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Ecclesiastes 8:15-17

Context
Enjoy Life In Spite of Its Injustices

8:15 So I recommend the enjoyment of life, 1 

for there is nothing better on earth 2  for a person to do 3  except 4  to eat, drink, and enjoy 5  life. 6 

So 7  joy 8  will accompany him in his toil

during the days of his life which God gives him on earth. 9 

Limitations of Human Wisdom

8:16 When I tried 10  to gain 11  wisdom

and to observe the activity 12  on earth –

even though it prevents anyone from sleeping day or night 13 

8:17 then I discerned all that God has done: 14 

No one really comprehends what happens 15  on earth. 16 

Despite all human 17  efforts to discover it, no one can ever grasp 18  it. 19 

Even if 20  a wise person claimed 21  that he understood,

he would not really comprehend 22  it. 23 

1 tn Heb “the enjoyment.” The phrase “of life” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.

2 tn Heb “under the sun.”

3 tn The phrase “to do” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for smoothness.

4 tn The construction אִםכִּי (ki…’im) is used as a particle of exception to limit the preceding clause (“except; nothing but”). See, e.g., Gen 28:17; 39:9; Lev 21:2; Num 14:30; Deut 10:12; 1 Sam 30:22; 2 Kgs 4:2; 5:15; 2 Chr 21:17; Esth 2:15; 5:12; Eccl 3:12; Isa 42:19; Dan 10:21; Mic 6:8 (cf. HALOT 471 s.v. אִם כִּי B.2; BDB 474 s.v. אִם כִּי 2.a).

5 sn Except to eat, drink, and enjoy life. Qoheleth is not commending a self-indulgent lifestyle of Epicurean hedonism. Nor is he lamenting the absolute futility of life and the lack of eternal retribution. He is submitting to the reality that in a sin-cursed world there is much of human existence marked by relative futility. Since the righteous man cannot assume that he will automatically experience temporal prosperity and blessings on this earth, he should – at the very least – enjoy each day to its fullest as a gift from God. D. R. Glenn (“Ecclesiastes,” BKCOT, 997) notes, “Each day’s joys should be received as gifts from God’s hands and be savored as God permits (3:13; 5:19).”

6 tn The term “life” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity and smoothness.

7 tn The vav introduces a logical conclusion.

8 tn Heb “it”; the referent (enjoyment of life) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

9 tn Heb “under the sun.”

10 tn Heb “I applied my heart.”

11 tn Heb “to know.”

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

13 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.

14 tn Heb “all the work of God.”

15 tn Heb “the work that is done.”

16 tn Heb “under the sun.”

17 tn Heb “his”; the referent (man, in a generic sense) has been specified in the translation as the adjective “human” for clarity.

18 tn Heb “find.”

19 tn The term “it” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for smoothness.

20 tn The particle אִם (’im, “even if”) introduces the protasis in a real conditional clause (“If a wise man …”); see IBHS 636-37 §38.2d; R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 74, §453.

21 tn The imperfect tense verb יֹאמַר (yomar, “to say”) functions in a modal sense, denoting possibility (see IBHS 508 §31.4e; R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 31, §169).

22 tn Heb “he cannot find”; or “he does not find.”

23 tn The term “it” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is an implied direct object and has been supplied in the translation for smoothness and stylistic reasons.



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