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I have seen all the works that are done under the sun, and wow,

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all of it is

like a vapor,

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like trying to

catch the wind.

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I have paid attention and observed all the work that is done here on earth, and I have been amazed to learn that it is all very much like a vapor, our efforts are all characterized by an inner frustration like that caused by trying to catch the wind.



This is the word that the KJV translates “behold.” It is simply an expression of amazement and can be put into English in any number of ways depending on the situation and the personality of the speaker.


In Hebrew there is a play on words here between the word I have rendered “vapor,” which means “breath, wind, and vapor,” and the word I have rendered as “wind,” which means “breath, wind, spirit and life.” They are different words, but each of them can mean “wind,” along with some other things. It is a play on words because they can have similar meanings. Thus, we could translate the sentence, “All of it is like the wind, [and our efforts are] like trying to catch the wind.” He uses this phrase various times, this one being the first.

3: “trying to catch the wind”

If you consult a number of Bible translations you will notice there are two very different ways of translating this last phrase. The KJV goes with “a vexation of spirit,” and several of the modern translations say something to the effect of “chasing the wind.” This difference is because the noun in the phrase can mean “wind, spirit or life.” These three concepts were intrinsically tied together in ancient Jewish thought. If you lean toward the meaning “spirit” you have to choose a translation for the verb that fits with spirit. I am convinced that choosing the mean of “wind” is more natural here, in part because it fits well with “vapor’ which also means “breath,” and in part because the verb means “to strive, to long for, to grasp.” Either way you translate it, the emphasis is on frustration, but “chasing after the wind” is more true to the Hebrew wording, in my opinion.

As is often the case in Ecclesiastes, more than one meaning of “vapor” applies to this situation. “Chasing after the wind” fits at least four of the meanings I communicate through PASSES: A: it accomplishes nothing, S: it is Short-lived, S: it is not Special, E: and it is Endlessly frustrating.