Qohelet’s Investigation of Self-Indulgence
1I said to myself,#Literally “to my heart” “Come! I will test#The MT reads “I will test you,” but the BHS editors propose “I will test …” Whether or not one adopts MT, Qohelet is speaking to himself pleasure to see whether it is worthwhile.”#Literally “and look at goodness”; this idiom refers to the enjoyment of life But look, “This also is vanity!” 2I said of laughter, “It is folly!” and of pleasure, “What does it accomplish?”#Literally “What does it give?” 3I also explored#Literally “I searched in my mind” the effects of indulging my flesh#Literally “to cheer my flesh” with wine. My mind guiding me with wisdom, I investigated#Literally “laid hold of” folly so that I might discover what is good under heaven#Follows MT; two medieval Hebrew manuscripts, LXX, Peshitta read, “under the sun,” cf. 1:3, 9, etc. for humans#Literally “the sons of the man” to do during the days of their lives.#Literally “the number of the days of their lives”
Qohelet’s Investigation of Personal Accomplishment
4I accomplished great things.#Literally “I made great my works” I built for myself houses; I planted for myself vineyards. 5I made for myself gardens and parks, and I planted all sorts of fruit trees in them. 6I made for myself pools of water from which to irrigate a grove of flourishing trees. 7I acquired male slaves and female slaves, as well as children born in my house. I also had livestock, cattle, and flocks more than anyone who was before me in Jerusalem. 8I also gathered to myself silver and gold—the royal and provincial treasuries. I acquired for myself male and female singers, as well as the delight of men,#Literally “the sons of the man” voluptuous concubines.#Literally “a breast and breasts,” as a synecdoche for beautiful women in the king’s harem
9Thus, I accomplished far more#Literally “I became great and I surpassed” than anyone who was before me in Jerusalem—indeed, my wisdom stood by me. 10I neither withheld anything from my eyes that they desired, nor did I deprive any pleasure from my heart. My heart rejoiced in all my toil, for this was my reward from all my toil. 11Yet when I considered#Or “turned to” all the effort which I expended and the toil with which I toiled to do, then behold, “Everything is vanity and chasing wind! There is nothing profitable under the sun!”
The Living Must Abandon the Work of their Hands to Others at Death
12Next, I considered wisdom, as well as delusion and folly. What can anyone do who will come after the king that has not already been done? 13I realized that wisdom has an advantage over folly, just as light has an advantage over darkness. 14The wise man can see where he is walking,#Literally “The eyes of the wise are in his head” but the fool walks in darkness. Yet I also realized that both of them suffer the same fate. 15So I said to myself,#Literally “in my heart” “If I also suffer the same fate as the fool,#Literally “Just as the fate of the fool—so it will happen to me!” what advantage is my great wisdom?”#Literally “why have I been so exceedingly wise?” So I said to myself,#Literally “in my heart” “This also is vanity!”
16Certainly no one will remember the wise man or the fool in future generations.#Literally “the futures” When future days come, both will have been forgotten already. How is it that the wise man dies the same as the fool? 17So I hated life because the work done under the sun is grievous to me. For everything is vanity and chasing wind!
18So I hated all my toil with which I have toiled under the sun, for I must leave it behind to someone who will be after me. 19And who knows whether he will be wise or foolish? Yet he will exercise control of all the fruit of my toil with which I toiled wisely under the sun. This also is vanity!
20So I began to despair#Literally “I myself turned to cause my heart to despair” of all the toil with which I toiled under the sun. 21For although a person may toil with great wisdom and skill, he must leave his reward to someone who has not toiled for it. This also is vanity and a great calamity. 22For what does a person receive for all his toil and in the longing of his heart with which he toils under the sun? 23All his days are painful, his labor brings grief, and his heart cannot rest at night. This also is vanity!
It is Best to Simply Enjoy the Passing Pleasures of Life as Reward for Pleasing God
24There is nothing better for a person than to eat and drink and find delight#Literally “to see good” in his toil. For I also realized that this is from the hand of God! 25For who can eat and drink, and who can enjoy life apart from him?#The MT reads “more than me,” which is supported by Aramaic Targum and Latin Vulgate, but several medieval Hebrew manuscripts read “from him” 26For to the person who is good in his eyes, he gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy; but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and heaping up only to give it to him who is pleasing to him. This also is vanity and chasing wind!