Ecclesiastes 2

 

אָמַרְתִּי אֲנִי בְּלִבִּי לְכָה־נָּא אֲנַסְּכָה בְשִׂמְחָה וּרְאֵה בְטֹוב וְהִנֵּה גַם־הוּא הָבֶל׃   2:1

Eccl. 2:1   I said to my heart, “Come now, I will tempt you with mirth; so perceive in happiness.” 

But behold, that also is vanity.

לִשְׂחֹוק אָמַרְתִּי מְהֹולָל וּלְשִׂמְחָה מַה־זֹּה עֹשָׂה׃   2:2

Eccl. 2:2   I said, “Madness!” about laughter; and about mirth, “What does this accomplish?”

תַּרְתִּי בְלִבִּי לִמְשֹׁוךְ בַּיַּיִן אֶת־בְּשָׂרִי וְלִבִּי נֹהֵג בַּחָכְמָה וְלֶאֱחֹז בְּסִכְלוּת עַד אֲשֶׁר־אֶרְאֶה אֵי־זֶה טֹוב   2:3

לִבְנֵי הָאָדָם אֲשֶׁר יַעֲשׂוּ תַּחַת הַשָּׁמַיִם מִסְפַּר יְמֵי חַיֵּיהֶם׃

Eccl. 2:3   I searched in my heart for gratifying my flesh with wine, or my heart to be guided by

wisdom, or for laying hold on folly, until the time that I might see which is best for the children of

humankind that they should do under the heavens the few days of their lives.

הִגְדַּלְתִּי מַעֲשָׂי בָּנִיתִי לִי בָּתִּים נָטַעְתִּי לִי כְּרָמִים׃   2:4

Eccl. 2:4   I made great my works, built houses for myself, planted vineyards for myself,

עָשִׂיתִי לִי גַּנֹּות וּפַרְדֵּסִים וְנָטַעְתִּי בָהֶם עֵץ כָּל־פֶּרִי׃   2:5

Eccl. 2:5   produced gardens and parks for myself, and could plant in them every fruit tree.

עָשִׂיתִי לִי בְּרֵכֹות מָיִם לְהַשְׁקֹות מֵהֶם יַעַר צֹומֵחַ עֵצִים׃   2:6

Eccl. 2:6   I made pools of water for myself to irrigate, from which a forest sprouting trees.

קָנִיתִי עֲבָדִים וּשְׁפָחֹות וּבְנֵי־בַיִת הָיָה לִי גַּם מִקְנֶה בָקָר וָצֹאן הַרְבֵּה הָיָה לִי מִכֹּל שֶׁהָיוּ לְפָנַי    2:7

בִּירוּשָׁלִָם׃

Eccl. 2:7   I acquired male servants and female servants, and the children of the household.   Mine

also were cattle, herd, and flock.  Mine were greater than of all who had been before me in

Jerusalem.

כָּנַסְתִּי לִי גַּם־כֶּסֶף וְזָהָב וּסְגֻלַּת מְלָכִים וְהַמְּדִינֹות עָשִׂיתִי לִי שָׁרִים וְשָׁרֹות וְתַעֲנוּגֹת בְּנֵי    2:8

הָאָדָם שִׁדָּה וְשִׁדֹּות׃

Eccl. 2:8   I also gathered silver and gold for myself, and the treasures of kings and the provinces.  I produced male singers and female singers for myself, and the delights of the sons of men:  Women and more women.

וְגָדַלְתִּי וְהֹוסַפְתִּי מִכֹּל שֶׁהָיָה לְפָנַי בִּירוּשָׁלִָם אַף חָכְמָתִי עָמְדָה לִּי׃   2:9

Eccl. 2:9   So I would increase and became greater than any who had been before me in Jerusalem. Furthermore my wisdom continued for me.

וְכֹל אֲשֶׁר שָׁאֲלוּ עֵינַי לֹא אָצַלְתִּי מֵהֶם לֹא־מָנַעְתִּי אֶת־לִבִּי מִכָּל־שִׂמְחָה כִּי־לִבִּי שָׂמֵחַ    2:10

מִכָּל־עֲמָלִי וְזֶה־הָיָה חֶלְקִי מִכָּל־עֲמָלִי׃

Eccl. 2:10   And anything about which my eyes were curious I did not withhold from them.  I did not keep back my heart from any joy, for my heart rejoiced from all my labor, and this was my portion from all my toil.

וּפָנִיתִי אֲנִי בְּכָל־מַעֲשַׂי שֶׁעָשׂוּ יָדַי וּבֶעָמָל שֶׁעָמַלְתִּי לַעֲשֹׂות וְהִנֵּה הַכֹּל הֶבֶל וּרְעוּת רוּח    2:11

וְאֵין יִתְרֹון תַּחַת הַשָּׁמֶשׁ׃

Eccl. 2:11   Then I would look at all my works that my hands had produced and at the labor I had

toiled to do, and behold, all of it was vanity and vexation of spirit, and of no profit under the sun.

וּפָנִיתִי אֲנִי לִרְאֹות חָכְמָה וְהֹולֵלֹות וְסִכְלוּת כִּי מֶה הָאָדָם שֶׁיָּבֹוא אַחֲרֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ אֵת אֲשֶׁר־כְּבָר    2:12

עָשׂוּהוּ׃

Eccl. 2:12   Then I would turn to consider wisdom and madness and folly.  For what can the man

do who will come after the king?  That which they already have done!

There appears to be a word missing in the Hebrew of this verse.  The word for can ... do (in the second translated

sentence) is not in the original.  Every bible I am familiar with adds the English as I have.

וְרָאִיתִי אָנִי שֶׁיֵּשׁ יִתְרֹון לַחָכְמָה מִן־הַסִּכְלוּת כִּיתְרֹון הָאֹור מִן־הַחֹשֶׁךְ׃   2:13

Eccl. 2:13   Then I would observe that there is as much excellence to wisdom beyond folly as the

excellence of light is beyond darkness.

Is this also vanity, or is the author admitting that wisdom is inherently “good?”

הֶחָכָם עֵינָיו בְּרֹאשֹׁו וְהַכְּסִיל בַּחֹשֶׁךְ הֹולֵךְ וְיָדַעְתִּי גַם־אָנִי שֶׁמִּקְרֶה אֶחָד יִקְרֶה אֶת־כֻּלָּם׃    2:14

Eccl. 2:14   The wise person, his eyes are in his head;

                              but the fool walks in darkness.

Yet I also could recognize that the same circumstance must befall both of them.

וְאָמַרְתִּי אֲנִי בְּלִבִּי כְּמִקְרֵה הַכְּסִיל גַּם־אֲנִי יִקְרֵנִי וְלָמָּה חָכַמְתִּי אֲנִי אָז יֹותֵר וְדִבַּרְתִּי בְלִבִּי    2:15

 שֶׁגַּם־זֶה הָבֶל׃

Eccl. 2:15   So I could say in my heart, “As it happens to the fool, so I also, it would happen to me.”  How then was I wiser, I then superior?  And I could declare in my heart that this also was vanity.

כִּי אֵין זִכְרֹון לֶחָכָם עִם־הַכְּסִיל לְעֹולָם בְּשֶׁכְּבָר הַיָּמִים הַבָּאִים הַכֹּל נִשְׁכָּח וְאֵיךְ יָמוּת הֶחָכָם    2:16

 עִם־הַכְּסִיל׃

Eccl. 2:16   For there is no more remembrance of wisdom than of foolishness for too long.  In a

while, the days ahead, it all is forgotten.  And how must the wise one die, just as the fool!

וְשָׂנֵאתִי אֶת־הַחַיִּים כִּי רַע עָלַי הַמַּעֲשֶׂה שֶׁנַּעֲשָׂה תַּחַת הַשָּׁמֶשׁ כִּי־הַכֹּל הֶבֶל וּרְעוּת רוּחַ׃    2:17

Eccl. 2:17   So I would hate life, for the work that is produced under the sun was unpleasant to me,

for all is vanity and vexation of spirit.

וְשָׂנֵאתִי אֲנִי אֶת־כָּל־עֲמָלִי שֶׁאֲנִי עָמֵל תַּחַת הַשָּׁמֶשׁ שֶׁאַנִּיחֶנּוּ לָאָדָם שֶׁיִּהְיֶה אַחֲרָי׃    2:18

Eccl. 2:18   And I would hate all my labor by which I had been toiling under the sun, that I would

leave to a man who would be after me.

וּמִי יֹודֵעַ הֶחָכָם יִהְיֶה אֹו סָכָל וְיִשְׁלַט בְּכָל־עֲמָלִי שֶׁעָמַלְתִּי וְשֶׁחָכַמְתִּי תַּחַת הַשָּׁמֶשׁ גַּם־זֶה הָבֶל׃    2:19

Eccl. 2:19   And who knows if he will be a wise one or a fool, yet he will be master over all my labor

by which I had toiled and by which I had become wise under the sun.  Even this is vanity!

וְסַבֹּותִי אֲנִי לְיַאֵשׁ אֶת־לִבִּי עַל כָּל־הֶעָמָל שֶׁעָמַלְתִּי תַּחַת הַשָּׁמֶשׁ׃   2:20

Eccl. 2:20   Then I would turn inward, making my heart despair over all the labor by which I had

toiled under the sun.

כִּי־יֵשׁ אָדָם שֶׁעֲמָלֹו בְּחָכְמָה וּבְדַעַת וּבְכִשְׁרֹון וּלְאָדָם שֶׁלֹּא עָמַל־בֹּו יִתְּנֶנּוּ חֶלְקֹו גַּם־זֶה הֶבֶל    2:21

  וְרָעָה רַבָּה׃

Eccl. 2:21   If there is a man whose labor is with wisdom and with knowledge and with skill, but he

must give his portion to a man who had not labored on it, even this is vanity and abundantly

displeasing.

כִּי מֶה־הֹוֶה לָאָדָם בְּכָל־עֲמָלֹו וּבְרַעְיֹון לִבֹּו שֶׁהוּא עָמֵל תַּחַת הַשָּׁמֶשׁ׃   2:22

Eccl. 2:22   For what falls to the person through all his labor and through the striving of his heart by which he labors under the sun,

כִּי כָל־יָמָיו מַכְאֹבִים וָכַעַס עִנְיָנֹו גַּם־בַּלַּיְלָה לֹא־שָׁכַב לִבֹּו גַּם־זֶה הֶבֶל הוּא׃   2:23

Eccl. 2:23   when all his days are so painful and his occupation so vexing, even at night  his heart

does not rest?  This too, vanity it is.

אֵין־טֹוב בָּאָדָם שֶׁיֹּאכַל וְשָׁתָה וְהֶרְאָה אֶת־נַפְשֹׁו טֹוב בַּעֲמָלֹו גַּם־זֹה רָאִיתִי אָנִי כִּי מִיַּד הָאֱלֹהִים   2:24

 הִיא׃

Eccl. 2:24   Nothing is better to a person than he should eat and drink and show his soul goodness

through his work.  This too, I saw that it is from the “hand” of God.

Ah!  Enjoyment of the moment!  This is not vanity.  This is from the Source of all good.

כִּי מִי יֹאכַל וּמִי יָחוּשׁ חוּץ מִמֶּנִּי׃   2:25

Eccl. 2:25   For who should eat, and who should enjoy, other than me?

כִּי לְאָדָם שֶׁטֹּוב לְפָנָיו נָתַן חָכְמָה וְדַעַת וְשִׂמְחָה וְלַחֹוטֶא נָתַן עִנְיָן לֶאֱסֹוף וְלִכְנֹוס לָתֵת לְטֹוב לִפְנֵי   2:26

הָאֱלֹהִים גַּם־זֶה הֶבֶל וּרְעוּת רוּחַ׃

Eccl. 2:26   For to the person who is pleasant before Him, He gives wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner He gives the job of gathering and wrapping up to set for the pleasant one before God.  This too is vanity and vexation of spirit.

Now how does the author justify saying that this too is vanity?  Is he saying that God’s righteousness, goodness, and

justice is vanity?  Various commentators have made the observation apply only to the sinner gathering and wrapping or to the accumulation of riches.  I’m not so accommodating.  I would hold the author to what he says, not what is imagined to be his intention.  I have to see it as applying to the entire verse before it. And that includes God’s gifts.

 

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