The great gift of God (Wis 7:15-7:16)

“May God grant me

To speak with judgment!

May I have thoughts worthy

Of what I have received.

He is the guide

Even of wisdom.

He is the corrector of the wise.

We are in his hands.

Our words are in his hands.

All our understanding is in his hands.

All our skill in crafts is in his hands.”

This author speaks about wisdom as a gift from God (δὲ δῴη ὁ Θεὸς) given to him, King Solomon, based on 1 Kings, chapter 5. God would grant him the gift to speak with judgment. He wanted to be worthy of this received gift of wisdom (σοφίας). God is the corrector of the wise. We and our words (οἱ λόγοι) are in his hands. All our understanding and skill are in his hands.

The futility of work (Eccl 4:4-4:6)

“Then I saw that all toil

 Comes from one person’s envy of another.

All skill in work

Comes from one person’s envy of another.

This also is vanity.

This is chasing after wind.

‘Fools fold their hands.

Fools consume their own flesh.

Better is a handful with quiet

Than two handfuls with toil

Chasing after wind.’”

Qoheleth saw that everyone worked with skill because of the envy that they had for others. This was useless, like chasing after the wind, never able to catch it. Fools fold their hands and devour themselves. It is much better to be quiet with a little bit of wealth than to toil with two handfuls. All work seems to be futile, like chasing after the unattainable wind.

The vanity of hard work (Eccl 2:18-2:23)

“I hated all my toil

In which I had toiled under the sun.

I must leave it to

Those who will come after me.

Who knows

Whether they will be a wise or foolish?

Yet they will be

Master of all for which I toiled.

I used my wisdom under the sun.

This also is vanity.

So I turned about.

I gave my heart up to despair

Concerning all the toil of

My labors under the sun.

Sometimes one who has toiled with wisdom,

Toiled with knowledge,

Toiled with skill,

Must leave all to be enjoyed by another

Who did not toil for it.

This also is vanity.

This is a great evil.

What do mortals get from all the toil?

What do mortals gat from the strain

With which they toil under the sun?

All their days are full of pain.

Their work is a vexation.

Even at night

Their minds do not rest.

This also is vanity.”

Now Qoheleth addressed the problem of hard work. What is its value? He had been a hard working wise man, but he would have to leave all his work to those who would come after him. There was no telling if they would be wise or foolish, but still they would be in charge of all his things. He then realized that with all his wisdom under the sun, everything that he had accomplished was in vain. He then fell into despair, much like Job. He would not enjoy the fruit of his hard work. He had worked with wisdom, knowledge, and skill, but he had to leave the results of his work to be enjoyed by those who would not work hard. This is the problem with parents who work hard to see their children succeed, only to have them dissipate their life away. This painful useless work is a great evil. He wanted to know if there was a reward for this hard work. This work was nothing but a painful troubling vexation that kept him from sleeping at night. Hard work was useless, in vain, vanity itself. This is a very strong indictment against hard work.

Elihu turns on the three wise men (Job 34:1-34:9)

“Then Elihu continued and said.

‘Hear my words!

You wise men!

Give ear to me!

You who know!

The ear tests words,

As the palate tastes food.

Let us choose what is right.

Let us determine among ourselves what is good.

Job has said.

‘I am innocent.

God has taken away my justification.

In spite of being right,

I am counted a liar.

My wound is incurable.

I am without transgression.’

Who is there like Job?

Who drinks up scoffing like water?

Who goes in company with evildoers?

Who walks with the wicked?

He has said.

‘It profits one nothing to take delight in God.’”

Elihu turned to the 3 friends of Job, the 3 wise comforters. Elihu wanted them to listen to what he had to say. Listening was a skill like tasting food. You had to acquire the skill of listening. He had asked what is right and good, a great philosophical question. Job claimed that he was innocent. God had taken away his rightful justification. Others have called him a liar, which is an incurable wound. He claimed that he had not done anything wrong. He has absorbed the mocking of others like he was drinking water. Who is in the company of the wicked and the evil doers? Job had said that there is no advantage in delighting in God. Somehow Elihu believes that he will settle this issue.

Judith praises General Holofernes (Jdt 11:8-11:8)

“We have heard of your wisdom and skill.

It is reported throughout the whole world

That you are the best in the whole kingdom,

The most informed,

The most astonishing in military strategy.”

Judith then turned to the general himself. She knew of his wisdom and skill. Everyone knew about it. He was the best in the whole kingdom. He was the most informed and the most astonishing military strategist. Flattery will get you everywhere.