[b-hebrew] Ecclesiastes 3:11

B. M. Rocine brocine at twcny.rr.com
Thu Nov 1 21:56:33 EDT 2007

Hi Martin,

I like your analysis.

As you noted a key word is, mib.:liy.

It's an idiom that I think the BDB does better defining than the HALOT.

See BDB p. 115, highly edited here:

"2. adv. of negation ...With preps. c. MI (a) from want of; for lack of; 
on account of there being no..."

Ironically, the BDB does not list Ecc 3:11 under sense 2c(a), but under 
2c(b) with pleonatic lo', as you have mentioned.  In this latter 
interpretation mibliy means "so that no...", also, as you have mentioned.

Like you, I think the mibliy belongs in section 2c(a) rather than 2c(b), 
and may be thought to mean "because without..." as it often does.  See 
Isa 5:13 mibliy da`at "because [they are] without knowledge."

We may say the notion or deep structure of Ecc 3:11 is mibliy tet 
'elohiym ha`olam bilbam, where tet... surfaces as 'a$er.

Thank you for sharing your analysis.


Martin Shields wrote:
> Hello Bryant,
>> My question is, "What is your take on the phrase in the second half  
>> of the
>> verse, "et-olam natan bilbam milbam asher lo-yimtza hadom et-hammaaseh
>> asher-asah...?
> There are a couple of issues in this verse (aren't there always), the  
> meaning of ‏העלם and the meaning of ‏מבלי אשר לא.  
> Taking the second first, we have a double negative which is  
> universally understood as either indicating a negative purpose ("so  
> that not") or else a simple negative ("yet [he] cannot"). The problem  
> is that the parallels frequently cited to justify these translations  
> do not include אשר between the negatives so that the second negative  
> is effectively in a separate clause. If you look for examples where  
> this does happen, the double negatives in those instances never lose  
> their individual negativity (if you follow my meaning).
> Hence I render the expression "without which [he] cannot find..." I'll  
> admit that I'm on my own here, but I think that it both makes sense in  
> context (see below) and also makes sense of the Hebrew.
> As a result of the usual understanding of this clause, some propose  
> reading העלם as "darkness" so that the "darkness" God has placed in  
> our hearts functions to inhibit any ability to find our what God has  
> done from the beginning to the end. With my reading I think taking  
> העלם as a temporal term (so "eternity" in most translations) makes  
> sense: God has placed "eternity" (some sort of awareness which extends  
> beyond the present moment) in our "hearts" without which we could not  
> find what God has done from start to finish.
> How does this make sense in context? The fact that Qohelet proceeds to  
> make assertions about what God has done and will do (cf. especially  
> Qoh 3:14-15) immediately demonstrates that Qohelet has some awareness  
> of what God has done and will do (at least he thinks he does!). It is  
> obvious that Qohelet isn't claiming omniscience nor comprehensive  
> knowledge of what God has and will do, but he has some awareness and  
> that seems to be sufficient to justify his observation.
> I hope that helps!
> Regards,
> Martin Shields,
> Sydney, Australia.
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B.M. Rocine
Living Word Church
6101 Court St. Rd.
Syracuse, NY 13206
W:  (315) 437-6744

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