Fox’s potent commentary is a terrific introduction to Ecclesiastes for the educated layman or scholar who wishes to better understand this fascinating and sometimes frustrating book. The author succinctly presents the consensus of modern thought on Ecclesiastes: that it is a fairly late production as books of the Bible go and that it is a series of philosophical reflections, not a systematic work of philosophy. It concerns itself with universal philosophical questions, rather than events in the history of Israel and in the Hebrews’ covenant with God.
This resource is available as part of the JPS Tanakh Commentary Collection (11 volumes).
“Koheleth faces life’s inequities and absurdities—and refuses to impose pat and reassuring ‘meanings’ on them. Yet he maintains a faith in God’s rule and fundamental justness, and he looks for ways to create a meaningful life in a world where so much is senseless.” (Page ix)
“‘Time’ here is not a specific moment in time but rather an occasion or situation that is right for something.” (Page 20)
“The broad literary category to which Ecclesiastes belongs is Wisdom Literature. This is the body of writings that offer advice on how to succeed in life as well as reflections on its meanings and problems.” (Pages x–xi)
“The key term is hevel (plural, havalim; construct form, haveil; and pausal form, havel). Havel havalim is literally ‘vapor of vapors,’ which is to be understood as a superlative: ‘utter vanity, utter futility’ (NJPS), or (as I prefer) ‘utterly senseless’ or ‘utterly absurd.’” (Page 3)
“Koheleth has some unusual things to say, and his views should not be forced to fit presuppositions of what a biblical book must say. One need not grant the truth of all his opinions; the other biblical authors would not have. Koheleth’s hard and lonely theology is only one man’s view of the world and his glimpse of the Infinite. All truths are partial, all thinkers inadequate. Koheleth’s teachings are one motif—a poignant and significant discord—in the larger symphony of the biblical canon.” (Page ix)
The sum of the matter, when all is said and done, is that the JPS Ecclesiastes/Koheleth is a thorough, sensitive and engaging study with much to recommend it.
—Canadian Jewish News
This is an insightful and accessible commentary that reflects many years of deep engagement with the text.
—Journal of Hebrew Scriptures
This volume is a profitable resource for both scholars and pastors. Pastors will appreciate its brevity and clarity, and scholars will respect its depth and thoughtfulness.
—Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Michael V. Fox received his rabbinical ordination from Hebrew Union College. He received a Ph.D. in Bible, Semitics, and Egyptology from the Hebrew University. He is currently Halls-Bascom Professor of Hebrew at the University of Wisconsin.
The Jewish Publication Society of Americawas founded in Philadelphia in 1888 to provide the children of Jewish immigrants to America with books about their heritage in the language of the New World. As the oldest publisher of Jewish titles in the English language, the mission of JPS is to enhance Jewish culture by promoting the dissemination of religious and secular works of exceptional quality, in the United States and abroad, to all individuals and institutions interested in past and contemporary Jewish life.
Over the years JPS has issued a body of works for all tastes and needs. Its many titles include biographies, histories, art books, holiday anthologies, books for young readers, religious and philosophical studies, and translations of scholarly and popular classics. It is perhaps known best for its famous JPS Tanakh, the translation of the Hebrew Bible in English from the original Hebrew.