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There is one and there is no second,

indeed he has no son

and brother,

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yet there is no end to all his toil

and his eye is not satisfied with riches.

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“But for whom do I toil and deprive myself of enjoyment?”

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This also

is like a vapor,

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it is a

miserable task.


For example, there is a man who is all alone, he has no one else who shares his life. He has chosen not to get married and have children and he has ostracized himself from his siblings, yet he works incessantly,

and he never comes to the point of saying “enough.”  He has amassed wealth but he always wants more, but he never asks himself, “for whom am I working so hard and depriving myself of opportunities to enjoy what I accumulate?” This insatiable desire to gain wealth, this willingness to work ourselves to the bone and work crazy-long hours even when we don’t need to is part of human nature, but it very much like a vapor. This is a wrong-headed task we have given ourselves and a miserable way to live.


1: “and brother”

The author is painting a picture in order to make a point about human nature. Is it a picture of someone who has no one because of misfortune and hardship? No, it appears from what follows in the rest of this depiction, that he is painting a picture of a man who is in this situation because he has chosen to be. It appears that he is a miser, wealthy but stingy, a hoarder. For him to be wealthy yet unmarried and having no family would have been so rare in ancient Israel that I am confident Solomon had never seen anyone like this and was making this up. If it were someone who had suffered great loss it would have been expressed differently. Therefore I am assuming this fictitious character chose not to get married because that would entail too much expense and headache, and he did not want to live under the authority of his father or older brother (or if he was the oldest son he had refused to accept his responsibilities and had pushed them off onto the next oldest son). All of these things go against the social norms of the day and smack of someone who has chosen to separate himself from society and its rules. He was so self-centered that he did not have any children to pass his wealth on to. Why was Solomon painting a picture of someone who likely did not even exist in all Israel? He did so in order to show what human nature will drive us to if we are not careful.

2: “With riches"

This cements the idea that he is indeed a wealthy man and his attempts to accumulate riches have been successful.


Who asked this question? Among translators and commentators it is highly debated whether or not this question was something the miser asked himself, or failed to asked. The various translations of the Bible into English are divided on the matter. This question has no introductory mechanism to help us know the answer to our query. You will notice in the translation column above that the question appears almost out of nowhere. It is a question that is asked, but we are not told by whom or when or why. You will also notice that in the paraphrase column above I have chosen to indicate that the miser never asked himself that question. The two key factors that will help us when deciding how to translate this question are the context and whether or not the negatives used earlier can also carry over and refer to this question. Well, in this same verse it says he had “no sons and brothers,” the word “no” is only used once for two things. In English we would say, “he had no sons and no brother,” or “no sons or brothers.” We would thus indicate that the negative continues to govern the meaning of the second part just like it does the first part. In Hebrew the use of the conjunction “and” does that for the statement about sons and brothers. As a conjunction it can also mean “so” or “but,” and context must indicate if the conjunction is a negative or a simple continuation. There is a conjunction at the beginning of the miser’s question, one which some translators totally ignore. The context of the question we are trying to interpret is a series of negatives, thus I believe the conjunction that is used should be translated “but” rather than “and.” What’s more, the picture Solomon is painting is of a person who is being a bad example, showing how not to live life. This person goes through life following his natural desires even though it does not make sense to do so. I conclude from this that He never stopped long enough to ask himself the question that was obvious to everyone around him.



How is this like a vapor? Working ourselves to death is like a vapor in that A: it accomplishes nothing, and E: it is Endlessly frustrating.