Ecclesiastes 7

 

טוֹב שֵׁם מִשֶּׁמֶן טוֹב וְיוֹם הַמָּוֶת מִיּוֹם הִוָּלְדוֹ׃   7:1

Eccl. 7:1   A good name is better than anointing oil,

                             and the day of death, than the day that one is born.

Could the author be saying here that the day of death is better because one’s name is already established?

טוֹב לָלֶכֶת אֶל־בֵּית־אֵבֶל מִלֶּכֶת אֶל־בֵּית מִשְׁתֶּה בַּאֲשֶׁר הוּא סוֹף כָּל־הָאָדָם וְהַחַי יִתֵּן אֶל־לִבּוֹ׃   7:2

Eccl. 7:2   Better to go to a house of mourning

                             than going to a house of feasting,

                    because such is the end of all humanity,

                             and he who is living should take to heart.

I think the author is saying here that we should always be conscious of our mortality.  Anything that reminds us of it is good.

טוֹב כַּעַס מִשְּׂחֹק כִּי־בְרֹעַ פָּנִים יִיטַב לֵב׃   7:3

Eccl. 7:3   Grief is better than laughter,

                             for in the face of evil the heart can become better.

We grow stronger in adversity than in happiness?  I believe that’s true -- but not always.  Sometimes being a victim of oppression can weaken the heart.

לֵב חֲכָמִים בְּבֵית אֵבֶל וְלֵב כְּסִילִים בְּבֵית שִׂמְחָה׃   7:4

Eccl. 7:4   The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,

                             but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.

טוֹב לִשְׁמֹעַ גַּעֲרַת חָכָם מֵאִישׁ שֹׁמֵעַ שִׁיר כְּסִילִים׃   7:5

Eccl. 7:5   Hearing the rebuke of a wise person

                             is better than a person hearing the song of fools.

כִּי כְקוֹל הַסִּירִים תַּחַת הַסִּיר כֵּן שְׂחֹק הַכְּסִיל וְגַם־זֶה הָבֶל׃   7:6

Eccl. 7:6   For like the pop of thorns under the pot,

                             so is the laughter of the fool.

                   And this too is vanity,

כִּי הָעֹשֶׁק יְהוֹלֵל חָכָם וִיאַבֵּד אֶת־לֵב מַתָּנָה׃   7:7

Eccl. 7:7   for oppression can make a wise person a fool

                             and a gift can cause the heart to go astray.

Life is full of traps?  Who doesn’t stumble?  I read this verse as contradicting v. 7:3 above.

טוֹב אַחֲרִית דָּבָר מֵרֵאשִׁיתוֹ טוֹב אֶרֶךְ־רוּחַ מִגְּבַהּ־רוּחַ׃   7:8

Eccl. 7:8   The end of something is better than the beginning of it.

                             A patient spirit is better than a proud spirit.

אַל־תְּבַהֵל בְּרוּחֲךָ לִכְעוֹס כִּי כַעַס בְּחֵיק כְּסִילִים יָנוּחַ׃   7:9

Eccl. 7:9   You must not be hasty in your spirit to be angry,

                             for anger must dwell in the bosom of fools.

אַל־תֹּאמַר מֶה הָיָה שֶׁהַיָּמִים הָרִאשֹׁנִים הָיוּ טוֹבִים מֵאֵלֶּה כִּי לֹא מֵחָכְמָה שָׁאַלְתָּ עַל־זֶה׃   7:10

Eccl. 7:10   You must not say, “Why is it that the former days were better than these?” when you do not ask about that from wisdom.

I suspect the author had two reasons for this.  One, we are foolish to ask “why”.  Two, former times are seldom if ever better than the present.  In addition, today’s pain is usually worse than yesterday’s pain.

טוֹבָה חָכְמָה עִם־נַחֲלָה וְיֹתֵר לְרֹאֵי הַשָּׁמֶשׁ׃   7:11

Eccl. 7:11   Compared to an inheritance, wisdom is better,

                             and an advantage to those seeing the sun,

כִּי בְּצֵל הַחָכְמָה בְּצֵל הַכָּסֶף וְיִתְרוֹן דַּעַת הַחָכְמָה תְּחַיֶּה בְעָלֶיהָ׃   7:12

Eccl. 7:12   because wisdom is a shelter.  Money is a shelter, but the advantage of understanding is, wisdom can preserve the life of its masters.

רְאֵה אֶת־מַעֲשֵׂה הָאֱלֹהִים כִּי מִי יוּכַל לְתַקֵּן אֵת אֲשֶׁר עִוְּתוֹ׃   7:13

Eccl. 7:13   Consider the work of God, that who could prevail to make straight that which He had made crooked!

בְּיוֹם טוֹבָה הֱיֵה בְטוֹב וּבְיוֹם רָעָה רְאֵה גַּם אֶת־זֶה לְעֻמַּת־זֶה עָשָׂה הָאֱלֹהִים עַל־דִּבְרַת שֶׁלֹּא יִמְצָא   7:14

 הָאָדָם אַחֲרָיו מְאוּמָה׃

Eccl. 7:14   In a time of goodness, be happy; and in a time of misery, consider: God also made this as well as the other, so that no person may predetermine anything after him.

אֶת־הַכֹּל רָאִיתִי בִּימֵי הֶבְלִי יֵשׁ צַדִּיק אֹבֵד בְּצִדְקוֹ וְיֵשׁ רָשָׁע מַאֲרִיךְ בְּרָעָתוֹ׃   7:15

Eccl. 7:15   I have seen it all in the days of my vanity.  There may be a righteous one perishing with his righteousness, and there may be a wicked one who continues long in his evil-doing.

Does this mean that the righteous may live a short life and a wicked person might live a long life?

אַל־תְּהִי צַדִּיק הַרְבֵּה וְאַל־תִּתְחַכַּם יוֹתֵר לָמָּה תִּשּׁוֹמֵם׃   7:16

Eccl. 7:16   You should not be too righteous or excessively wise.  Why should you cause your own ruin?

I believe this verse refers to behavior.  It seems to be saying do not flaunt your righteousness or your wisdom.

אַל־תִּרְשַׁע הַרְבֵּה וְאַל־תְּהִי סָכָל לָמָּה תָמוּת בְּלֹא עִתֶּךָ׃   7:17

Eccl. 7:17   You should not be too wicked and you should not be a fool.  Why should you die before your time?

Do fools and the too wicked die before their time?  If that is what this verse means, then it seems to contradict v. 7:15 above.

טוֹב אֲשֶׁר תֶּאֱחֹז בָּזֶה וְגַם־מִזֶּה אַל־תַּנַּח אֶת־יָדֶךָ כִּי־יְרֵא אֱלֹהִים יֵצֵא אֶת־כֻּלָּם׃   7:18

Eccl. 7:18   It is good that you should take hold on this, but you should also not pull away your hand from that.  For one fearing God would go forth with all of them.

Does this mean that a God-fearing person would commit both good and evil?  Or that one should not choose one thing over another?  Doesn’t this seem like a rather strange observation?

הַחָכְמָה תָּעֹז לֶחָכָם מֵעֲשָׂרָה שַׁלִּיטִים אֲשֶׁר הָיוּ בָּעִיר׃   7:19

Eccl. 7:19   Wisdom is more powerful to a wise person than ten rulers who are in a city.

Would too many rulers contend with one another?

כִּי אָדָם אֵין צַדִּיק בָּאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר יַעֲשֶׂה־טּוֹב וְלֹא יֶחֱטָא׃   7:20

Eccl. 7:20   For there is no person so righteous on the earth who could do good and not sin.

גַּם לְכָל־הַדְּבָרִים אֲשֶׁר יְדַבֵּרוּ אַל־תִּתֵּן לִבֶּךָ אֲשֶׁר לֹא־תִשְׁמַע אֶת־עַבְדְּךָ מְקַלְלֶךָ׃   7:21

Eccl. 7:21   Also to all the words that may be spoken you must not pay heed, so that you would not hear your servant cursing you.

כִּי גַּם־פְּעָמִים רַבֹּות יָדַע לִבֶּךָ אֲשֶׁר גַּם־ (אַתְּ) [אַתָּה] קִלַּלְתָּ אֲחֵרִים׃   7:22

Eccl. 7:22   For your heart also knows that many times you also have cursed others.

The word in the parentheses is the second-person feminine pronoun, translated as you.  The pronoun should be spelled with a heh suffix, making it masculine, as is shown in the brackets.  There’s a possibility, though, that the author intended the feminine pronoun.  He might have been of the thought that cursing others is more usually a feminine trait.

כָּל־זֹה נִסִּיתִי בַחָכְמָה אָמַרְתִּי אֶחְכָּמָה וְהִיא רְחוֹקָה מִמֶּנִּי׃   7:23

Eccl. 7:23   All this I have tested in wisdom.  I said, “I will become wise,” but it is far from me.

Ah!  Such knowledge is at the heart of true wisdom.

רָחוֹק מַה־שֶּׁהָיָה וְעָמֹק עָמֹק מִי יִמְצָאֶנּוּ׃   7:24

Eccl. 7:24   That which is, is distant and very mysterious. Who can find it out?

סַבּוֹתִי אֲנִי וְלִבִּי לָדַעַת וְלָתוּר וּבַקֵּשׁ חָכְמָה וְחֶשְׁבּוֹן וְלָדַעַת רֶשַׁע כֶּסֶל וְהַסִּכְלוּת הוֹלֵלוֹת׃   7:25

Eccl. 7:25   I went about, I and my heart, to know and to explore, and I would seek wisdom and reason, only to acknowledge wickedness is folly and foolishness is madness.

וּמוֹצֶא אֲנִי מַר מִמָּוֶת אֶת־הָאִשָּׁה אֲשֶׁר־הִיא מְצוֹדִים וַחֲרָמִים לִבָּהּ אֲסוּרִים יָדֶיהָ טוֹב לִפְנֵי   7:26

 הָאֱלֹהִים יִמָּלֵט מִמֶּנָּה וְחוֹטֵא יִלָּכֶד בָּהּ׃

Eccl. 7:26   And I am finding more bitter than death the woman whose heart is hunting and snaring, her hands, bonds.  One pleasant before God might escape from her, but the sinner will be taken in by her.

רְאֵה זֶה מָצָאתִי אָמְרָה קֹהֶלֶת אַחַת לְאַחַת לִמְצֹא חֶשְׁבּוֹן׃   7:27

Eccl. 7:27   See, this I have found, says Koheleth, one by one, to discover the reasoning

There is an unacknowledged error in this verse.  The fourth Hebrew word, translated as says, is spelled as feminine, and it should be masculine.  The correction would eliminate the heh suffix.

אֲשֶׁר עוֹד־בִּקְשָׁה נַפְשִׁי וְלֹא מָצָאתִי אָדָם אֶחָד מֵאֶלֶף מָצָאתִי וְאִשָּׁה בְכָל־אֵלֶּה לֹא מָצָאתִי׃   7:28

Eccl. 7:28   that my soul continued seeking, but I did not find out.  One man out of a thousand I have found, but no woman among all those have I found.

Does this mean that the author believes there are no wise women?

לְבַד רְאֵה־זֶה מָצָאתִי אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה הָאֱלֹהִים אֶת־הָאָדָם יָשָׁר וְהֵמָּה בִקְשׁוּ חִשְּׁבֹנוֹת רַבִּים׃   7:29

Eccl. 7:29   Apart from seeing this, I have found that God made the human upright, but they seek many imaginative devices.

Another hint at optimism on the author’s part!  He believes humans are not inherently bad.  We were made upright,

 not slaves of evil.  But we are imaginative and that can be a trap.  Because of vanity?

 

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