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Ecclesiastes 8:2-5


8:2 Obey the king’s command, 1 

because you took 2  an oath before God 3  to be loyal to him. 4 

8:3 Do not rush out of the king’s presence in haste – do not delay when the matter is unpleasant, 5 

for he can do whatever he pleases.

8:4 Surely the king’s authority 6  is absolute; 7 

no one can say 8  to him, “What are you doing?”

8:5 Whoever obeys his 9  command will not experience harm,

and a wise person 10  knows the proper time 11  and procedure.

1 tc The Leningrad Codex (the basis of BHS) reads אֲנִי (’ani, 1st person common singular independent personal pronoun): “I obey the king’s command.” Other medieval Hebrew mss and all the versions (LXX, Vulgate, Targum, Syriac Peshitta) preserve an alternate textual tradition of the definite accusative marker אֶת־ (’et) introducing the direct object: אֶת־פִּי־מֶלֶךְ שְׁמוֹר (’et-pi-melekh shÿmor, “Obey the command of the king”). External evidence supports the alternate textual tradition. The MT is guilty of simple orthographic confusion between similar looking letters. The BHS editors and the Hebrew Old Testament Text Project adopt אֶת־ as the original reading. See D. Barthélemy, ed., Preliminary and Interim Report on the Hebrew Old Testament Text Project, 3:582–83.

2 tn The phrase “you took” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for smoothness.

3 tn The genitive-construct שְׁבוּעַת אֱלֹהִים (shÿvuatelohim, “an oath of God”) functions as a genitive of location (“an oath before God”) or an adjectival genitive of attribute (“a supreme oath”).

4 tn The words “to be loyal to him” do not appear in the Hebrew text, but are supplied in the translation for clarification.

5 tn Or “do not stand up for a bad cause.”

6 tn Heb “word.”

7 tn Heb “supreme.”

8 tn Heb “Who can say…?”

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

10 tn Heb “the heart of a wise man.”

11 tn The term עֵת (’et, “time”) connotes “a proper, suitable time for an event; the right moment” (HALOT 900 s.v. עֵת 6; BDB 773 s.v. עֵת 2.b); e.g., “it was the time for rain” (Ezra 10:13); “a time of judgment for the nations” (Ezek 30:3); “there is an appropriate time for every occasion” (Eccl 3:1); “the time when mountain goats are born” (Job 39:1); “the rain in its season” (Deut 11:14; Jer 5:24); “the time for the harvest” (Hos 2:11; Ps 1:3); “food in its season” (Ps 104:27).

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