Shepherding Wind And One Wise Shepherd: Grasping For Breath In Ecclesiastes -- By: Jason S. Derouchie

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 15:3 (Fall 2011)
Article: Shepherding Wind And One Wise Shepherd: Grasping For Breath In Ecclesiastes
Author: Jason S. Derouchie

Shepherding Wind And One Wise Shepherd: Grasping For Breath In Ecclesiastes1

Jason S. DeRouchie

Jason S. DeRouchie is Associate Professor of Old Testament at Bethlehem College and Seminary in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Prior to this he served as Assistant Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at Northwestern College in St. Paul, Minnesota. Dr. DeRouchie received his Ph.D. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author (with Duane A. Garrett) of A Modern Grammar for Biblical Hebrew (B&H, 2009) and A Call to Covenant Love: Text, Grammar, and Literary Structure in Deuteronomy 5-11 (Gorgias, 2007).


Of the book of Ecclesiastes, James L. Crenshaw once wrote:

Life is profitless, totally absurd. This oppressive message lies at the heart of the Bible’s strangest book. Enjoy life if you can, advises the author, for old age will soon overtake you. And even as you enjoy, know that the world is meaningless. Virtue does not bring reward. The deity stands distant, abandoning humanity to chance and death. These views contrast radically with earlier teachings expressed in the book of Proverbs.2

When put in this light, Ecclesiastes is a difficult read for the Christian.3 In the quote above, Crenshaw suggests that this unique book represents an “intellectual crisis” in ancient Israel’s wisdom tradition by which earlier optimistic claims are given a necessary corrective.4

Many have affirmed that Qoheleth (the Hebrew name for the writer of Ecclesiastes) is a skeptic, fatalist, and agnostic, who questions the benefits of wisdom and the meaningfulness of life.5 For example, the conservative Tremper Longman III affirms that Qoheleth’s message is wholly pessimistic and stands in contrast to the orthodox wisdom teaching of the rest of the Old Testament.6 For Longman, the book includes two disparate voices, the main voice of Qoheleth providing a literary foil or contrast to the true message preserved in the epilogue’s call to fear God and keep his commandments (Eccl 12:13-14): “Just as in the book of Job, most of the book of Ecclesiastes is composed of the nonorthodox speeches of the human participants of the book, speeches that are torn down and demolished in the end.”7 A number of well-known contemporary ...

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