The Presence Of Genesis In Ecclesiastes -- By: Matthew Seufert

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 78:1 (Spring 2016)
Article: The Presence Of Genesis In Ecclesiastes
Author: Matthew Seufert

The Presence Of Genesis In Ecclesiastes

Matthew Seufert

Matthew Seufert is a PhD candidate in Old Testament at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY.


The context of a piece of literature is almost as important as the literature itself. As with all literature, an understanding of the context(s) of Ecclesiastes illuminates the book. Scholars consistently recognize the importance of Egyptian and Mesopotamian wisdom texts, among others, for the interpretation of the book.1 This article occupies itself with another of the backgrounds in Ecclesiastes: the early chapters of the Book of Genesis (chs. 1–3).

This last background has not permeated scholarship on Ecclesiastes to the extent of the others. Though all scholars, so far as I know, acknowledge some relationship between the two books, a noticeable portion of them afford Genesis a very small place within Ecclesiastes. Contrary to this tendency, it is the contention of this article that the early chapters of Genesis pervade the Book of Ecclesiastes. While the interpretational influence of this background both for particular verses and the book as a whole deserves its own study, interpretational concerns arise throughout the present article, and the closing offers some brief analysis of the presented material towards an understanding of the influence of the presence of Genesis on Ecclesiastes.

I. Scholarship In Review

As already mentioned, this article is not the first to suggest the use of Genesis in Ecclesiastes. Nearly every commentator recognizes some relationship between the two. The acknowledged presence, though, varies greatly in degree.

On the one side of the spectrum are Diethelm Michel and Elizabeth Huwiler. In Michel’s interaction with Charles Forman and Hans Hertzberg, who both argue for a widespread presence of Genesis in Ecclesiastes, he concedes to a single occurrence where the vocabulary usage in Ecclesiastes is best explained

by a Genesis influence.2 As for the other apparent associations claimed by Forman and Hertzberg, he attributes them to common ideas and vocabulary which any individual of the same religious tradition would share. Thus, the early chapters of Genesis have no essential function for Qoheleth’s content.3 Huwiler’s brief commentary makes only one Genesis reference (הבל=Abel).4 For Michel ...

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