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For the fate that comes upon

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the sons of Adam is the fate that comes upon the animals; one thing comes upon them; as this one dies, so that one dies,

and surely they all have one breath.

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Man has no advantage over the animals,

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for all is like a vapor.

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In the end the fate that happens to come upon men

is the same fate that happens to come upon the animals;

the same thing comes upon both of them; they both will suffer death at a time that is unknown to them. The unavoidable conclusion is that they both have the same type of life, the unpredictable kind. Because death is unavoidable, man has no advantage over the animals, for everything, including life itself, is like a vapor.


1: “comes upon”

This word means “chance, fate, or something that comes upon a person unexpectedly.” The emphasis is on the unexpected and unpredictable nature of fate.


This is that great Hebrew word meaning “breath, wind or spirit” and also, “life,” because God’s Spirit breathed the breath of life into man. Whenever a Hebrew heard the word “wind or breath” he would think of the Spirit of God, and breathe and Spirit together would also make him think of “life.” The three concepts of wind, Spirit and life were intrinsically joined in the Hebrew mind. Just like the key word for “wind or Spirit” also means “life,” so the key word for “life” also means ”wind and spirit.”  The very fact that this word is used for life tells us that life is an unseeable, untouchable thing that is unpredictable; it is something outside of our control.

The point being made here is that animals die, and men die; in both cases their lives are relatively short, unpredictable and come to the same end. Solomon is not attempting to address the presence or absence of an eternal soul, or a moral consciousness. He is simply trying to powerfully communicate how unpredictable life is and how certain death is.


Death is the universal leveler, it brings all living things down to the same level.


This use of “vapor” is referring to the fact that life is  P: not Predictable, cannot be counted on, A: it Accomplishments nothing that is of lasting value, S: Short-lived, brief, S: it is not Special, but rather quite ordinary, S: it is not Solid or firm, but instead it is transitory and shifty.