Ecclesiastes in Word Biblical Commentary

By R. E. Murphy
Dallas : Word (1992). 170 Pages.

Reviewed by
6.1 (Spring 1995) : 107-107

Roland Murphy is best known for his books and articles related to wisdom literature. In the present work he provides another such treatment of a book some have labeled "The black sheep of the Bible." He does so with meticulous documentation of secondary source material and a broad understanding of wisdom literature.

In response to the tendency toward "excessive summarizing" (lviii), Murphy challenges the common understanding of the Hebrew term translated "vanity" and argues for the meaning "incomprehensible" (lix). His exegetical methodology is clear as he treats nine such "key terms" (lviii).

The author prefers to build his interpretation of Ecclesiastes' primary message on the work of A. G. Wright (not to be confused with J. S. Wright, "Ecclesiastes," EBC, and the Ecclesiastes entry in W. Kaiser'sClassical Evangelical Essays on the Old Testament).

Several helpful discussions, such as "Personification of Wisdom" (144-51), constitute the epilogue. In the author's discussion of A.N.E. parallels (143-44), one might have expected to see some interaction with the Ph.D. dissertation of Tremper Longman III on "Fictional Akkadian Autobiography."

Roland Murphy's commentary is a significant contribution to Ecclesiastes research. For those interested in serious study of Ecclesiastes in the original language, it is beneficial as a synthesis of previous research, to which Murphy, a seasoned scholar of wisdom literature, adds his own insightful contributions.