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Ecclesiastes 8:11-13

Context

8:11 When 1  a sentence 2  is not executed 3  at once against a crime, 4 

the human heart 5  is encouraged to do evil. 6 

8:12 Even though a sinner might commit a hundred crimes 7  and still live a long time, 8 

yet I know that it will go well with God-fearing people 9  – for they stand in fear 10  before him.

8:13 But it will not go well with the wicked,

nor will they 11  prolong their 12  days like a shadow, 13 

because they 14  do not stand in fear 15  before God.

1 tn The particle אֲשֶׁר (’asher) is used as a conjunction in a conditional/temporal clause to introduce the protasis (“when” or “if”), and עַל־כֵּן (’al-ken) introduces the apodosis (“then”); cf. BDB 83 s.v. אֲשֶׁר 8.d.

2 tn The noun פִתְגָם (fitgam, “decision; announcement; edict; decree”) is a loanword from Persian patigama (HALOT 984 s.v. פִּתְגָם; BDB 834 s.v. פִּתְגָם). The Hebrew noun occurs twice in the OT (Eccl 8:11; Esth 1:20), twice in the Apocrypha (Sir 5:11; 8:9), and five times in Qumran (11QtgJob 9:2; 29:4; 30:1; 34:3; 1QapGen 22:27). The English versions consistently nuance this as a judicial sentence against a crime: “sentence” (KJV, NEB, NAB, ASV, NASB, RSV, NRSV, MLB, YLT), “sentence for a crime” (NIV), “sentence imposed” (NJPS), “sentence on a crime” (Moffatt).

3 tn Heb “is not done.” The verb עָשַׂה (’asah, “to do”) refers to a judicial sentence being carried out (HALOT 892 s.v. 2). The Niphal can denote “be executed; be carried out” of a sentence (Eccl 8:11) or royal decree (Esth 9:1; BDB 795 s.v. 1.a). Similarly, the Qal can denote “to execute” vengeance (Judg 11:36) or judgment (1 Sam 28:18; Isa 48:14; Ezek 25:11; 28:26; Ps 149:7, 9; BDB 794 s.v.).

4 tn Heb “the evil.”

5 tn Heb “the heart of the sons of man.” The singular noun לֵב (lev, “heart”) is used collectively. The term לֵב is often used figuratively (metonymy) in reference to inclinations and determinations of the will (BDB 525 s.v. 4), moral character (BDB 525 s.v. 6), and as a synecdoche for the man himself (BDB 525 s.v. 7).

6 tn Heb “is full to do evil.” The verb מָלֵא (male’, “to fill”) is used figuratively (metonymy): the lack of swift judicial punishment only emboldens the wicked to commit more crimes without fear of retribution. Most English versions translate the term literally: “are filled” (NIV, MLB, YLT), “is fully set” (KJV, ASV, RSV, NRSV). However, several versions nuance it figuratively: “emboldened” (ASV, NJPS) and “boldly” (NEB). Moffatt renders the line, “Because sentence on a crime is not executed at once, the mind of man is prone to evil practices.”

7 tn Heb “does evil one hundred [times].”

8 tn Heb “and prolongs his [life].”

9 tn Heb “those who fear God.”

10 tn Heb “they fear.”

11 tn Heb “he.”

12 tn The word “their” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for smoothness.

13 tn The phrase “like a shadow” (כַּצֵּל, katsel) modifies the verb (“prolong”) rather than the noun (“days”). Several English versions misconstrue the line: “he will not prolong his days, [which are] like a shadow” (KJV, ASV); “the man who does not fear God is like a shadow” (NEB); and “he will not prolong his shadowy days” (NAB). It should be rendered “he will not prolong his days like a shadow” (RSV, NRSV, NASB, MLB, NIV). Unlike a shadow that lengthens at sunset, the wicked do not normally live long.

14 tn Heb “he.”

15 tn Heb “they do not fear.”



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