Qohelet’s Investigation of Self-Indulgence

1 I said {to myself}, "Come! I will test pleasure {to see whether it is worthwhile}." But look, "This also [is] vanity!"

References for Ecclesiastes 2:1

    • a 2:1 - Literally "to my heart"
    • b 2:1 - The MT reads "I will test you," but the BHS editors propose "I will test ..." Whether or not one adopts MT, Qohelet is speaking to himself
    • c 2:1 - Literally "and look at goodness"; this idiom refers to the enjoyment of life
      2 I said of laughter, "[It is] folly!" and of pleasure, "{What does it accomplish?}"

      References for Ecclesiastes 2:2

        • d 2:2 - Literally "What does it give?"
          3 I also {explored} {the effects of indulging my flesh} with wine. My mind guiding me with wisdom, {I investigated} folly so that I might discover what [is] good under heaven for {humans} to do {during the days of their lives}.

          References for Ecclesiastes 2:3

            • e 2:3 - Literally "I searched in my mind"
            • f 2:3 - Literally "to cheer my flesh"
            • g 2:3 - Literally "laid hold of"
            • h 2:3 - Follows MT; two medieval Hebrew manuscripts, LXX, Peshitta read, "under the sun," cf. 1:3, 9, etc.
            • i 2:3 - Literally "the sons of the man"
            • j 2:3 - Literally "the number of the days of their lives"

              Qohelet’s Investigation of Personal Accomplishment

              4 {I accomplished great things}. I built for myself houses; I planted for myself vineyards.

              References for Ecclesiastes 2:4

                • k 2:4 - Literally "I made great my works"
                  5 I made for myself gardens and parks, and I planted all [sorts of] fruit trees in them.
                  6 I made for myself pools of water from which to irrigate a grove of flourishing trees.
                  7 I acquired male slaves and female slaves, as well as children [born in my] house. I also had livestock, cattle, and flocks more than anyone who [was] before me in Jerusalem.
                  8 I also gathered to myself silver and gold--the royal and provincial treasuries. I acquired for myself male and female singers, as well as the delight of {men}, {voluptuous concubines}.

                  References for Ecclesiastes 2:8

                    • l 2:8 - Literally "the sons of the man"
                    • m 2:8 - Literally "a breast and breasts," as a synecdoche for beautiful women in the king's harem
                      9 Thus, {I accomplished far more} than anyone who [was] before me in Jerusalem--indeed, my wisdom stood by me.

                      References for Ecclesiastes 2:9

                        • n 2:9 - Literally "I became great and I surpassed"
                          10 I neither withheld anything from my eyes that they desired, nor did I deprive any pleasure from my heart. My heart rejoiced in all my toil, for this was my reward from all my toil.
                          11 Yet when I considered all the effort which I expended and the toil with which I toiled to do, then behold, "Everything [is] vanity and chasing wind! There is nothing profitable under the sun!"

                          References for Ecclesiastes 2:11

                            • o 2:11 - Or "turned to"

                              The Living Must Abandon the Work of their Hands to Others at Death

                              12 Next, I considered wisdom, as well as delusion and folly. What can anyone [do] who will come after the king that has not already been done?

                              References for Ecclesiastes 2:12

                                  13 I realized that wisdom has an advantage over folly, just as light has an advantage over darkness.
                                  14 {The wise man can see where he is walking}, but the fool walks in darkness. Yet I also realized that both of them suffer the same fate.

                                  References for Ecclesiastes 2:14

                                    • p 2:14 - Literally "The eyes of the wise [are] in his head"
                                      15 So I said {to myself}, "{If I also suffer the same fate as the fool}, {what advantage is my great wisdom}?" So I said {to myself}, "This also [is] vanity!"

                                      References for Ecclesiastes 2:15

                                        • q 2:15 - Literally "in my heart"
                                        • r 2:15 - Literally "Just as the fate of the fool--so it will happen to me!"
                                        • s 2:15 - Literally "why have I been so exceedingly wise?"
                                        • t 2:15 - Literally "in my heart"
                                          16 Certainly no one will remember the wise man or the fool in {future generations}. When [future] days come, both will have been forgotten already. How [is it that] the wise man dies the same as the fool?

                                          References for Ecclesiastes 2:16

                                            • u 2:16 - Literally "the futures"
                                              17 So I hated life because the work done under the sun [is] grievous to me. For everything [is] vanity and chasing wind!
                                              18 So I hated all my toil with which I have toiled under the sun, for I must leave it behind to someone who will be after me.
                                              19 And who knows [whether] he will be wise or foolish? Yet he will exercise control of all [the fruit of] my toil with which I toiled wisely under the sun. This also [is] vanity!
                                              20 So {I began to despair} of all the toil with which I toiled under the sun.

                                              References for Ecclesiastes 2:20

                                                • v 2:20 - Literally "I myself turned to cause my heart to despair"
                                                  21 For although a person may toil with great wisdom and skill, he must leave his reward to someone who has not toiled for it. This also [is] vanity and a great calamity.
                                                  22 For what does a person receive for all his toil and in the longing of his heart with which he toils under the sun?
                                                  23 All his days [are] painful, his labor [brings] grief, and his heart cannot rest at night. This also [is] vanity!

                                                  It is Best to Simply Enjoy the Passing Pleasures of Life as Reward for Pleasing God

                                                  24 There is nothing better for a person than to eat and drink and {find delight} in his toil. For I also realized that this [is] from the hand of God!

                                                  References for Ecclesiastes 2:24

                                                    • w 2:24 - Literally "to see good"
                                                      25 For who can eat [and drink], and who can enjoy [life] apart from him?

                                                      References for Ecclesiastes 2:25

                                                        • x 2:25 - The MT reads "more than me," which is supported by Aramaic Targum and Latin Vulgate, but several medieval Hebrew manuscripts read "from him"
                                                          26 For to the person who [is] good in his eyes, he gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy; but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and heaping up only to give [it] to [him who is] pleasing to him. This also [is] vanity and chasing wind!