ESV - 5 For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten.
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"The dead know nothing" means they "know nothing" about the affairs of the living. If the (a) part of Eccl 9:5 is to be understood point blank literally, then the (b) part should be also. "The dead know nothing" according to some means they are without consciousness anywhere. I think it's saying they "know nothing" about what's going on among the living. I think Solomon, in his depressed state of mind, is comparing the state of the dead to the living and sees a tie at best for the living, if not a slight advantage for the deceased. The dead has settled his account, while the living is aware that his fate is the same. Solomon said a few verses earlier that it isn't fair that the righteous and the unrighteous both die alike. Now the (b) part of Eccl 9:5: Who is it among us who doesn't remember their deceased loved ones? They "know nothing" AND the "memory of them" is forgotten. The translation that "their name" is forgotten doesn't change my way of thinking if we're talking about my deceased friends and family. It's clear to me that Solomon is contrasting the state of the living with that of the dead, and he's unsure if one is better off than the other. The dead doesn't know what's happening here with the living, with all the trouble that the living endures, but the living KNOWS he has to die and go to where the dead are. Which is better, to know or not know? This text is not a declaration that the deceased are without consciousness in the spirit realm. How would Solomon know that? These are the musings of a sad and depressed wise man. His point is really a simple one: "We all die... what difference does it make how we live?" You have to read the remainder of the book of Ecclesiastes to get his answer. It might be difficult for some of us to accept that God will use and inspire a mentally unstable wise king to teach us. The wise man wrote the Song of Solomon and the Proverbs. The depressed man wrote the book of Ecclesiastes.
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