and the years draw near when you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”;
but he also taught knowledge to the people;
Fear God and keep his commandments,
because this is the whole duty 8 of man.
including every secret thing, whether good or evil.
1 tn The imperative זְכֹר (zekhor, “Remember!”) is a figurative expression (metonymy of association) for obeying God and acknowledging his lordship over one’s life (e.g., Num 15:40; Deut 8:18; Pss 42:6-7; 63:6-8; 78:42; 103:18; 106:7; 119:52, 55; Jer 51:50; Ezek 20:43; Jonah 2:7; Mal 4:4). The exhortation to fear God and obey his commands in 12:13-14 spells out what it means to “remember” God.
2 tn The temporal adjective עַד (’ad, “before”) appears three times in 12:1-7 (vv. 1b, 2a, 6a). Likewise, the temporal preposition בְּ (bet, “when”) is repeated (vv. 3a, 4b). These seven verses comprise one long sentence in Hebrew: The main clause is 12:1a (“Remember your Creator in the days of your youth”), while 12:1b-7 consists of five subordinate temporal clauses (“before…before…when…when…before…”).
3 tn The adjective רָעָה (ra’ah, “evil”) does not refer here to ethical evil, but to physical difficulty, injury, pain, deprivation and suffering (e.g., Deut 31:17, 21; 32:23; 1 Sam 10:19; Neh 1:3; 2:17; Pss 34:20; 40:13; 88:4; 107:26; Eccl 11:10; Jer 2:27; Lam 3:38); see HALOT 1263 s.v. רָעָה 4.b; BDB 949 s.v. רָעָה 2.
4 sn Eccl 12:9-12 fits the pattern of a concluding colophon that draws from a conventional stock of ancient Near Eastern scribal practices and vocabulary. See M. A. Fishbane, Biblical Interpretation, 29–31.
5 tn Heb “he weighed and studied.” The verbs וְאִזֵּן וְחִקֵּר (vÿ’izzen vekhiqqer, “he weighed and he explored”) form a hendiadys (a figurative expression in which two separate terms used in combination to convey a single idea): “he studiously weighed” or “carefully evaluated.” The verb וְאִזֵּן (conjunction + Piel perfect 3rd person masculine singular from II אָזַן (’azan) “to weigh; to balance”) is related to the noun מֹאזֵן (mo’zen) “balances; scales” used for weighing money or commercial items (e.g., Jer 32:10; Ezek 5:1). This is the only use of the verb in the OT. In this context, it means “to weigh” = “to test; to prove” (BDB 24 s.v. מאזן) or “to balance” (HALOT 27 II אָזַן). Cohen suggests, “He made an examination of the large number of proverbial sayings which had been composed, testing their truth and worth, to select those which he considered deserving of circulation” (A. Cohen, The Five Megilloth [SoBB], 189).
6 tn The verb תָּקַן (taqan, “to make straight”) connotes “to put straight” or “to arrange in order” (HALOT 1784 s.v. תקן; BDB 1075 s.v. תָּקַן).This may refer to Qoheleth’s activity in compiling a collection of wisdom sayings in an orderly manner, or writing the wisdom sayings in a straightforward, direct manner.
7 tn Heb “The end of the matter, everything having been heard.”
8 tn Heb “This is all men”; or “This is the whole of man.” The phrase זֶה כָּל־הָאָדָם (zeh kol-ha’adam, “this is all men”) features rhetorical elision of a key word. The ambiguity over the elided word has led to no less than five basic approaches: (1) “this is the whole duty of man” (KJV, ASV, RSV, NAB, NIV); (2) “this is the duty of all men” (MLB, ASV margin, RSV margin); (3) “this applies to all men” (NASB, NJPS); (4) “this is the whole duty of all men” (NRSV, Moffatt); and (5) “there is no more to man than this” (NEB). The four-fold repetition of כֹּל (kol, “all”) in 12:13-14 suggests that Qoheleth is emphasizing the “bottom line,” that is, the basic duty of man is simply to fear and obey God: After “all” (כֹּל) has been heard in the book, his conclusion is that the “whole” (כֹּל) duty of man is to obey God because God will bring “all” (כֹּל) acts into judgment, including “all” (כֹּל) that is hidden, whether good or bad. See D. Barthélemy, ed., Preliminary and Interim Report on the Hebrew Old Testament Text Project, 3:596.
9 tn Heb “will bring every deed into judgment.”