Verse 1:

שלח לחמך על פני המים כי ברב הימים תמצאנו

Send/set your bread upon the surface of the waters for in many days you shall discover it.

Verse 2:

תן חלק ל שבע וגם ל שמונה כי לא תדע מה יהיה רעה על הארץ

Give some to seven and also to eight as/that you would not know what evil befalls the land.

??? What is that ???

There is no meaning. I have heard some people attempting to relate this to investing in the stock market or financial fluidity. Which is a stretch.

Secondly, why can't verse 1 be translated as,

Send/set your conflicts upon the surface of the waters ....


Isn't it interesting that לחם tells us to fight for our bread?

I think there is an ambiguity in verse 2 - just look at the sentence grammatically without depending on what which notable theologian or rabbi said. Could it be ...

  • give some to 7/8 since you would not know what befalls the land
  • give some to 7/8 because you would not know what befalls the land
  • give some to 7/8 so that you would not know what befalls the land


So, could someone kindly explain and enlighten me on these two verses and as well as grammatically (not theologically) debunk my suggested translations?

  • 1
    Could you work on the presentation of your question some (formatting/clarity/etc)?
    – Kazark
    Commented Sep 4, 2012 at 1:29
  • Further note: In my request to debunk my suggestions grammatically, it also includes using means of contextually related references.
    – Cynthia
    Commented Sep 4, 2012 at 6:26
  • Tashlich is usually performed on the first day of Rosh HaShanah, except if it falls on Shabbat - but could be performed anytime before end of Sukkot. Unfortunately תשליך is not the same root spelling as תשלח.
    – Cynthia
    Commented Sep 4, 2012 at 6:36

3 Answers 3


I found this obvious, and I can't resist referencing my own translation work that you can find posted on Wikisource:

Cast your bread onto the waters, because in the many days, you shall find it. Give a part to seven, even to eight, because you will not know what evil will be on the Earth

This is saying if you have bread, share it, let it "drift out on the waters" (as if you sent it to sea, because it is lost to you), because in the coming days it will come back to you (meaning others will share their bread with you). Give a portion to seven, even to eight (people), because you don't know what evil will come, and what state will befall you when you will also need the bread of others. It's about sharing, not investment.

This interpretation is straightforward and easy, but it might be disguised by the other translations.

  • 5
    I think it's interesting that the advice in Ecclesiastes when faced with trouble and uncertainty is to give away what you have. A lot of people might have done something more productive with their time around the Y2K scare if they had listened to this counsel! Commented Sep 5, 2012 at 16:30
  • 1
    So what Qoheleth is actually saying is: Be charitable so you can get it all back. Giving for the sake of reward - does Qoheleth give similar advice elsewhere in the book? And how do you tie up verses 1 and 2, because one talks about sending bread over the waters, the other about dividing it to people? The easy interpretation sounds dubious, because the first implies distance and the second suggests immediacy. Investment is not so much of a stretch, contextually. Commented Nov 10, 2015 at 16:47

I read an interesting explanation of this on the Biblical Horizons blog a while back. Jeff Meyers pulls an idea from Michael Homan and suggests that this could be an allusion to a form of beer making used in the ancient world. I don't have direct access to Homan's work, but here's a snippet from the Wikipedia article on Ancient Egyptian Cuisine:

Archeological evidence shows that beer was made by first baking "beer bread", a type of well-leavened, lightly baked bread that did not kill the yeasts, which was then crumbled over a sieve, washed with water in a vat and then left to ferment

Jeff Meyers continues:

This looks really promising. First, there are all the references in Ecclesiastes to wine. Solomon advises godly folk to “drink wine” and enjoy life (9:7) with one’s spouse. And this exhortation to make beer and share it with others fits with the idea that the troubles of this life are best alleviated with a joyful reception of food and drink with others (2:24, 25; 3:13; 5:11, 18; 8:15; 9:7).

Secondly, beer is just liquid bread. Or perhaps we should say, as James Jordan puts it, beer is glorified liquid bread. So casting your bread (grain) in the water and waiting many days to find it is about the process of fermentation, especially the anticipation of a glorious final brew.

Third, it needs to be stressed that in the Bible beer and wine are gifts of God given to gladden the hearts of the faithful, especially in times of trouble and distress. Proverbs 31:6 says, “Give beer to the one who is perishing, and wine to those in bitter distress.” This fits with the last line of 11:2, “for you know not what disaster may happen on the earth.”

Fourth, the social context of this drinking is stressed in 11:2a, “Give a serving to seven, or even to eight.” As Homan notes, “The inclusion of “seven” or “eight” people in Qoh. xi 2 fits with the context of beer drinking as a social event.11 And finally, the term plq, “serving”, is also used for distribution of food to Levites (Deut, xviii 8) and at a festival com- memorating the ark’s entry into Jerusalem, when David distributes victuals to the people (2 Sam. vi 19).”

All of this fits in quite well with Solomon’s conclusion to the book. It highlights the fact that the way to cope with the vaporous quality of human life is to enjoy food and drink, especially wine and beer with others in the Lord’s presence.

  • Any spiritual allusion or allegorization between humans, faith and the beer?
    – Cynthia
    Commented Nov 7, 2012 at 18:13
  • @BlessedGeek Of course :) Just as the little yeasties eat the sugars and turn the "bread water" into a glorified drink that gladdens and gives rest to the heart of man (which is a picture of the Sabbath rest so often spoken of in scripture) so Christians eat the world and transform it from glory to glory, from bread to wine (so to speak). We transform it literally by eating plants which are little machines that turn the world into food, and also by continuing to carry out the cultural mandate from Genesis 1, transforming the earth after the pattern shown in heaven.
    – Sticmann
    Commented Nov 7, 2012 at 21:53

Ron's answer is a great one from the literal rendering.

In SP, everything references Christ:

Bread is the body of Christ as defined by him. Water is the word of God. This is plural, the same as in Gen 1 when the Spirit hovered over the face of the waters, and the surface and face are the same word.

We have a 'callback to Genesis 1.2. Christ is the firmament and the bread, both of which are on the face of the waters, or the presentation of grace and holiness.

Many days can be rendered 'excellence of days', 'abundance of days', even something like 'culmination of days' since 'rob' means a multitude or abundance of any attribute.

Christ was cast out 'outside the camp' in accordance with the requirements of holiness and grace to be returned to us in the culmination of days.


The number seven not only is a metaphor for completeness, but the word for seven means 'satisfied' and 'fullness'. The word for eight comes from a root meaning fat, or oil which are symbols of the Spirit.

The word for portion mean 'divide'. The divided hoof is a symbol of holiness.

Verse 2 suggests that you make yourself holy to 'the complete one' and to the Spirit before judgement comes.

This is no less than a parallel passage to Elijah preparing the hearts of 'the children' and John calling Israel to repentance.


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