Let us enjoy the good things that exist!
Make use of creation to the full
As in youth.
Let us take our fill of costly wine!
Let us take our fill of perfumes!
Let no flower of spring pass us by.
Let us crown ourselves
With rosebuds before they wither.
Let none of us fail to share in our revelry.
Everywhere let us leave signs of enjoyment.
Because this is our portion,
This is our lot.”
Once again, following the advice of Qoheleth in Ecclesiastes, we should enjoy life and not worry because all is vanity. These impious people want to enjoy all the existing good things, the use of all creation as they had done in their youth. They wanted to enjoy costly wine, perfumes, and the flowers of spring. They should be crowned with rosebuds as well as share in their revelry. They should enjoy themselves because this was their portion and lot in life.
“The ungodly reasoned unsoundly.
They say to themselves.
‘Our life is short.
Our life is sorrowful.
There is no remedy
When a life comes to an end.
No one has been known
To return from Hades.
We were born by mere chance.
Hereafter we shall be
As though we had never been.
The breath in our nostrils is smoke.
Reason is a spark kindled
By the beating of our hearts.
When it is extinguished,
The body will turn to ashes.
The spirit will dissolve
Like empty air.
Our name will be forgotten in time.
No one will remember our works.
Our life will pass away.
Like the traces of a cloud,
Our life will be scattered like mist
That is chased by the rays of the sun.
Our life will be overcome by its heat.
Our allotted time is
The passing of a shadow.
There is no return from our death.
Because it is sealed up.
No one turns back.’”
The ungodly or the impious sound a little like Qoheleth in Ecclesiastes with this emphasis on the vanity of life. This author calls their thinking unsound. We lead a short and sorrowful life (ὁ βίος ἡμῶν). There is no remedy when death comes. No one has ever returned from the grave. We were born by chance. When we are gone, it will be as if we never existed. Our breath is like smoke. Our reasoning stops when our heart stops, as our body (τὸ σῶμα) returns to ashes. Our spirit (τὸ πνεῦμα) also dissolves like empty air. Our names (τὸ ὄνομα ἡμῶν) will be forgotten as no one will remember our works (ἔργων ἡμῶν). We will pass away like a cloud or scattered mist that evaporates with heat. Our time on earth is like a passing shadow since there is no return from death. We are sealed up with death since no one returns.
“The sayings of the wise are like goads.
They are like nails firmly fixed.
These collected sayings were given
By one shepherd.
Beware of anything beyond these.
Many books have no end.
Much study is a weariness of the flesh.”
These wise sayings of Qoheleth were like goads that were sticks used to prod cattle and other animals to make them move. These goads were a stimulus to our mind. Thus we have the saying to goad them on. These collected sayings are like sharp nails. Here we have the allusion to the sayings of a shepherd, something that followers of Jesus will emphasis in the New Testament. Then this writer warns the readers about adding more proverbs. He warned that many books never have an end. He also remarked that a lot of study can make people weary. So watch out for too much time spent studying.
“Besides being wise,
Qoheleth also taught the people knowledge.
He weighed many proverbs.
He studied many proverbs.
He arranged many proverbs.
Qoheleth sought to find pleasing words.
He wrote words of truth plainly.”
Now we have a description, eulogy, or explanation of Qoheleth by another author in this epilogue. Qoheleth was wise. He taught the people knowledge. He studied and arranged many of the proverbs in this book. He weighted their value. But as we have seen most were useless vanity. He wanted to find pleasing words as he had a good literary Hebrew style. He spoke plain truth. There was nothing fancy about his work.
“Vanity of vanities,
All is vanity.”
This book ends where it began. All is vanity. Qoheleth repeats the opening lines of this book. We have come full cycle. The life and death of humans is useless, vanity. Everything is useless. This is a kind of cynicism and depression. However, there still was the hope of the human spirit or breath returning to God. Other than that, all the rest was must plain vapor, vanity of vanities.
While you are young.
Let your heart cheer you
In the days of your youth.
Follow the inclinations of your heart.
Follow the desire of your eyes.
But know that for all these things
God will bring you into judgment.
Banish anxiety from your mind.
Put away pain from your body.
Youth is vain.
The dawn of life is vanity.”
Now Qoheleth has an ode to youth. Young men should rejoice while they are young. They should be cheerful and happy. They should follow the inclinations and desires of their hearts and eyes. However, they should be aware that God will judge them. Despite that, they should banish an anxious mind or a painful body. After all, all of this is in vain. Youth and the dawn of life is useless vanity.
“Whoever observes the wind
Will not sow.
Whoever regards the clouds
Will not reap.
Just as you do not know
How the breath comes to the bones
In the mother’s womb,
So you do not know
The work of God
Who makes everything.
In the morning,
Sow your seed.
Do not let your hand be idle.
You do not know
Which will prosper,
This or that,
Whether both alike will be good.”
If you wait for the perfect wind or the perfect clouds, you will never sow or reap. You have no idea how breath comes to bones in a mother’s womb. So too you have no idea how crops grow. Qoheleth reminds us that God made everything. In the morning, you sow your seeds, but you should not be idle in the evening. You are not sure which seeds will prosper, this one, that one, or both, only God knows.
“Send out your bread upon the waters.
After many days
You will get it back.
Divide your means seven ways,
Or even eight.
You do not know
What disaster may happen on earth.
When clouds are full,
They empty rain on the earth.
Whether a tree falls to the south
Or to the north,
In the place where the tree falls,
There it will lie.”
Qoheleth reminds us of the uncertainty of life itself. He wanted people to put their bread on the waters. He wanted people to take chances because it might return to them with some kind of profit. You should not keep all your eggs in one basket. You should spread out your resources into 7 or 8 places. You never know when some disaster might hit. The clouds could send rain. When a tree falls, no matter in what direction, it will lie there where it fell.
“Through negligent sloth
The roof sinks in.
Through negligent indolence
The house leaks.
Feasts are made for laughter.
Wine gladdens life.
Money meets every need.
Do not curse the king,
Even in your thoughts.
Do not curse the rich,
Even in your bedchamber.
A bird of the air
May carry your voice.
Some winged creature tells the matter.”
Qoheleth reminds us that if we negligent and lazy, the roof will sink in and our house will leak. In an interesting comment on life, he says that feasts were made for laughter. Wine adds gladness to our lives, just as money meets every need, or more or less solves all problems. Then he reminded people to be careful about their words and thoughts. Do not even think about cursing the king. Don’t say anything about the rich even in your bedroom. The reason is that a little bird may carry you voice to someone who might not like what you are thinking or saying. The same is true for some winged creature who might reveal what you were saying and thinking.