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Ecclesiastes 4:13-16

Labor Motivated by Prestige-Seeking

4:13 A poor but wise youth is better than an old and foolish king

who no longer knows how to receive advice.

4:14 For he came out of prison 1  to become king,

even though he had been born poor in what would become his 2  kingdom.

4:15 I considered all the living who walk on earth, 3 

as well as the successor 4  who would arise 5  in his place.

4:16 There is no end to all the people 6  nor to the past generations, 7 

yet future generations 8  will not rejoice in him.

This also is profitless and like 9  chasing the wind.

1 tn Heb “came from the house of bonds.”

2 tn The phrase “what would become” is not in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity. However, it is not altogether clear whether the 3rd person masculine singular suffix (“his”) on בְּמַלְכוּתוֹ (bÿmalkhuto, “his kingdom”) refers to the old foolish king or to the poor but wise youth of 4:13.

3 tn Heb “under the sun.”

4 tn Heb “the second youth.” It is not clear whether “the second” (הַשֵּׁנִי, hasheni) refers to the young man who succeeds the old king or a second youthful successor.

5 tn The verb עָמַד (’amad, “to stand”) may denote “to arise; to appear; to come on the scene” (e.g., Ps 106:30; Dan 8:22, 23; 11:2-4; 12:1; Ezra 2:63; Neh 7:65); cf. BDB 764 s.v. עָמַד 6.a; HALOT 840 s.v. עמד 1.a.

6 tn Heb “the people.” The term עַם (’am, “people”) can refer to the subjects of the king (BDB 766 s.v. עַם 2).

7 tn Heb “those who were before them.”

8 tn Heb “those coming after.” The Hebrew term הָאַחֲרוֹנִים (haakharonim, “those coming after”) is derived from the preposition אַחַר (’akhar, “behind”). When used in reference to time, it refers to future generations (e.g., Deut 29:21; Pss 48:14; 78:4, 6; 102:19; Job 18:20; Eccl 1:11; 4:16); cf. HALOT 36 s.v. אַחַר B.3; BDB 30 s.v. אַחַר 2.b).

9 tn The word “like” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.

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