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Ecclesiastes 2:24-25

Context
Enjoy Work and its Benefits

2:24 There is nothing better for 1  people 2  than 3  to eat and drink,

and to find enjoyment 4  in their 5  work.

I also perceived that this ability to find enjoyment 6  comes from God. 7 

2:25 For no one 8  can eat and drink 9 

or experience joy 10  apart from him. 11 

Ecclesiastes 5:18

Context
Enjoy the Fruit of Your Labor

5:18 I have seen personally what is the only beneficial and appropriate course of action for people: 12 

to eat and drink, 13  and find enjoyment in all their 14  hard work 15  on earth 16 

during the few days of their life which God has given them,

for this is their reward. 17 

1 tn The preposition בְּ (bet) on בָּאָדָם (baadam) has been taken in two ways: (1) locative with טוֹב (tov, “good”) in reference to man’s moral nature: “There is nothing [inherently] good in man.” (2) advantage with טוֹב (“good”) in reference to the enjoyment theme of 2:24-26: “There is nothing better for a man than…” (this assumes a comparative מִן, min, on מִשֶׁיֹּאכַל, misheyyokhal); see text critical note on the word “than” below). The latter is preferred for two reasons: (1) The preposition בְּ is used with a similar idiom in 3:12 in collocation with the particle phrase אִםכִּי (ki…’im, “except”): “There is nothing better…than to rejoice/be happy” (NASB, NIV). (2) The theme of 2:1-26 focuses on the futility of human toil, concluding that the only real reward that man has in his labor is to find enjoyment in it (e.g., 2:10, 24-26). The section says nothing about man’s inherent sinful nature.

2 tn Heb “man.”

3 tc The MT reads שֶׁיֹּאכַל (sheyyokhal, “that he should eat”; Qal imperfect 3rd person masculine singular from אָכַל, ’akhal, “to eat,” with relative pronoun שֶׁ, she, “that”). However, the variant textual tradition of מִשֶּׁיֹּאכַל (misheyyokhal, “than he should eat” (comparative preposition מִן, min, “than” + Qal imperfect 3rd person masculine singular from אָכַל “to eat”) is reflected in the LXX, Coptic, Syriac, Aramaic Targum, Old Latin, and Jerome. The textual error, an example of haplography, arose from a single writing of מ (mem) from בָּאָדָם מִשֶּׁיֹּאכַל (baadam misheyyokhal). The same idiom appears in the expanded form אִםכִּי followed by טוֹבאֵין (’en tovkiim, “there is nothing better for man than …”) in Eccl 3:12; 8:15.

4 tn Heb “to cause his soul to see good.” The idiom רָאָה טוֹב (raah tov, “to see good”) is a metonymy of association, meaning “to find enjoyment” (e.g., 3:13; 5:17; 6:6). In 3:12-13 and 5:17-18 it is in collocation and/or parallelism with בְּ (bet) + שָׂמַח (samakh, “to rejoice in,” or “to find satisfaction or pleasure in” something). Here, it is used in collocation with חוּשׁ (khush, “to enjoy”). The term נַפְשׁוֹ (nafsho, “his soul”) is a metonymy of part (i.e., soul) for the whole (i.e., whole person), e.g., Num 23:10; Judg 16:30; Pss 16:10; 35:13; 103:1 (see E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 640-41).

5 tn Heb “his.”

6 tn The phrase “ability to find enjoyment” is not in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.

7 tn Heb “is from the hand of God.”

sn The phrase “from the hand of God” is an anthropomorphism (depicting God, who is an invisible spirit, in the form of man with hands) or anthropopatheia (depicting God performing human-like actions). The “hand of God” is a figure often used to portray God’s sovereign providence and benevolence (see E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 878). The phrase “the hand of God” is often used to connote the favor or grace of God (2 Chr 30:12; Ezra 7:9; 8:18; Neh 2:8, 18; see BDB 390 s.v. יָד 1.e.2).

8 tn Heb “For who can…?” The rhetorical question is an example of negative affirmation, expecting a negative answer: “No one can!” (see E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 949-51).

9 tn The phrase “and drink” is not in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for stylistic harmonization with v. 24.

10 tn The verb II חוּשׁ (khush, “to enjoy”) is a hapax legomenon which BDB defines as “to feel; to enjoy [with the senses]” on the basis of the context, and the cognates: Arabic “to feel; to perceive [by senses]”; Aramaic חושׁ “to feel pain,” and New Hebrew חושׁ “to feel pain” (BDB 301 s.v. II חֹוּשׁ). HALOT relates the Hebrew root to Akkadian havavu “to be delighted with” (HALOT 300 s.v. II חושׁ 1). The Vulgate renders this term as “to enjoy.” The Greek versions (LXX, Theodotion) and the Syriac Peshitta, however, did not understand this hapax; they rendered it as “to drink,” making some sense of the line by filling out the parallelism “to eat [and drink]” (e.g., Eccl 8:15).

11 tc The MT reads מִמֶּנִּי (mimmenni, “more than I”). However, an alternate textual tradition of מִמֶּנּוּ (mimmennu,“apart from him [= God]”) is preserved in several medieval Hebrew mss, and is reflected in most of the versions (LXX, Syriac, Syro-Hexapla, and Jerome). The textual deviation is a case of simple orthographic confusion between י (yod) and ו (vav) as frequently happened, e.g., MT צו לצו צו לצו (tsv ltsv tsv ltsv) versus 1QIsaa 28:10 צי לצי צי לצי (tsy ltsy ts ltsy); see P. K. McCarter, Jr., Textual Criticism, 47. It is difficult to determine which reading is original here. The MT forms a parenthetical clause, where Qoheleth refers to himself: no one had more of an opportunity to experience more enjoyment in life than he (e.g., 2:1-11). The alternate textual tradition is a causal clause, explaining why the ability to enjoy life is a gift from God: no one can experience enjoyment in life “apart from him,” that is, apart from “the hand of God” in 2:24. It is possible that internal evidence supports the alternate textual tradition. In 2:24-26, Qoheleth is not emphasizing his own resources to enjoy life, as he had done in 2:1-11; but that the ability to enjoy life is the gift of God. On the other hand, the Jerusalem Hebrew Bible project retains the MT reading with a “B” rating; see D. Barthélemy, ed., Preliminary and Interim Report on the Hebrew Old Testament Text Project, 3:570. The English versions are split on the textual problem: a few retain MT מִמֶּנִּי (“more than I”), e.g., KJV, ASV, YLT, Douay, NJPS, while others adopt the alternate reading מִמֶּנּוּ, “apart from him” (NEB, NAB, MLB, NASB, RSV, NRSV, NIV, Moffatt).

12 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.

13 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).

14 tn Heb “his,” and three times later in the verse.

15 tn Heb “the toil which one toils.”

16 tn Heb “under the sun.”

17 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 and his reward from God (e.g., Eccl 3:22; 9:9).



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