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Old Testament Essays

versión On-line ISSN 2312-3621
versión impresa ISSN 1010-9919

Old testam. essays vol.21 no.1 Pretoria  2008


Remember the 'spring' of your youth: The vanity of male power in Qohelet 12



Philip Nel

University of the Free State





In patriarchal and phallic cultures the loss of power to create life as well as the implicit loss of potency are symbolized in the decaying or breaking of the phallic simulacrum representing the male genital member - often at the very 'fountain' of its power exhibition. This paper is a close reading of Qoh 11:7-12:8 (a highly contested text in critical reading). What follows is an analysis of the metaphoric references whereby an argument is construed in favour of the idea that, according to Qohelet, male power and virility are the ultimate expressions of meaningful life. Should fate strike in this realm it is also considered the worst of disasters (hebel) that may befall man. The passage centre-stages the opposition between youth and old age, and accordingly, the teacher advises the young man to celebrate his youth and carnal pleasures before the bodily deterioration of old age and impotence brings him to the brink of the grave.



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Philip Nel
University of the Free State
PO Box 339, Bloemfontein, 9300.

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