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Ecclesiastes 8:9


8:9 While applying 1  my mind 2  to everything 3  that happens in this world, 4  I have seen all this:

Sometimes one person 5  dominates 6  other people 7  to their harm. 8 

Ecclesiastes 8:16

Limitations of Human Wisdom

8:16 When I tried 9  to gain 10  wisdom

and to observe the activity 11  on earth –

even though it prevents anyone from sleeping day or night 12 

1 tn The term נָתוֹן (naton, Qal infinitive absolute from נָתַן , natan, “to give”) is a verbal use of the infinitive absolute, used with vav to indicate an action that took place simultaneous to the main verb (see IBHS 596-97 §35.5.2d). Thus, the clause וְנָתוֹן אֶת־לִבִּי (vÿnatonet-libbi, “while applying my mind…”) indicates contemporaneous action to the clause, “All this I have seen” (אֶת־כָּל־זֶה רָאִיתִי, ’et-kol-zeh raiti). This is view is taken by several translations: “All this I have seen, having applied my mind to” (NEB); “All this I observed while applying my mind to” (RSV); “All this I saw, as I applied my mind to” (NIV); “All this I saw, as thoughtfully I pondered” (Moffatt). On the other hand, the LXX vav is taken in a coordinating sense (“and”) and the infinitive absolute as an independent verb: Και συμπαν τουτο εἰδον, και ἐδωκα την καρδιαν μου εἰς (“I saw all this, and I applied my heart to”). This reading is adopted by other English versions: “All this I have seen, and applied my heart” (KJV); “All these things I considered and I applied my mind” (NAB); “All this have I seen, and applied my heart unto” (ASV); “All this I have seen and applied my mind to” (NASB); “All these things I observed; I noted” (NJPS).

2 tn Heb “my heart.”

3 tn Heb “every work”; or “every deed.”

4 tn Heb “that is done under the sun.” The phrase “that is done under the sun” (אֲשֶׁר נַעֲשָׂה תַּחַת הַשָּׁמֶשׁ, ’asher naasah takhat hashamesh) is an idiom for “what happens in this world” or “on the earth” (BDB 1039 s.v. שֶׁמֶשׁ 4.c). Moffatt renders this idiom, “what goes on within this world.”

5 tn Heb “the man.” The article on הָאָדָם (haadam, “the man”) can be taken in a particularizing sense (“one person”) or in a collective sense as humankind as a whole (“humankind”); see HALOT 14 s.v. I אָדָם 1; BDB 9 s.v. אָדָם 2. So LXX: “All the things in which man has power over [his fellow] man to afflict him.” This is adopted by the RSV (“man lords it over man to his hurt”); NJPS (“men still had authority over men to treat them unjustly”); Moffatt (“men have power over their fellows, power to injure them”); MLB (“man has mastery over another to harm him”); and YLT (“man hath ruled over man to his own evil”). On the other hand, 8:1-9 focuses on the absolute power of the king, so the referent of הָאָדָם is probably the king. The article functions in an individualizing, particularizing sense. The particularization of הָאָדָם is reflected in many English versions: “one man” (KJV, ASV, NEB, NAB, Douay), “a man” (NASB, NIV), and “one person” (NRSV).

6 tn The verb שָׁלַט (shalat) denotes “to domineer; to dominate; to lord it over” (HALOT 1522 s.v. שׁלט; BDB 1020 s.v. שָׁלַט). The English versions have: “rule over” (KJV, YLT, Douay), “have power over” (NEB, ASV), “lord it over” (RSV, NIV), “have authority over” (NJPS), “exercise authority over” (NASB, NRSV); “have mastery over” (MLB); “tyrannize” (NAB).

7 tn Heb “man.” The word “other” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity. The singular noun אָדָם (’adam, “man”) functions as a collective singular, connoting “men, people” (cf. HALOT 14 s.v. אָדָם 1; BDB 9 s.v. אָדָם 2). The absence of the article might suggest an indefinite rather than an individual, particular sense.

8 tn Heb “a man exercises power over [another] man to his harm” [or “to his own harm”]. The 3rd person masculine singular singular pronominal suffix לוֹ (lo, “to his”) may refer to the antecedent אָדָם (’adam, “man” or “men”), being understood either in a singular sense (so NEB, RSV, NRSV, NAB, ASV, NASB) or in a collective sense (Moffatt, NJPS, NIV margin). However, the antecedent might be הָאָדם (haadam, “[one] man” = the king) with the suffix functioning reflexively: “to his own harm” (KJV, ASV margin, YLT, Douay, NIV).

9 tn Heb “I applied my heart.”

10 tn Heb “to know.”

11 tn Heb “and to see the business which is done.”

12 tn Heb “for no one sees sleep with their eyes either day or night.” The construction גַםכִּי (kigam) expresses a concessive sense: “even though” (e.g., Ps 23:4; Prov 22:6; Eccl 4:14; Isa 1:15; Lam 3:8; Hos 8:10; 9:16); cf. HALOT 196 s.v. גַּם 9; BDB 169 s.v. גַּם 6; 473 s.v. כִּי 2.c.

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