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Ecclesiastes 1:9-10

Context

1:9 What exists now 1  is what will be, 2 

and what has been done is what will be done;

there is nothing truly new on earth. 3 

1:10 Is there anything about which someone can say, “Look at this! It is new!”? 4 

It was already 5  done long ago, 6  before our time. 7 

1 tn Heb “what is.” The Hebrew verbal form is a perfect. Another option is to translate, “What has been.” See the next line, which speaks of the past and the future.

2 tn The Hebrew verbal form is an imperfect.

3 tn Heb “under the sun.”

4 tn Alternately, “[Even when] there is something of which someone might claim…” The terms יֵשׁ דָּבָר שֶׁיֹּאמַר (yesh davar sheyyomar) 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[12]; 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).

5 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.).

6 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).

7 tn Heb “in the ages long ago before us.”



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