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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 2:3

Context

2:3 I thought deeply 10  about the effects of 11  indulging 12  myself 13  with wine

(all the while 14  my mind was guiding me 15  with wisdom) 16 

and the effects of 17  behaving foolishly, 18 

so that 19  I might discover what is profitable 20 

for people 21  to do on earth 22  during the few days 23  of their lives.

Ecclesiastes 7:25

Context
True Righteousness and Wisdom are Virtually Nonexistent

7:25 I tried 24  to understand, examine, and comprehend 25 

the role of 26  wisdom in the scheme of things, 27 

and to understand the stupidity of wickedness 28  and the insanity of folly. 29 

Ecclesiastes 9:1

Context
Everyone Will Die

9:1 So I reflected on all this, 30  attempting to clear 31  it all up.

I concluded that 32  the righteous and the wise, as well as their works, are in the hand of God;

whether a person will be loved or hated 33 

no one knows what lies ahead. 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 “In my heart I explored.” The verb תּוּר (tur, “to seek out, to spy out, to explore”) is used in the OT to describe: (1) the physical activity of “spying out” or “exploring” geographical locations (Num 13:2, 16, 17, 21, 25, 32; 14:6, 7, 34, 36, 38; Job 39:8) and (2) the mental activity of “exploring” or “examining” a course of action or the effects of an action (Eccl 1:13; 2:3; 7:25; 9:1). See BDB 1064 s.v. תּוּר 2; HALOT 1708 s.v. תּוּר. It was used as a synonym with דָרָשׁ (darash, “to study”) in 1:13: “I devoted myself to study (לִדְרוֹשׁ, lidrosh) and to explore (לָתוּר, latur).”

sn As the repetition of the term לֵב (lev, “heart” or “mind”) indicates (2:1, 3), this experiment appears to have been only an intellectual exercise or a cognitive reflection: “I said to myself (Heb “in my heart [or “mind”],” 2:1); “I explored with my mind (Heb “heart,” 2:3a); and “my mind (Heb “heart”) guiding me with wisdom” (2:3b). Qoheleth himself did not indulge in drunkenness; but he contemplated the value of self-indulgence in his mind.

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

12 tn Or “I sought to cheer my flesh with wine.” The term לִמְשׁוֹךְ (limshokh, Qal infinitive construct from מָשַׁךְ, mashakh, “to draw, pull”) functions in a complementary sense with the preceding verb תּוּר (tur “to examine”): Heb “I sought to draw out my flesh with wine” or “I [mentally] explored [the effects] of drawing out my flesh with wine.” The verb מָשַׁךְ means “to draw, to drag along, to lead” (BDB 604 s.v. מָשַׁךְ) or “to draw out; to stretch out [to full length]; to drag; to pull; to seize; to carry off; to pull; to go” (HALOT 645–46 s.v. משׁך). BDB suggests that this use be nuanced “to draw, to attract, to gratify” the flesh, that is, “to cheer” (BDB 604 s.v. מָשַׁךְ 7). While this meaning is not attested elsewhere in the OT, it is found in Mishnaic Hebrew: “to attract” (Qal), e.g., “it is different with heresy, because it attracts [i.e., persuades, offers inducements]” (b. Avodah Zarah 27b) and “to be attracted, carried away, seduced,” e.g., “he was drawn after them, he indulged in the luxuries of the palace” (b. Shabbat 147b). See Jastrow 853-54 s.v. מְשַׂךְ. Here it denotes “to stretch; to draw out [to full length],” that is, “to revive; to restore” the body (HALOT 646 s.v. משׁד [sic] 3). The statement is a metonymy of cause (i.e., indulging the flesh with wine) for effect (i.e., the effects of self-indulgence).

13 tn Heb “my flesh.” The term בְּשָׂרִי (bÿsari, “my flesh”) may function as a synecdoche of part (i.e., flesh) for the whole (i.e., whole person). See E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 642. One could translate, “I sought to cheer myself.”

14 tn The phrase “all the while” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.

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

16 tn Heb “and my heart was leading along in wisdom.” The vav + noun, וְלִבִּי (vÿlibbi) introduces a disjunctive, parenthetical clause designed to qualify the speaker’s remarks lest he be misunderstood: “Now my heart/mind….” He emphasizes that he never lost control of his senses in this process. It was a purely mental, cognitive endeavor; he never actually gave himself over to wanton self-indulgence in wine or folly.

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

18 tn Heb “embracing folly.” The verb אָחָז (’akhaz, “to embrace”) is normally used to describe the physical action of taking hold of an object. Here is it is used metaphorically to describe a person’s choice of lifestyle, that is, adopting a particular course of moral conduct (e.g., Job 17:9); see HALOT 31–32 s.v. אחז; BDB 28 s.v. אָחַז.

19 tn Or “until.” The construction עַד אֲשֶׁר (’adasher, “until”) introduces a temporal result clause (e.g., Gen 27:44; 28:15; Num 21:35; Isa 6:11); see HALOT 787 s.v. III עַד B.b. With an imperfect verb (such as אֶרְאֶה, ’ereh, Qal imperfect first common singular from רָאָה, raah, “to see”), the compound construction עַד אֲשֶׁר usually refers to future time (Gen 27:44; 29:8; Exod 23:30; 24:14; Lev 22:4; Num 11:20; 20:17; 1 Sam 22:3; Hos 5:15), but it also rarely refers to past time (Jonah 4:5; Eccl 2:3); see BDB 725 s.v. III עַד II.1.a.b. Joüon 2:370 §113.k notes that when the compound construction עַד אֲשֶׁר is occasionally used with an imperfect depicting past action to denote a virtual nuance of purpose: “until” = “so that,” e.g., Jonah 4:5; Eccl 2:3.

20 tn Heb “I might see where is the good?” The interrogative particle אֵי (’e, “where?”) used with the demonstrative pronoun זֶה (zeh, “this”) forms an idiom: “where [then]?” (HALOT 37–38 s.v. אֵי 2.a; see, e.g., 1 Sam 9:18; 1 Kgs 13:12; 2 Kgs 3:8; Isa 50:1; 66:1; Jer 6:16; Job 28:12, 20; 38:19, 24; Esth 7:5). The phrase אֵי־זֶה טוֹב (’e-zeh tov) is an indirect question that literally means, “Where is the good?” that is, “what good?” (HALOT 38 s.v. אֵי 2.d).

21 tn Heb “the sons of man.”

22 tn Heb “under the heavens.”

23 tn Heb “number of the days.” The Hebrew noun מִסְפַּר (mispar, “number, quantity”) sometimes means “few” (e.g., Gen 34:30; Num 9:20; Deut 4:27; 33:6; Isa 10:19; Jer 44:28; Ezek 12:16; Ps 105:12; Job 16:22; 1 Chr 16:19); see HALOT 607 s.v. מִסְפָּר 2.b; BDB 709 s.v. מִסְפָּר 1.a. This phrase is an idiom that means, “during all their lives” (BDB 709 s.v.), “during their total [short] time of life,” that is, “as long as they live” (HALOT 608 s.v. מִסְפָּר 3.d). Ecclesiastes often emphasizes the brevity of life (e.g., 5:17; 6:12; 9:9). The LXX rendered מִסְפַּר in a woodenly literal sense: ἀριθμόν (ariqmon, “the number [of days of their lives]”). Several English translations adopt a similar approach: “all the days of their life” (ASV, Douay) and “the number of days of their lives” (YLT). However, this idiom is handled well by a number of English translations: “during the few days of their lives” (RSV, NRSV, NASB, NIV, Moffatt, NJPS), “during the limited days of their life” (NAB), and “throughout the brief span of their lives” (NEB).

24 tn Heb “I turned, I, even my heart.”

25 tn Heb “to seek.”

26 tn The phrase “the role of” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity and smoothness.

27 tn The phrase חָכְמָה וְחֶשְׁבּוֹן (khokhmah vÿkheshbon, “wisdom and the scheme of things”) is a hendiadys (a figure of speech in which two nouns connote one idea): “wisdom in the scheme of things.” This is similar to the hendiadys עִצְּבוֹנֵךְ וְהֵרֹנֵךְ (’itsÿvonekh vÿheronekh, “pain and childbearing”) which connotes “pain in childbearing” (Gen 3:16).

28 tn Or “the evil of folly” The genitive construct phrase רֶשַׁע כֶּסֶל (reshakesel) may be taken as a genitive of attribution (“the wickedness of folly”) or as a genitive of attribute (“the folly of wickedness”). The English versions treat it in various ways: “wickedness of folly” (KJV); “wrong of folly” (YLT); “evil of folly” (NASB); “stupidity of wickedness” (NIV); “wickedness, stupidity” (NJPS); “wickedness is folly [or foolish]” (ASV, NAB, NRSV, MLB, Moffatt), and “it is folly to be wicked” (NEB).

29 tn Or “the folly of madness” The genitive construct phrase וְהַסִּכְלוּת הוֹלֵלוֹת (vÿhassikhlut holelot) may be taken as a genitive of attribution (“the stupidity of wickedness”) or a genitive of attribute (“the evil of folly”). The phrase is rendered variously: “foolishness and madness” (KJV); “foolishness of madness” (NASB); “madness of folly” (NIV); “madness and folly” (NJPS); “the foolishness which is madness” (NEB); and “foolishness [or folly] is madness” (ASV, NAB, NRSV, MLB, Moffatt).

30 tn Heb “I laid all this to my heart.”

31 tn The term וְלָבוּר (velavur, conjunction + Qal infinitive construct from בּוּר, bur, “to make clear”) denotes “to examine; to make clear; to clear up; to explain” (HALOT 116 s.v. בור; BDB 101 s.v. בּוּר). The term is related to Arabic baraw “to examine” (G. R. Driver, “Supposed Arabisms in the Old Testament,” JBL 55 [1936]: 108). This verb is related to the Hebrew noun בֹּר (bor, “cleanness”) and adjective בַּר (bar, “clean”). The term is used in the OT only in Ecclesiastes (1:13; 2:3; 7:25; 9:1). This use of the infinitive has a connotative sense (“attempting to”), and functions in a complementary sense, relative to the main verb.

32 tn The words “I concluded that” do not appear in the Hebrew text, but are supplied in the translation for clarity.

33 tn Heb “whether love or hatred.”

34 tn Heb “man does not know anything before them.”



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