The Bible

The Book of Ecclesiastes and the Human Experience

As a philosophical treatise in which the author considers the meaning of man's existence on earth, the Book of Ecclesiastes is an exceptional section of the Tanakh that differs from the traditional didactic narratives surrounding it. The Preacher in Ecclesiastes is concerned with the idea that no matter how a man chooses to live his life, in the end, his actions are in vain and have no lasting consequence because the world itself remains unaffected and essentially static. In light of this observation, the driving question of the work becomes "What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?" (Ecc. 1:3) By the end of the book, the author does not provide a traditional, concrete answer to this question, but the ambiguous solution can be found throughout the text as a whole. Consistently, the Preacher's reasoning is based in what can be viewed as the inherent duality of life, which man is able to recognize and contemplate but not fully understand, and the inability to resolve this basic uncertainty leads the author to the simple conclusion that, "There is nothing better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and find enjoyment in his toil," (Ecc. 2:24). The Preacher's...

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