Ecclesiastes 6:12
Parallel Verses
New International Version
For who knows what is good for a person in life, during the few and meaningless days they pass through like a shadow? Who can tell them what will happen under the sun after they are gone?

New Living Translation
In the few days of our meaningless lives, who knows how our days can best be spent? Our lives are like a shadow. Who can tell what will happen on this earth after we are gone?

English Standard Version
For who knows what is good for man while he lives the few days of his vain life, which he passes like a shadow? For who can tell man what will be after him under the sun?

New American Standard Bible
For who knows what is good for a man during his lifetime, during the few years of his futile life? He will spend them like a shadow. For who can tell a man what will be after him under the sun?

King James Bible
For who knoweth what is good for man in this life, all the days of his vain life which he spendeth as a shadow? for who can tell a man what shall be after him under the sun?

Holman Christian Standard Bible
For who knows what is good for man in life, in the few days of his futile life that he spends like a shadow? Who can tell man what will happen after him under the sun?

International Standard Version
Who knows what is best for people in this life, every day of their pointless lives that they pass through like a shadow? Who informs people on earth what will come along after them?

NET Bible
For no one knows what is best for a person during his life--during the few days of his fleeting life--for they pass away like a shadow. Nor can anyone tell him what the future will hold for him on earth.

GOD'S WORD® Translation
Who knows what may be good for mortals while they are alive, during the brief, pointless days they live? Mortals pass by like a shadow. Who will tell them about their future under the sun?

Jubilee Bible 2000
For who knows what is good for man in this life, all the days of the life of his vanity which he causes to be as a shadow? for who shall teach the man what shall be after him under the sun?

King James 2000 Bible
For who knows what is good for man in this life, all the days of his vain life which he spends like a shadow? for who can tell a man what shall be after him under the sun?

American King James Version
For who knows what is good for man in this life, all the days of his vain life which he spends as a shadow? for who can tell a man what shall be after him under the sun?

American Standard Version
For who knoweth what is good for man in his life, all the days of his vain life which he spendeth as a shadow? for who can tell a man what shall be after him under the sun?

Douay-Rheims Bible
What needeth a man to seek things that are above him, whereas he knoweth not what is profitable for him in his life, in all the days of his pilgrimage, and the time that passeth like a shadow? Or who can tell him what shall be after him under the sun?

Darby Bible Translation
For who knoweth what is good for man in life, all the days of his vain life which he spendeth as a shadow? for who can tell man what shall be after him under the sun?

English Revised Version
For who knoweth what is good for man in his life, all the days of his vain life which he spendeth as a shadow? for who can tell a man what shall be after him under the sun?

Webster's Bible Translation
For who knoweth what is good for man in this life, all the days of his vain life which he spendeth as a shadow? for who can tell a man what shall be after him under the sun?

World English Bible
For who knows what is good for man in life, all the days of his vain life which he spends like a shadow? For who can tell a man what will be after him under the sun?

Young's Literal Translation
For who knoweth what is good for a man in life, the number of the days of the life of his vanity, and he maketh them as a shadow? for who declareth to man what is after him under the sun?
Parallel Commentaries
Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary

6:7-12 A little will serve to sustain us comfortably, and a great deal can do no more. The desires of the soul find nothing in the wealth of the world to give satisfaction. The poor man has comfort as well as the richest, and is under no real disadvantage. We cannot say, Better is the sight of the eyes than the resting of the soul in God; for it is better to live by faith in things to come, than to live by sense, which dwells only upon present things. Our lot is appointed. We have what pleases God, and let that please us. The greatest possessions and honours cannot set us above the common events of human life. Seeing that the things men pursue on earth increase vanities, what is man the better for his worldly devices? Our life upon earth is to be reckoned by days. It is fleeting and uncertain, and with little in it to be fond of, or to be depended on. Let us return to God, trust in his mercy through Jesus Christ, and submit to his will. Then soon shall we glide through this vexatious world, and find ourselves in that happy place, where there is fulness of joy and pleasures for evermore.

Pulpit Commentary

Verse 12. - This verse in the Greek and Latin versions, as in some copies of the Hebrew, is divorced from its natural place, as the conclusion of the paragraph, vers. 10, 11, and is arranged as the commencement of Ecclesiastes 7. Plainly, the Divine prescience of vers. 10, 11 is closely connected with the question of man's ultimate good and his ignorance of the future, enunciated in this verse. For who knoweth what is good for man in this life? Such discussions are profitless, for man knows not what is his real good - whether pleasure, apathy, or virtue, as philosophers would put it. To decide such questions he must be able to foresee results, which is denied him. The interrogative "Who knows?" is equivalent to an emphatic negative, as Ecclesiastes 3:21, and is a common rhetorical form which surely need not be attributed to Pyrrhonism (Plumptre). All the days of his vain life which he spendeth as a shadow. These words amplify and explain the term "in life" of the preceding clause. They may be rendered literally, During the number of the days of the life (Ecclesiastes 5:18) of his vanity, and he passeth them as a shadow. A life of vanity is one that yields no good result, full of empty aims, unsatisfied wishes, unfulfilled purposes. It is the man who is here compared to the shadow, not his life. So Job 14:2, "He fleeth as a shadow, and continueth not," He soon passes away, and leaves no trace behind him. The thought is common. "Ye [Revised Version] are a vapor," says St. James (James 4:14), "that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away." Plumptre well quotes Soph., 'Ajax,' 125 -

 ῾ορῶ γὰρ ἡμᾶς οὐδὲν ὄντας ἄλλο πλὴν
Αἴδωλ ὅσοιπερ ζῶμεν η} κούφην σκιάν

"In this I see that we, all we that live,
Are but vain shadows, unsubstantial dreams."
To which we may add Pind., 'Pyth.,' 8:95 -

Ἐπάμεροι τί δέ τις τίδ οὔ τις σκιᾶς ὄναρ Ἄνθρωπος.

"Ye creatures of a day!
What is the great man what the poor?
Naught but a shadowy dream."
The comparison of man's life to a shadow or vapor is equally general (comp. Ecclesiastes 8:13; 1 Chronicles 29:15; Psalm 102:11; Psalm 144:4; Wisd. 2:5; James 4:14). The verb used for "spendeth" is asah, "to do or make," which recalls the Greek phrase, χρόνον ποιεῖν (Acts 15:33, etc.; Demosth., 'De Fals. Leg.,' p. 392, 17), and the Latin, dies facere (Cic., 'Ad Attic.,' 5:20. 1); but we need not trace Greek influence in the employment of the expression here. For who can tell a man what shall be after him under the sun? This does not refer to the life beyond the grave, but to the future in the present world, as the words, "under the sun," imply (comp. Ecclesiastes 3:22; Ecclesiastes 7:14). To know what is best for him, to arrange his present life according to his own wishes and plans, to be able to depend upon his own counsel for all the actions and designs which he undertakes, man should know what is to be after him, what result his labors will have, who and what kind of heir will inherit his property, whether he will leave children to carry on his name, and other facts of the like nature; but as this is all hidden from him, his duty and his happiness is to acquiesce in the Divine government, to enjoy with moderation the goods of life, and to be content with the modified satisfaction which is accorded to him by Divine beneficence.





Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

For who knoweth what is good for man in this life?.... To be in a higher or lower station of life, to live in grandeur or meanness, to be rich or poor, learned or unlearned; since that which seems most agreeable to human nature is at, ended with so much vanity, the occasion of so much sin, and often issues in ruin and misery, that no man knows what is best for him; and therefore it is the wisest way to be content with what a man has, and enjoy it in the most comfortable manner, and use it to the best ends and purposes he can. The Targum is,

"for who is he that knows what is good for a man in this world, but to study in the law, which is the life of the world?''

so the Midrash,

all the days of his vain life, which he spendeth as a shadow? or "the number of the days of vain life, which he makes as a shadow" (d); that is, which God makes as a "shadow", as Cocceius observes; makes to pass away swiftly: this is a description of the vanity, brevity, and uncertainty of human life; it consists of days, rather than of months and years; and those such as are easily numbered, and which pass away suddenly and swiftly, like a shadow that has no substance and reality in it, and leaves nothing behind it; or like a bird that flies away, as Jarchi, and is seen no more; such is the life of man, a most vain life, vanity itself; so it may be rendered, "the number of the days of the life of his vanity" (e); since therefore he has so short a time to enjoy anything in, it is hard to say what is best for him to have, and the rather since he is quite ignorant of what is to come;

for who can tell a man what shall be after him under the sun? he does not know himself, nor can any man inform him, what will become of his wealth and riches after his death, which he has got together; who shall enjoy them, and how long and what use will be made of them, either to their own good, or the good of others.

(d) "et facit eos at umbram", Cocceius. (e) "numero dierum vitae", ("vitarum", Montanus), "vanitatis suae", Pagninus, Rambachius.

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

12. For who knoweth, &c.—The ungodly know not what is really "good" during life, nor "what shall be after them," that is, what will be the event of their undertakings (Ec 3:22; 8:7). The godly might be tempted to "contend with God" (Ec 6:10) as to His dispensations; but they cannot fully know the wise purposes served by them now and hereafter. Their sufferings from the oppressors are more really good for them than cloudless prosperity; sinners are being allowed to fill up their measure of guilt. Retribution in part vindicates God's ways even now. The judgment shall make all clear. In Ec 7:1-29, he states what is good, in answer to this verse.

Ecclesiastes 6:12 Additional Commentaries
Context
The Futility of Life
11For there are many words which increase futility. What then is the advantage to a man? 12For who knows what is good for a man during his lifetime, during the few years of his futile life? He will spend them like a shadow. For who can tell a man what will be after him under the sun?
Cross References
Psalm 39:5
You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Everyone is but a breath, even those who seem secure.

Ecclesiastes 2:3
I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly--my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was good for people to do under the heavens during the few days of their lives.

Ecclesiastes 2:24
A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God,

Ecclesiastes 3:22
So I saw that there is nothing better for a person than to enjoy their work, because that is their lot. For who can bring them to see what will happen after them?

Ecclesiastes 6:11
The more the words, the less the meaning, and how does that profit anyone?

Ecclesiastes 7:15
In this meaningless life of mine I have seen both of these: the righteous perishing in their righteousness, and the wicked living long in their wickedness.

Ecclesiastes 8:7
Since no one knows the future, who can tell someone else what is to come?

Ecclesiastes 8:13
Yet because the wicked do not fear God, it will not go well with them, and their days will not lengthen like a shadow.

Ecclesiastes 9:9
Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun--all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 10:14
and fools multiply words. No one knows what is coming-- who can tell someone else what will happen after them?
Treasury of Scripture

For who knows what is good for man in this life, all the days of his vain life which he spends as a shadow? for who can tell a man what shall be after him under the sun?

who knoweth

Ecclesiastes 2:3 I sought in my heart to give myself to wine, yet acquainting my heart …

Ecclesiastes 12:13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep …

Psalm 4:6 There be many that say, Who will show us any good? LORD, lift you …

Psalm 16:5 The LORD is the portion of my inheritance and of my cup: you maintain my lot.

Psalm 17:15 As for me, I will behold your face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, …

Psalm 47:4 He shall choose our inheritance for us, the excellency of Jacob whom …

Lamentations 3:24-27 The LORD is my portion, said my soul; therefore will I hope in him…

Micah 6:8 He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require …

the days of his vain life

Ecclesiastes 8:13 But it shall not be well with the wicked, neither shall he prolong …

Ecclesiastes 9:6 Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished…

1 Chronicles 29:15 For we are strangers before you, and sojourners, as were all our …

Job 8:9 (For we are but of yesterday, and know nothing, because our days …

Job 14:2 He comes forth like a flower, and is cut down: he flees also as a …

Psalm 39:5,6 Behold, you have made my days as an handbreadth; and my age is as …

Psalm 89:47 Remember how short my time is: why have you made all men in vain?

Psalm 90:10-12 The days of our years are three score years and ten; and if by reason …

Psalm 102:11 My days are like a shadow that declines; and I am withered like grass.

Psalm 109:23 I am gone like the shadow when it declines: I am tossed up and down …

Psalm 144:4 Man is like to vanity: his days are as a shadow that passes away.

James 4:14 Whereas you know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your …

for who can

Ecclesiastes 3:22 Why I perceive that there is nothing better, than that a man should …

Ecclesiastes 8:7 For he knows not that which shall be: for who can tell him when it shall be?

Job 14:21 His sons come to honor, and he knows it not; and they are brought …

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