Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
"I have said in mine heart: Up then, I will prove thee with mirth, and enjoy thou the good! And, lo, this also is vain." Speaking in the heart is not here merely, as at Ecc 1:16-17, speaking to the heart, but the words are formed into a direct address of the heart. The Targ. and Midrash obliterate this by interpreting as if the word were אנסּנּה, "I will try it" (Ecc 7:23). Jerome also, in rendering by vadam et affluam deliciis et fruar bonis, proceeds contrary to the usual reading of 'אן Niph. of נסך, vid., at Psa 2:6), as if this could mean, "I will pour over myself." It is an address of the heart, and ב is, as at Kg1 10:1, that of the means: I will try thee with mirth, to see whether thy hunger after satisfaction can be appeased with mirth. וּראה also is an address; Grtz sees here, contrary to the Gramm., an infin. continuing the בּשׂ; ūrēh, Job 10:15, is the connect. form of the particip. adj. rāěh; and if reēh could be the inf. after the forms naqqēh, hinnāqqēh, it would be the inf. absol., instead of which וּראות was to be expected. It is the imper.: See good, sinking thyself therein, i.e., enjoy a cheerful life. Elsewhere the author connects ראה less significantly with the accus. - obj., Ecc 5:17; Ecc 6:6; Ecc 2:24.
This was his intention; but this experiment also to find out the summum bonum proves itself a failure: he found a life of pleasure to be a hollow life; that also, viz., devotedness to mirth, was to him manifestly vanity.
"To laughter I said: It is mad; and to mirth: What doth it issue in?" Laughter and mirth are personified; meholāl is thus not neut. (Hitz., a foolish matter), but mas. The judgment which is pronounced regarding both has not the form of an address; we do not need to supply אתּה and אתּ, it is objectively like an oratio obliqua: that it is mad; cf. Psa 49:12. In the midst of the laughter and revelling in sensual delight, the feeling came over him that this was not the way to true happiness, and he was compelled to say to laughter, It has become mad (part. Poal, as at Psa 102:9), it is like one who is raving mad, who finds his pleasure in self-destruction; and to joy (mirth), which disregards the earnestness of life and all due bounds, he is constrained to say, What does it result in? = that it produces nothing, i.e., that it brings forth no real fruit; that it produces only the opposite of true satisfaction; that instead of filling, it only enlarges the inner void. Others, e.g., Luther, "What doest thou?" i.e., How foolish is thy undertaking! Even if we thus explain, the point in any case lies in the inability of mirth to make man truly and lastingly happy, - in the inappropriateness of the means for the end aimed at. Therefore עשׂה is thus meant just as in עשׂה פרי (Hitz.), and מעשׂה, effect, Isa 32:17. Thus Mendelssohn: What profit does thou bring to me? Regarding זה; מה־זּה = mah-zoth, Gen 3:13, where it is shown that the demonstrative pronoun serves here to sharpen the interrogative: What then, what in all the world!
After this revelling in sensual enjoyment has been proved to be a fruitless experiment, he searches whether wisdom and folly cannot be bound together in a way leading to the object aimed at.
"I searched in my heart, (henceforth) to nourish my body with wine, while my heart had the direction by means of wisdom; and to lay hold on folly, till I might see what it was good for the children of men that they should do, all the number of the days of their life." After he became conscious that unbridled sensual intoxication does not lead to the wished-for end, he looked around him farther, and examined into the following reception for happiness. Inappropriately, Zckl., with Hengst.: "I essayed in my heart to nourish ...." תּוּר does not mean probare, but explorare, to spy out, Num 10:33, and frequently in the Book of Koheleth (here and at Ecc 1:13; Ecc 7:25) of mental searching and discovery (Targ. אלּל). With למשׁוך there then follows the new thing that is contrived. If we read משׁך and נהג in connection, then the idea of drawing a carriage, Isa 5:18, cf. Deu 21:3, and of driving a carriage, Sa2 6:3, lies near; according to which Hitzig explains: "Wine is compared to a draught beast such as a horse, and he places wisdom as the driver on the box, that his horse may not throw him into a ditch or a morass." But moshēk is not the wine, but the person himself who makes the trial; and nohēg is not the wisdom, but the heart, - the former thus only the means of guidance; no man expresses himself thus: I draw the carriage by means of a horse, and I guide it by means of a driv. Rightly the Syr.: "To delight (למבסמן, from בּסּם, oblectare) my flesh with wine." Thus also the Targ. and the Venet., by "drawing the flesh." The metaphor does not accord with the Germ. ziehen = to nourish by caring for (for which רבּה is used); it is more natural, with Gesen., to compare the passing of trahere into tractare, e.g., in the expression se benignius tractare (Horace, Ep. 1:17); but apart from the fact that trahere is a word of doubtful etymology,
(Note: Vid., Crossen's Nachtr. zur lat. Formenlehre, pp. 107-109.)
tractare perhaps attains the meaning of attending to, using, managing, through the intermediate idea of moving hither and thither, which is foreign to the Heb. משׁך, which means only to draw, - to draw to oneself, and hold fast (attractum sive prehensum tenere). As the Talm. משׁך occurs in the sense of "to refresh," e.g., Chagiga 14a: "The Haggadists (in contradistinction to the Halachists) refresh the heart of a man as with water"; so here, "to draw the flesh" = to bring it into willing obedience by means of pleasant attractions.
(Note: Grtz translates: to embrocate my body with wine, and remarks that in this lies a raffinement. But why does he not rather say, "to bathe in wine"? If משׁח can mean "to embrocate," it may also mean "to bathe," and for ביין may be read ביוני: in Grecian, i.e., Falernian, Chian, wine.)
The phrase which follows: velibbi nohēg bahhochmāh, is conditioning: While my heart had the direction by means of wisdom; or, perhaps in accordance with the more modern usus loq. While my heart guided, demeaned, behaved itself with wisdom. Then the inf. limshok, depending on tarti as its obj., is carried forward with velěěhhoz besichluth. Plainly the subject treated of is an intermediate thing (Bardach: ממצּעת). He wished to have enjoyment, but in measure, without losing himself in enjoyment, and thereby destroying himself. He wished to give himself over to sweet desipere, but yet with wise self-possession (because it is sadly true that ubi mel ibi fel) to lick the honey and avoid the gall. There are drinkers who know how to guide themselves so that they do not end in drunken madness; and there are habitual pleasure-seekers who yet know how so far to control themselves, that they do not at length become rous. Koheleth thus gave himself to a foolish life, yet tempered by wisdom, till there dawned upon him a better light upon the way to true happiness.
The expression of the donec viderem is old Heb. Instead of אי־זה טוב, quidnam sit bonum in indirect interrog. (as Ecc 11:6, cf. Jer 6:16), the old form מה־טוב (Heb 6:12) would lie at least nearer. Asher yǎǎsu may be rendered: quod faciant or ut faciant; after Ecc 2:24; Ecc 3:22; Ecc 5:4; Ecc 7:18, the latter is to be assumed. The accus. designation of time, "through the number of days of their life," is like Ecc 5:17; Ecc 6:12. We have not, indeed, to translate with Knobel: "the few days of their life," but yet there certainly lies in מספּר the idea that the days of man's life are numbered, and that thus even if they are not few but many (Ecc 6:3), they do not endure for ev.
The king now, in the verse following, relates his undertakings for the purpose of gaining the joys of life in fellowship with wisdom, and first, how he made architecture and gardening serviceable to this new style of life.
"I undertook great works, built me houses, planted me vineyards. I made me gardens and parks, and planted therein all kinds of fruit-trees. I made me water-pools to water therewith a forest bringing forth trees." The expression, "I made great my works," is like Ecc 1:16; the verb contains the adj. as its obj. The love of wisdom, a sense of the beautiful in nature and art, a striving after splendour and dignity, are fundamental traits in Solomon's character. His reign was a period of undisturbed and assured peace. The nations far and near stood in manifold friendly relations with him. Solomon was "the man of rest," Ch1 22:9; his whole appearance was as it were the embodied glory itself that had blossomed from out of the evils and wars of the reign of David. The Israelitish commonwealth hovered on a pinnacle of worldly glory till then unattained, but with the danger of falling and being lost in the world. The whole tendency of the time followed, as it were, a secular course, and it was Solomon first of all whom the danger of the love of the world, and of worldly conformity to which he was exposed, brought to ruin, and who, like so many of the O.T. worthies, began in the spirit and ended in the flesh. Regarding his buildings, - the house of the forest of Lebanon, the pillared hall (porch), the hall of judgment, the palace intended for himself and the daughter of Pharaoh, - vid. the description in Kg1 7:1-12, gathered from the annals of the kingdom; Kg1 9:15-22 = Ch2 8:3-6, gives an account of Solomon's separate buildings (to which also the city of Millo belongs), and of the cities which he built; the temple, store-cities, treasure-cities, etc., are naturally not in view in the passage before us, where it is not so much useful buildings, as rather buildings for pleasure (Kg1 9:19), that are referred to. Vineyards, according to Ch1 27:27, belonged to David's royal domain; a vineyard in Baal-hamon which Solomon possessed, but appears at a later period to have given up, is mentioned at the close of the Song. That he was fond of gardening, appears from manifold expressions in the Song; delight in the life and movements of the natural world, and particularly in plants, is a prominent feature in Solomon's character, in which he agrees with Shulamith. The Song; Sol 6:2, represents him in the garden at the palace. We have spoken under the Song; Sol 6:11., of the gardens and parks at Etam, on the south-west of Bethlehem. Regarding the originally Persian word pardēs (plur. pardesim, Mishnic pardesoth), vid., under Sol 4:13; regarding the primary meaning of berēchah (plur. const. berēchoth, in contradistinction to birchoth, blessings), the necessary information is found under Sol 7:5. These Solomonic pools are at the present day to be seen near old Etam, and the clause here denoting a purpose, "to water from them a forest which sprouted trees, i.e., brought forth sprouting trees," is suitable to these; for verbs of flowing and swarming, also verbs of growing, thought of transitively, may be connected with obj. - accus., Ewald, 281b; cf. under Isa 5:6. Thus, as he gave himself to the building of houses, the care of gardens, and the erection of pools, so also to the cultivation of forests, with the raising of new trees.
Another means, wisely considered as productive of happiness, was a large household and great flocks of cattle, which he procured for himself.
"I procured servants and maidens, and also I obtained servants born in the house; also the possession of flocks; I obtained many horned and small cattle before all who were in Jerusalem before me." The obtaining of these possessions is, according to Gen 17:12., to be understood of purchase. There is a distinction between the slaves, male and female (mancipia), obtained by purchase, and those who were home-born (vernae), the בּית (ילידי) בּני, who were regarded as the chief support of the house (Gen 14:14), on account of their attachment to it, and to this day are called (Arab.) fada wayyt, as those who offer themselves a sacrifice for it, if need be. Regarding לי היה, in the sense of increasing possession; and regarding היה for היוּ, vid., at Ecc 1:10, Ecc 1:16; at all events, the sing. of the pred. may be explained from this, that the persons and things named are thought of in the mass, as at Zac 11:5; Joe 1:20 (although the idea there may be also individualizing); but in the use of the pass., as at Gen 35:26; Dan 9:24, the Semite custom is different, inasmuch as for it the passive has the force of an active without a definite subject, and thus with the most general subject; and as to the case lying before us in Ecc 2:7, we see from Exo 12:49, cf. Gen 15:17, that היה (יהיה) in such instances is thought of as neut. According to Gen 26:14 and the passage before us, מקנה lay nearer than מקנה, but the primary form instead of the connecting form is here the traditional reading; we have thus apposition (Nebenordnung) instead of subordination (Annexion), as in zevahim shelamim, Exo 24:5, and in habbaqar hannehhosheth, Kg2 16:17, although vaqar vatson may also be interpreted as the accus. of the more accurate definition: the possession of flocks consisting in cattle and sheep. But this manner of construction is, for a book of so late an origin, too artificial. What it represents Solomon as saying is consistent with historical fact; at the consecration of the temple he sacrificed hecatombs, Kg1 8:63; and the daily supply for the royal kitchen, which will at the same time serve to show the extent of the royal household, was, according to Kg1 5:2., enormous.
There now follows the enumeration of riches and jewels which were a delight to the eye; and finally, the large provision made for revelling in the pleasures of music and of sensual love.
"I heaped up for myself also silver and gold, and the peculiar property of kings and of countries; I gat me men singers and women singers, and the delights of the children of men: mistress and mistresses." The verb כּנשׁ כּנס, συνάγειν, is common to all Semitic dialects (also the to Assyr.), and especially peculiar to the more recent Heb., which forms from it the name of the religious community συναγωγή, כּנסת; it is used here of that which is brought together merely for the purpose of possession. Segūllah (from sagal, Targ., to make oneself possess), properly possession, and that something which specially and peculiarly belongs to one as his property; the word is here meant collect., as at Ch1 29:3 : that which only kings and individual countries possess. The interchange of melachim, which is without the article, with the determ. hammedinoth, is arbitrary: something special, such as that which a king possesses, the specialities which countries possess, - one country this, and another that. The hammedinoth are certainly not exclusively the regions embraced within the dominion of Solomon (Zckl.), as, according to Est 1:1, the Persian kingdom was divided into 127 medinoth. Solomon had a fleet which went to Ophir, was in a friendly relation with the royal house of Tyre, the metropolis of many colonies, and ruled over a widely-extended kingdom, bound by commerce with Central Asia and Africa. - His desires had thus ample opportunity to stretch beyond the limits of his own kingdom, and facilities enough for procuring the peculiar natural and artistic productions which other lands could boast of. Medinah is, first of all, a country, not as a territory, but as under one government (cf. Ecc 5:7); in the later philosophical language it is the Heb. word for the Greek πολιτεία; in the passage before us, medinoth is, however, not different from ארצות.
From the singing men and singing women who come into view here, not as appertaining to the temple service (vid., the Targ.), with which no singing women were connected, but as connected with the festivities of the court (Sa2 19:36; cf. Isa 5:12), advance is made to shiddah veshiddoth; and since these are designated by the preceding ותענגות (not ותענגּות) bene hāādam, especially as objects and means of earthly pleasure, and since, according to Heb 2:7, sexual love is the fairest and the most pleasant, in a word, the most attractive of all earthly delights (Solomon's luxus, also here contradicting the law of the king, Deu 17:17, came to a height, according to Kg1 11:3, after the example of Oriental rulers, in a harem of not fewer than one thousand women, princesses and concubines), of necessity, the expression shiddah veshiddoth must denote a multitude of women whom the king possessed for his own pleasure. Cup-bearers, male and female (Syr., lxx), cannot at all be understood, for although it may be said that the enumeration thus connects itself with the before-named בּיּין, yet this class of female attendants are not numbered among the highest human pleasures; besides, with such an explanation one must read שׁרה ושׁדות, and, in addition, שׁדא (to throw, to pour to, or pour out), to which this Heb. שׁדה may correspond, is nowhere used of the pouring out of wine. Rather might שׁדה, like שדא, hydria, be the name of a vessel from which one pours out anything, according to which Aq. translates by κυλίκιον καὶ κυλίκια, Symmachus, after Jerome, by mensurarum (read mensarum)
(Note: Thus, according to Vallarsi, a Cod. Vat. and Cod. Palat. of the first hand.)
species et appositioines, and Jerome, scyphos et urceos in ministerio ad vina fundenda; but this word for kelē mashkēh, Kg1 10:21 (= Ch2 9:20), is not found. Also the Targ., which translates by dimasaya uvē venavan, public baths (δημόσια), and balneae, vindicates this translation by referring the word to the verb שׁדא, "with pipes which pour out (דּשׁרין) tepid water, and pipes which pour out hot water." But this explanation is imaginary; שׁדּה occurs in the Mishna, Mikwaoth (of plunge-baths) Ecc 6:5, but there it denotes a chest which, when it swims in the water, makes the plunge-bath unsuitable. Such an untenable conceit also is the translation suggested by Kimchi, כלי זמר, according to which the Event. σύστεεμα καὶ συστήματα (in a musical sense: concentus), and Luther: "all kinds of musical instruments;" the word has not this meaning; Orelli, Sanchuniathon, p. 33, combines therewith Σιδών, according to the Phoenician myth, the inventress of the artistic song. The explanation by Kimchi is headed, "Splendour of every kind;" Ewald, Elster, and Zckler find therein a general expression, following taanugoth: great heap and heaps = in great abundance [die Hlle und Flle]. But the synon. of כבוד, "splendour," is not שׁד, but עז; and that שׁדד, like עצם, is referred to a great number, is without proof. Thus shiddah veshiddoth will denote something definite; besides, "a large number" finds its expression in the climactic union of words. In the Jerus. Talm. Taanith Ecc 4:5, shiddah must, according to the gloss, be the name of a chariot, although the subject there is not that of motion forward, or moving quickly; it is there announced that Schn, not far from Sepphoris, a place famed also for its pottery, formerly possessed 80 such shiddoth wholly of metal. The very same word is explained by Rashi, Baba kamma ix. 3, Shabbath 120a, Erubin 30b, Gittin 8b, 68a, Chagiga 25a, and elsewhere, of a carriage of wood, and especially of a chariot for women and distinguished persons. The combination of the synonyms, shiddah uthivah umigdal, does not in itself mean more than a chest; and Rashi himself explains, Kethuboth 65a, quolphi dashidah of the lock of a chest (argaz); and the author of Aruch knows no other meaning than that of a repository such as a chest. But in passages such as Gittin 8b, the shiddah is mentioned as a means of transport; it is to all appearance a chest going on wheels, moved forward by means of wheels, but on that very account not a state-chariot. Rashi's tradition cannot be verified.
Bttcher, in the Neue Aehrenlese, adduces for comparison the Syr. Shydlo, which, according to Castelli, signifies navis magna, corbita, arca; but from a merchant ship and a portable chest, it is a great way to a lady's palanquin.
He translates: palanquin and palinquins = one consignment to the harem after another. Gesen., according to Rdiger, Thes. 1365b, thinks that women are to be understood; for he compares the Arab. z'ynat, which signifies a women's carriage, and then the woman herself (cf. our Frauenzimmer, women's apartment, women, like Odaliske, from the Turk. oda, apartment). But this all stands or falls with that gloss of Rashi's: 'agalah lemerkavoth nashim usarim. Meanwhile, of all the explanations as yet advanced, this last of splendid coaches, palanquins is the best; for it may certainly be supposed that the words shiddah veshiddoth are meant of women. Aben Ezra explains on this supposition, shiddoth = shevuyoth, females captured in war; but unwarrantably, because as yet Solomon had not been engaged in war; others (vid., Pinsker's Zur Gesch. des Karaismus, p. 296), recently Bullock, connect it with shadim, in the sense of (Arab.) nahidah (a maiden with swelling breast); Knobel explains after shadad, to barricade, to shut up, occlusa, the female held in custody (cf. bethulah, the separated one, virgin, from bathal, cogn. badal); Hitzig, "cushions," "bolsters," from shanad, which, like (Arab.) firash, λέχος, is then transferred to the juncta toro. Nothing of all that is satisfactory. The Babyl. Gemara, Gittin 68a, glosses ותען וגו by "reservoirs and baths," and then further says that in the west (Palestine) they say שׁדּתא, chests (according to Rashi: chariots); but that here in this country (i.e., in Babylon) they translate shiddah veshiddoth by shēdah veshēdathin, which is then explained, "demons and demonesses," which Solomon had made subservient to him.
(Note: A demon, and generally a superhuman being, is called, as in Heb. שׁד, so in the Babyl.-Assyr. sîdu, vid., Norris' Assyrian Dictionary, II p. 668; cf. Schrader, in the Jena. Lit. Zeit. 1874, p. 218f., according to which sîdu, with alap, is the usual name of Adar formed like an ox.)
This haggadic-mytholog. interpretation is, linguistically at least, on the right track. A demon is not so named from fluttering or moving to and fro (Levy, Schnhak), for there is no evidence in the Semitic langauge of the existence of a verb שוד, to flee; also not from a verb sadad, which must correspond to the Heb. השׁתחוה, in the sense of to adore (Oppert's Inscription du palais de Khorsabad, 1863, p. 96); for this meaning is more than doubtful, and, besides, שׁד is an active, and not a passive idea-much rather שׁד, Assyr. sîd, Arab. sayyid, signifies the mighty, from שׁוּד, to force, Psa 91:6.
(Note: Vid., Friedrich Delitzsch's Assyr. Theirnamen, p. 37.)
In the Arab. (cf. the Spanish Cid) it is uniformly the name of a lord, as subduing, ruling, mastering (sabid), and the fem. sayyidat, of a lady, whence the vulgar Arab. sitti = my lady, and sîdi = my lord. Since שׁדד means the same as שׁוד, and in Heb. is more commonly used than it, so also the fem. form שׁדּה is possible, so much the more as it may have originated from שׁדה, 5 שׁיד = שׁד, by a sharpening contraction, like סגּים, from סיגים (Olsh. 83c), perhaps intentionally to make שׁדה, a demoness, and the name of a lady (donna = domina) unlike. Accordingly we translate, with Gesen. and Meyer in their Handwrt.: "lady and ladies;" for we take shiddoth as a name of the ladies of the harem, like shēglath (Assyr. saklâti) and lehhenath in the book of Daniel, on which Ahron b. Joseph the Karaite remarks: shedah hinqaroth shagal.
The connection expressing an innumerable quantity, and at the same time the greatest diversity, is different from the genitival dor dorim, generation of generations, i.e., lasting through all generations, Psa 72:5, from the permutative heightening the idea: rahham rahhamathaim, one damsel, two damsels, Jdg 5:30, and from that formed by placing together the two gram. genders, comprehending every species of the generic conception: mash'ēn umash'enah, Isa 3:3 (vid., comm. l.c., and Ewald, 172b). Also the words cited by Ewald (Syr.), rogo urogo, "all possible pleasures" (Cureton's Spicil. p. 10), do not altogether accord with this passage for they heighten, like meod meod, by the repetition of the same expression. But similar is the Arab. scheme, mal wamwal, "possession and possessions," i.e., exceeding great riches, where the collective idea, in itself according by its indetermination free scope to the imagination, is multiplied by the plur. being further added.
After Koheleth has enumerated all that he had provided for the purpose of gratifying his lusts, but without losing himself therein, he draws the conclusion, which on this occasion also shows a perceptible deficit.
"And I became great, and was always greater than all that were before me in Jerusalem: also my wisdom remained with me. And all that mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I refused not any kind of joy to my heart; for my heart had joy of all my labour: and this was my portion of all my labour. And I turned myself to all the works which my hands had done, and to the labour which I had laboured to accomplish: and, behold, all was vain, and windy effort, and there was no true profit under the sun." In vehosaphti there is here no obj. as at Ecc 1:16; the obj. is the gedullah, the greatness, to be concluded and thought of from vegadalti, "and I became great." To the impers. היה for היוּ, 7b, cf. 7a, Ecc 1:16, Ecc 1:10. He became great, and always greater, viz., in the possession of all the good things, the possession of which seemed to make a man happy on this earth. And what he resolved upon, in the midst of this dulcis insania, viz., to deport himself as a wise man, he succeeded in doing: his wisdom forsook him not, viz., the means adapted to the end, and ruling over this colossal apparatus of sensual lust; אף, as e.g., at Psa 16:6, belongs to the whole clause; and עמד, with ל, does not mean here to stand by, sustain (Herzfeld, Ewald, Elster), which it might mean as well as על עמד, Dan 12:1, but to continue, as Jerome, and after him, Luther, translates: sapientia quoquo perseveravit mecum; the Targ. connects the ideas of continuance (lxx, Syr., Venet.) and of help; but the idea intended is that of continuance, for נהג, e.g., does not refer to helping, but self-maintaining.
Thus become great and also continuing wise, he was not only in a condition to procure for himself every enjoyment, but he also indulged himself in everything; all that his eyes desired, i.e., all that they saw, and after which they made him lust (Deu 14:26) (cf. Jo1 2:16), that he did not refuse to them (אצל, subtrahere), and he kept not back his heart from any kind of joy (מנע, with min of the thing refused, as at Num 24:11, etc., oftener with min, of him to whom it is refused, e.g., Gen 30:2), for (here, after the foregoing negations, coinciding with immo) his heart had joy of all his work; and this, viz., this enjoyment in full measure, was his part of all his work. The palindromic form is like Ecc 1:6; Ecc 4:1. We say in Heb. as well as in German: to have joy in (an, ב), anything, joy over (ber, על) anything, or joy of (von, מן) anything; Koheleth here purposely uses min, for he wishes to express not that the work itself was to him an object and reason of joy, but that it became to him a well of joy (cf. Pro 5:18; Ch2 20:27). Falsely, Hahn and others: after my work (min, as e.g., Psa 73:20), for thereby the causative connection is obliterated: min is the expression of the mediate cause, as the concluding sentence says: Joy was that which he had of all his work - this itself brought care and toil to him; joy, made possible to him thereby, was the share which came to him from it.
But was this חלק a יתרון - was this gain that fell to him a true, satisfying, pure gain? With the words uphanithi ani he proposes this question, and answers it. פּנה (to turn to) is elsewhere followed by expressions of motion to an end; here, as at Job 6:28, by בּ, by virtue of a constructio praegnans: I turned myself, fixing my attention on all my works which my hands accomplished. La'asoth is, as at Gen 2:3 (vid., l.c.), equivalent to perficiendo, carrying out, viz., such works of art and of all his labour. The exclamation "behold" introduces the summa summarum. Regardingיתרון, vid., Ecc 1:3. Also this way of finding out that which was truly good showed itself to be false. Of all this enjoyment, there remained nothing but the feeling of emptiness. What he strove after appeared to him as the wind; the satisfaction he sought to obtain at such an expense was nothing else than a momentary delusion. And since in this search after the true happiness of life he was in a position more favourable for such a purpose than almost any other man, he is constrained to draw the conclusion that there is no יתרון, i.e., no real enduring and true happiness, from all labour under the sun.
"And I turned myself to examine wisdom, and madness, and folly: for what is the man who could come after the king, him whom they have made so long ago!" Mendelssohn's translation, Ecc 2:12: "I abandoned my design of seeking to connect wisdom with folly and madness," is impossible, because for such a rendering we should have had at least מלּראות instead of לראות. Hitzig, otherwise followed by Stuart: "I turned myself to examine me wisdom, and, lo, it was madness as well as folly." This rendering is impossible also, for in such a case הנּהו ought to have stood as the result, after חכמה. The pasage, Zac 14:6, cited by Hitz., does not prove the possibility of such a brachyology, for there we read not veqaroth veqeppayon, but eqaroth iqeppaūn (the splendid ones, i.e., the stars, will draw themselves together, i.e., will become dark bodies). The two vavs are not correlative, which is without example in the usage of this book, but copulative: he wishes to contemplate (Zckler and others) wisdom on the one side, and madness and folly on the other, in their relation to each other, viz., in their relative worth. Hitzig's ingenuity goes yet further astray in Ecc 2:12: "For what will the man do who comes after the king? (He shall do) what was long ago his (own) doing, i.e., inheriting from the king the throne, he will not also inherit his wisdom." Instead of āsūhū, he reads ǎsōhū, after Exo 18:18; but the more modern author, whose work we have here before us, would, instead of this anomalous form, use the regular form עשׂותו; but, besides, the expression ēth asher-kevar 'asotho, "(he will do) what long ago was his doing," is not Heb.; the words ought to have been keasotho kevar khen i'sah, or at least 'asāhū. If we compare Ecc 2:12 with 18b, the man who comes after the king appears certainly to be his successor.
(Note: The lxx and Symm. by hammělêk think of melak, counsel, βουλή, instead of melek, king; and as Jerome, so also Bardach understands by the king the rex factor, i.e., God the Creator.)
But by this supposition it is impossible to give just effect to the relation (assigning a reason or motive) of Ecc 2:12 to 12a expressed by כּי. When I considered, Knobel regards Koheleth as saying, that a fool would be heir to me a wise man, it appeared strange to me, and I was led to compare wisdom and folly to see whether or not the wise man has a superiority to the fool, or whether his labour and his fate are vanity, like those of the fool. This is in point of style absurd, but it is much more absurd logically. And who then gave the interpreter the right to stamp as a fool the man who comes after the king? In the answer: "That which has long ago been done," must lie its justification; for this that was done long ago naturally consists, as Zckler remarks, in foolish and perverse undertakings, certainly in the destruction of that which was done by the wise predecessor, in the lavish squandering of the treasures and goods collected by him. More briefly, but in the same sense, Burger: Nihil quod a solita hominum agendi ratione recedit. But in Ecc 2:19, Koheleth places it as a question whether his successor will be a wise man or a fool, while here he would presuppose that "naturally," or as a matter of course, he will be a fool. In the matter of style, we have nothing to object to the translation on which Zckler, with Rabm., Rosenm., Knobel, Hengst., and others, proceeds; the supplying of the verb יעשׂה to meh hāādām = what can the man do? is possible (cf. Mal 2:15), and the neut. interpret. of the suffix of עשׂוּהוּ is, after Ecc 7:13; Amo 1:3; Job 31:11, admissible; but the reference to a successor is not connected with the course of the thoughts, even although one attaches to the plain words a meaning which is foreign to them. The words עשׂוּהוּ...את are accordingly not the answer to the question proposed, but a component part of the question itself. Thus Ewald, and with him Elster, Heiligst., construes: "How will the man be who will follow the king, compared with him whom they made (a king) long ago, i.e., with his predecessor?" But את, in this pregnant sense, "compared with," is without example, at least in the Book of Koheleth, which generally does not use it as a prep.; and, besides, this rendering, by introducing the successor on the throne, offends against the logic of the relation of Ecc 2:12 to Ecc 2:12.
The motive of Koheleth's purpose, to weigh wisdom and folly against each other as to their worth, consists in this, that a king, especially such an one as Solomon was, has in the means at his disposal and in the extent of his observation so much more than everyother, that no one who comes after him will reach a different experience. This motive would be satisfactorily expressed on the supposition that the answer begins with את, if one should read עשׂהוּ for עשׂוּהוּ: he will be able to do (accomplish) nothing but what he (the king) has long ago done, i.e., he will only repeat, only be able to confirm, the king's report. But if we take the text as it here stands, the meaning is the same; and, besides, we get rid of the harsh ellipsis měh hāādām for měh yǎǎsěh hāādām. We translate: for what is the man who might come after the king, him whom they have made so long ago! The king whom they made so long ago is Solomon, who has a richer experience, a more comprehensive knowledge, the longer the time (viz., from the present time backwards) since he occupied the throne. Regarding the expression eth asher = quem, instead of the asher simply, vid., Khler under Zac 12:10. עשׂוּהוּ, with the most general subj., is not different from נעשׂה, which, particularly in the Book of Daniel (e.g., Dan 4:28.), has frequently an active construction, with the subject unnamed, instead of the passive (Gesen. 137, margin). The author of the Book of Koheleth, alienated from the theocratic side of the kingdom of Israel, makes use of it perhaps not unintentionally; besides, Solomon's elevation to the throne was, according to 1 Kings 1, brought about very much by human agency; and one may, if he will, think of the people in the word 'asuhu also, according to Kg1 1:39, who at last decided the matter. Meh before the letters hheth and ayin commonly occurs: according to the Masora, twenty-four times; before other initial letters than these, eight times, and three of these in the Book of Koheleth before the letter he, Ecc 2:12, Ecc 2:22; Ecc 7:10. The words are more an exclamation than a question; the exclamation means: What kind of a man is that who could come after the king! cf. "What wickedness is this!" etc., Jdg 20:12; Jos 22:16; Exo 18:14; Kg1 9:13, i.e., as standing behind with reference to me-the same figure of extenuatio, as mah adam, Psa 144:3; cf. Ecc 8:5.
There now follows an account of what, on the one side, happened to him thus placed on a lofty watch-tower, such as no other occupied.
"And I saw that wisdom has the advantage over folly, as light has the advantage over darkness. The wise man has eyes in his head; but the fool walketh in darkness." In the sacred Scriptures, "light" is generally the symbol of grace, Psa 43:3, but also the contrast of an intellectually and morally darkened state, Isa 51:4. To know a thing is equivalent to having light on it, and seeing it in its true light (Psa 36:10); wisdom is thus compared to light; folly is once, Job 38:19, directly called "darkness." Thus wisdom stands so much higher than folly, as light stands above darkness.יתרון, which hitherto denoted actual result, enduring gain, signifies here preference; along with כּיתרון
(Note: Thus written, according to J and other authorities.)
there is also found the form כּיתרון
(Note: Thus Ven. 1515, 1521; vid., Comm. under Gen 27:28-29; Psa 45:10.)
(vid., Pro 30:17). The fool walks in darkness: he is blind although he has eyes (Isa 43:8), and thus has as good as none, - he wants the spiritual eye of understanding (Job 10:3); the wise man, on the other hand, his eyes are in his head, or, as we also say: he has eyes in his head, - eyes truly seeing, looking at and examining persons and things. That is the one side of the relation of wisdom to folly as put to the test.
The other side of the relation is the sameness of the result in which the elevation of wisdom above folly terminates.
"And I myself perceived that one experience happeneth to them all. And I said in my heart, As it will happen to the fool, it will happen also to me; and why have I then been specially wise? Thus I spake then in my heart, that this also is vain." Zckler gives to גּם an adversative sense; but this gam (= ὃμως, similiter) stands always at the beginning of the clause, Ewald, 354a. Gam-ani corresponds to the Lat. ego idem, which gives two predicates to one subject; while et ipse predicates the same of the one of two subjects as it does of the other (Zumpt, 697). The second gam-ani serves for the giving of prominence to the object, and here precedes, after the manner of a substantival clause (cf. Isa 45:12; Eze 33:17; Ch2 28:10), as at Gen 24:27; cf. Gesen. 121. 3. Miqrěh (from קרה, to happen, to befall) is quiquid alicui accidit (in the later philosoph. terminol. accidens; Venet. συμβεβεεκός); but here, as the connection shows, that which finally puts an end to life, the final event of death. By the word יד the author expresses what he had observed on reflection; by בּל...אם, what he said inwardly to himself regarding it; and by דּבּ דל, what sentence he passed thereon with himself. Lammah asks for the design, as maddu'a for the reason. אז is either understood temporally: then when it is finally not better with me than with the fool (Hitz. from the standpoint of the dying hour), or logically: if yet one and the same event happeneth to the wise man and to the fool (Eslt.); in the consciousness of the author both are taken together.The זה of the conclusion refers, not, as at Ecc 1:17, to the endeavouring after and the possession of wisdom, but to this final result making no difference between wise men and fools. This fate, happening to all alike, is הבל, a vanity rendering all vain, a nullity levelling down all to nothing, something full of contradictions, irrational. Paul also (Rom 8:20) speaks of this destruction, which at last comes upon all, as a ματαιότης.
The author now assigns the reason for this discouraging result.
"For no remembrance of the wise, as of the fool, remains for ever; since in the days that are to come they are all forgotten. And how dieth the wise man: as the fool!" As in Ecc 1:11, so here זכרון is the principal form, not different from זכּרון. Having no remembrance forever, is equivalent to having no eternal endurance, having simply no onward existence (Ecc 9:6). עם is both times the comparat. combin., as at Ecc 7:11; Job 9:26; Job 37:18; cf. יחד, Psa 49:11. There are, indeed, individual historically great men, the memory of whom is perpetuated from generation to generation in words and in monuments; but these are exceptions, which do not always show that posterity is able to distinguish between wise men and fools. As a rule, men have a long appreciating recollection of the wise as little as they have of the fools, for long ago (vid., beshekvar, p. 640) in the coming days (כּב אבּ, accus. of the time, like the ellipt.הב, Isa 27:6) all are forgotten; הכּל is, as at Psa 14:3, meant personally: the one as the other; and נשׁכּח is rendered by the Masora, like Psa 9:6, כּב אב, as the pausal form of the finite; but is perhaps thought of as part., denoting that which only in the coming days will become too soon a completed fact, since those who survive go from the burial of the one, as well as from that of the other, to the ordinary duties of the day. Death thus sinks the wise man, as it does the fool, in eternal oblivion; it comes to both, and brings the same to both, which extorted from the author the cry: How dieth the wise man? as the fool! Why is the fate which awaits both thus the same! This is the pointed, sarcastic איך (how!) of the satirical Mashal, e.g., Isa 14:4; Eze 26:17; and ימוּת is = moriendum est, as at Sa2 3:3, moriendum erat. Rambach well: איך est h. l. particula admirationis super rei indignitate.
What happened to the author from this sorrowful discovery he now states.
"The life became hateful to me; for the work which man accomplsihes under the sun was grievous to me: because all is vain and windy effort." He hated life; and the labour which is done under the sun, i.e., the efforts of men, including the fate that befalls men, appeared to him to be evil (repugnant). The lxx translate: πονηρὸν επ ̓ ἐμέ; the Venet.: κακὸν ἐπ ̓ ἐμοί; and thus Hitzig: as a woeful burden lying on me. But עלי רע is to be understood after tov al, Est 3:9, etc., cf. Psa 16:6, and as synon. with בּעיני or לפני (cf. Dan. 3:32), according to which Symmachus: κακὸν γάρ μοι ἐφάνη. This al belongs to the more modern usus loq., cf. Ewald, 217i. The end of the song was also again the grievous ceterum censeo: Vanity, and a labour which has wind as its goal, wind as its fruit.
"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 egymologicum עמל עמל, Ecc 2:11, Ecc 9:9, and qui), the second is relat. conj. (eo) quod. The suffix of שׁאן refers to the labour in the sense of that which is obtained by wearisome labour, accomplished or collected with labour; cf. כּח, product, fruit, Gen 4:12; עבודה, 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.
"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." או...ה, instead of אם...ה, 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 חכם 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.
"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 Sa1 22:17., Sol 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," and סבב, 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; and סבב, "to turn in order to examine more narrowly," Ecc 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, Ecc 4:7; Ecc 9:11). The phrase, יאשׁ את־בלבּו,
(Note: With Pathach under the yod in the text in Biblia Rabb. and the note ל Thus also in the ms. Parva Masora, and e.g., Cod. P.)
closely corresponds to the Lat. despondet animum, he gives up his spirits, lets them sink, i.e., he despairs. The old language knows only נואשׁ, to give oneself up, i.e., to give up hope in regard to anything; and נואשׁ, given up, having no prospect, in despair. The Talm., however, uses along with nithyāēsh (vid., p. 638) not only noǎsh, but also יאשׁ, in the sense of despair, or the giving up of all hope (subst. יאוּשׁ), Meza 21b, from which it is at once evident that יאשׁ, 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.
"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 בּח וטו 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 of שׁעמל, there is used the more emphatic form of the noun: שׁעמלו, who had his labour, and performed it; Sa1 7:17, cf. Jer 9:5, Jer 9:6, "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. בּו refers to the object, and יתּננּוּ to the result of the work; חלקו 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.
"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 here הוה, γινόμενον, as at Neh 6:6, γενεεσόμενος) or היה, the root signification of which is deorsum ferri, cadere, and then accidere, fieri, whence הוּה, eagerness precipitating itself upon anything (vid., under Pro 10:3), or object.: fall, catastrophe, destruction. Instead of שׁהוּא, there is here to be written שׁהוּא,
(Note: Thus according to tradition, in H, J, P, vid., Michlol 47b, 215b, 216a; vid., also Norzi.)
as at Ecc 3:18 שׁהם. 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 by כּי, 23a. The form of the clause, "all his days are sorrows," viz., as to their condition, follows the scheme, "the porch was 20 cubits," Ch2 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 is וכעם ענינו, not כו; 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).
(Note: But cf. also ולא with Zakeph Katan, Kg2 5:17; ואר וגו with Tiphcha, Isa 26:19; and וריב under Psa 45:10.)
Many interpreters falsely explain: at aegritudo est velut quotidiana occupatio ejus. For the sake of the parallelism, ענינו (from ענה, 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, - threefold הבל, Ecc 2:17, Ecc 2:21, Ecc 2:23, and thus הבלים הבל.
"There is nothing better among men, than that one eat and drink, and that he should pamper his soul by his labour: this also have I seen, that it is in the hand of God." The lxx, as well as the other Greek transl., and Jerome, had before them the words באדם שיאכל. The former translates: "Man has not the good which he shall eat and drink," i.e., also this that he eats ... is for him no true good; but the direct contrary of this is what Koheleth says. Jerome seeks to bring the thought which the text presents into the right track, by using the form of a question: nonne melius est comedere ...; against this Ecc 3:12, Ecc 3:22; Ecc 8:15, are not to be cited where טוב אין stands in the dependent sentence; the thought is not thus to be improved; its form is not this, for טוב rof ,siht, beginning a sentence, is never interrog., but affirm.; thus טוב אין is not = הלא טוב, but is a negative statement. It is above all doubt, that instead of שׁיּ בּאדם we must read בּאדם משּׁיּ, after Ecc 3:12, Ecc 3:22; Ecc 8:15; for, as at Job 33:17, the initial letter mem after the terminal mem has dropped out. Codd. of the lxx have accordingly corrected ὃ into πλὴν ὃ or εἰ μὴ ὃ (thus the Compl. Ald.), and the Syr. and Targ. render ש here by אלא דּ and אלהן דּ unless that he eat; Jerome also has non est bonum homini nisi quod in his Comm.; only the Venet. seeks to accommodate itself to the traditional text. Besides, only מ is to be inserted, not אם כי; for the phrase לאכל אם כי is used, but not כי אם ס. Instead of ba-a-da-m, the form la-a-da-m would be more agreeable, as at Ecc 6:12; Ecc 8:15. Hitzig remarks, without proof, that bāādām is in accordance with later grammatical forms, which admit ב = "for" before the object. ב, Ecc 10:17, is neither prep. of the object, nor is ἐν, Sir. 3:7, the exponent of the dative (vid., Grimm). bāādām signifies, as at Sa2 23:3, and as ἐν ἀνθ, Sir. 11:14, inter homines; also Ecc 3:12 designates by טוב טוב what among them (men) has to be regarded as good.
It is interesting to see how here the ancient and the modern forms of the language run together, without the former wholly passing over into the latter; משׁי, quam ut edat, is followed by norm. perfects, in accordance with that comprehensive peculiarity of the old syntax which Ewald, by an excellent figure, calls the dissolution of that which is coloured into grey. טוב ... הד is equivalent to לו הי, Psa 49:19, the causative rendering of the phrase טוב ראה, Ecc 3:13, or ר טובה, Ecc 5:17; Ecc 6:6. It is well to attend to בּעמלו by his labour, which forms an essential component part of that which is approved of as good. Not a useless sluggard-life, but a life which connects together enjoyment and labour, is that which Koheleth thinks the best in the world. But this enjoyment, lightening, embellishing, seasoning labour, has also its But: etiam hoc vidi e manu Dei esse (pendere). The order of the words harmonizes with this Lat.; it follows the scheme referred to at Gen 1:4; cf. on the contrary, Ecc 3:6. Instead of גּם־זה, neut. by attraction, there is here the immediately neut. גּם־זה; the book uniformly makes use of this fem. form instead of זאת. This or that is "in the hand of God," i.e., it is His gift, Ecc 3:13, Ecc 3:18, and it is thus conditioned by Him, since man cannot give it to himself; cf. minni, Isa 30:1; mimmenni, Hos 8:4; mimmennu, Kg1 20:33.
This dependence of the enjoyment of life on God is established.
"For who can eat, and who can have enjoyment, without [= except from Him?]" Also here the traditional text is tenable: we have to read ממנו חוץ, after the lxx (which Jerome follows in his Comm.) and the Syr. If we adopt the text as it lies before us, then the meaning would be, as given by Gumpel,
(Note: Vid., regarding his noteworthy Comm. on Koheleth, my Jesurun, pp. 183 and 195. The author bears the name among Christians of Professor Levisohn.)
and thus translated by Jerome: Quis ita devorabit et deliciis effluet ut ego? But (1) the question thus understood would require ממּנּי יותר, which Gumpel and others silently substitute in place of חוץ ם; (2) this question, in which the king adjudicates to himself an unparalleled right to eat and to enjoy himself, would stand out of connection with that which precedes and follows.
Even though with Ginsburg, after Rashi, Aben Ezra, and Rashbam, we find in Ecc 2:25 the thought that the labourer has the first and nearest title to the enjoyment of the fruit of his labour (חוץ ם thus exemplif. as Ecc 4:8, ע ... למי), the continuation with כּי, Ecc 2:26, is unsuitable; for the natural sequence of the thoughts would then be this: But the enjoyment, far from being connected with the labour as its self-consequence and fruit, is a gift of God, which He gives to one and withholds from another. If we read ממּנּוּ, then the sequence of the thoughts wants nothing in syllogistic exactness. חוּשׁ .ssen here has nothing in common with חוּשׁ = Arab. ḥât, to proceed with a violent, impetuous motion, but, as at Job 20:2, is = Arab. ḥss, stringere (whence hiss, a sensible impression); the experience here meant is one mediated by means of a pleasant external enjoyment. The lxx, Theod., and Syr. translate: (and who can) drink, which Ewald approves of, for he compares (Arab.) ḥasa (inf. ḥasy), to drink, to sip. But this Arab. verb is unheard of in Heb.; with right, Heiligst. adheres to the Arab., and at the same time the modern Heb. ḥass, חושׁ, sentire, according to which Schultens, quis sensibus indulserit. ממנו חוּץ is not = ולא ם, "except from him" (Hitz., Zckl.), but מן חוץ together mean "except;" cf. e.g., the Mishnic לאמנה וחוץ לם, beyond the time and place suitable for the thank-offering, חוץ מאחד מהם, excepting one of the same, Menachoth vii. 3, for which the old Heb. would in the first case use בלא, and in the second זולא or מן לבד (= Aram. מן בּר) (vid., p. 637). Accordingly ממנו חוץ means practer cum (Deum), i.e., unless he will it and make it possible, Old Heb. מבּ, Gen 41:44.
In enjoyment man is not free, it depends not on his own will: labour and the enjoyment of it do not stand in a necessary connection; but enjoyment is a gift which God imparts, according as He regards man as good, or as a sinner.
"For to a man who appears to Him as good, He gave wisdom, and knowledge, and joy; but to the sinner He gave the work of gathering and heaping up, in order to give it to him who appears to Him as good: this also is vain, and grasping after the wind;" viz., this striving after enjoyment in and of the labour - it is "vain," for the purpose and the issue lie far apart; and "striving after the wind," because that which is striven for, when one thinks that he has it, only too often cannot be grasped, but vanishes into nothing. If we refer this sentence to a collecting and heaping up (Hengst., Grtz, and others), then the author would here come back to what has already been said, and that too in the foregoing section; the reference also to the arbitrary distribution of the good things of life on the part of God (Knobel) is inadmissible, because "this, although it might be called הבל, could not also be called רוח רעות" (Hitz.); and perfectly inadmissible the reference to the gifts of wisdom, knowledge, and joy (Bullock), for referred to these the sentence gains a meaning only by introducing all kinds of things into the text which here lie out of the connection.
Besides, what is here said has indeed a deterministic character, and לפניו, especially if it is thought of in connection with ולח,
(Note: Written with segol under ט in P, Biblia Rabb., and elsewhere. Thus correctly after the Masora, according to which this form of the word has throughout the book segol under ,ט with the single exception of Ecc 7:26. Cf. Michol 124b, 140b.)
sounds as if to the good and the bad their objective worth and distinction should be adjudicated; but this is not the meaning of the author; the unreasonable thought that good or bad is what God's arbitrary ordinance and judgment stamp it to be, is wholly foreign to him. The "good before Him" is he who appears as good before God, and thus pleases Him, because he is truly good; and the חוטא, placed in contrast, as at Ecc 7:26, is the sinner, not merely such before God, but really such; here לפניו has a different signification than when joined with טוב: one who sins in the sight of God, i.e., without regarding Him (Luk 15:18, ἐνώπιον), serves sin. Regarding ענין, vid., under 23a: it denotes a business, negotium; but here such as one fatigues himself with, quod negotium facessit. Among the three charismata, joy stands last, because it is the turning-point of the series of thoughts: joy connected with wise, intelligent activity, is, like wisdom and intelligence themselves, a gift of God. The obj. of לתת (that He may give it) is the store gathered together by the sinner; the thought is the same as that at Pro 13:22; Pro 28:8; Job 27:16. The perfect we have so translated, for that which is constantly repeating itself is here designated by the general expression of a thing thus once for all ordained, and thus always continued.