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



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Ecc. 12:9.


In connection with v. 8, where Koheleth has spoken his last word, the author, who has introduced him as speaking thereto, continues: “And, moreover, because Koheleth was wise he taught the people knowledge; he applied and searched out and formed may proverbs.” The postscript begins with “and” because it is connected with the concluding words of the book — only externally, however; nothing is more unwarrantable than to make v. 8 the beginning of the postscript on account of the vav. The LXX translate και περισςὸν (Venet. περιττὸν) ὅτι; as Hitz.: “it remains (to be said) that Koheleth was a wise man,” etc.; and Dale may be right, that ויתר is in this sense as subj., pointed with Zakeph gadhol (cf. Gen. 16:16; 20:4, and the obj. thus pointed, Ex. 23:3). But that Koheleth was “a wise man” is nothing remaining to be said, for as such he certainly speaks in the whole book from beginning to end; theעוֹד , unconnected, following, shows that this his property is presupposed as needing no further testimony. But untenable also is the translation: So much the greater Koheleth was as a wise man so much the more, etc. (Heinem., Südfeld); עוֹד does not signify eo magis; the Heb. language has a different way of expressing such an intensification:כל הגדול מחכרו יצרו גדול ממנו , i.e., the higher the position is which one assumes, so much the greater are the temptations to which he is exposed. Rightly, Luther: “This same preacher was not only wise, but,” etc. ויֹתר signifies, 7:11, “and an advance (benefit, gain);” hereויתר שׁ , “and something going beyond this, that,” etc. — thought of as accus.-adv.: “going beyond this, that = moreover, because” (Gesen., Knobel, Vaih., Ginsb., Grätz); vid., above, p. 638. Thus ‘od is in order, which introduces that which goes beyond the property and position of a “wise man” as such. That which goes beyond does not consist in this, that he taught the people knowledge, for that is just the meaning of the name Koheleth; the statement which ‘od introduces is contained in the concluding member of the compound sentence; the after-word begins with this, that it designates the Koheleth who appears in the more esoteric book before us asחכם , as the very same person who also composed the comprehensive people’s book, the Mishle. He has taught the people knowledge; for he has placed, i.e., formed “stellen,to place, as “Schriftsteller” = author; modern Heb.מְחַבּר ; Arab. musåannif161), many proverbs, as the fruit of nature reflection and diligent research. The obj. mêshalim harbeÝh belongs only to tiqqeÝn, which ἀσυνδέτως (according to the style of the epilogue and of the book, as is shown above, p. 648) follows the two preparative mental efforts, whose resultat it was. Rightly, as to the syntax, Zöckler, and, as to the matter, Hitzig: “Apparently the author has here not 1Ki. 5:12, but the canonical Book of Proverbs in his eye.” The language is peculiar. Not only is תִּקּן exclusively peculiar (vid., above, p. 641) to the Book of Koheleth, but alsoאזן , perpendere (cf. Assyr. uzunu, reflection), to consider, and the Pih.חִקּר . Regarding the position of harbeh, vid., above, p. 665.162
[[@Bible:Ecclesiastes 12:10]]
Ecc. 12:10.

It is further said of Koheleth, that he put forth efforts not only to find words of a pleasant form, but, above all, of exact truth: “Koheleth strove to find words of pleasantness, and, written in sincerity, words of truth.” The unconnected beginning biqqesh Koheleth is like dibbarti ani, 1:16, etc., in the book itself. Three objects follow limtso. But Hitz. reads the inf. absol. וכָתוֹב instead ofוכָתוּב , and translates: to find pleasing words, and correctly to write words of truth. Such a continuance of the inf. const. by the inf. absol. is possible; 1Sa. 25:26, cf. 31. But why should וכָתוֹב not be the continuance of the finite (Aq., Syr.), as e.g., at 8:9, and that in the nearest adverbial sense: et scribendo quidem sincere verba veritatis, i.e., he strove, according to his best knowledge and conscience, to write true words, at the same time also to find out pleasing words; thus sought to connect truth as to the matter with beauty as to the manner? Vechathuv needs no modification in its form. But it is not to be translated: and that which was right was written by him; for the ellipsis is inadmissible, and מִן כתוב is not correct Heb. Rightly the LXX, και γεγραμμένον εὐθύτητος. כָּתוּב signifies “written,” and may also, as the name of the Hagiographa כְּתוּבִים shows, signify “a writing;” kakathuvah, 2Ch. 30:5, is = “in accordance with the writing;” and bêlo kaÔkathuv, 2Ch. 30:18, “contrary to the writing;” in the post-bibl. the phrase הַכָּתוּב אֹמר = η γραφη λέγει, is used. The objection made by Ginsburg, that kathuv never means, as ke thav does, “a writing,” is thus nugatory. However, we do not at all here need this subst. meaning, וכתוב is neut. particip., an


ישֶׁרcertainly not the genit., as the LXX renders (readingוּכְתוּב ), but also not the nom. of the subj. (Hoelem.), but, since ישֶׁר is the designation of a mode of thought and of a relation, the accus. of manner, like ve yashar, Psa. 119:18; emeth, Psa. 132:11; emunah, Psa. 119:75. Regarding the common use of such an accus. of the nearer definition in the passive part., vid., Ewald, § 284c . The asyndeton ve chathuv yosher divre emeth is like that at 10:1, mehhochmah michvod. That which follows limtso we interpret as its threefold object. Thus it is said that Koheleth directed his effort towards an attractive form (cf. avne-hephets, Isa. 54:12); but, before all, towards the truth, both subjectively (ישֶׁר) and objectively(אֱמֶת) , of that which was formulated and expressed in writing.
[[@Bible:Ecclesiastes 12:11]]
Ecc. 12:11.

From the words of Koheleth the author comes to the words of the wise man in general; so that what he says of the latter finds its application to himself and his book: “Words of the wise are as like goads, and like fastened nails which are put together in collections — they are given by one shepherd.” The LXX, Aq., and Theod. translate darvonoth by βούκεντρα, the Venet. by βουπλῆγες; and that is also correct. The word is one of three found in the Jerus. Gemara, Sanhedrin x. 1, to designate a rod for driving (oxen) — דרבן (fromדרב , to sharpen, to point), מַלְמָד (fromלמד, to adjust, teach, exercise), and מַרְדּאַ (fromרדע , to hold back, repellere); we read ka-daÝrêvonoth; Gesen., Ewald, Hitz., and others are in error in reading dorvonoth ; for the so-called light Metheg, which under certain circumstances can be changed into an accent, and the Kametz chatuph exclude one another.163


If דרבן is the goad, the point of comparison is that which is to be excited intellectually and morally. Incorrectly, Gesen., Hitz., and others: like goads, because easily and deeply impressing themselves on the heart as well as on the memory. For goads, aculei, the Hebrews use the wordקוֹצִים ; dare vonoth also are goads, but designed for driving on, thus stimuli (Jerome); and is there a more natural commendation for the proverbs of the wise men than that they incite to self-reflection, and urge to all kinds of noble effort? Divre and dare vonoth have the same three commencing consonants, and, both for the ear and the eye, form a paronomasia. In the following comparison, it is a question whether ba’ale asuppoth (plur. of ba’al asuppoth, or of the double plur. ba’al asuppah, like e.g., sare missim, Ex. 1:11, of sar mas) is meant of persons, like ba’al hallashon, 10:11, cf. ba’al ke naphayim, 10:20, or of things, as ba’al piphiyoth, Isa. 41:15; and thus, whether it is a designation parallel to חכמים or toדברי . The Talm. Jer. Sanhedrin x. 1, wavers, for there it is referred first to the members of the assemblies (viz., of the Sanedrium), and then is explained by “words which are spoken in the assembly.” If we understand it of persons, as it was actually used in the Talm. (vid., above, p. 637), then by asuppoth we must understand the societies of wise men, and by ba’ale asuppoth, of the academicians (Venet.: δεσπόται ξυναγμάτων; Luther: “masters of assemblies”) belonging to such academies. But an appropriate meaning of this second comparison is not to be reached in this way. For if we translate: and as nails driven in are the members of the society, it is not easy to see what this wonderful comparison means; and what is then further said: they are given from one shepherd, reminds us indeed of Eph. 4:11, but, as said of this perfectly unknown great one, is for us incomprehensible. Or if we translate, after Isa. 28:1: and (the words of the wise are) like the fastened nails of the members of the society, it is as tautological as if I should say: words of wise men are like fastened nails of wise men bound together in a society (as a confederacy, union). Quite impossible are the translations: like nails driven in by the masters of assemblies (thus e.g., Lightfoot, and recently Bullock), for the accus. with the pass. particip. may express some nearer definition, but not (as of the genit.) the effective cause; and: like a nail driven in are the (words) of the masters of assemblies (Tyler: “those of editors of collections”), for ellipt. genit., dependent on a governing word carrying forward its influence, are indeed possible, e.g., Isa. 61:7, but that a governing word itself, as ba’ale, may be the governed genit. of one omitted, as here divre, is without example.164
It is also inconsistent to understand ba’ale asuppoth after the analogy of ba’ale masoreth (the Masoretes) and the like. It will not be meant of the persons of the wise, but of the proverbs of the wise. So far we agree with Lang and Hoelem. Lang (1874) thinks to come to a right understanding of the “much abused” expression by translating, “lords of troops,” — a designation of proverbs which, being by many acknowledged and kept in remembrance, possess a kind of lordship over men’s minds; but that is already inadmissible, because asuppoth designates not any multitude of men, but associations with a definite end and aim. Hoelem. is content with this idea; for he connects together “planted as leaders of assemblies,” and finds therein the thought, that the words of the wise serve as seeds and as guiding lights for the expositions in the congregation; but ba’ale denotes masters, not in the sense of leaders, but of possessors; and as ba’ale berith, Gen. 14:13, signifies “the confederated,” ba’ale shevu’ah, Neh. 6:18, “the sworn,” and the frequently occurring ba’ale ha’ir, “the citizens;” so ba’ale asuppoth means, the possessors of assemblies and of the assembled themselves, or the possessors of collections and of the things collected. Thus ba’ale asuppoth will be a designation of the “words of the wise” (as in shalishim, choice men = choice proverbs, Pro. 22:20, in a certain measure personified), also of those which form or constitute collections, and which stand together in order and rank (Hitz., Ewald, Elst., Zöckl., and others). Of such it may properly be said, that they are like nails driven in, for they are secured against separations, — they are, so to speak, made nail-feast, they stand on one common ground; and their being fixed in such connection not only is a help to the memory, but also to the understanding of them. The Book of Koheleth itself is such an asuppah; for it contains a multitude of separate proverbs, which are thoughtfully ranged together, and are introduced into the severe, critical sermon on the nothingness of all earthly things as oases affording rest and refreshment; as similarly, in the later Talmudic literature, Haggadic parts follow long stretches of hair-splitting dialectics, and afford to the reader an agreeable repose.
And when he says of the “proverbs of the wise,” individually and as formed into collections:נתְּנוּ מרֹעֶה אֶחָד , i.e., they are the gift of one shepherd, he gives it to be understood that his “words of Koheleth,” if not immediately written by Solomon himself, have yet one fountain with the Solomonic Book of Proverbs, — God, the one God, who guides and cares as a shepherd for all who fear Him, and suffers them to want nothing which is necessary to their spiritual support and advancement (Psa. 23:1; 28:9). ”MeÝroÿeh ehad,” says Grätz, “is yet obscure, since it seldom, and that only poetically, designates the Shepherd of Israel. It cannot certainly refer to Moses.” Not to Moses, it is true (Targ.), nor to Solomon, as the father, the pattern, and, as it were, the patron of “the wise,” but to God, who is here named the ἀρχιποίμην as spiritual preserver (provider), not without reference to the figure of a shepherd from the goad, and the figure of household economy from the nails; for רעה , in the language of the Chokma (Pro. 5:21), is in meaning cogn. to the N.T. conception of edification.165 Regarding masmeroth (iron nails), vid., above, p. 639; the word is not used of tent spikes (Spohn, Ginsb.), — it is masc., the sing. is(מַסְמר) מַשְׂמר , Arab. mismaÑr. נטוּעִים is = תְּקוּעִים (cf. Dan. 11:45 with Gen. 31:25), post-bibl. (vid., Jer. Sanhedrin) קְבוּעִים (Jerome, in altum defixi). Min with the pass., as at Job. 21:1; 28:4, Psa. 37:23 (Ewald, § 295b), is not synonymous with the Greek ὑπό (vid., above, p. 547). The LXX well: “given by those of the counsel from one shepherd.” Hitzig readsמִרְעֶה , and accordingly translates: “which are given united as a pasture,” but in meÝroÿeh ehad there lies a significant apologetic hint in favour of the collection of proverbs by the younger Solomon (Koheleth) in relation to that of the old. This is the point of the verse, and it is broken off by Hitzig’s conjecture.166
[[@Bible:Ecclesiastes 12:12]]


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