In my previous post I provided some comments on one of my favorite biblical books, Ecclesiastes.  Here I will continue my comments, with some remarks on the topic of the thread, the view of the afterlife in the book, a view unlike what you find in *most* of the Hebrew Bible.  Again, this is taken from my book God’s Problem.


For the author of Ecclesiastes “traditional” wisdom (such as one finds in the book of Proverbs) was inherently flawed — another reason I like him so much.  It simply is not true (as Proverbs insists) that the righteous are rewarded in life and the wicked perish.  As the author of Ecclesiastes states:  “In my vain life I have seen everything; there are righteous people who perish in their righteousness, and there are wicked people who prolong their life in their evil doing” (7:15); “there are righteous people who are treated according to the conduct of the wicked, and there are wicked people who are treated according to the conduct of the righteous.  I said that this also is vanity” (8:14).  The reason it is all hevel  (vanity; ephemeral) is because everyone dies and that’s the end of the story: “Everything that confronts them is vanity, since the same fate comes to all, to the righteous and the wicked, to the good and the evil, to the clean and the unclean, to those who sacrifice and those who do not sacrifice.  As are the good, so are the sinners…. the same fate comes to everyone” (9:1-3).  And even in this life, before death, rewards and punishments are not meted out according to merit, but everything is dependent on chance:

Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to the skillful; but time and chance happen to them all.  For no one can anticipate the time of disaster.  Like fish taken in a cruel net, and like birds caught in a snare, so mortals are snared at a time of calamity, when it suddenly falls upon them. (9:11-12)

Nor, for this author, should it be thought that there is a good afterlife for those who have been good, wise, faithful, and righteous, but punishment for those who die in their sins.  There are no …

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