Old Testament Essays
On-line version ISSN 2312-3621
DEBEL, Hans. When it all falls apart: A survey of the interpretational maze concerning the "final poem" of the book of Qohelet (Qoh 12:1-7). Old testam. essays [online]. 2010, vol.23, n.2, pp. 235-260. ISSN 2312-3621.
For many centuries, readers of the Book of Qohelet have been puzzled by the words of this ancient wisdom teacher. Particularly the masterly finale of the book, conventionally called the "final poem" (Qoh 12:1-7), has given rise to a divergence of interpretations. Beginning with the early Jewish rabbi's, several attempts have been made to connect each of the respective images with particular parts of the old man's deteriorating body. In the end, however, this reading of the poem as an "allegory of old age " proved incapable of solving all the ambiguities. Therefore, ancient and modern commentators alike have proposed alternative interpretations, but they have equally met with the poem's resistance to being encapsulated in a single explanation. The present contribution intends to provide a critical survey of the major lines of development in the interpretation of this pericope, pointing out the inconsistencies, textual difficulties, and conjectural elements in each of them. After having discussed each of them, it will make a plea to appreciate the poem as a remarkable piece of poetry that will always remain open to multiple interpretations.