February 18, 2009

Vanity of Vanities, Saith the Preacher; All is Vanity

One of the classes I am taking this semester is a class in Hermeneutics. What is hermeneutics you may be asking?

Well, Dictionary.com provides two definition examples of this word and they are: 1) the science of interpretation, esp. of the Scriptures and 2) the branch of theology that deals with the principles of Biblical exegesis.

Now the other new word in there, exegesis, what does that mean? Exegesis is defined as a critical explanation or analysis, especially of a text.

Why are both of these terms important may be another question you are asking? Hermeneutics and Exegesis are extremely important regarding the Bible because the Scriptures must be correctly interpreted to the congregation, so that they may have a broader and deeper understanding of God's Holy Word.

Not only that, but what must be ensured is that the preacher does not make the text or passage of Scripture say what it did not mean to the people in ancient biblical days. Then it is the preacher's responsibility to put the text or passage of Scripture into a correct context how the text or passage applies to our present day lives today.

Anyone can read a text or passage of Scripture at face value and be able to grasp a little bit of what it means. But correctly interpreting a text or passage is not exclusively the responsibility of the preacher, but it is also the responsibility of the congregation too. When there is a broader and deeper understanding of a text or passage of Scripture, it strengthens a person spiritually and increases their knowledge regarding the Bible so that they too may be able to help someone else understand a text or passage correctly and biblically.

Philip had done this to the Ethiopia man, a eunuch where he preached Jesus to him from the Scripture he was reading, Isaiah 53:7,8. (Acts 8:26-40)

So my assignment was to write an interpretation of Ecclesiastes 12:6-8 using interpretive steps taught in the class regarding Poetry and Wisdom literature and utilizing related commentary to come to my conclusion.

My professor for this class is Dr. Stephen Bailey and photo of his comment and my grade are posted at the end of this post.

I hope you are blessed by this as much as I was during my time to study and complete this written assignment.

Any comments you have regarding this work may be at the end of the post via the comments link.

Ecclesiastes 12:6-8, KJV

6Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern. 7Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it. 8Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity.

Solomon wrote a lengthy memoir regarding the vanities of life in relation to all that he had accumulated in material possessions and all of the wisdom of the world that he could know. He wrote an extensive list of things that once seemed of great value to him, but he eventually realized that to have everything amounts to nothing when the end of life comes. When death comes and it comes for every person, we will leave this life in the same manner that we have entered it, naked and with nothing, (Ecclesiastes 5:15).

The silver cord and golden bowl appear to refer to the process of aging and death, according to Walton, Matthews & Chavalas.
[1] These items, the cord and the bowl, are illustrative examples that every person will one day come to the end of their life and be separated from this world for all of eternity. The silver cord can represent anything that a person may be attached to in this world, whether it be material possessions, wealth, professional or academic achievements or even people, particularly the loved ones of our family.

Solomon wrote, “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth,” (Ecclesiastes 12:1) like an old man sharing his age old wisdom to those of their youth that a person should never be taken away from the knowledge of God as He was introduced in the early days of their childhood. It is somewhat easier to remain focused on God as a young person since there are few distractions that compete for attention at a young age, yet as a person gets older, distractions begin to become greater and greater to the point where a person is so consumed with everything else in this world, God is nowhere to be found. He is forgotten and then disappointedly look back and recognize that all has been vanity, because he failed to fear God and keep His commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

Matthew Henry symbolizes the pitcher, cistern and the broken wheel at the cistern, as the organs of the human body that one day will become frail and ceases to function effectively for the sustainment of life
[2]. Feeble, weak and easily prone to injury or breakage, due to the frailness of our human body in old age. Many will try to preserve themselves by human effort to retain a youthful appearance, but underneath it is wasting away.

7Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.

Just as when Adam was created from the dust of the earth (Genesis 2:7), so too will our human bodies return to the dust of the earth (Genesis 3:19). What will eternal life be then? Where will it be? Where will we go? As Solomon alluded to in verse 6, there will be separation from this world as the soul leaves the body, the body returns to the dust and the spirit returns to God. Will there be a judgment then concerning one’s life at that point before God? The answer is yes, “Because to every purpose there is time and judgment, therefore the misery of man is great upon him.” (Ecclesiastes 8:6). Will the spirit of man be in misery to stand before God to give an account of their life at that time? Will they look back with regret for how foolishly they had lived and not remembered God, as they were young? Will the continuous aggressive labor and pursuit for more in this life be of any value, once we have departed from this life and then enter the presence of God?

Solomon was deeply regretful of the passionate pursuit of gain in his life, only to realize that the primary duty of humanity is to fear God and keep His commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

8Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity. This was the realization that Solomon had repeatedly stated through this book, “All is vanity.”

None other is more qualified than Solomon to give a warning to others, concerning the pursuit of worldly things that provide only a temporary reward and severely lack the satisfaction of an eternal reward. Solomon had great wealth, he was popular among the people, he had possessions beyond what any man could fathom to accumulate in several lifetimes, he was the most intelligent person too, yet he realized that it all amounted to nothing without the fear of God and the obedience to keep His commandments. The duty of man is not to pursue the things of the world, but to pursue the fear of God and to keep the ordinances He has established that will keep us close to Him.

Yet Solomon expressed how such a pursuit did nothing but bring a realization that these all-consuming pursuits of his, were like grasping for the wind that could never be constrained. No matter how hard he strived to obtain more and more, to fulfill his life with the pleasures and wisdom of this world, he possessed a great feeling of emptiness within his very own soul and remained unfulfilled.

Solomon uses the word ‘vanity’ repeatedly throughout this book, to help the reader realize all of what he had still left him empty and it led him astray from the main point that he concluded with in chapter 12:13, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.”

Solomon wisdom was greater than all that had been before him in Jerusalem (Ecclesiastes 1:16), yet it yielded him nothing but the realization that chasing after things other than God is like trying to catch the wind that left him frustrated and exhausted.

The deep regret many have even this day, to have pursued so much yet have not pursued God, when their lives have become frail and weak and the imminent departure from this world will soon come, only to stand before God and receive His just judgment. Had Solomon learned to fear God and keep His commandments, his heart would have been wiser to discern the time of his life and would have been more discerning concerning those things that would potentially lead him astray from God. How much more then would Solomon’s life be an example to the world today?


Exegesis. (n.d.). The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Retrieved February 18, 2009, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/exegesis

Hermeneutics. (n.d.). The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Retrieved February 18, 2009, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/hermeneutics

[1] Mark W. Chavalas, Victor H. Matthews and John H. Walton, The IVP Bible Background Commentary – Old Testament (Illinois: IVP Academic, 2000), 576.

[2] Matthew Henry, Commentary available from http://www.ewordtoday.com/comments/ecclesiastes/mh/ecclesiastes12.htm; Internet; accessed 12 February 2009.


Anonymous said...

Not bad Kurt. A 92 is a fabulous grade. Looks like you are doing a great job in school but more importantly enjoying and getting a lot out of it! Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

WhoooHoooo...congrats...that is a great paper! You're amazing!

Anonymous said...

Good job!

The world and ourselves are coming to an end.

There will be nothing laeft but what the Lord creates anew.