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Ecclesiastes 4:8

Context

4:8 A man who is all alone with no companion, 1 

he has no children nor siblings; 2 

yet there is no end to all his toil,

and he 3  is never satisfied with riches.

He laments, 4  “For whom am I toiling and depriving myself 5  of pleasure?” 6 

This also is futile and a burdensome task! 7 

Ecclesiastes 5:10

Context
Covetousness

5:10 The one who loves money 8  will never be satisfied with money, 9 

he who loves wealth 10  will never be satisfied 11  with his 12  income.

This also is futile.

Ecclesiastes 5:17

Context

5:17 Surely, he ate in darkness every day of his life, 13 

and he suffered greatly with sickness and anger.

Ecclesiastes 6:3

Context

6:3 Even if a man fathers a hundred children and lives many years –

even if he lives a long, long time, 14  but cannot enjoy his prosperity –

even if he were to live forever 15 

I would say, “A stillborn child 16  is better off than he is!” 17 

Ecclesiastes 6:6

Context

6:6 if he should live a thousand years twice, yet does not enjoy his prosperity.

For both of them die! 18 

Ecclesiastes 7:14

Context

7:14 In times of prosperity 19  be joyful,

but in times of adversity 20  consider this:

God has made one as well as the other, 21 

so that no one can discover what the future holds. 22 

Ecclesiastes 9:18

Context

9:18 Wisdom is better than weapons of war,

but one sinner can destroy much that is good.

1 tn Heb “There is one and there is not a second.”

2 tn Heb “son nor brother.” The terms “son” and “brother” are examples of synecdoche of specific (species) for the general (genus). The term “son” is put for offspring, and “brother” for siblings (e.g., Prov 10:1).

3 tn Heb “his eye.” The term “eye” is a synecdoche of part (i.e., the eye) for the whole (i.e., the whole person); see E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 647.

4 tn The phrase “he laments” is not in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity. The direct discourse (“For whom am I toiling and depriving myself of pleasure?”) is not introduced with an introductory structure. As in the LXX, some translations suggest that these words are spoken by a lonely workaholic, e.g., “He says…” (NAB, NEB, ASV, NIV, NRSV). Others suggest that this is a question that he never asks himself, e.g., “Yet he never asks himself…” (KJV, RSV, MLB, YLT, Douay, NASB, Moffatt).

5 tn Heb “my soul.”

6 tn This rhetorical question is an example of negative affirmation, that is, it expects a negative answer: “No one!” (see E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 949-51).

7 tn The adjective רָע (ra’, “evil”) here means “misfortune” (HALOT 1263 s.v. רָעָה 4) or “injustice, wrong” (HALOT 1262 s.v. רָעָה 2.b). The phrase עִנְיַן רָע (’inyan ra’, “unhappy business; rotten business; grievous task”) is used only in Ecclesiastes (1:13; 2:23, 26; 3:10; 4:8; 5:2, 13; 8:16). It is parallel with הֶבֶל (hevel, “futile”) in 4:8, and describes a “grave misfortune” in 5:13. The noun עִנְיַן (’inyan, “business”) refers to something that keeps a person occupied or busy: “business; affair; task; occupation” (HALOT 857 s.v. עִנְיָן; BDB 775 s.v. עִנְיָן). The related verb עָנָה (’anah) means “to be occupied; to be busy with (בְּ, bet),” e.g., Eccl 1:13; 3:10; 5:19 (HALOT 854 s.v. III עָנָה; BDB 775 s.v. II עָנָה). The noun is from the Aramaic loanword עִנְיָנָא (’inyana’, “concern; care.” The verb is related to the Aramaic verb “to try hard,” the Arabic verb “to be busily occupied; to worry; to be a matter of concern,” and the Old South Arabic root “to be troubled; to strive with” (HALOT 854 s.v. III ענה). HALOT 857 s.v. עִנְיָן renders the phrase as “unhappy business” here. The phrase עִנְיַן רָע, is treated creatively by English versions: KJV, ASV “sore travail”; YLT “sad travail”; Douay “grievous vexation”; RSV, NRSV, NJPS “unhappy business”; NEB, Moffatt “sorry business”; NIV “miserable business”; NAB “worthless task”; NASB “grievous task”; MLB “sorry situation”; NLT “depressing.”

8 tn Heb “silver.” The Hebrew term כֶּסֶף (kesef, “silver”) refers to “money” (HALOT 490–91 s.v. כֶּסֶף 3). It is a synecdoche of specific (i.e., silver) for the general (i.e., money); see E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 625-29.

9 sn The Hebrew term “silver” (translated “money”) is repeated twice in this line for rhetorical emphasis.

10 tn The term הָמוֹן (hamon, “abundance; wealth”) has a wide range of meanings: (1) agitation; (2) turmoil; (3) noise; (4) pomp; (5) multitude; crowd = noisy crowd; and (6) abundance; wealth (HALOT 250 s.v. הָמוֹן 1–6). Here, it refers to abundant wealth (related to “pomp”); cf. HALOT 250 s.v. הָמוֹן 6, that is, lavish abundant wealth (Ezek 29:19; 30:4; 1 Chr 29:16).

11 tn The phrase “will never be satisfied” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity. Note the previous line.

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

13 tn Heb “all his days.” The phrase “of his life” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.

14 tn Heb “the days of his years are many.”

15 tn Heb “he has no burial.” The phrase וְגַם־קְבוּרָה לֹא־הָיְתָה (vÿgam-qÿvurah lo-haytah, “he even has no burial”) is traditionally treated as part of a description of the man’s sorry final state, that is, he is deprived of even a proper burial (KJV, NEB, RSV, NRSV, ASV, NASB, NIV, NJPS, MLB, Moffatt). However, the preceding parallel lines suggest that this a hyperbolic protasis: “If he were to live one hundred years…even if he were never buried [i.e., were to live forever]….” A similar idea occurs elsewhere (e.g., Pss 49:9; 89:48). See D. R. Glenn, “Ecclesiastes,” BKCOT, 990.

16 tn The noun נֶפֶל (nefel) denotes “miscarriage” and by metonymy of effect, “stillborn child” (e.g., Ps 58:9; Job 3:16; Eccl 6:3); cf. HALOT 711. The noun is related to the verb נָפַל (nafal, “to fall,” but occasionally “to be born”; see Isa 26:18); cf. HALOT 710 s.v. נפל 5.

17 sn The point of 6:3-6 is that the futility of unenjoyed wealth is worse than the tragedy of being stillborn.

18 tn Heb “Do not all go to the same place?” The rhetorical question is an example of erotesis of positive affirmation, expecting a positive answer, e.g., Ps 56:13 [14] (see E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 947). It affirms the fact that both the miserly rich man who lives two thousand years, as well as the stillborn who never lived one day, both go to the same place – the grave. And if the miserly rich man never enjoyed the fruit of his labor during his life, his fate was no better than that of the stillborn who never had opportunity to enjoy any of the blessings of life. In a sense, it would have been better for the miserly rich man to have never lived than to have experienced the toil, anxiety, and misery of accumulating his wealth, but never enjoying any of the fruits of his labor.

19 tn Heb “the day of good.”

20 tn Heb “the day of evil.”

21 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).

22 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).



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