Death and Divine Judgment in Ecclesiastes
University Park, PA: Eisenbrauns, 2019 pp. xv + 238. $89.95
Bulletin for Biblical Research Supplement, 26
Description: In Death and Divine Judgment in Ecclesiastes, Kumiko Takeuchi provides a fresh take on the book of Ecclesiastes. Building on the current scholarly consensus that locates the composition of this book of the Hebrew Bible in the postexilic era, circa the late fourth or early third century BCE, Takeuchi proposes that Ecclesiastes may have served as a provocative voice for, or as a catalyst to, the emergence of apocalyptic eschatology and later sectarian conflicts within Judaism in the mid–Second Temple period.
During the postexilic era, when retributive justice appeared to be absent or not assured, some Israelites began to question traditional views of death, Sheol, and divine judgment. Situating Ecclesiastes in this social and historical context, Takeuchi reveals the book’s hidden arguments in favor of posthumous divine judgment as a means to rectifying premortem injustices. Takeuchi advocates a modified frame-narrative reading of Ecclesiastes, arguing that the role of the third-person narrative in Ecclesiastes is pivotal for understanding the paradoxes within Qoheleth’s monologue, its relationship to the epilogue, and the book’s overall purpose.
The arguments in Death and Divine Judgment in Ecclesiastes challenge both traditional interpretations of the book of Ecclesiastes and conventional wisdom about when the belief in the postmortem application of divine justice began to take hold in Israelite society. This innovative interpretation is a must-read for biblical scholars, particularly those whose work focuses on the concept of justice.
Subjects: Bible, Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, Wisdom Literature, Ecclesiastes/Qoheleth, Literature, Methods, Historical Approaches, History, History of Judaism, Literary Approaches, Theological Approaches
Review by Brandon R. Grafius
Citation: Brandon R. Grafius, review of Kumiko Takeuchi, Death and Divine Judgment in Ecclesiastes, Review of Biblical Literature [http://www.bookreviews.org] (2020).
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