this sunday i will be preaching on ecclesiastes chapter 9 in wesley methodist church segamat. i have been preaching through one chapter of the book of ecclesiastes per sermon per month and have reached chapter 9.
there is this interesting verse in the chapter that is often quoted elsewhere:
'...for a living dog is better than a dead lion.' (9:4b)
this reminds me of a peanuts comic strip some years ago entitled 'theology and the dog'. snoopy is typing on his typewriter and gives what he has typed to charlie brown to read. it says, "as it says in the ninth chapter of ecclesiastes, 'a living dog is better than a dead lion'". so, charlie brown asks snoopy, "what does it mean?" to which snoopy replies, '"i don't know but i agree with it".
so, what exactly does it mean? many people would agree with the Preacher's comment in 9:4b and have some sense of empathy with him although not knowing exactly why!
the saying is simple enough but the interpretation is many. here are two:
1] to be alive and fight another day even to the point of cowardice is far better than to be a dead hero. what is the point of being a hero but the type who dies in trying to save others? it is better to be still alive to fight another day than to give into a pointless self-sacrifice that does no good or bring no fruit in the end. to save one's life to live and fight another day is not seen as cowardice but as smartness!
2] to have a life like a dog is still far better than death itself. in OT times, 'dog' was a word often used in a derogradotry sense. the word refer to the scavengers that roam the streets and eating food off rubbish heaps. hence, these 'dogs' were despised and the term was used to refer to one's enemies. to 'live a life like a dog' was therefore to have a despised life. yet, in terms of the other alternative which is death, life even if it is a dog's life is far better than death which ends everything.
the Preacher was obviously reminding people in this chapter of the Latin phrase 'memento mori' (remember that we must die). that is why after vv. 1-6, the Preacher admonishes his readers with one his 7 'eat and drink' passages. if life is going to be short, go and eat and drink. enjoy your short vain life to the full before it comes to an end.
now, that's calls for a celebration!