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Ecclesiastes 5:1-2

Context
Rash Vows

5:1 1 Be careful what you do 2  when you go to the temple 3  of God;

draw near to listen 4  rather than to offer a sacrifice 5  like fools, 6 

for they do not realize that they are doing wrong.

5:2 Do not be rash with your mouth or hasty in your heart to bring up a matter before God,

for God is in heaven and you are on earth!

Therefore, let your words be few.

Ecclesiastes 5:4-5

Context

5:4 When you make a vow 7  to God, do not delay in paying it. 8 

For God 9  takes no pleasure in fools:

Pay what you vow!

5:5 It is better for you not to vow

than to vow and not pay it. 10 

1 sn Beginning with 5:1, the verse numbers through 5:20 in the English Bible differ by one from the verse numbers in the Hebrew text (BHS), with 5:1 ET = 4:17 HT, 5:2 ET = 5:1 HT, etc., through 5:20 ET = 5:19 HT. Beginning with 6:1 the verse numbers in the English Bible and the Hebrew Bible are again the same.

2 tn Heb “Guard your feet.” The Kethib is the plural רַגְלֶיךָ (raglekha, “your feet”), while the Qere is the singular רַגְלְךָ (raglÿkha, “your foot”), which is preserved in several medieval Hebrew mss and is reflected in the versions (LXX, Aramaic Targum, Vulgate, Syriac Peshitta). For example, the LXX reads πόδα σου (poda sou, “your foot”) which reflects רַגְלְךָ.

sn The exhortation, “Guard your feet” is an idiom for “Watch your steps,” i.e., “Be careful what you do.” This is a compound figure: “foot” is a metonymy for “step,” and “step” is a metonymy for “action” (e.g., Job 12:5; 23:11; 31:5; Pss 119:59, 101, 105; Prov 1:16; 3:23; 4:26-27; 6:18; 19:2; Isa 58:13; 59:7; Jer 14:10). For example, “I have refrained my feet from every evil way” (Ps 119:101); see E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 648.

3 tn Heb “the house of God.” The term “house” (בַּיִת, bayit) is a synecdoche of general (i.e., house) for specific (i.e., temple), e.g., 1 Kgs 6:3; 7:12; 1 Chr 9:11; 2 Chr 3:8; 28:11. See E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 620.

4 tn Alternately, “to obey.” The term לִשְׁמֹעַ (lishmoa’, preposition + Qal infinitive construct from שָׁמַע, shama’, “to hear”) may be taken in one of two ways: (1) literal: “to listen” in contrast to speak or (2) figurative (metonymy of cause for effect) “to obey” in contrast to sacrifice (HALOT 1572 s.v. שׁמע 4; BDB 1033–34 s.v. שָׁמַע). The LXX took the term in the literal sense: τοῦ ἀκούειν (tou akouein, “to listen”). The English versions reflect both literal and figurative options: “obedience” (NJPS, Douay, NAB, NEB) versus “to hear [or listen]” (KJV, ASV, YLT, MLB, RSV, NASB, NIV, NRSV). The section warns against rash vows therefore, the nuance “to listen” is more appropriate: the wise man will be slow to speak and quick to listen in the presence of God; however, the fool is unrestrained and speaks rashly.

5 tn The term “sacrifice” (זֶבַח, zevakh) is the general term that refers to the thank offering and free will offering (Lev 7:12, 16). This section focuses on making vows in prayer and fulfilling them, such as the vow offering. The term “sacrifice” functions as a synecdoche of general (i.e., sacrifice) for specific (i.e., vow offering).

6 tn Heb “the fools, a sacrifice.” The term “fools” (הַכְּסִילִים, hakkÿsilim) is an adverbial accusative of comparison (e.g., GKC 375 §118.r): “rather than giving a sacrifice like fools” (מִתֵּת הַכְּסִילִים זָבַח, mittet hakkÿsilim zavakh). Contextually, the “sacrifice” is a rash vow made to God that is not fulfilled. The rash vow is referred to in 5:2 as the “voice of a fool.” Qoheleth admonishes the fool against making a rash vow that is not paid: “When you make a vow to God, do not delay in paying it; for God takes no pleasure in fools: Pay what you vow! It is better for you not to vow than to vow and not pay it” (vv. 4-5 [3-4 HT]).

7 tn Heb “vow a vow.” The phrase תִּדֹּר נֶדֶר (tiddor neder, “to vow a vow”) is a Hebrew idiom in which the root נדר is repeated for emphasis. The construction is a cognate accusative (see IBHS 166-67 §10.2.1f). The verb נָדַר (nadar, “to vow”) refers to the action of making a solemn promise to the Lord to perform an action or offer a sacrifice, e.g., Lev 27:8; Num 6:21; 30:11; Deut 23:23-24; Jonah 2:10; Mal 1:14; Pss 76:12; 132:2; see HALOT 674 s.v. נדר. The noun נֶדֶר (“vow”) was a gift or offering promised to be given to the Lord (Num 30:3; Deut 12:11; 23:19; Isa 19:12; Nah 2:1 [ET 1:15]; Ps 61:6, 9); see HALOT 674–75 s.v. נֵדֶר. It usually was a sacrifice or free-will offering (Deut 12:6; Ps 66:13) that was often promised during times of pressure (Judg 11:30; 1 Sam 1:11; 2 Sam 15:7-8; Pss 22:25; 66:13; 116:14, 18; Jonah 2:9).

8 tn The term לְשַׁלְּמוֹ (lÿshallÿmo, preposition + Piel infinitive construct from שָׁלַם, shalam + 3rd person masculine singular suffix) is derived from the root שׁלם which is used in a general sense of paying a debt (2 Kgs 4:7; Ps 37:21; Prov 22:27; Job 41:3), and more specifically of fulfilling a vow to the Lord (Deut 23:22; 2 Sam 15:7; Pss 22:26; 50:14; 61:9; 66:13; 76:12; 116:14, 18; Prov 7:14; Job 22:27; Isa 19:21; Jonah 2:10; Nah 2:1); see HALOT 1535 s.v. שׁלם 3a; BDB 1022 s.v. שָׁלֵם 4. An Israelite was never required to make a vow, but once made, it had to be paid (Lev 22:18-25; 27:1-13; Num 15:2-10; Nah 1:15 [2:1 HT]).

9 tn Heb “he”; the referent (“God”) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

10 tn The word “it” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.



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