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Ecclesiastes 11:7-8

Life Should Be Enjoyed Because Death is Inevitable

11:7 Light 1  is sweet, 2 

and it is pleasant for a person 3  to see the sun. 4 

11:8 So, if a man lives many years, let him rejoice in them all,

but let him remember that the days of darkness 5  will be many – all that is about to come is obscure. 6 

Ecclesiastes 12:6-7


12:6 before the silver cord is removed,

or the golden bowl is broken,

or the pitcher is shattered at the well, 7 

or the water wheel 8  is broken at the cistern –

12:7 and the dust returns to the earth as it was,

and the life’s breath 9  returns to God who gave it.

1 tn The term “light” (הָאוֹר, haor) is used figuratively (metonymy of association) in reference to “life” (e.g., Job 3:20; 33:30; Ps 56:14). By contrast, death is described as “darkness” (e.g., Eccl 11:8; 12:6-7).

2 tn The Hebrew term מָתוֹק (matoq, “sweet”) is often used elsewhere in reference to honey. The point is that life is sweet and should be savored like honey.

3 tn Heb “to the eyes.” The term “eyes” is a synecdoche of part (i.e., eyes) for the whole person. Used with the idiom “to see the sun” (i.e., to be alive), Qoheleth is simply saying that the experience of a life is a pleasant thing that should be savored.

4 tn The idiom “to see the sun” (both רָאָה הָשָּׁמֶשׁ, raah hashamesh, and חָזָה הַשָּׁמֶשׁ, khazah hashamesh) is an idiom meaning “to be alive” (e.g., Ps 58:9; Eccl 6:5; 7:11; 11:7); cf. BDB 1039 s.v. שֶׁמֶשׁ 4.b. The opposite idiom, “the sun is darkened,” refers to the onset of old age and death (Eccl 12:2).

5 tn The phrase “the days of darkness” refers to the onset of old age (Eccl 12:1-5) and the inevitable experience of death (Eccl 11:7-8; 12:6-7). Elsewhere, “darkness” is a figure of speech (metonymy of association) for death (Job 10:21-22; 17:13; 18:18).

6 tn The term הֶבֶל (hevel) here means “obscure,” that is, unknown. This sense is derived from the literal concept of breath, vapor or wind that cannot be seen; thus, the idea of “obscure; dark; difficult to understand; enigmatic” (see HALOT 236–37 s.v. I הֶבֶל; BDB 210–11 s.v. I הֶבֶל). It is used in this sense in reference to enigmas in life (6:2; 8:10, 14) and the future which is obscure (11:8).

7 tn Heb “water-spring.”

8 tn The term גַּלְגַּל (galgal, “wheel”) refers to the “water wheel” or “paddle wheel” for drawing water from a well (HALOT 190 s.v. I גַּלְגַּל 2; BDB 165 s.v. גַּלְגַּל 1.b). This Hebrew noun is related to the Akkadian term gulgullu (“pot”), as well as Phoenician (?) גלגל (“wheel for drawing water”). The Latin term girgillus (“lever for the bucket”) is a late derivation from this term. See G. Dalman, Arbeit und Sitte in Palästina, 2:225-28.

9 tn Or “spirit.” The likely referent is the life’s breath that originates with God. See Eccl 3:19, as well as Gen 2:7; 6:17; 7:22.

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