For the past week my SS class and I have focused on reading and seeing Ecclesiastes 2:17-23. To illustrate the kind of seeing I was trying to teach we focused on the first four words “So I hated life . . ..”
We agreed that “so” connects with what precedes and what follows in the passage. Understanding the passage is not possible without scrutiny of what precedes it. I urge anyone who is studying Ecclesiastes 2:17-23 to read at least the verses that precede Ecclesiastes 2:17.
We agreed that “I” is a first person pronoun that has the author of the passage as its antecedent. Seeing that “I” is repeated throughout the passage adds to its significance. In the written material I had previously given the class I told them that I assumed the author to be King Solomon. The class questioned this assumption. One student asked if King Solomon could have actually “toiled” as described. Other students noted that some scholars questioned the authorship of Ecclesiastes. These are significant observations and questions because it is the author who gives meaning to his/her words.
If we had looked more deeply into the word “hated,” I believe we would have agreed that it is a strong word that indicates disgust, distaste, and revulsion toward something that had been tasted and eaten and made the author want to “throw it up”.
We agreed that it was “life” that disgusted the author. To learn the meaning of the word, the student must learn more about the lifework of the author.
I told the class that I was seeing words and sentences that were like freight trains. The freight (meaning) loaded on a car is determined by the author, not the reader. Even though we do not know the name of the author, we agreed that we learned enough from the passage to know that its author was old, unhappy and frustrated.
Anyone who has joined us in the “attentive scrutiny” of Ecclesiastes 2:17-23 is invited to inform us of their findings by making a comment. We can learn from each other. No one sees it all or knows it all. That is an Anabaptist view of the bible.