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Ecclesiastes 1:13

Context

1:13 I decided 1  to carefully 2  and thoroughly examine 3 

all that has been accomplished on earth. 4 

I concluded: 5  God has given people 6  a burdensome task 7 

that keeps them 8  occupied. 9 

Ecclesiastes 2:23

Context

2:23 For all day long 10  his work produces pain and frustration, 11 

and even at night his mind cannot relax! 12 

This also is futile!

Ecclesiastes 2:26

Context

2:26 For to the one who pleases him, 13  God gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy,

but to the sinner, he gives the task of amassing 14  wealth 15 

only to give 16  it 17  to the one who pleases God.

This 18  task of the wicked 19  is futile – like chasing the wind!

Ecclesiastes 3:10

Context

3:10 I have observed the burden

that God has given to people 20  to keep them occupied.

Ecclesiastes 4:8

Context

4:8 A man who is all alone with no companion, 21 

he has no children nor siblings; 22 

yet there is no end to all his toil,

and he 23  is never satisfied with riches.

He laments, 24  “For whom am I toiling and depriving myself 25  of pleasure?” 26 

This also is futile and a burdensome task! 27 

Ecclesiastes 5:2

Context

5:2 Do not be rash with your mouth or hasty in your heart to bring up a matter before God,

for God is in heaven and you are on earth!

Therefore, let your words be few.

Ecclesiastes 5:13

Context
Materialism Thwarts Enjoyment of Life

5:13 Here is 28  a misfortune 29  on earth 30  that I have seen:

Wealth hoarded by its owner to his own misery.

Ecclesiastes 8:16

Context
Limitations of Human Wisdom

8:16 When I tried 31  to gain 32  wisdom

and to observe the activity 33  on earth –

even though it prevents anyone from sleeping day or night 34 

1 tn Heb “I gave my heart” or “I set my mind.” The term לִבִּי (libbi, “my heart”) is an example of synecdoche of part (heart) for the whole (myself). Qoheleth uses this figurative expression frequently in the book. On the other hand, in Hebrew mentality, the term “heart” is frequently associated with one’s thoughts and reasoning; thus, this might be a metonymy of association (heart = thoughts). The equivalent English idiom would be “I applied my mind.”

2 tn Heb “with wisdom,” that is, with careful reflection in light of principles observed by the sages.

3 tn Heb “to seek and to search out” (לִדְרוֹשׁ וְלָתוּר, lidrosh vÿlatur). This is an example of a verbal hendiadys (the use of two synonymous verbs to state a common idea in an emphatic manner). The terms are used because they are closely related synonyms; therefore, the similarities in meaning should be emphasized rather than the distinctions in meaning. The verb דָּרַשׁ (darash) means “to inquire about; to investigate; to search out; to study” (HALOT 233 s.v. דרשׁ; BDB 205 s.v. דָּרַשׁ). This verb is used literally of the physical activity of investigating a matter by examining the physical evidence and interviewing eye-witnesses (e.g., Judg 6:29; Deut 13:15; 17:4, 9; 19:18), and figuratively (hypocatastasis) of mentally investigating abstract concepts (e.g., Eccl 1:13; Isa 1:17; 16:5; Pss 111:2; 119:45). Similarly, the verb תּוּר (tur) means “to seek out, discover” (HALOT 1708 s.v. תּוּר 1.c; BDB 1064 תּוּר 2). The verb תּוּר is used literally of the physical action of exploring physical territory (Num 13:16-17; 14:6, 34-36; Job 39:8), and figuratively (hypocatastasis) of mentally exploring things (Eccl 1:13; 7:25; 9:1).

4 tn Heb “under heaven.”

sn Qoheleth states that he made a thorough investigation of everything that had been accomplished on earth. His position as king gave him access to records and contacts with people that would have been unavailable to others.

5 tn This phrase does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is added in the translation for clarity.

6 tn Heb “the sons of men/mankind.”

7 tn The phrase עִנְיַן רָע (’inyan ra’, “rotten business, grievous task”) is used only in Ecclesiastes (1:13; 2:23, 26; 3:10; 4:8; 5:2, 13; 8:16). It is parallel with הֶבֶל (hevel) “futile” in 4:8, and describes a “grave misfortune” in 5:13. The noun עִנְיַן (’inyan, “business”) refers to something that keeps a person occupied or busy: “business; affair; task; occupation” (HALOT 857 s.v. עִנְיָן; BDB 775 s.v. עִנְיָן). The related verb עָנַה (’anah) means “to be occupied, to be busy with” (with the preposition בְּ, bet), e.g., Eccl 1:13; 3:10; 5:19 (HALOT 854 s.v. III עָנָה; BDB 775 s.v. II עָנָה). The noun is from the Aramaic loanword עִנְיָנָא (’inyana’, “concern, care”). The verb is related to the Aramaic verb “to try hard,” the Arabic verb “to be busily occupied; to worry to be a matter of concern,” and the Old South Arabic root “to be troubled; to strive with” (HALOT 854 s.v. III עָנָה). The phrase עִנְיַן רָע is treated creatively by English translations: “sore travail” (KJV, ASV), “sad travail” (YLT), “painful occupation” (Douay), “sorry business” (NEB), “sorry task” (Moffatt), “thankless task” (NAB), “grievous task” (NASB), “trying task” (MLB), “unhappy business” (RSV, NRSV, NJPS), and “heavy burden” (NIV).

8 tn The syntax of this line in Hebrew is intentionally redundant, e.g. (literally), “It is a grievous task [or “unpleasant business”] that God has given to the sons of man to be occupied with it.” The referent of the third masculine singular suffix on לַעֲנוֹת בּוֹ (laanot bo, “to be occupied with it”) is עִנְיַן רָע (’inyan ra’, “a grievous task, a rotten business”).

9 tn Or “that keeps them occupied” or “that busies them.” The verb II עָנַה (’anah, “to be occupied with”) is related to the noun עִנְיַן (’inyan, “business, task, occupation”) which also occurs in this verse. The verb עָנַה means “to be occupied, to be busy with” (with the preposition בְּ, bet), e.g., Eccl 1:13; 3:10; 5:19 (HALOT 854 s.v. III עָנָה; BDB 775 s.v. עָנָה). The Hebrew verb is related to the Aramaic verb “to try hard,” the Arabic verb “to be busily occupied; to worry; to be a matter of concern,” and the Old South Arabic root “to be troubled; to strive with” (HALOT 854).

10 tn Heb “all his days.”

11 tn The syntax of this verse has been interpreted in two different ways: (1) The phrase “all his days” (כָל־יָמָיו, khol-yamayv) is the subject of a verbless clause, and the noun “pain” (מַכְאֹבִים, makhovim) is a predicate nominative or a predicate of apposition (see R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 15-16, §71). Likewise, the noun “his work” (עִנְיָנוֹ, ’inyano) is the subject of a second verbless clause, and the vexation” (כַעַס, khaas) is a predicate nominative: “All his days are pain, and his work is vexation.” (2) The noun “his work” (עִנְיָנוֹ) is the subject of both nouns, “pain and vexation” (וָכַעַס מַכְאֹבִים, makhovim vakhaas), which are predicate nominatives, while the phrase “all his days” (כָל־יָמָיו) is an adverbial accusative functioning temporally: “All day long, his work is pain and vexation.” The latter option is supported by the parallelism between “even at night” and “all day long.” This verse draws out an ironic contrast/comparison between his physical toil/labor during the day and his emotional anxiety at night. Even at night, he has no break!

12 tn Heb “his heart (i.e., mind) does not rest.”

13 tn Heb “for to a man who is good before him.”

14 sn The phrase the task of amassing wealth (Heb “the task of gathering and heaping up”) implicitly compares the work of the farmer reaping his crops and storing them up in a barn, to the work of the laborer amassing wealth as the fruit of his labor. However, rather than his storehouse being safe for the future, the sinner is deprived of it.

15 tn The word “wealth” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.

16 sn The three-fold repetition of the Hebrew word translated “give” in the first part of this verse creates irony: God “gives” the righteous the ability to prosper and to find enjoyment in his work; but to the wicked He “gives” the task of “giving” his wealth to the righteous.

17 tn The word “it” (an implied direct object) does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.

18 tn The antecedent of the demonstrative pronoun זֶה (zeh, “this”) is debated: (1) Some refer it to the enjoyment which Qoheleth had just commended in 2:24-26. However, this is inconsistent with the enjoyment theme found elsewhere in the book. It also ignores the fact that 2:24-26 states that such enjoyment is a good gift from God. (2) Others refer it to the term “toil” (עָמָל, ’amal) which is repeated throughout 2:18-26. However, Qoheleth affirmed that if one is righteous, he can find enjoyment in his toil, even though so much of it is ultimately futile. (3) Therefore, it seems best to refer it to the grievous “task” (עִנְיָן, ’inyan) God has given to the sinner in 2:26b. Consistent with the meaning of הֶבֶל (hevel, “futile; profitless; fruitless”), 2:26b emphasizes that the “task” of the sinner is profitless: he labors hard to amass wealth, only to see the fruit of his labor given away to someone else. The righteous man’s enjoyment of his work and the fruit of his labor under the blessing of God (2:24-26a) is not included in this.

19 tn The phrase “task of the wicked” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.

20 tn Heb “the sons of man.”

21 tn Heb “There is one and there is not a second.”

22 tn Heb “son nor brother.” The terms “son” and “brother” are examples of synecdoche of specific (species) for the general (genus). The term “son” is put for offspring, and “brother” for siblings (e.g., Prov 10:1).

23 tn Heb “his eye.” The term “eye” is a synecdoche of part (i.e., the eye) for the whole (i.e., the whole person); see E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 647.

24 tn The phrase “he laments” is not in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity. The direct discourse (“For whom am I toiling and depriving myself of pleasure?”) is not introduced with an introductory structure. As in the LXX, some translations suggest that these words are spoken by a lonely workaholic, e.g., “He says…” (NAB, NEB, ASV, NIV, NRSV). Others suggest that this is a question that he never asks himself, e.g., “Yet he never asks himself…” (KJV, RSV, MLB, YLT, Douay, NASB, Moffatt).

25 tn Heb “my soul.”

26 tn This rhetorical question is an example of negative affirmation, that is, it expects a negative answer: “No one!” (see E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 949-51).

27 tn The adjective רָע (ra’, “evil”) here means “misfortune” (HALOT 1263 s.v. רָעָה 4) or “injustice, wrong” (HALOT 1262 s.v. רָעָה 2.b). The phrase עִנְיַן רָע (’inyan ra’, “unhappy business; rotten business; grievous task”) is used only in Ecclesiastes (1:13; 2:23, 26; 3:10; 4:8; 5:2, 13; 8:16). It is parallel with הֶבֶל (hevel, “futile”) in 4:8, and describes a “grave misfortune” in 5:13. The noun עִנְיַן (’inyan, “business”) refers to something that keeps a person occupied or busy: “business; affair; task; occupation” (HALOT 857 s.v. עִנְיָן; BDB 775 s.v. עִנְיָן). The related verb עָנָה (’anah) means “to be occupied; to be busy with (בְּ, bet),” e.g., Eccl 1:13; 3:10; 5:19 (HALOT 854 s.v. III עָנָה; BDB 775 s.v. II עָנָה). The noun is from the Aramaic loanword עִנְיָנָא (’inyana’, “concern; care.” The verb is related to the Aramaic verb “to try hard,” the Arabic verb “to be busily occupied; to worry; to be a matter of concern,” and the Old South Arabic root “to be troubled; to strive with” (HALOT 854 s.v. III ענה). HALOT 857 s.v. עִנְיָן renders the phrase as “unhappy business” here. The phrase עִנְיַן רָע, is treated creatively by English versions: KJV, ASV “sore travail”; YLT “sad travail”; Douay “grievous vexation”; RSV, NRSV, NJPS “unhappy business”; NEB, Moffatt “sorry business”; NIV “miserable business”; NAB “worthless task”; NASB “grievous task”; MLB “sorry situation”; NLT “depressing.”

28 tn Heb “there is.” The term יֵשׁ (yesh, “there is”) is often used in aphorisms to assert the existence of a particular situation that occurs sometimes. It may indicate that the situation is not the rule but that it does occur on occasion, and may be nuanced “sometimes” (e.g., Prov 11:24; 13:7, 23; 14:12; 16:25; 18:24; 20:15; Eccl 2:21; 4:8; 5:12; 6:1; 7:15 [2x]; 8:14 [3x]).

29 tn The noun רָעָה (raah, “evil”) probably means “misfortune” (HALOT 1263 s.v. רָעָה 4) or “injustice, wrong” (HALOT 1262 s.v. רָעָה 2.b). The phrase רָעָה רַבָּה (raah rabbah) connotes “grave injustice” or “great misfortune” (Eccl 2:17; 5:12, 15; 6:1; 10:5).

30 tn Heb “under the sun.”

31 tn Heb “I applied my heart.”

32 tn Heb “to know.”

33 tn Heb “and to see the business which is done.”

34 tn Heb “for no one sees sleep with their eyes either day or night.” The construction גַםכִּי (kigam) expresses a concessive sense: “even though” (e.g., Ps 23:4; Prov 22:6; Eccl 4:14; Isa 1:15; Lam 3:8; Hos 8:10; 9:16); cf. HALOT 196 s.v. גַּם 9; BDB 169 s.v. גַּם 6; 473 s.v. כִּי 2.c.



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