The Old Testament: Ecclesiastes II – Wisdom Better Than a Weapon of War

I don’t cook much.  By this I mean that my repertoire, if you can call it that, contains 10, maybe 11 things.  These choice dishes are ones that I can cook well.  I don’t add to my lists, not because I don’t like to try new things (or, more specifically, more interesting ways to cook a chicken breast) but because I hate following recipes.

Sure, I can read, but I almost always get anxious, feeling like I will mess up the directions, in part because they call for a deeper understanding of techniques.  So, when a recipe says to simmer, I would prefer a more specific: turn your burner to ‘4’ or, no, ‘let it reduce by half,’ I need: cook for six minutes.  These are directions I can handle.

I get further tripped up when well-meaning, more-skilled cooks offer advice and, when they see me scrutinize a recipe, offer advice along the lines of: oh, I know it says that, but do this instead.  This tries my patience.  I just want one set of rules.  More than one confuses me, and when it comes to cooking food, I just as soon leave it up to someone else so I don’t ruin a meal (which I am often paranoid about doing).

Ecclesiastes offers its own version of two sets of directions, and they speak to how you are to handle enemies.  Part of the issue as well is how these instructions conflict with what has already been decreed as law in the Old Testament.

The Book of Ecclesiastes suggests that wisdom is better that a weapon of war (9:18).  Basically, use reason rather than force to solve a conflict.  Violence is no answer. And then there’s the way other nations who “threaten” Israel; no discussion, wholesale slaughter. And what about an eye for an eye?

So which is the right way to handle conflict?

Perhaps there is a context issue here—that you should think twice before being violent with a neighbor; people who are in different regions, that is perhaps a different matter.  But if you’re reading the language as written—i.e. not injecting something else—then there is no context here.  According to 9:18, you should engage with ideas (wisdom), not war. But does this imply using weapons as a last resort? How is one to decide?

Doesn’t having two options make it seem like both are options and that you should decide which is best?  But so much of the Bible is about providing rules to live by.  When the rules conflict, this seems problematic.  And when these conflicting rules potentially involve the lives of people, this seems even more of a problem than going against no work on the Sabbath.

Few things are as satisfying as being able plate a new dish, having followed a recipe mixed with input from more knowledgeable people to tweak the directions. But while I’m taking my first bite, in the back of my head, I’m trying to recall which were the directions I should follow the next time I make the dish and which to ignore. For, having done this many times, I know that if I make the wrong choice, the food gets either over or undercooked (or is just plain bad). This problem could be solved if I took better notes on a recipe as I’m cooking, but my hands are usually too dirty to hold a pen and not get the paper dirty. Perhaps I don’t do this out of protest: if the recipe would just be right, I wouldn’t have to think.

About virgowriter

Brad Windhauser has a Master's in English from Rutgers University (Camden campus) and an MFA in creative writing from Queens University of Charlotte. He is an Associate Professor (Teaching/Instruction) in the English Department at Temple University. His short stories have appeared in The Baltimore Review, The Santa Fe Writer's Project Journal, Ray's Road Review, Philadelphia Review of Books, Northern Liberty Review, and Jonathan. His first novel, Regret (a gay-themed thriller set in Philadelphia) was published in 2007. You can read more about (and buy) it here: His second novel, The Intersection, is being published by Black Rose Writing September 2016. He is one of five regular contributors to On his solo blog, he is chronicling his experience as a gay writer reading the Bible for the first time: Follow his work at:
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