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.
3:15 Whatever exists now has already been, and whatever will be has already been;
and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth.
but know that God will judge your motives and actions. 25
and the years draw near when you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”;
but he also taught knowledge to the people;
1 tn The preposition בְּ (bet) on בָּאָדָם (ba’adam) has been taken in two ways: (1) locative with טוֹב (tov, “good”) in reference to man’s moral nature: “There is nothing [inherently] good in man.” (2) advantage with טוֹב (“good”) in reference to the enjoyment theme of 2:24-26: “There is nothing better for a man than…” (this assumes a comparative מִן, min, on מִשֶׁיֹּאכַל, misheyyo’khal); see text critical note on the word “than” below). The latter is preferred for two reasons: (1) The preposition בְּ is used with a similar idiom in 3:12 in collocation with the particle phrase אִם…כִּי (ki…’im, “except”): “There is nothing better…than to rejoice/be happy” (NASB, NIV). (2) The theme of 2:1-26 focuses on the futility of human toil, concluding that the only real reward that man has in his labor is to find enjoyment in it (e.g., 2:10, 24-26). The section says nothing about man’s inherent sinful nature.
2 tn Heb “man.”
3 tc The MT reads שֶׁיֹּאכַל (sheyyo’khal, “that he should eat”; Qal imperfect 3rd person masculine singular from אָכַל, ’akhal, “to eat,” with relative pronoun שֶׁ, she, “that”). However, the variant textual tradition of מִשֶּׁיֹּאכַל (misheyyo’khal, “than he should eat” (comparative preposition מִן, min, “than” + Qal imperfect 3rd person masculine singular from אָכַל “to eat”) is reflected in the LXX, Coptic, Syriac, Aramaic Targum, Old Latin, and Jerome. The textual error, an example of haplography, arose from a single writing of מ (mem) from בָּאָדָם מִשֶּׁיֹּאכַל (ba’adam misheyyo’khal). The same idiom appears in the expanded form אִם…כִּי followed by טוֹב…אֵין (’en tov … ki ’im, “there is nothing better for man than …”) in Eccl 3:12; 8:15.
4 tn Heb “to cause his soul to see good.” The idiom רָאָה טוֹב (ra’ah tov, “to see good”) is a metonymy of association, meaning “to find enjoyment” (e.g., 3:13; 5:17; 6:6). In 3:12-13 and 5:17-18 it is in collocation and/or parallelism with בְּ (bet) + שָׂמַח (samakh, “to rejoice in,” or “to find satisfaction or pleasure in” something). Here, it is used in collocation with חוּשׁ (khush, “to enjoy”). The term נַפְשׁוֹ (nafsho, “his soul”) is a metonymy of part (i.e., soul) for the whole (i.e., whole person), e.g., Num 23:10; Judg 16:30; Pss 16:10; 35:13; 103:1 (see E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 640-41).
5 tn Heb “his.”
6 tn The phrase “ability to find enjoyment” is not in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.
7 tn Heb “is from the hand of God.”
sn The phrase “from the hand of God” is an anthropomorphism (depicting God, who is an invisible spirit, in the form of man with hands) or anthropopatheia (depicting God performing human-like actions). The “hand of God” is a figure often used to portray God’s sovereign providence and benevolence (see E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 878). The phrase “the hand of God” is often used to connote the favor or grace of God (2 Chr 30:12; Ezra 7:9; 8:18; Neh 2:8, 18; see BDB 390 s.v. יָד 1.e.2).
8 tn Heb “For who can…?” The rhetorical question is an example of negative affirmation, expecting a negative answer: “No one can!” (see E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 949-51).
10 tn The verb II חוּשׁ (khush, “to enjoy”) is a hapax legomenon which BDB defines as “to feel; to enjoy [with the senses]” on the basis of the context, and the cognates: Arabic “to feel; to perceive [by senses]”; Aramaic חושׁ “to feel pain,” and New Hebrew חושׁ “to feel pain” (BDB 301 s.v. II חֹוּשׁ). HALOT relates the Hebrew root to Akkadian havavu “to be delighted with” (HALOT 300 s.v. II חושׁ 1). The Vulgate renders this term as “to enjoy.” The Greek versions (LXX, Theodotion) and the Syriac Peshitta, however, did not understand this hapax; they rendered it as “to drink,” making some sense of the line by filling out the parallelism “to eat [and drink]” (e.g., Eccl 8:15).
11 tc The MT reads מִמֶּנִּי (mimmenni, “more than I”). However, an alternate textual tradition of מִמֶּנּוּ (mimmennu,“apart from him [= God]”) is preserved in several medieval Hebrew
12 tn Heb “for to a man who is good before him.”
13 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.
14 tn The word “wealth” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.
15 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.
16 tn The word “it” (an implied direct object) does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.
17 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.
18 tn The phrase “task of the wicked” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.
19 tn The phrase “to do again” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.
20 tn Heb “God will seek that which is driven away.” The meaning of יְבַקֵּשׁ אֶת־נִרְדָּף (yÿvaqqesh ’et-nirdaf) is difficult to determine: יְבַקֵּשׁ (yÿvaqqesh) is Piel imperfect 3rd person masculine singular from בָּקַשׁ (baqash, “to seek”) and נִרְדָּף (nirdaf) is a Niphal participle 3rd person masculine singular from רָדַף (radaf, “to drive away”). There are several options: (1) God watches over the persecuted: יְבַקֵּשׁ (“seeks”) functions as a metonymy of cause for effect (i.e., to protect), and אֶת־נִרְדָּף (“what is driven away”) refers to “those who are persecuted.” But this does not fit the context. (2) God will call the past to account: יְבַקֵּשׁ functions as a metonymy of cause for effect (i.e., to hold accountable), and אֶת־נִרְדָּף is a metonymy of attribute (i.e., the past). This approach is adopted by several English translations: “God requires that which is past” (KJV), “God will call the past to account” (NIV) and “God summons each event back in its turn” (NEB). (3) God finds what has been lost: יְבַקֵּשׁ functions as a metonymy of cause for effect (i.e., to find), and אֶת־נִרְדָּף refers to what has been lost: “God restores what would otherwise be displaced” (NAB). (4) God repeats what has already occurred: יְבַקֵּשׁ functions as a metonymy of effect (i.e., to repeat), and אֶת־נִרְדָּף is a metonymy (i.e., that which has occurred). This fits the context and provides a tight parallel with the preceding line: “That which is has already been, and that which will be has already been” (3:15a) parallels “God seeks [to repeat] that which has occurred [in the past].” This is the most popular approach among English versions: “God restores that which has past” (Douay), “God seeks again that which is passed away” (ASV), “God seeks what has passed by” (NASB), “God seeks what has been driven away” (RSV), “God seeks out what has passed by” (MLB), “God seeks out what has gone by” (NRSV), and “God is ever bringing back what disappears” (Moffatt).
21 tn The phrase “in the past” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.
22 tn Heb “in your youth”; or “in your childhood.”
23 tn Heb “walk in the ways of your heart.”
24 tn Heb “the sight.”
25 tn Heb “and know that concerning all these God will bring you into judgment.” The point is not that following one’s impulses and desires is inherently bad and will bring condemnation from God. Rather the point seems to be: As you follow your impulses and desires, realize that all you think and do will eventually be evaluated by God. So one must seek joy within the boundaries of God’s moral standards.
26 tn The verb סוּר (sur, “to remove”) normally depicts a concrete action of removing a physical object from someone’s presence (HALOT 748 s.v. סור 1). Here, it is used figuratively (hypocatastasis) of the emotional/psychological action of banishing unnecessary emotional stress from one’s mind. The Hiphil usage means “to remove; to abolish; to keep away; to turn away; to push aside” (HALOT 748 s.v. 1). The English versions render this term in a variety of ways, none of which is very poetic: “remove” (KJV, RSV, ASV, NASB); “turn aside” (YLT); “ward off” (NAB); and “banish” (NEB, MLB, NIV, NRSV, NJPS, Moffatt).
27 tn The root “vexation” (כַּעַס, ka’as) has a broad range of meanings: “anger” (Deut 4:25; 9:18), “irritation” (Deut 32:21), “offend” (2 Kgs 23:26; Neh 3:37), “vexation” or “frustration” (Ezek 20:28), “grief” (1 Sam 1:6), and “worry” (Ps 112:10; Eccl 7:9); cf. HALOT 491 s.v. כַּעַס. Here, it refers in general to unnecessary emotional stress and anxiety that can deprive a person of the legitimate enjoyment of life and its temporal benefits.
28 tn Heb “your heart.”
29 tn In light of the parallelism, רָעָה (ra’ah) does not refer to ethical evil, but to physical injury, pain, deprivation or suffering (e.g., Deut 31:17, 21; 32:23; 1 Sam 10:19; Neh 1:3; 2:17; Pss 34:20; 40:13; 88:4; 107:26; Eccl 12:1; Jer 2:27; Lam 3:38); see HALOT 1263 s.v. רָעָה 4.b; BDB 949 s.v. רָעָה 2. This sense is best captured as “pain” (NASB, RSV, NRSV, MLB, Moffatt) or “the troubles [of your body]” (NEB, NIV), rather than “evil” (KJV, ASV, YLT, Douay) or “sorrow” (NJPS).
30 tn Heb “your flesh.”
31 tn Or “childhood.”
32 tn Or “youth”; Heb “black hair” or “the dawn [of life].” The feminine noun הַשַּׁחֲרוּת (hashakharut) is a hapax legomenon, occurring only here. There is debate whether it is from שָׁחֹר (shakhor) which means “black” (i.e. black hair, e.g., Lev 13:31, 37; Song 5:11; HALOT 1465 s.v. שׁחר; BDB 1007 s.v. שָׁחֹר and שָׁחַר) or שַׁחַר (shakhar) which means “dawn” (e.g., Gen 19:15; Job 3:9; Song 6:10; HALOT 1466–67 s.v. שָׁחַר). If this term is from שָׁחֹר it is used in contrast to gray hair that characterizes old age (e.g., Prov 16:31; 20:29). This would be a figure (metonymy of association) for youthfulness. On the other hand, if the term is from שַׁחַר it connotes the “dawn of life” or “prime of life.” This would be a figure (hypocatastasis) for youthfulness. In either case, the term is a figure for “youth” or “prime of life,” as the parallel term הַיַּלְדוּת (hayyaldut, “youth” or “childhood”) indicates. The term is rendered variously in the English versions: “black hair” (NJPS); “the dawn of youth” (NAB); “the dawn of life” (ASV, MLB, RSV, NRSV); “the prime of life” (NEB, NASB); “vigor” (NIV); “youth” (KJV); and “manhood” (Moffatt). The plural forms of הַשַּׁחֲרוּת and הַיַּלְדוּת are examples of the plural of state or condition that a person experiences for a temporary period of time, e.g., זְקֻנִים (zÿqunim, “old age”); נְעוּרִים (nÿ’urim, “youth”); and עֲלוּמִים (’alumim, “youthfulness”); see IBHS 121 §7.4.2b.
33 tn The term הֶבֶל (hevel, “vanity”) often connotes the temporal idea “fleeting” (e.g., Prov 31:30; Eccl 3:19; 6:12; 7:15; 9:9). This nuance is suggested here by the collocation of “youth” (הַיַּלְדוּת, hayyaldut) and “the prime of life” (הַשַּׁחֲרוּת, hashakharut).
34 tn The imperative זְכֹר (zekhor, “Remember!”) is a figurative expression (metonymy of association) for obeying God and acknowledging his lordship over one’s life (e.g., Num 15:40; Deut 8:18; Pss 42:6-7; 63:6-8; 78:42; 103:18; 106:7; 119:52, 55; Jer 51:50; Ezek 20:43; Jonah 2:7; Mal 4:4). The exhortation to fear God and obey his commands in 12:13-14 spells out what it means to “remember” God.
35 tn The temporal adjective עַד (’ad, “before”) appears three times in 12:1-7 (vv. 1b, 2a, 6a). Likewise, the temporal preposition בְּ (bet, “when”) is repeated (vv. 3a, 4b). These seven verses comprise one long sentence in Hebrew: The main clause is 12:1a (“Remember your Creator in the days of your youth”), while 12:1b-7 consists of five subordinate temporal clauses (“before…before…when…when…before…”).
36 tn The adjective רָעָה (ra’ah, “evil”) does not refer here to ethical evil, but to physical difficulty, injury, pain, deprivation and suffering (e.g., Deut 31:17, 21; 32:23; 1 Sam 10:19; Neh 1:3; 2:17; Pss 34:20; 40:13; 88:4; 107:26; Eccl 11:10; Jer 2:27; Lam 3:38); see HALOT 1263 s.v. רָעָה 4.b; BDB 949 s.v. רָעָה 2.
37 sn Eccl 12:9-12 fits the pattern of a concluding colophon that draws from a conventional stock of ancient Near Eastern scribal practices and vocabulary. See M. A. Fishbane, Biblical Interpretation, 29–31.
38 tn Heb “he weighed and studied.” The verbs וְאִזֵּן וְחִקֵּר (vÿ’izzen vekhiqqer, “he weighed and he explored”) form a hendiadys (a figurative expression in which two separate terms used in combination to convey a single idea): “he studiously weighed” or “carefully evaluated.” The verb וְאִזֵּן (conjunction + Piel perfect 3rd person masculine singular from II אָזַן (’azan) “to weigh; to balance”) is related to the noun מֹאזֵן (mo’zen) “balances; scales” used for weighing money or commercial items (e.g., Jer 32:10; Ezek 5:1). This is the only use of the verb in the OT. In this context, it means “to weigh” = “to test; to prove” (BDB 24 s.v. מאזן) or “to balance” (HALOT 27 II אָזַן). Cohen suggests, “He made an examination of the large number of proverbial sayings which had been composed, testing their truth and worth, to select those which he considered deserving of circulation” (A. Cohen, The Five Megilloth [SoBB], 189).
39 tn The verb תָּקַן (taqan, “to make straight”) connotes “to put straight” or “to arrange in order” (HALOT 1784 s.v. תקן; BDB 1075 s.v. תָּקַן).This may refer to Qoheleth’s activity in compiling a collection of wisdom sayings in an orderly manner, or writing the wisdom sayings in a straightforward, direct manner.