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“Everything has its time, and every purpose under the heavens its hour.” The Germ. language is poor in synonyms of time. Zצckler translates: Everything has its Frist ..., but by Frist we think only of a fixed term of duration, not of a period of beginning, which, though not exclusively, is yet here primarily meant; we have therefore adopted Luther's excellent translation. Certainly זמן (from זמן , cogn. סמן , signare), belonging to the more modern Heb., means a Frist ( e.g., Daniel 2:16) as well as a Zeitpunkt , point of time; in the Semit. (also Assyr. simmu , simanu , with ס ) it is the most common designation of the idea of time. עת is abbreviated either from ענת ( ועד , to determine) or from ענת (from ענה , cogn. אנה , to go towards, to meet). In the first case it stands connected with מועד on the one side, and with עדּן (from עדד , to count) on the other; in the latter case, with עונה , Exodus 21:10 (perhaps also ען and ענת in כען , כּענת ). It is difficult to decide this point; proportionally more, however, can be said for the original ענת (Palest.-Aram. ענתּא ), as also the prep. of participation את is derived from אנת (meeting, coming together).
(Note: Vid., Orelli's work on the Heb. Synon. der Zeit u. Ewigkeit, 1871. He decides for the derivation from ועד morf ; Fleischer (Levy's Chald. W.B. II. 572) for the derivation from ענה , the higher power of אנה , whence (Arab.) inan , right time. We have, under Job 24:1, maintained the former derivation.)
The author means to say, if we have regard to the root signification of the second conception of time - (1) that everything has its fore-determined time, in which there lies both a determined point of time when it happens, and a determined period of time during which it shall continue; and (2) that every matter has a time appointed for it, or one appropriate, suitable for it. The Greeks were guided by the right feeling when they rendered זמן by χρόνος , and עת by καιρός .
Olympiodorus distinguishes too sharply when he understands the former of duration of time, and the latter of a point of time; while the state of the matter is this, that by χρόνος the idea comprehends the termini a quo and ad quem , while by καιρός it is limited to the terminus a quo . Regarding חפץ , which proceeds from the ground-idea of being inclined to, and intention, and thus, like πρᾶγμα and χρῆμα , to the general signification of design, undertaking, res gesta, res .
The illustration commences with the beginning and the ending of the life of man and (in near-lying connection of thought) of plants.
(Note: These seven verses, 2-8, are in Codd and Edd., like Joshua 12:9., and Esther 9:7., arranged in the form of a song, so that one עת (time) always stands under another, after the scheme described in Megilla 16 b, Massecheth Sofrim xiii. 3, but without any express reference to this passage in Koheleth. J has a different manner of arranging the words, the first four lines of which we here adduce: -
'ēth lāmoth veeth lalěděth 'ēth 'ēth nathu'ǎ lǎ'ǎqor veeth lathǎ'ǎth 'ēth lirpō veeth lǎhǎrog 'ēth livnoth veeth liphrots )
“To be born has its time, and to die has its time; to plant has its time, and to root up that which is planted has its time.” The inf. ללדת signifies nothing else than to bring forth; but when that which is brought forth comes more into view than she who brings forth, it is used in the sense of being born (cf. Jeremiah 25:34, לט = להטּבח ); ledah, Hosea 9:11, is the birth; and in the Assyr., li - id - tu , li - i - tu , li - da - a - tu , designates posterity, progenies. Since now lālǎděth has here lāmuth as contrast, and thus does not denote the birth-throes of the mother, but the child's beginning of life, the translation, “to be born has its time,” is more appropriate to what is designed than “to bring forth has its time.” What Zöckler, after Hitzig, objects that by lěděth a הפץ an undertaking, and thus a conscious, intended act must be named, is not applicable; for לכּל standing at the beginning comprehends doing and suffering, and death also (apart from suicide) is certainly not an intended act, frequently even an unconscious suffering. Instead of לטעת (for which the form לטּעת
(Note: This Abulwalid found in a correct Damascus ms., Michlol 81 b.)
is found, cf. למּוט , Psalms 66:9), the older language uses לנטע , Jeremiah 1:10. In still more modern Heb. the expression used would be ליטע , i.e., לטּע ( Shebîith ii. 1). עקד has here its nearest signification: to root up (denom. of עקּד , root), like עקר , 2 Kings 3:25, where it is the Targ. word for הפּיל (to fell trees).
From out-rooting, which puts an end to the life of plants, the transition is now made to putting to death.
“To put to death has its time, and to heal has its time; to pull down has its time, and to build has its time.” That harog (to kill) is placed over against “to heal,” Hitzig explains by the remark that harog does not here include the full consequences of the act, and is fitly rendered by “to wound.” But “to put to death” is nowhere = “nearly to put to death,” - one who is harug is not otherwise to be healed than by resurrection from the dead, Ezekiel 37:6. The contrast has no need for such ingenuity to justify it. The striking down of a sound life stands in contrast to the salvation of an endangered life by healing, and this in many situations of life, particularly in war, in the administration of justice, and in the defence of innocence against murder or injury, may be fitting. Since the author does not present these details from a moral point of view, the time here is not that which is morally right, but that which, be it morally right or not, has been determined by God, the Governor of the world and Former of history, who makes even that which is evil subservient to His plan. With the two pairs of γένεσις καὶ φθορά there are two others associated in Ecclesiastes 3:3; with that, having reference, 2 b, to the vegetable world, there here corresponds one referring to buildings; to פּרוץ (synon. הרוס , Jeremiah 1:10) stands opposed בּנות (which is more than גּדור ), as at 2 Chronicles 32:5.
These contrasts between existence and non-existence are followed by contrasts within the limits of existence itself: -
“To weep has its time, and to laugh has its time; to mourn has its time, and to dance has its time.” It is possible that the author was led by the consonance from livnoth to livkoth , which immediately follows it; but the sequence of the thoughts is at the same time inwardly mediated, for sorrow kills and joy enlivens, Sir. 32:21-24. ספוד is particularly lamentation for the dead, Zechariah 12:10; and רקוד , dancing (in the more modern language the usual word for hholēl , kirkēr , hhāgǎg ) at a marriage festival and on other festal occasions.
It is more difficult to say what leads the author to the two following pairs of contrasts: -
“To throw stones has its time, and to gather together stones has its time; to embrace has its time, and to refrain from embracing has its time.” Did the old Jewish custom exist at the time of the author, of throwing three shovelfuls of earth into the grave, and did this lead him to use the phrase השׁ אבּ ? But we do not need so incidental a connection of the thought, for the first pair accords with the specific idea of life and death; by the throwing of stones a field is destroyed, 2 Kings 3:25, or as expressed at 2 Kings 3:19 is marred; and by gathering the stones together and removing them (which is called סקּל ), it is brought under cultivation. Does לה , to embrace, now follow because it is done with the arms and hands? Scarcely; but the loving action of embracing stands beside the hostile, purposely injurious throwing of stones into a field, not exclusively (2 Kings 4:16), but yet chiefly (as e.g., at Proverbs 5:20) as referring to love for women; the intensive in the second member is introduced perhaps only for the purpose of avoiding the paronomasia lirhhoq mahhavoq .
The following pair of contrasts is connected with the avoiding or refraining from the embrace of love: -
“To seek has its time, and to lose has its time; to lay up has its time, and to throw away has its time.” Vaihinger and others translate לאבּד , to give up as lost, which the Pih. signifies first as the expression of a conscious act. The older language knows it only in the stronger sense of bringing to ruin, making to perish, wasting (Proverbs 29:3). But in the more modern language, אבד , like the Lat. perdere , in the sense of “to lose,” is the trans. to the intrans. אבד , e.g., Tahoroth; viii. 3, “if one loses ( המאבּד ) anything,” etc.; Sifri, at Deuteronomy 24:19, “he who has lost ( מאבּד ) a shekel,” etc. In this sense the Palest.-Aram. uses the Aphel אובד , e.g., Jer. Mezîa ii. 5, “the queen had lost ( אובדת ) her ornament.” The intentional giving up, throwing away from oneself, finds its expression in להשׁ .
The following pair of contrasts refers the abandoning and preserving to articles of clothing: -
7 a. “To rend has its time, and to sew has its time.” When evil tidings come, when the tidings of death come, then is the time for rending the garments (2 Samuel 13:31), whether as a spontaneous outbreak of sorrow, or merely as a traditionary custom. - The tempest of the affections, however, passes by, and that which was torn is again sewed together.
Perhaps it is the recollection of great calamities which leads to the following contrasts: -
7 b. “To keep silence has its time, and to speak has its time.” Severe strokes of adversity turn the mind in quietness back upon itself; and the demeanour most befitting such adversity is silent resignation (cf. 2 Kings 2:3, 2 Kings 2:5). This mediation of the thought is so much the more probable, as in all these contrasts it is not so much the spontaneity of man that comes into view, as the pre-determination and providence of God.
The following contrasts proceed on the view that God has placed us in relations in which it is permitted to us to love, or in which our hatred is stirred up: -
“To love has its time, and to hate has its time; war has its time, and peace has its time.” In the two pairs of contrasts here, the contents of the first are, not exclusively indeed (Psalms 120:7), but yet chiefly referred to the mutual relations of peoples. It is the result of thoughtful intention that the quodlibet of 2 x 7 pairs terminates this for and against in “peace;” and, besides, the author has made the termination emphatic by this, that here “instead of infinitives, he introduces proper nouns” (Hitz.).
Since, then, everything has its time depending not on human influence, but on the determination and providence of God, the question arises: “What gain hath he that worketh in that wherewith he wearieth himself?” It is the complaint of Ecclesiastes 1:3 which is here repeated. From all the labour there comes forth nothing which carries in it the security of its continuance; but in all he does man is conditioned by the change of times and circumstances and relations over which he has no control. And the converse of this his weakness is short-sightedness.
“I saw the travail, which God gave to the children of men to fatigue themselves with it - : He hath well arranged everything beautiful in its appointed time; He hath also put eternity in their heart, so that man cannot indeed wholly search through from beginning to end the work which God accomplisheth.” As at Ecclesiastes 1:14, ראיתי is here seeing in the way of research, as elsewhere, e.g., at Ecclesiastes 2:24, it is as the result of research. In Ecclesiastes 3:10 the author says that he closely considered the labour of men, and in Ecclesiastes 3:11 he states the result. It is impossible to render the word ענין everywhere by the same German (or English) word: Ecclesiastes 1:13, wearisome trouble; Ecclesiastes 2:26, business; here: Geschäftigkeit , the idea is in all the three places the same, viz., an occupation which causes trouble, costs effort. What presented itself to the beholder was (1) that He (viz., God, cf. Ecclesiastes 3:10 and Ecclesiastes 3:11) has made everything beautiful in its time. The author uses יפה as synon. of טוב (Ecclesiastes 3:17); also in other languages the idea of the beautiful is gradually more and more generalized. The suffix in בּעתּו does not refer to God, but to that which is in the time; this word is = ἐν καιρῷ ιδίῳ (Symm.), at its proper time ( vid., Psalms 1:3; Psalms 104:27; Jeremiah 5:24, etc.), since, as with יחדּו (together with) and כּלּו (every one), the suffix is no longer thought of as such. Like יפה , בעתו as pred. conception belongs to the verb: He has made everything beautiful; He has made everything (falling out) at its appointed time. - The beauty consists in this, that what is done is not done sooner or later than it ought to be, so as to connect itself as a constituent part to the whole of God's work. The pret. עשׂה is to be also interpreted as such: He “has made,” viz., in His world-plan, all things beautiful, falling out at the appointed time; for that which acquires an actual form in the course of history has a previous ideal existence in the knowledge and will of God ( vid., under Isaiah 22:11; Isaiah 37:26).
That which presented itself to the beholder was - (2) the fact that He (God) had put את־העלם in their hearts ( i.e., the hearts of men). Gaab and Spohn interpret 'olam in the sense of the Arab. 'ilam , knowledge, understanding; and Hitz., pointing the word accordingly עלם , translates: “He has also placed understanding in their heart, without which man,” etc. The translation of אשׁר אשׁלי is not to be objected to; מבּ is, however, only seldom a conjunction, and is then to be translated by eo quod , Exodus 14:11; 2 Kings 1:3, 2 Kings 1:6, 2 Kings 1:16, which is not appropriate here; it will thus be here also a prep., and with asher following may mean “without which,” as well as “without this, that” = “besides that” (Venet. ἄνευ τοῦ ὃτι , “except that”), as frequently כּי אפס , e.g., at Amos 9:8. But that Arab. 'ilam is quite foreign to the Heb., which has no word עלם in the sense of “to rise up, to be visible, knowable,” which is now also referred
(Note: Vid., Fried. Delitzsch's Assyr. Stud. (1874), p. 39. Otherwise Fleischer, who connects 'alima , “to know,” with 'alam , “to conceal,” so that to know = to be concealed, sunk deep, initiated in something (with ba of the obj., as sh'ar , whence shâ'ir , the poet as “one who marks”).)
to for the Assyr. as the stem-word of עילם = highland. It is true Hitzig believes that he has found the Heb. עלם = wisdom, in Sir. 6:21, where there is a play on the word with נעלם , “concealed:” σοφία γὰρ κατὰ τὸ ὄνομα αὐτῆς ἐστί , καὶοὐ πολλοῖς ἐστὶ φανερά . Drusius and Eichhorn have here already taken notice of the Arab. 'ilam ; but Fritzsche with right asks, “Shall this word as Heb. be regarded as traceable only here and falsely pointed only at Ecclesiastes 3:11, and shall no trace of it whatever be found in the Chald., Syr., and Rabbin.?” We have also no need of it. That Ben-Sira has etymologically investigated the word חכמה as going back to חכם , R. chap, “to be firm, shut up, dark” ( vid., at Psalms 10:8), is certainly very improbable, but so much the more probable (as already suggested by Drusius) that he has introduced
(Note: Grätz translates eth - ha'olam by “ignorance” ( vid., Orelli, p. 83). R. Achwa in the Midrash has added here the scriptio defectiva with the remark, שהועלם וגו , “for the mysterious name of God is concealed from them.”)
into חכמה , after the Aram. אכם , nigrescere, the idea of making dark. Does eth - ha'olam in this passage before us then mean “the world” (Jerome, Luther, Ewald), or “desire after the knowledge of the world” (Rashi), or “worldly-mindedness” (Gesen., Knobel)? The answer to this has been already given in my Psychol. p. 406 (2nd ed.): “In post-bibl. Heb. 'olam denotes not only 'eternity' backwards and forwards as infinite duration, but also 'the world' as that which endures for ever ( αἰών , seculum ); the world in this latter sense is, however, not yet known
(Note: In the Phoen. also, 'olam , down to a late period, denotes not the world, but eternity: melek 'olam , βασιλεὺς αἰώνος ( αἰώνιος ), seculo frugifero on a coin = the fruit-bringing 'olam ( Αἰών ).)
to the bibl. language, and we will thus not be able to interpret the words of Koheleth of the impulse of man to reflect on the whole world.” In itself, the thought that God has placed the whole world in man's heart is not untrue: man is, indeed, a micro-cosmos, in which the macrocosmos mirrors itself (Elster), but the connection does not favour it; for the discussion does not proceed from this, that man is only a member in the great universe, and that God has given to each being its appointed place, but that in all his experience he is conditioned by time, and that in the course of history all that comes to him, according to God's world-plan, happens at its appointed time. But the idea by which that of time, את ( זמן ), is surpassed is not the world, but eternity, to which time is related as part is to the whole (Cicero, Inv. i. 26. 39, tempus est pars quaedam aeternitatis ). The Mishna language contains, along with the meaning of world, also this older meaning of 'olam , and has formed from it an adv. עולמית , aeterne. The author means to say that God has not only assigned to each individually his appointed place in history, thereby bringing to the consciousness of man the fact of his being conditioned, but that He has also established in man an impulse leading him beyond that which is temporal toward the eternal: it lies in his nature not to be contented with the temporal, but to break through the limits which it draws around him, to escape from the bondage and the disquietude within which he is held, and amid the ceaseless changes of time to console himself by directing his thoughts to eternity.
This saying regarding the desiderium aeternitatis being planted in the heart of man, is one of the profoundest utterances of Koheleth. In fact, the impulse of man shows that his innermost wants cannot be satisfied by that which is temporal. He is a being limited by time, but as to his innermost nature he is related to eternity. That which is transient yields him no support, it carries him on like a rushing stream, and constrains him to save himself by laying hold on eternity. But it is not so much the practical as the intellectual side of this endowment and this peculiar dignity of human nature which Koheleth brings her to view.
It is not enough for man to know that everything that happens has its divinely-ordained time. There is an instinct peculiar to his nature impelling him to pass beyond this fragmentary knowledge and to comprehend eternity; but his effort is in vain, for (3) “man is unable to reach unto the work which God accomplisheth from the beginning to the end.” The work of God is that which is completing itself in the history of the world, of which the life of individual men is a fragment. Of this work he says, that God has wrought it עשׂה ; because, before it is wrought out in its separate “time,” it is already completed in God's plan. Eternity and this work are related to each other as the accomplished and the being accomplished, they are interchangeably the πλήρωμα to each other. ימצא is potential, and the same in conception as at Ecclesiastes 8:17; Job 11:7; Job 37:23; a knowledge is meant which reaches to the object, and lays hold of it. A laying hold of this work is an impossibility, because eternity, as its name 'olam denotes, is the concealed, i.e., is both forwards and backwards immeasurable. The desiderium aeternitatis inherent in man thus remains under the sun unappeased. He would raise himself above the limits within which he is confined, and instead of being under the necessity of limiting his attention to isolated matters, gain a view of the whole of God's work which becomes manifest in time; but this all-embracing view is for him unattainable.
If Koheleth had known of a future life - which proves that as no instinct in the natural world is an allusion, so also the impulse toward the eternal, which is natural to man, is no illusion-he would have reached a better ultimatum than the following: -
“Thus I then perceived that among them (men) there is nothing better than to enjoy themselves, and indulge themselves in their life.” The resignation would acquire a reality if לע טוב meant “to do good,” i.e., right (lxx, Targ., Syr., Jer., Venet.); and this appears of necessity to be its meaning according to Ecclesiastes 7:20. But, with right, Ginsburg remarks that nowhere else - neither at Ecclesiastes 2:24, nor Ecclesiastes 3:22; Ecclesiastes 5:17; Ecclesiastes 8:15; Ecclesiastes 9:7 - is this moral rendering given to the ultimatum; also טוב ור , 13 a, presupposes for לע טוב a eudemonistic sense. On the other hand, Zöckler is right in saying that for the meaning of עשות תוב , in the sense of “to be of good cheer” (Luth.), there is no example. Zirkel compares εὖ πράττειν , and regards it as a Graecism. But it either stands ellipt. for לע לו טוב (= להיטיב לו ), or, with Grätz, we have to read טוב לראות ; in any case, an ethical signification is here excluded by the nearest connection, as well as by the parallels; it is not contrary to the view of Koheleth, but this is not the place to express it. Bam is to be understood after baadam , Ecclesiastes 2:24. The plur., comprehending men, here, as at Ecclesiastes 3:11, wholly passes over into the individualizing sing.
But this enjoyment of life also, Koheleth continues, this advisedly the best portion in the limited and restrained condition of man, is placed beyond his control: -
“But also that he should eat and drink, and see good in all his labour, is for every man a gift of God.” The inverted and yet anacoluthistic formation of the sentence is quite like that at Ecclesiastes 5:18. כּל־הא signifies, properly, the totality of men = all men, e.g., Psalms 116:11; but here and at 5:18; 12:13, the author uses the two words so that the determ. second member of the st. constr. does not determine the first (which elsewhere sometimes occurs, as bethulath Israel , a virgin of Israel, Deuteronomy 22:19): every one of men (cf. πᾶς τις βροτῶν ). The subst. clause col - haadam is subject: every one of men, in this that he eats ... is dependent on God. Instead of מיּד the word מתּת (abbrev. from מתּנת ) is here used, as at Ecclesiastes 5:18. The connection by vegam is related to the preceding adversat.: and (= but) also (= notwithstanding that), as at Ecclesiastes 6:7, Nehemiah 5:8, cf. Jeremiah 3:10, where gam is strengthened by becol - zoth . As for the rest, it follows from Ecclesiastes 3:13, in connection with Ecclesiastes 2:24-26, that for Koheleth εὐποΐ́α and εὐθυμία reciprocally condition each other, without, however, a conclusion following therefrom justifying the translation “to do good,” Ecclesiastes 3:12. Men's being conditioned in the enjoyment of life, and, generally, their being conditioned by God the Absolute, has certainly an ethical end in view, as is expressed in the conclusion which Koheleth now reaches: -
“Thus I discerned it then, that all that God will do exists for ever; nothing is to be added to it, and nothing taken from it: God has thus directed it, that men should fear before Him.” This is a conclusion derived from the facts of experience, a truth that is valid for the present and for the time to come. We may with equal correctness render by quidquid facit and quidquid faciet . But the pred. shows that the fut. expression is also thought of as fut.; for הוּ יה לע does not mean: that is for ever (Hitz.), which would be expressed by the subst. clause הוּא לעולם ; but: that shall be for ever (Zöck.), i.e., will always assert its validity. That which is affirmed here is true of God's directing and guiding events in the natural world, as well as of the announcements of His will and His controlling and directing providence in the history of human affairs. All this is removed beyond the power of the creature to alter it. The meaning is not that one ought not to add to or to take from it (Deuteronomy 13:1; Proverbs 30:6), but that such a thing cannot be done ( vid., Sir. 18:5). And this unchangeableness characterizing the arrangements of God has this as its aim, that men should fear Him who is the All-conditioning and is Himself unconditioned: he has done it that they (men) should fear before Him, אשׂה שׁ , fecit ut ; cf. Ezekiel 36:27. ποιεῖν ἳνα , Revelation 13:15; and “fear before Him,” as at Ecclesiastes 8:12.; cf. 1 Chronicles 16:30 with Psalms 96:9. The unchangeableness of God's action shows itself in this, that in the course of history similar phenomena repeat themselves; for the fundamental principles, the causal connections, the norms of God's government, remain always the same.
“That which is now hath been long ago; and that which will be hath already been: God seeketh after that which was crowded out.” The words: “hath been long ago” ( הוּא כּבר ), are used of that which the present represents as something that hath been, as the fruit of a development; the words: “hath already been” ( היה כּבר ), are used of the future ( ל אשׁר , τὸ μέλλον , vid., Gesen. §132. 1), as denying to it the right of being regarded as something new. The government of God is not to be changed, and does not change; His creative as well as His moral ordering of the world produces with the same laws the same phenomena (the ו corresponds to this line of thought here, as at Ecclesiastes 3:14) - God seeks את־ן (cf. Ecclesiastes 7:7; Ewald, §277d). Hengstenberg renders: God seeks the persecuted (lxx, Symm., Targ., Syr.), i.e., visits them with consolation and comfort. Nirdaph here denotes that which is followed, hunted, pressed, by which we may think of that which is already driven into the past; that God seeks, seeks it purposely, and brings it back again into the present; for His government remains always, and brings thus always up again that which hath been. Thus Jerome: Deut instaurat quod abiit ; the Venet.: ὃ τηεὸς ζητήσει τὸ ἀπεληλαμένον ; and thus Geier, among the post-Reform. interpreters: praestat ut quae propulsa sunt ac praeterierunt iterum innoventur ac redeant ; and this is now the prevailing exposition, after Knobel, Ewald, and Hitzig. The thought is the same as if we were to translate: God seeks after the analogue. In the Arab., one word in relation to another is called muradif , if it is cogn. to it; and mutaradifat is the technical expression for a synonym. In Heb. the expression used is שׁמות נרדּפים , they who are followed the one by another, - one of which, as it were, treads on the heels of another. But this designation is mediated through the Arab. In evidence of the contrary, ancient examples are wanting.
“And, moreover, I saw under the sun the place of judgment, that wickedness was there; and the place of righteousness, that wickedness was there.” The structure of the verse is palindromic, like Ecclesiastes 1:6; Ecclesiastes 2:10; Ecclesiastes 4:1. We might also render מקום as the so-called casus absol., so that שׁם ... מק is an emphatic בּמקום (Hitz.), and the construction like Jeremiah 46:5; but the accentuation does not require this (cf. Genesis 1:1); and why should it not be at once the object to ראיתי , which in any case it virtually is? These two words שׁמה הרשׁע might be attribut. clauses: where wickedness (prevails), for the old scheme of the attributive clause (the tsfat ) is not foreign to the style of this book ( vid., Ecclesiastes 1:13, nathan = nethano ; and Ecclesiastes 5:12, raithi = reithiha ); but why not rather virtual pred. accus.: vidi locum juris ( quod) ibi impietas ? Cf. Nehemiah 13:23 with Psalms 37:25. The place of “judgment” is the place where justice should be ascertained and executed; and the place of “righteousness,” that where righteousness should ascertain and administer justice; for mishpat is the rule (of right), and the objective matter of fact; tsedek , a subjective property and manner of acting. רשׁע is in both cases the same: wickedness (see under Psalms 1:1), which bends justice, and is the contrary of tsěděk , i.e., upright and moral sternness. רשׁע elsewhere, like mělěk̂ tsěděk , preserves in p. its e, but here it takes rank along with חסד , which in like manner fluctuates (cf. Psalms 130:7 with Proverbs 21:21). שׁמּה is here = שׁם , as at Psalms 122:5, etc.; the locative ah suits the question Where? as well as in the question Whither? - He now expresses how, in such a state of things, he arrived at satisfaction of mind.
“I said in mine heart: God shall judge the righteous as well as the wicked: for there is there a time for every purpose and for every work.” Since “the righteous” stands first, the word ישׁפּט has here the double sense of judging [ richtens = setting upright] = acting uprightly, justly by one, as in the shofteni of Psalms 7:9; Psalms 26:1, etc., and of judging = inflicting punishment. To the righteous, as well as to the wicked,
(Note: The lxx (in Aquila's manner): σὺν τὸν δίκαιον καὶ σὺν τὸν ἀσεβῆ - according to the Talm. hermeneut. rule, that where the obj. is designated by את , with that which is expressly named, something else is associated, and is to be thought of along with it.)
God will administer that which of right belongs to them. But this does not immediately happen, and has to be waited for a long time, for there is a definite time for every undertaking (Ecclesiastes 3:1), and for ( על , in the more modern form of the language, interchanges promiscue with אל ht and ל , e.g., Jeremiah 19:15; Ezekiel 22:3; Ewald, §217 i) every work there is a “time.” This שׁם , defended by all the old interpreters, cannot have a temporal sense: tunc = in die judicii (Jerome, Targ.), cf. Psalms 14:5; 36:13, for “a time of judgment there is for all one day” is not intended, since certainly the שׁם (day of judgment) is this time itself, and not the time of this time. Ewald renders שׁם as pointing to the past, for he thus construes: the righteous and the unrighteous God will judge (for there is a time for everything), and judge ( vav thus explicat., “and that too,” “and indeed”) every act there, i.e., everything done before. But this שׁם is not only heavy, but also ambiguous and purposeless; and besides, by this parenthesizing of the words וגו עת כּי for there is a time for everything, the principal thought, that with God everything, even His act of judgment, has its time, is robbed of its independence and of the place in the principal clause appropriate to it. But if שׁם is understood adverbially, it certainly has a local meaning connected with it: there, viz., with God, apud Deum ; true, for this use of the word Genesis 49:24 affords the only example, and it stands there in the midst of a very solemn and earnest address. Therefore it lies near to read, with Houbig., Döderl., Palm., and Hitz., שׁם , “a definite time ... has He (God) ordained;” שׂום ( שׂים ) is the usual word for the ordinances of God in the natural world and in human history (Proverbs 8:29; Exodus 21:13; Numbers 24:23; Habakkuk 1:12, etc.), and, as in the Assyr. simtuv , so the Heb. שׂימה ( שׂוּמה ), 2 Samuel 13:32, signifies lot or fate, decree.
(Note: Vid., Schrader's Keilsch. u. A. T. p. 105, simtu ubilsu , i.e., fate snatched him away (Heb. simah hovilathhu ), cf. Fried. Delitzsch's Assyr. Stud. p. 66f.)
With this reading, Elster takes exception to the position of the words; but at Judges 6:19 also the object goes before שׂם , and “unto every purpose and for every work” is certainly the complement of the object-conception, so that the position of the words is in reality no other than at Ecclesiastes 10:20; Daniel 2:17. Quite untenable is Herzfeld's supposition (Fürst, Vaih.), that שׁם has here the Talm. signification: aestimat , taxat , for (1) this שׁוּם = Arab. sham , has not על , but the accus. after it; (2) the thought referring to the tie on which Ecclesiastes 3:18 rests is thereby interrupted. Whether we read שׂם , or take שׁם in the sense of עמּו (Job 25:2; Job 23:14, etc.), the thought is the same, and equally congruous: God will judge the innocent and the guilty; it shall be done some time, although not so soon as one might wish it, and think necessary, for God has for every undertaking and for every work its fixed time, also its judicial decision ( vid., at Psalms 74:3); He permits wickedness, lets it develope itself, waits long before He interposes ( vid., under Isaiah 18:4.).
Reflecting on God's delay to a time hidden from men, and known only to Himself, Koheleth explains the matter to himself in the following verse: -
“Thus I said then in mine heart: (it happeneth) for the sake of the children of men that God might sift them, and that they might see that they are like the cattle, they in themselves.” Regarding על־דּב for the sake of = on account of as at Ecclesiastes 8:2, vid., under Psalms 110:4, where it signifies after ( κατά ) the state of the matter. The infin. לבּ is not derived from בּוּר . - לּבוּר , Ecclesiastes 9:1, is only the metaplastic form of לבר or לברר - but only from בּרר , whose infin. may take the form בּר , after the form רד , to tread down, Isaiah 45:1, שׁך , to bow, Jeremiah 5:26; but nowhere else is this infin. form found connected with a suff.; קחם , Hosea 11:3, would be in some measure to be compared, if it could be supposed that this = בּקחתּם , sumendo eos . The root בר proceeds, from the primary idea of cutting, on the one side to the idea of separating, winnowing, choosing out; and, on the other, to that of smoothing, polishing, purifying ( vid., under Isaiah 49:2). Here, by the connection, the meaning of winnowing, i.e., of separating the good from the bad, is intended, with which, however, as in לברר , Daniel 11:35, the meaning of making clear, making light, bringing forward into the light, easily connects itself (cf. Shabbath 138 a, 74 a), of which the meaning to winnow (cf. להבר , Jeremiah 4:11) is only a particular form;
(Note: Not “to sift,” for not בּרר but רקּד , means “to sift” (properly, “to make to keep up,” “to agitate”); cf. Shebîith v. 9.)
cf. Sanhedrin 7 b: “when a matter is clear, brwr, to thee (free from ambiguity) as the morning, speak it out; and if not, do not speak it.”
In the expression לב האל , the word האל is, without doubt, the subject, according to Gesen. §133. 2. 3; Hitz. regards האל as genit., which, judged according to the Arab., is correct; it is true that for li - imti - ḥânihim allahi (with genit. of the subj.), also allahu (with nominat. of the subj.) may be used; but the former expression is the more regular and more common ( vid., Ewald's Gramm. Arab. §649), but not always equally decisive with reference to the Heb. usus loq. That God delays His righteous interference till the time appointed beforehand, is for the sake of the children of men, with the intention, viz., that God may sift them, i.e., that, without breaking in upon the free development of their characters before the time, He may permit the distinction between the good and the bad to become manifest. Men, who are the obj. to לב , are the subject to לראותו to be supplied: et ut videant ; it is unnecessary, with the lxx, Syr., and Jerome, to read ולראות (= וּלהר ): ut ostenderet . It is a question whether המּה
(Note: המּה שׁהם בּהמה thus accented rightly in F. Cf. Michlol 216 a.)
is the expression of the copula: sunt ( sint), or whether hēmmah lahěm is a closer definition, co-ordinate with shehem behēmah . The remark of Hitzig, that lahěm throws back the action on the subject, is not clear. Does he suppose that lahem belongs to liroth ? That is here impossible. If we look away from lahem , the needlessly circumstantial expression הם ... שה can still be easily understood: hemmah takes up, as an echo, behemah , and completes the comparison (compare the battology in Hosea 13:2). This play upon words musically accompanying the thought remains also, when, according to the accentuation שׁה בהם ה לה , we take hemmah along with lahem , and the former as well as the latter of these two words is then better understood. The ל in להם is not that of the pure dat. (Aben Ezra: They are like beasts to themselves, i.e., in their own estimation), but that of reference, as at Genesis 17:20, “as for Ishmael;” cf. Psalms 3:3; 2 Kings 5:7; cf. אל , 1 Samuel 1:27, etc. Men shall see that they are cattle (beasts), they in reference to themselves, i.e., either they in reference to themselves mutually (Luther: among themselves), or: they in reference to themselves. To interpret the reference as that of mutual relation, would, in looking back to Ecclesiastes 3:16, commend itself, for the condemnation and oppression of the innocent under the appearance of justice is an act of human brutishness. But the reason assigned in Ecclesiastes 3:19 does not accord with this reciprocal rendering of lahem . Thus lahem will be meant reflexively, but it is not on that account pleonastic (Knobel), nor does it ironically form a climax: ipsissimi = höchstselbst (Ewald, §315a); but “they in reference to themselves” is = they in and of themselves, i.e., viewed as men (viewed naturally). If one disregards the idea of God's interfering at a future time with the discordant human history, and, in general, if one loses sight of God, the distinction between the life of man and of beast disappears.
“For the children of men are a chance, and the beast a chance, and they both have once chance: as the death of the one, so that death of the other, and they have all one breath; and there is no advantage to a man over a beast, for all is vain.” If in both instances the word is pointed מקרה (lxx), the three-membered sentence would then have the form of an emblematical proverb (as e.g., Proverbs 25:25): “For as the chance of men, so ( vav of comparison) the chance of the beast; they have both one chance.” מקרה with segol cannot possibly be the connecting form (Luzz.), for in cases such as מע שׂ ם , Isaiah 3:24, the relation of the words is appositional, not genitival. This form מקר , thus found three times, is vindicated by the Targ. (also the Venet.) and by Mss.; Joseph Kimchi remarks that “all three have segol, and are thus forms of the absolutus .” The author means that men, like beasts, are in their existence and in their death influenced accidentally, i.e., not of necessity, and are wholly conditioned, not by their own individual energy, but by a power from without - are dependent beings, as Solon (Herod. i. 32) says to Croesus: “Man is altogether συμφορή ,” i.e., the sport of accident. The first two sentences mean exclusively neither that men (apart from God) are, like beasts, the birth of a blind accident (Hitz.), nor that they are placed under the same law of transitoriness (Elst.); but of men, in the totality of their being, and doing, and suffering, it is first said that they are accidental beings; then, that which separates them from this, that they all, men like beasts, are finally exposed to one, i.e., to the same fate. As is the death of one, so is the death of the other; and they all have one breath, i.e., men and beasts alike die, for this breath of life ( חיּים רוּח , which constitutes a beast - as well as a man a חיּה נפשׁ ) departs from the body (Psalms 104:29). In זה ... זה (as at Ecclesiastes 6:5; Exodus 14:20, and frequently), להם (mas. as genus potius) is separately referred to men and beasts. With the Mishnic בּמות = bibl. כּמו (cf. Maaser Sheni, v. 2), the כּמות here used has manifestly nothing to do. The noun מותר , which in the Book of Proverbs (Proverbs 14:23; Proverbs 21:5, not elsewhere) occurs in the sense of profit, gain, is here in the Book of Koheleth found as a synon. of יתרון , “preference,” advantage which is exclusively peculiar to it. From this, that men and beasts fall under the same law of death, the author concludes that there is no preference of a man to a beast; he doubtless means that in respect of the end man has no superiority; but he expresses himself thus generally because, as the matter presented itself to him, all-absorbing death annulled every distinction. He looks only to the present time, without encumbering himself with the historical account of the matter found in the beginning of the Tôra; and he adheres to the external phenomenon, without thinking, with the Psalmist in Ps 49, that although death is common to man with the beast, yet all men do not therefore die as the beast does. That the beast dies because it must, but that in the midst of this necessity of nature man can maintain his freedom, is for him out of view. הבל הכּל , the ματαιότης , which at last falls to man as well as to the beast, throws its long dark shadows across his mind, and wholly shrouds it.
“All goes hence to one place; all has sprung out of the dust, and all returns to the dust again.” The “one place” is (as at Ecclesiastes 6:6) the earth, the great graveyard which finally receives all the living when dead. The art. of the first העפר is that denoting species; the art. of the second is retrospective: to the dust whence he sprang (cf. Psalms 104:29; Psalms 146:4); otherwise, Genesis 3:19 (cf. Job 34:15), “to dust shalt thou return,” shalt become dust again. From dust to dust (Sir. 40:11; 41:10) is true of every living corporeal thing. It is true there exists the possibility that with the spirit of the dying man it may be different from what it is with the spirit of the dying beast, but yet that is open to question.
“Who knoweth with regard to the spirit of the children of men, whether it mounteth upward; and with regard to the spirit of a beast, whether it goeth downward to the earth?” The interrogative meaning of העלה and הירדת is recognised by all the old translators: lxx, Targ., Syr., Jerome, Venet., Luther. Among the moderns, Heyder ( vid., Psychol. p. 410), Hengst., Hahn, Dale, and Bullock take the h in both cases as the article: “Who knoweth the spirit of the children of men, that which goeth upward ... ?” But (1) thus rendered the question does not accord with the connection, which requires a sceptical question; (2) following “who knoweth,” after Ecclesiastes 2:19; Ecclesiastes 6:12, cf. Joshua 2:14, an interrogative continuance of the sentence was to be expected; and (3) in both cases היא stands as designation of the subject only for the purpose of marking the interrogative clause (cf. Jeremiah 2:14), and of making it observable that ha'olah and hayorěděth are not appos. belonging as objects to רוח and ורוח . It is questionable, indeed, whether the punctuation of these words, העלה and היּרדת , as they lie before us, proceeds from an interrogative rendering. Saadia in Emunoth c. vi., and Juda Halevi in the Kuzri ii. 80, deny this; and so also do Aben Ezra and Kimchi. And they may be right. For instead of העלה , the pointing ought to have been העלה (cf. העלה , Job 13:25) when used as interrog. an ascendens; even before א the compens. lengthening of the interrog. ha is nowhere certainly found
(Note: For ה is to be read with a Pattach in Judges 6:31; Judges 12:5; Nehemiah 6:11; cf. under Genesis 19:9; Genesis 27:21. In Numbers 16:22 the ה of האישׁ is the art., the question is not formally designated.
instead of the virtual reduplication; and thus also the parallel היּר is not to be judged after היּי , Leviticus 10:19, הדּ , Ezekiel 18:29, - we must allow that the punctation seeks, by the removal of the two interrog. ha ( ה ), to place that which is here said in accord with Ecclesiastes 12:7. But there is no need for this. For יודע מי does not quite fall in with that which Lucretius says (Lib. I):
“Ignoratur enim quae sit natura animai,
Nata sit an contra nascentibus insinuetur?
An simul intereat nobiscum morte diremta?”
It may certainly be said of mi yode'a , as of ignoratur , that it does not exclude every kind of knowledge, but only a sure and certain knowledge resting on sufficient grounds; interire and ירד לם are also scarcely different, for neither of the two necessarily signifies annihilation, but both the discontinuance of independent individual existence. But the putting of the question by Koheleth is different, for it discloses more definitely than this by Lucretius, the possibility of a different end for the spirit of a man from that which awaits the spirit of a beast, and thus of a specific distinction between these two principles of life. In the formation even of the dilemma: Whether upwards or downwards, there lies an inquiring knowledge; and it cannot surprise us if Koheleth finally decides that the way of the spirit of a man is upwards, although it is not said that he rested this on the ground of demonstrative certainty. It is enough that, with the moral necessity of a final judgment beyond the sphere of this present life, at the same time also the continued existence of the spirit of man presented itself to him as a postulate of faith. One may conclude from the desiderium aeternitatis (Ecclesiastes 3:11) implanted in man by the Creator, that, like the instincts implanted in the beasts, it will be calculated not for deception, but for satisfaction; and from the למעלה , Proverbs 15:24 - i.e., the striving of a wise man rising above earthly, temporary, common things, - that death will not put an end to this striving, but will help it to reach its goal. But this is an indirect proof, which, however, is always inferior to the direct in force of argument. He presupposes that the Omnipotence and Wisdom which formed the world is also at the same time Love. Thus, though at last, it is faith which solves the dilemma, and we see from Ecclesiastes 12:7 that this faith held sway over Koheleth. In the Book of Sirach, also, the old conception of Hades shows itself as yet dominant; but after the οὐκ ἀτηάνατος υἱὸς ἀντηρώπου , 17:25, we read towards the end, where he speaks of Elias: καὶ τὰρ ἡμεῖς ζωῇ ζησόμεθα , 48:11. In the passage before us, Koheleth remains in doubt, without getting over it by the hand of faith. In a certain reference the question he here proposes is to the present day unanswered; for the soul, or, more correctly, according to the biblical mode of conception the spirit from which the soul-life of all corporeal beings proceeds, is a monas, and as such is indestructible. Do the future of the beast's soul and of man's soul not then stand in a solidaric mutual relation to each other? In fact, the future life presents to us mysteries the solution of which is beyond the power of human thought, and we need not wonder that Koheleth, this sober-minded, intelligent man, who was inaccessible to fantastic self-deception, arrives, by the line of thought commenced at Ecclesiastes 3:16, also again at the ultimatum.
“Thus I then saw that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his works, for that is his portion; for who can bring him to this, that he gains an insight into that which shall be after him?” Hengstenberg, who has decided against the interrog. signification of the twice-repeated ה in Ecclesiastes 3:21, now also explains אהריו ... בּמה , not: What shall become of him after it (his death)? but: What further shall be done after the state in which he now finds himself? Zöckler, although rightly understanding both ה as well as אחריו (after him = when he will be separated, or separates from this life, Ecclesiastes 7:14; Ecclesiastes 9:3; cf. Genesis 24:67), yet proceeds on that explanation of Hengstenberg's, and gives it the rendering: how things shall be on the earth after his departure. But (1) for this thought, as Ecclesiastes 6:12 shows, the author had a more suitable form of expression; (2) this thought, after the author has, Ecclesiastes 3:21, explained it as uncertain whether the spirit of a man in the act of death takes a different path from that of a beast, is altogether aside from the subject, and it is only an apologetic tendency not yet fully vanquished which here constrains him. The chain of thought is however this: How it will be with the spirit of a man when he dies, who knows? What will be after death is thus withdrawn from human knowledge. Thus it is best to enjoy the present, since we connect together (Ecclesiastes 2:24) labour and enjoyment mediated thereby. This joy of a man in his work - i.e., as Ecclesiastes 5:18: which flows from his work as a fountain, and accompanies him in it (Ecclesiastes 8:15) - is his portion, i.e., the best which he has of life in this world. Instead of בּמה־שּׁ , the punctuation is בּמה , because שׁיהיה אחריו is a kindred idea; vid.' regarding מה under Ecclesiastes 2:22. And לראות בּ is sued, because it is not so much to be said of the living, that he cannot foresee how it shall be with him when he dies, as that he can gain no glimpse into that world because it is an object that has for him no fixity.
The Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 3". Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent