knows whether the spirit (Hvr) of man goes upward and the spirit (Hvr) of the beast
goes down to the earth? Qoheleth 3:19-21
Qoheleth's question about the destination of the "spirit of man" and the "spirit of the beast" does not really grant a refuge from the finality of death. To make such a distinction is merely rhetorical, for "they all have
the same spirit" (lkl dHx Hvrv, v. 19). Whatever
the destination of the spirit (and Qoheleth seems to leave this question open97), the effect of death is the annihila- tion of all consciousness (9:5-6). "The hope that belongs to the living scarcely provides grounds for exultation."98
Now if death affords rest for the weary, and the living possess no real advantage over the dead, while in certain circumstances the stillborn or non-existent enjoys a superior status, suicide offers a compelling alternative. . . . The marvel is that, Qoheleth shuns this easy resolution of his misery in favor of another powerful answer. 99
97 Cf. however 12:7 where the "spirit (hvr) returns to God," but even this is "vanity of vanities" (Mylbh ylbh, 12:8), for "round and round goes the wind (Hvr), and on its circuits the wind (Hvr) returns" (1:6b).
98 J. Crenshaw, "The Shadow of Death in Qoheleth," in Israelite Wisdom, p. 210; cf, his discussion in Old Testa- ment Wisdom, pp. 129-133. The discussion above owes much to Crenshaw. Gordis, Koheleth, pp. 78-79, 305, takes a more sanguine view of Qoheleth.
Crenshaw, "The Shadow of Death in Qoheleth," p. 210.