New English Translation
Futility of Self-Indulgent Pleasure
2 I thought to myself,[a]
“Come now,[b] I will try[c] self-indulgent pleasure[d] to see[e] if it is worthwhile.”[f]
But I found[g] that it also is futile.[h]
2 I said of partying,[i] “It is folly,”
and of self-indulgent pleasure,[j] “It accomplishes nothing!”[k]
3 I thought deeply[l] about the effects of[m] indulging[n] myself[o] with wine
(all the while[p] my mind was guiding me[q] with wisdom)[r]
and the effects of[s] behaving foolishly,[t]
so that[u] I might discover what is profitable[v]
for people[w] to do on earth[x] during the few days[y] of their lives.
Futility of Materialism
4 I increased my possessions:[z]
I built houses for myself;[aa]
I planted vineyards for myself.
5 I designed[ab] royal gardens[ac] and parks[ad] for myself,
and I planted all kinds of fruit trees in them.
6 I constructed pools of water for myself,
to irrigate my grove[ae] of flourishing trees.
7 I purchased male and female slaves,
and I owned slaves who were born in my house;[af]
I also possessed more livestock—both herds and flocks—
than any of my predecessors in Jerusalem.
8 I also amassed silver and gold for myself,
as well as valuable treasures[ag] taken from kingdoms and provinces.[ah]
I acquired male singers and female singers for myself,
and what gives a man sensual delight[ai]—a harem of beautiful concubines.[aj]
9 So[ak] I was far wealthier[al] than all my predecessors in Jerusalem,
yet I maintained my objectivity.[am]
10 I did not restrain myself from getting whatever I wanted;[an]
I did not deny myself anything that would bring me pleasure.[ao]
So all my accomplishments gave me joy;[ap]
this was my reward for all my effort.[aq]
11 Yet when I reflected on everything I had accomplished[ar]
and on all the effort that I had expended to accomplish it,[as]
I concluded:[at] “All these[au] achievements and possessions[av] are ultimately[aw] profitless[ax]—
like chasing the wind!
There is nothing gained[ay] from them[az] on earth.”[ba]
Wisdom is Better than Folly
12 Next, I decided to consider[bb] wisdom, as well as foolish behavior and ideas.[bc]
For what more can the king’s successor do than what the king[bd] has already done?
13 I realized that wisdom is preferable to folly,[be]
just as light is preferable to darkness:
14 The wise man can see where he is going,[bf] but the fool walks in darkness.
Yet I also realized that the same fate[bg] happens to them both.[bh]
15 So I thought to myself, “The fate of the fool will happen even to me![bi]
Then what did I gain by becoming so excessively[bj] wise?”[bk]
So I lamented to myself,[bl]
“The benefits of wisdom[bm] are ultimately[bn] meaningless!”
16 For the wise man, like[bo] the fool, will not be remembered for very long,[bp]
because[bq] in the days to come, both will already have been forgotten.[br]
Alas,[bs] the wise man dies—just like[bt] the fool!
17 So I loathed[bu] life[bv] because what
happens[bw] on earth[bx] seems awful to me;
for all the benefits of wisdom[by] are futile—like chasing the wind.
Futility of Being a Workaholic
18 So I loathed all the fruit of[bz] my effort,[ca]
for which I worked so hard[cb] on earth,[cc]
because[cd] I must leave it[ce] behind[cf] in the hands of my successor.[cg]
19 Who knows if he will be a wise man or a fool?
Yet[ch] he will be master over all the fruit of[ci] my labor[cj]
for which I worked so wisely[ck] on earth.[cl]
This also is futile!
20 So I began to despair[cm] about all the fruit of[cn] my labor[co]
for which I worked so hard[cp] on earth.[cq]
21 For a man may do his work with wisdom, knowledge, and skill;
however, he must hand over[cr] the fruit of his labor[cs] as an inheritance[ct]
to someone else who did not work for it.
This also is futile, and an awful injustice![cu]
Painful Days and Restless Nights
22 What does a man acquire from all his labor
and from the anxiety that accompanies his toil on earth?[cv]
23 For all day long[cw] his work produces pain and frustration,[cx]
and even at night his mind cannot relax.[cy]
This also is futile!
Enjoy Work and its Benefits
24 There is nothing better for[cz] people[da] than[db] to eat and drink,
and to find enjoyment[dc] in their[dd] work.
I also perceived that this ability to find enjoyment[de] comes from God.[df]
25 For no one[dg] can eat and drink[dh]
or experience joy[di] apart from him.[dj]
26 For to the one who pleases him,[dk] God gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy,
but to the sinner, he gives the task of amassing[dl] wealth[dm]—
only to give[dn] it[do] to the one who pleases God.
This[dp] task of the wicked[dq] is futile—like chasing the wind!
- Ecclesiastes 2:1 tn Heb “I said, I, in my heart” (אָמַרְתִּי אֲנִי בְּלִבִּי, ʾamarti ʾani belibbi). The term “heart” (לֵב, lev) is a synecdoche of part (“heart”) for the whole (the whole person), and thus means “I said to myself” (see E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 648).
- Ecclesiastes 2:1 tn The Hebrew verb לְכָה (lekhah, “Come!”) is a weakened imperative, used merely as an introductory word, e.g., Gen 19:32; 31:44; Judg 19:11; 1 Sam 9:9-10; 11:14; 2 Kgs 3:7; Ps 66:5; Song 7:12; Isa 1:18; 2:3; Mic 4:2 (HALOT 246 s.v. הָלַךְ 2; BDB 234 s.v. הָלַךְ I.5.f.2). Whenever לְכָה introduces an exhortation, it functions as an invitation to the audience to adopt a course of action that will be beneficial to the addressee or mutually beneficial to both the speaker and the addressee. Here, Qoheleth personifies his “heart” (לִבִּי, libbi) and addresses himself. The examination of self-indulgent pleasure is designed to be beneficial to Qoheleth.
- Ecclesiastes 2:1 tn Or “test.” The cohortative אֲנַסְּכָה (ʾanassekhah) emphasizes the resolve of the speaker. The term נָסַה (nasah, “to test”) means “to conduct a test,” that is, to conduct an experiment (Judg 6:39; Eccl 2:1; 7:23; Dan 1:12, 14; see HALOT 702 s.v. נסה 3; BDB 650 s.v. נָסָה 1). The verb נָסַה is often used as a synonym with בָּחַן (bakhan, “to examine”; BDB 103 s.v. בָּחַן and 650 s.v. נָסָה 1) and לָדַעַת (ladaʿat, “to ascertain”; Deut 8:2).
- Ecclesiastes 2:1 tn Heb “I will test you with pleasure.” The term שִׂמְחַה (simkhah, “pleasure”) has a two-fold range of meanings: (1) it can refer to the legitimate enjoyment of life that Qoheleth affirms is good (5:17; 8:15; 9:7; 11:8, 9) and that God gives to those who please him (2:26; 5:19); or (2) it can refer to foolish pleasure, self-indulgent, frivolous merrymaking (2:1, 2; 7:4). The parallelism in 2:2 between שִׂמְחַה and שְׂחוֹק (sekhoq, “laughter, frivolous merrymaking”), which always appears in the context of banqueting, drinking, and merrymaking, suggests that the pejorative sense is in view in this context.sn The statement I will try self-indulgent pleasure is a figurative expression known as metonymy of association. As 2:1-3 makes clear, it is not so much Qoheleth who is put to the test with pleasure, but rather that pleasure is put to the test by Qoheleth.
- Ecclesiastes 2:1 tn Heb “See what is good!” The volitive sequence of the cohortative (אֲנַסְּכָה, ʾanassekhah, “I will test you”) followed by vav + imperative (וּרְאֵה, ureʾeh, “and see!”) denotes purpose/result: “I will test you…in order to see….” The verb רָאָה (raʾah, “to see”) has a broad range of meanings (e.g., in the Qal stem 16 categories are listed in HALOT 1157-1160 s.v.). In this context it means “to discover; to perceive; to discern; to understand” (HALOT 1159 s.v. ראה 13; BDB 907 s.v. רָאָה 5).
- Ecclesiastes 2:1 sn The phrase “to see what is good” (רָאָה, raʾah, “to see” plus טוֹב, tov, “good”) is repeated twice in 2:1-3. This is the key phrase in this section of Ecclesiastes. Qoheleth sought to discover (רָאָה) whether merry-making offered any value (טוֹב) to mankind.
- Ecclesiastes 2:1 tn The particle וְהִנֵּה (vehinneh, literally “Behold!”) occurs after verbs of perception to introduce what was seen, understood or discovered (HALOT 252 s.v. הִנֵּה 8). It is used to make the narrative graphic and vivid, enabling the reader to enter into the surprise of the speaker (BDB 244 s.v. הִנֵּה c). This is an example of the heterosis of the deictic particle (“Behold!”) for a verb of perception (“I found”). See E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 510-34.
- Ecclesiastes 2:1 tn This use of הֶבֶל (hevel) denotes “futile, worthless, fruitless, pointless” (HALOT 237 s.v. I הֶבֶל 2; BDB 210-11 s.v. I הֶבֶל 2). It is a synonym to מְהוֹלָל (meholal, “folly”) in 2:2a and an antonym to טוֹב (tov, “worthwhile, beneficial”) in 2:1b and 2:3c.
- Ecclesiastes 2:2 tn Heb “laughter.” The term שְׂחוֹק (sekhoq, “laughter”) has a fourfold range of meanings: (1) “joyful laughter” (Ps 126:2; Prov 14:13; Job 8:21); (2) “frivolous laughter, merrymaking” (Eccl 2:2; 7:3, 6); (3) “pleasure, sport” (Prov 10:23; Eccl 10:19); and (4) “derision, mockery, laughingstock” (Jer 20:7; 48:26, 27, 39; Job 12:4; Lam 3:14). See HALOT 1315 s.v שְׂחוֹק; BDB 966 s.v. שְׂחֹק. In Ecclesiastes, שְׂחוֹק is always used in contexts of self-indulgent banqueting, drinking, frivolous partying and merrymaking (Eccl 2:2; 7:3, 6; 10:19). It is distinct from “healthy” joy and laughter (Ps 126:2; Job 8:21). The connotation of “frivolous merrymaking” fits this context best.
- Ecclesiastes 2:2 tn The term שִׂמְחָה (simkhah, “pleasure”) has a two-fold range of meanings in Ecclesiastes: (1) it can refer to the enjoyment of life that Qoheleth affirms is good (5:17; 8:15; 9:7; 11:8, 9) and that God gives to those who are pleasing to him (2:26; 5:19); and (2) it can refer to foolish pleasure, that is, frivolous merrymaking (2:1, 2; 7:4). The parallelism between שִׂמְחָה and שְׂחוֹק (sekhoq, “laughter, frivolous merrymaking”) in 2:2 suggests that the pejorative sense is in view here.
- Ecclesiastes 2:2 tn Heb “What does it accomplish?” The rhetorical question “What does it accomplish?” expects a negative answer: “It accomplishes nothing!” (see E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 949-51). See, e.g., Gen 1:19; 18:14, 17; Deut 7:17; 1 Sam 2:25; Job 40:2; Pss 56:7 ; 90:11; 94:16; 106:2; Eccl 3:21.
- Ecclesiastes 2:3 tn Heb “In my heart I explored.” The verb תּוּר (tur, “to seek out, to spy out, to explore”) is used in the OT to describe: (1) the physical activity of “spying out” or “exploring” geographical locations (Num 13:2, 16, 17, 21, 25, 32; 14:6, 7, 34, 36, 38; Job 39:8) and (2) the mental activity of “exploring” or “examining” a course of action or the effects of an action (Eccl 1:13; 2:3; 7:25; 9:1). See BDB 1064 s.v. תּוּר 2; HALOT 1708 s.v. תּוּר. It was used as a synonym with דָרָשׁ (darash, “to study”) in 1:13: “I devoted myself to study (לִדְרוֹשׁ, lidrosh) and to explore (לָתוּר, latur).”sn As the repetition of the term לֵב (lev, “heart” or “mind”) indicates (2:1, 3), this experiment appears to have been only an intellectual exercise or a cognitive reflection: “I said to myself (Heb “in my heart [or “mind”],” 2:1); “I explored with my mind (Heb “heart,” 2:3a); and “my mind (Heb “heart”) guiding me with wisdom” (2:3b). Qoheleth himself did not indulge in drunkenness, but he contemplated the value of self-indulgence in his mind.
- Ecclesiastes 2:3 tn The phrase “the effects of” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.
- Ecclesiastes 2:3 tn Or “I sought to cheer my flesh with wine.” The term לִמְשׁוֹךְ (limshokh, Qal infinitive construct from מָשַׁךְ, mashakh, “to draw, pull”) functions in a complementary sense with the preceding verb תּוּר (tur “to examine”): Heb “I sought to draw out my flesh with wine” or “I [mentally] explored [the effects] of drawing out my flesh with wine.” The verb מָשַׁךְ means “to draw, to drag along, to lead” (BDB 604 s.v. מָשַׁךְ) or “to draw out; to stretch out [to full length]; to drag; to pull; to seize; to carry off; to pull; to go” (HALOT 645-46 s.v. משׁך). BDB suggests that this use be nuanced “to draw, to attract, to gratify” the flesh, that is, “to cheer” (BDB 604 s.v. מָשַׁךְ 7). While this meaning is not attested elsewhere in the OT, it is found in Mishnaic Hebrew: “to attract” (Qal), e.g., “it is different with heresy, because it attracts [i.e., persuades, offers inducements]” (b. Avodah Zarah 27b) and “to be attracted, carried away, seduced,” e.g., “he was drawn after them, he indulged in the luxuries of the palace” (b. Shabbat 147b). See Jastrow 853-54 s.v. מְשַׂךְ. Here it denotes “to stretch; to draw out [to full length],” that is, “to revive; to restore” the body (HALOT 646 s.v. משׁד [sic] 3). The statement is a metonymy of cause (i.e., indulging the flesh with wine) for effect (i.e., the effects of self-indulgence).
- Ecclesiastes 2:3 tn Heb “my flesh.” The term בְּשָׂרִי (besari, “my flesh”) may function as a synecdoche of part (i.e., flesh) for the whole (i.e., whole person). See E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 642. One could translate, “I sought to cheer myself.”
- Ecclesiastes 2:3 tn The phrase “all the while” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.
- Ecclesiastes 2:3 tn The word “me” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.
- Ecclesiastes 2:3 tn Heb “and my heart was leading along in wisdom.” The vav + noun, וְלִבִּי (velibbi) introduces a disjunctive, parenthetical clause designed to qualify the speaker’s remarks lest he be misunderstood: “Now my heart/mind….” He emphasizes that he never lost control of his senses in this process. It was a purely mental, cognitive endeavor; he never actually gave himself over to wanton self-indulgence in wine or folly.
- Ecclesiastes 2:3 tn The phrase “the effects of” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.
- Ecclesiastes 2:3 tn Heb “embracing folly.” The verb אָחָז (ʾakhaz, “to embrace”) is normally used to describe the physical action of taking hold of an object. Here is it is used metaphorically to describe a person’s choice of lifestyle, that is, adopting a particular course of moral conduct (e.g., Job 17:9); see HALOT 31-32 s.v. אחז; BDB 28 s.v. אָחַז.
- Ecclesiastes 2:3 tn Or “until.” The construction עַד אֲשֶׁר (ʿad ʾasher, “until”) introduces a temporal result clause (e.g., Gen 27:44; 28:15; Num 21:35; Isa 6:11); see HALOT 787 s.v. III עַד B.b. With an imperfect verb (such as אֶרְאֶה, ʾerʾeh, Qal imperfect first common singular from רָאָה, raʾah, “to see”), the compound construction עַד אֲשֶׁר usually refers to future time (Gen 27:44; 29:8; Exod 23:30; 24:14; Lev 22:4; Num 11:20; 20:17; 1 Sam 22:3; Hos 5:15), but it also rarely refers to past time (Jonah 4:5; Eccl 2:3); see BDB 725 s.v. III עַד II.1.a.b. Joüon 2:370 §113.k notes that when the compound construction עַד אֲשֶׁר is occasionally used with an imperfect depicting past action to denote a virtual nuance of purpose: “until” = “so that,” e.g., Jonah 4:5; Eccl 2:3.
- Ecclesiastes 2:3 tn Heb “I might see where is the good?” The interrogative particle אֵי (ʾe, “where?”) used with the demonstrative pronoun זֶה (zeh, “this”) forms an idiom: “where [then]?” (HALOT 37-38 s.v. אֵי 2.a; see, e.g., 1 Sam 9:18; 1 Kgs 13:12; 2 Kgs 3:8; Isa 50:1; 66:1; Jer 6:16; Job 28:12, 20; 38:19, 24; Esth 7:5). The phrase אֵי־זֶה טוֹב (ʾe zeh tov) is an indirect question that literally means, “Where is the good?” that is, “what good?” (HALOT 38 s.v. אֵי 2.d).
- Ecclesiastes 2:3 tn Heb “the sons of man.”
- Ecclesiastes 2:3 tn Heb “under the heavens.”
- Ecclesiastes 2:3 tn Heb “number of the days.” The Hebrew noun מִסְפַּר (mispar, “number, quantity”) sometimes means “few” (e.g., Gen 34:30; Num 9:20; Deut 4:27; 33:6; Isa 10:19; Jer 44:28; Ezek 12:16; Ps 105:12; Job 16:22; 1 Chr 16:19); see HALOT 607 s.v. מִסְפָּר 2.b; BDB 709 s.v. מִסְפָּר 1.a. This phrase is an idiom that means, “during all their lives” (BDB 709 s.v.), “during their total [short] time of life,” that is, “as long as they live” (HALOT 608 s.v. מִסְפָּר 3.d). Ecclesiastes often emphasizes the brevity of life (e.g., 5:17; 6:12; 9:9). The LXX rendered מִסְפַּר in a woodenly literal sense: ἀριθμόν (arithmon, “the number [of days of their lives]”). Several English translations adopt a similar approach: “all the days of their life” (ASV, Douay) and “the number of days of their lives” (YLT). However, this idiom is handled well by a number of English translations: “during the few days of their lives” (RSV, NRSV, NASB, NIV, Moffatt, NJPS), “during the limited days of their life” (NAB), and “throughout the brief span of their lives” (NEB).
- Ecclesiastes 2:4 tn Or “my works”; or “my accomplishments.” The term מַעֲשָׂי (maʿasay, “my works”) has been handled in two basic ways: (1) great works or projects, and (2) possessions. The latter assumes a metonymy, one’s effort standing for the possessions it produces. Both interpretations are reflected in the major English translations: “works” (KJV, NEB, NAB, ASV, NASB, MLB, RSV, Douay, Moffatt), “projects” (NIV), and “possessions” (NJPS).sn This section (2:4-11) is unified and bracketed by the repetition of the verb גָּדַל (gadal, “to increase”) which occurs at the beginning (2:4) and end (2:9), and by the repetition of the root עשה (noun: “works” and verb: “to do, make, acquire”) which occurs throughout the section (2:4, 5, 6, 8, 11).
- Ecclesiastes 2:4 sn The expression for myself is repeated eight times in 2:4-8 to emphasize that Qoheleth did not deny himself any acquisition. He indulged himself in acquiring everything he desired. His vast resources as king allowed him the unlimited opportunity to indulge himself. He could have anything his heart desired, and he did.
- Ecclesiastes 2:5 tn Heb “made.”
- Ecclesiastes 2:5 tn The term does not refer here to vegetable gardens, but to orchards (cf. the next line). In the same way the so-called “garden” of Eden was actually an orchard filled with fruit trees. See Gen 2:8-9.
- Ecclesiastes 2:5 tn The noun פַּרְדֵּס (pardes, “garden, parkland, forest”) is a foreign loanword that occurs only 3 times in biblical Hebrew (Song 4:13; Eccl 2:5; Neh 2:8). The original Old Persian term pairidaeza designated the enclosed parks and pleasure-grounds that were the exclusive domain of the Persian kings and nobility (HALOT 963 s.v. פַּרְדֵּס; LSJ 1308 s.v παράδεισος). The related Babylonian term pardesu “marvelous garden” referred to the enclosed parks of the kings (AHw 2:833 and 3:1582). The term passed into Greek as παράδεισος (paradeisos, “enclosed park, pleasure-ground”), referring to the enclosed parks and gardens of the Persian kings (LSJ 1308). The Greek term has been transliterated into English as “paradise.”
- Ecclesiastes 2:6 tn Heb “to water from them a grove” (or “forest).
- Ecclesiastes 2:7 tn The phrase “sons of a house” (בְנֵי בַיִת, vene vayit) appears to be parallel to “a son of my house” (בֶן־בֵּיתִי, ven beti) which refers to a person born into slavery from male and female servants in the master’s possession, e.g., Eleazar of Damascus (Gen 15:3). The phrase appears to denote children born from male and female slaves already in his possession, that is, “homeborn slaves” (NASB) or “other slaves who were born in my house” (NIV). Apparently confusing the sense of the phrase with the referent of the phrase in Gen 15:3, NJPS erroneously suggests “stewards” in Eccl 2:7.
- Ecclesiastes 2:8 tn The term סְגֻלָּה (segullah) denotes “personal property” (HALOT 742 s.v. סְגֻלָּה 1) or “valued property, personal treasure” (BDB 688 s.v. סְגֻלָּה 2). Elsewhere, it refers to a king’s silver and gold (1 Chr 27:3). It is related to Akkadian sug/kullu “flock” (AHw 2:1053-54) and sikiltu “private property [belonging to the king]” (AHw 2:1041). The term refers to the personal, private and valued possessions of kings, which do not pass into the hands of the state.
- Ecclesiastes 2:8 tn Heb “of kings and provinces.” This personal treasure was taken as tribute from other kings and governors. See T. Longman III, Ecclesiastes (NICOT), 92.
- Ecclesiastes 2:8 tn Heb “and sensual delights of the sons of man.” The noun תַּעֲנוּג (taʿanug) has a three-fold range of meanings: (1) “luxury; comfort” (Mic 2:9; Prov 19:10; Sir 6:28; 11:27; 14:16; 37:29; 41:1); (2) “pleasure; delight” of sexual love (Song 7:7); and (3) “daintiness; feminine” (Mic 1:16); see HALOT 1769 s.v. תַּעֲנוּג; BDB 772 s.v. תַּעֲנוּג. The related adjective עָנֹג (ʿanog, “pampered; dainty”) is used to describe a pampered woman (Deut 28:56), to personify Babylon as a delicate woman (Isa 47:1), and to ridicule delicate men (Deut 28:54); see HALOT 851 s.v. עָֹנֹג; BDB 772 עָנֹג. It is related to the noun עֹנֶג (ʿoneg, “pleasure; exquisite delight; daintiness”; see HALOT 851 s.v. עֹנֶג; BDB 772 s.v. עֹנֶג) and the verb עָנֹג which means “to be soft; to be delicate” and “pleasurable” (Pual) and “to pamper oneself” and “to take delight or pleasure in” (HALOT 851 s.v. ענג; BDB 772 s.v. עָנֹג). The root ענג is paralleled with רֹךְ (rokh, Deut 28:56), רַךְ (rakh, Deut 28:54), and רַכָּה (rakkah, Deut 28:56) with the meanings “delicate; soft; tender; weak; coddled; pampered.” The context of Eccl 2:4-11 suggests that it denotes either “luxury” as in “the luxuries of commoners” (NJPS) or “pleasure; delight” as in “the delights of men” (KJV, NASB, NIV). Part of the difficulty in determining the meaning of this term is caused by the ambiguity in meaning of its referent, namely, the appositional phrase שִׁדָּה וְשִׁדּוֹת (shiddah veshiddot), the meaning of which is uncertain (see the note on the phrase “a harem of beautiful concubines” at the end of this verse).
- Ecclesiastes 2:8 tn The meaning of the superlative construction שִׁדָּה וְשִׁדּוֹת (shiddah veshiddot) is uncertain because the term שִׁדָּה (shiddah) occurs only here in the OT. There are four basic approaches to the phrase: (1) Most scholars suggest that it refers to a royal harem and that it is in apposition to “the sensual delights of man” (וְתַעֲנוּגֹת בְּנֵי הָאָדָם, vetaʿanugot bene haʾadam). There are four variations of this approach: (a) There is a possible connection to the Ugaritic sht “mistress, lady” and the Arabic sitt “lady” (HALOT 1420 s.v. שִׁדָּה). (b) German scholars relate it to Assyrian sadadu “love” (Delitzsch, Konig, Wildeboer, Siegfried); however, BDB questions this connection (BDB 994 s.v. שׁדה). (c) Ibn Ezra relates it to II שַׁד (shad) “plunder; spoil” or שׁדה “[women] taken by violence,” and suggests that it refers to the occupants of the royal harem. (d) BDB connects it to the Hebrew noun I שַׁד (shad, “breast”; e.g., Isa 28:9; Ezek 16:7; 23:3, 21, 34; Hos 2:4; 9:14; Song 1:13; 4:5; 7:4, 8, 9; 8:1, 8, 10; Job 3:12) adding that שׁדה is related to the cognate Arabic and Aramaic roots meaning “breast” (BDB 994 s.v.). This would be a synecdoche of part (i.e., breast) for the whole (i.e., woman), similar to the idiom “one womb, two wombs” (רַחַם רַחֲמָתַיִם, rakham rakhamatayim) where “womb” = woman (Judg 5:30). This is the approach taken by most English versions: “many concubines” (NASB, RSV, NRSV), “a wife and wives” (YLT), “mistresses galore” (MLB), “many a mistress” (Moffatt), and “a harem” (NIV). This is the approach suggested by the Hebrew Old Testament Text Project: “une femme et des femmes” = one or two women (e.g., Judg 5:30); see D. Barthélemy, ed., Preliminary and Interim Report on the Hebrew Old Testament Text Project, 3:566. (2) The NJPS connects it to the Mishnaic Hebrew noun שִׁדָּה which became שִׁידָּה (“a strong box, chest”; Jastrow 1558 s.v. שִׁידָּה) and renders the phrase “coffers and coffers of them” in apposition to the phrase “the luxuries of commoners” (וְתַעֲנוּגֹת בְּנֵי הָאָדָם). (3) KJV and ASV take the phrase in apposition to “male and female singers” and translate it as “musical instruments.” However, there is no known Hebrew term that would justify this approach. (4) The LXX related the term to the Aramaic root שׁדא (“to pour out [wine]”) and rendered the phrase as οἰνοχόον καὶ οἰνοχόας (oinochoon kai oinochoas), “a male-butler and female cupbearers.” Aquila took a similar approach: κυλίκιον καὶ κυλίκια (kulikion kai kulikia), “wine cups and wine vessels.” This is reflected in the Vulgate and Douay: “cups and vessels to serve to pour out wine.” Although the semantic meaning of the term שִׁדָּה וְשִׁדּוֹת (“a breast and breasts”) is uncertain, the grammatical/syntactical form of the phrase is straightforward: (1) It is in apposition to the preceding line, “the delights of the son of men” (וְתַעֲנוּגֹת בְּנֵי הָאָדָם). (2) The phrase is a superlative construction. When the second word is plural and it follows a noun from the same root which is singular, it indicates the best or most outstanding example of the person or thing so described. In addition to the Judg 5:30 parallel cited above, see the expression “a generation, generations” in Pss 72:5; 102:25; Isa 51:8. Unlike, Eccl 2:8, this juxtapositioning of the singular and plural to express the superlative usually involves a construct form. See קֹדֶשׁ הַקֳּדָשִׁים (qodesh haqqodashim, “the holy of holies,” i.e., the most holy place”; Exod 26:33), שִׁיר הַשִּׁירִים (shir hashirim, “the song of songs,” i.e., “the most excellent song”; Song 1:1), אֱלֹהֵי הָאֱלֹהִים וַאֲדֹנֵי הַאֲדֹנִים (ʾelohe haʾelohim vaʾadone haʾadonim, “the God of gods and Lord of lords,” i.e., “the Highest God and the Supreme Lord”; Deut 10:17), and עֶבֶד עֲבָדִים (ʿeved ʿavadim, “a slave of slaves,” i.e., “the most abject slave”; Gen 9:25). See GKC 431 §133.i; R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 17-18, §80; IBHS 154 §9.5.3j. If the semantic meaning of the terms שִׁדָּה וְשִׁדּוֹת denotes “a breast (among) breasts” or “a lady (among) ladies” (Eccl 2:8, but see the previous note on the phrase “a man’s sensual delights”), the superlative construction may connote “the most beautiful breasts” (metonymy of part for the whole) or “the most beautiful woman.” This might refer to a harem of concubines or to one woman (the wife of the king?) who was the most beautiful woman in the land.sn Concubines were slave women in ancient Near Eastern societies who were the legal property of their master, but who could have legitimate sexual relations with their master. A concubine’s status was more elevated than a mere servant, but she was not free and did not have the legal rights of a free wife. The children of a concubine could, in some instances, become equal heirs with the children of the free wife. After the period of the Judges concubines may have become more of a royal prerogative (2 Sam 21:10-14; 1 Kgs 11:3).
- Ecclesiastes 2:9 tn The vav prefixed to וְגָדַלְתִּי (vegadalti, vav plus Qal perfect first common singular from גָּדַל, gadal, “to be great; to increase”) functions in a final summarizing sense, that is, it introduces the concluding summary of 2:4-9.
- Ecclesiastes 2:9 tn Heb “I became great and I surpassed” (וְהוֹסַפְתִּי וְגָדַלְתִּי, vegadalti vehosafti). This is a verbal hendiadys in which the second verb functions adverbially, modifying the first: “I became far greater.” Most translations miss the hendiadys and render the line in a woodenly literal sense (KJV, ASV, RSV, NEB, NRSV, NAB, NASB, MLB, Moffatt), while only a few recognize the presence of hendiadys here: “I became greater by far” (NIV) and “I gained more” (NJPS).
- Ecclesiastes 2:9 tn Heb “yet my wisdom stood for me,” meaning he retained his wise perspective despite his great wealth.
- Ecclesiastes 2:10 tn Heb “all which my eyes asked for, I did not withhold from them.”
- Ecclesiastes 2:10 tn Heb “I did not refuse my heart any pleasure.” The term לִבִּי (libbi, “my heart”) is a synecdoche of part (i.e., heart) for the whole (i.e., whole person); see E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 648. The term is repeated twice in 2:10 for emphasis.
- Ecclesiastes 2:10 tn Heb “So my heart was joyful from all my toil.”
- Ecclesiastes 2:10 tn Heb “and this was my portion from all my toil.”
- Ecclesiastes 2:11 tn Heb “all my works that my hands had done.”
- Ecclesiastes 2:11 tn Heb “and all the toil with which I had toiled in doing it.” The term עָמַל (ʿamal, “toil”) is repeated to emphasize the burden and weariness of the labor which Qoheleth exerted in his accomplishments.
- Ecclesiastes 2:11 tn Heb “Behold!”
- Ecclesiastes 2:11 tn The term הַכֹּל (hakkol, “everything” or “all”) must be qualified and limited in reference to the topic that is dealt with in 2:4-11. This is an example of synecdoche of general for the specific; the general term “all” is used only in reference to the topic at hand. This is clear from the repetition of כֹּל (kol, “everything”) and (“all these things”) in 2:11.
- Ecclesiastes 2:11 tn The phrase “achievements and possessions” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in translation for clarity.
- Ecclesiastes 2:11 tn The term “ultimately” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.
- Ecclesiastes 2:11 tn The parallelism with יִתְרוֹן (yitron), “profit; advantage; gain”) indicates that הֶבֶל (hevel) should be nuanced as “profitless, fruitless, futile” in this context. While labor offers some relative and temporal benefits, such as material acquisitions and the enjoyment of the work of one’s hands, there is no ultimate benefit to be gained from secular human achievement.
- Ecclesiastes 2:11 tn The noun יִתְרוֹן (yitron, “profit”) has a two-fold range of meanings: (1) “what comes of [something]; result” (Eccl 1:3; 2:11; 3:9; 5:8, 15; 7:12; 10:10) and (2) “profit; advantage” (Eccl 2:13; 10:11); see HALOT 452-53 s.v. יִתְרוֹי. It is derived from the noun יֶתֶר (yeter, “what is left behind; remainder”; HALOT 452 s.v. I יֶתֶר). The related verb יָתַר (yatar) denotes “to be left over; to survive” (Niphal) and “to have left over” (Hiphil); see HALOT 451-52 s.v. יתר. When used literally, יִתְרוֹן refers to what is left over after expenses (gain or profit); when used figuratively, it refers to what is advantageous or of benefit. Though some things have relative advantage over others (e.g., light over darkness, and wisdom over folly in 2:13), there is no ultimate profit in man’s labor due to death.
- Ecclesiastes 2:11 tn The phrase “from them” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.
- Ecclesiastes 2:11 tn Heb “under the sun.”
- Ecclesiastes 2:12 tn Heb “and I turned to see.”
- Ecclesiastes 2:12 sn See 1:17 for the same expression. Throughout 2:1-11, Qoheleth evaluated the merits of merrymaking (2:1-3), accomplishing grand things (2:4-6), amassing great wealth (2:7-8), and secular acquisitions and accomplishments (2:9-10). Now, he reflects on the benefit in life in living wisely and not giving oneself over to frivolous self-indulgence.
- Ecclesiastes 2:12 tc The Hebrew text reads עָשׂוּהוּ (ʿasuhu, “they have done it”; Qal perfect third person masculine plural from עָשַׂה [ʿasah] plus third person masculine singular suffix). However, many medieval Hebrew mss read עָשָׂהוּ (ʿasahu, “he has done”; Qal perfect third person masculine singular from עָשַׂה), reflected in the LXX and Syriac. The error was caused by dittography (ו, vav, written twice) or by orthographic confusion between ו and ה (hey) in הוו (confused as והוו) at the end of 2:12 and beginning of 2:13. The third person masculine singular referent of עָשׂוּהוּ “what he has done” is the king, that is, Qoheleth himself. The referent (the king) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
- Ecclesiastes 2:13 tn Heb “and I saw that there is profit for wisdom more than folly.”
- Ecclesiastes 2:14 tn Heb “has his eyes in his head.” The term עַיִן (ʿayin, “eye”) is used figuratively in reference to mental and spiritual faculties (BDB 744 s.v. עַיִן 3.a). The term “eye” is a metonymy of cause (eye) for effect (sight and perception).
- Ecclesiastes 2:14 sn The common fate to which Qoheleth refers is death.
- Ecclesiastes 2:14 tn The term כֻּלָּם (kullam, “all of them”) denotes “both of them.” This is an example of synecdoche of general (“all of them”) for the specific (“both of them,” that is, both the wise man and the fool).
- Ecclesiastes 2:15 tn The emphatic use of the first person common singular personal pronoun אֲנִי (ʾani, “me”) with the emphatic particle of association גַּם (gam, “even, as well as”; HALOT 195-96 s.v. גַּם) appears to emphasize the first person common singular suffix on יִקְרֵנִי (yiqreni) “it will befall [or “happen to”] me” (Qal imperfect third person masculine singular plus first person common singular suffix from קָרָה, qarah, “to befall; to happen to”); see GKC 438 §135.e. Qoheleth laments not that the fate of the wise man is the same as that of the fool, but that even he himself—the wisest man of all—would fare no better in the end than the most foolish.
- Ecclesiastes 2:15 tn The adjective יוֹתֵר (yoter) means “too much; excessive,” e.g., 7:16 “excessively righteous” (HALOT 404 s.v. יוֹתֵר 2; BDB 452 s.v. יוֹתֵר). It is derived from the root יֶתֶר (yeter, “what is left over”); see HALOT 452 s.v. I יֶתֶר. It is related to the verbal root יתר (Niphal “to be left over”; Hiphil “to have left over”); see HALOT 451-52 s.v. I יתר. The adjective is related to יִתְרוֹן (yitron, “advantage; profit”) which is a key-term in this section, creating a word-play: The wise man has a relative “advantage” (יִתְרוֹן) over the fool (2:13-14a); however, there is no ultimate advantage because both share the same fate, i.e., death (2:14b-15a). Thus, Qoheleth’s acquisition of tremendous wisdom (1:16; 2:9) was “excessive” because it exceeded its relative advantage over folly: it could not deliver him from the same fate as the fool. He had striven to obtain wisdom, yet it held no ultimate advantage.
- Ecclesiastes 2:15 tn Heb “And why was I wise (to) excess?” The rhetorical question is an example of negative affirmation, expecting a negative answer: “I gained nothing!” (E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 949).
- Ecclesiastes 2:15 tn Heb “So I said in my heart.”
- Ecclesiastes 2:15 tn Heb “and also this,” referring to the relative advantage of wisdom over folly.
- Ecclesiastes 2:15 tn The word “ultimately” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.
- Ecclesiastes 2:16 tn The preposition עִם (ʿim, “with”) may occasionally function in a comparative sense, meaning “together with; even as; like” (e.g., Eccl 1:11; 2:16; 7:11; Job 9:26; 1 Chr 14:10: 20:6; 25:8; see HALOT 839 s.v. עִם 2). When used to describe a common lot, it connotes “together with” (Gen 18:23, 25; 1 Chr 24:5; Job 3:14, 15; 30:1; Pss 26:9; 28:3; 69:29; Isa 38:11), hence “like” (Pss 73:5; 106:6; Eccl 2:16; see BDB 767-68 s.v. עִם 1.e).
- Ecclesiastes 2:16 tn As HALOT 798-99 s.v. עוֹלָם and BDB 762-64 s.v. עוֹלָם note, עוֹלָם (ʿolam) has a wide range of meanings: (1) indefinite time: “long time; duration,” (2) unlimited time: “eternal; eternity,” (3) future time: “things to come,” and (4) past time: “a long time back,” that is, the dark age of prehistory. The context here suggests the nuance “a long time.”
- Ecclesiastes 2:16 tn The preposition ב (bet) on בְּשֶׁכְּבָר (beshekkevar, the adverb כְּבָר [kevar, “already”] plus relative pronoun שֶׁ [she] plus preposition ב) is probably best classified as causal: “Because…already.”
- Ecclesiastes 2:16 tn The verb נִשְׁכָּח (nishkakh) is a future perfect—it describes an event that is portrayed as a past event from the perspective of the future: “they will have been forgotten.” The emphasis of the past perfect is not simply that the future generations will begin to forget him, but that he will already have been forgotten long ago in the past by the time of those future generations. This past perfect situation is brought out by the emphatic use of the temporal adverb כְּבָר (kevar) “already” (HALOT 459 s.v. I כְּבָר; BDB 460 s.v. I כְּבָר); see, e.g., Eccl 1:10; 2:12, 16; 3:15; 4:2; 6:10; 9:6-7.
- Ecclesiastes 2:16 tn The particle אֵיךְ (ʾekh, “Alas!”) is an exclamation of lamentation and mourning (e.g., 2 Sam 1:19; Isa 14:4, 12; Jer 2:21; 9:18; Ezek 26:17; Mic 2:4); see HALOT 39 s.v. אֵיךְ 5; BDB 32 s.v. אֵיךְ 2; also E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 955.
- Ecclesiastes 2:16 tn The preposition עִם (ʿim, “with”) may occasionally function in a comparative sense, meaning “together with; even as; like” (e.g., Eccl 1:11; 2:16; 7:11; Job 9:26; 1 Chr 14:10: 20:6; 25:8); see HALOT 839 s.v. עִם 2. When used to describe a common lot, it connotes “together with” (Gen 18:23, 25; 1 Chr 24:5; Job 3:14, 15; 30:1; Pss 26:9; 28:3; 69:29; Isa 38:11), hence “like” (Pss 73:5; 106:6; Eccl 2:16); see BDB 767-68 s.v. עִם 1.e.
- Ecclesiastes 2:17 tn Or “I hated.”
- Ecclesiastes 2:17 tn The term הַחַיִּים (hakhayyim, “life”) functions as a metonymy of association, that is, that which is associated with life, that is, the profitlessness and futility of human secular achievement.
- Ecclesiastes 2:17 tn Heb “the deed that is done.” The root עָשָׂה (ʿasah, “to do”) is repeated in הַמַּעֲשֶׂה שֶׁנַּעֲשָׂה (hammaʿaseh shennaʿasah, “the deed that is done”) for emphasis. Here, the term “deed” does not refer to human accomplishment, as in 2:1-11, but to the fact of death that destroys any relative advantage of wisdom over folly (2:14a-16). Qoheleth metaphorically describes death as a “deed” that is “done” to man.
- Ecclesiastes 2:17 tn Heb “under the sun.”
- Ecclesiastes 2:17 tn Heb “all,” referring here to the relative advantage of wisdom.
- Ecclesiastes 2:18 tn The phrase “the fruit of” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity (see the following note on the phrase “hard labor”).
- Ecclesiastes 2:18 tn Heb “I hated all my toil for which I had toiled.” The term עֲמָלִי (ʿamali, “my toil”) is repeated throughout 2:18-21. In each case, it functions as a metonymy of cause (i.e., toil) for effect (i.e., fruit of labor). See, e.g., Ps 105:44; BDB 765 s.v עָמַל 3. The metonymy is indicated by several factors: (1) The third person masculine singular suffix (“it”) on אַנִּיחֶנּוּ (ʾannikhennu, “I must leave it”) in 2:18, and on יִתְּנֶנּוּ (yittenennu, “I must give it”) in 2:21 refer to his wealth, that is, the fruit of his labor. (2) In 2:21 the third person masculine singular suffix on שֶׁלֹּא עָמַל־בּוֹ (shelloʾ ʿamal bo, “who did not work for it”) refers to the inheritance that Qoheleth must turn over to his successor, namely, the fruit of his labor. (3) While he himself enjoyed the fruit of his labor, he despaired that he had to turn the fruit of his labor over to his successor: “So I loathed all the [fruit of] my labor” (2:18a) and “I began to despair about the [fruit of] my labor” (2:20a). Although most translations render עֲמָלִי as “my toil” in 2:18, the metonymy is recognized by several English translations: “So I hated all the fruit of my labor for which I had labored” (NASB); “So I detested all the fruits of my labor” (NAB); “I hated all the things I had toiled for” (NIV); and “So I loathed all the wealth that I was gaining” (NJPS).
- Ecclesiastes 2:18 tn Qoheleth uses an internal cognate accusative construction (accusative noun and verb from the same root) for emphasis: עֲמָלִי שֶׁאֲנִי עָמֵל (ʿamali sheʾani ʿamel, “my toil for which I had toiled”). See IBHS 167 §10.2.1g.
- Ecclesiastes 2:18 tn Heb “under the sun.”
- Ecclesiastes 2:18 tn The relative pronoun שֶׁ (she) on שֶׁאַנִּיחֶנּוּ (sheʾannikhennu, relative pronoun שֶׁ plus Hiphil imperfect first person common singular from נוּחַ, nuakh, “to leave” plus third person masculine singular suffix) is causal: “Because I must leave it behind.”
- Ecclesiastes 2:18 tn The third person masculine singular suffix on אַנִּיחֶנּוּ (ʾannikhennu, “I must leave it”) refers to Qoheleth’s wealth, that is, the fruit of his labor (see the note on the phrase “hard labor” in 2:18). The suffix is rendered literally by nearly all translations; however, a few make its referent explicit: “I have to leave its fruits” (NEB), “I must leave them [= all the fruits of my labor]” (NAB).
- Ecclesiastes 2:18 tn The verb נוּחַ (nuakh, “to rest”) denotes “to leave [something] behind” in the hands of someone (e.g., Ps 119:121; Eccl 2:18); see HALOT 680 s.v. נוח B.2.c. The imperfect functions in a modal sense of obligation or necessity. At death, Qoheleth will be forced to pass on his entire estate and the fruit of his labors to his successor.
- Ecclesiastes 2:18 tn Heb “to a man who will come after me.”
- Ecclesiastes 2:19 tn The vav on וְיִשְׁלַט (veyishlat, conjunction plus Qal imperfect third person masculine singular from שָׁלַט, shalat, “to be master”) is adversative (“yet”).
- Ecclesiastes 2:19 tn The phrase “the fruit of” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity (see the following note on the word “labor”).
- Ecclesiastes 2:19 tn Heb “my labor.” As in 2:18, the term עֲמָלִי (ʿamali, “my labor”) is a metonymy of cause (i.e., my labor) for effect (i.e., fruit of my labor). The metonymy is recognized by several translations: “he will control all the wealth that I gained” (NJPS); “he will have control over all the fruits of my labor” (NAB); “he will have mastery over all the fruits of my labor” (NEB); “he will have control over all the fruit of my labor” (NASB); “he will be master over all my possessions” (MLB).
- Ecclesiastes 2:19 tn An internal cognate accusative construction (accusative and verb from same root) is used for emphasis: שֶׁעָמַלְתִּי עֲמָלִי (ʿamali sheʿamalti, “my toil for which I had toiled”); see IBHS 167 §10.2.1g. The two verbs שֶׁעָמַלְתִּי וְשֶׁחָכַמְתִּי (sheʿamalti veshekhakhamti, “for which I had labored and for which I had acted wisely”) form a verbal hendiadys (two separate verbs used in association to communicate one idea): “for I had labored so wisely.” The second verb is used adverbially to modify the first verb, which functions in its full verbal sense.
- Ecclesiastes 2:19 tn Heb “under the sun.”
- Ecclesiastes 2:20 tn Heb “I turned aside to allow my heart despair.” The term לִבִּי (libbi, “my heart”) is a synecdoche of part (i.e., heart) for the whole (i.e., whole person); see E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 648.
- Ecclesiastes 2:20 tn The phrase “the fruit of” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity (see the following note on the word “labor”).
- Ecclesiastes 2:20 tn Heb “all my toil.” As in 2:18-19, the term עֲמָלִי (ʿamali, “my labor”) is a metonymy of cause (i.e., my labor) for effect (i.e., the fruit of my labor). The metonymy is recognized by several translations: “all the fruits of my labor” (NAB); “all the fruit of my labor” (NASB); “all the gains I had made” (NJPS).
- Ecclesiastes 2:20 tn Here the author uses an internal cognate accusative construction (accusative noun and verb from the same root) for emphasis: שֶׁעָמַלְתִּי הֶעָמָל (heʿamal sheʿamalti, “the toil for which I had toiled”); see IBHS 167 §10.2.1g.
- Ecclesiastes 2:20 tn Heb “under the sun.”
- Ecclesiastes 2:21 tn Heb “he must give.” The third person masculine singular suffix on יִתְּנֶנּוּ (yittenennu, Qal imperfect third person masculine singular from נָתַן, natan, “to give” plus third person masculine singular suffix) refers back to עֲמָלוֹ (ʿamalo, “his labor”) which is treated in this line as a metonymy of cause for effect, that is, “he must give it” = “he must give his labor” = “he must give the fruit of his labor.”sn As in 2:18-19, Qoheleth laments the injustice that a person who works diligently in wisdom must one day hand over the fruit of his labor (i.e., his fortune and the care of his achievements) to his successor. There is no guarantee that one’s heir will be wise and be a good steward of this wealth, or be foolish and squander it—in which case, the former man’s entire life’s work would be in vain.
- Ecclesiastes 2:21 tn Heb “it”; the referent (“the fruit of his labor”) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
- Ecclesiastes 2:21 tn Or “he must turn over an inheritance”; or “he must turn it over, namely, an inheritance.” There are two approaches to the syntax of חֶלְקוֹ (khelqo, “his inheritance”): (1) The third person masculine singular suffix is a subjective genitive: “his inheritance” = the inheritance which he must give to his heir. The referent of the third person masculine singular suffix is Qoheleth in 2:21a who worked hard to amass the fortune. The noun חֵלֶק (kheleq, “inheritance”) functions as an adverbial accusative of state (GKC 372 §118.a) or a predicate accusative (R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 12-13, §57): “He must give it [i.e., his fortune] as an inheritance.” (2) The third person masculine singular suffix is an objective genitive: “his inheritance” = the inheritance which the heir will receive from Qoheleth. The referent of the third person masculine singular suffix is the heir in 2:21b. The noun חֵלֶק (“inheritance”) functions as the accusative direct object in apposition (R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 15-16, §71) to the third person masculine singular suffix on יִתְּנֶנּוּ (yittenennu, “he must give it”; Qal imperfect third person masculine singular from נָתַן, natan, plus third person masculine singular suffix): “He must give it, namely, his inheritance, to one who did not work for it.”
- Ecclesiastes 2:21 tn The noun רָעָה (raʿah, “evil”) probably means “misfortune” (HALOT 1263 s.v. רָעָה 4) or “injustice; wrong” (HALOT 1262 s.v. רָעָה 2.b). The phrase רָעָה רַבָּה (raʿah rabbah) connotes “grave injustice” or “great misfortune” (e.g., Eccl 2:17; 5:12, 15; 6:1; 10:5). It is expressed well as: “This too is…a great misfortune” (NAB, NIV, MLB) and “utterly wrong!” (NEB).sn Verses 18-21 are arranged into two sub-units (2:18-19 and 2:20-21). Each contains a parallel structure: (1) Introductory lament: “I hated all my toil” and “I began to despair about all my toil.” (2) Reason for the lament: “I must turn over the fruit of my labor to the hands of my successor” and “he must hand over the fruit of his work as an inheritance.” (3) Description of successor: “who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool?” and “he did not work for it.” (4) Concluding statement: “This also is fruitless!” and “This also is profitless and an awful injustice!”
- Ecclesiastes 2:22 tn Heb “under the sun.” The rhetorical question is an example of negative affirmation, expecting a negative answer: “Man acquires nothing” (see E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 949-51).
- Ecclesiastes 2:23 tn Heb “all his days.”
- Ecclesiastes 2:23 tn The syntax of this verse has been interpreted in two different ways: (1) The phrase “all his days” (כָל־יָמָיו, khol yamayv) is the subject of a verbless clause, and the noun “pain” (מַכְאֹבִים, makhʾovim) is a predicate nominative or a predicate of apposition (see R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 15-16, §71). Likewise, the noun “his work” (עִנְיָנוֹ, ʿinyano) is the subject of a second verbless clause, and the vexation” (כַעַס, khaʿas) is a predicate nominative: “All his days are pain, and his work is vexation.” (2) The noun “his work” (עִנְיָנוֹ) is the subject of both nouns, “pain and vexation” (וָכַעַס מַכְאֹבִים, makhʾovim vakhaʿas), which are predicate nominatives, while the phrase “all his days” (כָל־יָמָיו) is an adverbial accusative functioning temporally: “All day long, his work is pain and vexation.” The latter option is supported by the parallelism between “even at night” and “all day long.” This verse draws out an ironic contrast/comparison between his physical toil/labor during the day and his emotional anxiety at night. Even at night, he has no break!
- Ecclesiastes 2:23 tn Heb “his heart (i.e., mind) does not rest.”
- Ecclesiastes 2:24 tn The preposition ב (bet) on בָּאָדָם (baʾadam) has been taken in two ways: (1) locative with טוֹב (tov, “good”) in reference to man’s moral nature: “There is nothing [inherently] good in man.” (2) advantage with טוֹב (“good”) in reference to the enjoyment theme of 2:24-26: “There is nothing better for a man than…” (this assumes a comparative מִן, min, on מִשֶּׁיֹּאכַל, misheyyoʾkhal); see text critical note on the word “than” below). The latter is preferred for two reasons: (1) The preposition ב is used with a similar idiom in 3:12 in collocation with the particle phrase כִּי אִם (ki ʾim, “except”): “There is nothing better…than to rejoice/be happy” (NASB, NIV). (2) The theme of 2:1-26 focuses on the futility of human toil, concluding that the only real reward that man has in his labor is to find enjoyment in it (e.g., 2:10, 24-26). The section says nothing about man’s inherent sinful nature.
- Ecclesiastes 2:24 tn Heb “man.”
- Ecclesiastes 2:24 tc The MT reads שֶׁיֹּאכַל (sheyyo’khal, “that he should eat”; Qal imperfect third person masculine singular from אָכַל, ʾakhal, “to eat,” with relative pronoun שֶׁ, she, “that”). However, the variant textual tradition of מִשֶּׁיֹּאכַל (misheyyoʾkhal, “than he should eat” (comparative preposition מִן, min, “than” plus Qal imperfect third person masculine singular from אָכַל “to eat”) is reflected in the LXX, Coptic, Syriac, Aramaic Targum, Old Latin, and Jerome. The textual error, an example of haplography, arose from a single writing of מ (mem) from בָּאָדָם מִשֶּׁיֹּאכַל (baʾadam misheyyoʾkhal). The same idiom appears in the expanded form אֵין טוֹב followed by כִּי אִם (ʾen tov…ki ʾim, “there is nothing better for man than…”) in Eccl 3:12; 8:15.
- Ecclesiastes 2:24 tn Heb “to cause his soul to see good.” The idiom רָאָה טוֹב (raʾah tov, “to see good”) is a metonymy of association, meaning “to find enjoyment” (e.g., 3:13; 5:17; 6:6). In 3:12-13 and 5:17-18 it is in collocation and/or parallelism with ב (bet) plus שָׂמַח (samakh, “to rejoice in,” or “to find satisfaction or pleasure in” something). Here, it is used in collocation with חוּשׁ (khush, “to enjoy”). The term נַפְשׁוֹ (nafsho, “his soul”) is a metonymy of part (i.e., soul) for the whole (i.e., whole person), e.g., Num 23:10; Judg 16:30; Pss 16:10; 35:13; 103:1 (see E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 640-41).
- Ecclesiastes 2:24 tn Heb “his.”
- Ecclesiastes 2:24 tn The phrase “ability to find enjoyment” is not in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.
- Ecclesiastes 2:24 tn Heb “is from the hand of God.”sn The phrase “from the hand of God” is an anthropomorphism (depicting God, who is an invisible spirit, in the form of man with hands) or anthropopatheia (depicting God performing human-like actions). The “hand of God” is a figure often used to portray God’s sovereign providence and benevolence (see E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 878). The phrase “the hand of God” is often used to connote the favor or grace of God (2 Chr 30:12; Ezra 7:9; 8:18; Neh 2:8, 18; see BDB 390 s.v. יָד 1.e.2).
- Ecclesiastes 2:25 tn Heb “For who can…?” The rhetorical question is an example of negative affirmation, expecting a negative answer: “No one can!” (see E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 949-51).
- Ecclesiastes 2:25 tn The phrase “and drink” is not in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for stylistic harmonization with v. 24.
- Ecclesiastes 2:25 tn The verb II חוּשׁ (khush, “to enjoy”) is a hapax legomenon which BDB defines as “to feel; to enjoy [with the senses]” on the basis of the context, and the cognates: Arabic “to feel; to perceive [by senses]”; Aramaic חושׁ “to feel pain,” and New Hebrew חושׁ “to feel pain” (BDB 301 s.v. II חֹוּשׁ). HALOT relates the Hebrew root to Akkadian havavu “to be delighted with” (HALOT 300 s.v. II חושׁ 1). The Vulgate renders this term as “to enjoy.” The Greek versions (LXX, Theodotion) and the Syriac Peshitta, however, did not understand this hapax; they rendered it as “to drink,” making some sense of the line by filling out the parallelism “to eat [and drink]” (e.g., Eccl 8:15).
- Ecclesiastes 2:25 tc The MT reads מִמֶּנִּי (mimmenni, “more than I”). However, an alternate textual tradition of מִמֶּנּוּ (mimmennu, “apart from him [= God]”) is preserved in several medieval Hebrew mss, and is reflected in most of the versions (LXX, Syriac, Syro-Hexapla, and Jerome). The textual deviation is a case of simple orthographic confusion between י (yod) and ו (vav) as frequently happened, e.g., MT צו לצו צו לצו (tsv ltsv tsv ltsv) versus 1QIsaa 28:10 צי לצי צי לצי (tsy ltsy ts ltsy); see P. K. McCarter, Jr., Textual Criticism, 47. It is difficult to determine which reading is original here. The MT forms a parenthetical clause, where Qoheleth refers to himself: no one had more of an opportunity to experience more enjoyment in life than he (e.g., 2:1-11). The alternate textual tradition is a causal clause, explaining why the ability to enjoy life is a gift from God: no one can experience enjoyment in life “apart from him,” that is, apart from “the hand of God” in 2:24. It is possible that internal evidence supports the alternate textual tradition. In 2:24-26, Qoheleth is not emphasizing his own resources to enjoy life, as he had done in 2:1-11, but that the ability to enjoy life is the gift of God. On the other hand, the Jerusalem Hebrew Bible project retains the MT reading with a “B” rating; see D. Barthélemy, ed., Preliminary and Interim Report on the Hebrew Old Testament Text Project, 3:570. The English versions are split on the textual problem: a few retain MT מִמֶּנִּי (“more than I”), e.g., KJV, ASV, YLT, Douay, NJPS, while others adopt the alternate reading מִמֶּנּוּ, “apart from him” (NEB, NAB, MLB, NASB, RSV, NRSV, NIV, Moffatt).
- Ecclesiastes 2:26 tn Heb “for to a man who is good before him.”
- Ecclesiastes 2:26 sn The phrase the task of amassing wealth (Heb “the task of gathering and heaping up”) implicitly compares the work of the farmer reaping his crops and storing them up in a barn, to the work of the laborer amassing wealth as the fruit of his labor. However, rather than his storehouse being safe for the future, the sinner is deprived of it.
- Ecclesiastes 2:26 tn The word “wealth” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.
- Ecclesiastes 2:26 sn The three-fold repetition of the Hebrew word translated “give” in the first part of this verse creates irony: God “gives” the righteous the ability to prosper and to find enjoyment in his work, but to the wicked He “gives” the task of “giving” his wealth to the righteous.
- Ecclesiastes 2:26 tn The word “it” (an implied direct object) does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.
- Ecclesiastes 2:26 tn The antecedent of the demonstrative pronoun זֶה (zeh, “this”) is debated: (1) Some refer it to the enjoyment which Qoheleth had just commended in 2:24-26. However, this is inconsistent with the enjoyment theme found elsewhere in the book. It also ignores the fact that 2:24-26 states that such enjoyment is a good gift from God. (2) Others refer it to the term “toil” (עָמָל, ʿamal) which is repeated throughout 2:18-26. However, Qoheleth affirmed that if one is righteous, he can find enjoyment in his toil, even though so much of it is ultimately futile. (3) Therefore, it seems best to refer it to the grievous “task” (עִנְיָן, ʿinyan) God has given to the sinner in 2:26b. Consistent with the meaning of הֶבֶל (hevel, “futile; profitless; fruitless”), 2:26b emphasizes that the “task” of the sinner is profitless: he labors hard to amass wealth, only to see the fruit of his labor given away to someone else. The righteous man’s enjoyment of his work and the fruit of his labor under the blessing of God (2:24-26a) is not included in this.
- Ecclesiastes 2:26 tn The phrase “task of the wicked” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.