Resources on Ecclesiastes

March 23, 2011

On Sunday I said that I would post the resources I’ve been using in our study of Ecclesiastes.  Well, as my English teacher used to say, here they is.

(1) My favorite resource has been Doug Wilson’s Joy at the End of the Tether (Canon Press).  Wilson, who admittedly follows a path cut by Walt Kaiser, captures what I believe is the essence of the book: We are not in control of our lives, and learning that is the key to real joy.  Not only is Wilson’s book relatively short and refreshingly clear, it is also startlingly funny.  If you are a layperson who wants only one commentary on Ecclesiastes, this is the book for you.

(2) Derek Kidner’s Ecclesiastes (Bible Speaks Today) is another brief but insightful commentary.  Kidner’s reliable scholarship is matched only by his command of English.  This man can write.  Kidner, like Wilson, believes that the Preacher is knocking the props out from underneath us so that we will learn to worship God.

(3) With a cool name like Iain Provan, you can’t go too wrong.  Provan’s volume, called Ecclesiastes/Song of Songs (NIVAC), is more thorough than the first two commentaries I’ve mentioned and would therefore be good especially for pastors and teachers.  Despite some occasional curiosities in application, and despite the maddening format of NIVAC, this commentary has helped me immensely.  Provan is lucid and provocative, and I’m not exaggerating to say that I love his work.

(4) Duane Garrett’s commentary, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs (New American Commentary), is fairly thorough, like Provan’s.  Garrett’s take on the message of Ecclesiastes is similar to the three men already named.  I find his commentary to be, in general, a reinforcement of what I have already gleaned from the others, with a few exceptions here and there.  Nevertheless, I keep on skimming his work because it is good.

(5) Michael Eaton’s Ecclesiastes (Tyndale Old Testament Commentary) is decent (far better than the commentary I’ve written).  However, it’s number five on my list, and you may only be interested in buying four books on Ecclesiastes.

(6) I really, really, really like Tremper Longman’s work outside of Ecclesiastes.  Unfortunately, in The Book of Ecclesiastes (NICOT), Longman adopts a frame-narrator view in which the frame-narrator basically concludes, “Don’t listen to the Preacher.”  Seriously?  Those previous eleven chapters are junk?

God is changing my life through Ecclesiastes.  This OT book is exposing the idols of my heart, showing me my need for a Savior, and standing me up on a concrete slab of joy.  May God turn us all into a bunch of seriously happy Christians who have discovered how to keep on worshiping in good times and bad. Couple this kind of living with clear gospel proclamation, and we might just change the world.



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