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Enjoy Life to the Fullest under the Fear of God

Rejoice, young man, while you are young,[a]
and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth.
Follow the impulses[b] of your heart and the desires[c] of your eyes,
but know that God will judge your motives and actions.[d]
10 Banish[e] emotional stress[f] from your mind.[g]
and put away pain[h] from your body;[i]
for youth[j] and the prime of life[k] are fleeting.[l]

Fear God Now Because Old Age and Death Come Quickly

12 So remember[m] your Creator in the days of your youth—
before[n] the difficult[o] days come,
and the years draw near when you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”;

Footnotes

  1. Ecclesiastes 11:9 tn Heb “in your youth”; or “in your childhood.”
  2. Ecclesiastes 11:9 tn Heb “walk in the ways of your heart.”
  3. Ecclesiastes 11:9 tn Heb “the sight.”
  4. Ecclesiastes 11:9 tn Heb “and know that concerning all these God will bring you into judgment.” The point is not that following one’s impulses and desires is inherently bad and will bring condemnation from God. Rather the point seems to be: As you follow your impulses and desires, realize that all you think and do will eventually be evaluated by God. So one must seek joy within the boundaries of God’s moral standards.
  5. Ecclesiastes 11:10 tn The verb סוּר (sur, “to remove”) normally depicts a concrete action of removing a physical object from someone’s presence (HALOT 748 s.v. סור 1). Here, it is used figuratively (hypocatastasis) of the emotional/psychological action of banishing unnecessary emotional stress from one’s mind. The Hiphil usage means “to remove; to abolish; to keep away; to turn away; to push aside” (HALOT 748 s.v. 1). The English versions render this term in a variety of ways, none of which is very poetic: “remove” (KJV, RSV, ASV, NASB); “turn aside” (YLT); “ward off” (NAB); and “banish” (NEB, MLB, NIV, NRSV, NJPS, Moffatt).
  6. Ecclesiastes 11:10 tn The root “vexation” (כַּעַס, kaʾas) has a broad range of meanings: “anger” (Deut 4:25; 9:18), “irritation” (Deut 32:21), “offend” (2 Kgs 23:26; Neh 3:37 HT [4:5 ET]), “vexation” or “frustration” (Ezek 20:28), “grief” (1 Sam 1:6), and “worry” (Ps 112:10; Eccl 7:9); cf. HALOT 491 s.v. כַּעַס. Here, it refers in general to unnecessary emotional stress and anxiety that can deprive a person of the legitimate enjoyment of life and its temporal benefits.
  7. Ecclesiastes 11:10 tn Heb “your heart.”
  8. Ecclesiastes 11:10 tn In light of the parallelism, רָעָה (raʿah) does not refer to ethical evil, but to physical injury, pain, deprivation or suffering (e.g., Deut 31:17, 21; 32:23; 1 Sam 10:19; Neh 1:3; 2:17; Pss 34:20; 40:13; 88:4; 107:26; Eccl 12:1; Jer 2:27; Lam 3:38); see HALOT 1263 s.v. רָעָה 4.b; BDB 949 s.v. רָעָה 2. This sense is best captured as “pain” (NASB, RSV, NRSV, MLB, Moffatt) or “the troubles [of your body]” (NEB, NIV), rather than “evil” (KJV, ASV, YLT, Douay) or “sorrow” (NJPS).
  9. Ecclesiastes 11:10 tn Heb “your flesh.”
  10. Ecclesiastes 11:10 tn Or “childhood.”
  11. Ecclesiastes 11:10 tn Or “youth”; Heb “black hair” or “the dawn [of life].” The feminine noun הַשַּׁחֲרוּת (hashakharut) is a hapax legomenon, occurring only here. There is debate whether it is from שָׁחֹר (shakhor) which means “black” (i.e., black hair, e.g., Lev 13:31, 37; Song 5:11; HALOT 1465 s.v. שׁחר; BDB 1007 s.v. שָׁחֹר and שָׁחַר) or שַׁחַר (shakhar) which means “dawn” (e.g., Gen 19:15; Job 3:9; Song 6:10; HALOT 1466-67 s.v. שָׁחַר). If this term is from שָׁחֹר it is used in contrast to gray hair that characterizes old age (e.g., Prov 16:31; 20:29). This would be a figure (metonymy of association) for youthfulness. On the other hand, if the term is from שַׁחַר it connotes the “dawn of life” or “prime of life.” This would be a figure (hypocatastasis) for youthfulness. In either case, the term is a figure for “youth” or “prime of life,” as the parallel term הַיַּלְדוּת (hayyaledut, “youth” or “childhood”) indicates. The term is rendered variously in the English versions: “black hair” (NJPS); “the dawn of youth” (NAB); “the dawn of life” (ASV, MLB, RSV, NRSV); “the prime of life” (NEB, NASB); “vigor” (NIV); “youth” (KJV); and “manhood” (Moffatt). The plural forms of הַשַּׁחֲרוּת and הַיַּלְדוּת are examples of the plural of state or condition that a person experiences for a temporary period of time, e.g., זְקֻנִים (zequnim, “old age”); נְעוּרִים (neʿurim, “youth”); and עֲלוּמִים (ʿalumim, “youthfulness”); see IBHS 121 §7.4.2b.
  12. Ecclesiastes 11:10 tn The term הֶבֶל (hevel, “vanity”) often connotes the temporal idea “fleeting” (e.g., Prov 31:30; Eccl 3:19; 6:12; 7:15; 9:9). This nuance is suggested here by the collocation of “youth” (הַיַּלְדוּת, hayyaldut) and “the prime of life” (הַשַּׁחֲרוּת, hashakharut).
  13. Ecclesiastes 12:1 tn The imperative זְכֹר (zekhor, “Remember!”) is a figurative expression (metonymy of association) for obeying God and acknowledging his lordship over one’s life (e.g., Num 15:40; Deut 8:18; Pss 42:6-7; 63:6-8; 78:42; 103:18; 106:7; 119:52, 55; Jer 51:50; Ezek 20:43; Jonah 2:7; Mal 4:4). The exhortation to fear God and obey his commands in 12:13-14 spells out what it means to “remember” God.
  14. Ecclesiastes 12:1 tn The temporal adjective עַד (ʿad, “before”) appears three times in 12:1-7 (vv. 1b, 2a, 6a). Likewise, the temporal preposition ב (bet, “when”) is repeated (vv. 3a, 4b). These seven verses comprise one long sentence in Hebrew: The main clause is 12:1a (“Remember your Creator in the days of your youth”), while 12:1b-7 consists of five subordinate temporal clauses (“before…before…when…when…before…”).
  15. Ecclesiastes 12:1 tn The adjective רָעָה (raʿah, “evil”) does not refer here to ethical evil, but to physical difficulty, injury, pain, deprivation and suffering (e.g., Deut 31:17, 21; 32:23; 1 Sam 10:19; Neh 1:3; 2:17; Pss 34:20; 40:13; 88:4; 107:26; Eccl 11:10; Jer 2:27; Lam 3:38); see HALOT 1263 s.v. רָעָה 4.b; BDB 949 s.v. רָעָה 2.

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