Ecclesiastes 3 Question

Salluz

You mean we can change these titles?
I'm struggling through some of the verses at the end of Ecclesiastes 3, specifically these:

18 I said to myself, “This happens concerning people, so that God may test them and they may see for themselves that they are like animals.” 19 For the fate of people and the fate of animals is the same. As one dies, so dies the other; they all have the same breath. People have no advantage over animals since everything is futile. 20 All are going to the same place; all come from dust, and all return to dust. 21 Who knows if the spirit of people rises upward and the spirit of animals goes downward to the earth? 22 I have seen that there is nothing better than for a person to enjoy his activities because that is his reward. For who can enable him to see what will happen after he dies?

I'd like to post my thoughts on this, and then hopefully someone will correct me if I am wrong.

What I've been thinking about is the Old Testament view of what happens after death. I know I made a thread about this a few months back in the context of "no one praises you from the grave," but only @DanLMP responded to that one (Thanks, Dan! :hug). I'd like to list out some verses I think are relevant to the discussion and write out my thoughts here.

The first thing about the old testament conception of the afterlife is that they knew there would be a resurrection, and this seems to be what they placed their hope in--much more than the state in between death and the resurrection. The main example of a verse detailing the hope of the resurrection in the Old Testament is in Job 19. Even then, only the KJV seems really certain about it, translating it

25 For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:
26 And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:
27 Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.

In other versions like the NIV, HCSB, ESV, ETC (haha), every other word has a footnote saying it could mean something else, like the phrase "in my flesh" possibly also meaning "without my flesh" (How does that work?). The only reason I'm positive the OT believers believed in a resurrection, whether they used Job as evidence or not, is because it is mentioned several times in the New Testament that the Sadduccees were going around trying to convince people there would be no resurrection, but the Pharisees believed in the resurrection of the dead.

Acts 23: 6 Then Paul, knowing that some of them were Sadducees and the others Pharisees, called out in the Sanhedrin, “My brothers, I am a Pharisee, descended from Pharisees. I stand on trial because of the hope of the resurrection of the dead.” 7 When he said this, a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. 8 (The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, and that there are neither angels nor spirits, but the Pharisees believe all these things.)

The fact that the Pharisees believed in the resurrection of the dead is proof enough for me that the idea certainly didn't originate with Jesus. The pharisees weren't exactly big fans of his, so they wouldn't have taken his word for it and backed him up. This leads me to believe that the Job verse really should be translated with the resurrection in mind, otherwise it doesn't make much sense, considering the lack of information about what the spirit was up to after death.

The new information Jesus did seem to bring to the table was the specifics of what comes immediately after death preceding the judgment and resurrection. Luke 16 with the story of the rich man and Lazarus is the first place I know of in the bible that mentions the specifics of Sheol/Hades, namely that everyone was conscious (no soul sleep) and a great divide separated torments from paradise/Abraham's Bosom. We now know from Paul when you are "absent from the body" you are "present with the Lord" (2 Corinthians 5:8).

Solomon's (can we assume Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes?) doubts in regards to what happens to the human, IE "21 Who knows if the spirit of people rises upward and the spirit of animals goes downward to the earth?" seem consistent with verses like Isaiah 38:18 "For the grave cannot praise you, death cannot sing your praise; those who go down to the pit cannot hope for your faithfulness." and Psalm 30:9 ""What is gained if I am silenced, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it proclaim your faithfulness?" the focus in the OT seems to be on what they knew for certain, the lives they currently lived.

Something that throws a wrench in most translations being clear that Solomon had doubt about the existence of an afterlife before the eventual resurrection is the KJV translation which says "21 Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth? " and turns it into a rhetorical question expressing certainty in the destination of mankind before the resurrection. But knowing that Sheol contained both torments and paradise, and was presumably in the earth, wouldn't it make more sense for mankind to go "downward to the earth" like animals? And what does it mean for the spirit of an animal to go down into the earth? My first thought is that this might be talking about the spirit decaying with the body, again something like a soul sleep? So not positionally -minded like I first mentioned, but contrasting sleep/grave with existence. Whichever it was, it makes more sense to me for Solomon to have questioned whether humans and animals share the same fate in the grave before the resurrection rather than being certain about it.

We do know for sure that besides the comparison that humans and animals are both dust, people in the Old Testament knew that humans were unique being made in the image of God from genesis and humans ruling over animals. The purpose of the passage seems to be two-fold of encouraging humility and encouraging people to live godly lives now (and be thankful for the blessings God gives in this life)

If anyone could follow my stream of consciousness style exposition, some feedback would be lovely :lol
 

Graceismine

Well-Known Member
I see it as the thinking of an unregenerate man. Solomon seems to be speaking from that point of view. I dont know if he believes it or not, but he is pointing out that the world view of life is vanity and of no use. I probably shouldn't comment on this because I have never really studied it. Interesting to see what comes from your post.
 

Salluz

You mean we can change these titles?
I see it as the thinking of an unregenerate man. Solomon seems to be speaking from that point of view. I dont know if he believes it or not, but he is pointing out that the world view of life is vanity and of no use. I probably shouldn't comment on this because I have never really studied it. Interesting to see what comes from your post.
This was my original thought as well, but there are frequent references to God throughout
 

Graceismine

Well-Known Member
Not my favourite book but you made me read it :p I take it as a whole book. God made Solomon the wisest man on earth because he chose that gift over riches. The wisest man on earth wrote a whole book for the world...those under the sun. This book tells us that life is futile our hopes and dreams are foolishness because when it comes to our end we will go down into the earth just like the animals do when they die. What utter hopelessness. Would it not cause a person to look beyond all of this futility for help? If we don't collapse with the frustration of our foolish lives and read to the end we will discover that in 12:7 we won't be like the beasts who go downward but our spirits will return to God who tells us in verse 1 is our Creator. Hope for the hopeless. Solomon sets out the requirement for man and that is to fear God and do His commandments. Man should be able to accept from this that he will be judged by God and so this opens the heart to the message of the gospel.

I note Ecc 9:5. An SDA person was trying to convince me of soul sleep on this one statement "the dead know not anything". :rolleyes:
 

Salluz

You mean we can change these titles?
Not my favourite book but you made me read it :p I take it as a whole book. God made Solomon the wisest man on earth because he chose that gift over riches. The wisest man on earth wrote a whole book for the world...those under the sun. This book tells us that life is futile our hopes and dreams are foolishness because when it comes to our end we will go down into the earth just like the animals do when they die. What utter hopelessness. Would it not cause a person to look beyond all of this futility for help? If we don't collapse with the frustration of our foolish lives and read to the end we will discover that in 12:7 we won't be like the beasts who go downward but our spirits will return to God who tells us in verse 1 is our Creator. Hope for the hopeless. Solomon sets out the requirement for man and that is to fear God and do His commandments. Man should be able to accept from this that he will be judged by God and so this opens the heart to the message of the gospel.

I note Ecc 9:5. An SDA person was trying to convince me of soul sleep on this one statement "the dead know not anything". :rolleyes:
I understand that the idea of Ecclesiastes is to convince the reader that their earthly life is meaningless/futile/vanity and to turn to God for hope... but man do those verses like 9:5 throw me off. I'd be totally fine if they were only confined to Ecclesiastes, because I could firmly compartmentalize it as taking a worldly perspective in contrast to a Godly one, but there are also similar statements in the psalms.

It's clear from what we know in the new testament that we are conscious with Christ immediately after death and OT believers were conscious in paradise. So no soul sleep. So why does the bible have statements like that? We know that the Bible is inspired by the Holy Spirirt in its entirety, so it can't be simply wrong in the old testament a la "they thought it was soul sleep back then, but they were wrong." That can't be the answer... I wonder if maybe it's an expression of doubt in the psalms at a really low point, and then (as you said) just an earthly perspective here in Ecclesiastes compared to a Godly perspective at the end. I think the ones in the psalms actually throw me off more than the ones in Ecclesiastes. I'm really stuck on it
 

Kaatje

Listening for that trumpet sound
Hi @Salluz, you really made me crunch my brain here.
Gotquestions adresses this way better than I can, so here goes.
Hope this helps?


Question: "What does it mean that the dead know nothing (Ecclesiastes 9:5)?"

Answer:
Ecclesiastes 9:5 reads, “For the living know that they will die, / but the dead know nothing; / they have no further reward, / and even their name is forgotten.” This verse is sometimes used as a proof text for annihilationism, but that concept is not what is being communicated here. The “dead know nothing,” but in what way?

First, it is clear from other places in the Bible that this verse cannot mean the dead have absolutely no knowledge. For example, Matthew 25:46 speaks of everlasting consciousness: “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” Every person will spend eternity with God in heaven or apart from Him in hell. Each person will have feelings, thoughts, and abilities that exist in eternity.

In fact, Luke 16:19–31 offers an example of human capabilities in the afterlife. Lazarus is in paradise in eternal joy, while the rich man is in torment in hell (called “Hades”). The rich man has feelings, can talk, and has the ability to remember, think, and reason.

Second, Ecclesiastes 9:5 cannot contradict Ecclesiastes 4:2. There, Solomon states that the dead are “happier than the living.” However, when a person is dead, the opportunities to enjoy things on earth no longer exist.

The key to understanding the statement “the dead know nothing” is found in the theme of the book of Ecclesiastes. Ecclesiastes is written specifically from an earthly perspective. The key phrase, repeated throughout the book, is under the sun, used about thirty times. Solomon is commenting on an earth-bound life, “under the sun,” without God. His conclusion, also repeated throughout the book, is that everything from that perspective is “vanity” or emptiness (Ecclesiastes 1:2).

When a person dies “under the sun,” the earthly perspective, without God, is that it’s over. He is no longer under the sun. There is no more knowledge to give or be given, just a grave to mark his remains. Those who have died have “no further reward” in this life; they no longer have the ability to enjoy life like those who are living. Eventually, “even their name is forgotten” (Ecclesiastes 9:5).

Ecclesiastes 9:5 displays a chiastic structure (ABBA format) like this:

A “For the living know that they will die,
B but the dead know nothing;
B they have no further reward,
A and even their name is forgotten.”

Lines 1 and 4 are parallel thoughts in the sense that the living know death is coming while those who remain after a person dies quickly forget those who have died. The second and third lines lay down associated ideas in parallel: the dead know nothing, and the dead can no longer enjoy or be rewarded for their activities in this life.

The saying “the dead know nothing” seems to be a negative sentiment, but it is not without a positive message. Solomon encourages his readers to live life to its fullest, knowing life is short. In the end, the fullest life is one that honors God and keeps His ways (Ecclesiastes 12:13–14).

https://www.gotquestions.org/dead-know-nothing.html
 

antitox

Well-Known Member
Solomon spoke and addressed things in a limited fashion, for he was seeking to find what lasting benefit there was to this life. It was all vanity to him because there is no lasting benefit under the sun. Everything comes to an end and whatever man profited from is no longer in his hands. But since the whole conversation was limited to this life, he spoke accordingly concerning man and beast. Man's life ends just like a beast's does so he speaks in that vein. He suggested that who knows whether man's spirit goes upward or the beast's goes downward - it appears he is saying that he doesn't know. He was very practical in his approach to everything.
 

TheRedeemed

Well-Known Member
Solomon spoke and addressed things in a limited fashion, for he was seeking to find what lasting benefit there was to this life. It was all vanity to him because there is no lasting benefit under the sun. Everything comes to an end and whatever man profited from is no longer in his hands. But since the whole conversation was limited to this life, he spoke accordingly concerning man and beast. Man's life ends just like a beast's does so he speaks in that vein. He suggested that who knows whether man's spirit goes upward or the beast's goes downward - it appears he is saying that he doesn't know. He was very practical in his approach to everything.
I believe this is what is being alluded to in Ecclesiastes 3 too.

The reference to the dead not knowing anything is in reference to this earthly realm and not the continuance of spirit after death.

The bible interprets the bible and there are numerous scriptures that refute the notion of 'soul sleep'. Jesus confirmed that He was present with his Father when he referred to the the glory I once had with you when He was praying just prior to His crucifixion.

Then there's the story of Lazarus, and also Samuel as well as others that are too many to mention, which all confirm the fact that after the last breath we all step from this physical place to the spiritual one.
 

Salluz

You mean we can change these titles?
Then there's the story of Lazarus, and also Samuel as well as others that are too many to mention, which all confirm the fact that after the last breath we all step from this physical place to the spiritual one.
Interesting that you bring up Samuel! I remembered Lazarus in the New Testament, but I couldn't for the life of me remember anyone in the old. There's a point for people in the OT knowing their spirits would be conscious...

Also, the phrase that is used often in the OT "to rest with his fathers" seems to imply a consciousness, but I could also see an argument for that just meaning death, considering it was also used to describe wicked people (as far as I can remember)

Because of that lovely conclusion @Graceismine mentioned that clearly states our spirit departs to be with God, I'm leaning more toward Solomon being aware and only taking on the worldly perspective.

The only place I'm still really hung up on, then, is the Psalms. Why do we have Psalms that say similar things? Like

Psalm 6:5
Among the dead no one proclaims your name. Who praises you from the grave?

Psalm 115:7
It is not the dead who praise the LORD, those who go down to the place of silence;

We're close to solving this mystery, gang
 

Graceismine

Well-Known Member
Psalm 6:5
Among the dead no one proclaims your name. Who praises you from the grave?

Psalm 115:7
It is not the dead who praise the LORD, those who go down to the place of silence;
I don't think we take this as doctrine concerning life after death. This was a time of great misery for David and he was obviously in an unstable mental state. 2 Sam 12: "18 On the seventh day the child died. And the servants of David were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, for they said, “Behold, while the child was yet alive, we spoke to him, and he did not listen to us. How then can we say to him the child is dead? He may do himself some harm. "

Looking over into the later psalms he came to himself and brightened up considerably. Psalm 34:22 " The Lord redeems the soul of His servants, and none of those who trust in Him shall be condemned". Change of heart here because he found forgiveness, Psalm 18:6. I think in the Psalms that you quoted David had reason to feel like Job.

I really don't know, just my take on it not using a commentary. LOL
 

TheRedeemed

Well-Known Member
Interesting that you bring up Samuel! I remembered Lazarus in the New Testament, but I couldn't for the life of me remember anyone in the old. There's a point for people in the OT knowing their spirits would be conscious...

Also, the phrase that is used often in the OT "to rest with his fathers" seems to imply a consciousness, but I could also see an argument for that just meaning death, considering it was also used to describe wicked people (as far as I can remember)

Because of that lovely conclusion @Graceismine mentioned that clearly states our spirit departs to be with God, I'm leaning more toward Solomon being aware and only taking on the worldly perspective.

The only place I'm still really hung up on, then, is the Psalms. Why do we have Psalms that say similar things? Like

Psalm 6:5
Among the dead no one proclaims your name. Who praises you from the grave?

Psalm 115:7
It is not the dead who praise the LORD, those who go down to the place of silence;

We're close to solving this mystery, gang
Remember Jesus said, let the dead bury their dead. He referred to both the dead person, and those living as all being dead.

So, what He was alluding to in my opinion was that not only was the person being buried dead, so were those attending the burial. They were therefore, spiritually dead, they knew not the Lord. So these dead were among the living, and they certainly wouldn’t proclaim the Lord.

It would explain why the Psalms say the dead do not proclaim His name and, those who go down to the place of silence are those who died without either looking forward to the cross and accepting that they needed a messiah, or not looking back to the cross after the crucifixion.

In other words, these people are both physically and spiritually dead, held apart from God and awaiting their final verdicts and just sentencing at the final resurrection.

This is how I read the situation, others may have alternative interpretations though.
 
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