Did God’s Luck Hold When He Invented Old Age? Reflections on Ageing in Relation to Sapiential Literature of the Hebrew Bible

Sebastian Smolarz


The article describes a development of the motif of old age in sapiential literature of the Hebrew Bible: Proverbs, Job, and Qoheleth. It is argued that the view on seniority had changed between those writings, from the positive to more controversial and negative. Special attention is given to Eccl 12:1–7 in a wider context of the Poem on Youth and Old Age (11:7–12:8), in the context of the Poem on Toil (1:2–11), and also in the context of the main idea of the book expressed by the word heḇel. It is suggested that despite the realistic and somewhat negative descriptions of the frailty of old age, the book offers a positive perspective on living an inextricable and quickly-passing life, as it is. Qoheleth encourages people to enjoy life when one can, and to remember their Creator, who for some reason invented both good and “evil days”, youth and old age alike. The negative experience of weaknesses in old age can give man a taste of judgement expressed in Gen 3:19. Finally, it is asked if God’s luck held when he invented old age. It is proposed that there is no straightforward answer to this question, but also that man has to learn to live in face of perplexity and perhaps in faith that there would be some answer to this riddle out there, coming from Someone greater than himself. That perhaps can be found beyond sapiential literature of the Hebrew Bible.


“evil days”; joy; Qoheleth; old age; wisdom; ageing

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Data publikacji: 2020-10-23 11:33:56
Data złożenia artykułu: 2020-09-23 10:59:47


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