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Ecclesiastes 1:14

Context

1:14 I reflected on everything that is accomplished by man 1  on earth, 2 

and I concluded: Everything 3  he has accomplished 4  is futile 5  – like chasing the wind! 6 

Ecclesiastes 1:17

Context

1:17 So I decided 7  to discern the benefit of 8  wisdom and knowledge over 9  foolish behavior and ideas; 10 

however, I concluded 11  that even 12  this endeavor 13  is like 14  trying to chase the wind! 15 

1 tn The phrase “by man” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.

2 tn Heb “under the sun.”

3 tn As mentioned in the note on “everything” in 1:2, the term הַכֹּל (hakkol, “everything”) is often limited in reference to the specific topic at hand in the context (e.g., BDB 482 s.v. כֹּל 2). The argument of 1:12-15, like 1:3-11, focuses on secular human achievement. This is clear from the repetition of the root עָשַׂה (’asah, “do, work, accomplish, achieve”) in 1:12-13.

4 tn The phrase “he has accomplished” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.

5 tn This usage of הֶבֶל (hevel) denotes “futile, profitless, fruitless” (e.g., 2 Kgs 17:15; Ps 78:33; Prov 13:11; 21:6; Eccl 1:2, 14; 2:1, 14-15; 4:8; Jer 2:5; 10:3; Lam 4:17; see HALOT 236–37 s.v. I הֶבֶל; BDB 210–11 s.v. I הֶבֶל). The term is used with the simile “like striving after the wind” (רְעוּת רוּחַ, rÿut ruakh) – a graphic picture of an expenditure of effort in vain because no one can catch the wind by chasing it (e.g., 1:14, 17; 2:11, 17, 26; 4:4, 6, 16; 6:9; 7:14). When used in this sense, the term is often used with the following synonyms: לְתֹהוּ (lÿtohu, “for nothing, in vain, for no reason”; Isa 49:4); רִיק (riq, “profitless; useless”; Isa 30:7; Eccl 6:11); לֹא הוֹעִיל (“worthless, profitless”; Is 30:6; 57:12; Jer 16:19); “what profit?” (מַה־יִּתְרוֹןֹ, mah-yyitron); and “no profit” (אֵין יִּתְרוֹן, en yyitron; e.g., 2:11; 3:19; 6:9). It is also used in antithesis to terms connoting value: טוֹב (tov, “good, benefit, advantage”) and יֹתְרוֹן (yotÿron, “profit, advantage, gain”). Despite everything that man has accomplished in history, it is ultimately futile because nothing on earth really changes.

6 tn Heb “striving of wind.” The word “like” does not appear in the Hebrew text; it has been added in the translation to make the comparative notion clear.

7 tn Heb “gave my heart,” or “set my mind.” See v. 13.

8 tn The phrase “the benefit of” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.

9 tn The word “over” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.

10 tn The terms שִׂכְלוּת (sikhlut, “folly”) and הוֹלֵלוֹת (holelot, “foolishness”) are synonyms. The term שִׂכְלוּת (alternate spelling of סִכְלוּת, sikhlut) refers to foolish behavior (HALOT 755 s.v. סִכְלוּת), while הוֹלֵלוֹת refers to foolish ideas and mental blindness (HALOT 242 s.v. הוֹלֵלוֹת). Qoheleth uses these terms to refer to foolish ideas and self-indulgent pleasures (e.g., Eccl 2:2-3, 12-14; 7:25; 9:3; 10:1, 6, 13).

11 tn Heb “I know.”

12 tn The term גַּם (gam, “even”) is a particle of association and emphasis (HALOT 195 s.v. גַּם).

13 tn This term does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.

14 tn This term does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.

15 tn Heb “striving of wind.”



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