It’s hardly any secret that the Bible speaks of a flat Earth. [ref]…unless of course you have a bias which requires the Bible to speak of a spherical Earth.[/ref] It was written, after all, when cosmology was a colorful array of imaginative ideas from all over the world — Atlas carrying the Earth, the sun being charioted across the heavens by a god, stars being placed there to honor those who died in gods’ good graces, and so on.
Richard Gunther has said, “Modern science has confirmed that the air around the planet turns in huge circles, clockwise in one hemisphere and counterclockwise in the other.” I honestly don’t know if this was said in reference to Ecclesiastes 1:6, but that quote appears as a footnote on that verse in The Evidence Bible, an apologetics study Bible compiled by apologist Ray Comfort.
What struck me about that footnote, though, is that it was the only one on the page. Far more interesting was the verse which was apparently glossed over.
Let me preface all of this by saying that yes, I understand that the Book of Ecclesiastes is very poetic, and it doesn’t necessarily follow that it should be taken literally. I’m speaking about 1:5, then, only because apologists love to mention 1:6 — same poetry, same context. [ref]In addition to the aforementioned study Bible, InPlainSite.org and Eternal Productions are examples of 1:5 being taken literally.[/ref]
The Preacher, as the author of Ecclesiastes calls himself, describes the sun rising and setting, language which makes sense in a society which believed the earth was stationary and that everything — the sun, moon, and stars — all circled around it.
Rising and setting. We still use those figures of speech even today — each of us has ready access to sunrise and sunset times from any number of weather sites or apps. So maybe the Preacher was simply using figures of speech as well? Entirely possible — but contextually that would mean the next verse was being figurative as well, which throws a wrench into what apologists say about it. What about the second half of our verse, though?
“… and hastens to the place where it rises.”
Here, the Preacher is describing a sun which goes down on one side of the land, hastens underneath it, and rises again on the other side. Why would the Preacher use this imagery? It’s as if the other side of the earth didn’t matter, that it was merely the foundations of the earth and not another hemisphere full of other people with their own myths and legends.
The Preacher doesn’t say that it is as if the sun hastens, but that it hastens — of its own volition, no less.
So if Ecclesiastes 1:6 is evidence that a biblical author had prescience of scientific principles discovered centuries later, then Ecclesiastes 1:5 must be taken as evidence that even though an ancient writer may have noticed that the winds seem to blow in predictable patterns, the same writer still viewed the earth as a flat plane.