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Ecclesiastes 2:24-26

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 

2:26 For to the one who pleases him, 12  God gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy,

but to the sinner, he gives the task of amassing 13  wealth 14 

only to give 15  it 16  to the one who pleases God.

This 17  task of the wicked 18  is futile – like chasing the wind!

Ecclesiastes 11:9-10

Context
Enjoy Life to the Fullest under the Fear of God

11:9 Rejoice, young man, while you are young, 19 

and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth.

Follow the impulses 20  of your heart and the desires 21  of your eyes,

but know that God will judge your motives and actions. 22 

11:10 Banish 23  emotional stress 24  from your mind. 25 

and put away pain 26  from your body; 27 

for youth 28  and the prime of life 29  are fleeting. 30 

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 “for to a man who is good before him.”

13 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.

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

15 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.

16 tn The word “it” (an implied direct object) does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.

17 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.

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

19 tn Heb “in your youth”; or “in your childhood.”

20 tn Heb “walk in the ways of your heart.”

21 tn Heb “the sight.”

22 tn Heb “and know that concerning all these God will bring you into judgment.” The point is not that following one’s impulses and desires is inherently bad and will bring condemnation from God. Rather the point seems to be: As you follow your impulses and desires, realize that all you think and do will eventually be evaluated by God. So one must seek joy within the boundaries of God’s moral standards.

23 tn The verb סוּר (sur, “to remove”) normally depicts a concrete action of removing a physical object from someone’s presence (HALOT 748 s.v. סור 1). Here, it is used figuratively (hypocatastasis) of the emotional/psychological action of banishing unnecessary emotional stress from one’s mind. The Hiphil usage means “to remove; to abolish; to keep away; to turn away; to push aside” (HALOT 748 s.v. 1). The English versions render this term in a variety of ways, none of which is very poetic: “remove” (KJV, RSV, ASV, NASB); “turn aside” (YLT); “ward off” (NAB); and “banish” (NEB, MLB, NIV, NRSV, NJPS, Moffatt).

24 tn The root “vexation” (כַּעַס, kaas) has a broad range of meanings: “anger” (Deut 4:25; 9:18), “irritation” (Deut 32:21), “offend” (2 Kgs 23:26; Neh 3:37), “vexation” or “frustration” (Ezek 20:28), “grief” (1 Sam 1:6), and “worry” (Ps 112:10; Eccl 7:9); cf. HALOT 491 s.v. כַּעַס. Here, it refers in general to unnecessary emotional stress and anxiety that can deprive a person of the legitimate enjoyment of life and its temporal benefits.

25 tn Heb “your heart.”

26 tn In light of the parallelism, רָעָה (raah) does not refer to ethical evil, but to physical injury, pain, deprivation or suffering (e.g., Deut 31:17, 21; 32:23; 1 Sam 10:19; Neh 1:3; 2:17; Pss 34:20; 40:13; 88:4; 107:26; Eccl 12:1; Jer 2:27; Lam 3:38); see HALOT 1263 s.v. רָעָה 4.b; BDB 949 s.v. רָעָה 2. This sense is best captured as “pain” (NASB, RSV, NRSV, MLB, Moffatt) or “the troubles [of your body]” (NEB, NIV), rather than “evil” (KJV, ASV, YLT, Douay) or “sorrow” (NJPS).

27 tn Heb “your flesh.”

28 tn Or “childhood.”

29 tn Or “youth”; Heb “black hair” or “the dawn [of life].” The feminine noun הַשַּׁחֲרוּת (hashakharut) is a hapax legomenon, occurring only here. There is debate whether it is from שָׁחֹר (shakhor) which means “black” (i.e. black hair, e.g., Lev 13:31, 37; Song 5:11; HALOT 1465 s.v. שׁחר; BDB 1007 s.v. שָׁחֹר and שָׁחַר) or שַׁחַר (shakhar) which means “dawn” (e.g., Gen 19:15; Job 3:9; Song 6:10; HALOT 1466–67 s.v. שָׁחַר). If this term is from שָׁחֹר it is used in contrast to gray hair that characterizes old age (e.g., Prov 16:31; 20:29). This would be a figure (metonymy of association) for youthfulness. On the other hand, if the term is from שַׁחַר it connotes the “dawn of life” or “prime of life.” This would be a figure (hypocatastasis) for youthfulness. In either case, the term is a figure for “youth” or “prime of life,” as the parallel term הַיַּלְדוּת (hayyaldut, “youth” or “childhood”) indicates. The term is rendered variously in the English versions: “black hair” (NJPS); “the dawn of youth” (NAB); “the dawn of life” (ASV, MLB, RSV, NRSV); “the prime of life” (NEB, NASB); “vigor” (NIV); “youth” (KJV); and “manhood” (Moffatt). The plural forms of הַשַּׁחֲרוּת and הַיַּלְדוּת are examples of the plural of state or condition that a person experiences for a temporary period of time, e.g., זְקֻנִים (zÿqunim, “old age”); נְעוּרִים (nÿurim, “youth”); and עֲלוּמִים (’alumim, “youthfulness”); see IBHS 121 §7.4.2b.

30 tn The term הֶבֶל (hevel, “vanity”) often connotes the temporal idea “fleeting” (e.g., Prov 31:30; Eccl 3:19; 6:12; 7:15; 9:9). This nuance is suggested here by the collocation of “youth” (הַיַּלְדוּת, hayyaldut) and “the prime of life” (הַשַּׁחֲרוּת, hashakharut).



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