You may recall in the analysis of the passage in Ecclesiastes 3 that the Hebrew word Mishpat was the key to understanding the text and subsequent postmortem judgement. Ecclesiastes 5 also uses the term, but it does so in a way that a man judges another man. However that changes in 11:9 which states, “Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment” (ESV-CE).
Ecclesiastes And Judgment
Here we see Qohelet turn from the hebel statements to a more positive tone. As a skilled speaker and teacher Qohelet is looking to leave on a positive note . Life is fleeting and will be over before one knows it. Therefore, it is important to enjoy it while you can . Some suggest that this section of Qohelet was the work of a later editor and was inserted later upon Hellenization. Though it is most likely a work of the postexilic era the idea of a judgment was seen and being developed using other Old Testament works.
As stated previously, this section is calling for one to enjoy life but to do so in a rational manner . For a better picture one should look at a wider context and look at Ecclesiastes 11:7-10. When this is taken into account a repetitive construction using the Hebrew words tob and samakh, which mean “good” and “rejoice” respectively. Life is fleeting and transient, enjoy it while you can, and be cautious while you are living .
A Word Of Warning
Qohelet gives us a type of antithetical parallelism to draw upon the ultimate conclusion. In the first half of 11:9, Qohelet reiterates what he has said so many times in the book about enjoying life. In the second half is a warning that judgment looms over ones life. There is a question as to what this judgment is though. Personally, I would argue that this is postmortem and occurs after we have drawn our last breath. Others say that these judgments are more temporal and have no bearing on eternity. Proponents of the latter look to 11:10 and the admonition to banish anxiety and the like.
Language Of Judgment
The two views have everything to do with the construction word yebi’aka. Those who do not see this passage as depicting a judgment postmortem simply see it as something that will happen in this life. Essentially, they are arguing for an imperfect present tense of the verb meaning. They will be judged in the here and now based on what they have done and also what they have not done.
The word in question can also be used in the future sense as well. This would mean that the “young man” in this case is emblematic of us all and we will be judged when we die. Furthermore the language of judgment that is given in 11:9 is done so as a consequence of the first half of the verse. It is fully contingent on the enjoyment of life which is given as a future event and likewise the judgment in the future is that of man.
Those who think that the judgment mentioned in 11:9 is temporal are within their bounds to think so. After all, a majority of Qohelet is made up of such warnings. However, 11:9 takes it to a whole new level. The language if judgment is much more than temporal, the best conclusion is a judgment that happens postmortem. The text also highlights the responsibility of man in regard to his choices as God will judge him on that basis.