As you prepare to listen to this Sunday’s sermon…
Many commentators see the organization of this passage as follows:
A. 5:8-12. Dissatisfaction. <this section includes a few proverbs>
B. 5:13-17. Anecdote about a man who hoarded wealth but then lost it all.
C. 5:18-19. Something good that the Teacher has seen.
D. 5:20. God gives joy.
C’. 6:1-2. Something evil that the Teacher has seen.
B’. 6:3-6. Anecdote about a man who has long life/large family, doesn’t enjoy.
A’. 6:7-9. Disssatisfaction. <this section includes a few proverbs>
Read the entire passage, and see if having this outline in mind helps you make sense of it.
Now, do you have time and interest for further investigation? If so, read the passage again looking for repeated elements in the text (for example, what is there in section A, that is repeated later in some way in section A’, and so on?). Then test your powers of observation by comparing your notes with the list at the very bottom of this post.
Credits: Choon-Leong Seow, Ecclesiastes: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, 1997. Sidney Griedanus, Preaching Christ from Ecclesiastes, 2010. Both of these writers tip their hats to Daniel Fredericks, “Chiasm and Parallel Structure in Qoheleth 5:9-6:9,” Journal of Biblical Literature 108:1, 1989.
Side note: Why did I use the word “structure” in the title of this post? If you find that word unexpected, substitute there the word ”outline.” However, as you can see, the outline of this passage is not exactly simple and straightforward, with Roman numerals and so on, the kind of outline most of us were taught to use in high school English class.
A few detailed parallels in the passage:
Reference to using eyes to see: 5:11 and 6:9.
Reference to a father having a child or children: 5:14 and 6:3.
Reference to birth and death in terms of “coming and going:” 5:15 and 6:4.
Reference to darkness: 5:17 and 6:4.
*Notice the complex relationship between 5:19 and 6:2.