The Book of Ecclesiastes translated by m. G. Easton introduction


THE VANITY OF WEALTH GATHERED WITH CARE AND PRIVATION, 2:18-23



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THE VANITY OF WEALTH GATHERED WITH CARE AND PRIVATION, 2:18-23

In view of death, which snatches away the wise man equally with the fool, and of the night of death, which comes to the one as to the other, deep dejection came upon him from another side.



Ecc. 2:18.

“And I hated all my labour with which I laboured under the sun, that I should leave it to the man who shall be after me;” i.e., not: who shall come into existence after me, but: who shall occupy my place after me. The fiction discovers itself here in the expression: “The king,” who would not thus express himself indefinitely and unsympathetically regarding his son and successor on the throne, is stripped of his historical individuality. The first and third שׁ are relat. pron. (quem, after the schema egymologicumעמַל עמָל , v. 11, 9:9, and qui), the second is relat. conj. (eo) quod. The suffix of שׁאַנִּי refers to the labour in the sense of that which is obtained by wearisome labour, accomplished or collected with labour; cf.כֹחַ , product, fruit, Gen. 4:12;עבוֹדָה , effect, Isa. 32:17.


How this man will be circumstanced who will have at his disposal that for which he has not laboured, is uncertain.
[[@Bible:Ecclesiastes 2:19]]
Ecc. 2:19.

“And who knoweth whether he shall be wise or foolish? and he will have power over all my labour with which had wearied myself, and had acted wisely, under the sun: this also is vain.”הֲ ... אוֹ , instead ofהֲ ... אִם , in the double question, as at Job. 16:3. What kind of a man he will be no one can previously know, and yet this person will have free control (cf.שׁלט , p.641) over all the labour that the testator has wisely gained by labour — a hendiadys, for חָכַם with the obj. accus. is only in such a connection possible: “my labour which I, acting wisely, gained by labour.”


In view of this doubtful future of that which was with pains and wisely gained by him, his spirit sank within him.
[[@Bible:Ecclesiastes 2:20]]
Ecc. 2:20.

“Then I turned to give up my heart on account of [= to despair of] all the labour with which I wearied myself under the sun.” As at 1Sa. 22:17f., Song 2:17, Jer. 41:14, סבב has here the intrans. meaning, to turn about (LXX ἐπέστρεψα = ἐπεστρεψάμην). Hitzig remarks that פנה and שוב signify, “to turn round in order to see,” andסבב , on the contrary, “to turn round in order to do.” But פנה can also mean, “to turn round in order to do,” e.g., Lev. 26:9; andסבב , “to turn in order to examine more narrowly,” 7:25. The distinction lies in this, that פנה signifies a clear turning round;סבב , a turning away from one thing to another, a turning in the direction of something new that presents itself (Ecc. 4:1, 7; 9:11). The phrase,יאשׁ אֶת־בלִבּוֹ ,40 closely corresponds to the Lat. despondet animum, he gives up his spirits, lets them sink, i.e., he despairs. The old language knows onlyנוֹאַשׁ , to give oneself up, i.e., to give up hope in regard to anything; andנוֹאָשׁ , given up, having no prospect, in despair. The Talm., however, uses along with nithyaÝeÝsh (vid., p. 638) not only noaÔsh, but alsoיאשׁ , in the sense of despair, or the giving up of all hope (subst.יאוּשׁ ), Mez•Ña 21b, from which it is at once evident thatיאשׁ . is not to be thought of as causative (like the Arab. ajjasa and aiasa), but as simply transitive, with which, after the passage before us, לבו is to be thought of as connected. He turned round to give up all heart. He had no more any heart to labour.


[[@Bible:Ecclesiastes 2:21]]
Ecc. 2:21.

“For there is a man who labours with wisdom, and knowledge, and ability; and to a man who has not laboured for it, must he leave it as his portion: also that is vain, and a great evil.” Ewald renders: whose labour aims after wisdom. But בִּחַי וטוי do not denote obj. (for the obj. of עמל is certainly the portion which is to be inherited), but are particular designations of the way and manner of the labour. Instead ofשׁעמַל , there is used the more emphatic form of the noun:שׁעמָלוֹ , who had his labour, and performed it; 1Sa. 7:17, cf. Jer. 9:5 [6], “Thine habitation is in the midst of deceit,and Hitz. under Job. 9:27. Kishron is not ἀνδρεία (LXX), manliness, moral energy (Elster), but aptness, ability, and (as a consequence connecting itself therewith) success, good fortune, thus skilfulness conducting to the end (vid., p. 638). בּוֹ refers to the object, and יתְּנֶנּוּ to the result of the work; חֶלְקוֹ is the second obj.-accus., or, as we rather say, pred.-accus.: as his portion, viz., inheritance.


That what one has gained by skill and good fortune thus falls to the lot of another who perhaps recklessly squanders it, is an evil all the greater in proportion to the labour and care bestowed on its acquisition.
[[@Bible:Ecclesiastes 2:22]]
Ecc. 2:22, 23.

“For what has man of all his labour, and the endeavours of his heart with which he wearies himself under the sun? All his days are certainly in sorrows, and his activity in grief; his heart resteth not even in the night: also this is vain.” The question literally is: What is (comes forth, results) to a man from all his labour; for “to become, to be, to fall to, happen to,” is the fundamental idea of הוה (whence hereהוֶֹה , γινόμενον, as at Neh. 6:6, γενησόμενος) orהיה , the root signification of which is deorsum ferri, cadere, and then accidere, fieri, whenceהַוָּה , eagerness precipitating itself upon anything (vid., under Pro. 10:3), or object.: fall, catastrophe, destruction. Instead ofשׁהוּא , there is here to be writtenשׁהוּא ,41 as at 3:18שׁהֶם . The question looks forward to a negative answer. What comes out of his labour for man? Nothing comes of it, nothing but disagreeableness. This negative contained in the question is established byכִּי , 23a . The form of the clause, “all his days are sorrows,” viz., as to their condition, follows the scheme, “the porch was 20 cubits,” 2Ch. 3:4, viz., in measurement; or, “their feast is music and wine,” Isa. 5:12, viz., in its combination (vid., Philippi’s Stat. Const. p. 90ff.). The parallel clause isוכַאַס עניָנוֹ , notוכי ; for the final syllable, or that having the accent on the penult, immediately preceding the Athnach -word, takes Kametz, as e.g., Lev. 18:5; Pro. 25:3; Isa. 65:17 (cf. Olsh. § 224, p. 440).42


Many interpreters falsely explain: at aegritudo est velut quotidiana occupatio ejus. For the sake of the parallelism, ענינו (fromענה , to weary oneself with labour, or also to strive, aim; vid., Psalmen, ii. 390) is subj. not pred.: his endeavour is grief, i.e., brings only grief or vexation with it. Even in the night he has no rest; for even then, though he is not labouring, yet he is inwardly engaged about his labour and his plans. And this possession, acquired with such labour and restlessness, he must leave to others; for equally with the fool he fails under the stroke of death: he himself has no enjoyment, others have it; dying, he must leave all behind him, — threefoldהבל , vv. 17, 21, 23, and thusהבל הבלים .
[[@Bible:Ecclesiastes 2:24]]


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