Limited Worth of Enjoyment. 1There is another evil I have seen under the sun, and it weighs heavily upon humankind: 2a There is one to whom God gives riches and property and honor, and who lacks nothing the heart could desire; yet God does not grant the power to partake of them, but a stranger devours them. This is vanity and a dire plague. 3Should one have a hundred children and live many years, no matter to what great age, still if one has not the full benefit of those goods, I proclaim that the child born dead, even if left unburied, is more fortunate.* 4b Though it came in vain and goes into darkness and its name is enveloped in darkness, 5though it has not seen the sun or known anything, yet the dead child has more peace. 6Should such a one live twice a thousand years and not enjoy those goods, do not both go to the same place?*
7All human toil is for the mouth,* yet the appetite is never satisfied. 8What profit have the wise compared to fools, or what profit have the lowly in knowing how to conduct themselves in life? 9“What the eyes see is better than what the desires wander after.”* This also is vanity and a chase after wind.
II. QOHELETH’S CONCLUSIONS
10Whatever is, was long ago given its name, and human nature is known; mortals cannot contend in judgment with One who is stronger.* 11For the more words, the more vanity; what profit is there for anyone? 12c For who knows what is good for mortals in life, the limited days of their vain life, spent like a shadow? Because who can tell them what will come afterward under the sun?d
* [6:3] Even a large family and exceptionally long life cannot compensate for the absence of good things and the joy which they bring.
* [6:6] Same place: the grave; cf. 3:20; 12:7.
* [6:7] The mouth: symbolic of human desires.
* [6:9] Compare the English proverb, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” However, it could also mean, “The seeing of the eyes is better than the wandering of the desire,” with the emphasis on the actions of seeing and desiring. Seeing is a way of possessing whereas desire, by definition, can remain frustrated and unfulfilled.
* [6:10–11] One who is stronger is, of course, God. The more vanity: contending with God is futile.
b. [6:4] Eccl 4:2–3; Jb 3:11, 16.
c. [6:12] Jb 8:9; 14:2; Ps 102:12.