Tag Archives: Ecclesiastes 9

What in the “Hebel?”

What in the Hebel? (CaD Ecc 9) Wayfarer

Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun—all your meaningless days.
Ecclesiastes 9:9 (NIV)

Earlier this year Wendy and I were working from the lake. Often we’ll work from a table where we can look out three large windows at the lake. It was a particularly calm, overcast day, and we watched as fog rolled into the bay and descended like a cloud. In a matter of minutes we went from a crystal clear view to impenetrable mist. It was so fascinating to watch. Then, a short time later, it faded as quickly as it. One minute it was there. Then next it was gone.

This past Saturday I was reading a book review in which the writer spoke of the difficulties of translating certain American ideas into other languages. He cited the example of a team being an “underdog” which he saw translated into French as literally the “belly of a dog.” Welcome to the challenge of translation. One of the struggles a modern reader has with the wisdom of Ecclesiastes is also that of translation. Hebrew is an ancient language and there are Hebrew words that can’t be defined with certainty. This adds a certain level of mystery on top of the challenge.

The challenge and mystery is front-and-center in Ecclesiastes because the Hebrew word translated as “meaningless” (or “vanity” in traditional translations like the King James Version) is hebel, and it’s a tough one to translate like translating “underdog” into French. The root of the word hebel is that of vapor, mist, wind, or breath. One can think of futility, insubstantial, or empty. One source I found discussing this same subject landed on the word fleeting like the fog that rolled in and out of our bay at the lake. I like it. I think it gets nearer the mark:

Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this fleeting mist of a life that God has given you under the sun—all your fleeting days.

It brings me right back to the subject of numbering my days. Suddenly the Sage is not so much as saying that everything is nihilistically void, but more like reminding me to seize the day, to be fully present, and to find joy even in things redundant. Before I know it, perhaps sooner than I think, life will roll out like the fog. Enjoy the moment.

In the quiet this morning I find that to be a good thought as the weekend was a vapor. Where did it go? A new work week has rolled in.

In a few hours I will be muttering to myself, “Where did the day go?”

Today will be fleeting, gone like the mist.

Be present.

Be mindful.

En-joy each moment.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

A Meaning-Full Life

Tom and WendyEnjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun—all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun. Ecclesiastes 9:9 (NIV)

On the way home from church yesterday, Wendy mentioned that the morning’s message had her contemplating “what ifs.” She had asked herself “what if” God asked us to give up our dream of the house we’re building, or to give up our place at the lake. My response was that I would definitely be sad about it, but as long as I’m living with her I could dwell in a small apartment and be content. Not as comfortable, to be sure, but definitely content.

The conversation came back to mind this morning as I read Solomon’s words. We don’t know what the future holds. Life’s road holds many curves for both the righteous and the wicked. No one can see all ends, but all of us are destined to the same physical end, which is death. That was what Solomon was really getting at, though his hopeless perspective is from hundreds of years before Jesus and before the empty tomb. I think wise ol’ King Solomon had a serious case of the blues when he wrote today’s chapter. I get it. I’ve been there. On this side of history, however, I find more meaning and purpose in my toilsome labor, my lot, my life, and all of my days. I’m glad of that.

I also enjoy life with my wife, whom I love. And, I will all the days of this meaning-full life that God has given me under the sun.