Turn! Turn! Turn! I hope it's not too late

(א) דִּבְרֵי֙ קֹהֶ֣לֶת בֶּן־דָּוִ֔ד מֶ֖לֶךְ בִּירוּשָׁלָֽ͏ִם׃ (ב) הֲבֵ֤ל הֲבָלִים֙ אָמַ֣ר קֹהֶ֔לֶת הֲבֵ֥ל הֲבָלִ֖ים הַכֹּ֥ל הָֽבֶל׃

(1) The words of Koheleth son of David, king in Jerusalem.
(2) Utter futility!—said Koheleth—
Utter futility! All is futile!


  1. The Hebrew name was the phrase from 1:1, "the Words of Qoheleth, the son of David, king in Jerusalem." Its short designation was Qoheleth (BDB 875), the verb used of Solomon in 1 Kgs. 8:1. It is a feminine participle from the Hebrew Qahal, "congregation" or "assembly" (cf. IV. F.). It seems to designate an office (i.e., used with article in Eccl. 12:8).
  2. The book was called "Ecclesiastes," which is a Latinized form from the Septuagint. This is the Greek term for "one who assembles," from the root "to call out."
  3. The term Qoheleth can mean
  1. one who assembles an audience, therefore, a teacher, preacher, debater, etc.
  2. metaphorically for one who gathers truth, a philosopher or sage
  3. one who gathers different opinions and decides which is more accurate

Wisdom Literature: The Mysterious Books Of Ecclesiastes And Song Of Songs

(א) אָ֣ז יַקְהֵ֣ל שְׁלֹמֹ֣ה אֶת־זִקְנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֡ל אֶת־כׇּל־רָאשֵׁ֣י הַמַּטּוֹת֩ נְשִׂיאֵ֨י הָאָב֜וֹת לִבְנֵ֧י יִשְׂרָאֵ֛ל אֶל־הַמֶּ֥לֶךְ שְׁלֹמֹ֖ה יְרוּשָׁלָ֑͏ִם לְֽהַעֲל֞וֹת אֶת־אֲר֧וֹן בְּרִית־ה' מֵעִ֥יר דָּוִ֖ד הִ֥יא צִיּֽוֹן׃
(1) Then Solomon convoked the elders of Israel—all the heads of the tribes and the ancestral chieftains of the Israelites—before King Solomon in Jerusalem, to bring up the Ark of the Covenant of the LORD from the City of David, that is, Zion.

(כב) וְחַ֤ג שָׁבֻעֹת֙ תַּעֲשֶׂ֣ה לְךָ֔ בִּכּוּרֵ֖י קְצִ֣יר חִטִּ֑ים וְחַג֙ הָֽאָסִ֔יף תְּקוּפַ֖ת הַשָּׁנָֽה׃

(22) You shall observe the Feast of Weeks, of the first fruits of the wheat harvest; and the Feast of Ingathering at the turn of the year.

(לו) שִׁבְעַ֣ת יָמִ֔ים תַּקְרִ֥יבוּ אִשֶּׁ֖ה לַה' בַּיּ֣וֹם הַשְּׁמִינִ֡י מִקְרָא־קֹ֩דֶשׁ֩ יִהְיֶ֨ה לָכֶ֜ם וְהִקְרַבְתֶּ֨ם אִשֶּׁ֤ה לַֽה' עֲצֶ֣רֶת הִ֔וא כׇּל־מְלֶ֥אכֶת עֲבֹדָ֖ה לֹ֥א תַעֲשֽׂוּ׃

(36) seven days you shall bring offerings by fire to the LORD. On the eighth day you shall observe a sacred occasion and bring an offering by fire to the LORD; it is a solemn gathering: you shall not work at your occupations.

atzeret (or aẓeret) is the name given to this day in four different locations in the Hebrew Bible. Like atzarah, atzeret denotes "day of assembly", from atzar = "to hold back" or "keep in"; hence, also the name atzeret given to the seventh day of Pesaḥ. [9] Owing, however, to the fact that both Shemini Atzeret and the seventh day of Pesaḥ are described as atzeret, the name was taken to mean "the closing festival".


(מ) וּלְקַחְתֶּ֨ם לָכֶ֜ם בַּיּ֣וֹם הָרִאשׁ֗וֹן פְּרִ֨י עֵ֤ץ הָדָר֙ כַּפֹּ֣ת תְּמָרִ֔ים וַעֲנַ֥ף עֵץ־עָבֹ֖ת וְעַרְבֵי־נָ֑חַל וּשְׂמַחְתֶּ֗ם לִפְנֵ֛י ה' אֱלֹקֵיכֶ֖ם שִׁבְעַ֥ת יָמִֽים׃ (מא) וְחַגֹּתֶ֤ם אֹתוֹ֙ חַ֣ג לַֽה' שִׁבְעַ֥ת יָמִ֖ים בַּשָּׁנָ֑ה חֻקַּ֤ת עוֹלָם֙ לְדֹרֹ֣תֵיכֶ֔ם בַּחֹ֥דֶשׁ הַשְּׁבִיעִ֖י תָּחֹ֥גּוּ אֹתֽוֹ׃
(40) On the first day you shall take the product of hadar trees, branches of palm trees, boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days. (41) You shall observe it as a festival of the LORD for seven days in the year; you shall observe it in the seventh month as a law for all time, throughout the ages.

וד' שבלולב (ויקרא כג, מ) ולקחתם לקיחה תמה אמר רב חנן בר רבא ל"ש אלא שאין לו אבל יש לו אין מעכבין

And with regard to the four species of the lulav, each prevents fulfillment of the mitzva with the others, as the verse states: “And you shall take” [ulkaḥtem]” (Leviticus 23:40), which alludes to: A complete taking [lekiḥa tamma], comprising all four species. § Rav Ḥanan bar Rava says: The mishna taught that the four species of the lulav are necessary for the fulfillment of the mitzva only in a case where one did not have all four species; but if one has all four species, failure to take each of the components does not prevent fulfillment of the mitzva with the others, and he fulfills the mitzva by taking each species individually.

Happiness, said Aristotle, is the ultimate goal at which all humans aim. But in Judaism it is not necessarily so. Happiness is a high value. Ashrei, the closest Hebrew word to happiness, is the first word of the book of Psalms. We say the prayer known as Ashrei three times each day. We can surely endorse the phrase in the American Declaration of Independence that among the inalienable rights of humankind are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

But Ashrei is not the central value of the Hebrew Bible. Occurring almost ten times as frequently is the word simcha, joy. It is one of the fundamental themes of Deuteronomy as a book. The root s-m-ch appears only once in each of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers, but no less than twelve times in Deuteronomy. It lies at the heart of the Mosaic vision of life in the land of Israel. That is where we serve God with joy.

Happiness is an attitude to life as a whole, while joy lives in the moment. As J. D. Salinger once said: “Happiness is a solid, joy is a liquid.” Happiness is something you pursue. But joy is not. It discovers you.

Paradoxically, the biblical book most focused on joy is precisely the one often thought of as the unhappiest of all, Kohelet, a.k.a. Ecclesiastes. Kohelet is notoriously the man who had everything, yet describes it all as hevel, a word he uses almost forty times in the space of the book, and variously translated as ‘meaningless, pointless, futile, empty,’ or as the King James Bible famously rendered it, ‘vanity.’ In fact, though, Kohelet uses the word simcha seventeen times, that is, more than the whole of the Mosaic books together. After every one of his meditations on the pointlessness of life, Kohelet ends with an exhortation to joy:

My argument is that Kohelet can only be understood if we realise that hevel does not mean ‘pointless, empty, or futile.’ It means ‘a shallow breath.’ Kohelet is a meditation on mortality. However long we live, we know we will one day die. Our lives are a mere microsecond in the history of the universe. The cosmos lasts for ever while we, living, breathing mortals, are a mere fleeting breath.

[see also:

In Hebrew all words relating to the soul, the spirit, the life force, have to do with the act of breathing. So does the word hevel. It means a short, shallow breath. That is Kohelet’s fundamental insight. Life is vulnerable, fragile, brief. It is a mere fleeting breath, yet it is all we have.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks Happiness is to be found in being, not in having]

Kohelet eventually finds it not in happiness but in joy – because joy lives not in thoughts of tomorrow, but in the grateful acceptance and celebration of today. We are here; we are alive; we are among others who share our sense of jubilation.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks The Pursuit of Joy (Ki Tavo 5775)

(כח) בּוֹטֵ֣חַ בְּ֭עׇשְׁרוֹ ה֣וּא יִפּ֑וֹל וְ֝כֶעָלֶ֗ה צַדִּיקִ֥ים יִפְרָֽחוּ׃ (כט) עֹכֵ֣ר בֵּ֭יתוֹ יִנְחַל־ר֑וּחַ וְעֶ֥בֶד אֱ֝וִ֗יל לַֽחֲכַם־לֵֽב׃ (ל) פְּֽרִי־צַ֭דִּיק עֵ֣ץ חַיִּ֑ים וְלֹקֵ֖חַ נְפָשׁ֣וֹת חָכָֽם׃
(28) He who trusts in his wealth shall fall,
But the righteous shall flourish like foliage.
(29) He who makes trouble for his household shall inherit the wind;
A fool is a slave to the wise-hearted.
(30) The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life;
A wise man captivates people.

(ט) וַיִּתֵּן֩ אֱלֹקִ֨ים חׇכְמָ֧ה לִשְׁלֹמֹ֛ה וּתְבוּנָ֖ה הַרְבֵּ֣ה מְאֹ֑ד וְרֹ֣חַב לֵ֔ב כַּח֕וֹל אֲשֶׁ֖ר עַל־שְׂפַ֥ת הַיָּֽם׃ (י) וַתֵּ֙רֶב֙ חׇכְמַ֣ת שְׁלֹמֹ֔ה מֵחׇכְמַ֖ת כׇּל־בְּנֵי־קֶ֑דֶם וּמִכֹּ֖ל חׇכְמַ֥ת מִצְרָֽיִם׃ (יא) וַיֶּחְכַּם֮ מִכׇּל־הָאָדָם֒ מֵאֵיתָ֣ן הָאֶזְרָחִ֗י וְהֵימָ֧ן וְכַלְכֹּ֛ל וְדַרְדַּ֖ע בְּנֵ֣י מָח֑וֹל וַיְהִֽי־שְׁמ֥וֹ בְכׇֽל־הַגּוֹיִ֖ם סָבִֽיב׃ (יב) וַיְדַבֵּ֕ר שְׁלֹ֥שֶׁת אֲלָפִ֖ים מָשָׁ֑ל וַיְהִ֥י שִׁיר֖וֹ חֲמִשָּׁ֥ה וָאָֽלֶף׃ (יג) וַיְדַבֵּר֮ עַל־הָעֵצִים֒ מִן־הָאֶ֙רֶז֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר בַּלְּבָנ֔וֹן וְעַד֙ הָאֵז֔וֹב אֲשֶׁ֥ר יֹצֵ֖א בַּקִּ֑יר וַיְדַבֵּר֙ עַל־הַבְּהֵמָ֣ה וְעַל־הָע֔וֹף וְעַל־הָרֶ֖מֶשׂ וְעַל־הַדָּגִֽים׃ (יד) וַיָּבֹ֙אוּ֙ מִכׇּל־הָ֣עַמִּ֔ים לִשְׁמֹ֕עַ אֵ֖ת חׇכְמַ֣ת שְׁלֹמֹ֑ה מֵאֵת֙ כׇּל־מַלְכֵ֣י הָאָ֔רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֥ר שָֽׁמְע֖וּ אֶת־חׇכְמָתֽוֹ׃ {ס}

(9) God endowed Solomon with wisdom and discernment in great measure, with understanding as vast as the sands on the seashore. (10) Solomon’s wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the Kedemites and than all the wis
dom of the Egyptians.
(11) He was the wisest of all men: [wiser] than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, Chalkol, and Darda the sons of Mahol. His fame spread among all the surrounding nations. (12) He composed three thousand proverbs, and his songs numbered one thousand and five. (13) He discoursed about trees, from the cedar in Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of the wall; and he discoursed about beasts, birds, creeping things, and fishes. (14) Men of all peoples came to hear Solomon’s wisdom, [sent] by all the kings of the earth who had heard of his wisdom.

(יג) אַשְׁרֵ֣י אָ֭דָם מָצָ֣א חׇכְמָ֑ה וְ֝אָדָ֗ם יָפִ֥יק תְּבוּנָֽה׃ (יד) כִּ֤י ט֣וֹב סַ֭חְרָהּ מִסְּחַר־כָּ֑סֶף וּ֝מֵחָר֗וּץ תְּבוּאָתָֽהּ׃ (טו) יְקָ֣רָה הִ֭יא (מפניים) [מִפְּנִינִ֑ים] וְכׇל־חֲ֝פָצֶ֗יךָ לֹ֣א יִֽשְׁווּ־בָֽהּ׃ (טז) אֹ֣רֶךְ יָ֭מִים בִּֽימִינָ֑הּ בִּ֝שְׂמֹאולָ֗הּ עֹ֣שֶׁר וְכָבֽוֹד׃ (יז) דְּרָכֶ֥יהָ דַרְכֵי־נֹ֑עַם וְֽכׇל־נְתִ֖יבוֹתֶ֣יהָ שָׁלֽוֹם׃ (יח) עֵץ־חַיִּ֣ים הִ֭יא לַמַּחֲזִיקִ֣ים בָּ֑הּ וְֽתֹמְכֶ֥יהָ מְאֻשָּֽׁר׃ {פ}
(יט) ה' בְּחׇכְמָ֥ה יָסַד־אָ֑רֶץ כּוֹנֵ֥ן שָׁ֝מַ֗יִם בִּתְבוּנָֽה׃ (כ) בְּ֭דַעְתּוֹ תְּהוֹמ֣וֹת נִבְקָ֑עוּ וּ֝שְׁחָקִ֗ים יִרְעֲפוּ־טָֽל׃

(13) Happy is the man who finds wisdom,
The man who attains understanding.
(14) Her value in trade is better than silver,
Her yield, greater than gold.
(15) She is more precious than rubies;
All of your goods cannot equal her.
(16) In her right hand is length of days,
In her left, riches and honor.
(17) Her ways are pleasant ways,
And all her paths, peaceful.
(18) She is a tree of life to those who grasp her,
And whoever holds on to her is happy.

(19) The LORD founded the earth by wisdom;
He established the heavens by understanding;
(20) By His knowledge the depths burst apart,
And the skies distilled dew.

(ז) יִרְאַ֣ת ה' רֵאשִׁ֣ית דָּ֑עַת חׇכְמָ֥ה וּ֝מוּסָ֗ר אֱוִילִ֥ים בָּֽזוּ׃ {פ}
(ח) שְׁמַ֣ע בְּ֭נִי מוּסַ֣ר אָבִ֑יךָ וְאַל־תִּ֝טֹּ֗שׁ תּוֹרַ֥ת אִמֶּֽךָ׃
(7) The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge;
Fools despise wisdom and discipline.
(8) My son, heed the discipline of your father,
And do not forsake the instruction of your mother;

The Morality of the Wisdom Literature

The morality of biblical wisdom is catholic and humanistic, without any national or distinctly Israelite coloring, Its monotheism is the legendary monotheism of primeval times. Job is a patriarchal monotheist (Ezek. 14:14, 20). Proverbs speaks of the non-Israelite Agur and Lemuel (30:1; 31:1), both apparently conceived of as early monotheists (cf. Agr's lofty credo 30:5 ff.). The cult reflected in this literature consists of sacrifice, vow, and prayer. Like the cult of patriarchal times, it lacks priests, temples, and national festivals. Biblical wisdom retains the style and mood of ancient Near Eastern wisdom out of which it sprang. Like its antecedents, it grounds morality on prudence and God-fearing," rather than on a historical cov- enant. Its doctrine of individual retribution resembles that of general Eastern wisdom; like the latter, it too has little to say about cultic matters.

Since God oversees all the acts of men and knows their innermost thought, doing good will benefit man, while doing bad will harm him. How can man know what is good and bad? Wisdom teaches him. Not personal wisdom - "Rely not on your understanding'" (3:5; etc.)--but traditional wisdom tried and tested through the ages. It is a spark of the same divine wisdom through which God created the world (3:

19 f.), which indeed preceded creation (8:22 ff.). And its first teaching is fear of YHWH"

THE ANTIQUITY OF ISRAELITE WISDOM MORALITY-In later wisdom literature (from Ben-Sira onward), Torah and wisdom were identified. This has not yet occurred in biblical times. Proverbs speaks of torah and commandment, but they are (as always in oriental wisdom) the instruction and commands of father, mother, sage, or of wisdom personified. There is nothing about a revealed Torah, concerning which a covenant has been made. The first chapters of Proverbs are full of the image of a father instructing his son, exhorting him to obey wisdom and get understanding. But according to Exodus 13:3 ., Deuteronomy 4:9, etc., what the Israelite must teach his children is the story of the Exodus and the laws given Israel at that time. Proverbs 1:9; 3:3, 22; 7:3 urge the wearing of wisdom as a graceful Chaplet on one's head, as a necklace, writing them on the tablets of one's heart, binding them to one's fingers. Nothing is said of binding the words of God on the hands or placing them as frontlets" between the eyes and on doorposts (Deut. 6:8f.; 11:18 f.). In striking contrast with the Torah, the moral rules of proverbs are never provided with a historical or national motive.

The Religion of Israel - from its beginnings to the Babylonian exile, Yehezkel Kaufman trans. Moshe Greenberg pp 323 - 327

If God reveals himself to humanity in religious-moral actions through which he leads them consciously toward a purpose, the life of humanity must have a final great end in which God's highest thoughts and purposes are to be worked out. Hence, in the framework of Hebrew piety eschatology is just as necessary a conclusion as immutable eternity is for the Greeks who think religiously.

Hebrew Thought Compared with Greek, Thorleif Boman 1970 p 171

Characteristics of Wisdom Literature

1) Absolutely individual, nothing to do with the nation, single person

2) Un historical. no nationalism, name of Israel never mentioned. Nothing besides the monotheistic idea is not found in other wisdom literature. The God is universal. The musar is univesal and not timely

3) It is practical, how to succeed in life. Reputation, peaceful life, economic good. Relatively secular. even when Tzedakah and gemilut hasadim etc. are discussed, its from the point of view of one individual to another - the wise and experienced to the young.

As a result, andy study of Hebrew Wisdom without parallels to Near Eastern Wisdom is lacking.

Notes to class from Moshe Held, Columbia University 1978 Summer seminar

(ב) הֲבֵ֤ל הֲבָלִים֙ אָמַ֣ר קֹהֶ֔לֶת הֲבֵ֥ל הֲבָלִ֖ים הַכֹּ֥ל הָֽבֶל׃ (ג) מַה־יִּתְר֖וֹן לָֽאָדָ֑ם בְּכׇ֨ל־עֲמָל֔וֹ שֶֽׁיַּעֲמֹ֖ל תַּ֥חַת הַשָּֽׁמֶשׁ׃ (ד) דּ֤וֹר הֹלֵךְ֙ וְד֣וֹר בָּ֔א וְהָאָ֖רֶץ לְעוֹלָ֥ם עֹמָֽדֶת׃
(2) Utter futility!—said Koheleth—
Utter futility! All is futile!
(3) What real value is there for a man
In all the gains he makes beneath the sun?
(4) One generation goes, another comes,
But the earth remains the same forever.

Gilgamesh opened his mouth,

Saying to [Enkidu]:

"Who, my friend can scale he[aven]?

Only the gods [live] forever under the sun.

As for mankind, numbered are their days;

Whatever they achieve is but the wind!

Even here thou art afraid of death.

The Ancient Near East Volume I An Anthology of Texts and Pictures, Edited by James B. Pritchard p 51

(ו) גַּ֣ם אַהֲבָתָ֧ם גַּם־שִׂנְאָתָ֛ם גַּם־קִנְאָתָ֖ם כְּבָ֣ר אָבָ֑דָה וְחֵ֨לֶק אֵין־לָהֶ֥ם עוֹד֙ לְעוֹלָ֔ם בְּכֹ֥ל אֲשֶֽׁר־נַעֲשָׂ֖ה תַּ֥חַת הַשָּֽׁמֶשׁ׃
(6) Their loves, their hates, their jealousies have long since perished; and they have no more share till the end of time in all that goes on under the sun.
(ד) דּ֤וֹר הֹלֵךְ֙ וְד֣וֹר בָּ֔א וְהָאָ֖רֶץ לְעוֹלָ֥ם עֹמָֽדֶת׃
(4) One generation goes, another comes,
But the earth remains the same forever.
(יא) אֵ֥ין זִכְר֖וֹן לָרִאשֹׁנִ֑ים וְגַ֨ם לָאַחֲרֹנִ֜ים שֶׁיִּהְי֗וּ לֹֽא־יִהְיֶ֤ה לָהֶם֙ זִכָּר֔וֹן עִ֥ם שֶׁיִּהְי֖וּ לָאַחֲרֹנָֽה׃ {פ}
(11) The earlier ones are not remembered; so too those that will occur later will no more be remembered than-e those that will occur at the very end.
(טז) כִּי֩ אֵ֨ין זִכְר֧וֹן לֶחָכָ֛ם עִֽם־הַכְּסִ֖יל לְעוֹלָ֑ם בְּשֶׁכְּבָ֞ר הַיָּמִ֤ים הַבָּאִים֙ הַכֹּ֣ל נִשְׁכָּ֔ח וְאֵ֛יךְ יָמ֥וּת הֶחָכָ֖ם עִֽם־הַכְּסִֽיל׃
(16) because the wise man, just like the fool, is not remembered forever; for, as the succeeding days roll by, both are forgotten. Alas, the wise man dies, just like-e the fool!
(ה) כִּ֧י הַֽחַיִּ֛ים יוֹדְעִ֖ים שֶׁיָּמֻ֑תוּ וְהַמֵּתִ֞ים אֵינָ֧ם יוֹדְעִ֣ים מְא֗וּמָה וְאֵֽין־ע֤וֹד לָהֶם֙ שָׂכָ֔ר כִּ֥י נִשְׁכַּ֖ח זִכְרָֽם׃
(5) since the living know they will die. But the dead know nothing; they have no more recompense, for even the memory of them has died.

Do we build a house for ever?

Do we seal (contracts) for ever?

Do brothers divide shares for ever?

Does hatred persist for ever in [the land]?

Since the days of yore there has been no [permanence];

The resting of the dead, how alike [they are]!

Do they not compose a picture of death,

The commoner and the noble,

Pritchard p 65 Gilgamesh

(יט) כִּי֩ מִקְרֶ֨ה בְֽנֵי־הָאָדָ֜ם וּמִקְרֶ֣ה הַבְּהֵמָ֗ה וּמִקְרֶ֤ה אֶחָד֙ לָהֶ֔ם כְּמ֥וֹת זֶה֙ כֵּ֣ן מ֣וֹת זֶ֔ה וְר֥וּחַ אֶחָ֖ד לַכֹּ֑ל וּמוֹתַ֨ר הָאָדָ֤ם מִן־הַבְּהֵמָה֙ אָ֔יִן כִּ֥י הַכֹּ֖ל הָֽבֶל׃
(19) For in respect of the fate of man and the fate of beast, they have one and the same fate: as the one dies so dies the other, and both have the same lifebreath; man has no superiority over beast, since both amount to nothing.
(ט) מַה־שֶּֽׁהָיָה֙ ה֣וּא שֶׁיִּהְיֶ֔ה וּמַה־שֶּׁנַּֽעֲשָׂ֔ה ה֖וּא שֶׁיֵּעָשֶׂ֑ה וְאֵ֥ין כׇּל־חָדָ֖שׁ תַּ֥חַת הַשָּֽׁמֶשׁ׃ (י) יֵ֥שׁ דָּבָ֛ר שֶׁיֹּאמַ֥ר רְאֵה־זֶ֖ה חָדָ֣שׁ ה֑וּא כְּבָר֙ הָיָ֣ה לְעֹֽלָמִ֔ים אֲשֶׁ֥ר הָיָ֖ה מִלְּפָנֵֽנוּ׃
(9) Only that shall happen
Which has happened,
Only that occur
Which has occurred;
There is nothing new
Beneath the sun!
(10) Sometimes there is a phenomenon of which they say, “Look, this one is new!”—it occurred long since, in ages that went by before us.

The life of the day before yesterday is that of any day.

Pritchard p 244 Proverb from Mesopotamia

(יח) גַּ֣ם כׇּֽל־הָאָדָ֡ם אֲשֶׁ֣ר נָֽתַן־ל֣וֹ הָאֱלֹקִים֩ עֹ֨שֶׁר וּנְכָסִ֜ים וְהִשְׁלִיט֨וֹ לֶאֱכֹ֤ל מִמֶּ֙נּוּ֙ וְלָשֵׂ֣את אֶת־חֶלְק֔וֹ וְלִשְׂמֹ֖חַ בַּעֲמָל֑וֹ זֹ֕ה מַתַּ֥ת אֱלֹקִ֖ים הִֽיא׃
(18) Also, whenever a man is given riches and property by God, and is also permitted by Him to enjoy them and to take his portion and get pleasure for his gains—that is a gift of God.
(טו) וְשִׁבַּ֤חְתִּֽי אֲנִי֙ אֶת־הַשִּׂמְחָ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֨ר אֵֽין־ט֤וֹב לָֽאָדָם֙ תַּ֣חַת הַשֶּׁ֔מֶשׁ כִּ֛י אִם־לֶאֱכֹ֥ל וְלִשְׁתּ֖וֹת וְלִשְׂמ֑וֹחַ וְה֞וּא יִלְוֶ֣נּוּ בַעֲמָל֗וֹ יְמֵ֥י חַיָּ֛יו אֲשֶׁר־נָֽתַן־ל֥וֹ הָאֱלֹקִ֖ים תַּ֥חַת הַשָּֽׁמֶשׁ׃
(15) I therefore praised enjoyment. For the only good a man can have under the sun is to eat and drink and enjoy himself. That much can accompany him, in exchange for his wealth, through the days of life that God has granted him under the sun.
(ח) בְּכׇל־עֵ֕ת יִהְי֥וּ בְגָדֶ֖יךָ לְבָנִ֑ים וְשֶׁ֖מֶן עַל־רֹאשְׁךָ֥ אַל־יֶחְסָֽר׃ (ט) רְאֵ֨ה חַיִּ֜ים עִם־אִשָּׁ֣ה אֲשֶׁר־אָהַ֗בְתָּ כׇּל־יְמֵי֙ חַיֵּ֣י הֶבְלֶ֔ךָ אֲשֶׁ֤ר נָֽתַן־לְךָ֙ תַּ֣חַת הַשֶּׁ֔מֶשׁ כֹּ֖ל יְמֵ֣י הֶבְלֶ֑ךָ כִּ֣י ה֤וּא חֶלְקְךָ֙ בַּֽחַיִּ֔ים וּבַעֲמָ֣לְךָ֔ אֲשֶׁר־אַתָּ֥ה עָמֵ֖ל תַּ֥חַת הַשָּֽׁמֶשׁ׃
(8) Let your clothes always be freshly washed, and your head never lack ointment. (9) Enjoy happiness with a woman you love all the fleeting days of life that have been granted to you under the sun—all your fleeting days. For that alone is what you can get out of life and out of the means you acquire under the sun.

"Gilgamesh, whither rovest thou?

The life thou pursuest thou shalt not find.

When the gods created mankind,

Death for mankind they set aside,

Life in their own hands retaining.

Thou, Gilgamesh, let full be thy belly,

Make thou merry by day and by night.

Of each day make thou a feast of rejoicing, Day and night dance thou and play!

Let thy garments be sparkling fresh,

Thy head be washed; bathe thou in water.

Pay heed to the little one that holds on to thy hand, Let thy spouse delight in thy bosom!

For this is the task of [mankind]!"

Pritchard p. 64


- [Slave, listen to me!]

- Here I am, master, here I am!

- [Quickly! Fetch me the chariot and hitch it up. I want to drive to the palace.

- Drive, master, drive! It will be to your advantage. When he will see you, the king will give you honors.

- [0 well, slave] I will not drive to the palace!

- Do not drive, master, do not drive! When he will see you, the king may send you God knows where, He may make you take a route that you do not know, He will make you suffer agony day and night.


- Slave, listen to me!

- Here I am, master, here I am

- Quickly! Fetch me water for my hands, I want to dine!

- Dine, master, dine! A good meal relaxes the mind! [ ] the meal of his god. To wash one's hand passes the time!

- 0 well, slave, I will not dine!

- Do not dine, master, do not dine! To eat only when one is hungry, to drink only when one is thirsty is best for man!


- Slave, listen to me!

- Here I am, master, here I am!

- Quickly! Fetch me my chariot. I am going to hunt!

- Drive, master, drive! A hunter gets his belly filled! The hunting dog will break the bones of the prey! The raven that scours the country can feed its nest! The fleeting onager finds rich pastures!

- 0 well, slave, I will not hunt!

- Do not go, master, do not go! - The hunter's luck changes! The hunting dog's teeth will get broken! The raven that scours the country has a hole in the wall as a home. The fleeting onager has the desert as his stable?


- Slave, listen to me!

- Here I am, master, here I am! I want to set up a home, I want to have a son! ]

- Have them, master, have them! The man who sets up a home [...] How could I set up a home! Do not set up a home; otherwise you will break up your father's home!


Only fragments of this stanza remain. They allow us to see that the master wants to go to court. For that purpose he decides first to let his opponent act, without saying a word. Then, changing his mind as usual, he does not want to remain silent anymore.

- Do not remain silent, master, do not remain silent! If you do not open your mouth, your opponent will have a free hand! Your prosecutors will be savage to you, if you speak!


- Slave, listen to me!

- Here I am, master, here I am!

- I want to lead a revolution!

- So lead, master, lead! If you do not lead a revolution, where will your clothes come from? And who will enable you to fill your belly?

- 0 well, slave, I do not want to lead a revolution!

- Do not lead, master, do not lead a revolution! The man who leads a revolution is either killed or flayed, Or has his eyes put out, or is arrested and thrown to jail!


- Slave, listen to me!

- Here I am, master, here I am! I want to make love to a woman

- Make love, master, make love! The man who makes love to a woman forgets sorrow and fear!

- 0 well, slave, I do not want to make love to a woman!

- Do not make love, master, do not make love! Woman is a real pitfall, a hole, a ditch, Woman is a sharp iron dagger that cuts a man's throat!


- Slave, listen to me!

- Here I am, master, here I am!

- Quick! Fetch me water for my hands and give it to me. I want to sacrifice to my god

- Sacrifice, master, sacrifice! The man who sacrifices to his god is satisfied at heart. He accumulates benefit after benefit. - 0 well, slave, I do not want to sacrifice to my god!

- Do not sacrifice, master, do not sacrifice! You will teach your god to run after you like a dog. Whether he asks of you "Rites" or "Do you not consult your god?" or anything else!


- Slave, listen to me!

- Here I am, master, here I am!

- I want to invest silver.

- Invest, master, invest. The man who invests keeps his capital while his interest is enormous!

- 0 well, slave, I do not want to invest silver!

- Do not invest, master, do not invest! Making loans is as sweet as making love, but getting them back is like having children! They will take away your capital, cursing you without cease. They will make you lose the interest on the capital!


- Slave, listen to me!

- Here I am, master, here I am!

- I want to perform a public benefit for my country!

- So do it, master, do it! The man who performs a public benefit for his country His actions are exposed to the circle of Marduk!

- 0 well, slave, I do not want to perform a public benefit for my country!

- Do not perform, master, do not perform! Go up the ancient tells and walk about. See the mixed skulls of plebeians and nobles. Which is the malefactor and which is the benefactor?


- Slave, listen to me!

- Here I am, master, here I am!

- What then is good? To have my neck and yours broken, Or to be thrown into the river, is that good?

- Who is so tall as to ascend to heaven? Who is so broad as to encompass the entire world?

- 0 well, slave, I will kill you and send you first! -

- Yes, but my master would certainly not survive me for three days!...


A classic text which has the reputation of being a literary enigma because it questions the meaning of life and existence through our actions and non-actions in the world. The in-depth analysis of such outstanding piece of wisdom, wit and transcendence is included in Gateways in the Essays section as On the Dialogue of Pessimism and Transcendence - A tribute to Assyriologist Jean BottOro. Here is a complete translation of the piece based on the Akkadian text, reconstructed especially through the efforts of W.G. LAMBERT Edition of the text by W.G. Lambert in 1960 in his masterly work "Babylonian Wisdom Literature", pp. 139-140, © All rights reserved, here included for aid in research and studies purposes.

(א) וְהָ֣אָדָ֔ם יָדַ֖ע אֶת־חַוָּ֣ה אִשְׁתּ֑וֹ וַתַּ֙הַר֙ וַתֵּ֣לֶד אֶת־קַ֔יִן וַתֹּ֕אמֶר קָנִ֥יתִי אִ֖ישׁ אֶת־ה'׃ (ב) וַתֹּ֣סֶף לָלֶ֔דֶת אֶת־אָחִ֖יו אֶת־הָ֑בֶל וַֽיְהִי־הֶ֙בֶל֙ רֹ֣עֵה צֹ֔אן וְקַ֕יִן הָיָ֖ה עֹבֵ֥ד אֲדָמָֽה׃

(1) Now the man knew his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gained a male child with the help of the LORD.” (2) She then bore his brother Abel. Abel became a keeper of sheep, and Cain became a tiller of the soil.

Turn, Turn, Turn

Pete Seeger composed “Turn! Turn! Turn!” in 1959 in response to a letter from his publisher. “Pete,” it read, “can’t you write another song like ‘Goodnight, Irene'? I can’t sell or promote these protest songs.” ("Goodnight, Irene” was actually written/adapted by Lead Belly, but Seeger had popularised it with The Weavers.) The response from the rabble-rousing troubadour was predictably defiant. “You better find another songwriter,” Seeger wrote. “This is the only kind of song I know how to write.”

He turned to his pocket notebook, where he jotted down pieces of text for recycling. He found parts of the Bible he had copied, “verses by a bearded fellow with sandals, a tough-minded fellow called Ecclesiastes”, Seeger recalled.

Specifically, it was Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, from one of the “wisdom books” of the Old Testament, collections of truths and sayings. The words attributed “a season” to a series of opposing actions: “A time to be born, a time to die; a time to plant, a time to reap; a time to kill, a time to heal,” etc. Seeger took the text almost verbatim. He added the “turn, turn, turn” to build a chorus and tacked on his own hopeful concluding line for cold war audiences: “A time of peace; I swear it’s not too late.”

To Seeger, it was another protest song, a call for transition. His publisher didn’t seem to get it. “Wonderful,” he wrote back, “just what I’d hoped for.”


In 1999, Seeger arranged for 45% of the songwriting royalties for "Turn! Turn! Turn!" to be donated to the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. He kept 50% of the royalties for his own music and took a further 5% for the lyrics because, in Seeger's own words, "[in addition to the music] I did write six words and one more word repeated three times." Seeger's handwritten lyrics to the song were among documents donated to New York University by the Communist Party USA in March 2007.


כִּֽי־גָבְה֥וּ שָׁמַ֖יִם מֵאָ֑רֶץ כֵּ֣ן גָּבְה֤וּ דְרָכַי֙ מִדַּרְכֵיכֶ֔ם וּמַחְשְׁבֹתַ֖י מִמַּחְשְׁבֹֽתֵיכֶֽם׃
But as the heavens are high above the earth,
So are My ways high above your ways
And My plans above your plans.