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Enjoy[a] life with your beloved wife[b] during all the days of your fleeting[c] life
that God[d] has given you on earth[e] during all your fleeting days;[f]
for that is your reward in life and in your burdensome work[g] on earth.[h]
10 Whatever you find to do with your hands,[i]
do it with all your might,
because there is neither work nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom in the grave,[j]
the place where you will eventually go.[k]

Wisdom Cannot Protect against Seemingly Chance Events

11 Again,[l] I observed this on the earth:[m]
the race is not always[n] won by the swiftest,
the battle is not always won by the strongest;
prosperity[o] does not always belong to those who are the wisest,
wealth does not always belong to those who are the most discerning,
nor does success[p] always come to those with the most knowledge—
for time and chance may overcome[q] them all.

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  1. Ecclesiastes 9:9 tn Heb “see.”
  2. Ecclesiastes 9:9 tn Heb “the wife whom you love.”
  3. Ecclesiastes 9:9 tn As discussed in the note on the word “futile” in 1:2, the term הֶבֶל (hevel) has a wide range of meanings, and should not be translated the same in every place (see HALOT 236-37 s.v. I הֶבֶל; BDB 210-11 s.v. I הבֶל). The term is used in two basic ways in OT, literally and figuratively. The literal, concrete sense is used in reference to the wind, man’s transitory breath, evanescent vapor (Isa 57:13; Pss 62:10; 144:4; Prov 21:6; Job 7:16). In this sense, it is often a synonym for “breath; wind” (Eccl 1:14; Isa 57:13; Jer 10:14). The literal sense lent itself to the metaphorical sense. Because breath/vapor/wind is transitory and fleeting, the figurative connotation “fleeting; transitory” arose (e.g., Prov 31:30; Eccl 6:12; 7:15; 9:9; 11:10; Job 7:16). In this sense, it is parallel to “few days” and “[days] which he passes like a shadow” (Eccl 6:12). It is used in reference to youth and vigor (11:10) or life (6:12; 7:15; 9:9) which are “transitory” or “fleeting.” In this context, the most appropriate meaning is “fleeting.”
  4. Ecclesiastes 9:9 tn Heb “he”; the referent (God) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  5. Ecclesiastes 9:9 tn Heb “under the sun”
  6. Ecclesiastes 9:9 tc The phrase כָּל יְמֵי הֶבְלֶךָ (kol yeme hevlekha, “all your fleeting days”) is present in the MT, but absent in the Greek versions, other medieval Hebrew mss, and the Targum. Its appearance in the MT may be due to dittography (repetition: the scribe wrote twice what should have been written once) from כָּל יְמֵי חַיֵּי הֶבְלֶךָ (kol yeme khayye hevlekha, “all the days of your fleeting life”) which appears in the preceding line. On the other hand, its omission in the alternate textual tradition may be due to haplography (accidental omission of repeated words) with the earlier line.
  7. Ecclesiastes 9:9 tn Heb “in your toil in which you toil.”
  8. Ecclesiastes 9:9 tn Heb “under the sun.”
  9. Ecclesiastes 9:10 tn Heb “Whatever your hand finds to do.”
  10. Ecclesiastes 9:10 tn Heb “Sheol.”
  11. Ecclesiastes 9:10 tn Or “where you are about to go.”
  12. Ecclesiastes 9:11 tn Heb “I returned and.” In the Hebrew idiom, “to return and do” means “to do again.”
  13. Ecclesiastes 9:11 tn Heb “under the sun.”
  14. Ecclesiastes 9:11 tn The term “always” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation (five times in this verse) for clarity.
  15. Ecclesiastes 9:11 tn Heb “bread.”
  16. Ecclesiastes 9:11 tn Heb “favor.”
  17. Ecclesiastes 9:11 tn Heb “happen to.”