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Ecclesiastes 8:16-17

Limitations of Human Wisdom

8:16 When I tried 1  to gain 2  wisdom

and to observe the activity 3  on earth –

even though it prevents anyone from sleeping day or night 4 

8:17 then I discerned all that God has done: 5 

No one really comprehends what happens 6  on earth. 7 

Despite all human 8  efforts to discover it, no one can ever grasp 9  it. 10 

Even if 11  a wise person claimed 12  that he understood,

he would not really comprehend 13  it. 14 

1 tn Heb “I applied my heart.”

2 tn Heb “to know.”

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

4 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.

5 tn Heb “all the work of God.”

6 tn Heb “the work that is done.”

7 tn Heb “under the sun.”

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

9 tn Heb “find.”

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

11 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.

12 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).

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

14 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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