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Go to Bible: Ecclesiastes 6
|Ecc 6:1||- (top)|
“himself.” Literally, “his soul,” but here meaning “himself.”
“eat of it.” To “eat” something was often idiomatic for fully experiencing and enjoying it. In Jeremiah 15:16, the prophet Jeremiah “ate” the words of God. Jesus said his followers would “eat” his flesh (John 6:48-58; see commentary on John 6:54).
“a stranger eats it.” What is unspoken is that the man has no heir, and this contrasts with Ecclesiastes 6:3 where a person has 100 children.
“pointless.” See commentary on Ecclesiastes 1:2.
“severe affliction.” The Hebrew word translated “severe” is from the root word for “evil,” which is why some English versions have “evil,” and the Hebrew word translated “affliction” can also be translated “sickness” or “disease.” The world is in a fallen state, under the influence of the Devil. It is indeed “sick” and in need of healing, which the Messiah will bring when he conquers the earth. There are many severe afflictions in this sick world. There is some similarity between Ecclesiastes 6:2 and Luke 12:16-21, in which Jesus spoke a parable about a rich man who did not live to enjoy his wealth. Life, and the ability to enjoy it, is uncertain; but what is certain is that if a person is rich toward God there will be a wonderful next life.(top)
“his soul.” “His soul,” in this context the word “soul” refers more to the depths of the person, what is in his heart. This person, for reasons unstated in the text, is not satisfied with what he has.
“good things.” Here, the adjective “good” is used as a substantive, “good things.”
“no burial.” In the biblical world this would almost be inexplicable since it was a major responsibility for children to bury their parents (cp. Gen. 50:5; Matt. 8:21). No one could conceivably have 100 children but not be properly buried unless they made themselves so repulsive that they were rejected by literally everyone. A burial showed that a person was honored and respected, and in the Bible people were left unburied as a sign of disrespect and contempt, and their dead bodies were usually eaten by animals and birds (cp. 2 Sam. l7:44; Isa. 5:25; Jer. 7:33; Rev. 19:21).(top)
“the stillborn.” The Hebrew text just says “for comes” with no subject, but it refers to the stillborn child, so the REV adds that for clarity.
“pointlessly.” “Pointlessly” picks up on the use of “pointless” throughout Ecclesiastes (cp. International Standard Version). See commentary on Ecclesiastes 1:2.
“its name is covered with darkness.” The “name” of a person was important because it often revealed much about the person, was used to mean the person’s reputation, and was the way the person was remembered. The name of a stillborn child never gained a reputation and was “covered with darkness,” it was not remembered.(top)
“it has more rest than the other man.” The next verse, Ecclesiastes 6:6, explains why. Both the stillborn child and the miserable man eventually end up in the grave where there is no life; no knowledge or wisdom (Ecc. 9:10), but the stillborn child had rest in the grave its whole existence, while the miserable man had no rest during all the years he was alive. Which is better, to be stillborn and never know misery and suffering, or to live many years and be miserable through all of them? Although this verse seems dismal, it, and its context, is actually quite an encouragement for people to do what it takes to enjoy life: change your attitude, look for the good in things, be satisfied with what you have rather than let your desires wander the earth seeking to be fulfilled (Ecc. 6:9), and have a strong relationship with God (Ecc. 2:24-26). [For more on dead people being actually dead and not alive in any form, see Appendix 4, “The Dead are Dead”].(top)
“enjoy.” The Hebrew word is “see,” but in this context that is idiomatic for “experience” or more fitting to this context, “enjoy.”
“Do not all go to one place?” Every person goes to Sheol, the state of death, when they die. It is certainly God’s intention that people enjoy their lives on earth, and if they don’t then they are just prolonging suffering. No wonder Ecclesiastes says over and over that it is the gift of God that one enjoys their life (cp. Ecc. 2:24; 3:13; 5:18, 19; 9:9).(top)
“appetite.” The Hebrew word is nephesh, sometimes translated “soul.” In this context it primarily seems to mean “appetite,” but “soul” (in the sense of the inner longings of the heart) and “desire” also fit to some extent. People’s need for sustenance is often the driving factor behind them working day after day.
“filled.” The use of “filled” here is using imagery that was common in the culture and used by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. For example, in Matthew 5:6, Jesus spoke of those who “hunger and thirst after righteousness” and being “filled.” The need for food and the enjoyment of a good meal along with the distressing pangs of hunger and/or worry about there being enough food to eat made food and eating a primary subject in people’s lives and led to there being many idioms in the language that involved food and eating.(top)
“For what advantage has the wise more than the fool?” This sentence must be understood against the background of what in the culture was taken for truth, in this case that wisdom led to wealth, long life, and happiness. But the Sage has just spent some considerable time showing that wealth, children, and long life do not necessarily mean happiness. So now the question is not a “given,” but is a cause for thought. To have any advantage, the wise person must enjoy what he has.
“What advantage does the poor man have who knows how to walk before the living.” The thrust of this verse seems to be that the poor person has always been assured that if he became wise he would gain wealth and happiness. But now the Sage has shown that wisdom, if it leads to wealth and long life, does not always lead to happiness in life. So again, this verse becomes something to ponder. There is no reason to learn to walk (live; conduct one’s life) before others (i.e., in a way acceptable to them) if it only leads to more misery. How does one become truly satisfied and happy?(top)
“Better is the sight of the eyes.” It is better to deal with reality, what you can actually see in front of you, than to dream wild dreams that will never be fulfilled.
“wandering.” This is the same verb, “to walk,” as is in Ecclesiastes 6:8, where it is translated “walk.” This seems to be the figure of speech antanaclasis (word clashing), where a word is used in close proximity in two different senses to catch the attention of the reader. In many ways this sentence is similar to Proverbs 17:24.
“pointless.” See commentary on Ecclesiastes 1:2.(top)
“That which is, already his name was called.” This seems to be about God calling Adam, “Adam,” and working with him. Almost all commentators make this section of Ecclesiastes about predestination, but it does not have to be that at all. It can simply be pointing out that the way life is, is the way life is, and arguing with God about it is pointless. As Ecclesiastes 11:3 says, where the tree falls is where it is, and what God has done or planned is done. We can argue, but to what end?
“one who is mightier than he.” This refers to God, and Adam found out through experience that God was more powerful than he. It is pointless to argue with God.(top)
“things.” The Hebrew word dabar here is very broad and means “things,” “words,” and “matters.” It seems to be in the context of contending with God (Ecc. 6:10), and so words and things fit well, and “things” fits well with the next verse (Ecc. 6:12) as well. People can contend with God, and use more and more words and things in arguing against Him, but they have no effect other than increasing the pointlessness of the argument.
“pointless.” See commentary on Ecclesiastes 1:2.(top)
“pointless.” See commentary on Ecclesiastes 1:2. Here we see the meaning of “temporary” take on some more significance. The life is temporary, and given the context, “pointless.”
“he makes like a shadow.” The subject is unclear. Does a person make his life like a shadow, passing quickly and not well remembered, or does God (getting the subject from Ecc. 6:10) make a person’s life like a shadow? It may well be both and is left unclear for our consideration.
“will be after him.” In Hebrew, the future is generally “after” a person, also, it is said to be “behind” them in the sense that it cannot be seen (cp. Ecc. 3:22; 7:14).(top)