Psalm 45:7, “You love justice and hate evil. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you, pouring out the oil of joy on you more than on anyone else.”

In addition to Psalm 45:7, Ecclesiastes says:

Ecclesiastes 9:8, “Let your clothes be white all the time, and never let oil be lacking on your head.”

If, as in Psalm 45, oil represents a content joy, and we are told never to have this lacking, then it needs to be asked how this content joy can be achieved? Psalm 45 makes the connection between loving justice and hating evil with the blessing of “the oil of joy.” This is an anointing of a “contended joy” if you will. This relation isn’t as explicit in Ecclesiastes, but there can be an alike connection made.

In the Scripture, garments are symbolic of one’s spiritual condition. For instance, sackcloth is representational of mourning or a state of despondency or being destitute, and white garments represent a state of righteousness, that is a condition of being free from sin or cleansed of sin. I believe, then, that Solomon in Ecclesiastes is saying to be righteous always before the Lord, and never let our contented joy be lacking.

Going back to Psalm 45:7, we can render the lesson like this: “If you love justice and hate evil, resulting in a righteousness, then you will be blessed by a ‘contented joy.’” Simply, it follows then that if a contented joy is lacking in our lives, then perhaps we are not clean, or sin is still somewhere manifest in our lives. In other words, our garments are dirty.

For the sake of consistency, we should take the full passage in Ecclesiastes into account. It states:

Ecclesiastes 9:7-9, “Go, eat your bread with pleasure, and drink your wine with a cheerful heart, for God has already accepted your works. Let your clothes be white all the time, and never let oil be lacking on your head. Enjoy life with the wife you love all the days of your fleeting life, which has been given to you under the sun, all your fleeting days. For that is your portion in life and in your struggle under the sun.”

The Apologetics Study Bible For Students remarks:

“These verses [Ecclesiastes 9:8-9] resemble passages in the Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh and the ‘Harper’s Son’ from Egypt. Both were composed long before the time of Solomon, and it seems clear that he knew them. It is not troubling to find that a biblical text reflects knowledge of other well-known literature of antiquity; this international character is a feature of Israelite wisdom. Because of Solomon’s extensive international contacts we would expect him to be familiar with such literature, and the similarities to these other passages reinforce the Solomonic authorship of Ec[clesiastes].” —Duane A. Garrett, “Ecclesiastes 9:8-9,” Apologetics Study Bible For Students.

This indeed can become problematic for Christians whenever this kind of thing occurs, but should it be the case? In the specific example mentioned, it should be noted after reading the Epic of Gilgamesh and a few Harpers’ Songs (from the tombs of Intef, Neferhotep, and Inherkhawy) that Ecclesiastes is far from plagiarizing these other sources. There may be similar motifs, but we need to be careful of comparing the Word with other works from the ancient Near East, for some have a tendency to emphasize the similarities but disregard the differences.

The difficulty some may have in these and like examples arises from a couple of presuppositions which Christians and critics alike make, the most prominent being that sources outside of the Bible are necessarily false, while those in the Bible are necessarily true and sanctioned by God. I know how this may sound, but I implore the reader to let me explain. I will refer to this as a “compound presupposition” because one supposition implies the other. Both parts of this supposition can be problematic.

Concerning the former, sources independent of the Bible are necessarily false, we may run into problems when a contemporary or well-known text, of that time, is cited in regard and relation to the truth of God and we let this become a stumbling block. In terms of the latter, that what is included in the Bible is necessarily true, this becomes problematic when we approach it from the position that anything recorded in the Bible must be concluded to be supported by God when this isn’t always the case. A narrative which is tragic and horrific isn’t always endorsed by God, but rather at times arises because of disobedience to God. The latter part of this “compound presupposition” is a tactic frequently employed by critics of Christianity.

An example would be the account of Jephthah’s Vow found in Judges 11:30-40. It has been forwarded by some critics in their argument against the character of God, but as the Christian or Jew may know, God nowhere gives His approval of such a thing and it is indeed a direct disobedience to God! This is the tragic account of Jephthah’s Vow:

Judges 11:30-40, “And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD. He said, ‘If you give me victory over the Ammonites, I will give to the LORD whatever comes out of my house to meet me when I return in triumph. I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.’ So Jephthah led his army against the Ammonites, and the LORD gave him victory. He crushed the Ammonites, devastating about twenty towns from Aroer to and area near Minnith and as far away as Abel-keramim. In this way Israel defeated the Ammonites. When Jephthah returned home to Mizpah, his daughter came out to meet him, playing on a tambourine and dancing for joy. She was his one and only child; he had no other sons or daughters. When he saw her, he tore his clothes in anguish. ‘Oh, my daughter!’ he cried out. ‘You have completely destroyed me! You’ve brought disaster on me! For I have made a vow to the LORD, and I cannot take it back.’ And she said, ‘Father, if you have made a vow to the LORD, you must do to me what you have vowed, for the LORD has given you a great victory over your enemies, the Ammonites. But first let me do this one thing: Let me go up and roam in the hills and weep with my friends for two months, because I will die a virgin.’ ‘You may go,’ Jephthah said. And he sent her away for two months. She and her friends went into the hills and wept because she would never have children. When she returned home, her father kept the vow he had made, and she died a virgin. So it has become a custom in Israel for a young Israelite woman to go away for four days each year to lament the fate of Jephthah’s daughter.”

Again, the account is used as an attack on God’s character by critics, which is based on the presupposition that what is recorded in the Bible is endorsed by God. This despite that God clearly forbids such a detestable practice as human sacrifice:

Deuteronomy 12:31, “You must not worship the LORD your God in the way the other nations worship their gods, for they perform for their gods every detestable act that the LORD hates. They even burn their sons and daughter as sacrifices to their gods.”

Leviticus 18:21, “Do not permit any of your children to be offered as a sacrifice to Molech, for you must not bring shame on the name of your God. I am the LORD.”

Leviticus 20:2b-5, “If any of them offer their children as a sacrifice to Molech, they must be put to death. The people of the community must stone them to death. I myself will turn against them and cut them off from the community, because they have defiled my sanctuary and brought shame on my holy name by offering their children to Molech. And if the people of the community ignore those who offer their children to Molech and refuse to execute them, I myself will turn against them and their families and will cut them off from the community. This will happen to all who commit spiritual prostitution by worshiping Molech.”

It is easy to see that all that which is recorded in the Bible is not endorsed by the Lord, so the Christian should reject this stumbling block outright.

In addition, God’s Word is taught to have supreme authority, which is accurate because it is of God. Thus, when an independent source is included, some may feel this authority is threatened by a lesser authority, one who strictly isn’t God. Yet, we know from the Scriptures that the LORD’s authority stretches beyond the blessed text we hold in our hands. As the apostle Paul implies in the book of Romans:

Romans 2:14-15, “Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know His law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it. They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right.”

If even the thoughts of the Gentiles could testify and reflect God’s law, then couldn’t God’s truths be known to them as well, recorded in their literature, and then repeated by men of God without any contradiction taking place? We recall what Paul says earlier in the book of Romans:

Romans 1:19-20, “Since what can be known about God is evident among them, because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what He has made. As a result, people are without excuse.”

Therefore, we should not be concerned about independent wisdom from independent source material being mentioned in the Scriptures. As a casual student of philosophy, it is not uncommon to see truths that align with the Scripture mentioned by some of the great thinkers. As I might cite or borrow from a philosopher when examining or writing on biblical truths, so too could the writers of the Holy text without negating or challenging the truths of our Lord in Holy Bible which represents the greatest of revelations. We should consider it not to be problematic, but a reinforcement.

If we are assembling a dresser we purchased from IKEA, although it may come with its own instructions straight from the manufacturer, and if we look online to search for further support, we are not invalidating those instructions, but rather with the extra-material, reinforcing that original source material that we may accomplish the task more efficiently with that added understanding others have gained.

Thank you for reading and God bless.

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