7:4 The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
but the heart of fools is in the house of merrymaking. 1
than to listen to the song 4 of fools.
so is the laughter of the fool.
1 sn The expression the house of merrymaking refers to a banquet where those who attend engage in self-indulgent feasting and riotous drinking.
2 tn Heb “hear.”
3 tn Heb “rebuke of the wise,” a subjective genitive (“the wise” administer the rebuke).
4 tn Or “praise.” The antithetical parallelism between “rebuke” (גַּעֲרַת, ga’arat) and “song” (שִׁיר, shir) suggests that the latter is figurative (metonymy of association) for praise/flattery which is “music” to the ears: “praise of fools” (NEB, NJPS) and “flattery of fools” (Douay). However, the collocation of “song” (שִׁיר) in 7:5 with “laughter” (שְׂחֹק, sÿkhoq) in 7:6 suggests simply frivolous merrymaking: “song of fools” (KJV, NASB, NIV, ASV, RSV, NRSV).
5 tn The term “thorns” (הַסִּירִים, hassirim) refers to twigs from wild thorn bushes which were used as fuel for quick heat, but burn out quickly before a cooking pot can be properly heated (e.g., Pss 58:9; 118:12).
6 tn The word “kind of folly” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.
7 tn It is difficult to determine whether the Hebrew term הֶבֶל (hevel) means “fleeting” or “useless” in this context. The imagery of quick-burning thorns under a cooking pot is ambiguous and can be understood in more than one way: (1) It is useless to try to heat a cooking pot by burning thorns because they burn out before the pot can be properly heated; (2) the heat produced by quick-burning thorns is fleeting – it produces quick heat, but lasts only for a moment. Likewise, the “laughter of a fool” can be taken in both ways: (1) In comparison to the sober reflection of the wise, the laughter of fools is morally useless: the burning of thorns, like the laughter of fools, makes a lot of noise but accomplishes nothing; (2) the laughter of fools is fleeting due to the brevity of life and certainty of death. Perhaps this is an example of intentional ambiguity.