How does that benefit him? 10
during the few days of his fleeting life –
Nor can anyone tell him what the future will hold for him on earth. 14
1 tn Heb “laughter.” The term שְׂחוֹק (sÿkhoq, “laughter”) has a fourfold range of meanings: (1) “joyful laughter” (Ps 126:2; Prov 14:13; Job 8:21); (2) “frivolous laughter, merrymaking” (Eccl 2:2; 7:3, 6); (3) “pleasure, sport” (Prov 10:23; Eccl 10:19); and (4) “derision, mockery, laughingstock” (Jer 20:7; 48:26, 27, 39; Job 12:4; Lam 3:14). See HALOT 1315 s.v שְׂחוֹק; BDB 966 s.v. שְׂחֹק. In Ecclesiastes, שְׂחוֹק is always used in contexts of self-indulgent banqueting, drinking, frivolous partying and merrymaking (Eccl 2:2; 7:3, 6; 10:19). It is distinct from “healthy” joy and laughter (Ps 126:2; Job 8:21). The connotation of “frivolous merrymaking” fits this context best.
2 tn The term שִׂמְחָה (simkhah, “pleasure”) has a two-fold range of meanings in Ecclesiastes: (1) it can refer to the enjoyment of life that Qoheleth affirms is good (5:17; 8:15; 9:7; 11:8, 9) and that God gives to those who are pleasing to him (2:26; 5:19); and (2) it can refer to foolish pleasure, that is, frivolous merrymaking (2:1, 2; 7:4). The parallelism between שִׂמְחָה and שְׂחוֹק (sÿkhoq, “laughter, frivolous merrymaking”) in 2:2 suggests that the pejorative sense is in view here.
3 tn Heb “What does it accomplish?” The rhetorical question “What does it accomplish?” expects a negative answer: “It accomplishes nothing!” (see E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 949–51). See, e.g., Gen 1:19; 18:14, 17; Deut 7:17; 1 Sam 2:25; Job 40:2; Pss 56:7; 90:11; 94:16; 106:2; Eccl 3:21.
4 tn The term הָעוֹשֶׂה (ha’oseh, article + Qal active participle ms from עָשַׂה, ’asah, “to do”) functions substantively (“the worker”); see BDB 794 s.v. עָשַׂה II.1. This is a figurative description of man (metonymy of association), and plays on the repetition of עָשַׂה (verb: “to do,” noun: “work”) throughout the passage. In the light of God’s orchestration of human affairs, man’s efforts cannot change anything. It refers to man in general with the article functioning in a generic sense (see IBHS 244-45 §13.5.1f; Joüon 2:511 §137.m).
5 sn This rhetorical question is an example of negative affirmation, expecting a negative answer: “Man gains nothing from his toil!” (see E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 949-51). Any advantage that man might gain from his toil is nullified by his ignorance of divine providence.
6 sn So what advantage does the wise man have over a fool? The rhetorical question in Hebrew implies a negative answer: the wise man has no absolute advantage over a fool in the sense that both will share the same fate: death. Qoheleth should not be misunderstood here as denying that wisdom has no relative advantage over folly; elsewhere he affirms that wisdom does yield some relative benefits in life (7:1-22). However, wisdom cannot deliver one from death.
7 sn As in the preceding parallel line, this rhetorical question implies a negative answer (see the note after the word “fool” in the preceding line).
8 tn Heb “ What to the pauper who knows to walk before the living”; or “how to get along in life.”
9 tn Heb “The more the words, the more the futility.”
10 tn Or “What benefit does man have [in that]?”
11 tn Heb “For who knows what is good for a man in life?” The rhetorical question (“For who knows…?”) is a negative affirmation, expecting a negative answer: “For no one knows…!” (see E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 949-51). The translation renders this rhetorical device as a positive affirmation.
12 tn The vav prefixed to וְיַעֲשֵׂם (vÿya’asem, conjunction + Qal imperfect 3rd person masculine singular from עָשַׂה, ’asah, “to do” + 3rd person masculine plural suffix) functions in an explanatory or epexegetical sense (“For …”).
13 tn The 3rd person masculine plural suffix on the verb וְיַעֲשֵׂם (vÿya’asem, conjunction + Qal imperfect 3rd person masculine singular from ָָעשַׂה, ’asah, “to do” + 3rd person masculine plural suffix) refers to מִסְפַּר יְמֵי־חַיֵּי הֶבְלוֹ (mispar yÿme-khayye hevlo, “the few days of his fleeting life”). The suffix may be taken as an objective genitive: “he spends them [i.e., the days of his life] like a shadow” (HALOT 891 s.v. I ָָעשַׂה 8) or as a subjective genitive: “they [i.e., the days of his life] pass like a shadow” (BDB 795 s.v. ָָעשַׂה II.11).
14 tn Heb “Who can tell the man what shall be after him under the sun?” The rhetorical question (“For who can tell him…?”) is a negative affirmation, expecting a negative answer: “For no one can tell him…!” (see E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 949-51). The translation renders this rhetorical device as a positive affirmation.