Ecclesiastes 4:5
Parallel Verses
English Standard Version
The fool folds his hands and eats his own flesh.

King James Bible
The fool foldeth his hands together, and eateth his own flesh.

American Standard Version
The fool foldeth his hands together, and eateth his own flesh.

Douay-Rheims Bible
The fool foldeth his hands together, and eateth his own flesh, saying:

English Revised Version
The fool foldeth his hands together, and eateth his own flesh.

Webster's Bible Translation
The fool foldeth his hands together, and eateth his own flesh.

Ecclesiastes 4:5 Parallel
Commentary
Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament

"Who knoweth with regard to the spirit of the children of men, whether it mounteth upward; and with regard to the spirit of a beast, whether it goeth downward to the earth?" The interrogative meaning of העלה and הירדת is recognised by all the old translators: lxx, Targ., Syr., Jerome, Venet., Luther. Among the moderns, Heyder (vid., Psychol. p. 410), Hengst., Hahn, Dale, and Bullock take the h in both cases as the article: "Who knoweth the spirit of the children of men, that which goeth upward ... ?" But (1) thus rendered the question does not accord with the connection, which requires a sceptical question; (2) following "who knoweth," after Ecclesiastes 2:19; Ecclesiastes 6:12, cf. Joshua 2:14, an interrogative continuance of the sentence was to be expected; and (3) in both cases היא stands as designation of the subject only for the purpose of marking the interrogative clause (cf. Jeremiah 2:14), and of making it observable that ha'olah and hayorěděth are not appos. belonging as objects to רוח and ורוח. It is questionable, indeed, whether the punctuation of these words, העלה and היּרדת, as they lie before us, proceeds from an interrogative rendering. Saadia in Emunoth c. vi., and Juda Halevi in the Kuzri ii. 80, deny this; and so also do Aben Ezra and Kimchi. And they may be right. For instead of העלה, the pointing ought to have been העלה (cf. העלה, Job 13:25) when used as interrog. an ascendens; even before א the compens. lengthening of the interrog. ha is nowhere certainly found

(Note: For ה is to be read with a Pattach in Judges 6:31; Judges 12:5; Nehemiah 6:11; cf. under Genesis 19:9; Genesis 27:21. In Numbers 16:22 the ה of האישׁ is the art., the question is not formally designated.

instead of the virtual reduplication; and thus also the parallel היּר is not to be judged after היּי, Leviticus 10:19, הדּ, Ezekiel 18:29, - we must allow that the punctation seeks, by the removal of the two interrog. ha (ה), to place that which is here said in accord with Ecclesiastes 12:7. But there is no need for this. For יודע מי does not quite fall in with that which Lucretius says (Lib. I):

"Ignoratur enim quae sit natura animai,

Nata sit an contra nascentibus insinuetur?

An simul intereat nobiscum morte diremta?"

It may certainly be said of mi yode'a, as of ignoratur, that it does not exclude every kind of knowledge, but only a sure and certain knowledge resting on sufficient grounds; interire and ירד לם are also scarcely different, for neither of the two necessarily signifies annihilation, but both the discontinuance of independent individual existence. But the putting of the question by Koheleth is different, for it discloses more definitely than this by Lucretius, the possibility of a different end for the spirit of a man from that which awaits the spirit of a beast, and thus of a specific distinction between these two principles of life. In the formation even of the dilemma: Whether upwards or downwards, there lies an inquiring knowledge; and it cannot surprise us if Koheleth finally decides that the way of the spirit of a man is upwards, although it is not said that he rested this on the ground of demonstrative certainty. It is enough that, with the moral necessity of a final judgment beyond the sphere of this present life, at the same time also the continued existence of the spirit of man presented itself to him as a postulate of faith. One may conclude from the desiderium aeternitatis (Ecclesiastes 3:11) implanted in man by the Creator, that, like the instincts implanted in the beasts, it will be calculated not for deception, but for satisfaction; and from the למעלה, Proverbs 15:24 - i.e., the striving of a wise man rising above earthly, temporary, common things, - that death will not put an end to this striving, but will help it to reach its goal. But this is an indirect proof, which, however, is always inferior to the direct in force of argument. He presupposes that the Omnipotence and Wisdom which formed the world is also at the same time Love. Thus, though at last, it is faith which solves the dilemma, and we see from Ecclesiastes 12:7 that this faith held sway over Koheleth. In the Book of Sirach, also, the old conception of Hades shows itself as yet dominant; but after the οὐκ ἀτηάνατος υἱὸς ἀντηρώπου, 17:25, we read towards the end, where he speaks of Elias: καὶ τὰρ ἡμεῖς ζωῇ ζησόμεθα, 48:11. In the passage before us, Koheleth remains in doubt, without getting over it by the hand of faith. In a certain reference the question he here proposes is to the present day unanswered; for the soul, or, more correctly, according to the biblical mode of conception the spirit from which the soul-life of all corporeal beings proceeds, is a monas, and as such is indestructible. Do the future of the beast's soul and of man's soul not then stand in a solidaric mutual relation to each other? In fact, the future life presents to us mysteries the solution of which is beyond the power of human thought, and we need not wonder that Koheleth, this sober-minded, intelligent man, who was inaccessible to fantastic self-deception, arrives, by the line of thought commenced at Ecclesiastes 3:16, also again at the ultimatum.

Ecclesiastes 4:5 Parallel Commentaries

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

fool

Proverbs 6:10,11 Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep...

Proverbs 12:27 The slothful man roasts not that which he took in hunting: but the substance of a diligent man is precious.

Proverbs 13:4 The soul of the sluggard desires, and has nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat.

Proverbs 20:4 The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have nothing.

Proverbs 24:33,34 Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep...

eateth that is with envy

Job 13:14 Why do I take my flesh in my teeth, and put my life in my hand?

Proverbs 11:17 The merciful man does good to his own soul: but he that is cruel troubles his own flesh.

Isaiah 9:20 And he shall snatch on the right hand, and be hungry; and he shall eat on the left hand, and they shall not be satisfied...

Cross References
Proverbs 6:10
A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest,

Proverbs 24:33
A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest,

Ecclesiastes 10:12
The words of a wise man's mouth win him favor, but the lips of a fool consume him.

Isaiah 9:20
They slice meat on the right, but are still hungry, and they devour on the left, but are not satisfied; each devours the flesh of his own arm,

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