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Ecclesiastes 1:6-7

Context

1:6 The wind goes to the south and circles around to the north;

round and round 1  the wind goes and on its rounds it returns. 2 

1:7 All the streams flow 3  into the sea, but the sea is not full,

and to the place where the streams flow, there they will flow again. 4 

1 tn The Hebrew root סָבַב (savav, “to circle around”) is repeated four times in this verse to depict the wind’s continual motion: “The wind circles around (סוֹבֵב, sovev)…round and round (סוֹבֵב סֹבֵב)…its circuits (סְבִיבֹתָיו, sÿvivotayv).” This repetition is designed for a rhetorical purpose – to emphasize that the wind is locked into a never ending cycle. This vicious circle of monotonous action does not change anything. The participle form is used three times to emphasize continual, uninterrupted action (present universal use of participle). Despite the fact that the wind is always changing direction, nothing really new ever happens. The constant shifting of the wind cannot hide the fact that this is nothing but a repeated cycle; nothing new happens here (e.g., 1:9-10).

2 tn The use of שָׁב (shav, Qal active participle masculine singular from שׁוּב, shuv, “to return”) creates a wordplay (paronomasia) with the repetition of סָבַב (savav, “to circle around”). The participle emphasizes continual, durative, uninterrupted action (present universal use).

3 tn Heb “are going” or “are walking.” The term הֹלְכִים (holÿkhim, Qal active participle masculine plural from הָלַךְ, halakh,“to walk”) emphasizes continual, durative, uninterrupted action (present universal use of participle). This may be an example of personification; this verb is normally used in reference to the human activity of walking. Qoheleth compares the flowing of river waters to the action of walking to draw out the comparison between the actions of man (1:4) and the actions of nature (1:5-11).

4 tn Heb “there they are returning to go.” The term שָׁבִים (shavim, Qal active participle masculine plural from שׁוּב, shuv, “to return”) emphasizes the continual, durative action of the waters. The root שׁוּב is repeated in 1:6-7 to emphasize that everything in nature (e.g., wind and water) continually repeats its actions. For all of the repetition of the cycles of nature, nothing changes; all the constant motion produces nothing new.

sn This verse does not refer to the cycle of evaporation or the return of water by underground streams, as sometimes suggested. Rather, it describes the constant flow of river waters to the sea. For all the action of the water – endless repetition and water constantly in motion – there is nothing new accomplished.



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