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Background Considerations

How should we view death: As an evil or as a blessing? In our culture today there are different views on what happens to us when we die. Most often people talk of going to heaven or hell at the moment they die. In ancient Israel the choice was not heaven or hell, but life or death.

Although death is common destiny for all humans, biblical writers considered it to be an evil. All who die go to the same place, which in Hebrew is called Sheol or the abode of the dead. Job 3:13-19 gives a description of that place. Humans and animals, rich and poor, wise and fool, strong and weak, all go to the same place. There is, however, a promise in the Bible that at the end of earth’s history, death, “the last enemy” will be destroyed (1 Cor. 15:26).

Relevant Biblical Passages

  1. Ecclesiastes 6:1-6. Why is the author disturbed by fact that death is no respecter of persons? What is meant by the words “a proper burial”? Why were burial so important to ancient people?
  2. Ecclesiastes 6:7-10. This set of sayings reminds of the Book of Proverbs, doesn’t it? Is there any difference between this passage and the overall teaching of that book? Why was food (or a lack of it) such a great concern to the people back then?
  3. Ecclesiastes 6:11-12. What are some life’s phenomena that words cannot adequately explain?
    Humans were always interested in the future and have tried to predict it. How successful have they been with that?

Lessons for Life

Through this chapter the author of Ecclesiastes reminds us that we are all mortal, that our wisdom is limited and that the future is something unknown to us.

The believer can find comfort in the thought that the Eternal God is all knowing. God not only knows the future, he also holds it in his powerful hands.

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