Study Guide

Ecclesiastes Chapter 9

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Chapter 9

Pushin' Up Daisies

  • If Ecclesiastes was just saying that it pays to be good in the long run, and then waffled a bit, now he's fully flipped. The righteous and the evil face the same fate—they both die. (Yay?) And when you're dead, Ecclesiastes thinks, you just push up daisies. There's no afterlife. The dead know nothing and no one remembers anything about them.
  • Oh, and everyone's hearts are full of evil. He just thought he'd mention it.

Eat, Drink, Be Merry—Repeat 

  • Yet again, Ecclesiastes urges people to take pleasure in eating and drinking and to be merry. He says God has already approved of everything you're going to do. So, sweet—that's a total blank check, straight from God. (You're presumably supposed to still be good, though.)
  • You should feel free to shop for fine clothes—"white garments" being Ecclesiastes's preference—slick back your hair with oil, and find someone to love. He repeats, yet again, his point about finding some kind of work to do.

No Just Deserts for You 

  • This next passage is one of the most famous, not just in Ecclesiastes, but in the entire Bible (particularly in the King James Version's translation). He says he realized that people who should succeed, don't always succeed. The best people don't always receive the best rewards, whether they're wise or intelligent or talented. "Time and chance happeneth upon them all" (9:11): just deserts are a myth.
  • Not only do rewards fail to go to the people who deserve them, but death falls suddenly and cruelly on everyone, likely without much notice beforehand.

Wisdom Under Siege 

  • The chapter ends with a short tale about a little city under siege by a king's army. A poor but wise man in the city was able to save it from destruction. But no one remembered him or who he was… even though they're somehow able to still tell this story about him.
  • But wisdom is "better than might." (No one's going to remember it forever, though.)

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