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God gives a man riches, property, and wealth
so that he lacks nothing that his heart[a] desires,[b]
yet God does not enable[c] him to enjoy[d] the fruit of his labor[e]
instead, someone else[f] enjoys[g] it![h]
This is fruitless and a grave misfortune.[i]
Even if a man fathers a hundred children and lives many years,
even if he lives a long, long time,[j] but cannot enjoy his prosperity—
even if he were to live forever[k]
I would say, “A stillborn child[l] is better off than he is.”[m]
Though the stillborn child[n] came into the world[o] for no reason[p] and departed into darkness,
though its name is shrouded in darkness,[q]

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  1. Ecclesiastes 6:2 tn Heb “his appetite.”
  2. Ecclesiastes 6:2 tn Heb “There is no lack in respect to his appetite”; or “his desire lacks nothing.”
  3. Ecclesiastes 6:2 tn The verb שָׁלַט (shalat) in the Qal stem means “to domineer; to dominate; to lord it over; to be master of” and in the Hiphil stem “to give power to” (BDB 1020 s.v. שָׁלַט) and “to grant” (HALOT 1522 s.v. שׁלט). God must grant a person the ability to enjoy the fruit of his labor, otherwise a person will not be able to enjoy his possessions and wealth. The ability to partake of the fruit of one’s labor and to find satisfaction and joy in it is a gift from God (e.g., Eccl 2:24-26; 3:13; 5:18 [19]; 9:7).
  4. Ecclesiastes 6:2 tn Heb “to eat of it.” The verb אָכַל (ʾakhal, “to eat”) functions as a metonymy of association, that is, the action of eating is associated with the enjoyment of the fruit of one’s labor (e.g., Eccl 2:24-26; 3:12-13, 22; 5:17-19; 8:15; 9:9).
  5. Ecclesiastes 6:2 tn The phrase “the fruit of his labor” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.
  6. Ecclesiastes 6:2 tn Heb “a stranger.” The Hebrew expression אִיש נָכְרִי (ʾish nokhri, “stranger”) sometimes refers not to a foreigner or someone that the person does not know, but simply to someone else other than the subject (e.g., Prov 27:2). In the light of 6:3-6, it might even refer to the man’s own heirs. The term is used as a synecdoche of species (foreigner for stranger) in the sense of someone else other than the subject: “someone else” (BDB 649 s.v. נָכְרִי 3).
  7. Ecclesiastes 6:2 tn Heb “eats.”
  8. Ecclesiastes 6:2 sn Instead, someone else enjoys it. A person may be unable to enjoy the fruit of his/her labor due to an unfortunate turn of events that robs a person of his possessions (5:13-14) or a miserly, lifelong hoarding of one’s wealth that robs him of the ability to enjoy what he has worked so hard to acquire (5:15-17). Qoheleth recommends the enjoyment of life and the fruit of one’s labor, as God enables (5:18-20). Unfortunately, the ability to enjoy the fruits of one’s labor is often thwarted by the obstacles described in 6:1-2 and 6:3-9.
  9. Ecclesiastes 6:2 tn Heb “an evil sickness.”
  10. Ecclesiastes 6:3 tn Heb “the days of his years are many.”
  11. Ecclesiastes 6:3 tn Heb “he has no burial.” The phrase וְגַם־קְבוּרָה לֹא־הָיְתָה (vegam qevurah loʾ hayetah, “he even has no burial”) is traditionally treated as part of a description of the man’s sorry final state, that is, he is deprived of even a proper burial (KJV, NEB, RSV, NRSV, ASV, NASB, NIV, NJPS, MLB, Moffatt). However, the preceding parallel lines suggest that this a hyperbolic protasis: “If he were to live one hundred years…even if he were never buried [i.e., were to live forever]….” A similar idea occurs elsewhere (e.g., Pss 49:9; 89:48). See D. R. Glenn, “Ecclesiastes,” BKCOT, 990.
  12. Ecclesiastes 6:3 tn The noun נֶפֶל (nefel) denotes “miscarriage” and by metonymy of effect, “stillborn child” (e.g., Ps 58:9; Job 3:16; Eccl 6:3); cf. HALOT 711. The noun is related to the verb נָפַל (nafal, “to fall,” but occasionally “to be born”; see Isa 26:18); cf. HALOT 710 s.v. נפל 5.
  13. Ecclesiastes 6:3 sn The point of 6:3-6 is that the futility of unenjoyed wealth is worse than the tragedy of being stillborn.
  14. Ecclesiastes 6:4 tn Heb “he”; the referent (“the stillborn child”) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  15. Ecclesiastes 6:4 tn The phrase “into the world” does not appear in Hebrew, but is added in the translation for clarity.
  16. Ecclesiastes 6:4 sn The birth of the stillborn was in vain—it did it no good to be born.
  17. Ecclesiastes 6:4 sn The name of the stillborn is forgotten.

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