12:6 before the silver cord is removed,
or the golden bowl is broken,
or the pitcher is shattered at the well, 1
or the water wheel 2 is broken at the cistern –
12:7 and the dust returns to the earth as it was,
and the life’s breath 3 returns to God who gave it.
but he also taught knowledge to the people;
and the collected sayings are like firmly fixed nails;
they are given by one shepherd.
There is no end to the making 16 of many books,
and much study is exhausting to the body. 17
Fear God and keep his commandments,
because this is the whole duty 19 of man.
including every secret thing, whether good or evil.
[12:6] 2 tn The term גַּלְגַּל (galgal, “wheel”) refers to the “water wheel” or “paddle wheel” for drawing water from a well (HALOT 190 s.v. I גַּלְגַּל 2; BDB 165 s.v. גַּלְגַּל 1.b). This Hebrew noun is related to the Akkadian term gulgullu (“pot”), as well as Phoenician (?) גלגל (“wheel for drawing water”). The Latin term girgillus (“lever for the bucket”) is a late derivation from this term. See G. Dalman, Arbeit und Sitte in Palästina, 2:225-28.
[12:8] 5 tn Elsewhere in the book, the author is identified with the anarthrous term קֹהֶלֶת (qohelet, Eccl 1:1, 2, 12; 7:27; 12:9, 10); however, in 12:8 it is used with the article, indicating that it is a professional title rather than a personal surname: הַקּוֹהֶלֶת (haqqohelet, “the Teacher”). Numerous English translations render קֹהֶלֶת as a professional title: “the Speaker” (NEB, Moffatt); “the Preacher” (KJV, RSV, YLT, MLB, ASV, NASB); “the Teacher” (NIV, NRSV); “the Leader of the Assembly” (NIV margin); “the Assembler” (NJPS margin). Others render it as a personal surname: “Koheleth” (JPS, NJPS) and “Qoheleth” (NAB, NRSV margin).
[12:8] 6 tn Heb “Everything.” The term is rendered “all of these things” for clarity. Although כֹּל (kol, “everything; all”) is often used in an absolute or comprehensive sense (BDB 481 s.v. כֹּל 1), it is frequently used as a synecdoche of the general for the specific, that is, its sense is limited contextually to the topic at hand (BDB 482 s.v. 2). This is particularly true of הַכֹּל (hakkol, BDB 482 s.v. 2.b) in which the article particularizes or limits the referent to the contextual or previously mentioned topic (e.g., Gen 16:12; 24:1; Exod 29:24; Lev 1:9, 13; 8:27; Deut 2:36; Josh 11:19 [see 2 Sam 19:31; 1 Kgs 14:26 = 2 Chr 12:9]; 21:43; 1 Sam 30:19; 2 Sam 17:3; 23:5; 24:23; 1 Kgs 6:18; 2 Kgs 24:16; Isa 29:11; 65:8; Jer 13:7, 10; Ezek 7:14; Pss 14:3; 49:18; 1 Chr 7:5; 28:19; 29:19; 2 Chr 28:6; 29:28; 31:5; 35:7; 36:17-18; Ezra 1:11; 2:42; 8:34-35; 10:17; Eccl 5:8). Thus, “all” does not always mean “all” absolutely or universally in comprehension. In several cases the context limits its reference to two classes of objects/issues being discussed, so הַכֹּל means “both” (e.g., 2:14; 3:19: 9:1, 2). Thus, הַכֹּל (“all; everything”) refers only to what Qoheleth characterizes as “futile” (הֶבֶל, hevel) in the context. This does not mean that everything is futile. For example, fearing God is not “futile” (2:26; 3:14-15; 11:9-10; 12:1, 9, 13-14). Only those objects/issues that are contextually placed under כֹּל are designated as “futile” (הֶבֶל).
[12:8] sn Absolutely futile!…All of these things are futile! This motto is the theme of the book. Its occurs at the beginning (1:2) and end of the book (12:8), forming an envelope structure (inclusio). Everything described in 1:2—12:8 is the supporting proof of the thesis of 1:2. With few exceptions (e.g., 2:24-26; 3:14-15; 11:9–12:1, 9), everything described in 1:2—12:8 is characterized as “futile” (הֶבֶל, hevel).
[12:9] 8 sn Eccl 12:9-12 fits the pattern of a concluding colophon that draws from a conventional stock of ancient Near Eastern scribal practices and vocabulary. See M. A. Fishbane, Biblical Interpretation, 29–31.
[12:9] 9 tn Heb “he weighed and studied.” The verbs וְאִזֵּן וְחִקֵּר (vÿ’izzen vekhiqqer, “he weighed and he explored”) form a hendiadys (a figurative expression in which two separate terms used in combination to convey a single idea): “he studiously weighed” or “carefully evaluated.” The verb וְאִזֵּן (conjunction + Piel perfect 3rd person masculine singular from II אָזַן (’azan) “to weigh; to balance”) is related to the noun מֹאזֵן (mo’zen) “balances; scales” used for weighing money or commercial items (e.g., Jer 32:10; Ezek 5:1). This is the only use of the verb in the OT. In this context, it means “to weigh” = “to test; to prove” (BDB 24 s.v. מאזן) or “to balance” (HALOT 27 II אָזַן). Cohen suggests, “He made an examination of the large number of proverbial sayings which had been composed, testing their truth and worth, to select those which he considered deserving of circulation” (A. Cohen, The Five Megilloth [SoBB], 189).
[12:9] 10 tn The verb תָּקַן (taqan, “to make straight”) connotes “to put straight” or “to arrange in order” (HALOT 1784 s.v. תקן; BDB 1075 s.v. תָּקַן).This may refer to Qoheleth’s activity in compiling a collection of wisdom sayings in an orderly manner, or writing the wisdom sayings in a straightforward, direct manner.
[12:10] 11 tn In the construct phrase דִּבְרֵי־חֵפֶץ (divre-khefets, “words of delight”) the noun חֵפֶץ (“delight”) functions as an attributive genitive (“delightful words”) or a genitive of estimation or worth (“words viewed as delightful by Qoheleth” or “words that he took delight in”). For another example of a genitive of estimation of worth, see זִבְחֵי אֱלֹהִים (zivkhe ’elohim) “sacrifices of God” = “sacrifices viewed as acceptable to God” (Ps 51:19). In other words, Qoheleth wrote his proverbs so effectively that he was able to take moral and aesthetic delight in his words.
[12:10] 12 tc The consonantal form וכתוב has been revocalized in three ways: (1) The Masoretes read וְכָתוּב (vÿkhatuv, conjunction + Qal passive participle ms from כָּתַב, katav, “to write”): “Qoheleth sought to find pleasant words, what was written uprightly, namely, words of truth.” This is supported by the LXX’s καὶ γεγραμμένον (kai gegrammenon, conjunction + masculine accusative singular perfect passive participle from γράφω, grafw, “to write). (2) The BHS editors suggest the vocalization וְכָתוֹב (vÿkhatov, conjunction + Qal infinitive absolute). The infinitive וְכָתוֹב (“and to write”) in the B-line would parallel the infinitive of purpose לִמְצֹא (limtso’, “to find”) in the A-line: “Qoheleth sought to find pleasant words, and to write accurately words of truth.” (3) Several medieval Hebrew
[12:10] 13 tn The construct phrase דִּבְרֵי אֱמֶת (divre ’emet, “words of truth”) is a genitive of content (“words containing truth”) or an attributive genitive (“truthful words”). Depending upon the vocalization of וכתוב, the phrase functions in one of two ways: (1) as direct object of וְכָתוֹב יֹשֶׁר (vÿkhatov yosher) “and he accurately wrote truthful words”; or (2) in apposition to וְכָתוּב יֹשֶׁר (vÿkhatuv yosher) “and what is written uprightly, namely, truthful words.”
[12:12] 15 sn The exhortation may be understood in two ways: (1) to avoid any so-called wisdom sayings beyond those mentioned in vv. 10-11: “The words of the wise…are given from one shepherd. And of anything beyond these, my son, be warned!” (see RSV, NRSV, NAB, Douay, NIV). This is paraphrased well by Moffatt: “My son, avoid anything beyond the scriptures of wisdom” (Moffatt). (2) The exhortation refers to the concerns of v. 12b, namely, diligent study is wearisome, i.e., “Furthermore, my son, be warned: there is no end to the making of books, and much study is wearisome to the body” (see NEB, ASV, NASB, MLB).
[12:12] 16 tn The verb עָשָׂה (’asah, “to do”) may mean “to make” (HALOT 890 s.v. I עשׂה 3) or “to acquire” (HALOT 891 s.v. I עשׂה 6). The LXX rendered it as ποιῆσαι (poihsai, “making”), as do most English versions: “making” (KJV, YLT, RSV, NRSV, NAB, ASV, MLB, NIV, NJPS). However, several English versions reflect a different nuance: “there is no end to the buying of books” (Moffatt); “the use of books is endless” (NEB); and “the writing of many books is endless” (NASB).
[12:12] 17 tn Heb “the flesh.” The term בָּשָׂר (basar, “flesh”) refers to the body, functioning as a synecdoche or part (i.e., flesh, skin) for the whole (i.e., body), e.g., Gen 17:13; Ps 16:9; Prov 14:30 (see E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 642).
[12:13] 19 tn Heb “This is all men”; or “This is the whole of man.” The phrase זֶה כָּל־הָאָדָם (zeh kol-ha’adam, “this is all men”) features rhetorical elision of a key word. The ambiguity over the elided word has led to no less than five basic approaches: (1) “this is the whole duty of man” (KJV, ASV, RSV, NAB, NIV); (2) “this is the duty of all men” (MLB, ASV margin, RSV margin); (3) “this applies to all men” (NASB, NJPS); (4) “this is the whole duty of all men” (NRSV, Moffatt); and (5) “there is no more to man than this” (NEB). The four-fold repetition of כֹּל (kol, “all”) in 12:13-14 suggests that Qoheleth is emphasizing the “bottom line,” that is, the basic duty of man is simply to fear and obey God: After “all” (כֹּל) has been heard in the book, his conclusion is that the “whole” (כֹּל) duty of man is to obey God because God will bring “all” (כֹּל) acts into judgment, including “all” (כֹּל) that is hidden, whether good or bad. See D. Barthélemy, ed., Preliminary and Interim Report on the Hebrew Old Testament Text Project, 3:596.