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Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

Context

12:13 Having heard everything, I have reached this conclusion: 1 

Fear God and keep his commandments,

because this is the whole duty 2  of man.

12:14 For God will evaluate every deed, 3 

including every secret thing, whether good or evil.

1 tn Heb “The end of the matter, everything having been heard.”

2 tn Heb “This is all men”; or “This is the whole of man.” The phrase זֶה כָּל־הָאָדָם (zeh kol-haadam, “this is all men”) features rhetorical elision of a key word. The ambiguity over the elided word has led to no less than five basic approaches: (1) “this is the whole duty of man” (KJV, ASV, RSV, NAB, NIV); (2) “this is the duty of all men” (MLB, ASV margin, RSV margin); (3) “this applies to all men” (NASB, NJPS); (4) “this is the whole duty of all men” (NRSV, Moffatt); and (5) “there is no more to man than this” (NEB). The four-fold repetition of כֹּל (kol, “all”) in 12:13-14 suggests that Qoheleth is emphasizing the “bottom line,” that is, the basic duty of man is simply to fear and obey God: After “all” (כֹּל) has been heard in the book, his conclusion is that the “whole” (כֹּל) duty of man is to obey God because God will bring “all” (כֹּל) acts into judgment, including “all” (כֹּל) that is hidden, whether good or bad. See D. Barthélemy, ed., Preliminary and Interim Report on the Hebrew Old Testament Text Project, 3:596.

3 tn Heb “will bring every deed into judgment.”



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