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Ecclesiastes 7:2-5

Context

7:2 It is better to go to a funeral 1 

than a feast. 2 

For death 3  is the destiny 4  of every person, 5 

and the living should 6  take this 7  to heart.

7:3 Sorrow 8  is better than laughter,

because sober reflection 9  is good for the heart. 10 

7:4 The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,

but the heart of fools is in the house of merrymaking. 11 

Frivolous Living Versus Wisdom

7:5 It is better for a person to receive 12  a rebuke from those who are wise 13 

than to listen to the song 14  of fools.

1 tn Heb “house of mourning.” The phrase refers to a funeral where the deceased is mourned.

2 tn Heb “house of drinking”; or “house of feasting.” The Hebrew noun מִשְׁתֶּה (mishteh) can denote (1) “feast; banquet,” occasion for drinking-bouts (1 Sam 25:36; Isa 5:12; Jer 51:39; Job 1:5; Esth 2:18; 5:14; 8:17; 9:19) or (2) “drink” (exilic/postexilic – Ezra 3:7; Dan 1:5, 8, 16); see HALOT 653 s.v. מִשְׁתֶּה 4; BDB 1059 s.v. שָׁתַה.

sn Qoheleth recommended that people soberly reflect on the brevity of life and the reality of death (It is better to go to a house of mourning) than to waste one’s life in the foolish pursuit of pleasure (than to go to a house of banqueting). Sober reflection on the brevity of life and reality of death has more moral benefit than frivolous levity.

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

4 tn Heb “the end.” The noun סוֹף (sof) literally means “end; conclusion” (HALOT 747 s.v. סוֹף 1; BDB 693 s.v. סוֹף). It is used in this context in reference to death, as the preceding phrase “house of mourning” (i.e., funeral) suggests.

5 tn Heb “all men” or “every man.”

6 tn The imperfect tense verb יִתֵּן, yitten (from נָתָן, natan, “to give”) functions in a modal sense, denoting obligation, that is, the subject’s obligatory or necessary conduct: “should” or “ought to” (see R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 31-32, §172; IBHS 508-9 §31.4g).

7 tn The word “this” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for smoothness.

8 tn NEB suggests “grief”; NJPS, “vexation.”

9 tn Heb “in sadness of face there is good for the heart.”

10 tn Or possibly “Though the face is sad, the heart may be glad.”

11 sn The expression the house of merrymaking refers to a banquet where those who attend engage in self-indulgent feasting and riotous drinking.

12 tn Heb “hear.”

13 tn Heb “rebuke of the wise,” a subjective genitive (“the wise” administer the rebuke).

14 tn Or “praise.” The antithetical parallelism between “rebuke” (גַּעֲרַת, gaarat) and “song” (שִׁיר, shir) suggests that the latter is figurative (metonymy of association) for praise/flattery which is “music” to the ears: “praise of fools” (NEB, NJPS) and “flattery of fools” (Douay). However, the collocation of “song” (שִׁיר) in 7:5 with “laughter” (שְׂחֹק, sÿkhoq) in 7:6 suggests simply frivolous merrymaking: “song of fools” (KJV, NASB, NIV, ASV, RSV, NRSV).



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