Ecclesiastes 1:4

1:4 A generation comes and a generation goes,

but the earth remains the same through the ages.

Ecclesiastes 2:16

2:16 For the wise man, like the fool, will not be remembered for very long,

because in the days to come, both will already have been forgotten.

Alas, 10  the wise man dies – just like 11  the fool!

Ecclesiastes 3:14

God’s Sovereignty

3:14 I also know that whatever God does will endure forever;

nothing can be added to it, and nothing taken away from it.

God has made it this way, so that men will fear him.

Ecclesiastes 9:6

9:6 What they loved, 12  as well as what they hated 13  and envied, 14  perished long ago,

and they no longer have a part in anything that happens on earth. 15 

Ecclesiastes 12:5

12:5 and they are afraid of heights and the dangers 16  in the street;

the almond blossoms 17  grow white, 18 

and the grasshopper 19  drags itself along, 20 

and the caper berry 21  shrivels up 22 

because man goes to his eternal home, 23 

and the mourners go about in the streets –


tn The participle הֹלֵךְ (holekh, “to walk, to go”) emphasizes continual, durative, uninterrupted action (present universal use of participle). The root הָלַךְ (halakh) is repeated in this section (1:4a, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 7c) to emphasize the continual action and constant motion of everything in nature. Despite the continual action of everything in nature, there is no completion, attainment or rest for anything. The first use of הָלַךְ is in reference to man; all subsequent usages are in reference to nature – illustrations of the futility of human endeavor. Note: All the key terms used in 1:4 to describe the futility of human endeavor are repeated in 1:5-11 as illustrations from nature. The literary monotony in 1:4-11 mirrors the actual monotony of human action that repeats itself with no real change.

tn The participle בָּא (ba’, “to go”) emphasizes continual, durative, uninterrupted action (present universal use of participle). The term is repeated in 1:4-5 to compare the futility of secular human accomplishments with the futile actions in nature: everything is in motion, but there is nothing new accomplished.

tn The participle עֹמָדֶת (’omadet, “to stand”) emphasizes a continual, durative, uninterrupted state (present universal condition). Man, despite all his secular accomplishments in all generations, makes no ultimate impact on the earth.

tn The term “the same” does not appear in Hebrew, but is supplied in the translation for clarity and smoothness.

tn The term עוֹלָם (’olam) has a wide range of meanings: (1) indefinite time: “long time, duration,” often “eternal” or “eternity”; (2) future time: “things to come”; and (3) past time: “a long time back,” that is, the dark age of prehistory (HALOT 798–99 s.v. עוֹלָם; BDB 761–63 s.v. III עלם). It may also denote an indefinite period of “continuous existence” (BDB 762 s.v. III עלם 2.b). It is used in this sense in reference to things that remain the same for long periods: the earth (Eccl 1:4), the heavens (Ps 148:6), ruined cities (Isa 25:2; 32:14), ruined lands (Jer 18:16), nations (Isa 47:7), families (Ps 49:12; Isa 14:20), the dynasty of Saul (1 Sam 13:13), the house of Eli (2 Sam 2:30), continual enmity between nations (Ezek 25:15; 35:5), the exclusion of certain nations from the assembly (Deut 23:4; Neh 13:1), a perpetual reproach (Ps 78:66).

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).

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.”

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.”

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.

10 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.

11 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.

12 tn Heb “their love.”

13 tn Heb “their hatred.”

14 tn Heb “their envy.”

15 tn Heb “under the sun.”

16 tn The Hebrew noun חַתְחַתִּים (khatkhattim) literally means “terrors” (HALOT 363 s.v. חַתְחַת; BDB 369 s.v. חַתְחַת). Here it is used as a metonymy (cause for effect) to refer to dangers that cause the elderly to be fearful of going outside or walking along the streets. The form חַתְחַתִּים is a reduplicated noun stem from the root חתת (“terror”); HALOT 363 s.v. חַתְחַת; BDB 369 s.v. חַתְחַת. The reduplication of the noun stem intensifies its meaning: the noun חִתַּת (khittat) means “terror,” so the intensified reduplicated form חַתְחַת (khatkhat) connotes something like “great terror” (see S. Moscati, Comparative Grammar, 78-79, §12.9-13). The plural form חַתְחַתִּים (“great terrors”) denotes plural of number (more than one) or plural of intensity (which would further intensify the experience of fear); see IBHS 122 §7.4.3a.

17 tn The noun שָׁקֵד (shaqed) is used in the OT in reference to the “almond nut” (e.g., Gen 43:11; Num 17:23) and metonymically (product for thing producing it) for the “almond tree” (e.g., Jer 1:11); cf. HALOT 1638 s.v. שָׁקֵד; BDB 1052 s.v. שָׁקֵד 2.

18 tn The verb נצץ (“to blossom”) is a geminate verb (II = III) that, in this case, is written with a matres lectionis (plene spelling) rather than the normal spelling of וינץ (GKC 204 §73.g). The Hiphil verb יָנֵאץ (yanets) is from the root נצץ “to shine; to sparkle; to blossom” (HALOT 717 s.v. נצץ; BDB 665 s.v. נָצַץ). It is used in reference to almond blossoms whose color progresses from pink to white as they ripen (e.g., Song 6:11). This is an appropriate metaphor (comparison of sight) to describe white hair that often accompanies the onset of old age.

19 tn Or “locust.”

20 tn The verb סָבַל (saval, “to bear a heavy load”) means “to drag oneself along” as a burden (BDB 687 s.v. סָבַל) or “to become thick; to move slowly forward; to clear off” (HALOT 741 s.v. סבל).

21 tn The noun אֲבִיּוֹנָה (’aviyyonah, “caper berry, caper fruit”) is a hapax legomenon, occurring only here in the Hebrew Bible. It refers to the Capparis spinosa fruit which was eaten as an aphrodisiac in the ancient Near East (HALOT 5 s.v. אֲבִיּוֹנָה; BDB 2–3 s.v. אֲבִיּוֹנָה). There are two options for the interpretation of this figure: (1) At the onset of old age, the sexual virility that marked one’s youth is nothing more than a distant memory, and even aphrodisiacs fail to stimulate sexual desire to allow for sexual intercourse. (2) The onset of old age is like the shriveling up of the caper berry fruit; the once virile youth has passed his prime just like a shriveled caper berry can no longer provide a sexual stimulant.

22 tc The MT vocalizes consonantal ותפר as וְתָפֵר (vÿtafer, conjunction + Hiphil imperfect 3rd person feminine singular from פָּרַר , parar, “to burst”). However, an alternate vocalization tradition of וְתֻפַּר (vÿtupar, conjunction + Hophal imperfect 3rd person feminine singular “to be broken down”) is reflected in the LXX which reads καὶ διασκεδασθῇ (kai diaskedasqh, “is scattered”) and Symmachus καὶ διαλυθῇ (kai dialuqh, “is broken up”) which is followed by the Syriac. On the other hand, Aquila’s καὶ καρπεύσει (kai karpeusei, “are enjoyed,” of fruits) reflects וְתִפְרֶה (Qal imperfect 3rd person feminine singular from פָרַה, “to bear fruit”); this does not reflect an alternate reading but a translator’s error in word division between וְתָפֵר הָאֲבִיּוֹנָה (vÿtafer haaviyyonah, “the caper berry bursts”) and וְתִפְרֶה אֲבִיּוֹנָה (vÿtifrehaviyyonah, “the caper berry bears fruit”).

tn Or “fails”; or “bursts.” The meaning of the verb פָּרַר (parar, “to break; to make ineffectual”) is debated: (1) “to be ineffectual,” that is, to fail to provide sexual power as an aphrodisiac, or (2) “to break; to burst,” that is, the caper berry fruit shrivels as it lingers on its branch beyond its period of ripeness (HALOT 975 s.v. פרר 2.f; BDB 830 s.v. I. פָּרַר 2.d).

23 tn In the construct phrase בֵּית עוֹלָמוֹ (betolamo, “house of his eternity”), the genitive עוֹלָמוֹ (“eternity”) functions as an attributive adjective: “his eternal home.” This is an idiom for the grave as the resting place of the body (e.g., Ps 49:12 [11]; Job 7:9; 14:10-12; Eccl 12:5) or Sheol as the residence of the dead (e.g., Job 17:13; 30:23); see HALOT 124 s.v. I בַּיִת 2; 799 (5); BDB 109 s.v. בַּיִת 1.d. For example, the term בֵּית (“house”) is used in Job 30:23 in parallelism with “death” (מָוֶת, mavet). The same idiom appears in postbiblical Hebrew: “the house of eternity” (בֵּית עוֹלָם, betolam) is a euphemism for a burial ground or cemetery (e.g., Lamentations Rabbah 1:5); see Jastrow 1084-85 s.v. עָלַם III. This idiom is also found in a Moabite text in reference to the grave (Deir Alla Inscription 2:6). A similar idiom is found in Phoenician and Palmyrene in reference to the grave (DISO 35). The idiom appears to have originated in Egyptian literature (H. A. Hoffner, TDOT 2:113). See F. Cumont, Afterlife in Roman Paganism, 48-50.