in Thucydides are not mere inventions, but that, nevertheless, as they lie before us, they are the work of the historian; even the letters that passed between Pausanias and Xerxes bear his stamp, although he composed them on the ground of the verbal reports of the Spartans. It is thus also in the speeches found in Tacitus. They are more Ciceronian than his own style is, and the discourses of Germans have less elaborated periods than those of the Romans; but so greatly was the writing of history by the ancients influenced by this custom of free reproduction, that even a speech of the Emperor Claudius, which is found engraven on brass, is given by Tacitus not in this its original, but in another and freer form, assimilated to his own manner of representation. So also sacred history, which in this respect follows the general ancient custom, depends not on the identity of the words, but of the spirit: it does not feign what it represents the historical person as saying, it follows traditions; but yet it is the power of its own subjectivity which thus recalls the past in all that was essential to it in actual life. The aim is not artistically to represent the imitation which is made as if it were genuine. The arts by which it is sought to impart to that which is introduced into a more recent period the appearance of genuineness, were unknown to antiquity. No pseudonymous work of antiquity shows any such imitation of an ancient style as, e.g., does Meinhold's Bernsteinhexe, or such a forgery as Wagenfeld's Sanchuniathon. The historians reproduce always in their own individual way, without impressing on the speeches of different persons any distinct individual character. They abstain from every art aimed at the concealment of the actual facts of the case. It is thus also with the author of the Book of Koheleth. As the author of the "Wisdom of Solomon" openly gives himself out to be an Alexandrian, who makes Solomon his organ, so the author of the Book of Koheleth is so little concerned purposely to veil the fiction of the Solomon-discourse, in which he clothes his own peculiar life-experiences, that he rather in diverse ways discovers himself as one and the same person with the Salomo redivivus here presenting himself.
We do not reckon along with these such proverbs as have for their object the mutual relationship between the king and his subjects, Ecc 8:3-5; Ecc 10:4, Ecc 10:16., 20, cf. Ecc 5:8; these do not betray in the speaker one who is an observer of rulers and not a ruler himself; for the two collections of "Proverbs of Solomon" in the Book of Proverbs contain a multitude of proverbs of the king, Pro 16:10, Pro 16:12-15; Pro 19:12; Pro 20:2, Pro 20:8, Pro 20:26, Pro 20:28; Pro 25:2-4., 6f., which, although objectively speaking of the king, may quite well be looked on as old Solomonic-for is there not a whole princely literature regarding princely government, as e.g., Friedrich II's Anti-Machiavel? But in the complaints against unrighteous judgment, Ecc 3:16; Ecc 4:1; Ecc 5:7, one is to be seen who suffers under it, or who is compelled to witness it without the power to change it; they are not appropriate in the mouth of the ruler, who should prevent injustice. It is the author himself who here puts his complaints into the mouth of Solomon; it is he who has to record life-experiences such as Ecc 10:5-7. The time in which he lived was one of public misgovernment and of dynastic oppression, in contrast with which the past shone out in a light so much the rosier, Ecc 7:10, and it threw long dark shadows across his mind when he looked out into the world, and mediately also upon the confessions of his Koheleth. This Koheleth is not the historical Solomon, but an abstraction of the historical; he is not the theocratic king, but the king among the wise men; the actual Solomon could not speak, Ecc 2:18, of the heir to his throne as of "the man that shall be after him," - and he who has led astray by his wives into idolatry, and thus became an apostate (Kg1 11:4), must have sounded an altogether different note of penitential contrition from that which we read at Ecc 7:26-28. This Solomon who tasted all, and in the midst of his enjoyment maintained the position of a wise man (Ecc 2:9), is described by the author of this book from history and from sayings, just as he needs him, so as to make him an organ of himself; and so little does he think of making the fiction an illusion difficult to be seen through, that he represents Koheleth, Ecc 1:16; Ecc 2:7, Ecc 2:9, as speaking as if he had behind him a long line of kings over the whole of Israel and Judah, while yet not he, but the author of the book, who conceals himself behind Salomo redivivus, could look back on such a series of kings in Jerusalem.
When did this anonymous author, who speaks instead of his Solomon, live and write? Let us first of all see what conclusion may be gathered regarding the book from the literary references it contains. In its thoughts, and in the form of its thoughts, it is an extremely original work. It even borrows nothing from the Solomonic Book of Proverbs, which in itself contains so many repetitions; proverbs such as Pro 7:16-18 and Pro 3:7 are somewhat like, but only accidentally. On the contrary, between Ecc 5:14 and Job 1:21, as well as between Job 7:14 and Job 2:10, there undoubtedly exists some kind of connection; here there lie before us thoughts which the author of the Book of Koheleth may have read in the Book of Job, and have quoted them from thence - also the mention of an untimely birth, Ecc 6:3, cf. Job 3:16, and the expression "one among a thousand," Ecc 7:28, cf. Job 9:3; Job 33:23, may perhaps be reminiscences from the Book of Job occurring unconsciously to the author. This is not of any consequence as to the determination of the time of the composition of the Book of Koheleth, for the Book of Job is in any case much older. Dependence on the Book of Jeremiah would be of greater importance, but references such as Jer 7:2, cf. Jer 16:8; Jer 9:11, cf. Jer 9:22, are doubtful, and guide to no definite conclusion. And who might venture, with Hitzig, to derive the golden lamp, Ecc 12:10, from the vision of Zac 4:2, especially since the figure in the one place has an altogether different signification from what it has in the other? But we gain a more certain terminus a quo by comparing Ecc 5:5 with Mal 2:7. Malachi there designates the priests as messengers (delegated) of Jahve of hosts, along with which also there is the designation of the prophets as God's messengers, Ecc 3:1; Hag 1:13. With the author of the Book of Koheleth "the messenger" is already, without any name of God being added, a priestly title not to be misunderstood; מלאך (messenger)
(Note: Vid., my dissertation: Die Discussion der Amtsfrage im Mishna u. Gemara, in the Luth. Zeitschrift 1854, pp. 446-449.)
denotes the priest as vicarius Dei, the delegate of God, שׁלוח דרחמנא, according to the later title (Kiddushin 23b). And a terminus ad quem, beyond which the reckoning of the time of its composition cannot extend, is furnished by the "Wisdom of Solomon," which is not a translation, but a work written originally in Alexandrine Greek; for that this book is older than the Book of Koheleth, as Hitzig maintains, is not only in itself improbable, since the latter shows not a trace of Greek influence, but in the light of the history of doctrine is altogether impossible, since it represents, in the history of the development of the doctrine of wisdom and the last things, the stage immediately preceding the last b.c., as Philo does the last; it is not earlier than the beginning of the persecution of the Jews by the Egyptians under Ptolemy VII, Physkon (Joseph. c. Ap. ii. 5), and at all events was written before Philo, since the combination of the Sophia and the Logos is here as yet incomplete. This Book of Wisdom must stand in some kind of historical relation to the Book of Koheleth. The fact that both authors make King Solomon the organ of their own peculiar view of the world, shows a connection that is not accidental. Accident is altogether excluded by the circumstance that the Alexandrian author stands in the same relation to the Palestinian that James stands in to the Pauline letters. As James directs himself not so much against Paul as against a Paulinism misleading to fatal consequences, so that Book of Wisdom is certainly not directly a work in opposition to the Book of Koheleth, as is assumed by J. E. Ch. Schmidt (Salomo's Prediger, 1794), Kelle (Die salom. Schriften, 1815), and others; but, as Knobel and Grimm assert, against a one-sided extreme interpretation of views and principles as set forth by Koheleth, not without an acquaintance with this book. The lovers of pleasure, who speak in Wisd. 2:1-9, could support that saying by expressions from the Book of Koheleth, and the concluding words there sound like an appropriation of the words of Koheleth Ecc 3:22; Ecc 5:17 (cf. lxx); it is true they break off the point of the Book of Koheleth, for the exhortation to the fear of God, the Judge of the world, is not echoed; but to break off this point did not lie remote, since the old Chokma watchword, "fear God," hovered over the contents of the book rather than penetrated them. It is as if the author of the Book of Wisdom, 1-5, wished to show to what danger of abuse in the sense of a pure materialistic eudaemonism the wisdom presented in the Book of Koheleth is exposed. But he also opposes the pessimistic thoughts of Koheleth in the decided assertions of the contrary: (1) Koheleth says: "There is one event to the righteous and to the wicked," Ecc 9:2; but he says: there is a difference between them wide as the heavens, Wisd. 3:2f., 4:7; 5:15f.; (2) Koheleth says: "He that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow," 1:18; but he says: wisdom bringeth not sorrow, but pure joy with it, Wisd. 8:16; (3) Koheleth says that wisdom bringeth neither respect nor favour, Ecc 9:11; but he says: it brings fame and honour, Wisd. 8:10; (4) Koheleth says: "There is no remembrance of the wise more than of the fool for ever," Ecc 2:16; but he says of wisdom in contrast to folly: "I shall obtain by it a deathless name, and shall leave to my descendants an everlasting remembrance," Wisd. 8:13.
The main distinction between the two books lies in this, that the comfortless view of Hades running through the Book of Koheleth is thoroughly surmounted by a wonderful rising above the O.T. standpoint by the author of the Book of Wisdom, and that hence there is in it an incomparably more satisfying Theodicee (cf. Wisd. 12:2-18 with Ecc 7:15; Ecc 8:14), and a more spiritual relation to this present time (cf. Wisd. 8:21; 9:17, with Ecc 2:24; Ecc 3:13, etc.). The "Wisdom of Solomon" has indeed the appearance of an anti-Ecclesiastes, a side-piece to the Book of Koheleth, which aims partly at confuting it, partly at going beyond it; for it represents, in opposition to Koheleth not rising above earthly enjoyment with the But of the fear of God, a more ideal, more spiritual Solomon. If Koheleth says that God "hath made everything beautiful in his time," Ecc 3:11, and hath made mad upright, Ecc 7:29; so, on the other hand, Solomon says that He hath made all things εἰς τὸ εἶναι, Wisd. 1:14, and hath made man ἐπ ̓ ἀφθαρσίᾳ, 2:23. There are many such parallels, e.g., Ecc 5:9, cf. Koh. Ecc 8:13, Ecc 8:5, cf. Koh. Ecc 7:12; Ecc 9:13-16, cf. Koh. Ecc 3:10., but particularly Solomon's confession, 7:1-21, with that of Koheleth, Ecc 1:12-18. Here, wisdom appears as a human acquisition; there (which agrees with Kg1 3:11-13), as a gracious gift obtained in answer to prayer, which brings with it all that can make happy. If one keeps in his eye this mutual relation between the two books, there can be no doubt as to which is the older and which the younger. In the Book of Koheleth the Old Covenant digs for itself its own grave. It is also a "school-master to Christ," in so far as it awakens a longing after a better Covenant than the first.
(Note: Vid., Oehler's Theol. des A.T., II, p. 324.)
But the Book of Wisdom is a precursor of this better covenant. The composition of the Book of Koheleth falls between the time of Malachi, who lived in the time of Nehemiah's second arrival at Jerusalem, probably under Darius Nothus (423-405 b.c.), and the Book of Wisdom, which at the earliest was written under Ptolemy Physkon (145-117), when the O.T. was already for the most part translated into the Greek language.
(Note: Cf. Wisd 2:12a with Isa 3:10, lxx, and Wisd 15:10a with Isa 44:20, lxx.)
Hitzig does not venture to place the Book of Koheleth so far back into the period of the Ptolemies; he reaches with his chain of evidence only the year 204, that in which Ptolemy Epiphanes (204-181), gained, under the guardianship of the Romans, the throne of his father, - he must be the minor whom the author has in his eye, Rom 10:16. But the first link of his chain of proof is a falsum. For it is not true that Ptolemy Lagus was the first ruler who exacted from the Jews the "oath of God," Ecc 8:2, i.e., the oath of fidelity; for Josephus (Antt. xii. 1. 1) says directly, that Ptolemy Lagus did this with reference to the fidelity with which the Jews had kept to Alexander the Macedonian the oath of allegiance they had sworn to Darius, which he particularly describes, Antt. xi. 8. 3; besides, the covenant, e.g., Sa2 5:3, concluded in the presence of Jahve with their own native kings included in it the oath of allegiance, and the oath of vassalage which, e.g., Zedekiah swore to Nebuchadnezzar, Ch2 36:13, cf. Eze 17:13-19, had at the same time binding force on the citizens of the state that was in subjection. Also that "the oath of God" must mean the oath of allegiance sworn to a foreign ruler, and not that sworn to a native ruler, which would rather be called "the oath of Jahve," does not stand the test: the author of the Book of Koheleth drives the cosmopolitism of the Chokma so far, that he does not at all make use of the national name of God connected with the history of redemption, and Nehemiah also, Neh 13:25, uses an oath "of God" where one would have expected an oath "of Jahve." The first link of Hitzig's chain of proof, then, shows itself on all sides to be worthless. The author says, Ecc 8:2, substantially the same as Paul, Rom 13:5, that one ought to be subject to the king, not only from fear of punishment, but for conscience' sake.
Thus, then, Ecc 8:10 will also stand without reference to the carrying away of the Jews captive by Ptolemy Lagus, especially since the subject there is by no means that of a mass-deportation; and, besides, those who were carried into Egypt by Lagus were partly from the regions round about Jerusalem, and partly from the holy city itself (Joseph. Antt. 12. 1. 1). And the old better times, Ecc 7:10, were not those of the first three Ptolemies, especially since there are always men, and even in the best and most prosperous times, who praise the old times at the expense of the new. And also women who were a misfortune to their husbands or lovers there have always been, so that in Ecc 7:26 one does not need to think of that Agathoclea who ruled over Ptolemy Philopator, and even had in her hands the power of life and death.
Passages such as Ecc 7:10 and Ecc 7:26 afford no help in reference to the chronology. On the other hand, the author in Ecc 9:13-16 relates, to all appearance, what he himself experienced. But the little city is certainly not the fortified town of Dora, on the sea-coast to the west of Carmel, which was besieged by Antiochus the Great (Polybius, v. 66) in the year 218, as at a later period, in the year 138, it was by Antiochus VII, Sidetes (Joseph. Bell. i. 2. 2); for this Dora was not then saved by a poor wise man within it, - of whom Polybius knows nothing, - but "by the strength of the place, and the help of those with Nicholaus." A definite historical event is also certainly found in Ecc 4:13-16. Hitzig sees in the old foolish king the spiritually contracted, but so much the more covetous, high priest Onias, under Ptolemy Euergetes; and in the poor but wise youth, Joseph (the son of Tobias), who robbed Onias of his place in the state, and raised himself to the office of general farmer of taxes. But here nothing agrees but that Onias was old and foolish, and that Joseph was then a young wise man (Joseph. Antt. xii. 4. 2); of the poverty of the latter nothing is heard-he was the nephew of Onias. And besides, he did not come out of the house "of prisoners" (הסוּרים); this word is pointed by Hitzig so as to mean, out of the house "of fugitives" (הסּוּרים), perhaps, as he supposes, an allusion to the district Φιχόλα, which the author thus interprets as if it were derived from φεύγειν. Historical investigation has here degenerated into the boldest subjectivism. The Heb. tongue has never called "fugitives" הסורים; and to whom could the Heb. word פיקולה (cf. Berachoth 28b) suggest - as Φύγελα did to Pliny and Mela - the Greek φεύγειν!
We have thus, in determining the time of the authorship of this book, to confine ourselves to the period subsequent to the Diadochs. It may be regarded as beyond a doubt that it was written under the Persian domination. Kleinert (Der Prediger Salomo, 1864) is in general right in saying that the political condition of the people which the book presupposes, is that in which they are placed under Satraps; the unrighteous judgment, Ecc 3:16; and the despotic oppression, Ecc 4:1; Ecc 8:9; Ecc 5:7; the riotous court-life, Ecc 10:16-19; the raising of mean men to the highest places of honour, Ecc 10:5-7; the inexorable severity of the law of war-service, Ecc 8:8;
(Note: Vid., Herod. iv. 84, vii. 38f.)
the prudence required by the organized system of espionage
(Note: Vid., Duncker's Gesch. des Alterthums, Bd. 2 (1867), p. 894.)
existing at such a time, - all these things were characteristic of this period. But if the Book of Koheleth is not at all older than Malachi, then it was written somewhere within the last century of the Persian kingdom, between Artaxerxes I, Longimanus (464-424), and Darius Codomannus (335-332): the better days for the Jewish people, of the Persian supremacy under the first five Achaemenides, were past (Ecc 7:10).
Indeed, in Ecc 6:3 there appear to be reminiscences of Artaxerxes II, Mnemon (died about 360), who was 94 years old, and, according to Justin (x. 1), had 115 sons, and of Artaxerxes III, Ochus his successor, who was poisoned by the chief eunuch Bagoas, who, according to Aelian, Var. Hist. vi. 8, threw his (Ochus') body to the cats, and caused sword-handles to be made from his bones. The book altogether contains many examples to which concrete instances in the Persian history correspond, from which they might be abstracted, in which strict harmony on all sides with historical fact is not to be required, since it did not concern the author. The event recorded Ecc 4:13. refers to Cyrus rising to the supremacy of world-ruler (after dispossessing the old Median King Astyages), who left
(Note: According to Nicolaus of Damascus (Mller's Fragm. hist. Graec. III 398), Cyrus was the child of poor parents; by "prison-house" (Ecc 4:14), reference is made to his confinement in Persia, where access to him was prevented by guards (Herod. i. 123). Justin, i. 5: "A letter could not be openly brought to him, since the guards appointed by the king kept possession of all approaches to him.")
nothing but misery to posterity. Such a rich man as is described in Ecc 6:2, who had to leave all his treasures to a stranger, was Croesus, to whom Solon, as Ecc 7:8 (cf. Herod. i. 32, 86), said that no one ought to be praised before his end. A case analogous at least to Ecc 9:14-16, was the deliverance of Athens by the counsel of Themistocles (Justin, ii. 12), who finally, driven from Athens, was compelled to seek the protection of the Persian king, and ended his life in despair.
(Note: Vid., Spiegel's Ernische Alterthumskunde, II pp. 409, 413. Bernstein suggests the deliverance of Potidea (Herod. viii. 128) or Tripolis (Diodor. xvi. 41); but neither of these cities owed its deliverance to the counsel of a wise man. Burger (Comm. in Ecclesiasten, 1864) thinks, with greater probability, of Themistocles, who was celebrated among the Persians (Thucyd. i. 138), which Ewald also finds most suitable, provided the author had a definite fact before his eye.)
If we were not confined, for the history of the Persian kingdom and its provinces, from Artaxerxes I to the appearance of Alexander of Macedon, to only a few and scanty sources of information (we know no Jewish events of this period, except the desecration of the temple by Bagoses, described by Josephus, Antt. xi. 7), we might probably be better able to understand many of the historical references of the Book of Koheleth. We should then be able to say to whom the author refers by the expression, "Woe to thy land when thy king is a child," Ecc 10:16; for Artaxerxes I, who, although only as yet a boy at the time of the murder of his father Xerxes (Justin, iii. 1), soon thereafter appeared manly enough, cannot be thought of. We should then, perhaps, be also in possession of the historical key to Ecc 8:10; for with the reference to the deportation of many thousands of Jewish prisoners (Josephus, c. Ap. i. 22) - which, according to Syncellus and Orosius, must have occurred under Artaxerxes III, Ochus - the interpretation of that passage does not accord.
(Note: Vid., Bernstein's Quaestiones Kohelethanae, p. 66.)
We should then also, perhaps, know to what political arrangement the author points when he says, Ecc 7:19, that wisdom is a stronger protection to a city than "ten mighty men;" Grtz refers this to the decuriones of the Roman municipal cities and colonies; but probably it refers to the dynasties
(Note: Vid., Duncker's Gesch. des Alterthums, II p. 910.)
(cf. Assyr. salat, governor) placed by the Persian kings over the cities of conquered countries. And generally, the oppressed spirit pervading the book would be so much clearer if we knew more of the sacrifices which the Jewish people in the later time of the Persians had to make, than merely that the Phoenicians, at the same time with "The Syrians in Palestine," had to contribute (Herod. vii. 87) to Xerxes for his Grecian expedition three hundred triremes; and also that the people who "dwelt in the Solymean mountains" had to render him assistance in his expedition against Greece (Joseph. c. Ap. i. 22).
The author was without doubt a Palestinian. In Eccl 4:17 he speaks of himself as dwelling where the temple was, and also in the holy city, Ecc 8:10; he lived, if not actually in it, at least in its near neighbourhood, Ecc 10:15; although, as Kleinert remarks, he appears, Ecc 11:1, to make use of a similitude taken from the corn trade of a seaport town. From Ecc 4:8 the supposition is natural that he was alone in the land, without children or brothers or sisters; but from the contents and spirit of the whole book, it appears more certain that, like his Koheleth, he was advanced in years, and had behind him a long checkered life. The symptoms of approaching death presenting themselves in old age, which he describes to the young, Ecc 12:2., he probably borrowed from his own experience. The whole book bears the marks of age, - a production of the Old Covenant which was stricken in age, and fading away.
The literature, down to 1860, of commentaries and monographs on the Book of Koheleth is very fully set forth in the English Commentary of Ginsburg, and from that time to 1867, in Zckler's Commentary, which forms a part of Lange's Bibelwerk. Keil's Einleitung, 3rd ed. 1873, contains a supplement to these, among which, however, the Bonner Theolog. Literaturblatt, 1874, Nr. 7, misses Pusey's and Reusch's (cf. the Tbingen Theol. Quartalschrift, 1860, pp. 430-469). It is not possible for any man to compass this literature. Aedner's Catalogue of the Hebrew books in the Library of the British Museum, 1867, contains a number of Jewish commentaries omitted by Ginsburg and Zckler, but far from all. For example, the Commentary of Ahron B. Josef (for the first time printed at Eupatoria, 1834) now lies before me, with those of Moses Frankel (Dessau, 1809), and of Samuel David Luzzatto, in the journal, Ozar Nechmad 1864. Regarding the literature of English interpretation, see the American translation, by Tayler Lewis (1870), of Zckler's Commentary. The catalogue there also is incomplete, for in 1873 a Commentary by Thomas Pelham Dale appeared; and a Monograph on Ecc 12:1-14, under the title of The Dirge of Coheleth, by the Orientalist C. Taylor, appeared in 1874. The fourth volume of the Speaker's Commentary contains a Commentary on the Song by Kingsbury, and on Ecclesiastes by W. T. Bullock, who strenuously maintains its Solomonic authorship. The opinion that the book represents the conflict of two voices, the voice of true wisdom and that of pretended wisdom, has lately found advocates not only in a Hebrew Commentary by Ephraim Hirsch (Warsaw, 1871), but also in the article "Koheleth" by Schenkel in his Bibellexikon (vol. III, 1871). For the history and refutation of this attempt to represent the book in the form of a dialogue, we might refer to Zckler's Introd. to his Commentary.
The old translations have been referred to at length by Ginsburg. Frederick Field, in his Hexapla (Poet. vol. 1867), has collected together the fragments of the Greek translations. Ge. Janichs, in his Animadversiones criticae (Breslau, 1871), has examined the Peshito of Koheleth and Ruth; vid., with reference thereto, Nldeke's Anzeige in the Liter. Centralblatt 1871, Nr. 49, and cf. Middeldorpf's Symbolae exegetico-criticae ad librum Ecclesiastis, 1811. The text of the Graecus Venetus lies before us now in a more accurate form than that by Villoison (1784), in Gebhardt's careful edition of certain Venetian manuscripts (Leipzig, Brockhaus 1874), containing this translation of the O.T. books.