Ecclesiastes 2:24-25

There is no one who has tried to enjoy life more than I have. And this is what I learned: The best thing people can do is eat, drink, and enjoy the work they must do. I also saw that this comes from God. If people do good and please God, he will give them wisdom, knowledge, and joy. But those who sin will get only the work of gathering and carrying things. God takes from the bad person and gives to the good person. But all this work is useless. It is like trying to catch the wind.

Does Solomon say that trades, where lifting and carrying are involved, are a punishment for sin?

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    What translation are you quoting here? Have you done any research of your own with commentaries to try to resolve this on your own? This and your last few questions have not shown any research effort. As a site catering specifically to experts this is something we expect you to show at least some respect for.
    – Caleb
    Dec 11, 2013 at 11:02
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    This is an example in which the translators interjected meanings which "obscure" the original intent. The Hebrew Bible accurately conveys the original intent, along with those translations which 'translate' and not 're-author' the texts.
    – Tau
    Dec 14, 2013 at 2:11

3 Answers 3


This verse you are noticing is within the overall concept of a peaceful contentment in the moment which is not really a human ability but is a spiritual attitude that can only come from God. This simple contentment, such as the simple relaxed enjoyment of our daily eating and drinking as part of the essentials of living is contrasted with a meaningless discontented striving to mass up pleasures, security and wealth for some unknown future without a God conscious contentment. Not only is such a lustful striving dumb in that it takes away happiness rather then accumulating it as intended by our greed, but it is often the case that God' in a moment, redirects the entire mass accumulated, to those who please him. For example, the Canaanites worked hard to strive meaninglessly to create a land 'flowing with milk and honey', only to become spoil for Israel.

Therefore, within the context, even the unfortunate translation quoted is clear. The idea is not about the professional trade that one may vex themselves with. It makes no difference if one strives with thinking, farming, working as a lawyer, or a plumber. The point is 'But those who sin will get only the work'. Not the work with contentment which comes from God. That is they only have the work without the contentment and joy, which the righteous learn to have in their eating, drinking, and 'gathering and carrying things'. This contentment in the simple life is a supernatural gift of God.

The fact that sometimes, or possibly even in general, that God somehow redirects all the wasted energy of the wicked into a means of helping the poor and righteous according to his marvelous wisdom and glory, even in the physical details so commonly used in the Hebrew scriptures to illustrate God's footsteps in human government, underlines the core vanity of the discontented worker, whatever his career path. It is actually quite a sublime and beautiful set of thoughts.

  • Yes Mike and really that is the whole point of Ecclesiastes as you well know. Solomon truly and clearly lays before mankind the vanity of life without God. "What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and looses his soul." Solomon was well qualified by his wanderings through pleasure and wisdom and madness to pronounce on the man without God. He walked his way and found it to be empty and vain. I think you have touched the spirit of my question in a beautiful way. We are all under the curse so there is no distinction. Your interpretation is perfect. (continued) Dec 14, 2013 at 7:58
  • The self righteous and physically rich will always miss- interpret this. The fallen mind of man thinks, that if it is rich in worldly goods, it is blessed, how far from the truth and yet how prevalent is this notion. Not many rich, not many noble, not many wise,for God has chosen the foolish, the weak, to put to naught...No doubt the rulers of Christs day looked down upon Jesus, as he was a manual worker. The ruling classes always consider themselves as superior. Their prejudices supported by miss-interpretations of scripture. From Nazareth, can anything good come out of Nazareth. Dec 14, 2013 at 8:10
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    Glad you are still with us. Dec 14, 2013 at 8:32
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    @JohnUnsworth - Yes every believer suffers under the contradiction of men and I can tell we also share the same comfort by the holy spirit to be gracious under those afflictions by the grace given to us. If we do a word study on the meaning of grace it actually stems from enjoying others and eventually took on the meaning of taking pleasure and being favorable in that warm disposition to the undeserving and finally justification by faith. Yet this initial gracious enjoyment is something I need to survive in the busy city life of Hong Kong. thanks for the comments, obviously we agree. Cheers.
    – Mike
    Dec 14, 2013 at 14:49
  • @Mike Yes the answer to this question is simple but what is really interesting, is what it reveals about man. People truly believe that if they are wealthy or have easy interesting jobs they are blessed by God. Job had to learn a hard lesson to understand the nature of grace..I fear most, who claim the name of Christ, have never been through the trial of fire, where we are seen to be but dross and dust. Only when we see we have nothing, do we look outside of self for righteousness and find it alone in Jesus. A persons first meeting with Christ is one of exposure or nakedness! Painful and pure. Dec 18, 2013 at 17:59

A look at a couple translations reflecting modern and classic scholarship offers some helpful insight.

24 The best thing we can do is to enjoy eating, drinking, and working.[a] I believe these are God’s gifts to us, 25 and no one enjoys eating and living more than I do. 26 If we please God, he will make us wise, understanding, and happy. But if we sin, God will make us struggle for a living, then he will give all we own to someone who pleases him. This makes no more sense than chasing the wind.[b]CEV

24 There is nothing good in a man who eateth, and hath drunk, and hath shewn his soul good in his labour. This also I have seen that it [is] from the hand of God. 25 For who eateth and who hasteth out more than I? 26 For to a man who [is] good before Him, He hath given wisdom, and knowledge, and joy; and to a sinner He hath given travail, to gather and to heap up, to give to the good before God. Even this [is] vanity and vexation of spirit.(Young's Literal Translation--YLT)


the word translated "work" means task, work, labor; misfortune, cares, troubles: It is also translated "travail" (Strongs H6045). The translators above understood this to be hard work. I am taken by this back to the garden when Adam and Eve sinned and God pronounced judgement on them:

17 Then to Adam He said, "Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, 'You shall not eat of it': " Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life. 18 Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, And you shall eat the herb of the field. 19 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return."

Contrast that with the word of the LORD to Joshuah 24:13 about Israel inhabiting the land:

13 I gave you a land on which you had not labored
and cities that you had not built, and you dwell in them.
You eat the fruit of vineyards and olive orchards that you did not plant.’

Now, consider the passage in Ecclesiastes through the lens of Psalm 1:

1 Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners,
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
3 He shall be like a tree
Planted by the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season,
Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper.
4 The ungodly are not so,
But are like the chaff which the wind drives away.
5 Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment,
Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
6 For the LORD knows the way of the righteous,
But the way of the ungodly shall perish.

It is not a matter of what kind of work we are doing, but of whether that work is blessed, that is addressed in this passage. If we walk in the instruction of the LORD we will be blessed in whatever we do. If we walk in sin, we will work hard for nothing. It will be vanity.


The 12th Century scholar Rashi addressed your issue. My translation follows The Complete Jewish Bible (in Hebrew and English) with Rashi Commentary, which you can access on-line here. My translation differs somewhat from yours.

Verse 24 states: Is it not good for a man that he eat and drink and show himself enjoyment in his toil? This too have I seen that it is from the hand of God.

Rashi states:

Is it not good for a man: This is a question. [Is it not good for a man] that he eat and drink and show himself enjoyment? That is, let him pay heed to performing justice and righteousness with the eating and the drinking, and so it was said to Jehoiakim (Jer. 22:15): “Your father-did he not eat and drink and perform justice and righteousness? Then it was well with him.”

Verse 25-26 continue: "25.For who will eat and who will hasten [to swallow it] except me? 26. For to a man who is good in His sight, He has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner He has given an occupation to gather and to accumulate, to give to him who is good in God's sight; this too is vanity and frustration."

Rashi continues his discussion of verse 26:

For to a man who is good in His sight: in the sight of God, mentioned above, “that it is from the hand of God.”

He has given wisdom and knowledge and joy: a heart to engage in the Torah and in the commandments and to rejoice in his portion of eating, drinking, and clean clothing.

but to the sinner He has given an occupation: a habit and a concern to gather and to accumulate, and to give to him who is good in God’s sight, as it is stated (Esther 8:2): “and Esther placed Mordecai in charge of the house of Haman.”

this too: is one of the vanities that were given to the creatures, that they toil, and someone else takes [the fruits].

To summarize what he said in a somewhat dated vernacular: "Don't sweat and labor for the Man (someone else) or even for yourself if all you are going to do is waste it on junk. Instead, use what time you need to earn a living, but spend your freetime doing what G-d wants you to do (e.g. study Torah, do acts of good deeds and charity, etc.)."

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