Best teaching practice (according to Solomon):

Solomon was designated the wisest man that ever lived. So anyone in the teaching profession of the education system, or in the teaching ministry of church life, is well advised to get to grips with his methods of communication. After all, as the common adage puts it: ‘Nothing has been taught until it has been learned!’

Solomon, being a wise man, has seen to it that he has summarised his teaching method in writing for posterity. He strongly advises the teacher to be succinct; he gives this basic ‘teaching about teaching’ in a truly pithy format. We would expect nothing less from the maestro himself, surely. The final paragraph of Ecclesiastes is easy to unpackage.

[] The wise man tells us that research is the important starting place. The teacher, he says, studied his subject matter carefully – weighing words (deciding which were light-hearted and which carried meaningful weight). Anyone who has tried to write up a thesis after wide-ranging research knows that research can be the easy part. Sifting through the hoards of findings demands hard work.

[] Then he arranged them for the best effect (‘with great care’, verse Ecclesiastes 12: 9); too much study from too many books, with too many words only wearies readers (so he tells us in verse Ecclesiastes 12:12); therefore, the teacher tried to avoid a mind-numbing overload of facts and abstract concepts.

[] He sought out words that were:

  • Pure (‘uprightly’, ‘truth’, verse Ecclesiastes 12:10);
  • Pleasurable (‘words of delight’, verse Ecclesiastes 12:10 – he could use light-hearted as well as weighty words);
  • Piercing (‘goads’ to the conscience, verse Ecclesiastes 12:11 – his writing was not just a variation between light and weighty; it also had to be sharp); and
  • Permanent (‘like nails firmly fixed’, verse Ecclesiastes 12:11 – it had to be memorable teaching, so his students would not forget the essential lesson between Sabbath and Tuesday); also
  • Pastoral (‘given by [the] one shepherd’, verse Ecclesiastes Ecclesiastes 12:12:11 – so that the teaching would nourish and guide the Lord’s flock; in fact, he delivered many of his practical saying in the book of Proverbs in a family atmosphere, as he repeats here: ‘my son’, verse Ecclesiastes 12:12).

[] The ultimate aim is to inspire a godly Attitude (‘Fear God’, verse Ecclesiastes 12:13; and ‘every secret thing’, verse Ecclesiastes 12:14) and practical Action (‘keep his commandments’, verse Ecclesiastes 12:13, compare the Great Commission in Matthew 28: 18-20, ‘Teach them to obey everything I have commanded you’; and ‘every deed’ that ‘God will bring into judgement’, verse Ecclesiastes 12:14).

[] Incidentally, the result of such teaching is the enhancing of his readers’ humanity in the image of God (verse Ecclesiastes 12:13, ‘for this is the whole of man’ – the word ‘duty’ does not occur in the Hebrew text!).

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