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For what has a man gained or become

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as a result of all his toil and trouble,

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or in return for the striving of his inner being with which he has toiled under the sun?


 For what is the end result or benefit

of all a man’s troublesome effort

or of the stress he puts on himself

while he goes about his work here on earth?


1: “gained or become”

This verb means “to fall, as in to fall out, to come to pass, to happen or become,” or simply “to be.” It also means “to breathe” which is related to being or existing. So in a strictly lexical sense it would be logical to translate this phrase as “What has a man become as a result of . . . ,” but the way the sentence is organized it seems to point towards the implied idea of “gained,” which could be translated as, “What has a man gained in return for . . .” In situations like this where two meanings shouted for the reader’s attention, I think the ancient Hebrew reader would have seen both meanings at the same time, and not chosen between them. Therefore I have tried to convey both ideas together.


This is the word the author has been using all along for toil or labor; it also can mean “trouble.”