Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary
Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil."Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and to go to hear is better than that fools give a sacrifice; for the want of knowledge leads them to do evil." The "house of God" is like the "house of Jahve," 2 Samuel 12:20; Isaiah 37:1, the temple; אל, altogether like אל־מ־אל, Psalm 73:17. The Chethı̂b רגליך is admissible, for elsewhere also this plur. ("thy feet") occurs in a moral connection and with a spiritual reference, e.g., Psalm 119:59; but more frequently, however, the comprehensive sing. occurs. Psalm 119:105; Proverbs 1:15; Proverbs 4:26., and the Kerı̂ thus follows the right note. The correct understanding of what follows depends on רע ... כּי־. Interpreters have here adopted all manner of impossible views. Hitzig's translation: "for they know not how to be sorrowful," has even found in Stuart at least one imitator; but עשׂות רע would, as the contrast of 'asoth tov, Ecclesiastes 3:12, mean nothing else than, "to do that which is unpleasant, disagreeable, bad," like 'asah ra'ah, 2 Samuel 12:18. Gesen., Ewald (336b), Elster, Heiligst., Burger, Zckl., Dale, and Bullock translate: "they know not that they do evil;" but for such a rendering the words ought to have been עשׂותם רע (cf. Jeremiah 15:15); the only example for the translation of לעשׂות after the manner of the acc. c. inf. equals se facere malum - viz. at 1 Kings 19:4 - is incongruous, for למות does not here mean se mori, but ut moreretur. Yet more incorrect is the translation of Jerome, which is followed by Luther: nesciunt quid faciant mali. It lies near, as at Ecclesiastes 2:24 so also here, to suppose an injury done to the text. Aben Ezra introduced רק before לעשׂ, but Koheleth never uses this limiting particle; we would have to write כי אם־לעשׂות, after Ezra 3:12; Ezra 8:15. Anything thus attained, however, is not worth the violent means thus used; for the ratifying clause is not ratifying, and also in itself, affirmed of the כסילים, who, however, are not the same as the resha'im and the hattaim, is inappropriate. Rather it might be said: they know not to do good (thus the Syr.); or: they know not whether it be good or bad to do, i.e., they have no moral feeling, and act not from moral motives (so the Targ.). Not less violent than this remodelling of the text is the expedient of Herzberg, Philippson, and Ginsburg, who from לשׁמע derive the subject-conception of the obedient (השּׂמעים): "For those understand not at all to do evil;" the subj. ought to have been expressed if it must be something different from the immediately preceding כסילים. We may thus render enam yod'im, after Psalm 82:5; Isaiah 56:10, as complete in itself: they (the fools) are devoid of knowledge to do evil equals so that they do evil; i.e., want of knowledge brings them to this, that they do evil. Similarly also Knobel: they concern themselves not, - are unconcerned (viz., about the right mode of worshipping God), - so that they do evil, with the correct remark that the consequence of their perverse conduct is here represented as their intention. But ידע לא, absol., does not mean to be unconcerned (wanton), but to be without knowledge. Rashbam, in substance correctly: they are predisposed by their ignorance to do evil; and thus also Hahn; Mendelssohn translates directly: "they sin because they are ignorant." If this interpretation is correct, then for לשׁמע it follows that it does not mean "to obey" (thus e.g., Zckler), which in general it never means without some words being added to it (cf. on the contrary, 1 Samuel 15:22), but "to hear," - viz. the word of God, which is to be heard in the house of God, - whereby, it is true, a hearing is meant which leads to obedience.
In the word הורות, priests are not perhaps thought of, although the comparison of Ecclesiastes 5:5 (המלאך) with Malachi 2:7 makes it certainly natural; priestly instruction limited itself to information regarding the performance of the law already given in Scripture, Leviticus 10:11; Deuteronomy 33:9., and to deciding on questions arising in the region of legal praxis, Deuteronomy 24:8; Haggai 2:11. The priesthood did not belong to the teaching class in the sense of preaching. Preaching was never a part of the temple cultus, but, for the first time, after the exile became a part of the synagogue worship. The preachers under the O.T. were the prophets, - preachers by a supernatural divine call, and by the immediate impulse of the Spirit; we know from the Book of Jeremiah that they sometimes went into the temple, or there caused their books of prophecy to be read; yet the author, by the word לשׁמע of the foregoing proverb, scarcely thinks of them. But apart from the teaching of the priests, which referred to the realization of the letter of the law, and the teaching of the prophets to the realization of the spirit of the law, the word formed an essential part of the sacred worship of the temple: the Tefilla, the Beracha, the singing of psalms, and certainly, at the time of Koheleth, the reading of certain sections of the Bible. When thou goest to the house of God, says Koheleth, take heed to thy step, well reflecting whither thou goest and how thou hast there to appear; and (with this ו he connects with this first nota bene a second) drawing near to hear exceeds the sacrifice-offering of fools, for they are ignorant (just because they hear not), which leads to this result, that they do evil. מן, prae, expresses also, without an adj., precedence in number, Isaiah 10:10, or activity, Isaiah 9:17, or worth, Ezekiel 15:2. קרוב is inf. absol. Bttcher seeks to subordinate it as such to שׁמר: take heed to thy foot ... and to the coming near to hear more than to ... . But these obj. to שמר would be incongruous, and מתת וגו clumsy and even distorted in expression; it ought rather to be מתּתּך כּכסי־לים זבח. As the inf. absol. can take the place of the obj., Isaiah 7:15; Isaiah 42:24; Lamentations 3:45, so also the place of the subj. (Ewald, 240a), although Proverbs 25:27 is a doubtful example of this. That the use of the inf. absol. has a wide application with the author of this book, we have already seen under Ecclesiastes 4:2. Regarding the sequence of ideas in זבח ... מתּת (first the subj., then the obj.), vid., Gesen. 133. 3, and cf. above at Ecclesiastes 3:18. זבח (זבחים), along with its general signification comprehending all animal sacrifices, according to which the altar bears the name מזבּח, early acquired also a more special signification: it denotes, in contradistinction to עולה, such sacrifices as are only partly laid on the altar, and for the most part are devoted to a sacrificial festival, Exodus 18:12 (cf. Exodus 12:27), the so-called shelamim, or also zivhhe shelamim, Proverbs 7:14. The expression זבח נתן makes it probable that here, particularly, is intended the festival (1 Kings 1:41) connected with this kind of sacrifice, and easily degenerating to worldly merriment (vid., under Proverbs 7:14); for the more common word for תּת would have been הקריב or שׁחוט; in תּת it seems to be indicated that it means not only to present something to God, but also to give at the same time something to man. The most recent canonical Chokma-book agrees with Proverbs 21:3 in this depreciation of sacrifice. But the Chokma does not in this stand alone. The great word of Samuel, 1 Samuel 15:22., that self-denying obedience to God is better than all sacrifices, echoes through the whole of the Psalms. And the prophets go to the utmost in depreciating the sacrificial cultus.
The second rule relates to prayer.
Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few."Be not hasty with thy mouth, and let not thy heart hasten to speak a word before God: for God is in heaven, and thou art upon earth; therefore let thy words be few. For by much business cometh dreaming, and by much talk the noise of fools." As we say in German: auf Flgeln fliegen [to flee on wings], auf Einem Auge nicht sehen [not to see with one eye], auf der Flte blasen [to blow on the flute], so in Heb. we say that one slandereth with (auf) his tongue (Psalm 15:3), or, as here, that he hasteth with his mouth, i.e., is forward with his mouth, inasmuch as the word goes before the thought. It is the same usage as when the post-bibl. Heb., in contradistinction to התורה שׁבּכתב, the law given in the Scripture, calls the oral law הת שׁבּעל־פּה, i.e., the law mediated על־פה, oraliter equals oralis traditio (Shabbath 31a; cf. Gittin 60b). The instrument and means is here regarded as the substratum of the action - as that which this lays as a foundation. The phrase: "to take on the lips," Psalm 16:4, which needs no explanation, is different. Regarding בּהל, festinare, which is, like מהר, the intens. of Kal, vid., once it occurs quite like our "sich beeilen" to hasten, with reflex. accus. suff., 2 Chronicles 35:21. Man, when he prays, should not give the reins to his tongue, and multiply words as one begins and repeats over a form which he has learnt, knowing certainly that it is God of whom and to whom he speaks, but without being conscious that God is an infinitely exalted Being, to whom one may not carelessly approach without collecting his thoughts, and irreverently, without lifting up his soul. As the heavens, God's throne, are exalted above the earth, the dwelling-place of man, so exalted is the heavenly God above earthly man, standing far beneath him; therefore ought the words of a man before God to be few, - few, well-chosen reverential words, in which one expresses his whole soul. The older language forms no plur. from the subst. מעט (fewness) used as an adv.; but the more recent treats it as an adj., and forms from it the plur. מעטּים (here and in Psalm 109:8, which bears the superscription le-david, but has the marks of Jeremiah's style); the post-bibl. places in the room of the apparent adj. the particip. adj. מועט with the plur. מוּעטים (מוּעטין), e.g., Berachoth 61a: "always let the words of a man before the Holy One (blessed be His name!) be few" (מוע). Few ought the words to be; for where they are many, it is not without folly. This is what is to be understood, Ecclesiastes 5:2, by the comparison; the two parts of the verse stand here in closer mutual relation than Ecclesiastes 7:1, - the proverb is not merely synthetical, but, like Job 5:7, parabolical. The ב is both times that of the cause. The dream happens, or, as we say, dreams happen ענין בּרב; not: by much labour; for labour in itself, as the expenditure of strength making one weary, has as its consequence, Ecclesiastes 5:11, sweet sleep undisturbed by dreams; but: by much self-vexation in a man's striving after high and remote ends beyond what is possible (Targ., in manifold project-making); the care of such a man transplants itself from the waking to the sleeping life, it if does not wholly deprive him of sleep, Ecclesiastes 5:11, Ecclesiastes 8:16, - all kinds of images of the labours of the day, and fleeting phantoms and terrifying pictures hover before his mind. And as dreams of such a nature appear when a man wearies himself inwardly as well as outwardly by the labours of the day, so, with the same inward necessity, where many words are spoken folly makes its appearance. Hitzig renders כסיל, in the connection קול כּ, as adj.; but, like אויל (which forms an adj. ěvīlī), כסיל is always a subst., or, more correctly, it is a name occurring always only of a living being, never of a thing. There is sound without any solid content, mere blustering bawling without sense and intelligence. The talking of a fool is in itself of this kind (Ecclesiastes 10:14); but if one who is not just a fool falls into much talk, it is scarcely possible but that in this flow of words empty bombast should appear.
Another rule regarding the worship of God refers to vowing.
For a dream cometh through the multitude of business; and a fool's voice is known by multitude of words.
When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed."When thou hast made a vow to God, delay not to fulfil it; for there is no pleasure in fools: that which thou hast vowed fulfil. Better that thou vowest not, than that thou vowest and fulfillest not. Let not thy mouth bring thy body into punishment; and say not before the messenger of God that it was precipitation: why shall God be angry at thy talk, and destroy the work of thy hands? For in many dreams and words there are also many vanities: much rather fear God!" If they abstained, after Shabbath 30b, from treating the Book of Koheleth as apocryphal, because it begins with תורה דברי (cf. at Ecclesiastes 1:3) and closes in the same way, and hence warrants the conclusion that that which lies between will also be תורה דברי, this is in a special manner true of the passage before us regarding the vow which, in thought and expression, is the echo of Deuteronomy 23:22-24. Instead of kaashěr tiddor, we find there the words ki tiddor; instead of lelohim ( equals lěělohim, always only of the one true God), there we have lahovah ělohěcha; and instead of al-teahher, there lo teahher. There the reason is: "for the Lord thy God will surely require it of thee; and it would be sin in thee;" here: for there is no pleasure in fools, i.e., it is not possible that any one, not to speak of God, could have a particular inclination toward fools, who speak in vain, and make promises in which their heart is not, and which they do not keep. Whatever thou vowest, continues Koheleth, fulfil it; it is better (Ewald, 336a) that thou vowest not, than to vow and not to pay; for which the Tra says: "If thou shalt forbear to vow, it shall be no sin in thee" (Deuteronomy 23:22). נדר, which, according to the stem-word, denotes first the vow of consecration of setting apart (cogn. Arab. nadar, to separate, נזר, whence נזיר), the so-called אסר [vid. Numbers 30:3], is here a vow in its widest sense; the author, however, may have had, as there, the law (cf. Ecclesiastes 5:2-4), especially shalme něděr, in view, i.e., such peace-offerings as the law does not enjoin, but which the offerer promises (cogn. with the shalme nedavah, i.e., such as rest on free-will, but not on any obligation arising from a previous promise) from his own inclination, for the event that God may do this or that for him. The verb שׁלּם is not, however, related to this name for sacrifices, as חטּא is to חטּאת, but denotes the fulfilling or discharge as a performance fully accordant with duty. To the expression חטא ... היה (twice occurring in the passage of Deut. referred to above) there is added the warning: let not thy mouth bring thy body into sin. The verb nathan, with Lamed and the inf. following, signifies to allow, to permit, Genesis 20:6; Judges 1:34; Job 31:30. The inf. is with equal right translated: not to bring into punishment; for חטא - the syncop. Hiph. of which, according to an old, and, in the Pentateuch, favourite form, is לחטיא - signifies to sin, and also (e.g., Genesis 39:9; cf. the play on the word, Hosea 8:11) to expiate sin; sin-burdened and guilty, or liable to punishment, mean the same thing. Incorrectly, Ginsburg, Zck., and others: "Do not suffer thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin;" for (1) the formula: "the flesh sins," is not in accordance with the formation of O.T. ideas; the N.T., it is true, uses the expression σὰρξ ἁμαρτίας, Romans 8:3, but not ἁμαρτάνουσα, that which sins is not the flesh, but the will determined by the flesh, or by fleshly lust; (2) the mouth here is not merely that which leads to sin, but the person who sins through thoughtless haste, - who, by his haste, brings sin upon his flesh, for this suffers, for the breach of vow, by penalties inflicted by God; the mouth is, like the eye and the hand, a member of the ὃλον τὸ σῶμα (Matthew 5:24.), which is here called בשׂר; the whole man in its sensitive nature (opp. לב, Ecclesiastes 2:3; Ecclesiastes 11:10; Proverbs 14:30) has to suffer chastisement on account of that which the mouth hath spoken. Gesen. compares this passage, correctly, with Deuteronomy 24:4, for the meaning peccati reum facere; Isaiah 29:21 is also similar.
The further warning refers to the lessening of the sin of a rash vow unfulfilled as an unintentional, easily expiable offence: "and say not before the messenger of God that it was a שׁגגה, a sin of weakness." Without doubt hammǎlāch is an official byname of a priest, and that such as was in common use at the time of the author. But as for the rest, it is not easy to make the matter of the warning clear. That it is not easy, may be concluded from this, that with Jewish interpreters it lies remote to think of a priest in the word hammǎlāch. By this word the Targ. understands the angel to whom the execution of the sentence of punishment shall be committed on the day of judgment; Aben Ezra: the angel who writes down all the words of a man; similarly Jerome, after his Jewish teacher. Under this passage Ginsburg has an entire excursus regarding the angels. The lxx and Syr. translate "before God," as if the words of the text were אל נגד, Psalm 138:1, or as if hammalach could of itself mean God, as presenting Himself in history. Supposing that hammalach is the official name of a man, and that of a priest, we appear to be under the necessity of imagining that he who is charged with the obligation of a vow turns to the priest with the desire that he would release him from it, and thus dissolve (bibl. הפיר, Mishnic התּיר) the vow. But there is no evidence that the priests had the power of releasing from vows. Individual cases in which a husband can dissolve the vow of his wife, and a father the vow of his daughter, are enumerated in Numbers 30; besides, in the traditional law, we find the sentence: "A vow, which one who makes it repents of, can be dissolved by a learned man (חכם), or, where none is present, by three laymen," Bechoroth 36b; the matter cannot be settled by any middle person (שׁליח), but he who has taken the vow (הנודר) must appear personally, Jore deah c. 228, 16. Of the priest as such nothing is said here. Therefore the passage cannot at all be traditionally understood of an official dissolution of an oath. Where the Talm. applies it juristically, Shabbath 32b, etc., Rashi explains hammalach by gizbar shěl-haqdesh, i.e., treasurer of the revenues of the sanctuary; and in the Comm. to Koheleth he supposes that some one has publicly resolved on an act of charity (צדקה), i.e., has determined it with himself, and that now the representative of the congregation (שׁליח) comes to demand it. But that is altogether fanciful. If we proceed on the idea that liphne hammalach is of the same meaning as liphne hakkohen, Leviticus 27:8, Leviticus 27:11; Numbers 9:6; Numbers 27:2, etc., we have then to derive the figure from such passages relating to the law of sacrifice as Numbers 15:22-26, from which the words ki shegagah hi (Numbers 15:25) originate. We have to suppose that he who has made a vow, and has not kept it, comes to terms with God with an easier and less costly offering, since in the confession (ודּוּי) which he makes before the priest he explains that the vow was a shegagah, a declaration that inconsiderately escaped him. The author, in giving it to be understood that under these circumstances the offering of the sacrifice is just the direct contrary of a good work, calls to the conscience of the inconsiderate נודר: why should God be angry on account of thy voice with which thou dost excuse thy sins of omission, and destroy (vid., regarding חבּל under Isaiah 10:27) the work of thy hands (vid., under Psalm 90:17), for He destroys what thou hast done, and causes to fail what thou purposest? The question with lammah resembles those in Ezra 4:22; Ezra 7:23, and is of the same kind as at Ecclesiastes 7:16.; it leads us to consider what a mad self-destruction that would be (Jeremiah 44:7, cf. under Isaiah 1:5).
The reason for the foregoing admonition now following places the inconsiderate vow under the general rubric of inconsiderate words. We cannot succeed in interpreting Ecclesiastes 5:6  (in so far as we do not supply, after the lxx and Syr. with the Targ.: ne credas; or better, with Ginsburg, היא equals it is) without taking one of the vavs in the sense of "also." That the Heb. vav, like the Greek καί, the Lat. et, may have this comparative or intensifying sense rising above that which is purely copulative, is seen from e.g., Numbers 9:14, cf. also Joshua 14:11. In many cases, it is true, we are not under the necessity of translating vav by "also;" but since the "and" here does not merely externally connect, but expresses correlation of things homogeneous, an "also" or a similar particle involuntarily substitutes itself for the "and," e.g., Genesis 17:20 (Jerome): super Ismael quoque; Exodus 29:8 : filios quoque; Deuteronomy 1:32 : et nec sic quidem credidistis; Deuteronomy 9:8 : nam et in Horeb; cf. Joshua 15:19; 1 Samuel 25:43; 2 Samuel 19:25; 1 Kings 2:22; 1 Kings 11:26; Isaiah 49:6, "I have also given to thee." But there are also passages in which it cannot be otherwise translated than by "also." We do not reckon among these Psalm 31:12, where we do not translate "also my neighbours," and Amos 4:10, where the words are to be translated, "and that in your nostrils." On the contrary, Isaiah 32:7 is scarcely otherwise to be translated than "also when the poor maketh good his right," like 2 Samuel 1:23, "also in their death they are not divided." In 2 Chronicles 27:5, in like manner, the two vavs are scarcely correlative, but we have, with Keil, to translate, "also in the second and third year." And in Hosea 8:6, והוּא, at least according to the punctuation, signifies "also it," as Jerome translates: ex Israele et ipse est. According to the interpunction of the passage before us, וּד הר is the pred., and thus, with the Venet., is to be translated: "For in many dreams and vanities there are also many words." We could at all events render the vav, as also at Ecclesiastes 10:11; Exodus 16:6, as vav apod.; but וגו בּרב has not the character of a virtual antecedent, - the meaning of the expression remains as for the rest the same; but Hitzig's objection is of force against it (as also against Ewald's disposition of the words, like the of Symmachus, Jerome, and Luther: "for where there are many dreams, there are also vanities, and many words"), that it does not accord with the connection, which certainly in the first place requires a reason referable to inconsiderate talk, and that the second half is, in fact, erroneous, for between dreams and many words there exists no necessary inward mutual relation. Hitzig, as Knobel before him, seeks to help this, for he explains: "for in many dreams are also vanities, i.e., things from which nothing comes, and (the like) in many words." But not only is this assumed carrying forward of the ב doubtful, but the principal thing would be made a secondary matter, and would drag heavily. The relation in _Ecc 5:2 is different where vav is that of comparison, and that which is compared follows the comparison. Apparently the text (although the lxx had it before them, as it is before us) has undergone dislocation, and is thus to be arranged: כי ברב חלמת ודברים הרבה והבלים: for in many dreams and many words there are also vanities, i.e., illusions by which one deceives himself and others. Thus also Bullock renders, but without assigning a reason for it. That dreams are named first, arises from a reference back to Ecclesiastes 5:2, according to which they are the images of what a man is externally and mentally busied and engaged with. But the principal stress lies on ודברים הרבה, to which also the too rash, inconsiderate vows belong. The pred. והבלים, however, connects itself with "vanity of vanities," which is Koheleth's final judgment regarding all that is earthly. The כי following connects itself with the thought lying in 6a, that much talk, like being much given to dreams, ought to be avoided: it ought not to be; much rather (imo, Symm. ἀλλά) fear God, Him before whom one should say nothing, but that which contains in it the whole heart.
Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.
Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel, that it was an error: wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work of thine hands?
For in the multitude of dreams and many words there are also divers vanities: but fear thou God.
If thou seest the oppression of the poor, and violent perverting of judgment and justice in a province, marvel not at the matter: for he that is higher than the highest regardeth; and there be higher than they."If thou seest the oppression of the poor and the robbery of right and of justice in the state, marvel not at the matter: for one higher watches over him who is high; and others are high above both." Like rash, mishpat vatsěděq are also the gen. of the obj.; "robbery of the right and of justice" is an expression not found elsewhere, but not on that account, as Grtz supposes, impossible: mishpat is right, rectitude, and conformity to law; and ]], judicial administration, or also social deportment according to these norms; גּזל, a wicked, shameless depriving of a just claim, and withholding of the showing of right which is due. If one gets a sight of such things as these in a medinah, i.e., in a territorial district under a common government, he ought not to wonder at the matter.
תּמהּ means to be startled, astonished, and, in the sense of "to wonder," is the word commonly used in modern Heb. But חפץ has here the colourless general signification of res, according to which the Syr. translates it (vid., under Ecclesiastes 3:1); every attempt in passages such as this to retain the unweakened primary meaning of the word runs out into groundless and fruitless subtlety. Cf. Berachoth 5a, חפץ לח ... אדם, "a man who buys a thing from another." On the other hand, there is doubt about the meaning of the clause assigning the reason. It seems to be intended, that over him who is high, who oppresses those under him, there stands one who is higher, who in turn oppresses him, and thereby becomes the executor of punishment upon him; and that these, the high and the higher, have over them a Most High, viz., God, who will bring them to an account (Knobel, Ew., Elst., Vaih., Hengst., Zckl.). None of the old translators and expositors rises, it is true, to the knowledge that גּבהים may be pl. majestatis,
(Note: That is surprising, since the Talm. interpretation, Menachoth 110a, even brings it about that לב, Ecclesiastes 5:10, is to be understood of God.)
but the first גּבהּ the Targ. renders by אל אדּיר. This was natural to the Jewish usus loq., for gbwh in the post-bibl. Heb. is a favourite name for God, e.g., Beza 20b, Jebamoth 87a, Kamma 13a: "from the table of God" (משלחן גבוה), i.e., the altar (cf. Hebrews 13:10; 1 Corinthians 10:21).
(Note: חלק גבוה is also a common Rabbin. name for the tithes and offerings (cf. e.g., Nachmani under Genesis 14:20). Along with חלק הגבוה, the sacrifices are also called (in Hurwitz' work on the Heb. rites, known by the abbreviated title ש''לה) לגבוה; vid., 85b of the ed. 1764, and 23b of the Amsterdam ed. 1707 of the abridgment.)
The interpretation of גב, however, as the pl. majest., has in the Book of Koheleth itself a support in בּוראיך, Ecclesiastes 12:1; and the thought in which Ecclesiastes 5:7 climactically terminates accords essentially with Ecclesiastes 3:17. This explanation, however, of Ecclesiastes 5:7 does not stand the test. For if an unrighteous administration of justice, if violence is in vogue instead of right, that is an actual proof that over him who is high no human higher one watches who may put a check upon him, and to whom he feels that he is responsible. And that above them both one who is Most High stands, who will punish injustice and avenge it, is a consolatory argument against vexation, but is no explanatory reason of the phenomenon, such as we expect after the noli mirari; for אל־תתמה does not signify "be not offended" (John 16:1), or, "think it not strange" (1 Peter 4:12), which would be otherwise expressed (cf. under Psalm 37:1), but μή θαυμάσης (lxx). Also the contrast, Ecclesiastes 5:8, warrants the conclusion that in Ecclesiastes 5:7 the author seeks to explain the want of legal order from the constitution of a despotic state as distinguished from patriarchal government. For this reason שׁמר will not be meant of over-watching, which has its aim in the execution of legal justice and official duty, but of egoistic watching, - not, however, as Hitzig understands it: "they mutually protect each other's advantage; one crow does not peck out the eyes of another," - but, on the contrary, in the sense of hostile watching, as at 1 Samuel 19:11; 2 Samuel 11:16, as B. Bardach understands it: "he watches for the time when he may gain the advantage over him who is high, who is yet lower than himself, and may strengthen and enrich himself with his flesh or his goods." Over the one who is high, who oppresses the poor and is a robber in respect of right and justice, there stands a higher, who on his part watches how he can plunder him to his own aggrandisement; and over both there are again other high ones, who in their own interest oppress these, as these do such as are under them. This was the state of matters in the Persian Empire in the time of the author. The satrap stood at the head of state officers. In many cases he fleeced the province to fatten himself. But over the satrap stood inspectors, who often enough built up their own fortunes by fatal denunciations; and over all stood the king, or rather the court, with its rivalry of intrigues among courtiers and royal women. The cruel death-punishments to which disagreeable officials were subjected were fearful. There was a gradation of bad government and arbitrary domination from high to low and from low to high, and no word is more fitting for this state of things in Persia than שׁמר; for watching, artfully lurking as spies for an opportunity to accomplish the downfall of each other, was prevalent in the Persian Empire, especially when falling into decay.
Moreover the profit of the earth is for all: the king himself is served by the field.The author, on the other hand, now praises the patriarchal form of government based on agriculture, whose king takes pride, not in bloody conquests and tyrannical caprice, but in the peaceful promotion of the welfare of his people: "But the advantage of a country consists always in a king given to the arable land." What impossibilities have been found here, even by the most recent expositors! Ewald, Heiligst., Elster, Zckl. translate: rex agro factus equals terrae praefectus; but, in the language of this book, not עבד but מלך עשׁה is the expression used for "to make a king." Gesen., Win., de Wette, Knobel, Vaih. translate: rex qui colitur a terra (civibus). But could a country, in the sense of its population in subjection to the king, be more inappropriately designated than by שׂדה? Besides, עבד certainly gains the meaning of colere where God is the object; but with a human ruler as the object it means servire and nothing more, and נעבּד
(Note: Thus pointed rightly in J., with Sheva quiesc. and Dagesh in Beth; vid., Kimchi in Michlol 63a, and under עבד.)
can mean nothing else than "dienstbar gemacht" made subject to, not "honoured." Along with this signification, related denom. to עבד, נעבד, referred from its primary signification to שׂדה, the open fields (from שׂדה, to go out in length and breadth), may also, after the phrase עבד האדמה, signify cultivated, wrought, tilled; and while the phrase "made subject to" must be certainly held as possible (Rashi, Aben Ezra, and others assume it without hesitation), but is without example, the Niph. occurs, e.g., at Ezekiel 36:9, in the latter signification, of the mountains of Israel: "ye shall be tilled." Under Ecclesiastes 5:8, Hitzig, and with him Stuart and Zckler, makes the misleading remark that the Chethı̂b is בּכל־היא, and that it is equals בּכל־זאת, according to which the explanation is then given: the protection and security which an earthly ruler secures is, notwithstanding this, not to be disparaged. But היא is Chethı̂b, for which the Kerı̂ substitutes הוּא; בּכּל is Chethı̂b without Kerı̂; and that בּכל is thus a modification of the text, and that, too, an objectionable one, since בכל־היא, in the sense of "in all this," is unheard of. The Kerı̂ seeks, without any necessity, to make the pred. and subj. like one another in gender; without necessity, for היא may also be neut.: the advantage of a land is this, viz., what follows. And how בּכּל is to be understood is seen from Ezra 10:17, where it is to be explained: And they prepared
(Note: That כלה ב may mean "to be ready with anything," Keil erroneously points to Genesis 44:12; and Philippi, St. Const. p. 49, thinks that vǎkol ǎnāshim can be taken together in the sense of vakol haanashim.)
the sum of the men, i.e., the list of the men, of such as had married strange wives; cf. 1 Chronicles 7:5. Accordingly בכל here means, as the author generally uses הכל mostly in the impersonal sense of omnia: in omnibus, in all things equals by all means; or: in universum, in general. Were the words accentuated מלך לשדה נעבד, the adject. connection of לשׂ נע would thereby be shown; according to which the lxx and Theod. translate τοῦ αγροῦ εἰργασμένου; Symm., with the Syr., τῇ χώρα εἰργασμένη: "a king for the cultivated land," i.e., one who regards this as a chief object. Luzz. thus indeed accentuates; but the best established accentuation is מלך לשדה נעבד. This separation of נעבד from לש can only be intended to denote that נעבד is to be referred not to it, but to מלך, according to which the Targ. paraphrases. The meaning remains the same: a king subject (who has become a servus) to the cultivated land, rex agro addictus, as Dathe, Rosenm., and others translate, is a still more distinct expression of that which "a king for the well-cultivated field" would denote: an agriculture-king, - one who is addicted, not to wars, lawsuits, and sovereign stubbornness in his opinions, but who delights in the peaceful advancement of the prosperity of his country, and especially takes a lively interest in husbandry and the cultivation of the land. The order of the words in Ecclesiastes 5:8 is like that at Ecclesiastes 9:2; cf. Isaiah 8:22; Isaiah 22:2. The author thus praises, in contrast to a despotic state, a patriarchal kingdom based on agriculture.
He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity."He who loveth silver is not satisfied with silver; and he whose love cleaveth to abundance, hath nothing of it: also this is vain." The transition in this series of proverbs is not unmediated; for the injustice which, according to Ecclesiastes 5:7, prevails in the state as it now is becomes subservient to covetousness, in the very nature of which there lies insatiableness: semper avarus eget, hunc nulla pecunia replet. That the author speaks of the "sacra fames argenti" (not auri) arises from this, that not זהב, but כסף, is the specific word for coin.
(Note: A Jewish fancy supposes that כסף is chosen because it consists of letters rising in value (20, 60, 80); while, on the contrary, זהב consists of letters decreasing in value (7, 5, 2).)
Mendelssohn-Friedlnder also explains: "He who loveth silver is not satisfied with silver," i.e., it does not make him full; that might perhaps be linguistically possible (cf. e.g., Proverbs 12:11), although the author would in that case probably have written the words מן־הכּסף, after Ecclesiastes 6:3; but "to be not full of money" is, after Ecclesiastes 1:8, and especially Ecclesiastes 4:8, Habakkuk 2:5, cf. Proverbs 27:20 equals never to have enough of money, but always to desire more.
That which follows, Ecclesiastes 5:9, is, according to Hitz., a question: And who hath joy in abundance, which bringeth nothing in? But such questions, with the answer to be supplied, are not in Koheleth's style; and what would then be understood by capital without interest? Others, as Zφckler, supply ישׂבּע: and he that loveth abundance of possessions (is) not (full) of income; but that which is gained by these hard ellipses is only a tautology. With right, the Targ., Syr., Jerome, the Venet., and Luther take lo tevuah as the answer or conclusion; and who clings to abundance of possessions with his love? - he has no fruit thereof; or, with a weakening of the interrog. pronoun into the relative (as at Ecclesiastes 1:9; cf. under Psalm 34:13): he who ... clings has nothing of it. Hamon signifies a tumult, a noisy multitude, particularly of earthly goods, as at Psalm 37:16; 1 Chronicles 29:16; Isaiah 60:5. The connection of אהב with ב, occurring only here, follows the analogy of חפץ בּ and the like. The conclusion is synon. with levilti ho'il; e.g., Isaiah 44:10; Jeremiah 7:8. All the Codd. read לא; לו in this sense would be meaningless.
(Note: In Maccoth 10a, לו is read three times in succession; the Midrash Wajikra, c. 22, reads לא, and thus it is always found without Kerı̂ and without variation.)
The designation of advantage by tevuah, the farmer enjoys the fruit of his labour; but he who hangs his heart on the continual tumult, noise, pomp of more numerous and greater possessions is possible, to him all real profit - i.e., all pleasant, peaceful enjoyment - is lost. With the increase of the possessions there is an increase also of unrest, and the possessor has in reality nothing but the sight of them.
When goods increase, they are increased that eat them: and what good is there to the owners thereof, saving the beholding of them with their eyes?"When property and goods increase, they become many who consume them; and what advantage hath the owner thereof but the sight of them with his eyes?" The verb רבה signifies to increase, the רבב, to be many; but also (which Bttch. denies) inchoatively: to become many, Genesis 6:1; rightly, the lxx, ἐπληθύνθησαν. The author has not a miser in view, who shuts up his money in chests, and only feeds himself in looking at it with closed doors; but a covetous man, of the sort spoken of in Psalm 49:12; Isaiah 5:8. If the hattovah, the possession of such an one, increases, in like manner the number of people whom he must maintain increases also, and thus the number of those who eat of it along with him, and at the same time also his disquiet and care, increase; and what advantage, what useful result (vid., regarding Kishron, above, p. 638, and under Ecclesiastes 2:21) has the owner of these good things from them but the beholding of them (reith; Kerı̂, reuth; cf. the reverse case, Psalm 126:4)? - the possession does not in itself bring happiness, for it is never great enough to satisfy him, but is yet great enough to fill him with great care as to whether he may be able to support the demands of so great a household: the fortune which it brings to him consists finally only in this, that he can look on all he has accumulated with proud self-complacency.
The sleep of a labouring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much: but the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep.He can also eat that which is good, and can eat much; but he does not on that account sleep more quietly than the labourer who lives from hand to mouth: "Sweet is the sleep of the labourer, whether he eats little or much; but, on the contrary, the abundance of the rich does not permit him to sleep." The lxx, instead of "labourer," uses the word "slave" (δούλου), as if the original were העבד. But, as a rule, sound sleep is the reward of earnest labour; and since there are idle servants as well as active masters, there is no privilege to servants. The Venet. renders rightly by "of the husbandman" (ἐργάτου), the האדמה עבד; the "labourer" in general is called עמל, Ecclesiastes 4:8 and Judges 5:26, post-bibl. פּעל. The labourer enjoys sweet, i.e., refreshing, sound sleep, whether his fare be abundant of scanty - the labour rewards him by sweet sleep, notwithstanding his poverty; while, on the contrary, the sleep of the rich is hindered and disturbed by his abundance, not: by his satiety, viz., repletion, as Jerome remarks: incocto cibo in stomachi angustiis aestuante; for the labourer also, if he eats much, eats his fill; and why should sufficiency have a different result in the one from what is has in the other? As שׂבע means satiety, not over-satiety; so, on the other hand, it means, objectively, sufficient and plentifully existing fulness to meet the wants of man, Proverbs 3:10, and the word is meant thus objectively here: the fulness of possession which the rich has at his disposal does not permit him to sleep, for all kinds of projects, cares, anxieties regarding it rise within him, which follow him into the night, and do not suffer his mind to be at rest, which is a condition of sleep. The expression השּׂ לע is the circumlocutio of the genit. relation, like לב ... חל, Ruth 2:3; נע ... אם (lxx Αμνὼν τῆσ ̓Αχινόαμ), 2 Samuel 3:2. Heiligstedt remarks that it stands for שׂבע העשׁיר; but the nouns צמא, רעב ,צמא snuon, שׂבע form no const., for which reason the circumloc. was necessary; שׂבע is the constr. of שׂבע. Falsely, Ginsburg: "aber der Ueberfluss den Reichen - er lsst ihn nicht schlafen" but superabundance the rich - it doth not suffer him to sleep; but this construction is neither in accordance with the genius of the German nor of the Heb. language. Only the subject is resumed in איננּוּ (as in Ecclesiastes 1:7); the construction of הניח is as at 1 Chronicles 16:21; cf. Psalm 105:14. Of the two Hiphil forms, the properly Heb. הניח and the Aramaizing הנּיח, the latter is used in the weakened meaning of ἐᾶν, sinere.
After showing that riches bring to their possessor no real gain, but, instead of that, dispeace, care, and unrest, the author records as a great evil the loss, sometimes suddenly, of wealth carefully amassed.
There is a sore evil which I have seen under the sun, namely, riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt."There is a sore evil which I have seen under the sun, riches kept by their possessor to his hurt: the same riches perish by an evil event; and he hath begotten a son, thus this one hath nothing in his hand." There is a gradation of evils. חולה רעה (cf. רע חלי ר, Ecclesiastes 6:2) is not an ordinary, but a morbid evil, i.e., a deep hurtful evil; as a wound, not a common one, but one particularly severe and scarcely curable, is called נחלה, e.g., Nahum 3:19. השׁ ... רא is, as at Ecclesiastes 10:5, an ellipt. relat. clause; cf. on the other hand, Ecclesiastes 6:1; the author elsewhere uses the scheme of the relat. clause without relat. pron. (vid., under Ecclesiastes 1:13; Ecclesiastes 3:16); the old language would use ראיתיה, instead of ראיתי, with the reflex. pron. The great evil consists in this, that riches are not seldom kept by their owner to his own hurt. Certainly שׁמוּר ל can also mean that which is kept for another, 1 Samuel 9:24; but how involved and constrained is Ginsburg's explanation: "hoarded up (by the rich man) for their (future) owner," viz., the heir to whom he intends to leave them! That ל can be used with the passive as a designation of the subj., vid., Ewald, 295c; certainly it corresponds as little as מן, with the Greek ὑπό, but in Greek we say also πλοῦτος φυλαχθεὶς τῷ κεκτημένῳ, vid., Rost's Syntax, 112. 4. The suff. of lera'atho refers to be'alav, the plur. form of which can so far remain out of view, that we even say adonim qosheh, Isaiah 19:4, etc. "To his hurt," i.e., at the last suddenly to lose that which has been carefully guarded. The narrative explanation of this, "to his hurt," begins with vav explic. Regarding 'inyan ra'. It is a casus adversus that is meant, such a stroke upon stroke as destroyed Job's possessions. The perf. והו supposes the case that the man thus suddenly made poor is the father of a son; the clause is logically related to that which follows as hypothet. antecedent, after the scheme. Genesis 33:13. The loss of riches would of itself make one who is alone unhappy, for the misfortune to be poor is less than the misfortunes to be rich and then to become poor; but still more unfortunate is the father who thought that by well-guarded wealth he had secured the future of his son, and who now leaves him with an empty hand.
What now follows is true of this rich man, but is generalized into a reference to every rich man, and then is recorded as a second great evil. As a man comes naked into the world, so also he departs from it again without being able to take with him any of the earthly wealth he has acquired.
But those riches perish by evil travail: and he begetteth a son, and there is nothing in his hand.
As he came forth of his mother's womb, naked shall he return to go as he came, and shall take nothing of his labour, which he may carry away in his hand."As he came forth from his mother's womb, naked shall he again depart as he came, and not the least will he carry away for his labour, which he could take with him in his hand." In 13a the author has the case of Job in his mind; this verse before us is a reminiscence from Job 1:21, with the setting aside of the difficult word שׁמּה found there, which Sirach 40:1 exhibits. With "naked" begins emphatically the main subject; כּשׁבּא equals בא כּאשׁר is the intensifying resumption of the comparison; the contrast of לכת f, going away, excedere vit, is בּיא of the entrance on life, coming into the world. מאוּמה (according to the root meaning and use, corresponding to the French point, Olsh. 205a) emphatically precedes the negation, as at Judges 14:6 (cf. the emphasis reached in a different way, Psalm 49:18). נשׂא signifies here, as at Ecclesiastes 5:18, Psalm 24:5, to take hence, to take forth, to carry away. The ב of בּע is not partitive (Aben Ezra compares Leviticus 8:32), according to which Jerome and Luther translate de labore suo, but is the Beth pretii, as e.g., at 1 Kings 16:34, as the Chald. understands it; Nolde cites for this Beth pretii passages such as Ecclesiastes 2:24, but incorrectly. Regarding the subjunctive שׁיּלך, quod auferat. We might also with the lxx and Symm. punctuate שׁיּלך: which might accompany him in his hand, but which could by no means denote, as Hitzig thinks: (for his trouble), which goes through his hand. Such an expression is not used; and Hitzig's supposition, that here the rich man who has lost his wealth is the subject, does not approve itself.
And this also is a sore evil, that in all points as he came, so shall he go: and what profit hath he that hath laboured for the wind?A transition is now made to rich men as such, and the registering formula which should go before Ecclesiastes 5:14 here follows: "And this also is a sore evil: altogether exactly as he came, thus shall he depart: and what gain hath he that laboureth in the wind?" Regarding זה; and regarding כּל־ע שׁ,
(Note: I n H. written as one word: כּלעמת. Parchon (Lex. under עמת) had this form before him. In his Lex. Kimchi bears evidence in favour of the correct writing as two words.)
The writing of these first two as one word [vid. note below] accords with Ibn-Giat's view, accidentally quoted by Kimchi, that the word is compounded of כ of comparison, and the frequently occurring לעמּת always retaining its ל, and ought properly to be pointed כּלע (cf. מלּ, 1 Kings 7:20). עמּה signifies combination, society, one thing along with or parallel to another; and thus לעמת bears no כ, since it is itself a word of comparison, כּל־עמּת "altogether parallel," "altogether the same." The question: what kind of advantage (vid., Ecclesiastes 1:3) is to him (has he) of this that ... , carries its answer in itself. Labouring for the wind or in the wind, his labour is רוּח (רעיון) רעוּת, and thus fruitless. And, moreover, how miserable an existence is this life of labour leading to nothing!
All his days also he eateth in darkness, and he hath much sorrow and wrath with his sickness."Also all his life long he eateth in darkness and grieveth himself much, and oh for his sorrow and hatred!" We might place Ecclesiastes 5:16 under the regimen of the שׁ of שׁיע of Ecclesiastes 5:15; but the Heb. style prefers the self-dependent form of sentences to that which is governed. The expression Ecclesiastes 5:16 has something strange. This strangeness disappears if, with Ewald and Heiligst., after the lxx and Jerome, for יאכל we read ואכל: καὶ ἐν πένθει; Bttch. prefers ואפל, "and in darkness." Or also, if we read ילך for יאכל; thus the Midrash here, and several codd. by Kennicott; but the Targ., Syr., and Masora read יאכל. Hitzig gets rid of that which is strange in this passage by taking כּל־ימיו as accus. of the obj., not of the time: all his days, his whole life he consumes in darkness; but in Heb. as in Lat. we say: consumere dies vitae, Job 21:13; Job 36:11, but not comedere; and why should the expression, "to eat in darkness," not be a figurative expression for a faithless, gloomy life, as elsewhere "to sit in darkness" (Micah 7:8), and "to walk in darkness"? It is meant that all his life long he ate אונים לחם, the bread of sorrow, or לחץ לחם, prison fare; he did not allow himself pleasant table comforts in a room comfortably or splendidly lighted, for it is unnecessary to understand חשׁך subjectively and figuratively (Hitz., Zck.).
In 16b the traditional punctuation is וכעס.
(Note: Thus in correct texts, in H. with the note: כ מלרע, viz., here and at Psalm 112:10, only there ע has, according to tradition, the Kametz. Cf. Mas. fin. 52b, and Baer's Ed. of Psalter, under Psalm 112:10.)
The perf. ruled by the preceding fut. is syntactically correct, and the verb כּעס is common with the author, Ecclesiastes 7:9. Hitzig regards the text as corrupt, and reads כּחליו and כּעס, and explains: and (he consumes or swallows) much grief in his, etc.; the phrase, "to eat sorrow," may be allowed (cf. Proverbs 26:6, cf. Job 15:16); but יאכל, as the representative of two so bold and essentially different metaphors, would be in point of style in bad taste. If the text is corrupt, it may be more easily rectified by reading וק לו וחלי הרבה וכּעס: and grief in abundance, and sorrow has he, and wrath. We merely suggest this. Ewald, Burger, and Bttch. read only וכעס הרבה וחלי; but לו is not to be dispensed with, and can easily be reduced to a mere vav. Elster retains וכעס, and reads, like Hitzig, בחליו: he grieves himself much in his sorrow and wrath; but in that case the word וקצפו was to be expected; also in this way the ideas do not psychologically accord with each other. However the text is taken, we must interpret וחליו וקצף as an exclamation, like הף, Isaiah 29:16; תּף, Jeremiah 49:16; Ewald, 328a, as we have done above. That וח of itself is a subst. clause equals וחלי לו is untenable; the rendering of the noun as forming a clause, spoken of under Ecclesiastes 2:21, is of a different character.
(Note: Rashi regards וחליו as a form like חיתו. This o everywhere appears only in a gen. connection.)
He who by his labour and care aims at becoming rich, will not only lay upon himself unnecessary privations, but also have many sorrows; for many of his plans fail, and the greater success of others awakens his envy, and neither he himself nor others satisfy him; he is morbidly disposed, and as he is diseased in mind, so also in body, and his constantly increasing dissatisfaction becomes at last קצף, he grumbles at himself, at God, and all the world. From observing such persons, Paul says of them (1 Timothy 6:6.): "They have pierced themselves through (transfoderunt) with many sorrows."
In view of these great evils, with which the possession of riches also is connected: of their deceitful instability, and their merely belonging to this present life, Koheleth returns to his ceterum censeo.
Behold that which I have seen: it is good and comely for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labour that he taketh under the sun all the days of his life, which God giveth him: for it is his portion."Behold then what I have seen as good, what as beautiful (is this): that one eat and drink and see good in all his labour with which he wearieth himself, under the sun, throughout the number of the days of his life which God hath given him; for that is his portion." Toward this seeing, i.e., knowing from his own experience, his effort went forth, according to Ecclesiastes 2:3; and what he here, Ecclesiastes 5:17, Ecclesiastes 5:18, expresses as his resultat, he has already acknowledged at Ecclesiastes 2:24 and Ecclesiastes 3:12. With "behold" he here returns to it; for he says, that from the observations just spoken of, as from others, no other resultat befell him. Instead of ר טובה (here and at Ecclesiastes 6:6), he as often uses the words טוב ראה, Ecclesiastes 3:13; Ecclesiastes 2:24, or בּטוב, Ecclesiastes 2:1. In רא, the seeing is meant of that of mental apperception; in לרא, of immediate perception, experience. Our translation above does not correspond with the accentuation of the verse, which belongs to the class of disproportionably long verses without Athnach; cf. Genesis 21:9; Numbers 9:1; Isaiah 36:1; Jeremiah 13:13; Jeremiah 51:37; Ezekiel 42:10; Amos 5:1; 1 Chronicles 26:26; 1 Chronicles 28:1; 2 Chronicles 23:1. The sentence אני ... הנה (with pausal āni with Reba) constitutes the beginning of the verse, in the form, as it were, of a superscription; and then its second part, the main proposition, is divided by the disjunctives following each other: Telisha Gedhola, Geresh, Legarmeh, Reba, Tebir, Tifcha, Silluk (cf. Jeremiah 8:1, where Pazer instead of Telisha Bedhola; but as for the rest, the sequence of the accents is the same). Among the moderns, Hengst. holds to the accents, for he translates in strict accordance therewith, as Tremmelius does: "Behold what I have seen: that it is fine and good (Trem. bonum pulchrum) to eat ... ." The asher in the phrase, tov asher-yapheh, then connects it together: good which is at the same time beautiful; Grtz sees here the Greek καλὸν κάγαθόν. But the only passage to which, since Kimchi, reference is made for this use of asher, viz., Hosea 12:8, does not prove it; for we are not, with Drusius, to translate there by: iniquitas quae sit peccatum, but by quae poenam mereat. The accentuation here is not correct. The second asher is without doubt the resumption of the first; and the translation - as already Dachselt in his Biblia Accentuata indicated: ecce itaque quod vidi bonum, quod pulchrum (hoc est ut quis edat) - presents the true relation of the component parts of the sentence. The suffix of עמלו refers to the general subj. contained in the inf.; cf. Ecclesiastes 8:15. The period of time denoted by מספּר is as at Ecclesiastes 2:3; Ecclesiastes 6:12. Also we read חל ... כּי־, Ecclesiastes 3:22, in the same connection.
Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labour; this is the gift of God.This verse, expressing the same, is constructed anakolouthistically, altogether like Ecclesiastes 3:13 : "Also for every man to whom God hath given riches and treasures, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labour; just this is a gift of God." The anakolouthon can be rendered into English here as little as it can at Ecclesiastes 3:13; for if we allow the phrase, "also every man," the "also" remains fixed to the nearest conception, while in the Heb it governs the whole long sentence, and, at the nearest, belongs to זה. Cheerful enjoyment is in this life that which is most advisable; but also it is not made possible in itself by the possession of earthly treasures, - it is yet a special gift of God added thereto. Nechasim, besides here, occurs also in Joshua 22:8; 2 Chronicles 1:11.; and in the Chald. of the Book of Ezra; Ezra 6:8; Ezra 7:26. Also hishlit, to empower, to make possible, is Aram., Daniel 2:38, Daniel 2:48, as well as Heb., Psalm 119:133; the prevalence of the verbal stem שלט is characteristic of the Book of Koheleth. Helqo, "his portion," is just the cheerful enjoyment as that which man has here below of life, if he has any of it at all.
For he shall not much remember the days of his life; because God answereth him in the joy of his heart.Over this enjoyment he forgets the frailty and the darkened side of this life. It proves itself to be a gift of God, a gift from above: "For he doth not (then) think much of the days of his life; because God answereth the joy of his heart." Such an one, permitted by God to enjoy this happiness of life, is thereby prevented from tormenting himself by reflections regarding its transitoriness. Incorrectly, Hengst.: Remembrance and enjoyment of this life do not indeed last long, according to Ewald, who now, however, rightly explains: He will not, by constant reflection on the brevity of his life, too much embitter this enjoyment; because God, indeed, grants to him true heart-joy as the fairest gift. The meaning of Ecclesiastes 5:19 is also, in general, hit upon. The lxx translates: "because God occupies him with the joy of his heart;" but for that we ought to have had the word מענהוּ; Jerome helps it, for he reads בשמהה instead of בשמחת: eo quod Deus occupet deliciis cor ejus. But also, in this form, this explanation of מענה is untenable; for ב ענה, the causat. of which would be מענה, signifies, in the style of Koheleth, not in general to busy oneself with something, but to weary oneself with something; hence ענה בשׂ cannot mean: to be occupied with joy, and thereby to be drawn away from some other thing. And since the explanation: "he makes him sing," needs to argument to dispose of it, מענה thus remains only as the Hiph. of אנה, to meet, to respond to, grant a request. Accordingly, Hitz., like Aben Ezra and Kimchi, comparing Hosea 2:23.: God makes to answer, i.e., so works that all things which have in or of themselves that which can make him glad, must respond to his wish. But the omission of the obj. - of which Hitz. remarks, that because indefinite it is left indefinite - is insufferably hard, and the explanation thus ambiguous. Most interpreters translate: for God answers (Gesen. He. Wrt. B., incorrectly: answered) him with joy of his heart, i.e., grants this to him in the way of answer. Ewald compares Psalm 65:6; but that affords no voucher for the expression: to answer one with something equals to grant it to him; for ענה is there connected with a double accus., and בּצדק is the adv. statement of the way and manner. But above all, against this interpretation is the fact of the want of the personal obj. The author behoved to have written מענהוּ or אתו מענה. We take the Hiph. as in the sense of the Kal, but give it its nearest signification: to answer, and explain, as in a similar manner Seb. Schmid, Rambam, and others have already done: God answers to the joy of his heart, i.e., He assents to it, or (using an expression which is an exact equivalent), He corresponds to it. This makes the joy a heart-joy, i.e., a joy which a man feels not merely externally, but in the deepest recess of his heart, for the joy penetrates his heart and satisfies it (Sol 3:11; Isaiah 30:29; Jeremiah 15:16). A similar expression, elsewhere not found, we had at Ecclesiastes 5:9 in אהב בּ. Why should not ענה ב (הענה) be possible with ענהוּ, just as ἀμείβεσθαι πρός τι is with ἀμείβεσθαί τινα? For the rest, בש לב is not needed as obj.; we can take it also as an expression of the state or condition: God gives answer in the heart-joy of such an one. In ענה, to answer, to hear the answer, is thought of as granting a request; here, as giving assent to. Job 35:9 affords a twofold suitable example, that the Hiph. can have an enlarged Kal signification.
After the author has taken the opportunity of once more expressing his ultimatum, he continues to register the sad evils that cling to wealth.