The great fear (Wis 17:15-17:17)

“Now they were driven by monstrous specters.

Now they were paralyzed

By their souls’ surrender.

Sudden fear overwhelmed them.

Unexpected fear overwhelmed them.

Whoever was there fell down.

They were kept shut up in a prison not made of iron.

Whether they were farmers,

Or shepherds,

Or workers who toiled in the wilderness,

They were seized.

They endured the inescapable fate.

With one chain of darkness

They all were bound.”

Everyone was struck with fear (φόβος). They were overwhelmed with this sudden unexpected fear. They all fell down as if they were in an invisible prison. It did not matter whether they were farmers, shepherds, or ordinary workers. They all suffered the same fate. It was if they were all chained together in darkness. This fear and darkness was worse than the actual problems they were facing.

Advertisements

Humans and animals (Eccl 3:18-3:21)

“I said in my heart

With regard to humans

That God is testing them

To show

That they are but animals.

‘The fate of humans,

The fate of animals

Is the same.

As one dies,

So does the other.

They all have the same breath.

Humans have no advantage

Over the animals.

All is vanity.

All go to one place.

All are from dust.

All turn to dust again.

Who knows

Whether the human spirit

Goes upward?

Who knows

Whether the spirit of animals

Goes downward to the earth?’”

Qoheleth makes a comparison of humans to animals. He does not see much difference. They both share the same fate. They both die. The humans try in vain to show that they more than animals. However, they have no advantage, since all is vanity. They both come from and go to dust. Do they go to the same place? Do humans really go up and animals go down? Qoheleth sees a spirit in both humans and animals. So we are left with this dilemma of the afterlife of humans and animals.

The wise ones and the fools both die (Eccl 2:14-2:17)

“Yet I perceived

That one fate befalls all of them.

Then I said to myself.

‘What happens to the fool

Will happen to me also.

Why then have I been so very wise?’

I said to myself

That this also is vanity.

There is no enduring remembrance

Of the wise

Or of the fools.

In the days to come,

All will have been long forgotten.

How can the wise die just like fools?

So I hated life,

Because what is done under the sun

Was grievous to me.

All is vanity.

All is a chasing after wind.”

Having accepted the importance of wisdom, Qoheleth then realizes that he, the wise one, and the fools also will both die. They share the same fate. What then is the advantage to being a wise person? No one remembers the fools, but everyone will also forget about the wise ones. Even this wise life is in vain. Why do they both share the same result as dead forgotten people? Now he begins to hate life itself, as an element of despair like Job. He thought that this was injurious to him, since all was futile. He and the wise ones were just chasing after that unattainable wind.