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The Access Bible New Revised Standard Bible, written and edited with first-time Bible readers in mind.

Reading Guide

Both in its style and in its theme, the book engages in dialogue with the optimistic wisdom typical of the book of Proverbs. Traditional-sounding proverbs, such as the famous poem in 3.1–8 (“For everything there is a season”) are often followed by the author's more sober judgments ( 3.9 : “What gain have the workers from their toil?”). Because of this “yes, but” style, the reader cannot assume that every statement made is the position of the author. Readers should consider how statements are modified, corrected, or even contradicted by subsequent verses. Where is the author's own voice heard?

For many readers over the centuries, Ecclesiastes has served as a check on human pride. Like similar “cynical” tales from Egypt and Mesopotamia, it reminds humans of the limitations in their understanding of the world and of the divine. Ecclesiastes, however, avoids utter despair, choosing to remain in conversation with traditional wisdom and remaining convinced that God is present, even if not always understandable.

Attempts to determine a clear structure for the book have proven frustrating. The following outline is one of many ways of understanding the book's movements.

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Oxford University Press

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