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Ecclesiastes 3:1

Context
A Time for All Events in Life

3:1 For everything 1  there is an appointed time, 2 

and an appropriate time 3  for every activity 4  on earth: 5 

Ecclesiastes 3:17

Context

3:17 I thought to myself, “God will judge both the righteous and the wicked;

for there is an appropriate time for every activity,

and there is a time of judgment 6  for every deed.

Ecclesiastes 5:7

Context

5:7 Just as there is futility in many dreams,

so also in many words. 7 

Therefore, fear God!

Ecclesiastes 8:6

Context

8:6 For there is a proper time and procedure for every matter,

for the oppression 8  of the king 9  is severe upon his victim. 10 

1 tn Verse 1 is arranged in an ABB’A’ chiasm (לַכֹּל זְמָן וְעֵת לְכָל־חֵפֶץ, lakkol zÿman vÿet lÿkhol-khefets): (A) “for everything”; (B) “a season”; (B’) “a time”; (A’) “for every matter.” The terms “season” (זְמָן, zÿman) and “time” (עֵת, ’et) are parallel. In the light of its parallelism with “every matter” (כָל־חֵפֶץ, khol-khefets), the term “everything” (כָל, khol) must refer to events and situations in life.

2 tn The noun זְמָן (zÿman) denotes “appointed time” or “appointed hour” (HALOT 273 s.v. זְמָן; BDB 273 s.v. זְמָן; see Eccl 3:1; Esth 9:27, 31; Neh 2:6; Sir 43:7), e.g., the appointed or designated time for the Jewish feasts (Esth 9:27, 31), the length of time that Nehemiah set for his absence from Susa (Neh 2:6), and the appointed times in the Jewish law for the months to begin (Sir 43:7). It is used in parallelism with מועד (“appointed time”), i.e., מועד ירח (“the appointed time of the moon”) parallels זמני חק (“the appointed times of the law”; Sir 43:7). The related verb, a Pual of זָמַן (zaman), means “to be appointed” (HALOT 273 s.v. זְמָן); e.g. Ezra 10:14; Neh 10:35; 13:31. These terms may be related to the noun I זִמָּה (zimmah, “plan; intention”; Job 17:11; HALOT 272 s.v. I זִמָּה) and מְזִמָּה (mÿzimmah, “purpose; plan; project”), e.g., the purposes of God (Job 42:2; Jer 23:20; 30:24; 51:11) and man’s plan (Isa 5:12); see HALOT 566 s.v. מְזִמָּה; BDB 273 s.v. מְזִמָּה.

sn Verses 1-8 refer to God’s appointed time-table for human activities or actions whose most appropriate time is determined by men. Verses 9-15 state that God is ultimately responsible for the time in which events in human history occur. This seems to provide a striking balance between the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man. Man does what God has willed, but man also does what he “pleases” (see note on the word “matter” in 3:1).

3 tn The noun עֵת (’et, “point in time”) has a basic two-fold range of meanings: (1) “time of an event” and (2) “time for an event” (BDB 773 s.v. עֵת). The latter has subcategories: (a) “usual time,” (b) “the proper, suitable or appropriate time,” (c) “the appointed time,” and (d) “uncertain time” (Eccl 9:11). Here it connotes “a proper, suitable time for an event” (HALOT 900 s.v. עֵת 6; BDB s.v. עֵת 2.b). Examples: “the time for rain” (Ezra 10:13), “a time of judgment for the nations” (Ezek 30:3), “an appropriate time for every occasion” (Eccl 3:1), “the time when mountain goats are born” (Job 39:1), “the rain in its season” (Deut 11:14; Jer 5:24), “the time for the harvest” (Hos 2:11; Ps 1:3), “food in its season” (Ps 104:27), “no one knows his hour of destiny” (Eccl 9:12), “the right moment” (Eccl 8:5); cf. HALOT 900 s.v. עֵת 6.

4 tn The noun חֵפֶץ (khefets, here “matter, business”) has a broad range of meanings: (1) “delight; joy,” (2) “desire; wish; longing,” (3) “the good pleasure; will; purpose,” (4) “precious stones” (i.e., jewelry), i.e., what someone takes delight in, and (5) “matter; business,” as a metonymy of adjunct to what someone takes delight in (Eccl 3:1, 17; 5:7; 8:6; Isa 53:10; 58:3, 13; Pss 16:3; 111:2; Prov 31:13); see HALOT 340 s.v. חֵפֶץ 4; BDB 343 s.v. חֵפֶץ 4. It is also sometimes used in reference to the “good pleasure” of God, that is, his sovereign plan, e.g., Judg 13:23; Isa 44:28; 46:10; 48:14 (BDB 343 s.v. חֵפֶץ). While the theme of the sovereignty of God permeates Eccl 3:1–4:3, the content of 3:1-8 refers to human activities that are planned and purposed by man. The LXX translated it with πράγματι (pragmati, “matter”). The term is translated variously by modern English versions: “every purpose” (KJV, ASV), “every event” (NASB), “every delight” (NASB margin), “every affair” (NAB), “every matter” (RSV, NRSV), “every activity” (NEB, NIV), “every project” (MLB), and “every experience” (NJPS).

5 tn Heb “under heaven.”

6 tn The phrase “a time of judgment” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.

7 tn The syntax of this verse is difficult. Perhaps the best approach is to classify the vav on וַהֲבָלִים (vahavalim, “futilities”) as introducing the predicate (e.g., Gen 40:9; 2 Sam 23:3; Prov 10:25; Isa 34:12; Job 4:6; 36:26); BDB 255 s.v. ו 5.c.γ: “There is futility….” The phrase בְרֹב הֲלֹמוֹת (vÿrob halomot) is an adverbial modifier (“in many dreams”), as is דְבָרִים הַרְבֵּה (dÿvarim harbeh, “many words”). The vav prefixed to וּדְבָרִים (udÿvarim) and the juxtaposition of the two lines suggests a comparison: “just as…so also…” (BDB 253 s.v. ו 1.j). The English versions reflect a variety of approaches: “In the multitude of dreams and many words there are also diverse vanities” (KJV); “In the multitude of dreams there are vanities, and in many words” (ASV); “When dreams increase, empty words grow many” (RSV); “In many dreams and follies and many words” (MLB); “In the abundance of dreams both vanities and words abound” (YLT); “Where there are many dreams, there are many vanities, and words without number” (Douay); “Many dreams and words mean many a vain folly” (Moffatt); “Much dreaming leads to futility and to superfluous talk” (NJPS); “In many dreams and in many words there is emptiness” (NASB); “Much dreaming and many words are meaningless” (NIV); “With many dreams comes vanities and a multitude of words” (NRSV).

8 tn Heb “evil”; or “misery.”

9 tn Heb “the man.”

10 tn Heb “upon him.”



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