1:6 The wind goes to the south and circles around to the north;
and to the place where the streams flow, there they will flow again. 28
The eye is never satisfied with seeing, nor is the ear ever content 33 with hearing.
and what has been done is what will be done;
there is nothing truly new on earth. 36
they will not be remembered by the future generations. 44
all that has been accomplished on earth. 49
I built houses for myself; 110
I planted vineyards for myself.
and I planted all kinds of fruit trees in them.
2:6 I constructed pools of water for myself,
to irrigate my grove 114 of flourishing trees.
2:7 I purchased male and female slaves,
and I owned slaves who were born in my house; 115
I also possessed more livestock – both herds and flocks –
than any of my predecessors in Jerusalem. 116
2:8 I also amassed silver and gold for myself,
I acquired male singers and female singers for myself,
yet I maintained my objectivity: 123
I did not deny myself anything that would bring me pleasure. 125
So all my accomplishments gave me joy; 126
this was my reward for all my effort. 127
and on all the effort that I had expended to accomplish it, 129
like chasing the wind!
For what more can the king’s successor do than what the king 140 has already done?
just as light is preferable to darkness:
So I lamented to myself, 148
for all the benefits of wisdom 161 are futile – like chasing the wind.
2:19 Who knows if he will be a wise man or a fool?
This also is futile!
2:21 For a man may do his work with wisdom, knowledge, and skill;
to someone else who did not work for it.
This also is futile, and an awful injustice! 183
2:22 What does a man acquire from all his labor
and from the anxiety that accompanies his toil on earth? 184
and even at night his mind cannot relax! 187
This also is futile!
a time to plant, and a time to uproot what was planted;
3:3 A time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
3:4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance.
3:5 A time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
3:7 A time to rip, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silent, and a time to speak.
3:8 A time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
3:10 I have observed the burden
that God has given to people 216 to keep them occupied.
than 228 to be happy and to enjoy
themselves 229 as long as they live,
3:13 and also that everyone should eat and drink, and find enjoyment in all his toil,
for these things 230 are a gift from God.
3:14 I also know that whatever God does will endure forever;
nothing can be added to it, and nothing taken away from it.
God has made it this way, so that men will fear him.
3:15 Whatever exists now has already been, and whatever will be has already been;
In the place of justice, there was wickedness,
and in the place of fairness, 235 there was wickedness.
3:17 I thought to myself, “God will judge both the righteous and the wicked;
for there is an appropriate time for every activity,
and there is a time of judgment 236 for every deed.
As one dies, so dies the other; both have the same breath.
There is no advantage for humans over animals,
for both are fleeting.
3:20 Both go to the same place,
both come from the dust,
and to dust both return.
and the animal’s spirit descends into the earth?
because that is their 245 reward;
for who can show them what the future holds? 246
1 tn The meaning of קֹהֶלֶת (qohelet) is somewhat puzzling. The verb קָהַל (qahal) means “to assemble, summon” (HALOT 1078-79 s.v. קהל), and is derived from the noun קָהָל (qahal, “assembly”; HALOT 1079-80 s.v. קָהָל). Thus קֹהֶלֶת might mean: (1) convener of the assembly, (2) leader, speaker, teacher, or preacher of the assembly, or (3) member of the assembly. Elsewhere in the book, קֹהֶלֶת is used in collocation with statements about his position as king in Jerusalem (Eccl 1:12), his proclamations about life (Eccl 1:2; 7:27; 12:8), and his teaching of wisdom and writing wise sayings (Eccl 12:9-10). Thus, קֹהֶלֶת probably means “the leader of the assembly” or “speaker of the assembly.”(See also the following study note.) Rabbinic literature treats קֹהֶלֶת as a traditional surname for Solomon, that is, “Qoheleth,” relating it to the noun קָהָל. For example, this explanation is found in rabbinic literature (Qoheleth Rabbah 1:1): “Why was his name called Qoheleth [קֹהֶלֶת]? Because his words were proclaimed in public meeting [קָהַל], as it is written (1 Kgs 8:1).” The LXX rendered it ἐκκλησιαστής (ekklhsiasths, “member of the assembly,” LSJ 509), as was the custom of relating Greek ἐκκλησία (ekklhsia, “assembly”) to Hebrew קָהָל. The book’s English title, “Ecclesiastes,” is simply a transliteration of the Greek term from the LXX. Symmachus’ παροιμιαστής (paroimiasths, “author of proverbs,” LSJ 1342 s.v.) is not a translation of קֹהֶלֶת but refers to his authorship of many proverbs (Eccl 12:9-10). In terms of the participial form, קֹהֶלֶת is used substantively to designate the profession or title of the author. The term is used in 12:8 with the article, indicating that it is a professional title rather than a personal surname: הַקּוֹהֶלֶת (haqqohelet, “the Teacher”). Substantival participles often designate the title or profession of an individual: כֹּהֵן (kohen), “priest”; רֹזֵן (rozen), “ruler”; שֹׁטֵר (shoter), “officer”; נֹקֵד (noqed), “sheep-breeder”; שֹׁפֵט (shofet), “judge”; יֹצֵר (yotser), “potter”; כֹּרֵם (korem), “vine-dresser”; יֹגֵב (yogev), “farmer”; שׁוֹעֵר (sho’er), “gate-keeper”; צוֹרֵף (tsoref), “smelter”; and רֹפֵא (rofe’), “doctor” (IBHS 614-15 §37.2a). In terms of its feminine ending with a male referent, Joüon 1:266-67 §89.b suggests that it is intensive, e.g., מוֹדַעַת (moda’at) “close relative” from מוֹדָע (moda’) “kinsman.” The feminine ending is used similarly in Arabic in reference to a male referent, e.g., Arabic rawiyat “a great narrator” from rawi “narrator” (C. P. Caspari, A Grammar of the Arabic Language, 1:233c). So קֹהֶלֶת may mean “the leader/teacher of the assembly” from the noun קָהָל. When used in reference to a male referent, feminine forms denote a professional title or vocational office (as in Arabic, Ethiopic, and Aramaic), e.g., סֹפֶרֶת (soferet), “scribe”; פֹּכֶרֶת (pokheret), “gazelle-catcher”; פֶּחָה (pekhah), “provincial governor”; and פְּרָעוֹת (pÿra’ot), “princes” (GKC 393 §122.r). Occasionally, a professional name later became a personal name, e.g., the title סֹפֶרֶת (“scribe”) became the name “Sophereth” (Ezra 2:55; Neh 7:57), פֹּכֶרֶת (“gazelle-catcher”) became “Pokereth” (Ezra 2:57; Neh 7:59), and perhaps קֹהֶלֶת (“assembler”) became the surname “Qoheleth” (HALOT 926 s.v. פֹּכֶרֶת הַצְּבָיִים). Many translations render קֹהֶלֶת as a professional title: “the Speaker” (NEB, Moffatt), “the Preacher” (KJV, RSV, YLT, MLB, ASV, NASB), “the Teacher” (NIV, NRSV), “the Leader of the Assembly” (NIV margin), “the Assembler” (NJPS margin). Others render it as a personal surname: “Koheleth” (JPS, NJPS) and “Qoheleth” (NAB, NRSV margin).
sn The verbal root קהל means “to assemble; to summon” (HALOT 1078-79 s.v. קהל). It is used of assembling or summoning various groups of people: “all Israel” (1 Chr 13:5; 15:3), “the elders of Israel” (1 Kgs 8:1; 2 Chr 5:2), all the elders of their tribes” (Deut 31:28), “all the princes of Israel” (1 Chr 28:1), “your tribes” (Deut 31:28), “all the house of Judah” (1 Kgs 12:21; 2 Chr 11:1), “the people” (Deut 4:10; 31:12), “the whole congregation” (Lev 8:3; Num 1:18; 16:19; 20:8), “all the congregation of the sons of Israel” (Exod 35:1; Num 8:9), “the assembly” (Num 10:7; 20:10), and “your assembly” (Ezek 38:13). The verb is often used in reference to summoning/assembling people for a religious occasion (Exod 35:1; Lev 8:3-4; Num 8:9; Deut 4:10; Josh 18:1; 22:12; 1 Kgs 8:1; 2 Chr 5:2-3), a political occasion (2 Sam 20:14), a military occasion (Judg 20:11; 2 Chr 11:1), or a judicial occasion (Job 11:10). The Hiphil stem is used to describe the action of the leader (usually a single individual who possesses/commands authority) summoning the people, e.g., Moses (Exod 35:1; Lev 8:3; Num 20:10), Moses and Aaron (Num 1:18), Korah (Num 16:19), King David (1 Chr 13:5; 15:3; 28:1), King Solomon (1 Kgs 8:1; 12:21; 2 Chr 5:2), and King Rehoboam (2 Chr 11:1). In almost every case, he who assembles the people is a person invested with authority; he makes a public proclamation or leads the nation in an important action. The Niphal stem is most often used to describe the people assembling at the direction of the leader (e.g., Lev 8:4; Josh 18:1; 22:12; 1 Kgs 8:2; 2 Chr 5:3). The root קהל is a denominative derived from the noun קָהָל (qahal, “assembly, contingent”; HALOT 1079-80 s.v. קָהָל). The noun has numerous referents: the congregated nation as a whole in the wilderness, assembled for ceremonies and instruction (Exod 16:3; Lev 4:13, 21; 16:17, 33; Num 10:7; 14:5; 15:15; 16:3; 17:12; 19:20; 20:4, 6, 10, 12; Deut 9:10; 10:4; 18:16); the congregation of Israel assembled for divine worship (Pss 22:23, 26; 26:5; 35:18; 40:10; 107:32; 149:1; Lam 1:10); the postexilic community assembled to hear the Torah and instruction (Neh 13:1); a military contingent assembled for warfare (Num 16:3; 20:4; Judg 20:2; 21:5, 8; 1 Sam 17:47; 2 Chr 28:14); people summoned to court (Ezek 16:40; 23:46-47); judicial authorities (Jer 26:17; Prov 5:14; 26:26; Sir 7:7). The term is often used as a designation for Israel: “the assembly of Israel” (Lev 16:17; Deut 31:30; Josh 8:35; 1 Kgs 8:14, 22, 55; 12:3; 2 Chr 6:3, 12-13; Sir 50:13, 20), “the assembly of the congregation” (Exod 12:6); “the assembly of the congregation of the sons of Israel” (Num 14:5), and “the assembly of God” (Neh 13:1). The related noun קְהִלָּה (qÿhillah) means “assembly, community” (HALOT 1080 s.v. קְהִלָּה), e.g., in the idiom נָתַן קְהִלָּה (natan qÿhillah) “to hold an assembly”: “I called a great assembly to deal with them” (Neh 5:7).
2 tn Heb “son of David” or “a son of David.”
3 sn While 1:1 says only “king in Jerusalem” (מֶלֶךְ בִּירוּשָׁלָםִ, melekh birushalayim), 1:12 adds “king over Israel in Jerusalem” (בִּירוּשָׁלָםִ מֶלֶךְ עַל־יִשְׂרָאֵל, melekh ’al-yisra’el birushalayim). The LXX adds “Israel” in 1:1 to harmonize with 1:12; however, the MT makes sense as it stands. Apart from David, only Solomon was “king over Israel in Jerusalem” – unless the term “Israel” (יִשְׂרָאֵל, yisra’el) in 1:12 is used for Judah or the postexilic community. Solomon would fit the description of the author of this book, who is characterized by great wisdom (1:13, 16), great wealth (2:8), numerous servants (2:7), great projects (2:4-6), and the collection, editing and writings of many proverbs (12:9-10). All of this generally suggests Solomonic authorship. However, many scholars deny Solomonic authorship on the basis of linguistic and historical arguments.
4 sn The form of the title is typical: (1) “the words of [the writer],” (2) his family name or name of his father, and (3) his social/political position in Israel (e.g., Prov 22:17; 24:23; 30:1; 31:1). Sometimes, the writer’s qualifications are given in the introduction to an OT book (e.g., Jer 1:1; Amos 1:1). Qoheleth lists his qualifications at the end of the book (12:9-12).
5 tn Heb “says.”
7 tn Heb “futility of futilities.” The phrase “absolutely futile” (הֲבֵל הֲבָלִים, havel havalim) is a superlative genitive construction (GKC 431 §133.i). When a plural genitive follows a singular construct noun of the same root, it indicates the most outstanding example of the person or thing described. Examples: קֹדֶשׁ הַקֳּדָשִׁים (qodesh haqqodashim, “holy of holies”), i.e., “the most holy place” (Exod 26:33); שִׁיר הַשִּׁירִים (shir hashirim, “song of songs”), i.e., “the most excellent song” (Song 1:1); אֱלֹהֵי הָאֱלֹהִים וַאֲדֹנֵי הַאֱדֹנִים (’elohe ha’elohim va’adone ha’edonim, “the God of gods and Lord of lords”), i.e., “the highest God and the supreme Lord” (Deut 10:17). See also R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 17-18, §80; IBHS 154 §9.5.3j.
8 tn Although כֹּל (kol, “everything, all”) is often used in an absolute or comprehensive sense (BDB 481 s.v. כֹּל 1), it is frequently used as a synecdoche of the general for the specific, that is, its sense is limited contextually to the topic at hand (BDB 482 s.v. 2). This is particularly true of הַכֹּל (hakkol, BDB 482 s.v. 2.b) in which the article particularizes or limits the referent to the contextual or previously mentioned topic (e.g., Gen 16:12; 24:1; Exod 29:24; Lev 1:9, 13; 8:27; Deut 2:36; Josh 11:19 [see 2 Sam 19:31; 1 Kgs 14:26 = 2 Chr 12:9]; 21:43; 1 Sam 30:19; 2 Sam 17:3; 23:5; 24:23; 1 Kgs 6:18; 2 Kgs 24:16; Isa 29:11; 65:8; Jer 13:7, 10; Ezek 7:14; Pss 14:3; 49:18; 1 Chr 7:5; 28:19; 29:19; 2 Chr 28:6; 29:28; 31:5; 35:7; 36:17-18; Ezra 1:11; 2:42; 8:34-35; 10:17; Eccl 5:8). Thus, “all” does not always mean “all” in an absolute sense or universally in comprehension. In several cases the context limits its reference to two classes of objects or issues being discussed, so הַכֹּל means “both” (e.g., 2:14; 3:19: 9:1, 2). Thus, הַכֹּל refers only to what Qoheleth characterizes as “futile” (הֶבֶל, hevel) in the context. Qoheleth does not mean that everything in an absolute, all-encompassing sense is futile. For example, the sovereign work of God is not “futile” (3:1–4:3); fearing God is not “futile” (2:26; 3:14-15; 11:9–12:1, 9, 13-14); and enjoying life as a righteous person under the blessing of God is not “futile” (2:24-26; 11:9-10). Only those objects or issues that are contextually placed under כֹּל are designated as “futile” (הֶבֶל). The context of 1:3-15 suggests that 1:2 refers to the futility of secular human endeavor. The content and referent of 1:3-15 determines the referent of הַכֹּל in 1:2.
9 tn The term הֶבֶל (hevel, “futile”) is repeated five times within the eight words of this verse for emphasis. The noun הֶבֶל is the key word in Ecclesiastes. The root is used in two ways in the 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” or “wind” (Eccl 1:14; Isa 57:13; Jer 10:14). The literal sense lent itself to metaphorical senses: (1) breath/vapor/wind is nonphysical, evanescent, and lacks concrete substance thus, the connotation “unsubstantial” (Jer 10:15; 16:19; 51:18), “profitless” or “fruitless” (Ps 78:33; Prov 13:11), “worthless” (2 Kgs 17:15; Jer 2:5; 10:3), “pointless” (Prov 21:6), “futile” (Lam 4:17; Eccl 1:2, 14; 2:1, 14-15), (2) breath/vapor/wind is transitory and fleeting – thus, the connotation “fleeting” or “transitory” (Prov 31:30; Eccl 6:12; 7:15; 9:9; 11:10; Job 7:16) and (3) breath/vapor/wind cannot be seen thus, the idea of “obscure,” “dark,” “difficult to understand,” “enigmatic” (Eccl 11:10). See HALOT 236-37 s.v. I הֶבֶל; BDB 210-11 s.v. I הֶבֶל. The metaphorical sense is used with the following synonyms: תֹּהוּ (tohu, “empty, vanity”; Isa 49:4), רִיק (riq, “profitless, useless”; Isa 30:7; Eccl 6:11), and לֹא הוֹעִיל (lo’ ho’il, “worthless, profitless”; Is 30:6; 57:12; Jer 16:19). 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) and life (6:12; 7:15; 9:9), which are “transitory” or “fleeting.” The most common parallels to הֶבֶל in Ecclesiastes are the phrases “chasing after the wind” (רְעוּת רוּחַ, rÿ’ut ruakh) in 2:11, 17, 26; 7:14 and “what profit?” (מַה־יִּתְרוֹן, mah-yyitron) or “no profit” (אֵין יִתְרוֹן, ’en yitron) in 2:11; 3:19; 6:9. It is used in reference to enigmas in life (6:2; 8:10, 14) and to the future which is obscure (11:8). It is often used in antithesis to terms connoting value: טוֹב (tov, “good, benefit, advantage”) and יֹתְרוֹן (yotÿron, “profit, advantage, gain”). Because the concrete picture of the “wind” lends itself to the figurative connotation “futile,” the motto “This is futile” (זֶה הֶבֶל, zeh hevel) is often used with the metaphor, “like striving after the wind” (רְעוּת רוּחַ, rÿ’ut ruakh) – a graphic picture of an expenditure of effort in vain because no one can catch the wind by chasing it (e.g., 1:14, 17; 2:11, 17, 26; 4:4, 6, 16; 6:9). Although it is the key word in Ecclesiastes, it should not be translated the same way in every place.
sn The motto Everything is futile! is the theme of the book. Its occurs at the beginning (1:2) and end of the book (12:8), forming an envelope structure (inclusio). Everything described in 1:2–12:8 is the supporting proof of the thesis of 1:2. With few exceptions (e.g., 2:24-26; 3:14-15; 11:9-12:1, 9), everything described in 1:2–12:8 is characterized as “futile” (הֶבֶל, hevel).
10 tn The term “profit” (יֹתְרוֹן, yotÿron) is used in Ecclesiastes to evaluate the ultimate benefit/effects of human activities, as is טוֹב (tov, “good, worthwhile”) as well (e.g., 2:1, 3). While some relative advantage/profit is recognized (e.g., light over darkness, and wisdom over folly), Qoheleth denies the ultimate advantage of all human endeavors (e.g., 2:11, 15).
11 tn Heb “the man.” The Hebrew term could be used here in a generic sense, referring to the typical man (hence, “a man”). However, it is more likely that the form is collective and that humankind in general is in view (note NIV “man”). Note the reference to “a generation” coming and going in the next verse, as well as v. 13, where the phrase “the sons of man” (= humankind) appears. In this case the singular pronominal suffix and singular verb later in v. 3 reflect grammatical agreement, not individuality.
12 tn The use of the relative pronoun שֶׁ (she, “which”) – rather than the more common אֲשֶׁר (’asher, “which”) – is a linguistic feature that is often used to try to date the Book of Ecclesiastes. Noting that שֶׁ is the dominant relative pronoun in Mishnaic Hebrew and that אֲשֶׁר does not appear as frequently (Jastrow 130 s.v. אֲשֶׁר), many scholars conclude that אֲשֶׁר is early and שֶׁ is late. They conclude that the use of שֶׁ in Ecclesiastes points to a late date for the book. However, as Samuel-Kings suggest, the שֶׁ versus אֲשֶׁר phenomena may simply be a dialectical issue: אֲשֶׁר is commonly used in the south, and שֶׁ in the north. The use of שֶׁ in Ecclesiastes may indicate that the book was written in a northern rather than a southern province, not that it is a late book. This is supported from related Akkadian terms which occur in texts from the same periods: אֲשֶׁר is related to asru (“place”) and שֶׁ is related to sa (“what”).
13 sn The Hebrew root עָמָל, (’amal, “toil”) is repeated here for emphasis: “What gain does anyone have in his toil with which he toils.” For all his efforts, man’s endeavors and secular achievements will not produce anything of ultimate value that will radically revolutionize anything in the world. The term “toil” is used in a pejorative sense to emphasize that the only thing that man obtains ultimately from all his efforts is weariness and exhaustion. Due to sin, mankind has been cursed with the futility of his labor that renders work a “toilsome” task (Gen 3:17-19). Although it was not yet revealed to Qoheleth, God will one day deliver the redeemed from this plight in the future kingdom when man’s labor will no longer be toilsome, but profitable, fulfilling, and enjoyable (Isa 65:17-23).
14 tn Heb “under the sun.”
sn This rhetorical question expects a negative answer: “Man has no gain in all his toil.” Ecclesiastes often uses rhetorical questions in this manner (e.g., 2:2; 3:9; 6:8, 11, 12; see E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 949).
15 tn The participle הֹלֵךְ (holekh, “to walk, to go”) emphasizes continual, durative, uninterrupted action (present universal use of participle). The root הָלַךְ (halakh) is repeated in this section (1:4a, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 7c) to emphasize the continual action and constant motion of everything in nature. Despite the continual action of everything in nature, there is no completion, attainment or rest for anything. The first use of הָלַךְ is in reference to man; all subsequent usages are in reference to nature – illustrations of the futility of human endeavor. Note: All the key terms used in 1:4 to describe the futility of human endeavor are repeated in 1:5-11 as illustrations from nature. The literary monotony in 1:4-11 mirrors the actual monotony of human action that repeats itself with no real change.
16 tn The participle בָּא (ba’, “to go”) emphasizes continual, durative, uninterrupted action (present universal use of participle). The term is repeated in 1:4-5 to compare the futility of secular human accomplishments with the futile actions in nature: everything is in motion, but there is nothing new accomplished.
17 tn The participle עֹמָדֶת (’omadet, “to stand”) emphasizes a continual, durative, uninterrupted state (present universal condition). Man, despite all his secular accomplishments in all generations, makes no ultimate impact on the earth.
18 tn The term “the same” does not appear in Hebrew, but is supplied in the translation for clarity and smoothness.
19 tn The term עוֹלָם (’olam) has a wide range of meanings: (1) indefinite time: “long time, duration,” often “eternal” or “eternity”; (2) future time: “things to come”; and (3) past time: “a long time back,” that is, the dark age of prehistory (HALOT 798–99 s.v. עוֹלָם; BDB 761–63 s.v. III עלם). It may also denote an indefinite period of “continuous existence” (BDB 762 s.v. III עלם 2.b). It is used in this sense in reference to things that remain the same for long periods: the earth (Eccl 1:4), the heavens (Ps 148:6), ruined cities (Isa 25:2; 32:14), ruined lands (Jer 18:16), nations (Isa 47:7), families (Ps 49:12; Isa 14:20), the dynasty of Saul (1 Sam 13:13), the house of Eli (2 Sam 2:30), continual enmity between nations (Ezek 25:15; 35:5), the exclusion of certain nations from the assembly (Deut 23:4; Neh 13:1), a perpetual reproach (Ps 78:66).
20 tn The Hebrew text has a perfect verbal form, but it should probably be emended to the participial form, which occurs in the last line of the verse. Note as well the use of participles in vv. 4-7 to describe what typically takes place in the natural world. The participle זוֹרֵחַ (zoreakh, “to rise”) emphasizes continual, durative, uninterrupted action (present universal use of participle): the sun is continually rising (and continually setting) day after day.
21 tn Heb “the sun goes.” The participle בָּא (ba’, “to go”) emphasizes continual, durative, uninterrupted action (present universal use of participle): the sun is continually rising and continually setting day after day. The repetition of בָּא in 1:4-5 creates a comparison between the relative futility of all human endeavor (“a generation comes and a generation goes [בָּא]”) with the relative futility of the action of the sun (“the sun rises and the sun goes” [i.e., “sets,” בָּא]).
22 tn Heb “hastens” or “pants.” The verb שָׁאַף (sha’af) has a three-fold range of meanings: (1) “to gasp; to pant,” (2) “to pant after; to long for,” and (3) “to hasten; to hurry” (HALOT 1375 s.v. שׁאף; BDB 983 s.v. I שָׁאַף). The related Aramaic root שׁוף means “to be thirsty; to be parched.” The Hebrew verb is used of “gasping” for breath, like a woman in the travail of childbirth (Isa 42:14); “panting” with eagerness or desire (Job 5:5; 7:2; 36:20; Ps 119:131; Jer 2:24) or “panting” with fatigue (Jer 14:6; Eccl 1:5). Here שָׁאַף personifies the sun, panting with fatigue, as it hastens to its destination (BDB 983 s.v. I שָׁאַף 1). The participle form depicts continual, uninterrupted, durative action (present universal use). Like the sun, man – for all his efforts – never really changes anything; all he accomplishes in his toil is to wear himself out.
23 tn The verb זוֹרֵחַ (zoreakh, “to rise”) is repeated in this verse to emphasize that the sun is locked into a never changing, ever repeating monotonous cycle: rising, setting, rising, setting.
24 tn The word “again” does not appear in Hebrew, but is supplied in the translation for clarity and smoothness.
25 tn The Hebrew root סָבַב (savav, “to circle around”) is repeated four times in this verse to depict the wind’s continual motion: “The wind circles around (סוֹבֵב, sovev)…round and round (סוֹבֵב סֹבֵב)…its circuits (סְבִיבֹתָיו, sÿvivotayv).” This repetition is designed for a rhetorical purpose – to emphasize that the wind is locked into a never ending cycle. This vicious circle of monotonous action does not change anything. The participle form is used three times to emphasize continual, uninterrupted action (present universal use of participle). Despite the fact that the wind is always changing direction, nothing really new ever happens. The constant shifting of the wind cannot hide the fact that this is nothing but a repeated cycle; nothing new happens here (e.g., 1:9-10).
26 tn The use of שָׁב (shav, Qal active participle masculine singular from שׁוּב, shuv, “to return”) creates a wordplay (paronomasia) with the repetition of סָבַב (savav, “to circle around”). The participle emphasizes continual, durative, uninterrupted action (present universal use).
27 tn Heb “are going” or “are walking.” The term הֹלְכִים (holÿkhim, Qal active participle masculine plural from הָלַךְ, halakh,“to walk”) emphasizes continual, durative, uninterrupted action (present universal use of participle). This may be an example of personification; this verb is normally used in reference to the human activity of walking. Qoheleth compares the flowing of river waters to the action of walking to draw out the comparison between the actions of man (1:4) and the actions of nature (1:5-11).
28 tn Heb “there they are returning to go.” The term שָׁבִים (shavim, Qal active participle masculine plural from שׁוּב, shuv, “to return”) emphasizes the continual, durative action of the waters. The root שׁוּב is repeated in 1:6-7 to emphasize that everything in nature (e.g., wind and water) continually repeats its actions. For all of the repetition of the cycles of nature, nothing changes; all the constant motion produces nothing new.
sn This verse does not refer to the cycle of evaporation or the return of water by underground streams, as sometimes suggested. Rather, it describes the constant flow of river waters to the sea. For all the action of the water – endless repetition and water constantly in motion – there is nothing new accomplished.
29 tn The word “this” is not in Hebrew, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.
30 tn Heb “the things.” The Hebrew term דְּבָרִים (dÿvarim, masculine plural noun from דָּבָר, davar) is often used to denote “words,” but it can also refer to actions and events (HALOT 211 s.v. דָּבָר 3.a; BDB 183 s.v. דָּבָר IV.4). Here, it means “things,” as is clear from the context: “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done” (1:9). Here דְּבָרִים can be nuanced “occurrences” or even “[natural] phenomena.”
31 tn Heb “is able.”
32 tn The Hebrew text has no stated object. The translation supplies “it” for stylistic reasons and clarification.
sn The statement no one can bear to describe it probably means that Qoheleth could have multiplied examples (beyond the sun, the wind, and the streams) of the endless cycle of futile events in nature. However, no tongue could ever tell, no eye could ever see, no ear could ever hear all the examples of this continual and futile activity.
33 tn The term מָלֵא (male’, “to be filled, to be satisfied”) is repeated in 1:7-8 to draw a comparison between the futility in the cycle of nature and human secular accomplishments: lots of action, but no lasting effects. In 1:7 אֵינֶנּוּ מָלֵא (’enennu male’, “it is never filled”) describes the futility of the water cycle: “All the rivers flow into the sea, yet the sea is never filled.” In 1:8 וְלֹא־תִמָּלֵא (vÿlo-timmale’, “it is never satisfied”) describes the futility of human labor: “the ear is never satisfied with hearing.”
34 tn Heb “what is.” The Hebrew verbal form is a perfect. Another option is to translate, “What has been.” See the next line, which speaks of the past and the future.
35 tn The Hebrew verbal form is an imperfect.
36 tn Heb “under the sun.”
37 tn Alternately, “[Even when] there is something of which someone might claim…” The terms יֵשׁ דָּבָר שֶׁיֹּאמַר (yesh davar sheyyo’mar) may be an interrogative clause without an introductory interrogative particle (GKC 473 §150.a). In questions, יֵשׁ often implies doubt about the existence of something (BDB 441 s.v. יֵשׁ 2.b). The LXX rendered it as a question, as do most English versions: “Is there anything of which it can be said…?” (KJV, ASV, RSV, MLB, NEB, NASB, NIV, NRSV). On the other hand, יֵשׁ is used elsewhere in the Book of Ecclesiastes as a predication of existence (“There is…”) to assert the existence of something (2:13, 21; 4:8, 9; 5:13; 6:1, 11; 7:15; 8:6, 14; 9:4; 10:5). HALOT 443 s.v. יֵשׁ 2 renders יֵשׁ דָּבָר as “There is something….” This view is taken by several translations: “Even the thing of which we say…” (NAB), “Men may say of something …” (Moffatt), and “Sometimes there is a phenomena of which they say…” (NJPS).
38 tn The perfect tense verb הָיָה (hayah) refers to a past perfect situation: It describes an action that is viewed as a remote past event from the perspective of the past. This past perfect situation is brought out by the temporal adverb כְּבָר (kÿvar, “already”; HALOT 459 s.v. I כְּבָר; BDB 460 s.v. I כְּבָר; cf. 1:10; 2:12, 16; 3:15; 4:2; 6:10; 9:6-7). The expression כְּבָר + הָיָה connotes a past perfect nuance: “it has already been” (Eccl 1:10; see BDB 460 s.v.).
39 sn This does not deny man’s creativity or inventiveness, only the ultimate newness of his accomplishments. For example, there is no essential difference between the first voyage to the moon and the discovery of America (different point of arrival, different vehicles of travel, but the same essential action and results).
40 tn Heb “in the ages long ago before us.”
41 tn Heb “There is no remembrance of former things.” The term רִאשֹׁנִים (ri’shonim, “former things”) is the masculine plural form of the adjective רִאשׁוֹן (ri’shon,“former, first, chief”; BDB 911 s.v. רִאשׁוֹן). When used in a temporal sense, the singular denotes “former” in time (BDB 911 s.v. 1.a) or “first” in time (BDB 911 s.v. 2.a). The plural form is only used to denote “former” in time: “former persons,” i.e., ancestors, men of old (e.g., Lev 26:45; Deut 19:14; Job 18:20; Isa 61:4; Ps 79:8; Sirach 4:16) or “former things,” i.e., past events (e.g., Isa 41:22; 42:9; 43:9, 18; 46:9; 48:3). See BDB 911 s.v. 1.a, which suggests that this usage refers to “former persons.” This approach is adopted by several translations: “men of old” (NEB, NAB, NIV, Moffatt), “people of long ago” (NRSV), “earlier ones” (NJPS), and “former generations” (ASV). On the other hand, this Hebrew phrase may be nuanced “former things” or “earlier things” (HALOT 1168 s.v. ן(וֹ)רִאשֹׁ). This is adopted by some translations: “former things” (KJV, RSV) and “earlier things” (NASB). Although future generations are mentioned in 1:11, what they will not remember is the past events. The context of 1:3-11 focuses on human achievement, that is, former things.
42 tn The term “remember” is not in the Hebrew text, but has been supplied in the translation for clarity.
43 tn Heb “and also of the last things which will be.” The term אַחֲרֹנִים (’akharonim, “the future things”) is the masculine plural form of the adjective אַחֲרוֹן (’akharon) which means “coming after” (BDB 30 s.v. אַחֲרוֹן) or “at the back” (HALOT 36 s.v. אַחֲרוֹן). When used in a temporal sense, it may mean (1) “later one; (2) “in the future”; (3) “last”; or (4) “at the last” or “in the end” (HALOT 36 s.v. 2). The plural form may be used in reference to (1) future generations, e.g., Deut 29:21; Pss 48:14; 78:4, 6; 102:19; Job 18:20; Eccl 4:16, or (2) future events, e.g., Neh 8:18 (BDB 30 s.v.). BDB 30 s.v. b suggests that this usage refers to “future generations,” while HALOT 36 s.v. 2.c suggests future events. As mentioned in the previous note, it probably refers to future events rather than future generations.
sn The Hebrew terms translated former events and future events create a merism (two polar extremes encompass everything in between). This encompasses all secular achievements in human history past to future things yet to be done.
44 tn Heb “There will not be any remembrance of them among those who come after.”
sn According to Qoheleth, nothing new really happens under the sun (1:9). Apparent observations of what appears to be revolutionary are due to a lack of remembrance by subsequent generations of what happened long before their time in past generations (1:10-11a). And what will happen in future generations will not be remembered by the subsequent generations to arise after them (1:11b).
46 tn Heb “I gave my heart” or “I set my mind.” The term לִבִּי (libbi, “my heart”) is an example of synecdoche of part (heart) for the whole (myself). Qoheleth uses this figurative expression frequently in the book. On the other hand, in Hebrew mentality, the term “heart” is frequently associated with one’s thoughts and reasoning; thus, this might be a metonymy of association (heart = thoughts). The equivalent English idiom would be “I applied my mind.”
47 tn Heb “with wisdom,” that is, with careful reflection in light of principles observed by the sages.
48 tn Heb “to seek and to search out” (לִדְרוֹשׁ וְלָתוּר, lidrosh vÿlatur). This is an example of a verbal hendiadys (the use of two synonymous verbs to state a common idea in an emphatic manner). The terms are used because they are closely related synonyms; therefore, the similarities in meaning should be emphasized rather than the distinctions in meaning. The verb דָּרַשׁ (darash) means “to inquire about; to investigate; to search out; to study” (HALOT 233 s.v. דרשׁ; BDB 205 s.v. דָּרַשׁ). This verb is used literally of the physical activity of investigating a matter by examining the physical evidence and interviewing eye-witnesses (e.g., Judg 6:29; Deut 13:15; 17:4, 9; 19:18), and figuratively (hypocatastasis) of mentally investigating abstract concepts (e.g., Eccl 1:13; Isa 1:17; 16:5; Pss 111:2; 119:45). Similarly, the verb תּוּר (tur) means “to seek out, discover” (HALOT 1708 s.v. תּוּר 1.c; BDB 1064 תּוּר 2). The verb תּוּר is used literally of the physical action of exploring physical territory (Num 13:16-17; 14:6, 34-36; Job 39:8), and figuratively (hypocatastasis) of mentally exploring things (Eccl 1:13; 7:25; 9:1).
49 tn Heb “under heaven.”
sn Qoheleth states that he made a thorough investigation of everything that had been accomplished on earth. His position as king gave him access to records and contacts with people that would have been unavailable to others.
50 tn This phrase does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is added in the translation for clarity.
51 tn Heb “the sons of men/mankind.”
52 tn The phrase עִנְיַן רָע (’inyan ra’, “rotten business, grievous task”) is used only in Ecclesiastes (1:13; 2:23, 26; 3:10; 4:8; 5:2, 13; 8:16). It is parallel with הֶבֶל (hevel) “futile” in 4:8, and describes a “grave misfortune” in 5:13. The noun עִנְיַן (’inyan, “business”) refers to something that keeps a person occupied or busy: “business; affair; task; occupation” (HALOT 857 s.v. עִנְיָן; BDB 775 s.v. עִנְיָן). The related verb עָנַה (’anah) means “to be occupied, to be busy with” (with the preposition בְּ, bet), e.g., Eccl 1:13; 3:10; 5:19 (HALOT 854 s.v. III עָנָה; BDB 775 s.v. II עָנָה). The noun is from the Aramaic loanword עִנְיָנָא (’inyana’, “concern, care”). The verb is related to the Aramaic verb “to try hard,” the Arabic verb “to be busily occupied; to worry to be a matter of concern,” and the Old South Arabic root “to be troubled; to strive with” (HALOT 854 s.v. III עָנָה). The phrase עִנְיַן רָע is treated creatively by English translations: “sore travail” (KJV, ASV), “sad travail” (YLT), “painful occupation” (Douay), “sorry business” (NEB), “sorry task” (Moffatt), “thankless task” (NAB), “grievous task” (NASB), “trying task” (MLB), “unhappy business” (RSV, NRSV, NJPS), and “heavy burden” (NIV).
53 tn The syntax of this line in Hebrew is intentionally redundant, e.g. (literally), “It is a grievous task [or “unpleasant business”] that God has given to the sons of man to be occupied with it.” The referent of the third masculine singular suffix on לַעֲנוֹת בּוֹ (la’anot bo, “to be occupied with it”) is עִנְיַן רָע (’inyan ra’, “a grievous task, a rotten business”).
54 tn Or “that keeps them occupied” or “that busies them.” The verb II עָנַה (’anah, “to be occupied with”) is related to the noun עִנְיַן (’inyan, “business, task, occupation”) which also occurs in this verse. The verb עָנַה means “to be occupied, to be busy with” (with the preposition בְּ, bet), e.g., Eccl 1:13; 3:10; 5:19 (HALOT 854 s.v. III עָנָה; BDB 775 s.v. עָנָה). The Hebrew verb is related to the Aramaic verb “to try hard,” the Arabic verb “to be busily occupied; to worry; to be a matter of concern,” and the Old South Arabic root “to be troubled; to strive with” (HALOT 854).
55 tn The phrase “by man” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.
56 tn Heb “under the sun.”
57 tn As mentioned in the note on “everything” in 1:2, the term הַכֹּל (hakkol, “everything”) is often limited in reference to the specific topic at hand in the context (e.g., BDB 482 s.v. כֹּל 2). The argument of 1:12-15, like 1:3-11, focuses on secular human achievement. This is clear from the repetition of the root עָשַׂה (’asah, “do, work, accomplish, achieve”) in 1:12-13.
58 tn The phrase “he has accomplished” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.
59 tn This usage of הֶבֶל (hevel) denotes “futile, profitless, fruitless” (e.g., 2 Kgs 17:15; Ps 78:33; Prov 13:11; 21:6; Eccl 1:2, 14; 2:1, 14-15; 4:8; Jer 2:5; 10:3; Lam 4:17; see HALOT 236–37 s.v. I הֶבֶל; BDB 210–11 s.v. I הֶבֶל). The term is used with the simile “like striving after the wind” (רְעוּת רוּחַ, rÿ’ut ruakh) – a graphic picture of an expenditure of effort in vain because no one can catch the wind by chasing it (e.g., 1:14, 17; 2:11, 17, 26; 4:4, 6, 16; 6:9; 7:14). When used in this sense, the term is often used with the following synonyms: לְתֹהוּ (lÿtohu, “for nothing, in vain, for no reason”; Isa 49:4); רִיק (riq, “profitless; useless”; Isa 30:7; Eccl 6:11); לֹא הוֹעִיל (“worthless, profitless”; Is 30:6; 57:12; Jer 16:19); “what profit?” (מַה־יִּתְרוֹןֹ, mah-yyitron); and “no profit” (אֵין יִּתְרוֹן, en yyitron; e.g., 2:11; 3:19; 6:9). It is also used in antithesis to terms connoting value: טוֹב (tov, “good, benefit, advantage”) and יֹתְרוֹן (yotÿron, “profit, advantage, gain”). Despite everything that man has accomplished in history, it is ultimately futile because nothing on earth really changes.
60 tn Heb “striving of wind.” The word “like” does not appear in the Hebrew text; it has been added in the translation to make the comparative notion clear.
61 tn The term מְעֻוָּת, mÿ’uvvat (Pual participle masculine singular from עָוַת, ’avat, “to bend”) is used substantively (“what is bent; what is crooked”) in reference to irregularities in life and obstacles to human secular achievement accomplishing anything of ultimate value.
62 tn A parallel statement occurs in 7:13 which employs the active form of עָוַת, (’avat, “to bend”) with God as the subject: “Who is able to strengthen what God bends?” The passive form occurs here: “No one is able to straighten what is bent” (מְעֻוָּת לֹא־יוּכַל לֹתְקֹן, mÿ’uvvat lo’-yukhal lotÿqon). In the light of 7:13, the personal agent of the passive form is God.
63 tn The Hebrew noun חֶסְרוֹן (khesron) is used in the OT only here and means “what is lacking” (as an antonym to יִתְרוֹן [yitron], “what is profitable”; HALOT 339 s.v. חֶסְרוֹן; BDB 341 s.v. חֶסְרוֹן). It is an Aramaic loanword meaning “deficit.” The related verb חָסַר (khasar) means “to lack, to be in need of, to decrease, to lessen [in number]”; the related noun חֹסֶר (khoser) refers to “one in want of”; and the noun חֶסֶר (kheser) means “poverty, want” (HALOT 338 s.v. חֶסֶר; BDB 341 s.v. חֶסֶר). It refers to what is absent (zero in terms of quantity) rather than what is deficient (poor in terms of quality). The LXX misunderstood the term and rendered it as ὑστέρημα (usterhma, “deficiency”): “deficiency cannot be numbered.” It is also misunderstood by a few English versions: “nor can you count up the defects in life” (Moffatt); “the number of fools is infinite” (Douay). However, most English versions correctly understand it as referring to what is lacking in terms of quantity: “what is lacking” (RSV, MLB, NASB, NIV, NRSV), “a lack” (NJPS), “that which is wanting” (KJV, ASV), “what is not there” (NEB), and “what is missing” (NAB).
64 tn Heb “cannot be counted” or “cannot be numbered.” The term הִמָּנוֹת (himmanot, Niphal infinitive construct from מָנָה, manah, “to count”) is rendered literally by most translations: “[cannot] be counted” or “[cannot] be numbered” (KJV, ASV, RSV, MLB, NEB, NASB, NIV, NRSV, JPS, NJPS). However, the nuance “count” might function as a metonymy of effect for cause, that is, “to supply.” What is absent cannot be supplied (cause) therefore, it cannot be counted as present (effect). NAB adopts this approach: “what is missing cannot be supplied.”
65 tn Heb “I spoke, I, with my heart.”
66 tn Heb “I, look, I have made great and increased wisdom.” The expression הִגְדַּלְתִּי וְהוֹסַפְתִּי (higdalti vÿhosafti) is a verbal hendiadys; it means that Qoheleth had become the wisest man in the history of Jerusalem.
67 tn The phrase “who ruled” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.
69 tn Heb “my heart” (לִבִּי, libbi). The term “heart” is a metonymy of part for the whole (“my heart” = myself).
70 tn Heb “My heart has seen much wisdom and knowledge.”
72 tn The phrase “the benefit of” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.
73 tn The word “over” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.
74 tn The terms שִׂכְלוּת (sikhlut, “folly”) and הוֹלֵלוֹת (holelot, “foolishness”) are synonyms. The term שִׂכְלוּת (alternate spelling of סִכְלוּת, sikhlut) refers to foolish behavior (HALOT 755 s.v. סִכְלוּת), while הוֹלֵלוֹת refers to foolish ideas and mental blindness (HALOT 242 s.v. הוֹלֵלוֹת). Qoheleth uses these terms to refer to foolish ideas and self-indulgent pleasures (e.g., Eccl 2:2-3, 12-14; 7:25; 9:3; 10:1, 6, 13).
75 tn Heb “I know.”
76 tn The term גַּם (gam, “even”) is a particle of association and emphasis (HALOT 195 s.v. גַּם).
77 tn This term does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.
78 tn This term does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.
79 tn Heb “striving of wind.”
80 tn This term does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.
81 tn This term does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.
82 tn This term does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.
83 tn This term does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.
84 tn Heb “I said, I, in my heart” (אָמַרְתִּי אֲנִי בְּלִבִּי, ’amarti ’ani bÿlibbi). The term “heart” (לֵב, lev) is a synecdoche of part (“heart”) for the whole (the whole person), and thus means “I said to myself” (see E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 648).
85 tn The Hebrew verb לְכָה (lÿkhah, “Come!”) is a weakened imperative, used merely as an introductory word, e.g., Gen 19:32; 31:44; Judg 19:11; 1 Sam 9:9-10; 11:14; 2 Kgs 3:7; Ps 66:5; Song 7:12; Isa 1:18; 2:3; Mic 4:2 (HALOT 246 s.v. הָלַךְ 2; BDB 234 s.v. הָלַךְ I.5.f.2). Whenever לְכָה introduces an exhortation, it functions as an invitation to the audience to adopt a course of action that will be beneficial to the addressee or mutually beneficial to both the speaker and the addressee. Here, Qoheleth personifies his “heart” (לִבִּי, libbi) and addresses himself. The examination of self-indulgent pleasure is designed to be beneficial to Qoheleth.
86 tn Or “test.” The cohortative אֲנַסְּכָה (’anassÿkhah) emphasizes the resolve of the speaker. The term נָסַה (nasah, “to test”) means “to conduct a test,” that is, to conduct an experiment (Judg 6:39; Eccl 2:1; 7:23; Dan 1:12, 14; see HALOT 702 s.v. נסה 3; BDB 650 s.v. נָסָה 1). The verb נָסַה is often used as a synonym with בָּחַן (bakhan, “to examine”; BDB 103 s.v. בָּחַן and 650 s.v. נָסָה 1) and לָדַעַת (lada’at, “to ascertain”; Deut 8:2).
87 tn Heb “I will test you with pleasure.” The term שִׂמְחַה (simkhah, “pleasure”) has a two-fold range of meanings: (1) it can refer to the legitimate enjoyment of life that Qoheleth affirms is good (5:17; 8:15; 9:7; 11:8, 9) and that God gives to those who please him (2:26; 5:19); or (2) it can refer to foolish pleasure, self-indulgent, frivolous merrymaking (2:1, 2; 7:4). The parallelism in 2:2 between שִׂמְחַה and שְׂחוֹק (sÿkhoq, “laughter, frivolous merrymaking”), which always appears in the context of banqueting, drinking, and merrymaking, suggests that the pejorative sense is in view in this context.
sn The statement I will try self-indulgent pleasure is a figurative expression known as metonymy of association. As 2:1-3 makes clear, it is not so much Qoheleth who is put to the test with pleasure, but rather that pleasure is put to the test by Qoheleth.
88 tn Heb “See what is good!” The volitive sequence of the cohortative (אֲנַסְּכָה, ’anassÿkhah, “I will test you”) followed by vav + imperative (וּרְאֵה, urÿ’eh, “and see!”) denotes purpose/result: “I will test you…in order to see….” The verb רָאָה (ra’ah, “to see”) has a broad range of meanings (e.g., in the Qal stem 16 categories are listed in HALOT 1157–1160 s.v.). In this context it means “to discover; to perceive; to discern; to understand” (HALOT 1159 s.v. ראה 13; BDB 907 s.v. רָאָה 5).
89 sn The phrase “to see what is good” (רָאָה, ra’ah, “to see” + טוֹב, tov, “good”) is repeated twice in 2:1-3. This is the key phrase in this section of Ecclesiastes. Qoheleth sought to discover (רָאָה) whether merry-making offered any value (טוֹב) to mankind.
90 tn The particle וְהִנֵּה (vÿhinneh, literally “Behold!”) occurs after verbs of perception to introduce what was seen, understood or discovered (HALOT 252 s.v. הִנֵּה 8). It is used to make the narrative graphic and vivid, enabling the reader to enter into the surprise of the speaker (BDB 244 s.v. הִנֵּה c). This is an example of the heterosis of the deictic particle (“Behold!”) for a verb of perception (“I found”). See E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 510-34.
91 tn This use of הֶבֶל (hevel) denotes “futile, worthless, fruitless, pointless” (HALOT 237 s.v. I הֶבֶל 2; BDB 210–11 s.v. I הֶבֶל 2). It is a synonym to מְהוֹלָל (mÿholal, “folly”) in 2:2a and an antonym to טוֹב (tov, “worthwhile, beneficial”) in 2:1b and 2:3c.
92 tn Heb “laughter.” The term שְׂחוֹק (sÿkhoq, “laughter”) has a fourfold range of meanings: (1) “joyful laughter” (Ps 126:2; Prov 14:13; Job 8:21); (2) “frivolous laughter, merrymaking” (Eccl 2:2; 7:3, 6); (3) “pleasure, sport” (Prov 10:23; Eccl 10:19); and (4) “derision, mockery, laughingstock” (Jer 20:7; 48:26, 27, 39; Job 12:4; Lam 3:14). See HALOT 1315 s.v שְׂחוֹק; BDB 966 s.v. שְׂחֹק. In Ecclesiastes, שְׂחוֹק is always used in contexts of self-indulgent banqueting, drinking, frivolous partying and merrymaking (Eccl 2:2; 7:3, 6; 10:19). It is distinct from “healthy” joy and laughter (Ps 126:2; Job 8:21). The connotation of “frivolous merrymaking” fits this context best.
93 tn The term שִׂמְחָה (simkhah, “pleasure”) has a two-fold range of meanings in Ecclesiastes: (1) it can refer to the enjoyment of life that Qoheleth affirms is good (5:17; 8:15; 9:7; 11:8, 9) and that God gives to those who are pleasing to him (2:26; 5:19); and (2) it can refer to foolish pleasure, that is, frivolous merrymaking (2:1, 2; 7:4). The parallelism between שִׂמְחָה and שְׂחוֹק (sÿkhoq, “laughter, frivolous merrymaking”) in 2:2 suggests that the pejorative sense is in view here.
94 tn Heb “What does it accomplish?” The rhetorical question “What does it accomplish?” expects a negative answer: “It accomplishes nothing!” (see E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 949–51). See, e.g., Gen 1:19; 18:14, 17; Deut 7:17; 1 Sam 2:25; Job 40:2; Pss 56:7; 90:11; 94:16; 106:2; Eccl 3:21.
95 tn Heb “In my heart I explored.” The verb תּוּר (tur, “to seek out, to spy out, to explore”) is used in the OT to describe: (1) the physical activity of “spying out” or “exploring” geographical locations (Num 13:2, 16, 17, 21, 25, 32; 14:6, 7, 34, 36, 38; Job 39:8) and (2) the mental activity of “exploring” or “examining” a course of action or the effects of an action (Eccl 1:13; 2:3; 7:25; 9:1). See BDB 1064 s.v. תּוּר 2; HALOT 1708 s.v. תּוּר. It was used as a synonym with דָרָשׁ (darash, “to study”) in 1:13: “I devoted myself to study (לִדְרוֹשׁ, lidrosh) and to explore (לָתוּר, latur).”
sn As the repetition of the term לֵב (lev, “heart” or “mind”) indicates (2:1, 3), this experiment appears to have been only an intellectual exercise or a cognitive reflection: “I said to myself (Heb “in my heart [or “mind”],” 2:1); “I explored with my mind (Heb “heart,” 2:3a); and “my mind (Heb “heart”) guiding me with wisdom” (2:3b). Qoheleth himself did not indulge in drunkenness; but he contemplated the value of self-indulgence in his mind.
96 tn The phrase “the effects of” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.
97 tn Or “I sought to cheer my flesh with wine.” The term לִמְשׁוֹךְ (limshokh, Qal infinitive construct from מָשַׁךְ, mashakh, “to draw, pull”) functions in a complementary sense with the preceding verb תּוּר (tur “to examine”): Heb “I sought to draw out my flesh with wine” or “I [mentally] explored [the effects] of drawing out my flesh with wine.” The verb מָשַׁךְ means “to draw, to drag along, to lead” (BDB 604 s.v. מָשַׁךְ) or “to draw out; to stretch out [to full length]; to drag; to pull; to seize; to carry off; to pull; to go” (HALOT 645–46 s.v. משׁך). BDB suggests that this use be nuanced “to draw, to attract, to gratify” the flesh, that is, “to cheer” (BDB 604 s.v. מָשַׁךְ 7). While this meaning is not attested elsewhere in the OT, it is found in Mishnaic Hebrew: “to attract” (Qal), e.g., “it is different with heresy, because it attracts [i.e., persuades, offers inducements]” (b. Avodah Zarah 27b) and “to be attracted, carried away, seduced,” e.g., “he was drawn after them, he indulged in the luxuries of the palace” (b. Shabbat 147b). See Jastrow 853-54 s.v. מְשַׂךְ. Here it denotes “to stretch; to draw out [to full length],” that is, “to revive; to restore” the body (HALOT 646 s.v. משׁד [sic] 3). The statement is a metonymy of cause (i.e., indulging the flesh with wine) for effect (i.e., the effects of self-indulgence).
98 tn Heb “my flesh.” The term בְּשָׂרִי (bÿsari, “my flesh”) may function as a synecdoche of part (i.e., flesh) for the whole (i.e., whole person). See E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 642. One could translate, “I sought to cheer myself.”
99 tn The phrase “all the while” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.
100 tn The word “me” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.
101 tn Heb “and my heart was leading along in wisdom.” The vav + noun, וְלִבִּי (vÿlibbi) introduces a disjunctive, parenthetical clause designed to qualify the speaker’s remarks lest he be misunderstood: “Now my heart/mind….” He emphasizes that he never lost control of his senses in this process. It was a purely mental, cognitive endeavor; he never actually gave himself over to wanton self-indulgence in wine or folly.
102 tn The phrase “the effects of” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.
103 tn Heb “embracing folly.” The verb אָחָז (’akhaz, “to embrace”) is normally used to describe the physical action of taking hold of an object. Here is it is used metaphorically to describe a person’s choice of lifestyle, that is, adopting a particular course of moral conduct (e.g., Job 17:9); see HALOT 31–32 s.v. אחז; BDB 28 s.v. אָחַז.
104 tn Or “until.” The construction עַד אֲשֶׁר (’ad ’asher, “until”) introduces a temporal result clause (e.g., Gen 27:44; 28:15; Num 21:35; Isa 6:11); see HALOT 787 s.v. III עַד B.b. With an imperfect verb (such as אֶרְאֶה, ’er’eh, Qal imperfect first common singular from רָאָה, ra’ah, “to see”), the compound construction עַד אֲשֶׁר usually refers to future time (Gen 27:44; 29:8; Exod 23:30; 24:14; Lev 22:4; Num 11:20; 20:17; 1 Sam 22:3; Hos 5:15), but it also rarely refers to past time (Jonah 4:5; Eccl 2:3); see BDB 725 s.v. III עַד II.1.a.b. Joüon 2:370 §113.k notes that when the compound construction עַד אֲשֶׁר is occasionally used with an imperfect depicting past action to denote a virtual nuance of purpose: “until” = “so that,” e.g., Jonah 4:5; Eccl 2:3.
105 tn Heb “I might see where is the good?” The interrogative particle אֵי (’e, “where?”) used with the demonstrative pronoun זֶה (zeh, “this”) forms an idiom: “where [then]?” (HALOT 37–38 s.v. אֵי 2.a; see, e.g., 1 Sam 9:18; 1 Kgs 13:12; 2 Kgs 3:8; Isa 50:1; 66:1; Jer 6:16; Job 28:12, 20; 38:19, 24; Esth 7:5). The phrase אֵי־זֶה טוֹב (’e-zeh tov) is an indirect question that literally means, “Where is the good?” that is, “what good?” (HALOT 38 s.v. אֵי 2.d).
106 tn Heb “the sons of man.”
107 tn Heb “under the heavens.”
108 tn Heb “number of the days.” The Hebrew noun מִסְפַּר (mispar, “number, quantity”) sometimes means “few” (e.g., Gen 34:30; Num 9:20; Deut 4:27; 33:6; Isa 10:19; Jer 44:28; Ezek 12:16; Ps 105:12; Job 16:22; 1 Chr 16:19); see HALOT 607 s.v. מִסְפָּר 2.b; BDB 709 s.v. מִסְפָּר 1.a. This phrase is an idiom that means, “during all their lives” (BDB 709 s.v.), “during their total [short] time of life,” that is, “as long as they live” (HALOT 608 s.v. מִסְפָּר 3.d). Ecclesiastes often emphasizes the brevity of life (e.g., 5:17; 6:12; 9:9). The LXX rendered מִסְפַּר in a woodenly literal sense: ἀριθμόν (ariqmon, “the number [of days of their lives]”). Several English translations adopt a similar approach: “all the days of their life” (ASV, Douay) and “the number of days of their lives” (YLT). However, this idiom is handled well by a number of English translations: “during the few days of their lives” (RSV, NRSV, NASB, NIV, Moffatt, NJPS), “during the limited days of their life” (NAB), and “throughout the brief span of their lives” (NEB).
109 tn Or “my works”; or “my accomplishments.” The term מַעֲשָׂי (ma’asay, “my works”) has been handled in two basic ways: (1) great works or projects, and (2) possessions. The latter assumes a metonymy, one’s effort standing for the possessions it produces. Both interpretations are reflected in the major English translations: “works” (KJV, NEB, NAB, ASV, NASB, MLB, RSV, Douay, Moffatt), “projects” (NIV), and “possessions” (NJPS).
sn This section (2:4-11) is unified and bracketed by the repetition of the verb גָּדַל (gadal, “to increase”) which occurs at the beginning (2:4) and end (2:9), and by the repetition of the root עשה (noun: “works” and verb: “to do, make, acquire”) which occurs throughout the section (2:4, 5, 6, 8, 11).
110 sn The expression for myself is repeated eight times in 2:4-8 to emphasize that Qoheleth did not deny himself any acquisition. He indulged himself in acquiring everything he desired. His vast resources as king allowed him the unlimited opportunity to indulge himself. He could have anything his heart desired, and he did.
111 tn Heb “made.”
112 tn The term does not refer here to vegetable gardens, but to orchards (cf. the next line). In the same way the so-called “garden” of Eden was actually an orchard filled with fruit trees. See Gen 2:8-9.
113 tn The noun פַּרְדֵּס (pardes, “garden, parkland, forest”) is a foreign loanword that occurs only 3 times in biblical Hebrew (Song 4:13; Eccl 2:5; Neh 2:8). The original Old Persian term pairidaeza designated the enclosed parks and pleasure-grounds that were the exclusive domain of the Persian kings and nobility (HALOT 963 s.v. פַּרְדֵּס; LSJ 1308 s.v παράδεισος). The related Babylonian term pardesu “marvelous garden” referred to the enclosed parks of the kings (AHw 2:833 and 3:1582). The term passed into Greek as παράδεισος (paradeisos, “enclosed park, pleasure-ground”), referring to the enclosed parks and gardens of the Persian kings (LSJ 1308). The Greek term has been transliterated into English as “paradise.”
114 tn Heb “to water from them a grove” (or “forest).
115 tn The phrase “sons of a house” (בְנֵי בַיִת, vÿne vayit) appears to be parallel to “a son of my house” (בֶן־בֵּיתִי, ven-beti) which refers to a person born into slavery from male and female servants in the master’s possession, e.g., Eleazar of Damascus (Gen 15:3). The phrase appears to denote children born from male and female slaves already in his possession, that is, “homeborn slaves” (NASB) or “other slaves who were born in my house” (NIV). Apparently confusing the sense of the phrase with the referent of the phrase in Gen 15:3, NJPS erroneously suggests “stewards” in Eccl 2:7.
117 tn The term סְגֻלָּה (sÿgullah) denotes “personal property” (HALOT 742 s.v. סְגֻלָּה 1) or “valued property, personal treasure” (BDB 688 s.v. סְגֻלָּה 2). Elsewhere, it refers to a king’s silver and gold (1 Chr 27:3). It is related to Akkadian sug/kullu “flock” (AHw 2:1053-54) and sikiltu “private property [belonging to the king]” (AHw 2:1041). The term refers to the personal, private and valued possessions of kings, which do not pass into the hands of the state.
118 tn Heb “of kings and provinces.” This personal treasure was taken as tribute from other kings and governors. See T. Longman III, Ecclesiastes (NICOT), 92.
119 tn Heb “and sensual delights of the sons of man.” The noun תַּעֲנוּג (ta’anug) has a three-fold range of meanings: (1) “luxury; comfort” (Mic 2:9; Prov 19:10; Sir 6:28; 11:27; 14:16; 37:29; 41:1); (2) “pleasure; delight” of sexual love (Song 7:7); and (3) “daintiness; feminine” (Mic 1:16); see HALOT 1769 s.v. תַּעֲנוּג; BDB 772 s.v. תַּעֲנוּג. The related adjective עָנֹג (’anog, “pampered; dainty”) is used to describe a pampered woman (Deut 28:56), to personify Babylon as a delicate woman (Isa 47:1), and to ridicule delicate men (Deut 28:54); see HALOT 851 s.v. עָֹנֹג; BDB 772 עָנֹג. It is related to the noun עֹנֶג (’oneg, “pleasure; exquisite delight; daintiness”; see HALOT 851 s.v. עֹנֶג; BDB 772 s.v. עֹנֶג) and the verb עָנֹג which means “to be soft; to be delicate” and “pleasurable” (Pual) and “to pamper oneself” and “to take delight or pleasure in” (HALOT 851 s.v. ענג; BDB 772 s.v. עָנֹג). The root ענג is paralleled with רֹךְ (rokh, Deut 28:56), רַךְ (rakh, Deut 28:54), and רַכָּה (rakkah, Deut 28:56) with the meanings “delicate; soft; tender; weak; coddled; pampered.” The context of Eccl 2:4-11 suggests that it denotes either “luxury” as in “the luxuries of commoners” (NJPS) or “pleasure; delight” as in “the delights of men” (KJV, NASB, NIV). Part of the difficulty in determining the meaning of this term is caused by the ambiguity in meaning of its referent, namely, the appositional phrase שִׁדָּה וְשִׁדּוֹת (shiddah vÿshiddot), the meaning of which is uncertain (see the note on the phrase “a harem of beautiful concubines” at the end of this verse).
120 tn The meaning of the superlative construction שִׁדָּה וְשִׁדּוֹת (shiddah vÿshiddot) is uncertain because the term שִׁדָּה (shiddah) occurs only here in the OT. There are four basic approaches to the phrase: (1) Most scholars suggest that it refers to a royal harem and that it is in apposition to “the sensual delights of man” (וְתַעֲנוּגֹת בְּנֵי הָאָדָם, vÿta’anugot bÿne ha’adam). There are four variations of this approach: (a) There is a possible connection to the Ugaritic sht “mistress, lady” and the Arabic sitt “lady” (HALOT 1420 s.v. שִׁדָּה). (b) German scholars relate it to Assyrian sadadu “love” (Delitzsch, Konig, Wildeboer, Siegfried); however, BDB questions this connection (BDB 994 s.v. שׁדה). (c) Ibn Ezra relates it to II שַׁד (shad) “plunder; spoil” or שׁדה “[women] taken by violence,” and suggests that it refers to the occupants of the royal harem. (d) BDB connects it to the Hebrew noun I שַׁד (shad, “breast”; e.g., Isa 28:9; Ezek 16:7; 23:3, 21, 34; Hos 2:4; 9:14; Song 1:13; 4:5; 7:4, 8, 9; 8:1, 8, 10; Job 3:12) adding that שׁדה is related to the cognate Arabic and Aramaic roots meaning “breast” (BDB 994 s.v.). This would be a synecdoche of part (i.e., breast) for the whole (i.e., woman), similar to the idiom “one womb, two wombs” (רַחַם רַחֲמָתַיִם, rakham rakhamatayim) where “womb” = woman (Judg 5:30). This is the approach taken by most English versions: “many concubines” (NASB, RSV, NRSV), “a wife and wives” (YLT), “mistresses galore” (MLB), “many a mistress” (Moffatt), and “a harem” (NIV). This is the approach suggested by the Hebrew Old Testament Text Project: “une femme et des femmes” = one or two women (e.g., Judg 5:30); see D. Barthélemy, ed., Preliminary and Interim Report on the Hebrew Old Testament Text Project, 3:566. (2) The NJPS connects it to the Mishnaic Hebrew noun שִׁדָּה which became שִׁידָּה (“a strong box, chest”; Jastrow 1558 s.v. שִׁידָּה) and renders the phrase “coffers and coffers of them” in apposition to the phrase “the luxuries of commoners” (וְתַעֲנוּגֹת בְּנֵי הָאָדָם). (3) KJV and ASV take the phrase in apposition to “male and female singers” and translate it as “musical instruments.” However, there is no known Hebrew term that would justify this approach. (4) The LXX related the term to the Aramaic root שׁדא (“to pour out [wine]”) and rendered the phrase as οἰνοχόον καὶ οἰνοχόας (oinocoon kai oinocoas), “a male-butler and female cupbearers.” Aquila took a similar approach: κυλίκιον καὶ κυλίκια (kulikion kai kulikia), “wine cups and wine vessels.” This is reflected in the Vulgate and Douay: “cups and vessels to serve to pour out wine.” Although the semantic meaning of the term שִׁדָּה וְשִׁדּוֹת (“a breast of breasts”) is uncertain, the grammatical/syntactical form of the phrase is straightforward: (1) It is in apposition to the preceding line, “the delights of the son of men” (וְתַעֲנוּגֹת בְּנֵי הָאָדָם). (2) The phrase is a superlative construction. When the second word is plural and it follows a noun from the same root which is singular, it indicates the best or most outstanding example of the person or thing so described. In addition to the Judg 5:30 parallel cited above, see the expression “a generation, generations” in Pss 72:5; 102:25; Isa 51:8. Unlike, Eccl 2:8, this juxtapositioning of the singular and plural to express the superlative usually involves a construct form. See קֹדֶשׁ הַקֳּדָשִׁים (qodesh haqqodashim, “the holy of holies,” i.e., the most holy place”; Exod 26:33), שִׁיר הַשִּׁירִים (shir hashirim, “the song of songs,” i.e., “the most excellent song”; Song 1:1), אֱלֹהֵי הָאֱלֹהִים וַאֲדֹנֵי הַאֲדֹנִים (’elohe ha’elohim va’adone ha’adonim, “the God of gods and Lord of lords,” i.e., “the Highest God and the Supreme Lord”; Deut 10:17), and עֶבֶד עֲבָדִים (’eved ’avadim, “a slave of slaves,” i.e., “the most abject slave”; Gen 9:25). See GKC 431 §133.i; R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 17-18, §80; IBHS 154 §9.5.3j. If the semantic meaning of the terms שִׁדָּה וְשִׁדּוֹת denotes “a breast (among) breasts” or “a lady (among) ladies” (Eccl 2:8, but see the previous note on the phrase “a man’s sensual delights”), the superlative construction may connote “the most beautiful breasts” (metonymy of part for the whole) or “the most beautiful woman.” This might refer to a harem of concubines or to one woman (the wife of the king?) who was the most beautiful woman in the land.
sn Concubines were slave women in ancient Near Eastern societies who were the legal property of their master, but who could have legitimate sexual relations with their master. A concubine’s status was more elevated than a mere servant, but she was not free and did not have the legal rights of a free wife. The children of a concubine could, in some instances, become equal heirs with the children of the free wife. After the period of the Judges concubines may have become more of a royal prerogative (2 Sam 21:10-14; 1 Kgs 11:3).
121 tn The vav prefixed to וְגָדַלְתִּי (vÿgadalti, vav + Qal perfect first common singular from גָּדַל, gadal, “to be great; to increase”) functions in a final summarizing sense, that is, it introduces the concluding summary of 2:4-9.
122 tn Heb “I became great and I surpassed” (וְהוֹסַפְתִּי וְגָדַלְתִּי, vÿgadalti vÿhosafti). This is a verbal hendiadys in which the second verb functions adverbially, modifying the first: “I became far greater.” Most translations miss the hendiadys and render the line in a woodenly literal sense (KJV, ASV, RSV, NEB, NRSV, NAB, NASB, MLB, Moffatt), while only a few recognize the presence of hendiadys here: “I became greater by far” (NIV) and “I gained more” (NJPS).
123 tn Heb “yet my wisdom stood for me,” meaning he retained his wise perspective despite his great wealth.
124 tn Heb “all which my eyes asked for, I did not withhold from them.”
125 tn Heb “I did not refuse my heart any pleasure.” The term לִבִּי (libbi, “my heart”) is a synecdoche of part (i.e., heart) for the whole (i.e., whole person); see E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 648. The term is repeated twice in 2:10 for emphasis.
126 tn Heb “So my heart was joyful from all my toil.”
127 tn Heb “and this was my portion from all my toil.”
128 tn Heb “all my works that my hands had done.”
129 tn Heb “and all the toil with which I had toiled in doing it.” The term עָמַל (’amal, “toil”) is repeated to emphasize the burden and weariness of the labor which Qoheleth exerted in his accomplishments.
130 tn Heb “Behold!”
131 tn The term הַכֹּל (hakkol, “everything” or “all”) must be qualified and limited in reference to the topic that is dealt with in 2:4-11. This is an example of synecdoche of general for the specific; the general term “all” is used only in reference to the topic at hand. This is clear from the repetition of כֹּל (kol, “everything”) and (“all these things”) in 2:11.
132 tn The phrase “achievements and possessions” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in translation for clarity.
133 tn The term “ultimately” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.
134 tn The parallelism with יִתְרוֹן (yitron), “profit; advantage; gain”) indicates that הֶבֶל (hevel) should be nuanced as “profitless, fruitless, futile” in this context. While labor offers some relative and temporal benefits, such as material acquisitions and the enjoyment of the work of one’s hands, there is no ultimate benefit to be gained from secular human achievement.
135 tn The noun יִתְרוֹן (yitron, “profit”) has a two-fold range of meanings: (1) “what comes of [something]; result” (Eccl 1:3; 2:11; 3:9; 5:8, 15; 7:12; 10:10) and (2) “profit; advantage” (Eccl 2:13; 10:11); see HALOT 452–53 s.v. יִתְרוֹי. It is derived from the noun יֶתֶר (yeter, “what is left behind; remainder”; HALOT 452 s.v. I יֶתֶר). The related verb יָתַר (yatar) denotes “to be left over; to survive” (Niphal) and “to have left over” (Hiphil); see HALOT 451–52 s.v. יתר. When used literally, יִתְרוֹן refers to what is left over after expenses (gain or profit); when used figuratively, it refers to what is advantageous or of benefit. Though some things have relative advantage over others (e.g., light over darkness, and wisdom over folly in 2:13), there is no ultimate profit in man’s labor due to death.
136 tn The phrase “from them” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.
137 tn Heb “under the sun.”
138 tn Heb “and I turned to see.”
139 sn See 1:17 for the same expression. Throughout 2:1-11, Qoheleth evaluated the merits of merrymaking (2:1-3), accomplishing grand things (2:4-6), amassing great wealth (2:7-8), and secular acquisitions and accomplishments (2:9-10). Now, he reflects on the benefit in life in living wisely and not giving oneself over to frivolous self-indulgence.
140 tc The Hebrew text reads עָשׂוּהוּ (’asuhu, “they have done it”; Qal perfect 3rd person masculine plural from עָשַׂה [’asah] + 3rd person masculine singular suffix). However, many medieval Hebrew
141 tn Heb “and I saw that there is profit for wisdom more than folly.”
142 tn Heb “has his eyes in his head.” The term עַיִן (’ayin, “eye”) is used figuratively in reference to mental and spiritual faculties (BDB 744 s.v. עַיִן 3.a). The term “eye” is a metonymy of cause (eye) for effect (sight and perception).
143 sn The common fate to which Qoheleth refers is death.
144 tn The term כֻּלָּם (kullam, “all of them”) denotes “both of them.” This is an example of synecdoche of general (“all of them”) for the specific (“both of them,” that is, both the wise man and the fool).
145 tn The emphatic use of the 1st person common singular personal pronoun אֲנִי (’ani, “me”) with the emphatic particle of association גַּם (gam, “even, as well as”; HALOT 195–96 s.v. גַּם) appears to emphasize the 1st person common singular suffix on יִקְרֵנִי (yiqreni) “it will befall [or “happen to”] me” (Qal imperfect 3rd person masculine singular + 1st person common singular suffix from קָרָה, qarah, “to befall; to happen to”); see GKC 438 §135.e. Qoheleth laments not that the fate of the wise man is the same as that of the fool, but that even he himself – the wisest man of all – would fare no better in the end than the most foolish.
146 tn The adjective יוֹתֵר (yoter) means “too much; excessive,” e.g., 7:16 “excessively righteous” (HALOT 404 s.v. יוֹתֵר 2; BDB 452 s.v. יוֹתֵר). It is derived from the root יֶתֶר (yeter, “what is left over”); see HALOT 452 s.v. I יֶתֶר. It is related to the verbal root יתר (Niphal “to be left over”; Hiphil “to have left over”); see HALOT 451–52 s.v. I יתר. The adjective is related to יִתְרוֹן (yitron, “advantage; profit”) which is a key-term in this section, creating a word-play: The wise man has a relative “advantage” (יִתְרוֹן) over the fool (2:13-14a); however, there is no ultimate advantage because both share the same fate, i.e., death (2:14b-15a). Thus, Qoheleth’s acquisition of tremendous wisdom (1:16; 2:9) was “excessive” because it exceeded its relative advantage over folly: it could not deliver him from the same fate as the fool. He had striven to obtain wisdom, yet it held no ultimate advantage.
147 tn Heb “And why was I wise (to) excess?” The rhetorical question is an example of negative affirmation, expecting a negative answer: “I gained nothing!” (E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 949).
148 tn Heb “So I said in my heart.”
149 tn Heb “and also this,” referring to the relative advantage of wisdom over folly.
150 tn The word “ultimately” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.
151 tn The preposition עִם (’im, “with”) may occasionally function in a comparative sense, meaning “together with; even as; like” (e.g., Eccl 1:11; 2:16; 7:11; Job 9:26; 1 Chr 14:10: 20:6; 25:8; see HALOT 839 s.v. עִם 2). When used to describe a common lot, it connotes “together with” (Gen 18:23, 25; 1 Chr 24:5; Job 3:14, 15; 30:1; Pss 26:9; 28:3; 69:29; Isa 38:11), hence “like” (Pss 73:5; 106:6; Eccl 2:16; see BDB 767–68 s.v. עִם 1.e).
152 tn As HALOT 798–99 s.v. עוֹלָם and BDB 762-64 s.v. עוֹלָם note, עוֹלָם (’olam) has a wide range of meanings: (1) indefinite time: “long time; duration,” (2) unlimited time: “eternal; eternity,” (3) future time: “things to come,” and (4) past time: “a long time back,” that is, the dark age of prehistory. The context here suggests the nuance “a long time.”
153 tn The preposition בְּ (bet) on בְּשֶׁכְּבָר (bÿshekkÿvar, the adverb כְּבָר [kÿvar,“already”] + relative pronoun שֶׁ [she] + preposition בְּ) is probably best classified as causal: “Because…already.”
154 tn The verb נִשְׁכָּח (nishkakh) is a future perfect – it describes an event that is portrayed as a past event from the perspective of the future: “they will have been forgotten.” The emphasis of the past perfect is not simply that the future generations will begin to forget him, but that he will already have been forgotten long ago in the past by the time of those future generations. This past perfect situation is brought out by the emphatic use of the temporal adverb כְּבָר (kÿvar) “already” (HALOT 459 s.v. I כְּבָר; BDB 460 s.v. I כְּבָר); see, e.g., Eccl 1:10; 2:12, 16; 3:15; 4:2; 6:10; 9:6-7.
155 tn The particle אֵיךְ (’ekh, “Alas!”) is an exclamation of lamentation and mourning (e.g., 2 Sam 1:19; Isa 14:4, 12; Jer 2:21; 9:18; Ezek 26:17; Mic 2:4); see HALOT 39 s.v. אֵיךְ 5; BDB 32 s.v. אֵיךְ 2; also E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 955.
156 tn The preposition עִם (’im, “with”) may occasionally function in a comparative sense, meaning “together with; even as; like” (e.g., Eccl 1:11; 2:16; 7:11; Job 9:26; 1 Chr 14:10: 20:6; 25:8); see HALOT 839 s.v. עִם 2. When used to describe a common lot, it connotes “together with” (Gen 18:23, 25; 1 Chr 24:5; Job 3:14, 15; 30:1; Ps 26:9; 28:3; 69:29; Isa 38:11), hence “like” (Pss 73:5; 106:6; Eccl 2:16); see BDB 767–68 s.v. עִם 1.e.
157 tn Or “I hated.”
158 tn The term הַחַיִּים (hakhayyim, “life”) functions as a metonymy of association, that is, that which is associated with life, that is, the profitlessness and futility of human secular achievement.
159 tn Heb “the deed that is done.” The root עָשָׂה (’asah, “to do”) is repeated in הַמַּעֲשֶׂה שֶׁנַּעֲשָׂה (hamma’aseh shenna’asah, “the deed that is done”) for emphasis. Here, the term “deed” does not refer to human accomplishment, as in 2:1-11, but to the fact of death that destroys any relative advantage of wisdom over folly (2:14a-16). Qoheleth metaphorically describes death as a “deed” that is “done” to man.
160 tn Heb “under the sun.”
161 tn Heb “all,” referring here to the relative advantage of wisdom.
162 tn The phrase “the fruit of” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity (see the following note on the phrase “hard labor”).
163 tn Heb “I hated all my toil for which I had toiled.” The term עֲמָלִי (’amali, “my toil”) is repeated throughout 2:18-21. In each case, it functions as a metonymy of cause (i.e., toil) for effect (i.e., fruit of labor). See, e.g., Ps 105:44; BDB 765 s.v עָמַל 3. The metonymy is indicated by several factors: (1) The 3rd person masculine singular suffix (“it”) on אַנִּיחֶנּוּ (’annikhennu, “I must leave it”) in 2:18, and on יִתְּנֶנּוּ (yittÿnennu, “I must give it”) in 2:21 refer to his wealth, that is, the fruit of his labor. (2) In 2:21 the 3rd person masculine singular suffix on שֶׁלֹּא עָמַל־בּוֹ (shello’ ’amal-bo, “who did not work for it”) refers to the inheritance that Qoheleth must turn over to his successor, namely, the fruit of his labor. (3) While he himself enjoyed the fruit of his labor, he despaired that he had to turn the fruit of his labor over to his successor: “So I loathed all the [fruit of] my labor” (2:18a) and “I began to despair about the [fruit of] my labor” (2:20a). Although most translations render עֲמָלִי as “my toil” in 2:18, the metonymy is recognized by several English translations: “So I hated all the fruit of my labor for which I had labored” (NASB); “So I detested all the fruits of my labor” (NAB); “I hated all the things I had toiled for” (NIV); and “So I loathed all the wealth that I was gaining” (NJPS).
164 tn Qoheleth uses an internal cognate accusative construction (accusative noun and verb from the same root) for emphasis: עֲמָלִי שֶׁאֲנִי עָמֵל (’amali she’ani ’amel, “my toil for which I had toiled”). See IBHS 167 §10.2.1g.
165 tn Heb “under the sun.”
166 tn The relative pronoun שֶׁ (she) on שֶׁאַנִּיחֶנּוּ (she’annikhennu, relative pronoun שֶׁ + Hiphil imperfect 1st person common singular from נוּחַ, nuakh, “to leave” + 3rd person masculine singular suffix) is causal: “Because I must leave it behind.”
167 tn The 3rd person masculine singular suffix on אַנִּיחֶנּוּ (’annikhennu, “I must leave it”) refers to Qoheleth’s wealth, that is, the fruit of his labor (see the note on the phrase “hard labor” in 2:18). The suffix is rendered literally by nearly all translations; however, a few make its referent explicit: “I have to leave its fruits” (NEB), “I must leave them [= all the fruits of my labor]” (NAB).
168 tn The verb נוּחַ (nuakh, “to rest”) denotes “to leave [something] behind” in the hands of someone (e.g., Ps 119:121; Eccl 2:18); see HALOT 680 s.v. נוח B.2.c. The imperfect functions in a modal sense of obligation or necessity. At death, Qoheleth will be forced to pass on his entire estate and the fruit of his labors to his successor.
169 tn Heb “to a man who will come after me.”
170 tn The vav on וְיִשְׁלַט (vÿyishlat, conjunction + Qal imperfect 3rd person masculine singular from שָׁלַט, shalat, “to be master”) is adversative (“yet”).
171 tn The phrase “the fruit of” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity (see the following note on the word “labor”).
172 tn Heb “my labor.” As in 2:18, the term עֲמָלִי (’amali, “my labor”) is a metonymy of cause (i.e., my labor) for effect (i.e., fruit of my labor). The metonymy is recognized by several translations: “he will control all the wealth that I gained” (NJPS); “he will have control over all the fruits of my labor” (NAB); “he will have mastery over all the fruits of my labor” (NEB); “he will have control over all the fruit of my labor” (NASB); “he will be master over all my possessions” (MLB).
173 tn An internal cognate accusative construction (accusative and verb from same root) is used for emphasis: שֶׁעָמַלְתִּי עֲמָלִי (’amali she’amalti, “my toil for which I had toiled”); see IBHS 167 §10.2.1g. The two verbs שֶׁעָמַלְתִּי וְשֶׁחָכַמְתִּי (she’amalti vÿshekhakhamti, “for which I had labored and for which I had acted wisely”) form a verbal hendiadys (two separate verbs used in association to communicate one idea): “for I had labored so wisely.” The second verb is used adverbially to modify the first verb, which functions in its full verbal sense.
174 tn Heb “under the sun.”
175 tn Heb “I turned aside to allow my heart despair.” The term לִבִּי (libbi, “my heart”) is a synecdoche of part (i.e., heart) for the whole (i.e., whole person); see E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 648.
176 tn The phrase “the fruit of” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity (see the following note on the word “labor”).
177 tn Heb “all my toil.” As in 2:18-19, the term עֲמָלִי (’amali, “my labor”) is a metonymy of cause (i.e., my labor) for effect (i.e., the fruit of my labor). The metonymy is recognized by several translations: “all the fruits of my labor” (NAB); “all the fruit of my labor” (NASB); “all the gains I had made” (NJPS).
178 tn Here the author uses an internal cognate accusative construction (accusative noun and verb from the same root) for emphasis: שֶׁעָמַלְתִּי הֶעָמָל (he’amal she’amalti, “the toil for which I had toiled”); see IBHS 167 §10.2.1g.
179 tn Heb “under the sun.”
180 tn Heb “he must give.” The 3rd person masculine singular suffix on יִתְּנֶנּוּ (yittÿnennu, Qal imperfect 3rd person masculine singular from נָתַן, natan, “to give” + 3rd person masculine singular suffix) refers back to עֲמָלוֹ (’amalo, “his labor”) which is treated in this line as a metonymy of cause for effect, that is, “he must give it” = “he must give his labor” = “he must give the fruit of his labor.”
sn As in 2:18-19, Qoheleth laments the injustice that a person who works diligently in wisdom must one day hand over the fruit of his labor (i.e., his fortune and the care of his achievements) to his successor. There is no guarantee that one’s heir will be wise and be a good steward of this wealth, or be foolish and squander it – in which case, the former man’s entire life’s work would be in vain.
181 tn Heb “it”; the referent (“the fruit of his labor”) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
182 tn Or “he must turn over an inheritance”; or “he must turn it over, namely, an inheritance.” There are two approaches to the syntax of חֶלְקוֹ (khelqo, “his inheritance”): (1) The 3rd person masculine singular suffix is a subjective genitive: “his inheritance” = the inheritance which he must give to his heir. The referent of the 3rd person masculine singular suffix is Qoheleth in 2:21a who worked hard to amass the fortune. The noun חֵלֶק (kheleq, “inheritance”) functions as an adverbial accusative of state (GKC 372 §118.a) or a predicate accusative (R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 12-13, §57): “He must give it [i.e., his fortune] as an inheritance.” (2) The 3rd person masculine singular suffix is an objective genitive: “his inheritance” = the inheritance which the heir will receive from Qoheleth. The referent of the 3rd person masculine singular suffix is the heir in 2:21b. The noun חֵלֶק (“inheritance”) functions as the accusative direct object in apposition (R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 15-16, §71) to the 3rd person masculine singular suffix on יִתְּנֶנּוּ (yittÿnennu, “he must give it”; Qal imperfect 3rd person masculine singular from נָתַן, natan, + 3rd person masculine singular suffix): “He must give it, namely, his inheritance, to one who did not work for it.”
183 tn The noun רָעָה (ra’ah, “evil”) probably means “misfortune” (HALOT 1263 s.v. רָעָה 4) or “injustice; wrong” (HALOT 1262 s.v. רָעָה 2.b). The phrase רָעָה רַבָּה (ra’ah rabbah) connotes “grave injustice” or “great misfortune” (e.g., Eccl 2:17; 5:12, 15; 6:1; 10:5). It is expressed well as: “This too is…a great misfortune” (NAB, NIV, MLB) and “utterly wrong!” (NEB).
sn Verses 18-21 are arranged into two sub-units (2:18-19 and 2:20-21). Each contains a parallel structure: (1) Introductory lament: “I hated all my toil” and “I began to despair about all my toil.” (2) Reason for the lament: “I must turn over the fruit of my labor to the hands of my successor” and “he must hand over the fruit of his work as an inheritance.” (3) Description of successor: “who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool?” and “he did not work for it.” (4) Concluding statement: “This also is fruitless!” and “This also is profitless and an awful injustice!”
184 tn Heb “under the sun.” The rhetorical question is an example of negative affirmation, expecting a negative answer: “Man acquires nothing” (see E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 949-51).
185 tn Heb “all his days.”
186 tn The syntax of this verse has been interpreted in two different ways: (1) The phrase “all his days” (כָל־יָמָיו, khol-yamayv) is the subject of a verbless clause, and the noun “pain” (מַכְאֹבִים, makh’ovim) is a predicate nominative or a predicate of apposition (see R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 15-16, §71). Likewise, the noun “his work” (עִנְיָנוֹ, ’inyano) is the subject of a second verbless clause, and the vexation” (כַעַס, kha’as) is a predicate nominative: “All his days are pain, and his work is vexation.” (2) The noun “his work” (עִנְיָנוֹ) is the subject of both nouns, “pain and vexation” (וָכַעַס מַכְאֹבִים, makh’ovim vakha’as), which are predicate nominatives, while the phrase “all his days” (כָל־יָמָיו) is an adverbial accusative functioning temporally: “All day long, his work is pain and vexation.” The latter option is supported by the parallelism between “even at night” and “all day long.” This verse draws out an ironic contrast/comparison between his physical toil/labor during the day and his emotional anxiety at night. Even at night, he has no break!
187 tn Heb “his heart (i.e., mind) does not rest.”
188 tn The preposition בְּ (bet) on בָּאָדָם (ba’adam) has been taken in two ways: (1) locative with טוֹב (tov, “good”) in reference to man’s moral nature: “There is nothing [inherently] good in man.” (2) advantage with טוֹב (“good”) in reference to the enjoyment theme of 2:24-26: “There is nothing better for a man than…” (this assumes a comparative מִן, min, on מִשֶׁיֹּאכַל, misheyyo’khal); see text critical note on the word “than” below). The latter is preferred for two reasons: (1) The preposition בְּ is used with a similar idiom in 3:12 in collocation with the particle phrase אִם…כִּי (ki…’im, “except”): “There is nothing better…than to rejoice/be happy” (NASB, NIV). (2) The theme of 2:1-26 focuses on the futility of human toil, concluding that the only real reward that man has in his labor is to find enjoyment in it (e.g., 2:10, 24-26). The section says nothing about man’s inherent sinful nature.
189 tn Heb “man.”
190 tc The MT reads שֶׁיֹּאכַל (sheyyo’khal, “that he should eat”; Qal imperfect 3rd person masculine singular from אָכַל, ’akhal, “to eat,” with relative pronoun שֶׁ, she, “that”). However, the variant textual tradition of מִשֶּׁיֹּאכַל (misheyyo’khal, “than he should eat” (comparative preposition מִן, min, “than” + Qal imperfect 3rd person masculine singular from אָכַל “to eat”) is reflected in the LXX, Coptic, Syriac, Aramaic Targum, Old Latin, and Jerome. The textual error, an example of haplography, arose from a single writing of מ (mem) from בָּאָדָם מִשֶּׁיֹּאכַל (ba’adam misheyyo’khal). The same idiom appears in the expanded form אִם…כִּי followed by טוֹב…אֵין (’en tov … ki ’im, “there is nothing better for man than …”) in Eccl 3:12; 8:15.
191 tn Heb “to cause his soul to see good.” The idiom רָאָה טוֹב (ra’ah tov, “to see good”) is a metonymy of association, meaning “to find enjoyment” (e.g., 3:13; 5:17; 6:6). In 3:12-13 and 5:17-18 it is in collocation and/or parallelism with בְּ (bet) + שָׂמַח (samakh, “to rejoice in,” or “to find satisfaction or pleasure in” something). Here, it is used in collocation with חוּשׁ (khush, “to enjoy”). The term נַפְשׁוֹ (nafsho, “his soul”) is a metonymy of part (i.e., soul) for the whole (i.e., whole person), e.g., Num 23:10; Judg 16:30; Pss 16:10; 35:13; 103:1 (see E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 640-41).
192 tn Heb “his.”
193 tn The phrase “ability to find enjoyment” is not in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.
194 tn Heb “is from the hand of God.”
sn The phrase “from the hand of God” is an anthropomorphism (depicting God, who is an invisible spirit, in the form of man with hands) or anthropopatheia (depicting God performing human-like actions). The “hand of God” is a figure often used to portray God’s sovereign providence and benevolence (see E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 878). The phrase “the hand of God” is often used to connote the favor or grace of God (2 Chr 30:12; Ezra 7:9; 8:18; Neh 2:8, 18; see BDB 390 s.v. יָד 1.e.2).
195 tn Heb “For who can…?” The rhetorical question is an example of negative affirmation, expecting a negative answer: “No one can!” (see E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 949-51).
197 tn The verb II חוּשׁ (khush, “to enjoy”) is a hapax legomenon which BDB defines as “to feel; to enjoy [with the senses]” on the basis of the context, and the cognates: Arabic “to feel; to perceive [by senses]”; Aramaic חושׁ “to feel pain,” and New Hebrew חושׁ “to feel pain” (BDB 301 s.v. II חֹוּשׁ). HALOT relates the Hebrew root to Akkadian havavu “to be delighted with” (HALOT 300 s.v. II חושׁ 1). The Vulgate renders this term as “to enjoy.” The Greek versions (LXX, Theodotion) and the Syriac Peshitta, however, did not understand this hapax; they rendered it as “to drink,” making some sense of the line by filling out the parallelism “to eat [and drink]” (e.g., Eccl 8:15).
198 tc The MT reads מִמֶּנִּי (mimmenni, “more than I”). However, an alternate textual tradition of מִמֶּנּוּ (mimmennu,“apart from him [= God]”) is preserved in several medieval Hebrew
199 tn Heb “for to a man who is good before him.”
200 sn The phrase the task of amassing wealth (Heb “the task of gathering and heaping up”) implicitly compares the work of the farmer reaping his crops and storing them up in a barn, to the work of the laborer amassing wealth as the fruit of his labor. However, rather than his storehouse being safe for the future, the sinner is deprived of it.
201 tn The word “wealth” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.
202 sn The three-fold repetition of the Hebrew word translated “give” in the first part of this verse creates irony: God “gives” the righteous the ability to prosper and to find enjoyment in his work; but to the wicked He “gives” the task of “giving” his wealth to the righteous.
203 tn The word “it” (an implied direct object) does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.
204 tn The antecedent of the demonstrative pronoun זֶה (zeh, “this”) is debated: (1) Some refer it to the enjoyment which Qoheleth had just commended in 2:24-26. However, this is inconsistent with the enjoyment theme found elsewhere in the book. It also ignores the fact that 2:24-26 states that such enjoyment is a good gift from God. (2) Others refer it to the term “toil” (עָמָל, ’amal) which is repeated throughout 2:18-26. However, Qoheleth affirmed that if one is righteous, he can find enjoyment in his toil, even though so much of it is ultimately futile. (3) Therefore, it seems best to refer it to the grievous “task” (עִנְיָן, ’inyan) God has given to the sinner in 2:26b. Consistent with the meaning of הֶבֶל (hevel, “futile; profitless; fruitless”), 2:26b emphasizes that the “task” of the sinner is profitless: he labors hard to amass wealth, only to see the fruit of his labor given away to someone else. The righteous man’s enjoyment of his work and the fruit of his labor under the blessing of God (2:24-26a) is not included in this.
205 tn The phrase “task of the wicked” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.
206 tn Verse 1 is arranged in an ABB’A’ chiasm (לַכֹּל זְמָן וְעֵת לְכָל־חֵפֶץ, lakkol zÿman vÿ’et lÿkhol-khefets): (A) “for everything”; (B) “a season”; (B’) “a time”; (A’) “for every matter.” The terms “season” (זְמָן, zÿman) and “time” (עֵת, ’et) are parallel. In the light of its parallelism with “every matter” (כָל־חֵפֶץ, khol-khefets), the term “everything” (כָל, khol) must refer to events and situations in life.
207 tn The noun זְמָן (zÿman) denotes “appointed time” or “appointed hour” (HALOT 273 s.v. זְמָן; BDB 273 s.v. זְמָן; see Eccl 3:1; Esth 9:27, 31; Neh 2:6; Sir 43:7), e.g., the appointed or designated time for the Jewish feasts (Esth 9:27, 31), the length of time that Nehemiah set for his absence from Susa (Neh 2:6), and the appointed times in the Jewish law for the months to begin (Sir 43:7). It is used in parallelism with מועד (“appointed time”), i.e., מועד ירח (“the appointed time of the moon”) parallels זמני חק (“the appointed times of the law”; Sir 43:7). The related verb, a Pual of זָמַן (zaman), means “to be appointed” (HALOT 273 s.v. זְמָן); e.g. Ezra 10:14; Neh 10:35; 13:31. These terms may be related to the noun I זִמָּה (zimmah, “plan; intention”; Job 17:11; HALOT 272 s.v. I זִמָּה) and מְזִמָּה (mÿzimmah, “purpose; plan; project”), e.g., the purposes of God (Job 42:2; Jer 23:20; 30:24; 51:11) and man’s plan (Isa 5:12); see HALOT 566 s.v. מְזִמָּה; BDB 273 s.v. מְזִמָּה.
sn Verses 1-8 refer to God’s appointed time-table for human activities or actions whose most appropriate time is determined by men. Verses 9-15 state that God is ultimately responsible for the time in which events in human history occur. This seems to provide a striking balance between the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man. Man does what God has willed, but man also does what he “pleases” (see note on the word “matter” in 3:1).
208 tn The noun עֵת (’et, “point in time”) has a basic two-fold range of meanings: (1) “time of an event” and (2) “time for an event” (BDB 773 s.v. עֵת). The latter has subcategories: (a) “usual time,” (b) “the proper, suitable or appropriate time,” (c) “the appointed time,” and (d) “uncertain time” (Eccl 9:11). Here it connotes “a proper, suitable time for an event” (HALOT 900 s.v. עֵת 6; BDB s.v. עֵת 2.b). Examples: “the time for rain” (Ezra 10:13), “a time of judgment for the nations” (Ezek 30:3), “an appropriate time for every occasion” (Eccl 3:1), “the time when mountain goats are born” (Job 39:1), “the rain in its season” (Deut 11:14; Jer 5:24), “the time for the harvest” (Hos 2:11; Ps 1:3), “food in its season” (Ps 104:27), “no one knows his hour of destiny” (Eccl 9:12), “the right moment” (Eccl 8:5); cf. HALOT 900 s.v. עֵת 6.
209 tn The noun חֵפֶץ (khefets, here “matter, business”) has a broad range of meanings: (1) “delight; joy,” (2) “desire; wish; longing,” (3) “the good pleasure; will; purpose,” (4) “precious stones” (i.e., jewelry), i.e., what someone takes delight in, and (5) “matter; business,” as a metonymy of adjunct to what someone takes delight in (Eccl 3:1, 17; 5:7; 8:6; Isa 53:10; 58:3, 13; Pss 16:3; 111:2; Prov 31:13); see HALOT 340 s.v. חֵפֶץ 4; BDB 343 s.v. חֵפֶץ 4. It is also sometimes used in reference to the “good pleasure” of God, that is, his sovereign plan, e.g., Judg 13:23; Isa 44:28; 46:10; 48:14 (BDB 343 s.v. חֵפֶץ). While the theme of the sovereignty of God permeates Eccl 3:1–4:3, the content of 3:1-8 refers to human activities that are planned and purposed by man. The LXX translated it with πράγματι (pragmati, “matter”). The term is translated variously by modern English versions: “every purpose” (KJV, ASV), “every event” (NASB), “every delight” (NASB margin), “every affair” (NAB), “every matter” (RSV, NRSV), “every activity” (NEB, NIV), “every project” (MLB), and “every experience” (NJPS).
210 tn Heb “under heaven.”
211 tn The verb יָלָד (yalad, “to bear”) is used in the active sense of a mother giving birth to a child (HALOT 413 s.v. ילד; BDB 408 s.v. יָלָד). However, in light of its parallelism with “a time to die,” it should be taken as a metonymy of cause (i.e., to give birth to a child) for effect (i.e., to be born).
212 sn In 3:2-8, Qoheleth uses fourteen sets of merisms (a figure using polar opposites to encompass everything in between, that is, totality), e.g., Deut 6:6-9; Ps 139:2-3 (see E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 435).
213 tn The term לְאַבֵּד (lÿ’abbed, Piel infinitive construct from אָבַד, ’avad, “to destroy”) means “to lose” (e.g., Jer 23:1) as the contrast with בָּקַשׁ (baqash, “to seek to find”) indicates (HALOT 3 s.v. I אבד; BDB 2 s.v. אבד 3). This is the declarative or delocutive-estimative sense of the Piel: “to view something as lost” (R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 28, §145; IBHS 403 §24.2g).
214 tn The term הָעוֹשֶׂה (ha’oseh, article + Qal active participle ms from עָשַׂה, ’asah, “to do”) functions substantively (“the worker”); see BDB 794 s.v. עָשַׂה II.1. This is a figurative description of man (metonymy of association), and plays on the repetition of עָשַׂה (verb: “to do,” noun: “work”) throughout the passage. In the light of God’s orchestration of human affairs, man’s efforts cannot change anything. It refers to man in general with the article functioning in a generic sense (see IBHS 244-45 §13.5.1f; Joüon 2:511 §137.m).
215 sn This rhetorical question is an example of negative affirmation, expecting a negative answer: “Man gains nothing from his toil!” (see E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 949-51). Any advantage that man might gain from his toil is nullified by his ignorance of divine providence.
216 tn Heb “the sons of man.”
217 sn The Hebrew adjective translated beautifully functions as a metonymy of effect (i.e., to appear beautiful) for cause (i.e., to make it fit): “to fit beautifully.” It is used in parallelism with Qoheleth’s term for evaluation: טוֹב (tov, “good”) in 5:17.
218 tn The word “but” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.
219 tn Heb “darkness”; perhaps “eternity” or “the future.” The meaning of the noun עֹלָם (’olam) is debated. It may mean: (1) “ignorance”; (2) time reference: (a) “eternity” or (b) “the future”; or (3) “knowledge” (less likely). The arguments for these options may be summarized: (1) Most suggest that עֹלָם is the defectively written form of עוֹלָם “duration; eternity” (e.g., Eccl 1:4; 2:16; 3:14; 9:6; 12:5); see BDB 762 s.v. III עוֹלָם 2.k. Within this school of interpretation, there are several varieties: (a) BDB 762 s.v. III עוֹלָם 2.k suggests that here it denotes “age [i.e., duration] of the world,” which is attested in postbiblical Hebrew. The term III עֹלָם “eternity” = “world” (Jastrow 1084 s.v. עָלַם III) is used in this sense in postbiblical Hebrew, mostly in reference to the Messianic age, or the world to come (e.g., Tg. Genesis 9:16; Tg. Onq. Exodus 21:6; Tg. Psalms 61:7). For example, “the world (עֹלָם) shall last six thousand years, and after one thousand years it shall be laid waste” (b. Rosh HaShanah 31a) and “the world (עֹלָם) to come” (b. Sotah 10b). The LXX and the Vulgate took the term in this sense. This approach was also adopted by several English translations: “the world” (KJV, Douay, ASV margin). (b) HALOT 799 s.v. עוֹלָם 5 and THAT 2:242 suggest that the term refers to an indefinite, unending future: “eternity future” or “enduring state referring to past and future” (see also BDB 762 s.v. III עוֹלָם 2.i). In this sense, the noun עֹלָם functions as a metonymy of association: “a sense of eternity,” but not in a philosophical sense (see J. Barr, Biblical Words for Time [SBT], 117, n. 4). This approach is supported by three factors: (i) the recurrence of עוֹלָם (“eternity”) in 3:14, (ii) the temporal qualification of the statement in the parallel clause (“from beginning to end”), and (iii) by the ordinary meaning of the noun as “eternity” (HALOT 798–799 s.v. עוֹלָם). The point would be that God has endowed man with an awareness of the extra-temporal significance of himself and his accomplishments (D. R. Glenn, “Ecclesiastes,” BKCOT, 984). This is the most frequent approach among English versions: “the timeless” (NAB), “eternity” (RSV, MLB, ASV, NASB, NIV, NJPS), “a sense of time past and time future” (NEB), and “a sense of past and future” (NRSV). (3) Other scholars suggest that עוֹלָם simply refers to the indefinite future: “the future,” that is, things to come (e.g., HALOT 799 s.v. עוֹלָם 2; BDB 762 s.v. III עוֹלָם 2.a; THAT 2:241). The plural עֹלָמִים (’olamim, “things to come”) was used in this sense in Eccl 1:10 (e.g., 1 Kgs 8:13 = 2 Chr 6:2; Pss 61:5; 77:8; 145:13; Dan 9:24; cf. HALOT 799 s.v. עוֹלָם 2). The point would simply be that God has not only ordained all the events that will take place in man’s life (3:1-8), but also preoccupies man with the desire to discover what will happen in the future in terms of the orchestration or timing of these events in his life (3:9-11). This fits well with the description of God’s orchestration of human events in their most appropriate time (3:1-10) and the ignorance of man concerning his future (3:11b). Elsewhere, Qoheleth emphasizes that man cannot learn what the future holds in store for him (e.g., 8:7, 17). This approach is only rarely adopted: “the future” (NJPS margin). (2) The second view is that עֹלָם is not defectively written עוֹלָם (“eternity”) but the segholate noun II עֶלֶם (’elem) that means “dark” (literal) or “ignorance; obscurity; secrecy” (figurative). The related noun תַּעֲלֻמָה (ta’alumah) means “hidden thing; secret,” and the related verb עָלַם (’alam) means “to hide; to conceal” (BDB 761 s.v. I עָלַם; HALOT 834–35 s.v. עלם). This is related to the Ugaritic noun “dark” and the Akkadian verb “to be black; to be dark” (see HALOT 834-35 s.v. עלם). In postbiblical Hebrew the root II עֶלֶם means (i) “secret” and (ii) “forgetfulness” (Jastrow 1084 s.v. עֶלֶם I). Thus the verse would mean that God has “obscured” man’s knowledge so that he cannot discover certain features of God’s program. This approach is adopted by Moffatt which uses the word “mystery.” Similarly, the term may mean “forgetfulness,” that is, God has plagued man with “forgetfulness” so that he cannot understand what God has done from the beginning to the end (e.g., Eccl 1:11). (3) The third view (Delitzsch) is to relate עֹלָם to a cognate Arabic root meaning “knowledge.” The point would be that God has endowed man with “knowledge,” but not enough for man to discover God’s eternal plan. This approach is only rarely adopted: “knowledge” (YLT).
220 tn Heb “in their heart.” The Hebrew term translated heart functions as a metonymy of association for man’s intellect, emotions, and will (BDB 524–25 s.v. לֵב 3–6, 9). Here, it probably refers to man’s intellectual capacities, as v. 11 suggests.
221 tn The compound preposition מִבְּלִי (mibbÿli, preposition מִן [min] + negative particle בְּלִי [bÿli]) is used as a conjunction here. Elsewhere, it can express cause: “because there is no [or is not]” (e.g., Deut 9:28; 28:55; Isa 5:13; Ezek 34:5; Lam 1:4; Hos 4:6), consequence: “so that there is no [or is not]” (e.g., Ezek 14:5; Jer 2:15; 9:9-11; Zeph 3:6), or simple negation: “without” (e.g., Job 4:11, 20; 6:6; 24:7-8; 31:19). BDB 115 s.v. בְּלִי 3.c.β suggests the negative consequence: “so that not,” while HALOT 133 s.v. בְּלִי 5 suggests the simple negation: “without the possibility of.”
222 tn Heb “man.”
223 tn Heb “the work that God has done.” The phrase אֶת־הַמַּעֲשֶׂה אֲשֶׁר־עָשָׂה (’et-hamma’aseh ’asher-’asah, “the work which he [i.e., God] has done”) is an internal cognate accusative (direct object and verb are from the same root), used for emphasis (see IBHS 167 §10.2.1g). The repetition of the verb עָשַׂה (“to do”) in 3:11 and 3:14 suggests that this phrase refers to God’s foreordination of all the events and timing of human affairs: God has “made” ( = “foreordained”; עָשַׂה) everything appropriate in his sovereign timing (3:11a), and all that God has “done” ( = “foreordained”; עָשַׂה) will come to pass (3:14). Thus, the verb עָשַׂה functions as a metonymy of effect (i.e., God’s actions) for cause (i.e., God’s sovereign foreordination). The temporal clause “from beginning to end” (3:11) supports this nuance.
224 tn Traditionally, “what God has done from the beginning to the end.” The temporal clause מֵרֹאשׁ וְעַד־סוֹף (mero’sh vÿ’ad-sof, “from the beginning to the end”) is traditionally taken in reference to “eternity” (the traditional understanding of הָעֹלָם [ha’olam] earlier in the verse; see the note on “ignorance”), e.g., KJV, NEB, NAB, ASV, NASB, NIV, RSV, NRSV. However, if הָעֹלָם simply denotes “the future” (e.g., HALOT 799 s.v. עוֹלָם 2; BDB 762 s.v. III עוֹלָם 2.a; THAT 2:241), this temporal clause would refer to the events God has ordained to transpire in an individual’s life, from beginning to end. This approach is adopted by one English version: “but without man ever guessing, from first to last, all the things that God brings to pass” (NJPS). This would fit well in the context begun in 3:1 with the fourteen merisms encompassing man’s life, starting with “a time to be born” (i.e., from the beginning in 3:11) and concluding with “a time to die” (i.e., to the end in 3:11). This approach is also supported by the admonition of 3:12-13, namely, since no one knows what will happen to him in the future days of his life, Qoheleth recommends that man enjoy each day as a gift from God.
225 tn The phrase “of their lives” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.
226 tn Heb “I know.”
227 tn Heb “for them”; the referent (people, i.e., mankind) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
228 tn Qoheleth uses the exceptive particle אִם…כִּי (ki…’im, “except”) to identify the only exception to the futility within man’s life (BDB 474 s.v. כִּי 2).
229 tn Heb “to do good.” The phrase לַעֲשׂוֹת טוֹב (la’asot tov) functions idiomatically for “to experience [or see] happiness [or joy].” The verb עָשַׂה (’asah) probably denotes “to acquire; to obtain” (BDB 795 s.v. עָשַׂה II.7), and טוֹב (tov) means “good; pleasure; happiness,” e.g., Eccl 2:24; 3:13; 5:17 (BDB 375 s.v. טוֹב 1).
230 tn Heb “for it.” The referent of the 3rd person feminine singular independent person pronoun (“it”) is probably the preceding statement: “to eat, drink, and find satisfaction.” This would be an example of an anacoluthon (GKC 505-6 §167.b). Thus the present translation uses “these things” to indicate the reference back to the preceding.
231 tn The phrase “to do again” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.
232 tn Heb “God will seek that which is driven away.” The meaning of יְבַקֵּשׁ אֶת־נִרְדָּף (yÿvaqqesh ’et-nirdaf) is difficult to determine: יְבַקֵּשׁ (yÿvaqqesh) is Piel imperfect 3rd person masculine singular from בָּקַשׁ (baqash, “to seek”) and נִרְדָּף (nirdaf) is a Niphal participle 3rd person masculine singular from רָדַף (radaf, “to drive away”). There are several options: (1) God watches over the persecuted: יְבַקֵּשׁ (“seeks”) functions as a metonymy of cause for effect (i.e., to protect), and אֶת־נִרְדָּף (“what is driven away”) refers to “those who are persecuted.” But this does not fit the context. (2) God will call the past to account: יְבַקֵּשׁ functions as a metonymy of cause for effect (i.e., to hold accountable), and אֶת־נִרְדָּף is a metonymy of attribute (i.e., the past). This approach is adopted by several English translations: “God requires that which is past” (KJV), “God will call the past to account” (NIV) and “God summons each event back in its turn” (NEB). (3) God finds what has been lost: יְבַקֵּשׁ functions as a metonymy of cause for effect (i.e., to find), and אֶת־נִרְדָּף refers to what has been lost: “God restores what would otherwise be displaced” (NAB). (4) God repeats what has already occurred: יְבַקֵּשׁ functions as a metonymy of effect (i.e., to repeat), and אֶת־נִרְדָּף is a metonymy (i.e., that which has occurred). This fits the context and provides a tight parallel with the preceding line: “That which is has already been, and that which will be has already been” (3:15a) parallels “God seeks [to repeat] that which has occurred [in the past].” This is the most popular approach among English versions: “God restores that which has past” (Douay), “God seeks again that which is passed away” (ASV), “God seeks what has passed by” (NASB), “God seeks what has been driven away” (RSV), “God seeks out what has passed by” (MLB), “God seeks out what has gone by” (NRSV), and “God is ever bringing back what disappears” (Moffatt).
233 tn The phrase “in the past” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.
234 tn Heb “under the sun.”
235 tn Or “righteousness.”
236 tn The phrase “a time of judgment” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.
237 tn The phrase “it is” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.
238 tn Heb “the sons of man.” The phrase עַל־דִּבְרַת בְּנֵי הָאָדָם (’al-divrat bÿne ha’adam) is handled variously: (1) introduction to the direct discourse: “I said to myself concerning the sons of men” (NASB), (2) direct discourse: “I thought, ‘As for men, God tests them’” (NIV), (3) indirect discourse: “I said in my heart concerning the estate of the sons of men” (KJV), and (4) causal conjunction: “I said, ‘[It is] for the sake of the sons of men.” Since the phrase “sons of men” is contrasted with “animals” the translation “humans” has been adopted.
239 tn The meaning of לְבָרָם (lÿvaram, preposition + Qal infinitive construct from בָּרַר, barar, + 3rd person masculine plural suffix) is debated because the root has a broad range of meanings: (1) “to test; to prove; to sift; to sort out” (e.g., Dan 11:35; 12:10); (2) “to choose; to select” (e.g., 1 Chr 7:40; 9:22; 16:41; Neh 5:18); (3) “to purge out; to purify” (e.g., Ezek 20:38; Zeph 3:9; Job 33:3); and (4) “to cleanse; to polish” (Isa 49:2; 52:11); see HALOT 163 s.v. בָּרַר; BDB 141 s.v. בָּרַר. The meanings “to prove” (Qal), as well as “to cleanse; to polish” (Qal), “to keep clean” (Niphal), and “to cleanse” (Hiphil) might suggest the meaning “to make clear” (M. A. Eaton, Ecclesiastes [TOTC], 85-86). The meaning “to make clear; to prove” is well attested in postbiblical Mishnaic Hebrew (Jastrow 197-98 s.v. בָּרַר). For example, “they make the fact as clear (bright) as a new garment” (b. Ketubbot 46a) and “the claimant must offer clear evidence” (b. Sanhedrin 23b). The point would be that God allows human injustice to exist in the world in order to make it clear to mankind that they are essentially no better than the beasts. On the other hand, the LXX adopts the nuance “to judge,” while Targum and Vulgate take the nuance “to purge; to purify.” BDB 141 s.v. בָּרַר 4 suggests “to test, prove,” while HALOT 163 s.v. בָּרַר 2 prefers “to select, choose.”
240 tn The two infinitives לְבָרָם (lÿvaram, “to make it clear to them”) and וְלִרְאוֹת (vÿlir’ot, “and to show”) function as a verbal hendiadys (the two verbs are associated with one another to communicate a single idea). The first verb functions adverbially and the second retains its full verbal force: “to clearly show them.”
241 tn Heb “of the sons of man.”
242 tn Heb “the spirit of the sons of man.”
243 tn Heb “man.”
244 tn Heb “his works.”
245 tn Heb “his.”
246 tn Heb “what will be after him” (cf. KJV, NASB, NIV) or “afterward” (cf. NJPS).