Learn more about Ecclesiastes in the Mentor Bible Commentary Series
Dr. Richard P. Belcher, Jr. is the John D. and Frances M. Gwin Professor of Old Testament and the Academic Dean at both Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS) Charlotte and RTS Atlanta. He is an ordained minister in the PCA and pastored an urban nondenominational church in Rochester, NY for ten years before pursuing the Ph. D. This pastoral experience in an unusual and challenging setting gives him great insight into the practical, modern issues that will be faced by future pastors studying with him at RTS.
He graduated from Covenant College and received his M. Div from Covenant Seminary. He also received an S.T.M. from Concordia Theological Seminary, and his Ph. D. is from Westminster Theological Seminary. He has served as stated supply for numerous churches in the area since coming to RTS Charlotte in 1995.
His books include: Job: The Mystery of Suffering and God’s Sovereignty (Christian Focus, 2017); Genesis and The Beginning of God’s Plan of Salvation (Christian Focus, 2012).
1. What previous research and/or personal interests led you to this project and helped prepare you to write this commentary on Ecclesiastes?
I did my dissertation on the failure of the deed-consequence relationship in Ecclesiastes. There are about 10 passages in the book that lament the fact that the wicked are rewarded in this life and the righteous experience suffering. I examined how those passages impacted the message of the book. I have also taught Ecclesiastes for over 20 years.
2. Who is the intended audience for this commentary? Would it benefit pastors? professors? students? lay Christians in the local church?
The commentary is primarily for pastors and students, although I think educated lay Christians could benefit from it. The focus of the commentary is on the message of each passage with discussion on how to preach and teach it.
3. What is unique about this commentary? What contribution does it make to studies of Ecclesiastes?
The commentary takes an “under the sun” approach that highlights the author’s struggle to find meaning in life. The exegetical basis for this approach is laid out in the Introduction. The commentary argues that Solomon is the author and that he wrote the book during the period of his life described in 1 Kings 11. The book is a warning against speculative wisdom.
4. What section or passage of this commentary was particularly memorable to research and write? Why?
Many of the negative passages of the book are quite remarkable. Qohelet (translated Teacher or Preacher by many English translations) did not start with the premise that wisdom would give all the answers to the problems of life. He sought to search out wisdom but he also wanted to see where madness and folly would lead. Where there are both positive and negative statements, the negative statements always get the last word. It was memorable wrestling through many of the issues that Qohelet raised as he deconstructs everything in which we find security.
5. What personally edified you in writing this commentary, increasing your affections for Christ?
Although many parts of the book wrestle with the meaning of life or with how various things in life do not fulfill our expectations, Christ does fulfill our expectations. The senseless nature of the world that Qohelet describes is the same world subjected to futility because of the bondage of corruption (Romans 8). Christ, however, sets us free from this bondage and will one day set creation free.
6. Besides your commentary, what are your top recommended books (commentaries or otherwise) on Ecclesiastes?
The answer to this question is very subjective because there so many different approaches to the book of Ecclesiastes. I would mention the commentaries by [Tremper] Longman [NICNT], [Roland] Murphy, [WBC] and [Craig] Bartholomew [BCOT].
7. What is next for you? What project are you currently working on? How can people follow your work and ministry?
I am almost finished with a book on the theology of wisdom literature that will cover Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes. A list of my publications can be found at the Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS) website, the Charlotte campus. RTS also has a free mobile app that has seminary lectures on it. Many of the OT lectures are ones I have given.