Books on Ecclesiastes

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Puritan Board Junior
For my Old Testament (or, as U of Toronto calls it, "Hebrew Bible") class, I'm writing a research essay on Ecclesiastes.

I imagine many of you believe that Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes. All of the sources I've found so far have dated the book to be much later, because of its style. I'm going to have to present that argument in my essay, but I also want to present the Solomon, or at least, pre-exilic, argument. I don't want to have to give in to modern liberal scholarship, even in appearance!

Could any of you name me a conservative, but scholarly book on Ecclesiastes? It needs to be later than 1970, and based on fact (ie. "look at how he says 'hebel', nobody said that after 500 B.C."--stupid example, but you know what I mean).

Thanks a lot!


Puritan Board Junior
"Vanity Of The Creature" by Edward Reynolds.

This is not a commentary, but covers the theme of Ecclesiastes.

[Edited on 11-9-2005 by Saiph]


Puritan Board Senior


Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
Gleason Archer's Survey of OT Introduction deals pretty extensively with the stylistic argument. He has a general section of criticism about how they detect aramaisms, and some specific material on Ecclesiastes. Here is some of it.

The most significant evidence advanced in demonstration of the late date of composition of Ecclesiastes is said to be derived from the linguistic data of the text itself. It is undeniably true that the language of this work is markedly different from that of the other tenth-century Hebrew texts which have been preserved in the Bible. For that matter, it is different from all the other books in the Old Testament of whatever age, with the partial exception of the Song of Solomon. In support of the fifth-century date, Franz Delitzsch listed no less than ninety-six words, forms, and expressions found nowhere else in the Bible except in exilic and post-exilic works like Ezra, Esther, Nehemiah, Chronicles, Malachi"”or else in the Mishnah . He describes many of these as Aramaisms largely on the ground of demonstrable noun endings in -uÆt, -oÆn or -aµn . 1 Hengstenberg, however, acknowledged only ten demonstrable Aramaisms in the book; at the other extreme is the claim of Zoeckler that Aramaisms were to be found in almost every verse. The most frequently cited Aramaic or late Hebrew terms are pardeµs , "œpark" (found also in Nehemiah and Song of Solomon); shaµlat\ "œto rule" (found only in post-exilic books); taµqan , "œbe straight" (found only in Daniel and the Talmud ); zÆ’maµn , "œdefinite time" (found only in Nehemiah and Esther); pithgaµm , "œofficial decision" (only in Esther and the Aramaic of Daniel); mÆ’d"¢Ã¯naÆ , in the sense of "œprovince" (a word found in 1 Kings, Esther, Ezra, Nehemiah, Ezekiel, and Lamentations); and kaµsheµr , "œbe correct" (found otherwise only in Esther). The obvious inference is that Ecclesiastes comes from a time when the Jews made very large use of Aramaic, which presumably was not the case until after the Exile.

Apart from vocabulary, it is argued that there are evidences of grammatical structure which place the book at a late date. For example, the independent pronoun (especially huÆ<, h"¢Ã¯< , and heµm ) is used as a copular verb with a greater frequency than in the pre-exilic books. Again it is argued that the imperfect conversive is rare in Ecclesiastes, since it is generally replaced by waw-connective plus the perfect. Since the latter construction is the prevailing one in the Talmud , its frequency in Ecclesiastes is thought to be evidence of a late date. In answer to this, however, it should be pointed out that waw-connective plus the perfect occurs only five times in Daniel (which according to the critics is mid-second century B.C. ) and only five times in the extant Hebrew text of Ecclesiasticus , dating from about 180 B.C. ). If this construction is a sign of lateness, Ecclesiastes must be later than the second century B.C. , since the works from that period do not yet use it with any frequency.

This latter possibility is, however, completely ruled out by the discovery of four fragments of Ecclesiastes in the Fourth Qumran Cave, dated on paleographic grounds from the middle of the second century B.C. As Muilenberg remarks in BASOR , no. 135: "œThis gives the coup de grace to earlier views such as those of Graetz, Renan, Leimdorfer, Konig, and others, and makes unlikely a dating in the second century." R. H. Pfeiffer back in 1941 ( IOT , p. 731) suggested that the period 170"“160 B.C. was most in harmony with the characteristics of the thought and language of Ecclesiastes. But in the light of this Qumran evidence, one can only conclude that here again is an example of demonstrable fallacy in the higher critical method practiced by rationalists of Pfeiffer´s persuasion.

In the above mentioned article, Muilenberg goes on to remark: "œLinguistically the book is unique. There is no question that its language has many striking peculiarities; these have been explained by some to be late Hebrew (discussed by Margoliouth and Gordis) for which the language of the Mishnah is said to offer more than adequate support (a contention effectively answered by Margoliouth in the Jewish Encyclopedia V, 33, where he points out the linguistic affinities of Qohelet with the Phoenician inscriptions, e.g., Eshmunazar, Tabnith). The Aramaic cast of the language has long been recognized, but only within recent years has its Aramaic provenance been claimed and supported in any detail (E Zimmermann, C. C. Torrey, H. L. Ginsburg)."¦ Dahood has written on Canaanite-Phoenician influences in Qohelet, defending the thesis that the book of Ecclesiastes was originally composed by an author who wrote in Hebrew but was influenced by Phoenician spelling, grammar and vocabulary, and who shows heavy Canaanite-Phoenician literary influence ( Biblica 33, 1952, pp. 35"“52, 191"“221)." 2 At this point it should be noted that neither a Phoenician background nor an Aramaic background would necessarily preclude Solomonic authorship, inasmuch as the political and commercial ties with both the Phoenician-speaking and the Aramaean peoples of the Syrian areas during Solomon´s reign were closer than any other period in Israel´s history (with the possible exception of of Ahab in the ninth century or possibly the time of Jeroboam II and his successors in the eighth century).

In weighing the force of the linguistic argument, it should be carefully observed that a comprehensive survey of all the data, including vocabulary, morphology, syntax, and style, yields the result that the text of Ecclesiastes fits into no known period in the history of the Hebrew language. No significant affinities may be traced between this work and any of those canonical books which rationalist higher criticism has assigned to the Greek period (such as Daniel, Zechariah II, and portions of "œDeutero-Isaiah"). So far as the early post-exilic period is concerned, the Hebrew of Ecclesiastes is quite as dissimilar to that of Malachi, Nehemiah, and Esther as to any of the pre-exilic books. This raises an insuperable difficulty for the theory of Delitzsch and Young, who date it around 430 B.C. , and of Beecher in ISBE , who makes it 400. If Ecclesiastes came from the same period, how could there be such a total lack of similarity in vocabulary, syntax, and style? Nor can the linguistic problem be solved by moving the date up into the late intertestamental period. We have already seen that Qohelet fragments from the Fourth Qumran Cave make a date any later than 150 B.C. absolutely impossible and furnish the strong probability of the third century or earlier as the time of composition. There are absolutely no affinities between the vocabulary or style of Ecclesiastes and that of the sectarian literature of the Qumran community. Older authors like Kenyon ( BAM , pp. 94"“95) spoke in generalities of the so-called rabbinical element discoverable in this text. But an actual comparison with the Hebrew of the Talmud and Midrash shows fully as great a dissimilarity to Ecclesiastes as to any other book in the Old Testament canon.

It is true that the relative pronoun sûe occurs frequently throughout Qohelet (sixty-eight times) alongside the more usual "¡sûer 3 (which occurs eighty-nine times). Although sûe appears several times in Judges, quite frequently in the later psalms, and occasionally in Lamentations, Ezekiel, Job, and Joshua, the fact remains that in Ecclesiastes this is the relative pronoun used in sixty-eight instances out of one hundred fifty-seven. Yet it is noteworthy that this is the characteristic relative for the Song of Solomon also (i.e., in thirty-two instances out of thirty-three)"”a fact which furnishes greatest embarrassment to those who, like Delitzsch and Young, place Canticles back in the tenth century and Ecclesiastes in the fifth. If in this stylistic peculiarity there is such a close resemblance between the two, it is only reasonable to attribute them to the same period, if not indeed to the same author. Hence, if the Song of Solomon is tenth century and composed by Solomon, it is hard to resist the conclusion that Ecclesiastes is of the same period and origin.

If it is true that the language and style of Ecclesiastes do not correspond to any literature known to us from any stage of Hebrew history, but present radical contrasts to every other book in the Old Testament canon (with the possible exception of Canticles) and to all extant intertestamental Hebrew literature, then it follows that there is at present no sure foundation for dating this book upon linguistic grounds (although it is no more dissimilar to tenth-century Hebrew than it is to fifth century or second century). What then shall we say of this peculiarity?

It seems fairly obvious that we are dealing here with a conventional style peculiar to the particular genre to which Ecclesiastes belonged. Just as in Akkadian literature, legal codes and contract tablets present a great contrast to each other in technique and style, and these too in turn differ greatly from the epistolary or historical prose trom this same period, so also there grew up in Hebrew culture a conventional language in style which was felt to be peculiarly fitting for each literary genre. In the case of Greek literature, where we have much more literary data than we do from Palestine, we find that once a genre developed on a particular soil in a particular city-state, the dialect and vocabulary type of the original practitioner who exalted this genre to a classical status would then prevail throughout the rest of the history of Greek literature (until the triumph of Koineµ in the Greek or Roman period). For example, since Homer was the first to develop the epic, from his time on, all epic poetry had to be written in the Old Ionic dialect which he had used, even though the more modern poet spoke a quite different dialect, such as Attic, Doric, or Aeolic. Correspondingly, since the Dorians were the first to develop choral poetry, convention demanded that whenever an Attic-speaking tragedian (like Sophocles or Aeschylus) moved into a choral passage in his play, the actors abruptly shifted from Attic Greek to Doric Greek (or at least a Doricizing type of Attic) with particular cliches and turns of expression conventional for that particular genre. It so happens that in the case of the precise genre to which Ecclesiastes belongs, we have nothing else which has survived from Hebrew literature. Otherwise we would doubtless find abundant parallels for all the peculiar phenomena of Qohelet in the compositions which belong to the same genre. If this type of philosophical discourse was first practiced in North Israel before Solomon´s time, this would explain the Aramaic and Phoenician traits and influences of which modern critics have made so much. It would also explain the infrequency of the name Yahweh in this text.

In this connection it may be well to mention the theory of L. Wogue, that we have in our present text of Ecclesiastes a modernized recension. That is to say, the original version of this work as composed by Solomon was written in an older Hebrew which eventually became too obscure for ready comprehension by post-exilic generations of Jews. For this reason, says the theory, it was published anew in a more up-to-date vocabulary and style that it might be more widely enjoyed. To take an analogy, most English readers read Chaucer´s Canterbury Tales in a modernized version, since Chaucer´s fourteenth-century English contains so many obsolete terms and expressions as to require a glossary for intelligibility. The weakness of this theory, however, derives from the incorrect assumption that the Hebrew of Ecclesiastes can be clearly identified as a post-exilic product. Since in point of fact it resembles no known document from the post-exilic period, there does not seem to be much point to this suggestion. Moreover the Hebrew text itself is so difficult to understand that it would hardly serve as a popularization intended for ready comprehension.
Without footnotes.

Brett McKinley

Puritan Board Freshman
One point that usually comes up in this discussion is Ec. 1:16 "... all who were over Jerusalem before me...." Compare I Chron. 29:25 which clearly refers to Solomon and his "royal majesty which had not been on any king before him in Israel."

I hope this is helpful.


Puritan Board Sophomore
"Fools jump in . . ."

So are you suggesting that there were many other kings before the Preacher, implying that Saul and David would not have been enough to qualify as many? If so then we would have to consider Joshua 10:1 ff
Jos 10:1 As soon as Adoni-zedek, king of Jerusalem, heard how Joshua had captured Ai and had devoted it to destruction, doing to Ai and its king as he had done to Jericho and its king, and how the inhabitants of Gibeon had made peace with Israel and were among them,
Jos 10:2 he feared greatly, because Gibeon was a great city, like one of the royal cities, and because it was greater than Ai, and all its men were warriors.
It seems as though there were many kings before David. Of course, Adoni-zedek wasn't an Israelite, so maybe I'm just thread where angels fear to trod.

Unless of course you were using this to prove that it was Solomon.

Late at night I get like this.:)


Puritan Board Sophomore
(My favorite book on Ecclesiastes is Derek Kidner's The Message of Ecclesiastes: A Time to Mourn, A Time To Dance. Won't help with the dating issue, but it's a great, concise expository commentary.)

Brett McKinley

Puritan Board Freshman
Sorry if I was not clear. I referred to I Chron. 29:25 to challenge those who take Eccl. 1:16 as a proof that Sol. was not the author. I realize it's only a small part of a huge discussion; but I was encouraged when I came upon it.

Often we find similar wording in the OT which helps clarify more obsure passages, havn't we heard this before as a basic rule of hermeneutics?

May God help us to know our Bibles better. Have a great Lord's Day.


Puritan Board Freshman
Charles Bridges has a wonderful commentary on the book. He does not labor long to defend to his view that Solomon was the author, but he does share a few pages pertaining to the date and authorship.


Puritan Board Senior
And an excellent little book this was. Actually the wife and I are reading this again before bed each night.

Thanks for the excellent suggestion guys! I can remember reading a little book on proverbs when I was in the 3rd Grade. Since that time, Proverbs & Eccl have been among my favorites to read and re-read.

Originally posted by Peter
Originally posted by ANT
Sincair Ferguson's little commentary on Ecclesiasties is also a good choice!
It's called The Pundit's Folly: Chronicles of an Empty Life

I was just about to mention that!
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