‘The days of darkness will be many’: Echoes of Exile

Jennie Barbour

in The Story of Israel in the Book of Qohelet

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780199657827
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191744914 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Theological Monographs

‘The days of darkness will be many’: Echoes of Exile

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This chapter considers the enduring importance of the idea of exile in early Judaism (Albertz, Smith-Christopher, N.T. Wright), and sets the book of Ecclesiastes and especially its choice of language within that intellectual context. The two stories of wealth lost in a calamity at 5:12-16 and 6:1-6 are examined for their language of darkness as a place, death, pain, and consuming strangers; these expressions are compared with similar ways of speaking about the experience of exile in the prophets, the covenant curses, and texts like Tobit and Baruch. The tale of a little city besieged by a great king in 9:11-18 is read against the foundational tradition of national deliverance from Sennacherib’s siege in 701: in Qohelet’s re-reading, this turns to a cautionary tale of national vulnerability rather than inviolability. The book of Ben Sira is compared for a similar method of anonymous allusion to historical figures, but Qohelet is sharply distinguished by a more pessimistic and less patriotic perspective.

Keywords: exile; smith-christopher; wright; darkness; death; tobit; sennacherib; ben sira

Chapter.  18437 words. 

Subjects: Biblical Studies

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