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“Fear God and Keep His Commandments”: Could Qohelet Have Said This?

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Chapter Summary

The book of Ecclesiastes famously closes in 12:13-14 with an exhortation to "Fear God and keep his commandments". The author thinks that 12:13-14, and their relationship with the rest of Ecclesiastes, deserve more investigation, and he shows that they raise some important issues for our interpretation of the book as a whole. It is clear that the notion of God giving commands to humans is not itself problematic in the context of Qohelet's speech, and that he may even have touched on it himself. The concept of a revealed Torah is much less easy to reconcile with his ideas. It is fair to say that wisdom literature in general concerns itself not with ends but with means: neither Job nor the various parts of Proverbs appear to find any difficulty in establishing what people actually want, which we might characterize broadly as security and success, or prosperity and long life.

Keywords: Ecclesiastes; Fear God and keep his commandments; Qohelet's speech; Torah; wisdom literature



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