Traditionalist commentators assume that the author of Kohelet was a man of deep religious sensibilities and that his words, as obscure as they sometimes may be, reflect profound religious insights. They therefore tend to read Kohelet as a series of non-literal homilies based on hidden meanings imbedded in the author's often less than clear expressions. By contrast, many modern commentators seem to approach it as a literary curiosity badly mishandled over the millennia, and have little or no reluctance to reconstruct, correct, and amend the received Hebrew text as it suits them. A common result of this scholarly tampering with an ancient text is translations that frequently seem to bear little resemblance to the Hebrew original.
These conflicting approaches are for the most part a direct consequence of scholarship's inability to identify the author or when he lived. In this work, Sicker adopts the widely neglected thesis that identifies the author of the biblical work as Hyrcanus the Tobiad, who lived at the time of the transfer of ancient Palestine from the Ptolemaic to the Seleucid empires in 198 B.C.E., and was de facto ruler of Judea for a number of years before being forced into exile and eventual suicide. Directly related to the family of the hereditary high priesthood, he was quite familiar with the rites and traditions of Judaism, as well as with the Hellenistic culture that pervaded the area during the era in which he lived. As a result his thinking reflected an amalgam of both, neither of which provided satisfactory answers to the questions he raised about the meaning of the life he led and the end to which he had been brought by circumstances entirely beyond his control. When the biblical book is read with such a likely author in mind, many of the enigmas found in the work can be clarified, which is what Kohelet: The Reflections of a Judean Prince
attempts to do.