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What advantage does a man have from all the toilsome work at which he toils

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under the sun?

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For example, what advantage does a man gain from all the irksome work that he works at while here on earth?

In reality, human accomplishments effect no lasting change.


1: “toils”

Here the same Hebrew word is used twice in slightly different forms. The emphasis is on the effort and struggle required to get anything done. This issue of toil is Solomon’s first example of how everything in life is like a vapor, and it will be one of the most common “complaints” Solomon expresses in this book. It makes sense because Solomon had accomplished a great number of amazing things in the first part of his reign, but at this point of his life, as he contemplated what he had accomplished in light of suffering, pain and grief, he realized that all those things were quite vapor-like. Here the qualities of vapor that are in view are S: short-lived and S: not solid.

2: “under the sun”

This is a key phrase that will be used many times in this short book. Through the use of this phrase, Solomon is clearly expressing the limitations of the wisdom he will share; it has to do with this life, not eternity. Because he limited his scope in this way, we should expect it to sound different than other parts of Scripture that talk about eternal reward. It is possible that Solomon purposefully left out the eternal part of the equation to highlight how futile human efforts during this life really are. He was writing to Jews who always tried to keep the eternal perspective in mind, so its absence served to emphasize the reality that there is a problem if we leave out the eternal perspective.