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Week 10: ECCLESIASTES 10-11: You won’t be young forever
- Chapter 10 seems to be talking about being a wise leader. Who is the last 60 years was a wise leader, in your opinion?
- Verse one of chapter 10 is a vivid image. When have you seen this in illustrated in your experience?
- Where is the irony in 10.5-7? Which public persons do you consider foolish? Name three.
- List the literal situations described in 10.8-11 that call for good judgment, then list an analogous situation for each.
- What does James 1.5 say about who gives wisdom to whom? What area of your life are you praying for wisdome?
- What is the Questor encouraging in 11.1-6 Given what he’s said in chapters 1-10, why does he encourage his readers to be risk takers?
- How do we take risks in our spiritual lives? What does this risk taking do for our relationship with God?
- Describe the perspective of life found in 11.7-10. What poet or author sounds this same note?
- On a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being very little), how much do you enjoy life? What would it take to move it up one number?
- How does the exhortations of chapter 11 encourage you to pursue joy? Name a couple of things in your life that bring you joy.
- Look over chapters 10-11, and find at least one verse you’d like to memorize and write it down here. Why did you choose this one?
- Suppose I gave you $100K and a die, and ask you to choose odd or even. You may then roll the die, or not. If you do not, you can keep the 100K. If you should roll, and it lands on the kind of number you chose, then you would double your 100K. If it should land on the kind of number you did not chose, then you’d lose the 100K. Would you roll? Why/why not?
Week 9: ECCLESIASTES 9: God Wants you to Enjoy!
- Tell about a memorable cemetery that you’ve visited, and why it was significant to you.
- How would you define death? What is there to fear about it? What might there be to hope about it?
- What, in your opinion, is a thoughtful Christian attitude towards death?
- What is behind the author emphasis that the same fate comes to all? What reaction is he hoping for with his pointing out we all share a “common destiny”?
- Pretend you were writing the epitaph for your tombstone. What would you like said about you?
- How were dogs viewed in ancient Israel? How were lions regarded? What is the point of this proverb in 9.4, and do you agree?
- Read Ecc 9.7-10 (from the Message if possible) to 2 people. Record who you read it to, and their reactions here. (Note the hevel in 9.9)
- Ecc 9.7-10 about enjoying life follows 9.1-6 about remembering death. How are the two sections related? (This is the longest section of instruction in the book.)
- Find a copy of Andrew Marvell’s poem, “To His Coy Mistress.” Which lines from that poem sound the same themes as we see here in Ecc? Extra Credit: Find a copy of Herb Magidson’s 1950s song “Enjoy Yourself (It’s Later Than You Think),” and write down some of the words that strike you.
- Verse 9.11-12 talk about the chancy nature of life, and how life is predictably unpredictable. Paraphrase these verses and give an example.
- What does 9.18 say, and what does it mean to you, during these days of war?
- At what age would you like to die? How do you see yourself dying? How would you like to die, if you could choose?
Week 8: ECCLESIASTES 7.15-8.17: Wise guy
- Consider Ecc 7,15-22. What does the author mean, “Don’t be too good or too wise … don’t be too bad or foolish”? Where is the balance?
- What do think of his advise about not eavesdropping, and not listening to gossip (7.21-22)?
- In 7.23-24, the Questor talks about that which is deep and far off. What is it: truth, the future, our souls, God, or something else? What is he talking about here in this haunting sentence?
- In 7.26-29, is he talking misogynistically about women in general, or is he talking about his own personal experience of disappointment, rejection, and failure to find a woman?
- What does the final verse of chapter 7 mean to you (7.29)? Is he talking about sin or what? Is sin a part of our human nature or alien to it?
- What is the Questor’s advice about authority in chapter 8? How does he cut the king down to human size?
- The last king the Israelites had was Zedikiah, the last king of Judah. What happened to him and his sons (2 Kings 25)?
- What is evil, in your theology? Who are the wicked and the evildoers, in your opinion?
- How can the people of God fight against evil? What is the best way to overcome evil?
- The human heart is fully set to do evil, the author says. Which means everyone’s heart. What is reaction to this point of view?
- Seven times the author says to enjoy. What does he say to enjoy, and why? Make a list of some of the things you enjoy.
- Ecclesiastes may be the strangest book in the OT. How is it like Revelation?
- Fear of God may be the simplest statement in scripture, and the hardest to unpack. What does it mean to you?
Week 7: ECCLESIASTES 6-7.14: A Death too soon
- Think of two people who died too young, one famous, one not so. Write their names here. What potential in them went unrealized?
- On a scale of 1 to 10 (1=very little, 10=very much), how would you rate your attachment to the things you own? What is your prize (material) possession?
- What role does God have in the satisfaction that wealth, possessions and honor can bring?
- Many children and long life were considered the greatest of blessings in the Hebrew Bible (6.3-6). What does our society define as “the good life”? What does scripture?
- In the Hebrew text after 6.9, there is a note in the margin “half the book in verses.” There are 220 verses before, and 220 after. In what way can 6.10-12 be an introduction to the second half of the book?
- In 6.12, the Questor raises two important questions. First, who knows what is good for humans? He doesn’t give a simple answer. But in 7.1-14 he lists things that are “better than” others. List a half dozen.
- The second question of 6.12 is, Who can tell what the future will bring?” What is his answer, and do you agree?
- Are you surprised by any of the comparisons in 7.1-14? Explain. Which one is your favorite?
- Why did the wisdom teacher use such a comparison formula? Write your own better than comparison here.
- In a few words, what is the common theme of these “better than” sayings?
- Why is a funeral better to attend than a party, according to the Questor? Do you think so? Have you ever been to a really memorable funeral?
- What is the Questor’s warning about idealizing the “good old days”?
- What does it mean to memento mori? What does it mean to remember death?
Week 6: ECCLESIASTES 5: A salary of smoke
Please read the Interpretation article about the theology of Ecclesiastes, and study chapter 5.
- What is the difference in the diction beginning here in chapter 5? (Hint: note the verbs.) What might the reason for this change?
- More than any other chapter in the book, chapter 5 says the most about God. Summarize what the author is saying about God here.
- What does 5.1-6 say about uncontrolled speech? What does these verses imply about long prayers?
- What does 5.2 say about God in relationship to us? Why, then, should our words be few?
- Read Psalm 113 in relationship to 5.2. What are the nature of these two dimensions in relationship to God?
- In your life, does God feel distant or close, both, neither, or something else? Why is this?
- Verses 7-8 talk about authority. What is his point about it? Do you agree?
- How does the Questor describe the nature of wealth, and the evils of loving money?
- Find two proverbs, one about the evils of hoarding or loving money, the other about foolish speech. The rarer these are, the better. Record them here
- What are the two grave evils the author describes? Do you agree? If you were to add a third, what would it be?
- What then is the one good (5.19-20), or the best way to live? Do you agree?
- Does this final section (5. 17-20) sound like any of Jesus’ sayings? If so, which ones?
Week 5: ECCLESIASTES 4: Why Am I working Like a Dog?
Please read the Interpretation article on chapter 3, while we consider chapter 4 this week.
- In 4.1-16, there are 5 sections of thought: what are they? Note how they each have phrases like, “And I saw …” or “Better than”.
- Is it true, in your opinion, to be dead or never to have been born, than to be oppressed (4.1-3)? What does the opposite view say in 9.4-6?
- In the second negative (4.4-6) how does envy lead to futile labor?
- What exactly is envy, and why is it a sin, in your opinion?
- The third negative is 4.7-8. What is the irony of the workaholic’s efforts spoken about here?
- Have you ever personally known a workaholic? What was his/her life like?
- Section 4.9-12 is a positive comparison between the person alone and companionship. What are the benefits of partnership? Why might such an attitude be critical in the Christian community?
- How would explain or conceptualize the ideals of dependency, independence, and interdependency?
- Ecc 3.12 is sometimes read at wedding. How does your bible translate it, and what does it mean to you in this context?
- The fifth thought section deals with rags to riches. What is the irony at the end?
- Look up Shelley’s poem “Ozymandias” and compare it to 4.13-16.
- What is the connection of 4.17 with the rest of chapter 4, or does it belong more properly to chapter 5? What does the verse say to you?
Week 4: ECCLESIASTES 3: does anyone know what time it is?
We focus our powerful biblical searchlight on chapter 3 this week.
- Find a copy of Pete Seeger’s song “Turn, Turn, Turn,” written in 1954 and made popular by the Byrds in the 1960s, and listen to it again. How does it compare to Ecc 3.1-8? What does the punch line of the song mean (“I swear it’s not too late”)?
- How would you interpret this way of looking at time: despairing, hopeful, both, or what? Describe the Questor’s view of time.
- What negative and positive things does he say about time in 3.9-15?
- When is the “time to tear”? (Hint: Gen 37.34, 2 Sam 3.31) When is the time to hate?
- How does your Bible translate 3.11? Does this mean to you that God is in control of everything?
- So, at any given moment, how do we humans know what the right time to do something is? Given your answer, how should we then live?
Ecc chapter 3
- Write your reaction to this verse (3.12): “God has made everything beautiful for its time.” What might this mean? (What a great verse to memorize). The Hebrew yapheh means “beautiful.”
- In 3.18-21, the author writes what about death and the afterlife? Do you agree or disagree, and why?
- In your opinion, what happens after death to humans and animals?
- What does the Questor says he knows in 3.12-14, and 3.22? How does this compare with what he does not know?
- What does the author say about evil and judgment in 3.16-18?
- What does he say about God testing us in 3.18? Do you agree?
Week 3: ECCLESIASTES 2: I hate life
Chapter 2 is the emphasis this week. If you have not read the book all the way through at least twice, do so this week please.
- At least seven times the Quester encourages his readers to “eat, drink, and be merry.” The first occurrence is here in 2.24. Locate the other six (2X in chapter 3, and the others in chapter 5, 8, 9 & 11). What might this phrase mean?
- In 2.1-16, the author describes what he has done in his quest for meaning. List them. Which of this list have you accomplished?
- The Hebrew word hevel (rhymes with level) is used in 1.2, 14; 2.1, 11, 15, 17, 19, 21, 23, and 26. The JPS translates it “breeze,” and the literal meaning of the word is “breath.” It means vapor, puff of steam, wisp of smoke, wind, breath, breeze, vanity, nothing, nothingness. Which do you prefer, and why? [BTW, hevel is used 70 times in the Bible, 37 times in this book.]
- What is a megilloth? How many are there? What are the others besides the one that we are studying?
- In the Jewish year, when is Qoheleth (the Jewish name for Ecclesiastes) read? When is Sukkot?
- What are the two approaches to life discussed in 2.12-16? What are the advantages of each?
- What advantages does the author have over the average person in his search for meaning?
- Name a book or three that describes human beings quest for meaning. Example: Hesse’s Siddartha. What is the result of that quest?
- The Quester repeats his thesis that “life is hevel” 21 times in the first 6 chapters. How does he support his thesis in chapter 2?
- At the end of chapter 2, he changes his perspective to what? What causes the subtle change?
- Compare and contrast Eccl 2 with Matt 6.33. How are they alike and different?
- Eccl 2. 17 says, “I hate life.” When, if ever, have you felt that your life was meaningless? What was going on at the time? What caused you to change your mind?
Week 2: ECCLESIASTES 1: Nothing but Smoke
As we begin, we’ll start with chapter 1. For the first week, read all 12 chapters at least once, and if possible twice. Memorize its location in our canon: between Proverbs & Song of Songs. Since we have 12 weeks until Advent, we’ll attempt to do a chapter a week. Keep up!
- Have you ever read Ecclesiastes all the way through before? What struck you as you read it, and why?
- What is the theme of this book (1.2-3), and what is your reaction to it?
- What examples from nature does the author use? Do they support his thesis, in your opinion?
- The author calls himself the Teacher, or the Preacher, or the Quester, Which do you prefer, and why? What is another good title for him?
- What is the Quester's view of history? How does he reveal that? How does it compare to yours?
- Suppose you and the Quester got into a conversation; in what ways would agree “all is meaningless”?
- How big of a problem is despair, in your opinion? How do some people demonstrate it?
- When have you felt despair? What is an area of your life that seems futile or meaningless?
- If there is nothing new “under the sun,” what resources from God might bring hope to people?
- How does the Quester describe himself and his situation (1.12-18)?
- Why does the Quester call his search for wisdom “a heavy burden” (1.13)?
- What does the Quester conclude from his quest? In what ways (if any) have you found this to be true?