Ecclesiastes 5:1-20

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Koheleth cautioned, “Guard your feet when you go to the house of God.” To guard the feet signifies to give careful heed to where one is going, not acting in haste or carelessly and without due deliberation. The “house of God” designates the temple, for it was only there that acceptable sacrifices could be offered. (Deuteronomy 12:5, 6; 2 Chronicles 7:12) Being the “house of God,” the temple was a holy place, requiring that worshipers “draw near” or make their approach for the right reason and with the proper reverential attitude. (5:1 [4:17])

One’s objective for drawing near should have been “to hear,” a sincere desire to respond obediently to divine commands. The Hebrew expression “to hear” often denotes “to obey.” This is reflected in renderings such as “draw near in obedience.” (5:1 [4:17]; HCSB, REB)

Koheleth contrasted the motivation of obedience with the sacrificing of “fools.” Such persons are not lacking in mental perception. Theirs is a serious moral flaw. They manifest a reckless disregard for what is right, having no appreciation for sacred things. Their sacrificing would have been merely the fulfillment of a perfunctory religious duty. It may also have been undertaken to impress others with their piety. (5:1 [4:17])

Koheleth added that the “fools” or morally corrupt persons do not “know” or recognize that “they are doing evil” or wrong. The “evil” may refer to their offering sacrifices with impure motives and as defiled persons. (5:1 [4:17]) A similar thought is expressed at Proverbs 21:27. “The sacrifice of the wicked is abhorrent, above all if it is offered for bad motives.” (NJB) “The sacrifice of the wicked man is an abomination, the more so as he offers it in depravity.” (Tanakh)

The Hebrew text may also be understood as meaning that such persons only know how to do bad. So, after sacrificing, they resumed their evil practices. They did not make any heartfelt acknowledgment of sin and put forth efforts to change their ways. As long as they were observing the ritualistic aspects of worship, they considered their conduct acceptable. (5:1 [4:17]; compare Isaiah 1:11-17.)

Prayerful expressions, too, require careful attention. Haste and thoughtlessness are out of place. Koheleth counseled, “Do not be hasty with your mouth; do not let your heart be impetuous to utter a word before the face of God, for God [is] in heaven and you [are] on earth. Therefore, let your words be few.” Promises made to the Supreme Sovereign should not be made rashly but should be preceded by serious deliberation. The “heart,” the deep inner self, should not be permitted to prompt impulsive or rash words before God. A proper recognition of his greatness should serve to restrain one from making rash expressions. (5:2[1])

The Almighty resides in the highest heavens and is elevated far above earth’s residents, calling for humility on their part. This makes it inappropriate for anyone to ramble on thoughtlessly when addressing the Most High. One’s words should be “few,” that is, they should be sincere, meaningful expressions that reflect reverential regard for God’s majesty and dignity. (5:2[1]) Jesus Christ gave similar admonition, “In your prayers do not go babbling on like the heathen, who imagine that the more they say the more likely they are to be heard.” (Matthew 6:7, REB)

Koheleth reinforced his point about “few” words by introducing a proverbial saying, “For the dream comes with much preoccupation; and the fool’s voice through many words.” When, during the course of the day, the mind is occupied by worries and distracting thoughts about many tasks, this can lead to restless nights and disturbing dreams — nightmares. Undue preoccupation with materialistic goals may also occasion vain daydreaming about future successes. (Compare James 4:13-16.) Similarly, continual chatter inevitably results in voicing foolish or unbecoming thoughts. When thoughtless and injurious words continue to pass the lips, the speaker reveals himself to be a fool, a person with a moral defect. (5:3[2])

Rash or thoughtless speaking is especially serious in matters pertaining to God. Koheleth continued, “When you vow a vow to God, do not delay in paying it, for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you vow.” (5:4[3]

A vow is a solemn promise voluntarily made to God that one will do something of a nonobligatory nature or refrain from doing something that in itself would be proper. Vows were often made in conjunction with appeals for God’s blessing upon a serious undertaking, for a special gift from him, or for deliverance from a grave danger. (5:4[3])

God’s favorable response to the appeal would require that the vow be fulfilled without hesitation. A failure to act in harmony with the vow revealed a person to be a fool, one with a moral defect by reason of his proving false to God as respects his promise. The Almighty would have no pleasure or delight in such a one. The obligation to fulfill the vow was to be taken seriously. Rightly, then, Koheleth expressed the point about fulfilling a vow as a command. (5:4[3])

The making of a vow was completely voluntary, and there was no sin in refraining from making such a solemn promise. Koheleth, therefore, added, “It is better that you do not vow than that you vow and do not pay.” Before making a vow, the individual should give serious consideration to his being able to keep his solemn promise. Whenever the possibility of failure to perform a vow existed, the better course would have been to avoid placing oneself under solemn obligation. (5:5[4])

Further emphasizing the seriousness of nonfulfillment, Koheleth said, “Do not let your mouth cause your flesh to sin, and do not say before the face of the messenger that it [was] a mistake [‘ignorance,’ LXX]. For why should God be angry at your voice and destroy the work of your hands?” (5:6[5])

Whereas the vow is made with the mouth, the “flesh” or the fleshly organism (the individual) comes under obligation to fulfill the solemn promise. Accordingly, a person’s failure to discharge the vow signified that his mouth had caused him to sin. In its basic sense, the Hebrew word (chatá’) meaning “to sin” denotes “to miss” (as when an archer misses the target). Hence, sin is a deviation from the right course, a failure to do what is required. (5:6[5])

After making a rash vow, the individual may have second thoughts. He may realize that he made a mistake. The circumstances may be such that he cannot discharge his thoughtless vow, forcing him to tell the “messenger” that it was a mistake. (5:6[5])

The Hebrew word mal’akh means “messenger” and could designate either a heavenly messenger (an angel) or an earthly one. Malachi 2:7 refers to the Aaronic priest as “the messenger of YHWH.” So also here, in Ecclesiastes, the reference could be to the priest who accepted what was vowed. Some have suggested that the “messenger” was a temple official who made a record of vows and, at the time for the fulfillment thereof, accepted what had been solemnly promised. “Do not protest to the temple messenger, ‘My vow was a mistake.’” (NIV) There is, however, no scriptural reference to such a temple official. (5:6[5])

The Septuagint reads “God” instead of “messenger” or “angel.” Therefore, it appears preferable to regard the reference as being to God or to the specific angel who is revealed as having the most intimate position with the Almighty. This one is the “angel of YHWH,” the direct representative of the Most High. Because of the special relationship existing between this angel and YHWH, words directed to God would also be spoken before this angel. (5:6[5]; compare Exodus 3:2-4.)

Failure to discharge the vow would result in God’s displeasure. There would certainly be no good reason for anyone to make a rash vow, resulting in becoming a recipient of divine anger for failure to keep the thoughtless promise. (5:6[5])

The words “do not say … that it was a mistake” could be regarded as meaning that the individual would lightly dismiss the failure to discharge the vow, viewing the making of such a mistake as merely an act of ignorance. God’s anger may then be in response to the invalid excuses offered to avoid what had been solemnly, though thoughtlessly, promised. (5:6[5])

The divine favor and blessing that may have been experienced before the time came for fulfilling the vow would not continue. Without God’s favor and blessing, the works of one failing to discharge a vow would come to nothing. (5:6[5]) As the psalmist expressed the matter, “If YHWH does not build the house, the builders labor on it in vain. If YHWH does not guard the city, the watchman watches in vain.” (Psalm 127:1)

Koheleth’s admonition about rash speaking concludes with the words, “For in the abundance of dreams, also vanities and words abound, but fear God.” This suggests that the dreams can give rise to what is vain, empty or meaningless and to thoughtless words. Dreams occurring during sleep do not have this result. Therefore, the dreams may designate imaginings or fantasies relating to the attainment of selfish, materialistic goals. Such “dreams” are vain or empty, producing nothing of a lasting and truly beneficial nature. As such empty dreams increase, this leads to a corresponding increase of vanities. Thoughtless words, including rash vows, may likewise increase. When there is unrealistic, empty dreaming, what is said has no real substance. Empty promises may be made to God in attempts to gain his favor and blessing for selfish pursuits. One’s fearing God, having the proper reverential regard for him, would deter one from making rash vows and other thoughtless expressions. (5:7[6])

Because of difficulty in seeing how dreams, vanities, and words are related, numerous translators have emended the passage. “A profusion of dreams and a profusion of words are futile. Therefore fear God.” (REB) “Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore stand in awe of God.” (NIV) “From too many delusions come futility and too much talk.” (NJB) A footnote in the Tanakh reads, “Meaning of verse uncertain. Emendation yields ‘Much brooding results in dreams; and much talk in futilities.’” None of such changes have the support of the Septuagint, which reads, “because in the multitude of dreams, also vanities and many words.” For this reason, it would appear preferable to adhere to the word order of the Hebrew text, as does the Septuagint. (5:7[6])

At this point, Koheleth introduced a different subject, one relating to a serious flaw in governmental administration. He said, “If you see the oppression of the poor and the wresting of justice and righteousness in a province, do not be astounded about the matter. For a high one over a high one is watching, and higher ones [are] over them.” (5:8[7])

Some have understood the reference to the highest level to be to God, the “Supreme One.” Koheleth’s words, though, relate to a “province” or a region under a specific governmental administration. Whereas God does observe what takes place in the earthly realm, his rulership has nothing in common with any oppressive system. His law to Israel specifically prohibited mistreatment of the lowly. (Exodus 23:6; Leviticus 19:15) He does not countenance injustice and will call all oppressors to account. (Lamentations 3:34-36) Reasonably, therefore, God’s watching would not be part of an explanation about not being surprised about oppression of the poor. (5:8[7])

Koheleth’s next words have been variously understood. A literal reading of the Hebrew text is, “And the profit of the earth — for all it [is]; a king by a field is served.” “All” may be understood as referring to people. What the earth or land produces is indeed for all persons, including those in high station. Even the king is served by the field, that is, by the yield from the cultivated land. The words of Koheleth may serve as a warning to corrupt officials. Since they are dependent on the land for their food, they are working against their own interests by oppressing the lowly who labor in the fields. (5:9[8])

Such an implied warning is more specifically expressed when the Hebrew text is rendered, “A king for a field is in servitude.” Taking the Hebrew ‘avádh to signify being “subject” or in “servitude” has the support of the Chaldee paraphrase, which reads, “And the great advantage of cultivating the land is above all, [for] when the subjects of a country revolt, and the king flees from them into the country, if he has nothing to eat, this very king becomes subject to a labourer in the field.” (Ginsburg’s translation) Although this paraphrase reads much more into the passage than the Hebrew text warrants and relates the “all” to the superiority of the advantage (“above all”), it adds support to the understanding that the king depends on what the field produces and, therefore, on those engaged in cultivating it. “The increase from the land is taken by all; the king himself profits from the fields.” (NIV) Taxes on the land and crops provided funds for the royal projects, and part of the produce of the land served as food for the royal household. “And since the king is the highest official, he benefits most from the taxes paid on the land.” (5:9[8], CEV)

George Lamsa’s translation of the Syriac presents the thought of the king’s being “served by the field” but adds what this requires of him to be thus served. “Moreover the riches of the earth are for all; the king, himself, is served by cultivating his own field.” Since land will not produce of its own accord, the king must see to it that the field is cultivated. Without the essential plowing and sowing of seed, there is no harvest and, hence, no food for the royal household. (5:9[8])

Numerous translations express a completely different meaning, placing the emphasis on the “profit,” advantage, or benefit of having a king. “Yet an advantage for a country in every respect is a king for the arable land.” (NAB) “But all things considered, this is an advantage for a land: a king for a plowed field.” (NRSV) Renderings that represent the king as an advantage for the land do not really depart from the Hebrew text. While preserving the word order of the Hebrew text, the words themselves can be arranged into one sentence that focuses on the value of a king. A literal reading would be, “And the advantage of the earth ― for all of it ― [is] a king for the cultivated land.” The term “all” (kol) could be taken to refer to the “earth,” the country, or the land, and the Hebrew expression for “to serve” (‘a·vádh) also means “to work,” “to labor,” or “to till.” Rendering the expression as “tilled” or “cultivated” has the support of the Septuagint, which uses the word ergázomai (“to work,” “to labor,” “to till”) and reads, “And the abundance of the earth in all [or, ‘everything’] is, a king of the tilled field.” A footnote in the German translation of the Septuagint (Septuaginta Deutsch) provides the following explanation for the phrase (“a king for the cultivated field”), “a king to whom the cultivated field belongs [ein König, dem das bebaute Feld gehört].” (5:9[8])

If the focus of the Hebrew text is indeed the king, the meaning could be that a country profits by having a ruler who looks after the security of his domain, making it possible for agricultural operations to continue unhindered. Because the Scriptures present the introduction of the monarchy in a very negative light, however, it seems questionable that this would be the meaning of Koheleth’s words. (1 Samuel 8:5–20; 12:12–19) It appears preferable to regard them as signifying that even the monarch cannot survive without harvests from the cultivated field. Despite his high position, he is dependent on the lowly agricultural laborers. (5:9[8])

Possibly the insatiable greed of oppressive officials suggested to Koheleth the thought he next expressed, “a lover of silver will not be satisfied with silver, nor a lover of yield with abundance. This also [is] vanity.” The Septuagint renders the words about a “lover of yield” as a question, “And who loved yield in their abundance?” This could be understood to mean, Who does not love to have a bounteous yield? (5:10[9])

Anciently, silver was a common medium of exchange and, therefore, also a measure of wealth. Since coinage did not have its start until about 700 B.C.E., the silver was weighed out when making purchases. Accordingly, “silver” is synonymous with “money,” and the Hebrew term is so rendered in many modern translations. (5:10[9])

The person who loves silver (or money), whose consuming desire is to have as much of it as possible, never comes to the point where he is satisfied with what he has. Although he may possess more than he could possibly use to obtain what he needs and wants, he will strive to accumulate more money. Regardless of how great the increase is, he will never consider it to be enough. Because of his insatiable greed, the abundance is, in effect, perceived as poverty. This dissatisfaction, coupled with the relentless striving for more, is “vanity,” emptiness, meaninglessness, or purposelessness. It is a senseless struggle for wealth that will not be put to any beneficial use and, in the end, proves to be a temporary possession. (5:10[9]

When the “good” (the “wealth”) increases, those who eat it increase. The individual who owned much land, large herds and flocks, and other possessions could not care for everything by himself. To attend to his vast holdings, he needed servants and hirelings. The greater his wealth, the greater would have been the number of laborers needed. These laborers proved to be consumers of some of the wealth. Slaves or servants had to be provided with food, clothing, and shelter. Hirelings had to be paid wages. The wealthy owner could not benefit personally from all that he possessed. The amount that he could eat and drink was limited, and he could only wear enough clothing to be comfortable. Summing up the person’s sole reward in question form, Koheleth said, “What advantage is it to the owner [ [‘owners,’ likely a plural of excellence that conveys the grandeur of the wealthy man] but to see it with his eyes?” The only “advantage,” profit, or benefit for the individual would be his being able to survey all that he owned and proudly proclaim that it belonged to him. Even this empty advantage was diminished in the case of a greedy man who resented having to part with some of his possessions to support servants and hirelings. (5:11[10])

Instead of a word meaning “advantage,” “benefit,” or “gain,” the Septuagint has a term meaning “manliness” or “courage” (andreía). Perhaps the question then could be understood to mean, What real strength does an abundance of possessions provide, except for their possessor to see them with his eyes? (5:11[10])

An individual’s wealth may deprive him of what the lowly laborer enjoys. Koheleth observed, “Sweet [is] the sleep of a laborer [literally, ‘one serving’; LXX, doúlos, ‘servant,’ or ‘slave’], whether he eats little or much, but the abundance of a rich man will not permit him no sleep.” The tired laborer is able to lie down at the close of the day to enjoy a peaceful night’s rest. His sleep is “sweet” or “pleasurable,” not disrupted by worrying or fretting about many possessions. Whether he eats little or a goodly portion, he is still able to benefit from the refreshment of a good night’s rest. The rich man, however, worries about his possessions and his undertakings to increase his wealth. His thoughts race from one concern to another, putting him in a state of mental agitation that is destructive to restful sleep. (5:12[11])

Life’s uncertainties may be yet another source for a wealthy person’s great distress. Koheleth noted, “There is a grievous evil I have seen under the sun: riches being kept for their owner to his evil.” “Under the sun,” in the earthly realm beneath that celestial orb, Koheleth “saw” or observed a great misfortune. (5:13[12])

This “evil,” misfortune, or calamity was the accumulation of riches to the individual’s own “evil,” hurt, or injury. Consumed by the desire to increase in wealth, the “owner” may have deprived himself of the usual comforts and pleasures of life, filling his days with incessant toiling and anxiety about maintaining and adding to his riches. Thus he destroyed the quality of his life, sacrificing all personal enjoyment from the product of his labor and darkening his days by continual worry. (5:13[12])

Koheleth added that the “riches perished by an evil occupation.” This “evil occupation” could refer to some business venture that was designed to increase wealth but failed, resulting in the loss of everything. Acquiring wealth through trade involved considerable risk and danger. Caravans were often beset upon by robbers, and ships laden with valuable cargo could be wrecked during storms. It would not have been uncommon for individuals thus to lose great wealth. (5:14[13])

After having expended much time and energy in amassing riches that were suddenly lost and from which no benefit had been derived, the man fathered a son. Therefore, not even the heir could get any enjoyment from what had been accumulated, there being “nothing” in the father’s “hand.” In an impoverished state, the father had the additional burden of caring for a son. (5:14[13])

People who are addicted to the amassing of riches find it very difficult to part with even a small portion of what they have accumulated. Usually, sheer necessity and social pressure are the only factors that force them to spend the least amount possible. This must make the eventuality of their having to part with everything at death particularly painful and disturbing to them. They simply cannot escape the reality of what Koheleth set out, “As he came naked from his mother’s womb, he will again go as he came. And he will take nothing from his labor that he may carry away in his hand.” (5:15[14])

A similar thought is expressed in Job 1:21 (Tanakh), “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there.” Both the words of Koheleth and those in the book of Job appear to designate the “earth” as “mother.” This is evidently because the first man was formed from earth’s elements. Moreover, at death there is no return to the literal womb of the mother. Man does, however, return to the elements of the earth. Not even one product of his labor can a man then carry away with him. Though the riches amassed may have been extensive, not even a mere handful can be taken as a lasting possession. The individual has lost control over everything. In the naked state he came into existence, and in that same state he must return to the lifeless dust. (5:15[14])

Commenting further about this aspect, Koheleth continued, “And this also [is] a grievous evil, Just as he came, so will he go. And what profit has he from having labored for the wind?” At death, all the toil will mean nothing. The one who amassed much has no advantage over the one who has nothing. The painful “evil” or “misfortune” is that the greedy toiler departs in the same manner that he entered the earthly scene, with nothing. (5:16[15])

The answer to the question about what “profit,” advantage, or benefit results to the one who toils for wind is, “None.” The hoarder of riches has truly labored for “wind,” something that lacks substance. As death approached, he was forced to realize that all must be left behind. The individual even lacked the satisfaction of having enjoyed his days and contributed to the happiness of others by having shared generously from his possessions. (5:16[15])

Koheleth depicted the gloomy existence of the miserly hoarder, saying: “Also all his days he eats in darkness and [has] much sorrow, and his sickness and anger.” There would be nothing to brighten the days of such a person. Driven to amass more and more, he would labor from early morning till late at night. He seemingly begrudged having to eat, as this required spending a little from what had been amassed. When eating, likely late at night, he would do so with a gloomy spirit and possibly in the dark. His self-denial may have gone to the extreme point of feeling that he could not afford to use the small amount of olive oil needed to light a lamp. Thus, the time for enjoyment of food and drink would be turned into an occasion of “sorrow” or “vexation.” The Hebrew term ká‘as can mean “to sorrow,” “to be grieved,” or “to be vexed” or “angry.” In the Septuagint, the corresponding Greek word (pénthos) denotes “sorrow” or “mourning.” (5:17[16])

The mental outlook of the person described by Koheleth was sick, and the individual’s extreme self-denial may have contributed to physical illness. His anger may have been prompted by whatever interfered with the accumulation of riches. (5:17[16])

In the Septuagint, no mention is made of eating. The entire description focuses on the gloomy aspect of such a person’s life. “And indeed all his days [are spent] in darkness and sorrow, and much anger and sickness and bitterness.” To an extent, this reading is also followed by a number of modern translators. (5:17[16]) “What is more, all his days are overshadowed; gnawing anxiety and great vexation are his lot, sickness and resentment.” (REB) “All the days of his life are passed in gloom and sorrow, under great vexation, sickness and wrath.” (NAB)

Having discussed the emptiness of pursuing wealth, coupled with extreme self-denial, Koheleth called attention to the proper view of toiling and the means obtained thereby. Based on his careful observation, he said, “Look! What I have seen [that is] good, which [is] beautiful, [is for a man] to eat and to drink and to see good from all his labor that he labors under the sun for the number of the days of his life that God has given him, for this [is] his portion.” (5:18[17])

What Koheleth “saw” or recognized as “good,” desirable, or pleasant, he also described as “beautiful,” appropriate, or right (yaphéh). This is the sense the rendering of the Septuagint conveys, “good, which is beautiful [kálos, also meaning ‘fine,’ ‘fitting,’ ‘advantageous’].” (5:18[17])

This “good” or “desirable” thing is for a man to enjoy the products or results from his labor. To be able to obtain food and drink, the individual has to work. Times for eating and drinking should be happy occasions and, therefore, part of the pleasant reward from laboring. The worker should “see” or “experience” “good from all his labor,” his wearisome or exhausting toil. This could refer to finding satisfaction in the achievements from laboring and the means obtained thereby — means that could be used to acquire what contributes to the enjoyment of life. (5:18[17])

Such “good,” pleasure, or satisfaction is to be enjoyed from all the labor engaged in during a man’s life under the sun, on earth beneath the sun on which humans depend for light and warmth. Since life itself is the Creator’s gift, Koheleth rightly noted that “the number of the days of [a man’s] life” are given to him by God. The enjoyment of these days of life — the fruit from labor — is man’s “portion” or “lot.” (5:18[17])

Whatever the Most High permits is attributed to him. Accordingly, Koheleth referred to “every man to whom God has given wealth and treasures.” The combination of the Hebrew terms for “wealth” and “treasures” may serve to emphasize that the possessions are many and varied. (5:19[18])

Regarding a man who has been “given wealth and treasures,” Koheleth also said that God gives him “power to eat of it and to take his portion and to rejoice in his labor.” This implies that the individual would recognize that he, only by reason of divine permission, owns what he does. His sentiments would be like those expressed by Job, “YHWH gave.” (Job 1:21) Consequently, he would possess the wisdom to make good use of his riches to benefit himself and others, avoiding the pitfalls of extreme self-denial and selfish, miserly hoarding. Thus God would have empowered him to “eat” or “partake” from what is owned. Such “eating” or “partaking” may be understood to signify deriving proper enjoyment from the “wealth and treasures.” (5:19[18])

The “portion” apparently refers to the individual’s lot in life. Being empowered by God “to take” this “portion” may denote “to accept” it as coming from him and, hence, to be content. So the person would shun the greedy amassing of riches that is characteristic of those who are dissatisfied even with abundance. (5:19[18])

The individual is also empowered to “rejoice in his labor.” As elsewhere in Ecclesiastes, labor is not the goal in itself, for it is wearisome and exhausting. Rather, labor can lead to a feeling of satisfaction with what is accomplished or furnishes the means for whatever contributes to joy, delight, or wholesome pleasure. The “gift of God” is the capacity to enjoy the fruit from labor. (5:19[18])

The person whom God has thus empowered maintains a cheerful outlook. Koheleth observed, “For he will not much remember the days of his life, because God answers in the joy of his heart.” (5:20[19])

The remembering would be a recalling of the negative aspects of life, a brooding over its shortness, uncertainties, and problems. Thoughts about such matters are not dominant in the case of the one whom Koheleth described. While the individual would not be oblivious respecting negative aspects, these would not be a source of continual disturbance. Only infrequently would such “remembering” or “recalling” occur. (5:20[19])

Instead, the individual would have joy of heart, that is, he would have joy in his deep inner self. He would be content with his lot in life. Koheleth introduced the thought about joy with the words, “because God answers [‘anáh].” When adding the word “him” after the verb “answers,” the meaning would be that God grants joy to the person making the request. Without the addition, the words could be understood to mean that God assents, concurs, or is in agreement with the individual’s joy of heart. This would indicate that it is a joy the Almighty approves. It is genuine, affecting the “heart,” the deep inner self. (5:20[19])

In the Septuagint, the Hebrew word ‘anáh is rendered perispáo, meaning “occupy,” “divert,” or “distract.” This is also the thought conveyed in many modern translations. “God lets him busy himself with the joy of his heart.” (NAB) “God fills his time with joy of heart.” (REB) “God keeps them occupied with the joy of their hearts.” (NRSV) “God keeps him busy enjoying himself.” (Tanakh) Accordingly, because the joy of the heart, the deep inner self, is dominant, few are the occasions when disturbing or painful thoughts intrude. This blessing is attributed to God. (5:20[19])