XVI. The Conclusion (12:9–14)

Since Qoheleth begins this book with an emphasis on the meaninglessness of life (1:2), it is argued that v. 8, where this same emphasis is found, is his conclusion. The book is thus framed by this negative assessment of life. Such a position treats vv. 9-14 as a postscript from the hand of a different writer who seeks to add an orthodox dimension to the book. While that is possible, it is also feasible that, in keeping with his use of polarities throughout the book, Qoheleth in these verses is again presenting a contrasting view.

He states that he has carefully pondered, searched out, and arranged his material (v. 9). His arrangement may suggest the juxtapositioning of ideas. He admits that his material is pointed, having a twofold effect: prodding the mind and the will and remaining in the memory. Indeed, he succeeds in making us both uncomfortable and mindful.

While life from some vantage points may seem meaningless, the fact that it is ultimately subject to divine scrutiny gives it meaning (v. 14). Humankind's wholeness (the word “duty” is not in the Hebrew text, leaving the wholeness undefined) is to be found in worship (fear God) and conduct (keep his commandments). In all stages and events of life the human creature is to reverence God and obey him. The all of human life stands in sharp contrast to the all of vanity. Here we find meaning and purpose. If the deeds of life are deemed consequential enough by God to be judged, then life can never be without significance (v. 14).

Bibliography

Barton, George A. The Book of Ecclesiastes. ICC. New York: Scribner, 1908.

Bullock, C. Hassell. An Introduction to the Old Testament Poetic Books. Chicago: Moody, 1979.

Delitzsch, Franz. The Song of Songs and Ecclesiastes. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1950.

Gordis, Robert. Koheleth—The Man and His World. New York: Schocken, 1968.

Kidner, Derek. A Time to Mourn, and a Time to Dance. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1976.

Murphy, Roland E. Wisdom Literature: Job, Proverbs, Ruth, Canticles, Ecclesiastes, Esther (The Forms of Old Testament Literature). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1981.

Rylaarsdam, J. C. Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon. LBC. Richmond: John Knox, 1964.

Scott, R. B. Y. Proverbs, Ecclesiastes. AB. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1965.

Short, Robert. A Time to Be Born—A Time to Die. New York: Harper & Row, 1973.
Selected Articles

Armstrong, James F. “Ecclesiastes in Old Testament Theology.” Princeton Seminary Bulletin 94 (1983): 16-25.

Bergant, Diane. “What's the Point of It All?” The Bible Today 22 (1984): 75-78.

Glasson, T. Francis. “‘You Never Know’: The Message of Ecclesiastes 11:1-16.” Evangelical Quarterly 60 (1983): 43-48.

Rainey, A. F. “A Study of Ecclesiastes.” Concordia Theological Monthly 35 (1964): 148-57.

Sheppard, H. “The Epilogue to Qoheleth as Theological Commentary.” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 39 (1977): 182-89.