In my last blog I said that words appear to me to be like freight or passenger cars in a train. In this blog. Look for these “special cars” when studying any segment of scripture. They are keys that open doors to meaning:
1 Repeated words, phrases or ideas are keys to meaning. “Hated” and “meaningless” are repeated in Ecclesiastes 2:17-23.
2 Pronouns and their antecedents are keys to understanding. “I,” “me,” and “my” help us to think that the author is a very self-centered person.
3 Contrasting words and ideas are keys to understanding. “Wise” and “foolish” are contrasts that concerned the author. A wise person is intelligent, prudent, and shrewd. In contrast, A foolish person is thoughtless, rash and and runs risks.
(“So” is a conjunction that infers that what happened before and what follows as a result are important considerations; “because” introduces a direct reason; “or” is used to connect alternatives; and “and” is more complex than it appears. It connects words, phrases, or clauses that are grammaticaly alike. It says along or together with; as well as; in addition to; besides; also; moreover.)
5 Prepositions typically deal with space such as “in,” “on,” and “by.” “Under” and “after” are repeated in the text.
6 Two questions and answers in our text emphasize the author’s frustration with an inability to control the future after death.
7 Progression is significant from the use of the singular first person in Ecclesiastes 2:17-20 to the use of the third person plural pronoun in Ecclesiastes 2:21-23. It is helpful to observe the progression from one idea or truth to the next, from one word, one sentence and one paragraph to the next.
8 Figures of speech such as “Under the sun,” and “chasing after the wind” raise questions. Does “under the sun,” mean daily work, labor and toil that causes sweat, or the kind of administrative toil that disturbs sleep? “Chasing after the wind” is clearer because it is impossible to grab a fistful of wind. .
9 literary style requres different observations.
Discursive is a logical and argumentative style used for the sermons and epistles of the bible; prose narrative is a style that is chronological in order such as Old Testament history, the gospels and Acts of the Apostles in the New Testament; ask who, what, when, where, why and how. poetic style is used in Job, Psalms, Proverbs, parts of Ecclesiastes, the Song of Solomon and parts of the prophetic books; examine the thought patterns to learn from unique Hebrew rhyming; parabolic style usually teaches a primary truth per parable; search for that one truth; apocalyptic style uses visions and symbolism as in Daniel and Revelation; distinguish between literal and figurative (symbolic) language.
10 Lists usually have items that have something in common. Look for the commonality. I do not see a list in our text. However I noticed that the word “all” occurs in every verse and could be used in a list. I remember being taught not to take that little word too literally. Usually there are exceptions. It appears to me that the author had been unusually successful, but was now in a state of deep depression.