Studying Ecclesiastes

I am reading Ecclesiastes now. This is a close reading, a deep reading. It is an appropriate study for this stage of my life. I have come to the end, like Qohelet, and I agree that all is absolute absurdity.

I may decide to read this document over and over until my time comes. It is a comfort to me.

When we die, we may be remembered for a generation or two, but that’s it. We have left no permanent mark on the earth. We have made no real lasting effect on anyone else, and even if we did, they too will die and the effect will die with them.

This is a comfort to me because I look back over my life and I am disappointed by what I have accomplished and what I am accomplishing now. But Qohelet reminds me that it is not just me. It’s me and you and everyone else too.

I am sure I will have some more to share from my study of Ecclesiastes. Some may see it as counter to the theology of the Bible, but I prefer to see it as an important corrective to Pollyanna religion. A kind of reality check. It is integral to the picture of God we have revealed to us.

I am thankful for the teaching of Qohelet.

My Week with Psalm 23

Nothing earth-shattering here. Just sharing my notes from the week.


Psalm 23

Observations
– Written in first person perspective.
– The metaphor changes at verse 5, from shepherd to host, unless I am to picture myself as a man throughout.
– Possibly the journey pictured is with the purpose of getting to the house of the Lord.
– The cup, and presumably the meal, is bountiful.
– The dwelling in Yahweh’s house is not forever; it is for life only.
– Yahweh does not allow me to remain in need.
– First stanza is about Yahweh; next stanza is addressed to Yahweh; last stanza is mixed.

Questions
– Am I to picture myself as a sheep, or as a man being led by a shepherd of men?
– Why is the table in presence of enemies? Does it mean some like “behind enemy lines”?
– Did he lead me through the dark valley, or did I go there on my own and he went with me?

Paraphrase
Yahweh is my guide, protector, and provider.
He provides for my food.
He provides for my drink.
He keeps me alive.
He is invested in making sure I journey the correct path.

Even when the situation is dangerous beyond all, I am not afraid.
You are with me there, guiding me and protecting me.

You feed me a fine banquet behind enemy lines.
You anoint me as special.
I have more to eat and drink than I really need.
I am blessed with a good life, a life in which I have been given mercy.
I will walk with Yahweh for my entire life.

General Sense
The Lord takes care of the writer every day in every way, even in terrible danger, even when enemies threaten. The writer responds by recognizing how blessed he is and by wanting to dwell with the Lord.

Central Emotion
Contented hopefulness

Formal Means

Metaphors
Lord–>Shepherd; me–>sheep(?)
Danger–>dark valley
Care/provision–>feeding

Goodness and mercy personified


Exported from Logos Bible Software, 8:05 AM June 4, 2021.

Working on Psalm 23

As part of my attempt to learn to read with my guts, I’ve been spending some time every day with Psalm 23. My plan is to stick with it for the rest of the week.

It’s a good test, starting with such a well-known piece of the Bible. Trying to read it fresh is not easy.

I’ve been sitting in front of the text as if it were a painting. I’ve been making observations. I’ve been asking questions, though there may be more questions than answers. I’ve written a paraphrase and I’ve looked for the central gist of the poem.

I have been and will be considering the emotional content the poem is carrying, even reenacting. Ultimately, I’ll be looking at what the poem “means”, but not in the way that I usually try to interpret meaning.

I will admit, this is difficult for me. I think next week I will move on the Ecclesiastes and extend this methodology for a whole document. It may be the death of me, but it is also fun and useful.