Reflections Ecclesiastes 1 and Proverbs 3

This week I translated sections of wisdom literature. The professor gave us a paper with all the uses of the word normally translated "meaningless" or "vanity" in Ecclesiastes. Often the word could be translated "nothing" but it was also used to refer to idols. "Why do you worship those nothings?" Solomon says all things are "nothing" but that word doesn't give the full sense of his meaning to us. There is a repetition of the word in the first verse and it is in construct so it should be read, "nothing of nothings" or as some translate it "vanity of vanities". Of all the things that are vain or meaningless in this world what he is writing about is the most vain, the most meaningless, the most nothing. His main point is that nothing lasts forever so ultimately nothing is ever accomplished. "All rivers flow into the sea but it is never full." How much work does it take to move all that water into the sea and yet it is never finished but will go on forever. So it is with our lives that everything we pour our time and hearts into only feed bellies that get hungry again web. Even if we create something wonderful we will soon pass away and eventually all we have labored for will be overturned. It is inevitable, even more, it is built into the system. "The eye is never satisfied with seeing and the ear is never full of hearing." In the end, no matter what we do, we will gain as much as if we spent our whole lives chasing wind.

Proverbs was more inspiring. Several verses I translated had no verbs, which made it all the more inspiring because it was easier to read. "Wisdom weighty jewels" or "she tree of life to those firm in her". The reader must supply the linking verb "is". She is a tree of life, wisdom is more weighty than jewels, etc. Any time a verse is easy to translate it seems more meaningful.

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  • Amira

    I was raised in a Jewish home and the Ecclesiastes point of view was pretty much it. Hence, at university, it was also the biggest reason to try and decide what I did believe, as the Jewish answer was so nihilistic it begged the question of why go on.
    Thank God, Jesus gave us a point to life and the reassurance that our deeds will have worth, some gold, some silver and some straw to be destroyed.
    That is one of the biggest advantages to evangelisation for Jesus, finally one can say there is a point to life, I do have meaning beyond the here and now.

  • I tried to comment, but it turned into a blog longer than Adam’s. I didn’t want to desecrate his blog so, my ranting can be found at

    He made me mad.

    (Don’t worry I love him.)

  • I appreciate you not “desecrating” my post here. The reflections I did for class were over a single chapter or section at a time, not the entire book. Taken on its own without the rest of the book to enlighten us I do find the first chapter rather disheartening. I, like every other man, want all my work to count for something, to leave some mark that I will be remembered by, to straighten what is crooked or twist what is straight. This first chapter does nothing but say “NO! It cannot be done.” The answer, the beauty of this truth, is not found in chapter 1 but in an understanding of the book as a whole. As I was limited to chapter 1 I was left to reflect on it alone, and it was not as easy to translate as proverbs.

  • WHOChA

    I know my sweet man. It was not a reflection on your post. When I started thinking it my passions just went nuts. 🙂