‘Woe to you, land’: The City-Lament Mode in the Closing Poem

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

‘Woe to you, land’: The City-Lament Mode in the Closing Poem

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Jerome and Qohelet Rabbah are again the starting-point for reading Qohelet against the backdrop of Israel’s own histories, in the poem of 12:1-7. Instead of the usual allegory of the body as a vehicle for anxiety over old age and death, this chapter builds on the studies of Israel’s city-laments by Dobbs-Allsopp and Hillers to find similar language within Qohelet’s poem. Motifs of urban landscape, desertion, silenced agriculture, representative population, Kontrastmotiv, darkness, and an elegiac perspective all bring the poem near to widely-attested ways of speaking about the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians in 586. In its context in the argument of the book, this contributes to a preoccupation with historical accident and with the troubles of Jerusalem. The final poem of urban decay is also compared to the opening account of the building of ‘Solomon’’s splendid establishment in Chapter Two; these two brackets to the book invite us to read the whole as an meditation on how Israel got from imperial splendour to being a tiny province of the Ptolemies. Such a preoccupation reveals a Qohelet who, against the views of Fox and Crenshaw, has a strong sense of belonging to a community.

Keywords: city-lament; 586; solomon; fox; crenshaw; allegory; death; old age; fall of jerusalem

Chapter.  17017 words. 

Subjects: Biblical Studies

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