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Ecclesiastes 5:4-6

Context

5:4 When you make a vow 1  to God, do not delay in paying it. 2 

For God 3  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. 4 

5:6 Do not let your mouth cause you 5  to sin,

and do not tell the priest, 6  “It was a mistake!” 7 

Why make God angry at you 8 

so that he would destroy the work of your hands?”

1 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).

2 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]).

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

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

5 tn Heb “your flesh.” The term בָּשָׂר (basar, “flesh”) is a synecdoche of part (i.e., flesh) for the whole (i.e., whole person), e.g., Gen 2:21; 6:12; Ps 56:4[5]; 65:2[3]; 145:21; Isa 40:5, 6; see HALOT 164 s.v. בָּשָׂר; E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 642.

6 tc The MT reads הַמַּלְאָךְ (hammalakh, “messenger”), while the LXX reads τοῦ θεοῦ (tou qeou, “God”) which reflects an alternate textual tradition of הָאֱלֹהִים (haelohim, “God”). The textual problem was caused by orthographic confusion between similarly spelled words. The LXX might have been trying to make sense of a difficult expression. The MT is preferred as the original. All the major translations follow the MT except for Moffatt (“God”).

tn Heb “the messenger.” The term מַלְאָךְ (malakh, “messenger”) refers to a temple priest (e.g., Mal 2:7; cf. HALOT 585 s.v. מַלְאָךְ 2.b; BDB 521 s.v. מַלְאָךְ 1.c). The priests recorded what Israelite worshipers vowed (Lev 27:14-15). When an Israelite delayed in fulfilling a vow, a priest would remind him to pay what he had vowed. Although the traditional rabbinic view is that Qoheleth refers to an angelic superintendent over the temple, Rashi suggested that it is a temple-official. Translations reflect both views: “his representative” (NAB), “the temple messenger” (NIV), “the messenger” (RSV, NRSV, NASB, MLB, NJPS), “the angel” (KJV, ASV, Douay) and “the angel of God” (NEB).

7 tn The Hebrew noun שְׁגָגָה (shÿgagah) denotes “error; mistake” and refers to a sin of inadvertence or unintentional sin (e.g., Lev 4:2, 22, 27; 5:18; 22:14; Num 15:24-29; 35:11, 15; Josh 20:3, 9; Eccl 5:5; 10:5); see HALOT 1412 s.v. שְׁגָגָה; BDB 993 s.v. שְׁגָגָה. In this case, it refers to a rash vow thoughtlessly made, which the foolish worshiper claims was a mistake (e.g., Prov 20:25).

8 tn Heb “at your voice.” This is an example of metonymy (i.e., your voice) of association (i.e., you).



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