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Ecclesiastes 12:9-10

Context
Concluding Epilogue: Qoheleth’s Advice is Wise

12:9 Not only was the Teacher wise, 1 

but he also taught knowledge to the people;

he carefully evaluated 2  and arranged 3  many proverbs.

12:10 The Teacher sought to find delightful 4  words,

and to write 5  accurately truthful sayings. 6 

1 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.

2 tn Heb “he weighed and studied.” The verbs וְאִזֵּן וְחִקֵּר (vÿizzen 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 (mozen) “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).

3 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.

4 tn In the construct phrase דִּבְרֵי־חֵפֶץ (divre-khefets, “words of delight”) the noun חֵפֶץ (“delight”) functions as an attributive genitive (“delightful words”) or a genitive of estimation or worth (“words viewed as delightful by Qoheleth” or “words that he took delight in”). For another example of a genitive of estimation of worth, see זִבְחֵי אֱלֹהִים (zivkheelohim) “sacrifices of God” = “sacrifices viewed as acceptable to God” (Ps 51:19). In other words, Qoheleth wrote his proverbs so effectively that he was able to take moral and aesthetic delight in his words.

5 tc The consonantal form וכתוב has been revocalized in three ways: (1) The Masoretes read וְכָתוּב (vÿkhatuv, conjunction + Qal passive participle ms from כָּתַב, katav, “to write”): “Qoheleth sought to find pleasant words, what was written uprightly, namely, words of truth.” This is supported by the LXX’s καὶ γεγραμμένον (kai gegrammenon, conjunction + masculine accusative singular perfect passive participle from γράφω, grafw, “to write). (2) The BHS editors suggest the vocalization וְכָתוֹב (vÿkhatov, conjunction + Qal infinitive absolute). The infinitive וְכָתוֹב (“and to write”) in the B-line would parallel the infinitive of purpose לִמְצֹא (limtso’, “to find”) in the A-line: “Qoheleth sought to find pleasant words, and to write accurately words of truth.” (3) Several medieval Hebrew mss preserve an alternate textual tradition of וְכָתַב (vÿkhatav, conjunction + Qal perfect 3rd person masculine singular). This is reflected in the Greek versions (Aquila and Symmachus), Syriac Peshitta and Vulgate. The major English versions are divided among these three textual options: (1) וְכָתוּב (Qal passive participle): “and that which was written was upright, even words of truth” (KJV); “and that which was written uprightly, even words of truth” (ASV); “and, written by the upright, words of truth” (YLT); “but what he wrote was the honest truth” (NEB); “and what he wrote was upright and true” (NIV). (2) וְכָתוֹב (Qal infinitive absolute): “and to write words of truth correctly” (NASB); “and to write correctly the reliable words of truth” (MLB); “and to write down true sayings with precision” (NAB). (3) וְכָתַב (Qal perfect 3rd person masculine singular): “and uprightly he wrote words of truth” (RSV); “and he wrote words of truth plainly” (NRSV); “even as he put down plainly what was true” (Moffatt); “and he wrote words most right, and full of truth” (Douay); and “and he recorded genuinely truthful sayings” (NJPS). The editors of the Jerusalem Hebrew Bible project favor וְכָתוֹב “and to write” (option 2): see D. Barthélemy, ed., Preliminary and Interim Report on the Hebrew Old Testament Text Project, 3:596–97.

6 tn The construct phrase דִּבְרֵי אֱמֶת (divreemet, “words of truth”) is a genitive of content (“words containing truth”) or an attributive genitive (“truthful words”). Depending upon the vocalization of וכתוב, the phrase functions in one of two ways: (1) as direct object of וְכָתוֹב יֹשֶׁר (vÿkhatov yosher) “and he accurately wrote truthful words”; or (2) in apposition to וְכָתוּב יֹשֶׁר (vÿkhatuv yosher) “and what is written uprightly, namely, truthful words.



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