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Ecclesiastes 9:15-17

Context

9:15 However, a poor but wise man lived in the city, 1 

and he could have delivered 2  the city by his wisdom,

but no one listened 3  to that poor man.

9:16 So I concluded that wisdom is better than might, 4 

but a poor man’s wisdom is despised; no one ever listens 5  to his advice. 6 

Wisdom versus Fools, Sin, and Folly

9:17 The words of the wise are heard in quiet,

more than the shouting of a ruler is heard 7  among fools.

1 tn Heb “was found in it”; the referent (the city) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

2 tn Or “he delivered.” The verb וּמִלַּט (umillat, from מָלַט, malat, “to deliver”) is functioning either in an indicative sense (past definite action: “he delivered”) or in a modal sense (past potential: “he could have delivered”). The literal meaning of זָכַר (zakhar, “to remember”) in the following line harmonizes with the indicative: “but no one remembered that poor man [afterward].” However, the modal is supported by v. 16: “A poor man’s wisdom is despised; no one ever listens to his advice.” This approach must nuance זָכַר (“to remember”) as “[no one] listened to [that poor man].” Most translations favor the indicative approach: “he delivered” or “he saved” (KJV, RSV, NRSV, NAB, ASV, NASB, MLB, NIV); however, some adopt the modal nuance: “he might have saved” (NEB, NJPS, NASB margin).

3 tn Heb “remembered.”

4 tn Or “power.”

5 tn The participle form נִשְׁמָעִים (nishmaim, Niphal participle mpl from שָׁמַע, “to listen”) is used verbally to emphasize a continual, durative, gnomic action.

6 tn Heb “his words are never listened to.”

7 tn The phrase “is heard” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity and smoothness. Note its appearance in the previous line.



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