Study Guide

Ecclesiastes Time

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The theme of time is pretty closely related to the theme of death—because death is pretty much just running out of time. But Ecclesiastes has more to say about time than simply reminding us that we don't have a whole lot. He talks about how everything that happens has already happened and will happen again. Time, for him, is something that makes you sick of life—it just keeps going, repeating itself, and wearing everything down. But he also says that God can bless people by making sure their hearts are occupied with gladness—appreciating work and the good things in life—which helps distract them from time. Time can be creative—it doesn't need to just be a long, hard slog leading towards annihilation.

Questions About Time

  1. Does the fact that everything keeps repeating itself, and that "there is nothing new under the sun" make life pointless? Or can there still be a point even if it's all so repetitive?
  2. Do you agree with what the critic Northrop Frye said, that if we recognize that everything is old, we can live in a way that makes every moment new? What would that be like? (Hint: think about Groundhog Day again).
  3. Why is Ecclesiastes so eager to tell us that there's a specific time for everything?
  4. What could be the consequence of doing something when it's not the time for it—for example, embracing when it's a time to "refrain from embracing"?

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