and on all the effort that I had expended to accomplish it, 2
like chasing the wind!
for all the benefits of wisdom 15 are futile – like chasing the wind.
but in times of adversity 24 consider this:
God has made one as well as the other, 25
so that no one can discover what the future holds. 26
1 tn Heb “all my works that my hands had done.”
2 tn Heb “and all the toil with which I had toiled in doing it.” The term עָמַל (’amal, “toil”) is repeated to emphasize the burden and weariness of the labor which Qoheleth exerted in his accomplishments.
3 tn Heb “Behold!”
4 tn The term הַכֹּל (hakkol, “everything” or “all”) must be qualified and limited in reference to the topic that is dealt with in 2:4-11. This is an example of synecdoche of general for the specific; the general term “all” is used only in reference to the topic at hand. This is clear from the repetition of כֹּל (kol, “everything”) and (“all these things”) in 2:11.
5 tn The phrase “achievements and possessions” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in translation for clarity.
6 tn The term “ultimately” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.
7 tn The parallelism with יִתְרוֹן (yitron), “profit; advantage; gain”) indicates that הֶבֶל (hevel) should be nuanced as “profitless, fruitless, futile” in this context. While labor offers some relative and temporal benefits, such as material acquisitions and the enjoyment of the work of one’s hands, there is no ultimate benefit to be gained from secular human achievement.
8 tn The noun יִתְרוֹן (yitron, “profit”) has a two-fold range of meanings: (1) “what comes of [something]; result” (Eccl 1:3; 2:11; 3:9; 5:8, 15; 7:12; 10:10) and (2) “profit; advantage” (Eccl 2:13; 10:11); see HALOT 452–53 s.v. יִתְרוֹי. It is derived from the noun יֶתֶר (yeter, “what is left behind; remainder”; HALOT 452 s.v. I יֶתֶר). The related verb יָתַר (yatar) denotes “to be left over; to survive” (Niphal) and “to have left over” (Hiphil); see HALOT 451–52 s.v. יתר. When used literally, יִתְרוֹן refers to what is left over after expenses (gain or profit); when used figuratively, it refers to what is advantageous or of benefit. Though some things have relative advantage over others (e.g., light over darkness, and wisdom over folly in 2:13), there is no ultimate profit in man’s labor due to death.
9 tn The phrase “from them” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.
10 tn Heb “under the sun.”
11 tn Or “I hated.”
12 tn The term הַחַיִּים (hakhayyim, “life”) functions as a metonymy of association, that is, that which is associated with life, that is, the profitlessness and futility of human secular achievement.
13 tn Heb “the deed that is done.” The root עָשָׂה (’asah, “to do”) is repeated in הַמַּעֲשֶׂה שֶׁנַּעֲשָׂה (hamma’aseh shenna’asah, “the deed that is done”) for emphasis. Here, the term “deed” does not refer to human accomplishment, as in 2:1-11, but to the fact of death that destroys any relative advantage of wisdom over folly (2:14a-16). Qoheleth metaphorically describes death as a “deed” that is “done” to man.
14 tn Heb “under the sun.”
15 tn Heb “all,” referring here to the relative advantage of wisdom.
16 tn Heb “for to a man who is good before him.”
17 sn The phrase the task of amassing wealth (Heb “the task of gathering and heaping up”) implicitly compares the work of the farmer reaping his crops and storing them up in a barn, to the work of the laborer amassing wealth as the fruit of his labor. However, rather than his storehouse being safe for the future, the sinner is deprived of it.
18 tn The word “wealth” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.
19 sn The three-fold repetition of the Hebrew word translated “give” in the first part of this verse creates irony: God “gives” the righteous the ability to prosper and to find enjoyment in his work; but to the wicked He “gives” the task of “giving” his wealth to the righteous.
20 tn The word “it” (an implied direct object) does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.
21 tn The antecedent of the demonstrative pronoun זֶה (zeh, “this”) is debated: (1) Some refer it to the enjoyment which Qoheleth had just commended in 2:24-26. However, this is inconsistent with the enjoyment theme found elsewhere in the book. It also ignores the fact that 2:24-26 states that such enjoyment is a good gift from God. (2) Others refer it to the term “toil” (עָמָל, ’amal) which is repeated throughout 2:18-26. However, Qoheleth affirmed that if one is righteous, he can find enjoyment in his toil, even though so much of it is ultimately futile. (3) Therefore, it seems best to refer it to the grievous “task” (עִנְיָן, ’inyan) God has given to the sinner in 2:26b. Consistent with the meaning of הֶבֶל (hevel, “futile; profitless; fruitless”), 2:26b emphasizes that the “task” of the sinner is profitless: he labors hard to amass wealth, only to see the fruit of his labor given away to someone else. The righteous man’s enjoyment of his work and the fruit of his labor under the blessing of God (2:24-26a) is not included in this.
22 tn The phrase “task of the wicked” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.
23 tn Heb “the day of good.”
24 tn Heb “the day of evil.”
25 tn Less probable renderings of this line are “God hath made the one side by side with the other” (ASV) and “God has set the one alongside the other” (NEB).
26 tn Heb “anything after him.” This line is misinterpreted by several versions: “that man may not find against him any just complaint” (Douay); “consequently, man may find no fault with Him” (NJPS); “so that man cannot find fault with him in anything” (NAB).