Job and Ecclesiastes
by Russell Earl Kelly, PHD
May 21, 2016
Though written centuries apart from each other, both of these inspired biblical books have one thing in common --- they reveal how unenlightened men reasoned and understood life in their time periods. They give the reader a very close look into the hearts and minds of men struggling with life’s inequalities, opposites, disappointments, losses, gains, curses, blessings and search for spiritual reconciliation. This information is crucial for Bible students attempting to understand the people of His Word. It also gives insights into our own searches for spiritual meaning today.
Job deals primarily with the questions of suffering, and, it must be noted, God does not answer any of those questions. Neither Job nor his four “friends” are inspired with special revelation or the Word of God to know why Job suffered. While Job appears to be wiser and (correctly) refuses to accept personal guilt for his suffering, they are all reflecting only what uninspired knowledge his revealed. Again, unlike the reader, neither Job nor his friends have been shown what is really behind Job’s suffering. While much of what each of them says is correct, it is also true that much of what each of them says is incorrect – including Job (“words without knowledge” 38:2). Therefore teachers and preachers should tread very lightly when using Job for sermon material except when God speaks.
Ecclesiastes, like Job, is an inspired demonstration of how unenlightened men viewed and interpreted their circa 1000 B. C. The reader is privileged to compare his/her views with those of Solomon’s era. While reading Ecclesiastes, it would be helpful to mark, underline or circle the words “vanity” and “under the sun.” Without special revelation from God, all is vanity, nothing has a goal or eternal value. All life --man, animal and plant-- comes into existence, lives and dies and repeats the meaningless cycle.
Following 37 confusing chapters of ignorant false accusations and denials, God speaks after Job says “God respects not any man that is wise of heart” (37:24). God says that Job has been using “words without knowledge” (38:2) –even Job was wrong in much of what he had said. For four chapters God throws questions at Job (38 to 41). After Job repents for daring to question Him (42:6), God rebukes his friends because Job had been correct in not accepting personal blame for his suffering (41:7-10). Finally, God restores Job with more than he had before (41:11-17).
Ecclesiastes has the same kind of unenlightened wisdom of man in all except its last two verses of chapter 12. Much of what we believe is correct, but much of it is wrong. “Vanity” occurs 36 times in 12 chapters while “under the sun” occurs 29 times. To ignore these words is to miss the meaning of Ecclesiastes!
For example, when Ecclesiastes 12:7 says “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it, “it does not mean (as SDAs and JWs interpret it) “there is no immortal soul and man ceases to exist at death” because 12:8 immediately says “Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity.” 12:7 is an example of unenlightened vain logic “under the sun.”
“Without an afterlife resurrection and judgment of the dead, nothing makes sense – the wicked go unpunished and the righteous go unrewarded; life is a meaningless cycle. Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.”