Concordia Theological Monthly

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ecclesiastes, misery, destiny, futile, pessimistic, barton

Submission Type

Bible Study; Lecture; Sermon Prep


Much of the literature published on Ecclesiastes in recent years stresses the pessimistic tone of the book. It is felt that the author's philosophy of life is permeated with a sense of futility and hopelessness in the face of historical events and the experiences of individuals. The purpose of this essay is to challenge the validity of such an interpretation and establish the proposition that Ecclesiastes is indeed pessimistic, but more profoundly so than is generally indicated. An analysis of his own statements indicates that his entire approach is based on a consideration of man's total depravity. God, however, aims to rescue man. In order to work toward this rescue, God has subjected man to continual disappointment and reversal of his expectations. In his description of these reversals the writer's profound pessimism emerges most bluntly. But if man will see that the perplexing circumstances of life represent God's own judgment on man's futile attempt to fulfill his destiny in the things of this world, then the way is open toward a really purposeful life. That life is found in a joyful acceptance of the things of this world as God's gifts to be used, but not abused as ends in themselves.


Biblical Studies

Scripture References in this Resource (separated by semi-colons)

Ecclesiastes 1:13-15; Genesis 3:19; Ecclesiastes 3:10-11; Ecclesiastes 6:10-12; Ecclesiastes 8:6-7; Ecclesiastes 8:16-17; Ecclesiastes 9:1-3; Ecclesiastes 9:11-12; Ecclesiastes 2:14-23;

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Submission Audience

Laity; Ministers; Scholars