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Ecclesiastes 10:3


10:3 Even when a fool walks along the road he lacks sense, 1 

and shows 2  everyone what a fool he is. 3 

Ecclesiastes 10:12-14

Words and Works of Wise Men and Fools

10:12 The words of a wise person 4  win him 5  favor, 6 

but the words 7  of a fool are self-destructive. 8 

10:13 At the beginning his words 9  are foolish

and at the end 10  his talk 11  is wicked madness, 12 

10:14 yet a fool keeps on babbling. 13 

No one knows what will happen;

who can tell him what will happen in the future? 14 

1 tn Heb “he lacks his heart.”

2 tn Heb “he tells everyone.”

3 sn A fool’s lack of wisdom is obvious to everyone, even when he is engaged in the simple, ordinary actions of life.

4 tn Heb “of a wise man’s mouth.”

5 tn The phrase “win him” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but has been supplied in the translation for clarity.

6 tn Or “are gracious.” The antithetical parallelism suggests that חֵן (khen) does not denote “gracious character” but “[gain] favor” (e.g., Gen 39:21; Exod 3:21; 11:3; 12:36; Prov 3:4, 34; 13:15; 22:1; 28:23; Eccl 9:11); cf. HALOT 332 s.v. חֵן 2; BDB 336 s.v. חֵן 2. The LXX, on the other hand, rendered חֶן with χάρις (caris, “gracious”). The English versions are divided: “are gracious” (KJV, YLT, ASV, NASB, NIV) and “win him favor” (NEB, RSV, NRSV, NAB, MLB, NJPS, Moffatt).

7 tn Heb “lips.”

8 tn Heb “consume him”; or “engulf him.” The verb I בלע (“to swallow”) creates a striking wordplay on the homonymic root II בלע (“to speak eloquently”; HALOT 134-35 s.v בלע). Rather than speaking eloquently (II בלע, “to speak eloquently”), the fool utters words that are self-destructive (I בלע, “to swallow, engulf”).

9 tn Heb “the words of his mouth.”

10 sn The terms “beginning” and “end” form a merism, a figure of speech in which two opposites are contrasted to indicate totality (e.g., Deut 6:7; Ps 139:8; Eccl 3:2-8). The words of a fool are madness from “start to finish.”

11 tn Heb “his mouth.”

12 tn Heb “madness of evil.”

13 tn Heb “and the fool multiplies words.” This line is best taken as the third line of a tricola encompassing 10:13-14a (NASB, NRSV, NJPS, Moffatt) rather than the first line of a tricola encompassing 10:14 (KJV, NEB, RSV, NAB, ASV, NIV). Several versions capture the sense of this line well: “a fool prates on and on” (Moffatt) and “Yet the fool talks and talks!” (NJPS).

14 tn Heb “after him”; or “after he [dies].”

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