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Ecclesiastes, Fleeting and timeless


Biblical Philosophy

In fact, Abelís deliverance is not restricted to that of a single person, either. Through Abel, God offers his first universal explanation of lifeís calling. By heeding the offering of Abel and not of Cain, God teaches humanity a fundamental law of divine justice, in his response to Cainís vexation: ďIf you better, you will transcend.Ē23 Life is not a game of chance.


And yet, who was this man whom God affirmed? Abelís life was too short to allow for the attainment of material success. Nor can he be credited with any innovation: Even the idea of sacrifice was Cainís.24 Above all, Abel was childless. His life, therefore, left no trace. He walked without footprints.


If we translate Abelís name, hevel, as ďvanity,Ē as readers of Ecclesiastes have long been accustomed, it is impossible to reconcile the term with Abelís acceptance by God. Indeed, the story of Abel teaches the exact oppositeóthe possibility of salvation despite the fleeting nature of life. Precisely because of the tragic nature of Abelís interrupted life, we learn its deepest message: In turning oneís life into an offering, one is not dependent on any life circumstance, or on any achievements in the material world

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