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Government Corruption

If you see the extortion[a] of the poor,
or the perversion[b] of justice and fairness in the government,[c]
do not be astonished by the matter.
For the high official is watched by a higher official,[d]
and there are higher ones over them![e]

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Footnotes

  1. Ecclesiastes 5:8 tn Alternately, “oppression.” The term עֹשֶׁק (ʿosheq) has a basic two-fold range of meaning: (1) “oppression; brutality” (e.g., Isa 54:14); and (2) “extortion” (e.g., Ps 62:11); see HALOT 897 s.v. עֹשֶׁק; BDB 799 s.v. עֹשֶׁק. The LXX understands the term as “oppression,” as the translation συκοφαντίαν (sukophantian, “oppression”) indicates. Likewise, HALOT 897 s.v. עֹשֶׁק 1 classifies this usage as “oppression” against the poor. However, the context of 5:8-9 [7-8 HT] focuses on corrupt government officials robbing people of the fruit of their labor through extortion and the perversion of justice.
  2. Ecclesiastes 5:8 tn Heb “robbery.” The noun גֵזֶל (gezel, “robbery”) refers to the wrestling away of righteousness or the perversion of justice (HALOT 186 s.v. גֵּזֶל). The related forms of the root גזל mean “to rob; to loot” (HALOT 186 s.v. גֵּזֶל). The term “robbery” is used as a figure for the perversion of justice (hypocatastasis): just as a thief robs his victims through physical violence, so corrupt government officials “rob” the poor through the perversion of justice.
  3. Ecclesiastes 5:8 tn Heb “in the province.”
  4. Ecclesiastes 5:8 tn The word “official” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.
  5. Ecclesiastes 5:8 sn And there are higher ones over them! This may describe a corrupt system of government in which each level of hierarchy exploits its subordinates, all the way down to the peasants: “Set in authority over the people is an official who enriches himself at their expense; he is watched by a more authoritative governor who also has his share of the spoils; and above them are other officers of the State who likewise have to be satisfied”; see A. Cohen, The Five Megilloth (SoBB), 141.

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