9:1 So I reflected on all this, 1 attempting to clear 2 it all up.
I concluded that 3 the righteous and the wise, as well as their works, are in the hand of God;
whether a person will be loved or hated 4 –
no one knows what lies ahead. 5
9:2 Everyone shares the same fate 6 –
the righteous and the wicked,
the good and the bad, 7
the ceremonially clean and unclean,
those who offer sacrifices and those who do not.
What happens to the good person, also happens to the sinner; 8
what happens to those who make vows, also happens to those who are afraid to make vows.
9:3 This is the unfortunate fact 9 about everything that happens on earth: 10
the same fate awaits 11 everyone.
In addition to this, the hearts of all people 12 are full of evil,
and there is folly in their hearts during their lives – then they die. 13
9:4 But whoever is among 14 the living 15 has hope;
a live dog is better than a dead lion.
9:5 For the living know that they will die, but the dead do not know anything;
they have no further reward – and even the memory of them disappears. 16
9:6 What they loved, 17 as well as what they hated 18 and envied, 19 perished long ago,
and they no longer have a part in anything that happens on earth. 20
9:7 Go, eat your food 21 with joy,
and drink your wine with a happy heart,
because God has already approved your works.
9:8 Let your clothes always be white,
and do not spare precious ointment on your head.
9:9 Enjoy 22 life with your beloved wife 23 during all the days of your fleeting 24 life
that God 25 has given you on earth 26 during all your fleeting days; 27
for that is your reward in life and in your burdensome work 28 on earth. 29
9:10 Whatever you find to do with your hands, 30
do it with all your might,
because there is neither work nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom in the grave, 31
the place where you will eventually go. 32
9:11 Again, 33 I observed this on the earth: 34
the race is not always 35 won by the swiftest,
the battle is not always won by the strongest;
prosperity 36 does not always belong to those who are the wisest,
wealth does not always belong to those who are the most discerning,
nor does success 37 always come to those with the most knowledge –
for time and chance may overcome 38 them all.
9:12 Surely, no one 39 knows his appointed time! 40
Like fish that are caught in a deadly 41 net, and like birds that are caught in a snare –
just like them, all people 42 are ensnared 43 at an unfortunate 44 time that falls upon them suddenly.
9:13 This is what I also observed about wisdom on earth, 45
and it is a great burden 46 to me:
9:14 There was once 47 a small city with a few men in it,
and a mighty king attacked it, besieging 48 it and building strong 49 siege works against it.
9:15 However, a poor but wise man lived in the city, 50
and he could have delivered 51 the city by his wisdom,
but no one listened 52 to that poor man.
9:16 So I concluded that wisdom is better than might, 53
but a poor man’s wisdom is despised; no one ever listens 54 to his advice. 55
9:17 The words of the wise are heard in quiet,
more than the shouting of a ruler is heard 56 among fools.
9:18 Wisdom is better than weapons of war,
but one sinner can destroy much that is good.
1 tn Heb “I laid all this to my heart.”
2 tn The term וְלָבוּר (velavur, conjunction + Qal infinitive construct from בּוּר, bur, “to make clear”) denotes “to examine; to make clear; to clear up; to explain” (HALOT 116 s.v. בור; BDB 101 s.v. בּוּר). The term is related to Arabic baraw “to examine” (G. R. Driver, “Supposed Arabisms in the Old Testament,” JBL 55 : 108). This verb is related to the Hebrew noun בֹּר (bor, “cleanness”) and adjective בַּר (bar, “clean”). The term is used in the OT only in Ecclesiastes (1:13; 2:3; 7:25; 9:1). This use of the infinitive has a connotative sense (“attempting to”), and functions in a complementary sense, relative to the main verb.
3 tn The words “I concluded that” do not appear in the Hebrew text, but are supplied in the translation for clarity.
4 tn Heb “whether love or hatred.”
5 tn Heb “man does not know anything before them.”
6 tn Heb “all things just as to everyone, one fate.”
7 tc The MT reads simply “the good,” but the Greek versions read “the good and the bad.” In contrast to the other four pairs in v. 2 (“the righteous and the wicked,” “those who sacrifice, and those who do not sacrifice,” “the good man…the sinner,” and “those who make vows…those who are afraid to make vows”), the MT has a triad in the second line: לַטּוֹב וְלַטָּהוֹר וְלַטָּמֵא (lattov vÿlattahor vÿlattame’, “the good, and the clean, and the unclean”). This reading in the Leningrad Codex (ca.
8 tn Heb “As is the good (man), so is the sinner.”
9 tn Heb “evil.”
10 tn Heb “under the sun.”
11 tn The term “awaits” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for smoothness and stylistic reasons.
12 tn Heb “also the heart of the sons of man.” Here “heart” is a collective singular.
13 tn Heb “and after that [they go] to [the place of] the dead.”
14 tn The consonantal text (Kethib) has “is chosen, selected.” The translation follows the marginal reading (Qere), “is joined.” See BDB 288 s.v. חָבַר Pu.
15 tn Heb “all the living.”
16 tn Heb “for their memory is forgotten.” The pronominal suffix is an objective genitive, “memory of them.”
17 tn Heb “their love.”
18 tn Heb “their hatred.”
19 tn Heb “their envy.”
20 tn Heb “under the sun.”
21 tn Heb “your bread.”
22 tn Heb “see.”
23 tn Heb “the wife whom you love.”
24 tn As discussed in the note on the word “futile” in 1:2, the term הֶבֶל (hevel) has a wide range of meanings, and should not be translated the same in every place (see HALOT 236–37 s.v. I הֶבֶל; BDB 210–11 s.v. I הבֶל). The term is used in two basic ways in OT, literally and figuratively. The literal, concrete sense is used in reference to the wind, man’s transitory breath, evanescent vapor (Isa 57:13; Pss 62:10; 144:4; Prov 21:6; Job 7:16). In this sense, it is often a synonym for “breath; wind” (Eccl 1:14; Isa 57:13; Jer 10:14). The literal sense lent itself to the metaphorical sense. Because breath/vapor/wind is transitory and fleeting, the figurative connotation “fleeting; transitory” arose (e.g., Prov 31:30; Eccl 6:12; 7:15; 9:9; 11:10; Job 7:16). In this sense, it is parallel to “few days” and “[days] which he passes like a shadow” (Eccl 6:12). It is used in reference to youth and vigor (11:10) or life (6:12; 7:15; 9:9) which are “transitory” or “fleeting.” In this context, the most appropriate meaning is “fleeting.”
25 tn Heb “he”; the referent (God) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
26 tn Heb “under the sun”
27 tc The phrase כָּל יְמֵי הֶבְלֶךָ (kol yÿme hevlekha, “all your fleeting days”) is present in the MT, but absent in the Greek versions, other medieval Hebrew
28 tn Heb “in your toil in which you toil.”
29 tn Heb “under the sun.”
30 tn Heb “Whatever your hand finds to do.”
31 tn Heb “Sheol.”
32 tn Or “where you are about to go.”
33 tn Heb “I returned and.” In the Hebrew idiom, “to return and do” means “to do again.”
34 tn Heb “under the sun.”
35 tn The term “always” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation (five times in this verse) for clarity.
36 tn Heb “bread.”
37 tn Heb “favor.”
38 tn Heb “happen to.”
39 tn Heb “man.” The term is used here in a generic sense and translated “no one.”
40 tn Heb “time.” BDB 773 s.v. עֵת 2.d suggests that עֵת (’et, “time”) refers to an “uncertain time.” On the other hand, HALOT 901 s.v. עֵת 6 nuances it as “destined time,” that is, “no one knows his destined time [i.e., hour of destiny].” It is used in parallelism with זְמָן (zÿman, “appointed time; appointed hour”) in 3:1 (HALOT 273 s.v. זְמָן; BDB 273 s.v. זְמָן). Eccl 3:9-15 teaches God’s sovereignty over the appointed time-table of human events. Similarly, Qoheleth here notes that no one knows what God has appointed in any situation or time. This highlights the limitations of human wisdom and human ability, as 9:11 stresses.
41 tn Heb “bad, evil.” The moral connotation hardly fits here. The adjective would seem to indicate that the net is the instrument whereby the fish come to ruin.
42 tn Heb “the sons of man.”
43 tn The Masoretes pointed the consonantal form יוקשׁים (“are ensnared”) as יוּקָשִׁים (yuqashim, Pual participle mpl from ַָיקֹשׁ, yaqosh, “to be ensnared”). This is an unusual form for a Pual participle: (1) The characteristic doubling of the middle consonant was omitted due to the lengthening of the preceding short vowel from יֻקָּשִׁים to יוּקָשִׁים (GKC 74 §20.n and 143 §52.s), and (2) The characteristic prefix מְ (mem) is absent, as in a few other Pual participles, e.g., Exod 3:2; Judg 13:8; 2 Kgs 2:10; Isa 30:24; 54:11 (GKC 143 §52.s). On the other hand, the consonant form יוקשים might actually be an example of the old Qal passive participle which dropped out of Hebrew at an early stage, and was frequently mistaken by the Masoretes as a Pual form (e.g., Jer 13:10; 23:32) (GKC 143 §52.s). Similarly, the Masoretes pointed אכל as אֻכָּל (’ukkal, Pual perfect 3rd person masculine singular “he was eaten”); however, it probably should be pointed אֻכַל (’ukhal, old Qal passive perfect 3rd person masculine singular “he was eaten”) because אָכַל (’akhal) only occurs in the Qal (see IBHS 373-74 §22.6a).
44 tn Heb “evil.” The term רָעָה (ra’ah, “evil; unfortunate”) is repeated in v. 12 in the two parts of the comparison: “fish are caught in an evil (רָעָה) net” and “men are ensnared at an unfortunate (רָעָה) time.”
45 tn Heb “under the sun.”
46 tn The term “burden” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.
47 tn The verbs in this section function either as past definite actions (describing a past situation) or as hypothetical past actions (describing an imaginary hypothetical situation for the sake of illustration). The LXX uses subjunctives throughout vv. 14-15 to depict the scenario as a hypothetical situation: “Suppose there was a little city, and a few men [lived] in it; and there should come against it a great king, and surround it, and build great siege-works against it; and should find in it a poor wise man, and he should save the city through his wisdom; yet no man would remember that poor man.”
48 tn The two perfect tense verbs וְסָבַב (vÿsavav, “he besieged”) and וּבָנָה (uvanah, “he built”) may be taken in a complementary sense, qualifying the action of the main perfect tense verb וּבָא (uva’, “he attacked it”).
49 tn The root גדל (“mighty; strong; large”) is repeated in 9:13b for emphasis: “a mighty (גָדוֹל, gadol) king…building strong (גְדֹלִים, gÿdolim) siege works.” This repetition highlights the contrast between the vast power and resources of the attacking king, and the meager resources of the “little” (קְטַנָּה, qÿtannah) city with “few” (מְעָט, mÿ’at) men in it to defend it.
50 tn Heb “was found in it”; the referent (the city) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
51 tn Or “he delivered.” The verb וּמִלַּט (umillat, from מָלַט, malat, “to deliver”) is functioning either in an indicative sense (past definite action: “he delivered”) or in a modal sense (past potential: “he could have delivered”). The literal meaning of זָכַר (zakhar, “to remember”) in the following line harmonizes with the indicative: “but no one remembered that poor man [afterward].” However, the modal is supported by v. 16: “A poor man’s wisdom is despised; no one ever listens to his advice.” This approach must nuance זָכַר (“to remember”) as “[no one] listened to [that poor man].” Most translations favor the indicative approach: “he delivered” or “he saved” (KJV, RSV, NRSV, NAB, ASV, NASB, MLB, NIV); however, some adopt the modal nuance: “he might have saved” (NEB, NJPS, NASB margin).
52 tn Heb “remembered.”
53 tn Or “power.”
54 tn The participle form נִשְׁמָעִים (nishma’im, Niphal participle mpl from שָׁמַע, “to listen”) is used verbally to emphasize a continual, durative, gnomic action.
55 tn Heb “his words are never listened to.”
56 tn The phrase “is heard” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity and smoothness. Note its appearance in the previous line.