The Old Testament is often viewed as a creaky, incomprehensible tome, full of history, violence and a wrathful, bombastic God. Often, it is used as a manual: This is what God wants, this is what would displease the Creator, and so on and so forth. There are two particular books of the Old Testament, Job and Ecclesiastes, stand out from the crowd. They ask and seek to address the fundamental questions of life and spirituality.
Before diving into content and themes, it is important to acknowledge structural differences between the two books. Job is told from the third person and is a story with a clear sequence of events and plot. In fact, "it is likely that versions of Job were told by many peoples of the region." (Seow, HB 726), and "That the final form is the product of a complex history of transmission". It consists of a narrative, focused in the introduction and epilogue, with a series of dialogues between them.
Ecclesiastes, on the other hand, is more akin to an essay, interspersed with poems, proverbs and songs to support his conclusions. This requires a much telling and little showing, but allows for more wisdom to be dispensed.
In both books, the mysterious workings of the world, ostensibly controlled by God, cause consternation. Job's livelihood is ruined, even though he was a decent man. As for Ecclesiastes:"I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all." (Ecclesiastes 9:11, King James Bible)Through much of Ecclesiastes, he laments the mysterious unfairness of existence and the apparent powerlessness of mankind. The...