6:12 For no one knows what is best for a person during his life 1 –
during the few days of his fleeting life –
for 2 they pass away 3 like a shadow.
Nor can anyone tell him what the future will hold for him on earth. 4
7:15 During the days of my fleeting life 5 I have seen both 6 of these things:
Sometimes 7 a righteous person dies prematurely 8 in spite of 9 his righteousness,
and sometimes 10 a wicked person lives long 11 in spite of his evil deeds.
9:9 Enjoy 12 life with your beloved wife 13 during all the days of your fleeting 14 life
that God 15 has given you on earth 16 during all your fleeting days; 17
for that is your reward in life and in your burdensome work 18 on earth. 19
1 tn Heb “For who knows what is good for a man in life?” The rhetorical question (“For who knows…?”) is a negative affirmation, expecting a negative answer: “For no one knows…!” (see E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 949-51). The translation renders this rhetorical device as a positive affirmation.
2 tn The vav prefixed to וְיַעֲשֵׂם (vÿya’asem, conjunction + Qal imperfect 3rd person masculine singular from עָשַׂה, ’asah, “to do” + 3rd person masculine plural suffix) functions in an explanatory or epexegetical sense (“For …”).
3 tn The 3rd person masculine plural suffix on the verb וְיַעֲשֵׂם (vÿya’asem, conjunction + Qal imperfect 3rd person masculine singular from ָָעשַׂה, ’asah, “to do” + 3rd person masculine plural suffix) refers to מִסְפַּר יְמֵי־חַיֵּי הֶבְלוֹ (mispar yÿme-khayye hevlo, “the few days of his fleeting life”). The suffix may be taken as an objective genitive: “he spends them [i.e., the days of his life] like a shadow” (HALOT 891 s.v. I ָָעשַׂה 8) or as a subjective genitive: “they [i.e., the days of his life] pass like a shadow” (BDB 795 s.v. ָָעשַׂה II.11).
4 tn Heb “Who can tell the man what shall be after him under the sun?” The rhetorical question (“For who can tell him…?”) is a negative affirmation, expecting a negative answer: “For no one can tell him…!” (see E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 949-51). The translation renders this rhetorical device as a positive affirmation.
5 tn The word “life” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for smoothness and clarity.
6 tn As is the case throughout Ecclesiastes, the term הַכֹּל (hakkol) should be nuanced “both” rather than “all.”
7 tn Heb “There is.” The term יֵשׁ (yesh, “there is”) is often used in aphorisms to assert the existence of a particular situation that occurs sometimes. It may indicate that the situation is not the rule but that it does occur on occasion, and may be nuanced “sometimes” (Prov 11:24; 13:7, 23; 14:12; 16:25; 18:24; 20:15; Eccl 2:21; 4:8; 5:12; 6:1; 7:15 [2x]; 8:14 [3x]).
8 tn Heb “perishes.”
9 tn Or “in his righteousness.” The preposition בְּ (bet) on the terms בְּצִרְקוֹ (bÿtsirqo, “his righteousness”) and בְּרָעָתוֹ (bÿra’ato, “his evil-doing”) in the following line are traditionally taken in a locative sense: “in his righteousness” and “in his wickedness” (KJV, NASB, NIV). However, it is better to take the בְּ (bet) in the adversative sense “in spite of” (e.g., Lev 26:27; Num 14:11; Deut 1:32; Isa 5:25; 9:11, 16, 20; 10:4; 16:14; 47:9; Pss 27:3; 78:32; Ezra 3:3); cf. HALOT 104 s.v. בְּ 7; BDB 90 s.v. בְּ 3.7. NJPS renders it well: “Sometimes a good man perishes in spite of his goodness, and sometimes a wicked one endures in spite of his wickedness.” In a similar vein, D. R. Glenn (“Ecclesiastes,” BKCOT, 993–94) writes: “The word ‘in’ in the phrases ‘in his righteousness’ and ‘in his wickedness’ can here mean ‘in spite of.’ These phrases…argue against the common view that in 7:16 Solomon was warning against legalistic or Pharisaic self-righteousness. Such would have been a sin and would have been so acknowledged by Solomon who was concerned about true exceptions to the doctrine of retribution, not supposed ones (cf. 8:10–14 where this doctrine is discussed again).”
10 tn Heb “There is.” The term יֵשׁ (yesh,“there is”) is often used in aphorisms to assert the existence of a particular situation that occurs sometimes. It may indicate that the situation is not the rule but that it does occur on occasion, and may be nuanced “sometimes” (Prov 11:24; 13:7, 23; 14:12; 16:25; 18:24; 20:15; Eccl 2:21; 4:8; 5:12; 6:1; 7:15 [2x]; 8:14 [3x]).
11 tn Heb “a wicked man endures.”
12 tn Heb “see.”
13 tn Heb “the wife whom you love.”
14 tn As discussed in the note on the word “futile” in 1:2, the term הֶבֶל (hevel) has a wide range of meanings, and should not be translated the same in every place (see HALOT 236–37 s.v. I הֶבֶל; BDB 210–11 s.v. I הבֶל). The term is used in two basic ways in OT, literally and figuratively. The literal, concrete sense is used in reference to the wind, man’s transitory breath, evanescent vapor (Isa 57:13; Pss 62:10; 144:4; Prov 21:6; Job 7:16). In this sense, it is often a synonym for “breath; wind” (Eccl 1:14; Isa 57:13; Jer 10:14). The literal sense lent itself to the metaphorical sense. Because breath/vapor/wind is transitory and fleeting, the figurative connotation “fleeting; transitory” arose (e.g., Prov 31:30; Eccl 6:12; 7:15; 9:9; 11:10; Job 7:16). In this sense, it is parallel to “few days” and “[days] which he passes like a shadow” (Eccl 6:12). It is used in reference to youth and vigor (11:10) or life (6:12; 7:15; 9:9) which are “transitory” or “fleeting.” In this context, the most appropriate meaning is “fleeting.”
15 tn Heb “he”; the referent (God) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
16 tn Heb “under the sun”
17 tc The phrase כָּל יְמֵי הֶבְלֶךָ (kol yÿme hevlekha, “all your fleeting days”) is present in the MT, but absent in the Greek versions, other medieval Hebrew
18 tn Heb “in your toil in which you toil.”
19 tn Heb “under the sun.”