Add parallel Print Page Options

Enjoy the Fruit of Your Labor

18 I have seen personally what is the only beneficial and appropriate course of action for people:[a]
to eat and drink,[b] and find enjoyment in all their[c] hard work[d] on earth[e]
during the few days of their life that God has given them,
for this is their reward.[f]
19 To every man whom God has given wealth and possessions,
he has also given him the ability[g]
to eat from them, to receive his reward, and to find enjoyment in his toil;
these things[h] are the gift of God.
20 For he does not think[i] much about the fleeting[j] days of his life
because God keeps him preoccupied[k] with the joy he derives from his activity.[l]

Read full chapter


  1. Ecclesiastes 5:18 tn Heb “Behold, that which I have seen, I, good which is beautiful.” The phrase “for people” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.
  2. Ecclesiastes 5:18 sn The phrase “to eat and to drink” is a common idiom in Ecclesiastes for a person enjoying the fruit of his labor (e.g., 2:24; 3:13).
  3. Ecclesiastes 5:18 tn Heb “his,” and three times later in the verse.
  4. Ecclesiastes 5:18 tn Heb “the toil which one toils.”
  5. Ecclesiastes 5:18 tn Heb “under the sun.”
  6. Ecclesiastes 5:18 tn The term חֵלֶק (kheleq, “lot”) has a wide range of meanings: (1) “share of spoils” (Gen 14:24; Num 31:36; 1 Sam 30:24), (2) “portion of food” (Lev 6:10; Deut 18:8; Hab 1:16), (3) “portion [or tract] of land” (Deut 10:9; 12:12; Josh 19:9), (4) “portion” or “possession” (Num 18:20; Deut 32:9), (5) “inheritance” (2 Kgs 9:10; Amos 7:4), (6) “portion” or “award” (Job 20:29; 27:13; 31:2; Isa 17:14) or “profit; reward” (Eccl 2:10, 21; 3:22; 5:17-18; 9:6, 9); see HALOT 323 s.v. II חֵלֶק; BDB 324 s.v. חֵלֶק. Throughout Ecclesiastes, the term is used in reference to man’s temporal profit from his labor, his reward from God (e.g., Eccl 3:22; 9:9).
  7. Ecclesiastes 5:19 tn The syntax of this verse is difficult. The best approach is to view הִשְׁלִיטוֹ (hishlito, “he has given him the ability”) as governing the three following infinitives: לֶאֱכֹל (leʾekhol, “to eat”), וְלָשֵׂאת (velaseʾt, “and to lift” = “to accept [or receive]”), and וְלִשְׂמֹחַ (velismoakh, “and to rejoice”). This statement parallels 2:24-26 which states that no one can find enjoyment in life unless God gives him the ability to do so.
  8. Ecclesiastes 5:19 tn Heb “this.” The feminine singular demonstrative pronoun זֹה (zoh, “this”) refers back to all that preceded it in the verse (e.g., GKC 440-41 §135.p), that is, the ability to enjoy the fruit of one’s labor is the gift of God (e.g., Eccl 2:24-26). The phrase “these things” is used in the translation for clarity.
  9. Ecclesiastes 5:20 tn The verb זָכַר (zakhar, “to remember”) may be nuanced “to call to mind; to think about,” that is, “to reflect upon” (e.g., Isa 47:7; Lam 1:9; Job 21:6; 36:24; 40:32 HT [41:8 ET]; Eccl 11:8); cf. BDB 270 s.v. זָכַר 5; HALOT 270 s.v. I זכר 2.
  10. Ecclesiastes 5:20 tn The word “fleeting” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.
  11. Ecclesiastes 5:20 tn The term מַעֲנֵה (maʿaneh, Hiphil participle ms from II עָנָה, ʿanah, “to be occupied”) refers to activity that keeps a person physically busy and mentally preoccupied, e.g., Eccl 1:13; 3:10; 5:19 (HALOT 854; BDB 775 s.v. עָנָה II). The related noun עִנְיַן (ʿinyan, “business; occupation; task”) refers to activity that keeps man busy and occupies his time, e.g., Eccl 1:13; 2:26; 3:10 (HALOT 857; BDB 775 s.v. עִנְיָן). The participle form is used to emphasize durative, uninterrupted, continual action.
  12. Ecclesiastes 5:20 tn Heb “with the joy of his heart.” The words “he derives from his activity” do not appear in the Hebrew, but they are added to clarify the Teacher’s point in light of what he says right before this.