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Ecclesiastes 7:3


7:3 Sorrow 1  is better than laughter,

because sober reflection 2  is good for the heart. 3 

Ecclesiastes 7:6


7:6 For like the crackling of quick-burning thorns 4  under a cooking pot,

so is the laughter of the fool.

This kind of folly 5  also is useless. 6 

1 tn NEB suggests “grief”; NJPS, “vexation.”

2 tn Heb “in sadness of face there is good for the heart.”

3 tn Or possibly “Though the face is sad, the heart may be glad.”

4 tn The term “thorns” (הַסִּירִים, hassirim) refers to twigs from wild thorn bushes which were used as fuel for quick heat, but burn out quickly before a cooking pot can be properly heated (e.g., Pss 58:9; 118:12).

5 tn The word “kind of folly” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.

6 tn It is difficult to determine whether the Hebrew term הֶבֶל (hevel) means “fleeting” or “useless” in this context. The imagery of quick-burning thorns under a cooking pot is ambiguous and can be understood in more than one way: (1) It is useless to try to heat a cooking pot by burning thorns because they burn out before the pot can be properly heated; (2) the heat produced by quick-burning thorns is fleeting – it produces quick heat, but lasts only for a moment. Likewise, the “laughter of a fool” can be taken in both ways: (1) In comparison to the sober reflection of the wise, the laughter of fools is morally useless: the burning of thorns, like the laughter of fools, makes a lot of noise but accomplishes nothing; (2) the laughter of fools is fleeting due to the brevity of life and certainty of death. Perhaps this is an example of intentional ambiguity.

TIP #08: Use the Strong Number links to learn about the original Hebrew and Greek text. [ALL]
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