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Ecclesiastes 6:7-8


6:7 All of man’s labor is for nothing more than 1  to fill his stomach 2 

yet his appetite 3  is never satisfied!

6:8 So what advantage does a wise man have over a fool? 4 

And what advantage 5  does a pauper gain by knowing how to survive? 6 

1 tn The phrase “for nothing more than” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.

2 tn Heb “All man’s work is for his mouth.” The term “mouth” functions as a synecdoche of part (i.e., mouth) for the whole (i.e., person), substituting the organ of consumption for the person’s action of consumption (see E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 641-43), as suggested by the parallelism with נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh, “his appetite”).

3 tn The term נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh, “desire; appetite”) is used as a metonymy of association, that is, the soul is associated with man’s desires and appetites (BDB 660 s.v. נֶפֶשׁ 5.c; 6.a).

4 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.

5 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).

6 tn Heb “ What to the pauper who knows to walk before the living”; or “how to get along in life.”

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