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a man to whom ELOHIM has given much money,

many possessions,

and honor so that he lacks nothing for himself of all that he desires, and yet ELOHIM has not granted him the power to eat of it but a stranger consumes it. This is a vapor,

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an evil calamity.


a man to whom THE CREATOR AND OWNER OF ALL THINGS has given a great deal of the kind of wealth one can store or use as money, like gold and silver, plus many possessions that can be slaughtered and converted to money, such as sheep and cattle, and also honor, to the extent that he has everything he desires, yet THE CREATOR AND OWNER OF ALL THINGS has not granted him the ability to enjoy it, rather someone else utilizes it. This is a vapor, a terribly bad thing.



This is like a vapor in the following ways: A: it Accomplishes nothing (from the perspective of the one who worked to earn it), E: it is not easily understood and Endlessly frustrating.

Having Wealth but Not Enjoying It

To “eat of” in this context, means to “enjoy.” There are several reasons that come to mind that would explain why someone in that day would have wealth but not enjoy it. However, none of them fit this scenario perfectly. Allow me to explain them in detail.

1) The man squanders his wealth with unwise choices. This option is not likely in this case because we have already been told that he has honor, which he had to have earned with wise and upright living.

2) The man could have suffered a great misfortune which stripped him of his wealth, much like what happened to Job. The explanation of the situation given in this verse does not sound to me like a sudden calamity. He has all that he desires, but in the midst of that luxury he is not sensing enjoyment.

3) He suffered a loss which did not take away his wealth but robbed him of his reason for living. This sounds like Solomon’s own story, as I understand it. I think he lost his favorite wife in middle age and it knocked the wind out of him; it stole his motivation and he had not reason to get up in the morning. He had wealth, but it no longer mattered for he had “no one” to enjoy it with. The problem with this comes from the part of the verse that says that a stranger or foreigner ends up consuming it.

4) But Solomon is writing this for others, so it is not just about his own story. Another scenario that would partially fit would be a man who has great wealth and he is a leader in his clan and he takes seriously the responsibility of being the guide, shepherd, rescuer and helper of those under his care. This does not mean that he carried people along and gave them stuff even if they did not work. Rather it meant that he helped those who had suffered a calamity, he provided jobs to those who needed them, and he looked out for all those under his care in many small ways. This was the system in place for the Hebrew people during Bible times. It was a good system and it worked well when people followed it. But it also meant that it was harder for someone to become “filthy rich.” It was more likely that someone of means would have wealth, and actually live comfortably but not enjoy true excess because of having to help people at every turn. While this was all true it was a positive situation, and I don’t think it qualifies well for being called “a vapor, and an evil affliction.”

5) If this man had no children of his own he could adopt someone to give his wealth to, or he could give it to his head servant, as Abraham contemplated doing before Isaac was born This is not the natural way to interpret giving one’s wealth to a “stranger.”

6) Another situation would be if something happened that required this man’s wealth to be given to a person outside his clan. For instance, if somewhere along the line this man had chosen to have a sexual affair and it was found out, the husband of the woman involved could ask for almost anything and expect it to be given him. In this way someone could work and earn money but have most of it go into someone else’s pocket. This scenario does not fit very well either because it fails to fulfill the part about honor, and about “having all that he desires.”

7) One final explanation is simply that this man has wealth but does not have the right attitude toward life, work, wealth, God and other people. His attitudes cause him to not be able to enjoy what he has.

Here is the rest of the explanation; the first part is that he has wealth but cannot enjoy it, and the second part is that a stranger or foreigner ends up consuming it. The word used here usually means “foreigner, stranger, or unfamiliar person.” Some commentators indicate that it was sometimes used of people close to you, even family members, but those uses were rare and stood outside the normal meaning of the word. So we see that the two parts of the situation described seem to pull against each other. Either we are forced to interpret “stranger” in a broader sense than normal, or we must see some kind of break in the possession of wealth even though the explanation seems to imply that the possession of wealth is continual. This makes it hard to know for sure what Solomon was talking about. My last suggestion, that he did not have the right attitudes, would fit very well with the context, and would fit the part about not enjoying what he had, but it would require that we see the word “stranger” simply as anyone other than himself. This would reveal that the man was selfish and cared nothing for his family. How is it a terrible thing if the money goes to his family as it rightly should? The same could be said of someone who’s spouse or child dies and he is robbed of all motivation and joy.

The best I can make out is that it has to do with a man with the wrong attitudes. The calamity is not that the wealth goes to his children, but that he did not learn to enjoy it while he had it. As his eldest son took the reins of the home and began to administer it as he saw fit, the elderly father was not happy with the way things were going. He said to himself that those in his family might as well be total strangers, and the way they were using the funds seemed like wanton consumption for no good purpose. The terrible affliction in all of this is the man’s attitudes, not what happens with the money.

But remember that enjoyment of the benefits of our work is a gift from God, and the verse says that God did not give him the power or ability to enjoy his wealth. So, is this God’s fault? We must remember that in the mind of the ancient Hebrew, God is behind all things, either directly or indirectly. If God is directly behind something there is nothing we can do to change any of it. But if God is indirectly behind something, then we are participants in the matter and our decisions do influence what happens. The ancient Hebrews saw a balance between God’s involvement in all things as well as man’s responsibility for his own decisions and actions. In this case the man in question did not reach out and accept God’s gift and so he bears the responsibility.

Having wealth does not make you happy, you must choose to be happy regardless of the circumstances. God participates in the process, but He will not make those decisions for us.