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Chapter 6

Limited Worth of Enjoyment. There is another evil I have seen under the sun, and it weighs heavily upon humankind: (A)There is one to whom God gives riches and property and honor, and who lacks nothing the heart could desire; yet God does not grant the power to partake of them, but a stranger devours them. This is vanity and a dire plague. Should one have a hundred children and live many years, no matter to what great age, still if one has not the full benefit of those goods, I proclaim that the child born dead, even if left unburied, is more fortunate.[a] (B)Though it came in vain and goes into darkness and its name is enveloped in darkness, though it has not seen the sun or known anything, yet the dead child has more peace. Should such a one live twice a thousand years and not enjoy those goods, do not both go to the same place?[b]

All human toil is for the mouth,[c] yet the appetite is never satisfied. What profit have the wise compared to fools, or what profit have the lowly in knowing how to conduct themselves in life? “What the eyes see is better than what the desires wander after.”[d] This also is vanity and a chase after wind.

II. Qoheleth’s Conclusions

10 Whatever is, was long ago given its name, and human nature is known; mortals cannot contend in judgment with One who is stronger.[e] 11 For the more words, the more vanity; what profit is there for anyone? 12 (C)For who knows what is good for mortals in life, the limited days of their vain life, spent like a shadow? Because who can tell them what will come afterward under the sun?(D)


  1. 6:3 Even a large family and exceptionally long life cannot compensate for the absence of good things and the joy which they bring.
  2. 6:6 Same place: the grave; cf. 3:20; 12:7.
  3. 6:7 The mouth: symbolic of human desires.
  4. 6:9 Compare the English proverb, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” However, it could also mean, “The seeing of the eyes is better than the wandering of the desire,” with the emphasis on the actions of seeing and desiring. Seeing is a way of possessing whereas desire, by definition, can remain frustrated and unfulfilled.
  5. 6:10–11 One who is stronger is, of course, God. The more vanity: contending with God is futile.

I have seen another evil under the sun, and it weighs heavily on mankind: God gives some people wealth, possessions and honor, so that they lack nothing their hearts desire, but God does not grant them the ability to enjoy them,(A) and strangers enjoy them instead. This is meaningless, a grievous evil.(B)

A man may have a hundred children and live many years; yet no matter how long he lives, if he cannot enjoy his prosperity and does not receive proper burial, I say that a stillborn(C) child is better off than he.(D) It comes without meaning, it departs in darkness, and in darkness its name is shrouded. Though it never saw the sun or knew anything, it has more rest than does that man— even if he lives a thousand years twice over but fails to enjoy his prosperity. Do not all go to the same place?(E)

Everyone’s toil is for their mouth,
    yet their appetite is never satisfied.(F)
What advantage have the wise over fools?(G)
What do the poor gain
    by knowing how to conduct themselves before others?
Better what the eye sees
    than the roving of the appetite.
This too is meaningless,
    a chasing after the wind.(H)

10 Whatever exists has already been named,(I)
    and what humanity is has been known;
no one can contend
    with someone who is stronger.
11 The more the words,
    the less the meaning,
    and how does that profit anyone?

12 For who knows what is good for a person in life, during the few and meaningless days(J) they pass through like a shadow?(K) Who can tell them what will happen under the sun after they are gone?