For what more can the king’s successor do than what the king 7 has already done?
3:15 Whatever exists now has already been, and whatever will be has already been;
more fortunate than those who are still alive. 19
and what happens to a person 21 was also foreknown.
It is useless for him to argue with God about his fate
because God is more powerful than he is. 22
and they no longer have a part in anything that happens on earth. 26
and drink your wine with a happy heart,
because God has already approved your works.
1 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).
2 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.).
3 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).
4 tn Heb “in the ages long ago before us.”
5 tn Heb “and I turned to see.”
6 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.
7 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
8 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).
9 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.”
10 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.”
11 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.
12 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.
13 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.
14 tn The phrase “to do again” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.
15 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).
16 tn The phrase “in the past” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.
17 tn The verb שָׁבַח (shavakh) has a two-fold range of meaning: (1) “to praise; to laud”; and (2) “to congratulate” (HALOT 1387 s.v. I שׁבח; BDB 986 s.v. II שָׁבַח). The LXX translated it as ἐπῄνεσα (ephnesa, “I praised”). The English versions reflect the range of possible meanings: “praised” (KJV, ASV, Douay); “congratulated” (MLB, NASB); “declared/judged/accounted/thought…fortunate/happy” (NJPS, NEB, NIV, RSV, NRSV, NAB).
18 tn Heb “the dead who had already died.”
19 tn Heb “the living who are alive.”
20 tn Heb “already its name was called.”
21 tn Or “and what a person (Heb “man”) is was foreknown.”
22 tn Heb “he cannot contend with the one who is more powerful than him.” The referent of the “the one who is more powerful than he is” (God) has been specified in the translation for clarity. The words “with God about his fate” have been added for clarity as well.
23 tn Heb “their love.”
24 tn Heb “their hatred.”
25 tn Heb “their envy.”
26 tn Heb “under the sun.”
27 tn Heb “your bread.”