A Good Resource on Ecclesiastes

Michael V. Fox’s JPS commentary on Ecclesiastes is a helpful Jewish resource on this difficult OT wisdom book.  As with the other JPS commentaries, there is the Hebrew text along with translation and commentary.  Here are a few quotes I thought were helpful (taken from the introduction).

“Ecclesiastes is a strange and disquieting book.  It gives voice to an experience not usually thought of as religious: the pain and frustration engendered by an unblinking gaze at life’s absurdities and injustices.  The man speaking in Ecclesiastes, ‘Koheleth,’ sees things that are distressing to observe: the distortions and inequities that pervade the world; the ineffectuality of human deeds; the frailty and limitations of human wisdom and righteousness.  This awareness coexists with a firm belief in God – whose power, justice, and unpredictability are sovereign.”

“Koheleth’s discourse is reflexive.  He looks at himself and reports what he planned, did, experienced, and thought.  Some of his feelings and thoughts may be temporary and transitional, left behind at a more mature stage in Koheleth’s development, as when he says that he had earlier come to loathe life (2:17; cf. 4:3).  He bares his soul in all its twistings and turnings, ups and downs, taking his readers with him on a sometimes arduous journey to knowledge – a knowledge that turns out to be very incomplete.  Thus his readers are not only to absorb Koheleth’s teachings, they are also to observe him as he walks a rocky and winding path toward understanding and acceptance of life’s frustrations and uncertainties.  The journey itself is important.”

I don’t agree with everything in Fox’s commentary, and I’m glad I have Christian commentaries as other resources, but I do recommend it for those who want to study Ecclesiastes in some detail.

shane lems

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