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Ecclesiastes 6:2

Context

6:2 God gives a man riches, property, and wealth

so that he lacks nothing that his heart 1  desires, 2 

yet God does not enable 3  him to enjoy 4  the fruit of his labor 5 

instead, someone else 6  enjoys 7  it! 8 

This is fruitless and a grave misfortune. 9 

Ecclesiastes 8:10

Context
Contradictions to the Law of Retribution

8:10 Not only that, 10  but I have seen the wicked approaching 11  and entering the temple, 12 

and as they left the holy temple, 13  they

boasted 14  in the city that they had done so.

This also is an enigma. 15 

Ecclesiastes 8:14

Context

8:14 Here is 16  another 17  enigma 18  that occurs on earth:

Sometimes there are righteous people who get what the wicked deserve, 19 

and sometimes there are wicked people who get what the righteous deserve. 20 

I said, “This also is an enigma.”

1 tn Heb “his appetite.”

2 tn Heb “There is no lack in respect to his appetite”; or “his desire lacks nothing.”

3 tn The verb שָׁלַט (shalat) in the Qal stem means “to domineer; to dominate; to lord it over; to be master of” and in the Hiphil stem “to give power to” (BDB 1020 s.v. שָׁלַט) and “to grant” (HALOT 1522 s.v. שׁלט). God must grant a person the ability to enjoy the fruit of his labor, otherwise a person will not be able to enjoy his possessions and wealth. The ability to partake of the fruit of one’s labor and to find satisfaction and joy in it is a gift from God (e.g., Eccl 2:24-26; 3:13; 5:18 [19]; 9:7).

4 tn Heb “to eat of it.” The verb אָכַל (’akhal, “to eat”) functions as a metonymy of association, that is, the action of eating is associated with the enjoyment of the fruit of one’s labor (e.g., Eccl 2:24-26; 3:12-13, 22; 5:17-19; 8:15; 9:9).

5 tn The phrase “the fruit of his labor” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.

6 tn Heb “a stranger.” The Hebrew expression אִיש נָכְרִי (’ish nokhri, “stranger”) sometimes refers not to a foreigner or someone that the person does not know, but simply to someone else other than the subject (e.g., Prov 27:2). In the light of 6:3-6, it might even refer to the man’s own heirs. The term is used as a synecdoche of species (foreigner for stranger) in the sense of someone else other than the subject: “someone else” (BDB 649 s.v. נָכְרִי 3).

7 tn Heb “eats.”

8 sn Instead, someone else enjoys it. A person may be unable to enjoy the fruit of his/her labor due to an unfortunate turn of events that robs a person of his possessions (5:13-14) or a miserly, lifelong hoarding of one’s wealth that robs him of the ability to enjoy what he has worked so hard to acquire (5:15-17). Qoheleth recommends the enjoyment of life and the fruit of one’s labor, as God enables (5:18-20). Unfortunately, the ability to enjoy the fruits of one’s labor is often thwarted by the obstacles described in 6:1-2 and 6:3-9.

9 tn Heb “an evil sickness.”

10 tn Heb “Then…” The construction בְכֵן (vÿkhen) means “then; thereupon; on this condition” (cf. Eccl 8:10; Esth 4:16; Sir 13:7; see GKC 384 §119.ii; BDB 486 s.v. כֵּן 3.b; HALOT 483 s.v. כֵּן 8.c). The line could be rendered, “It is was then that I saw.”

11 tc There are three textual options: (1) The MT reads קְבֻרִים וָבָאוּ וּמִמְּקוֹם (qÿvurim vavau umimmÿqom, “they were buried, and they came, and from the place”). קְבֻרִים is a Qal passive participle mpl from קָבַר, qavar, “to bury.” The MT reading is retained by most translations: “[And so I saw the wicked] buried, who had come and gone from the place [of the holy]” (KJV); “[Then I saw the wicked] buried; they used to go in and out of the [holy] place” (RSV, NRSV); “[I saw how the wicked] were buried, who had gone in and out from the [holy] place” (MLB); “[I have seen the wicked] buried, those who used to go in and out from the [holy] place” (NASB); “[Then too, I saw the wicked] buried – those who used to come and go from the [holy] place” (NIV); and “[And then I saw] scoundrels coming from the [Holy] Site and being brought to burial” (NJPS). (2) The LXX reflects the reading קְבָרִים מוּבָאִים וּמִמְּקוֹם (qÿvarim muvaim umimmÿqom, “to the tombs they are brought, and from the place”). The LXX reflects the consonantal text of קברים but τάφους (tafous, “tombs”) reflects a vocalization tradition of קְבָרִים (“tombs”). (3) Several scholars suggest emending the text to קרבים ובאים וממקום (“approaching and coming to the place”). The emendation involves קרבִים (Qal active participle mpl from קרב “to approach; to draw near”). The emendation is adopted by several English versions: “I saw wicked men approach and enter…the sacred place” (NAB); “I saw wicked men approaching and even entering the holy place” (NEB). The emendation makes good sense because קָרַב (qarav, “to approach; to draw near”) is a synonym to בּוֹא (bo’, “to enter”), and is often used in reference to a person approaching the Lord at the tabernacle or temple. The textual corruption would be due to transposition of ב (bet) and ר (resh) in קָרַב (qarav, “to approach”) and קָבַר (qavar, “to bury”). See D. Barthélemy, Preliminary and Interim Report on the Hebrew Old Testament Text Project, 3:584.

12 tn The phrase “the temple” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity and smoothness. Note the reference to the sanctuary in the next line.

13 tn Heb “the holy place.”

14 tc The MT reads וְיִשְׁתַּכְּחוּ (vÿyishtakkÿkhu, “and they were forgotten”; Hitpael imperfect 3rd person masculine plural from שָׁכַח, shakhakh, “to forget”). Apart from the MT reading here, the verb שָׁכַח “to forget” never occurs elsewhere in the Hitpael (HALOT 1490 s.v. I שׁכח; BDB 1013 s.v. שָׁכַח). Many medieval Hebrew mss read וישׁתבּחו “and they boasted” (Hitpael imperfect 3rd person masculine singular from שָׁבַח, shavakh, “praise, boast”). This alternate textual tradition is reflected in the Greek versions, e.g., Old Greek: και ἐπῃνέθησαν (kai ephneqhsan, “and they were praised”), Aquila and Theodotion: και ἐκαυχήσαντο (kai ekauchsanto, “and they boasted”), and Symmachus: και ἐπαινούμενοι (kai epainoumenoi, “and they were praised”). This is also reflected in the Vulgate. The English versions are divided; several follow the MT and translate “they were forgotten” (KJV, ASV, NASB, MLB, NJPS), but a good number adopt the alternate textual tradition and translate either “they were praised” or “they boasted” (NEB, RSV, NAB, NIV, NRSV). The context of 8:10-17, which focuses on the enigmatic contradictions in divine retribution (sometimes the wicked are not punished), favors the alternate tradition. The wicked boast that they can come and go as they please in the temple, flaunting their irreligion without fearing divine retribution (8:10). This thought is continued in v. 11: failure to execute a sentence against a criminal emboldens the wicked to commit more crimes, confident they will not suffer retribution. It is likely that the original reading of וישׁתבחו was confused for וישׁתכחו because the root שָׁבַח (“to praise; to boast”) is much rarer than the common root שָׁכַח (“to forget”). The phrase is best rendered “they boasted” (NEB: “priding themselves”) rather than “they were praised” (NAB, RSV, NRSV, NIV) – the verb שָׁבַח means “to praise” in Piel, but “to boast” in Hitpael (Ps 106:47; 1 Chr 16:35; HALOT 1387 s.v. I שׁבח; BDB 986 s.v. שָׁבַח). This approach is adopted by the committee for the Jerusalem Hebrew Bible Project: see D. Barthélemy, ed., Preliminary and Interim Report on the Hebrew Old Testament Text Project, 3:584–85.

15 tn The term הֶבֶל (hevel) here means “enigmatic,” that is, difficult to grasp mentally. This sense is derived from the literal concept of breath, vapor or wind that cannot be seen; thus, the idea of “obscure, dark, difficult to understand, enigmatic” (HALOT 236–37 s.v. I הֶבֶל; BDB 210–11 s.v. I הֶבֶל). It is used in this sense in reference to enigmas in life (6:2; 8:10, 14) and the future which is obscure (11:8, 10).

16 tn Heb “there is.” The term יֶשׁ (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]).

17 tn The word “another” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity and smoothness.

18 tn Or “vanity” (again at the end of this verse). The Hebrew term הֶבֶל (hevel) here denotes “enigma,” that is, something that is difficult to understand. This sense is derived from the literal referent of breath, vapor or wind that cannot be seen; thus, “obscure; dark; difficult to understand; enigmatic” (see HALOT 236–37 s.v. I הֶבֶל; BDB 210–11 s.v. I הֶבֶל). It is used in this sense in reference to enigmas in life (6:2; 8:10, 14) and the future which is obscure (11:8, 10).

19 tn Heb “to whom it happens according to the deeds of the wicked”; or “who are punished for the deeds of the wicked.”

20 tn Heb “to whom it happens according to the deeds of the righteous”; or “who are rewarded for the deeds of the righteous.”



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