than a feast. 2
7:4 The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
but the heart of fools is in the house of merrymaking. 11
than to listen to the song 14 of fools.
so is the laughter of the fool.
[7:2] 2 tn Heb “house of drinking”; or “house of feasting.” The Hebrew noun מִשְׁתֶּה (mishteh) can denote (1) “feast; banquet,” occasion for drinking-bouts (1 Sam 25:36; Isa 5:12; Jer 51:39; Job 1:5; Esth 2:18; 5:14; 8:17; 9:19) or (2) “drink” (exilic/postexilic – Ezra 3:7; Dan 1:5, 8, 16); see HALOT 653 s.v. מִשְׁתֶּה 4; BDB 1059 s.v. שָׁתַה.
[7:2] sn Qoheleth recommended that people soberly reflect on the brevity of life and the reality of death (It is better to go to a house of mourning) than to waste one’s life in the foolish pursuit of pleasure (than to go to a house of banqueting). Sober reflection on the brevity of life and reality of death has more moral benefit than frivolous levity.
[7:2] 4 tn Heb “the end.” The noun סוֹף (sof) literally means “end; conclusion” (HALOT 747 s.v. סוֹף 1; BDB 693 s.v. סוֹף). It is used in this context in reference to death, as the preceding phrase “house of mourning” (i.e., funeral) suggests.
[7:2] 6 tn The imperfect tense verb יִתֵּן, yitten (from נָתָן, natan, “to give”) functions in a modal sense, denoting obligation, that is, the subject’s obligatory or necessary conduct: “should” or “ought to” (see R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 31-32, §172; IBHS 508-9 §31.4g).
[7:5] 14 tn Or “praise.” The antithetical parallelism between “rebuke” (גַּעֲרַת, ga’arat) and “song” (שִׁיר, shir) suggests that the latter is figurative (metonymy of association) for praise/flattery which is “music” to the ears: “praise of fools” (NEB, NJPS) and “flattery of fools” (Douay). However, the collocation of “song” (שִׁיר) in 7:5 with “laughter” (שְׂחֹק, sÿkhoq) in 7:6 suggests simply frivolous merrymaking: “song of fools” (KJV, NASB, NIV, ASV, RSV, NRSV).
[7:6] 15 tn The term “thorns” (הַסִּירִים, hassirim) refers to twigs from wild thorn bushes which were used as fuel for quick heat, but burn out quickly before a cooking pot can be properly heated (e.g., Pss 58:9; 118:12).
[7:6] 17 tn It is difficult to determine whether the Hebrew term הֶבֶל (hevel) means “fleeting” or “useless” in this context. The imagery of quick-burning thorns under a cooking pot is ambiguous and can be understood in more than one way: (1) It is useless to try to heat a cooking pot by burning thorns because they burn out before the pot can be properly heated; (2) the heat produced by quick-burning thorns is fleeting – it produces quick heat, but lasts only for a moment. Likewise, the “laughter of a fool” can be taken in both ways: (1) In comparison to the sober reflection of the wise, the laughter of fools is morally useless: the burning of thorns, like the laughter of fools, makes a lot of noise but accomplishes nothing; (2) the laughter of fools is fleeting due to the brevity of life and certainty of death. Perhaps this is an example of intentional ambiguity.