Ecclessiastes and the Song of Songs: Apollos Old Testament Commentary

Daniel C. Fredericks, Daniel J. Estes IVP Academic, Downers Grove, IL March 23, 2010
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Fredericks, professor of biblical studies and provost of Bethaven College, Jackson, Mississippi, has written the section in this book on Ecclesiastes. In a lengthy discussion he supports the view that Solomon authored Ecclesiastes (pp. 31–36). After discussing several ideas on how to translate lb,h, (often rendered “vanity” [NASB] or “meaningless” [NIV]), he suggests “temporary” (pp. 50–54).

While many commentators struggle with the question of the unity of the book, Fredericks points out that “whatever unity there may be is maintained primarily by four rhetorical, poetic, determinants” (p. 62). These are (a) poems about cyclicity and transience (1:2–11; 3:1–8; 12:1–8); (b) refrains of enjoyment (2:24–26; 3:12–13, 22; 5:18–19; 8:15; 9:7–9; 11:9–10); (c) recurrent, formulaic hebel conclusions (found in every chapter except chapter 10); and (d) proverbs that contribute a conventional wisdom structure to a reflective speech.

After each portion of verses is translated, the commentary includes copy under these headings: Translation, Notes on the Text, Form and Structure, Comment (exegesis of the passage), and Explanation (exposition of the theological message).

Many readers wonder about Solomon’s statement in 7:28, “I found one upright man among a thousand, but not one upright woman among them all.” Fredericks refers back to verse 26, which cites the seductress. Relating the issue to wisdom, he renders verse 28 as follows: “I have found one wise man out of a thousand, but I have not found a single wise woman among all these seductresses” (p. 186).

Many commentators believe 12:3–7 describes poetically in a variety of ways the emotional and physical deterioration of the aged. Fredericks suggests, however, that the verses are to be understood as using the metaphor of a storm (see 12:2), which depicts the fear and melancholy that grips a household when death is imminent (p. 232). “The trauma of death, like a ravaging storm, reaches everyone—not only the deceased, but also all who watch the devastation take its toll” (p. 242). This meteorological interpretation, he notes, is the view of Umbreit (1818), Ginsburg (1861), Leaky (1952), and Loretz (1964).

The section on the Song of Songs is written by Estes, distinguished professor of Bible and dean of the school of biblical and theological studies, Cedarville University, Cedarville, Ohio. In his thirty-two-page introduction Estes discusses the book’s canonicity; date (he suggests that in light of incomplete evidence a definite date for the writing of the Song cannot be set); authorship (he recognizes the possibility of Solomonic authorship but does not affirm it); interpretational approaches (to which he devotes twelve pages: 275–86, and rightly concludes that the book should be read “literally as a song of human erotic love” (p. 286); literature; unity; structure; theme (pp. 293–99); and purpose. He writes, “The Song traces the awakening of intimacy leading up to marriage in 1:1–3:11, the celebration of intimacy on the wedding night in 4:1–5:1 and the maturing of intimacy written within marriage in 5:2–8:14. . . . The Song uses a collage or kaleidoscope of scenes that suggests a story” (p. 292).

As in the section on Ecclesiastes, each portion of verses has Translation; Notes on the Text; Form, Structure, and Setting (and sometimes Form and Structure); Comment; and Explanation.

This book is an outstanding discussion of two often-neglected Old Testament books.

—Roy B. Zuck

January 1, 2012
 

Biblotheca Sacra

This review appeared in the Jan-Mar 2012 vol. 169 no. 1 issue of Biblotheca Sacra, DTS’s quarterly academic journal.

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