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Ecclesiastes 7:11-13

Context
Wisdom Can Lengthen One’s Life

7:11 Wisdom, like 1  an inheritance, is a good thing;

it benefits those who see the light of day. 2 

7:12 For wisdom provides 3  protection, 4 

just as 5  money provides protection. 6 

But the advantage of knowledge is this:

Wisdom preserves the life 7  of its owner.

Wisdom Acknowledges God’s Orchestration of Life

7:13 Consider the work of God:

For who can make straight what he has bent?

1 tn Or “Wisdom with an inheritance, is good”; or “Wisdom is as good as an inheritance.” This use of the preposition עִם (’im) may denote: (1) accompaniment: “together with,” or (2) comparison: “as good as; like; in comparison to” (HALOT 839–40 s.v. עִם; BDB 767–69 s.v. עִם). BDB 767 s.v. 1 suggests the accompaniment nuance “together with,” while HALOT 840 s.v. 2.c suggests the comparative sense “in comparison to.” The translations are also divided: “wisdom with an inheritance is good” (KJV, ASV margin, RSV, NASB, YLT); “wisdom, like an inheritance, is a good thing” (NIV); “wisdom is as good as an inheritance” (ASV, NRSV, MLB, NJPS, Moffatt); “wisdom is better than an inheritance” (NEB). Because v. 12 compares wisdom with money (i.e., an inheritance), v. 11 is probably making a comparison as well: “Wisdom, like an inheritance, is good” (7:11a) = “Wisdom provides protection, just as money provides protection” (7:12a). The “good thing” that wisdom – like an inheritance or money – provides is protection.

2 tn Heb “see the sun.”

3 tn Heb “wisdom is a shade.” When used with a predicate nominative in a verbless clause, the preposition בְּ (bet) which appears twice in the line בְּצֵל הַחָכְמָה בְּצֵל הַכָּסֶף (bÿtsel hakhokhmah bÿtsel hakkasef) denotes identity, the so-called bet of essence (HALOT 104 s.v. בְּ 3; BDB 88 s.v. בְּ 1.7; see also R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 45, §249).

4 tn The term צֵל (tsel, “shade, shadow”) refers to that which provides protection or a shelter from the sun (Gen 19:8; Judg 9:36; Isa 25:5; 32:2; Jer 48:45; Jonah 4:5). It is used often in a figurative sense (hypocatastasis) to connote “protection” from calamity (Num 14:9; Isa 49:2; Hos 14:8; Pss 17:8; 36:8; 57:2; 63:8; 91:1; 121:5; Lam 4:20).

5 tn The phrase “just as” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for smoothness and clarity.

6 tn Heb “Wisdom is a shade, money is a shade.” The repetition of בְּצֵל (bÿtsel, “shade; protection”) suggests that the A-line and B-line function as comparisons. Thus the Hebrew phrases “Wisdom is a shade, money is a shade” may be nuanced, “Wisdom [provides] protection [just as] money [provides] protection.” This approach is adopted by several translations: “wisdom is a defense, as money is a defense” (ASV), “wisdom is protection just as money is protection” (NASB), “wisdom like wealth is a defense” (Moffatt), “the protection of wisdom is as the protection of money” (NAB), “the protection of wisdom is like the protection of money” (RSV, NRSV), “wisdom protects as wealth protects” (MLB), and “wisdom is a shelter, as money is a shelter” (NIV). The comparison is missed by KJV: “wisdom is a defense, and money is a defense.” Less likely is taking בְּ (bet) in a locative sense: “to be in the shelter of wisdom is to be in the shelter of money” (NJPS).

7 tn The verb חָיָה (khayah, “to live”) in the Piel denotes (1) “to let live; to keep alive; to preserve alive; to allow to live happily” (Gen 12:12; Exod 1:17; Num 31:15; Deut 6:24; Josh 9:15; Isa 7:21; Jer 49:11) and (2) “to bring back to life” persons who are ill (Ps 30:4) or deceased (Hos 6:2); HALOT 309 s.v. חָיָה. Its parallelism with צֵל (tsel, “protection”) indicates that it means “to preserve someone’s life” from premature death or calamity. Therefore, “preserves the life” (RSV, NAB, ASV, NASB, NIV, NJPS) is preferable to “gives life to” (KJV, Douay, NRSV, YLT).



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