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


THE CONDITION OF PURE ENJOYMENT, 2:24-26



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THE CONDITION OF PURE ENJOYMENT, 2:24-26

Is it not then foolish thus restlessly and with so much self-torment to labour for nothing? In view of the night of darkness which awaits man, and the uncertain destiny of our possessions, it is better to make use of the present in a way as pleasant to ourselves as possible.



Ecc. 2:24.


“There is nothing better among men, than that one eat and drink, and that he should pamper his soul by his labour: this also have I seen, that it is in the hand of God.” The LXX, as well as the other Greek transl., and Jerome, had before them the wordsבאדם שיאכל . The former translates: “Man has not the good which he shall eat and drink,” i.e., also this that he eats...is for him no true good; but the direct contrary of this is what Koheleth says. Jerome seeks to bring the thought which the text presents into the right track, by using the form of a question: nonne melius est comedere...; against this 3:12, 22; 8:15, are not to be cited where אין טוב stands in the dependent sentence; the thought is not thus to be improved; its form is not this, forטוב , beginning a sentence, is never interrog., but affirm.; thus אין טוב is not =הלא טוב , but is a negative statement. It is above all doubt, that instead of בּאדם שׁיּי we must readבּאדם מִשֶּׁיּי , after 3:12, 22; 8:15; for, as at Job. 33:17, the initial letter mem after the terminal mem has dropped out. Codd. of the LXX have accordingly corrected ὅ into πλὴν ὅ or ει μη ὅ (thus the Compl. Ald.), and the Syr. and Targ. render ש here by אלא דְּ and אלהן דְּ [unless that he eat]; Jerome also has non est bonum homini nisi quod in his Comm.; only the Venet. seeks to accommodate itself to the traditional text. Besides, only מ is to be inserted, notכי אם ; for the phrase כי אם לאֱכֹל is used, but notכי אם ש . Instead of ba-a-da-m, the form la-a-da-m would be more agreeable, as at 6:12; 8:15. Hitzig remarks, without proof, that baÝaÝdaÝm is in accordance with later grammatical forms, which admit ב = “for” before the object.ב , 10:17, is neither prep. of the object, nor is ἐν, Sir. 3:7, the exponent of the dative (vid., Grimm). BaÝaÝdaÝm signifies, as at 2Sa. 23:3, and as ἐν ἀνθ. , Sir. 11:14, inter homines; also 3:12 designates by טוב בָּם what among them (men) has to be regarded as good. It is interesting to see how here the ancient and the modern forms of the language run together, without the former wholly passing over into the latter;מֱשׁיי , quam ut edat, is followed by norm. perfects, in accordance with that comprehensive peculiarity of the old syntax which Ewald, by an excellent figure, calls the dissolution of that which is coloured into grey. הִרְי ... טוֹב is equivalent toהיי לוֹ , Psa. 49:19, the causative rendering of the phraseראָה טוֹב , 3:13, orרי טוֹבָה , 5:17; 6:6. It is well to attend to בַּעֲמָלוֹ [by his labour], which forms an essential component part of that which is approved of as good. Not a useless sluggard-life, but a life which connects together enjoyment and labour, is that which Koheleth thinks the best in the world. But this enjoyment, lightening, embellishing, seasoning labour, has also its But: etiam hoc vidi e manu Dei esse (pendere). The order of the words harmonizes with this Lat.; it follows the scheme referred to at Gen. 1:4; cf. on the contrary, 3:6. Instead ofגּם־זֶה , neut. by attraction, there is here the immediately neut.גּם־זֹה ; the book uniformly makes use of this fem. form instead of זאת (vid., p. 642). This or that is “in the hand of God,” i.e., it is His gift, 3:13, v. 18, and it is thus conditioned by Him, since man cannot give it to himself; cf. minni, Isa. 30:1; mimmeÔnni, Hos. 8:4; mimmeÔnnu, 1Ki. 20:33.
This dependence of the enjoyment of life on God is established.
[[@Bible:Ecclesiastes 2:25]]
Ecc. 2:25.

“For who can eat, and who can have enjoyment, without [= except from] Him?” Also here the traditional text is tenable: we have to readחוץ ממנו , after the LXX (which Jerome follows in his Comm.) and the Syr. If we adopt the text as it lies before us, then the meaning would be, as given by Gumpel,43 and thus translated by Jerome: Quis ita devorabit et deliciis effluet ut ego? But (1) the question thus understood would requireיוֹתר מִמֶּנִּי , which Gumpel and others silently substitute in place ofחוץ מי ; (2) this question, in which the king adjudicates to himself an unparalleled right to eat and to enjoy himself, would stand out of connection with that which precedes and follows. Even though with Ginsburg, after Rashi, Aben Ezra, and Rashbam, we find in ver. 25 the thought that the labourer has the first and nearest title to the enjoyment of the fruit of his labour ( חוץ מיthus exemplif. as 4:8,למי ... עי ), the continuation withכִּי , ver. 26, is unsuitable; for the natural sequence of the thoughts would then be this: But the enjoyment, far from being connected with the labour as its self-consequence and fruit, is a gift of God, which He gives to one and withholds from another. If we readמִמֶּנּוּ , then the sequence of the thoughts wants nothing in syllogistic exactness. חוּשׁ here has nothing in common with חוּשׁ = Arab. håaÑt, to proceed with a violent, impetuous motion, but, as at Job. 20:2, is = Arab. håss, stringere (whence hiss, a sensible impression); the experience (vid., p. 637) here meant is one mediated by means of a pleasant external enjoyment. The LXX, Theod., and Syr. translate: (and who can) drink, which Ewald approves of, for he compares (Arab.) håasa (inf. håasy), to drink, to sip. But this Arab. verb is unheard of in Heb.; with right, Heiligst. adheres to the Arab., and at the same time the modern Heb. håass,חושׁ , sentire, according to which Schultens, quis sensibus indulserit. חוּץ ממנו is not =ולא מי , “except from him” (Hitz., Zöckl.), but חוץ מן together mean “except;” cf. e.g., the Mishnicחוץ לאמנה וחוץ למי , beyond the time and place suitable for the thank-offering,חוץ מאחד מהם , excepting one of the same, Menachoth vii. 3, for which the old Heb. would in the first case useבלא , and in the second זולא or לבַד מִן (= Aram.בַּר מִן ) (vid., p. 637). Accordingly חוץ ממנו means practer cum (Deum), i.e., unless he will it and make it possible, Old Heb.מִבַּי , Gen. 41:44.


In enjoyment man is not free, it depends not on his own will: labour and the enjoyment of it do not stand in a necessary connection; but enjoyment is a gift which God imparts, according as He regards man as good, or as a sinner.
[[@Bible:Ecclesiastes 2:26]]
Ecc. 2:26.

“For to a man who appears to Him as good, He gave wisdom, and knowledge, and joy; but to the sinner He gave the work of gathering and heaping up, in order to give it to him who appears to Him as good: this also is vain, and grasping after the wind;” viz., this striving after enjoyment in and of the labour — it is “vain,” for the purpose and the issue lie far apart; and “striving after the wind,” because that which is striven for, when one thinks that he has it, only too often cannot be grasped, but vanishes into nothing. If we refer this sentence to a collecting and heaping up (Hengst., Grätz, and others), then the author would here come back to what has already been said, and that too in the foregoing section; the reference also to the arbitrary distribution of the good things of life on the part of God (Knobel) is inadmissible, because “this, although it might be called הבל , could not also be calledרעות רוח ” (Hitz.); and perfectly inadmissible the reference to the gifts of wisdom, knowledge, and joy (Bullock), for referred to these the sentence gains a meaning only by introducing all kinds of things into the text which here lie out of the connection. Besides, what is here said has indeed a deterministic character, andלפניו , especially if it is thought of in connection withולחי ,44 sounds as if to the good and the bad their objective worth and distinction should be adjudicated; but this is not the meaning of the author; the unreasonable thought that good or bad is what God’s arbitrary ordinance and judgment stamp it to be, is wholly foreign to him. The “good before Him” is he who appears as good before God, and thus pleases Him, because he is truly good; and theחוטא , placed in contrast, as at 7:26, is the sinner, not merely such before God, but really such; here לפניו has a different signification than when joined withטוב : one who sins in the sight of God, i.e., without regarding Him (Luke 15:18, ἐνώπιον), serves sin. Regardingעניָן , vid., under 23a: it denotes a business, negotium; but here such as one fatigues himself with, quod negotium facessit. Among the three charismata, joy stands last, because it is the turning- point of the series of thoughts: joy connected with wise, intelligent activity, is, like wisdom and intelligence themselves, a gift of God. The obj. of לתת (that He may give it) is the store gathered together by the sinner; the thought is the same as that at Pro. 13:22; 28:8, Job. 27:16f. The perfect we have so translated, for that which is constantly repeating itself is here designated by the general expression of a thing thus once for all ordained, and thus always continued.


[[@Bible:Ecclesiastes 3]]


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