The Book of Ecclesiastes translated by m. G. Easton introduction


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The thought with which the following sentence is introduced is not incongruous to that going before. But each one of these moral proverbs and aphorisms is in itself a little whole, and the deeper connections, in the discovery of which interpreters vie with each other, are destitute of exegetical value. One must not seek to be overwise; but the possession of wisdom deserves to be highly valued.

Ecc. 7:19.

“Wisdom affords strong protection to the wise man more than ten mighty men who are in the city.” We have to distinguish, as is shown under Psa. 31:3, the verbsעזז , to be strong, andעוּז , to flee for refuge;תֳעֹז is the fut. of the former, whenceמָעֹז , stronghold, safe retreat, protection, and withל , since עזז means not only to be strong, but also to show oneself strong, as at 9:20, to feel and act as one strong; it has also the trans. meaning, to strengthen, as shown in Psa. 68:29, but here the intrans. suffices: wisdom proves itself strong for the wise man. The ten shallithim are not, with Ginsburg, to be multiplied indefinitely into “many mighty men.” And it is not necessary, with Desvoeux, Hitz., Zöckl., and others, to think of ten chiefs (commanders of forces), including the portions of the city garrison which they commanded. The author probably in this refers to some definite political arrangement (vid., above, p. 654), perhaps to the ten archons, like those Assyrian salatå, vice- regents, after whom as eponyms the year was named by the Greeks.שׁלּיט , in the Asiatic kingdom, was not properly a military title. And did a town then need protection only in the time of war, and not also at other times, against injury threatening its trade, against encroachments on its order, against the spread of infectious diseases, against the force of the elements? As the Deutero-Isaiah (ch. 60:17) says of Jerusalem: “I will make thy officers peace, and thine exactors righteousness,” so Koheleth says here that wisdom affords a wise man as strong a protection as a powerful decemvirate a city; cf. Pro. 24:5a: “A wise man is ba’oz,i.e., mighty.

[[@Bible:Ecclesiastes 7:20]]
Ecc. 7:20.

“For among men there is not a righteous man on the earth, who doeth good, and sinneth not.” The original passage, found in Solomon’s prayer at the consecration of the temple, is briefer, 1Ki. 8:46: “There is no man who sinneth not.” Here the words might beאין אָדָם צַדִּיק וגוי , there is no righteous man.... Adam stands here as representing the species, as when we say in Germ.: Menschen gibt es keine gerechten auf Erden [men, there are none righteous on earth]; cf. Ex. 5:16: “Straw, none was given.” The verification of v. 19 by reference to the fact of the common sinfulness from which even the most righteous cannot free himself, does not contradict all expectation to the same degree as the ki in 7:7; but yet it surprises us, so that Mercer and Grätz, with Aben Ezra, take v. 20 as the verification of v. 16, here first adduced, and Knobel and Heiligst. and others connect it with vv. 21, 22, translating: “Because there is not a just man..., therefore it is also the part of wisdom to take no heed unto all words,” etc. But these are all forced interpretations; instead of the latter, we would rather suppose that v. 20 originally stood after v. 22, and is separated from its correct place. But yet the sequence of thought lying before us may be conceived, and that not merely as of necessity, but as that which was intended by the author. On the whole, Hitzig is correct: “For every one, even the wise man, sins; in which case virtue, which has forsaken him, does not protect him, but wisdom proves itself as his means of defence.” Zöckler adds: “against the judicial justice of God;” but one escapes from this by a penitent appeal to grace, for which there is no need for the personal property of wisdom; there is thus reason rather for thinking on the dangerous consequences which often a single false step has for a man in other respects moral; in the threatening complications in which he is thereby involved, it is wisdom which then protects him and delivers him. Otherwise Tyler, who by theעז , which the wise has in wisdom, understands power over evil, which is always moving itself even in the righteous. But the sinning spoken of in v. 20 is that which is unavoidable, which even wisdom cannot prevent or make inefficacious. On the contrary, it knows how to prevent the destruction which threatens man from his transgressions, and to remove the difficulties and derangements which thence arise. The good counsel following is connected by gam with the foregoing. The exhortation to strive after wisdom, contained in v. 19, which affords protection against the evil effects of the failures which run through the life of the righteous, is followed by the exhortation, that one conscious that he himself is not free from transgression, should take heed to avoid that tale- bearing which finds pleasure in exposing to view the shortcomings of others.

[[@Bible:Ecclesiastes 7:21]]
Ecc. 7:21, 22.

“Also give not thy heart to all the words which one speaketh, lest thou shouldest hear thy servant curse thee. For thy heart knoweth in many cases that thou also hast cursed others.” The talk of the people, who are the indef. subj. of ידַבּרוּ (LXX, Targ., Syr. supply ἀσεβεῖς), is not about “thee who givest heed to the counsels just given” (Hitz., Zöckl.), for the restrictive עליךָ is wanting; and why should a servant be zealous to utter imprecations on the conduct of his master, which rests on the best maxims? It is the babbling of the people in general that is meant. To this one ought not to turn his heart (נתַן ... ל, as at 1:13, 17; 8:9, 16), i.e., gives wilful attention, ne ( אֲשֶׁר לא=פֶּן , which does not occur in the Book of Koheleth) audias servum tuum tibi maledicere; the particip. expression of the pred. obj. follows the analogy of Gen. 21:9, Ewald, § 284b, and is not a Graecism; for since in this place hearing is meant, not immediately, but mediated through others, the expression would not in good Greek be with the LXX ... του δούλου σου καταρωμένου σε, but τὸν δοῦλὸν σου καταρᾶσθαι σε. The warning has its motive in this, that by such roundabout hearing one generally hears most unpleasant things; and on hearsay no reliance can be placed. Such gossiping one should ignore, should not listen to it at all; and if, nevertheless, something so bad is reported as that our own servant has spoken words of imprecation against us, yet we ought to pass that by unheeded, well knowing that we ourselves have often spoken harsh words against others. The expressionידַע וגוי , “thou art conscious to thyself that,” is likeפְּעָי רי , 1Ki. 2:44, not the obj. accus. dependent on ידע (Hitz.), “many cases where also thou...,” but the adv. accus. of time toקִלַּלְתֳ ; the words are inverted (Ewald, § 336b), the style of Koheleth being fond of thus giving prominence to the chief conception (v. 20, 5:18; 3:13). The first gam, although it belongs to “thine, thy,” as at 22b it is also connected with “thou,”81 stands at the beginning of the sentence, after such syntactical examples as Hos. 6:11; Zec. 9:11; and even with a two-membered sentence, Job. 2:10.

[[@Bible:Ecclesiastes 7:23]]

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