English Standard Version
I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me,
King James Bible
Yea, I hated all my labour which I had taken under the sun: because I should leave it unto the man that shall be after me.
American Standard Version
And I hated all my labor wherein I labored under the sun, seeing that I must leave it unto the man that shall be after me.
Again I hated all my application wherewith I had earnestly laboured under the sun, being like to have an heir after me,
English Revised Version
And I hated all my labour wherein I laboured under the sun: seeing that I must leave it unto the man that shall be after me.
Webster's Bible Translation
Yes, I hated all my labor which I had taken under the sun: because I should leave it to the man that shall be after me.
Ecclesiastes 2:18 Parallel
CommentaryKeil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament
"And I turned myself to examine wisdom, and madness, and folly: for what is the man who could come after the king, him whom they have made so long ago!" Mendelssohn's translation, Ecclesiastes 2:12: "I abandoned my design of seeking to connect wisdom with folly and madness," is impossible, because for such a rendering we should have had at least מלּראות instead of לראות. Hitzig, otherwise followed by Stuart: "I turned myself to examine me wisdom, and, lo, it was madness as well as folly." This rendering is impossible also, for in such a case הנּהו ought to have stood as the result, after חכמה. The pasage, Zechariah 14:6, cited by Hitz., does not prove the possibility of such a brachyology, for there we read not veqaroth veqeppayon, but eqaroth iqeppaūn (the splendid ones, i.e., the stars, will draw themselves together, i.e., will become dark bodies). The two vavs are not correlative, which is without example in the usage of this book, but copulative: he wishes to contemplate (Zckler and others) wisdom on the one side, and madness and folly on the other, in their relation to each other, viz., in their relative worth. Hitzig's ingenuity goes yet further astray in Ecclesiastes 2:12: "For what will the man do who comes after the king? (He shall do) what was long ago his (own) doing, i.e., inheriting from the king the throne, he will not also inherit his wisdom." Instead of āsūhū, he reads ǎsōhū, after Exodus 18:18; but the more modern author, whose work we have here before us, would, instead of this anomalous form, use the regular form עשׂותו; but, besides, the expression ēth asher-kevar 'asotho, "(he will do) what long ago was his doing," is not Heb.; the words ought to have been keasotho kevar khen i'sah, or at least 'asāhū. If we compare Ecclesiastes 2:12 with 18b, the man who comes after the king appears certainly to be his successor.
(Note: The lxx and Symm. by hammělêk think of melak, counsel, βουλή, instead of melek, king; and as Jerome, so also Bardach understands by the king the rex factor, i.e., God the Creator.)
But by this supposition it is impossible to give just effect to the relation (assigning a reason or motive) of Ecclesiastes 2:12 to 12a expressed by כּי. When I considered, Knobel regards Koheleth as saying, that a fool would be heir to me a wise man, it appeared strange to me, and I was led to compare wisdom and folly to see whether or not the wise man has a superiority to the fool, or whether his labour and his fate are vanity, like those of the fool. This is in point of style absurd, but it is much more absurd logically. And who then gave the interpreter the right to stamp as a fool the man who comes after the king? In the answer: "That which has long ago been done," must lie its justification; for this that was done long ago naturally consists, as Zckler remarks, in foolish and perverse undertakings, certainly in the destruction of that which was done by the wise predecessor, in the lavish squandering of the treasures and goods collected by him. More briefly, but in the same sense, Burger: Nihil quod a solita hominum agendi ratione recedit. But in Ecclesiastes 2:19, Koheleth places it as a question whether his successor will be a wise man or a fool, while here he would presuppose that "naturally," or as a matter of course, he will be a fool. In the matter of style, we have nothing to object to the translation on which Zckler, with Rabm., Rosenm., Knobel, Hengst., and others, proceeds; the supplying of the verb יעשׂה to meh hāādām equals what can the man do? is possible (cf. Malachi 2:15), and the neut. interpret. of the suffix of עשׂוּהוּ is, after Ecclesiastes 7:13; Amos 1:3; Job 31:11, admissible; but the reference to a successor is not connected with the course of the thoughts, even although one attaches to the plain words a meaning which is foreign to them. The words עשׂוּהוּ...את are accordingly not the answer to the question proposed, but a component part of the question itself. Thus Ewald, and with him Elster, Heiligst., construes: "How will the man be who will follow the king, compared with him whom they made (a king) long ago, i.e., with his predecessor?" But את, in this pregnant sense, "compared with," is without example, at least in the Book of Koheleth, which generally does not use it as a prep.; and, besides, this rendering, by introducing the successor on the throne, offends against the logic of the relation of Ecclesiastes 2:12 to Ecclesiastes 2:12.
The motive of Koheleth's purpose, to weigh wisdom and folly against each other as to their worth, consists in this, that a king, especially such an one as Solomon was, has in the means at his disposal and in the extent of his observation so much more than everyother, that no one who comes after him will reach a different experience. This motive would be satisfactorily expressed on the supposition that the answer begins with את, if one should read עשׂהוּ for עשׂוּהוּ: he will be able to do (accomplish) nothing but what he (the king) has long ago done, i.e., he will only repeat, only be able to confirm, the king's report. But if we take the text as it here stands, the meaning is the same; and, besides, we get rid of the harsh ellipsis měh hāādām for měh yǎǎsěh hāādām. We translate: for what is the man who might come after the king, him whom they have made so long ago! The king whom they made so long ago is Solomon, who has a richer experience, a more comprehensive knowledge, the longer the time (viz., from the present time backwards) since he occupied the throne. Regarding the expression eth asher equals quem, instead of the asher simply, vid., Khler under Zechariah 12:10. עשׂוּהוּ, with the most general subj., is not different from נעשׂה, which, particularly in the Book of Daniel (e.g., Daniel 4:28.), has frequently an active construction, with the subject unnamed, instead of the passive (Gesen. 137, margin). The author of the Book of Koheleth, alienated from the theocratic side of the kingdom of Israel, makes use of it perhaps not unintentionally; besides, Solomon's elevation to the throne was, according to 1 Kings 1, brought about very much by human agency; and one may, if he will, think of the people in the word 'asuhu also, according to 1 Kings 1:39, who at last decided the matter. Meh before the letters hheth and ayin commonly occurs: according to the Masora, twenty-four times; before other initial letters than these, eight times, and three of these in the Book of Koheleth before the letter he, Ecclesiastes 2:12, Ecclesiastes 2:22; Ecclesiastes 7:10. The words are more an exclamation than a question; the exclamation means: What kind of a man is that who could come after the king! cf. "What wickedness is this!" etc., Judges 20:12; Joshua 22:16; Exodus 18:14; 1 Kings 9:13, i.e., as standing behind with reference to me-the same figure of extenuatio, as mah adam, Psalm 144:3; cf. Ecclesiastes 8:5.
There now follows an account of what, on the one side, happened to him thus placed on a lofty watch-tower, such as no other occupied.
Treasury of Scripture Knowledge
Surely a man goes about as a shadow! Surely for nothing they are in turmoil; man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather!
For he sees that even the wise die; the fool and the stupid alike must perish and leave their wealth to others.
What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?
Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.
because sometimes a person who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave everything to be enjoyed by someone who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil.
So I saw that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his work, for that is his lot. Who can bring him to see what will be after him?
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