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and the dust returns to the earth as it was,
and the life’s breath[a] returns to God who gave it.

Concluding Refrain: The Teacher Restates His Thesis

“Absolutely futile!”[b] laments the Teacher,[c]
“All these things[d] are futile!”[e]

Concluding Epilogue: The Teacher’s Advice is Wise

Not only was the Teacher wise,[f]
but he also taught knowledge to the people;
he carefully evaluated[g] and arranged[h] many proverbs.

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Footnotes

  1. Ecclesiastes 12:7 tn Or “spirit.” The likely referent is the life’s breath that originates with God. See Eccl 3:19, as well as Gen 2:7; 6:17; 7:22.
  2. Ecclesiastes 12:8 tn Heb “futility of futilities.” The phrase “absolutely futile” (הֲבֶל הֲבָלִים, havel havalim) is a superlative genitive construction (GKC 431 §133.i). See note on “futile” at 1:2.
  3. Ecclesiastes 12:8 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).
  4. Ecclesiastes 12:8 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).
  5. Ecclesiastes 12:8 tn The term הֶבֶל (hevel, “futile”) is repeated three times within the six words of this verse for emphasis. See footnote on “futile” at 1:2.sn Absolutely futile!…All of these things are futile! This motto is the theme of the book. It 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).
  6. Ecclesiastes 12:9 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.
  7. Ecclesiastes 12:9 tn Heb “he weighed and studied.” The verbs וְאִזֵּן וְחִקֵּר (veʾizzen 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 third person masculine singular from II אָזַן (ʾazan) “to weigh; to balance”) is related to the noun מֹאזֵן (moʾzen) “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).
  8. Ecclesiastes 12:9 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.

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