The appetites of humans (Eccl 6:7-6:9)

“‘All the toil of man is for the mouth.

Yet the appetite is not satisfied.’

What advantage has the wise ones

Over the fools?

What do the poor have?

They know how to conduct themselves

Before the living.

Better is the sight of the eyes

Than the wandering of desire.

This also is vanity.

This is chasing after wind.”

Qoheleth believes that the reason that people work is so that they can have something to eat. However, the problem is that the appetite for food is never satisfied. What advantage does the wise person have over the foolish person? In fact, the poor people know how to conduct themselves. Then Qoheleth warns against wandering desires. After all, remember that this is all vanity and chasing after the wind that cannot be caught.

Lost wealth (Eccl 5:13-5:17)

“There is a grievous evil ill

That I have seen under the sun.

Riches were kept

By their owners

To their hurt.

Those riches were lost

In a bad venture.

Even though they were parents of children,

They have nothing

In their hands.

As they came

From their mother’s womb,

They shall go again.

They are naked

As they came.

They shall take nothing

For their toil

That they may carry away

With their hands.

This also is a grievous ill.

Just as they came,

So shall they go!

What gain do they have

From toiling for the wind?

Besides,

All their days

They eat in darkness,

In much vexation,

In much sickness,

In much resentment?”

Now Qoheleth tells the story of evil and illness here on earth. Some rich owners got together in a bad venture. The result was that they had nothing left for their children. Thus, they would be, as they left their mother’s womb, naked. They had nothing that they could carry away for all their labor. In other words, just as they came into this world with nothing, they were going to leave it the same way, with nothing. What did they gain from all their hard work? They were chasing the wind to no avail. Thus all their days, they would eat in darkness, be troubled, sick, and resentful.

The wise ones and the fools both die (Eccl 2:14-2:17)

“Yet I perceived

That one fate befalls all of them.

Then I said to myself.

‘What happens to the fool

Will happen to me also.

Why then have I been so very wise?’

I said to myself

That this also is vanity.

There is no enduring remembrance

Of the wise

Or of the fools.

In the days to come,

All will have been long forgotten.

How can the wise die just like fools?

So I hated life,

Because what is done under the sun

Was grievous to me.

All is vanity.

All is a chasing after wind.”

Having accepted the importance of wisdom, Qoheleth then realizes that he, the wise one, and the fools also will both die. They share the same fate. What then is the advantage to being a wise person? No one remembers the fools, but everyone will also forget about the wise ones. Even this wise life is in vain. Why do they both share the same result as dead forgotten people? Now he begins to hate life itself, as an element of despair like Job. He thought that this was injurious to him, since all was futile. He and the wise ones were just chasing after that unattainable wind.

The vanity of greatness (Eccl 2:9-2:11)

“So I became great.

I surpassed all

Who were before me in Jerusalem.

However,

My wisdom remained with me.

Whatever my eyes desired,

I did not keep from them.

I kept my heart from no pleasure.

My heart found pleasure in all my toil.

This was my reward for all my toil.

Then I considered

All that my hands had done.

I considered the toil

I had spent in doing it.

Again,

All was vanity.

It was like chasing after wind.

There was nothing to be gained under the sun.”

Qoheleth became great as he surpassed all those that had gone before him. Yet he still had his wisdom. There was no pleasure denied to him. Whatever his eyes or heart desired, he got. He was the great playboy of the ancient world. Everything was his because of his wealth. In fact, he felt that he deserved this because of his hard work, which is true about most rich people. They feel that they deserve all their wealth because of their hard work. They forget about all the other hard working people who never achieve great wealth because of their circumstances. Qoheleth considered how much time he had spent becoming rich and great. Then it all kicked in. This was useless and in vain. He was once again out there chasing a wind that could never be caught. Rarely does one ever get rich enough to feel that they have enough. Like the super rich, suddenly Qoheleth felt that he had enough, because nothing was to be gained under the sun. He practically had everything. He was the richest man in Jerusalem.

The wise Qoheleth (Eccl 1:15-1:18)

“‘What is crooked cannot be made straight.

What is lacking cannot be counted.’

I said to myself.

‘I have acquired great wisdom.            

My wisdom surpasses all

Who were over Jerusalem before me.

My mind has had great experience of wisdom.

My mind has had great experience of knowledge.

I applied my mind to know wisdom.

I applied my mind to know madness.

I applied my mind to know folly.

I perceived that this also is but a chasing after wind.

In much wisdom

Is much vexation.

Those who increases knowledge

Increase sorrow.’”

This book once again has the first person singular of Qoheleth speaking. He points out, quite correctly, that the crooked cannot be made straight. However, you can come close. On the other hand, there is no doubt that you cannot count something that is not there. Then Qoheleth gets quite personal. He explains that he has great wisdom and knowledge, greater than anyone whoever was in Jerusalem before him. He knows the difference between wisdom, madness, and folly. In a kind of reversal of the Proverbs, he seems to imply that that with all this wisdom, he is still like chasing after the wind. More problems and vexation come with wisdom. There is an increase in sorrow that comes with more knowledge. Wisdom is not the be all and end all like in Proverbs.

The foolish search (Eccl 1:13-1:14)

“I applied my mind

To seek

To search out

By wisdom

All that is done under heaven.

It is an unhappy business

That God has given to human beings

To be busy with.

I saw all the deeds

That are done under the sun.

See!

All is vanity.

All is a chasing after wind.”

Qoheleth applied his mind with wisdom. He wanted to seek and search out everything under the heavens. He wanted an encyclopedic mind, or as we would say a Wikipedia mind. However, he thought that this is an unhappy business that God allows humans to be involved with, the search for knowledge. Notice that throughout this work, God and not Yahweh is used. Qoheleth boasts that he has seen all the deeds that were done under the sun. His response is that it is all in vain. All is vanity, useless, or temporary. Once the wind came, it would be gone. Searching for knowledge was like chasing the wind. You would never catch it