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For to a man who is pleasing in His sight,

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He gives wisdom and knowledge and joy,

but to the sinner

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He gives the vexing task of gathering together and accumulating wealth that He may give it

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to the one who is pleasing before

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This too is like a vapor,

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like trying to catch the wind.


For to the man who is pleasing to God by keeping a proper perspective on his accomplishments and his possessions, He grants the wisdom to do things the godly way, the insight to govern his affairs well, and satisfaction in his current situation without stressing out about the future, but to the one who is guilty of missing God’s mark, He gives the frustrating task of earning

and saving wealth

so that He can give it

to the one who pleases THE RULER OVER ALL THINGS because he is close to God. This too is like a vapor, like trying to catch the wind.


1: “in His sight”

This refers to those who are following the principle Solomon has just laid out in what for us are the two verses prior to this one. To those that keep a proper perspective on material things and on their own efforts, God will give joy and fulfillment, but to those who are self-centered, greedy and proud God has given a frustrating task, one which resembles a dog trying to catch its tail. Much effort is going into the endeavor, but true success is always elusive. The primary message of this little book is actually a deep spiritual truth; it teaches humility and gratitude.


A “sinner” is one who “misses the mark” and thus brings guilt upon himself. However, in English the phrase “miss the mark” does not carry as much power and importance as it did for the ancient Hebrews.


It is unclear who is doing the giving here. Many assume it is the sinner who must give it to the righteous, but it can also be God who will let the sinner live and accumulate until death and then what the sinner has accumulated will be given to others, i.e. to the righteous. Ultimately God is the one who causes such giving to happen so I am giving the credit to God.

Although what Solomon says here sounds like an absolute statement, we know from experience that there are exceptions. God does not always take material things away from the wicked to give to the righteous. He is saying that all the efforts of the wicked will prove fruitless while the life of the godly will be satisfying. God will sometimes make this difference obvious by reallocating material things, but it is not something we should expect or demand from God. It is also true that the wicked will think something is amiss even if no reallocation of physical goods takes place because he will wonder how the godly man can be happy with so little, and he will suspect some kind of trickery or strange magic.


The word translated “before” actually means “face to face with.” A phrase like this one had the simple meaning of “before” or “in His sight,” however, the ancient Hebrews could not get out of their minds the main idea of the word, that being of two people face to face with each other. Therefore, it is quite likely that to them this word implied a close relationship between the two. Thus, it is more than just doing good in places where God can see us, because he can always see us; rather it is about doing good because we have a close relationship with Him.


In this case the use of the word picture “vapor” applies to a specific group of people but not to everyone. It is not frustrating to the godly man, but only to the wicked and self-centered. For them this situation is E: Endlessly frustrating like a vapor.

Our Attitude about the Future

We know from the comments at the end of this section that the author is still focused on the frustrating and passing nature of our work and accomplishments, therefore everything in this section is interpreted with that in mind. Following God’s plan means we should not push for things to continue past the window of time He has appointed for that activity with its accompanying successes. When it comes to earthly accomplishments, we should not be so focused on the future that we forget to enjoy the present.

I fear that in our modern era we are guilty of the same thing. When people start something that is mildly successful they want to institutionalize it, codify or otherwise perpetuate it so that it keeps going even after they are gone. That is a natural tendency, but it runs contrary to Solomon’s advice to live for each day and leave the results up to God. Don’t try to “freeze-dry” your accomplishments for the future. If God wants them later, He will preserve them, but if He is not the one doing the preserving, it will not last. Think of how many organizations or institutions have been passed down from the founder to the founder’s son, only to be brought to ruination within a few short years.

Here is another lesson to be learned from this: Solomon wanted his string of achievements to continue growing till the end of his life, but it appears that God brought hardship and calamity into his life and changed all of Solomon’s plans. I believe the calamity God used was the death of someone close to him, probably his favorite wife, the Shulammite of Song of Solomon. He learned from this that we cannot control our lives, rather we must do our best within the framework of God’s appointed times and seasons.