יֵשׁ רָעָה אֲשֶׁר רָאִיתִי תַּחַת הַשָּׁמֶשׁ וְרַבָּה הִיא עַל־הָאָדָם׃ 6:1
Eccl. 6:1 There is an evil that I see under the sun, and it is strong upon humanity:
אִישׁ אֲשֶׁר יִתֶּן־לֹו הָאֱלֹהִים עֹשֶׁר וּנְכָסִים וְכָבֹוד וְאֵינֶנּוּ חָסֵר לְנַפְשֹׁו מִכֹּל אֲשֶׁר־יִתְאַוֶּה 6:2
וְלֹא־יַשְׁלִיטֶנּוּ הָאֱלֹהִים לֶאֱכֹל מִמֶּנּוּ כִּי אִישׁ נָכְרִי יֹאכֲלֶנּוּ זֶה הֶבֶל וָחֳלִי רָע הוּא׃
Eccl. 6:2 Anyone to whom God might give wealth and treasures and honor, so there is nothing lacking him for his soul out of all that he might desire, but God would not give him the power to eat from it; only another, a foreigner, would eat of it; this is vanity, and it is an evil sickness.
אִם־יֹולִיד אִישׁ מֵאָה וְשָׁנִים רַבֹּות יִחְיֶה וְרַב שֶׁיִּהְיוּ יְמֵי־שָׁנָיו וְנַפְשֹׁו לֹא־תִשְׂבַּע מִן־הַטֹּובָה 6:3
וְגַם־קְבוּרָה לֹא־הָיְתָה לֹּו אָמַרְתִּי טֹוב מִמֶּנּוּ הַנָּפֶל׃
Eccl. 6:3 Should a person beget a hundred, and live many years, so that the days of his years would be enough, yet his soul would not be satisfied from happiness, and there was even no burial for him, I say a miscarriage would have been better than him,
כִּי־בַהֶבֶל בָּא וּבַחֹשֶׁךְ יֵלֵךְ וּבַחֹשֶׁךְ שְׁמֹו יְכֻסֶּה׃ 6:4
Eccl. 6:4 because he comes in vain, and in darkness would depart, and his name would be hidden in obscurity;
גַּם־שֶׁמֶשׁ לֹא־רָאָה וְלֹא יָדָע נַחַת לָזֶה מִזֶּה׃ 6:5
Eccl. 6:5 indeed, he does not see or know the sun. More satisfaction for this than for the other!
Awful as the discourse in vss. 6:2 to this one sounds, it is a fairly realistic point of view. The author has said as much with fewer, less descriptive words before: Better to have not been born! See Eccl. 4:2 and 3. However, you should understand that the situations the scribe describes here are hypothetical. Certainly anyone experiencing the lives described might be better off not having been born. But I see the scribe’s conclusion as excessive emphasis on negative extremes. His depression maybe? Could he have been borderline bipolar?
וְאִלּוּ חָיָה אֶלֶף שָׁנִים פַּעֲמַיִם וְטֹובָה לֹא רָאָה הֲלֹא אֶל־מָקֹום אֶחָד הַכֹּל הֹולֵךְ׃ 6:6
Eccl. 6:6 And though he lived twice a thousand years, but did not see pleasure, does not everyone depart to one place?
כָּל־עֲמַל הָאָדָם לְפִיהוּ וְגַם־הַנֶּפֶשׁ לֹא תִמָּלֵא׃ 6:7
Eccl. 6:7 All the labor of the human being is for his mouth, and yet the appetite cannot be satisfied.
I see this observation as being too narrowly targeted. Is it really true that we all work only to feed ourselves? What of art? Worship? Love? Loyalty? Self-defense?
כִּי מַה־יֹּותֵר לֶחָכָם מִן־הַכְּסִיל מַה־לֶּעָנִי יֹודֵעַ לַהֲלֹךְ נֶגֶד הַחַיִּים׃ 6:8
Eccl. 6:8 Then what is the advantage for the wise one above that of the fool? What is understanding to the poor person going before the living?
These have to be rhetorical questions. The author himself values wisdom above almost anything else, although he admits it is vanity and vexation of spirit. See the next verse.
טֹוב מַרְאֵה עֵינַיִם מֵהֲלָךְ־נָפֶשׁ גַּם־זֶה הֶבֶל וּרְעוּת רוּחַ׃ 6:9
Eccl. 6:9 Better is the seeing of the eyes than the wandering of desire. This too is vanity and vexation of spirit.
I think this verse means that we should enjoy what we have rather than going after our (unattainable?) desires.
מַה־שֶּׁהָיָה כְּבָר נִקְרָא שְׁמֹו וְנֹודָע אֲשֶׁר־הוּא אָדָם וְלֹא־יוּכַל לָדִין עִם שֶׁהַתְקִיף מִמֶּנּוּ׃ 6:10
Eccl. 6:10 Whatever one is, long ago his name was called, and what he is would be known -- human -- that he would not be able to contend with the One Who is mightier than he.
כִּי יֵשׁ־דְּבָרִים הַרְבֵּה מַרְבִּים הָבֶל מַה־יֹּתֵר לָאָדָם׃ 6:11
Eccl. 6:11 Since there are plenty of things multiplying vanity, what is the advantage to a person?
כִּי מִי־יֹודֵעַ מַה־טֹּוב לָאָדָם בַּחַיִּים מִסְפַּר יְמֵי־חַיֵּי הֶבְלֹו וְיַעֲשֵׂם כַּצֵּל אֲשֶׁר מִי־יַגִּיד לָאָדָם מַה־יִּהְיֶה 6:12
אַחֲרָיו תַּחַת הַשָּׁמֶשׁ׃
Eccl. 6:12 For who is knowledgeable of what is best for any man while living the number of days of his vain life that he spends as a shadow, since who can declare to a person what would be after him under the sun?
I see this verse as containing a profound insight: Who can know what is best, or good, or even evil? If no one can see into the future, we cannot know the ultimate consequences of any action. And only that knowledge could determine the character -- good or evil -- of our behavior.
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