[b-hebrew] Ecclesiastes 3:11

K Randolph kwrandolph at gmail.com
Sat Nov 3 00:24:44 EDT 2007

Martin and Bryant:

(LM does not have the waw included. While the waw was optional at that
time for "unknown time (eternity)", the lack of it may or may not be
significant. Context will give us clues.

As for the MBLY )$R L) , that is not a standard double negative. My
understanding of a double negative in Hebrew is similar to Greek,
namely strengthening the negative. However, the )$R changes it to two
different phrases so that it is not a clean double negative.

Even as I write this, I am not really sure of what the verse says, and
I may end up disavowing what I wrote earlier. First of all, we must
take the context into account.

Going back over the words that we are sure of, we get, "He made all
beautiful in its time, even placed the ???1 in their hearts ???2 which
man does not find the doings which God does from the beginning until
the end."

???2 is MBLY in the context with )$R l) almost seems it is an enabler
to know at least some of God's character. By adding the medial )$R,
has it changed the meaning from a Greek style double negative, to a
English style where it becomes a positive? Even as a negative, it
seems to have more the idea of "without" than a straight negative such
as L) or )L.

And what does ???1 mean? It comes from the root with the concept of
being unknown. In the form of (WLM with a waw it refers to an
unspecified (unknown) length of time, which by extension often refers
to eternity. Does it refer to time at all in this context, or merely
that which is unknown or unknowable except that God put it in man's

 It was only after thinking through this verse that I recognized a
similarity between the conclusions I am coming to, and Paul's writings
in Romans 1:19-20. Seeing as Paul was an educated Jew who got most of
his ideas from Tanakh, could he have derived those verses from Kohelet

I don't have all the answers, in fact that's the reason I'm responding
here, sort of a thinking out loud. The context indicates that the
traditional understanding may have problems, but I'm working through
the possible solutions.

Karl W. Randolph.

On 11/2/07, Martin Shields <enkidu at bigpond.net.au> wrote:
> Bryant,
> Karl is reading the "double negative" in pretty much the same way as I
> am, but translates העלם differently (yet still following a number
> of others). I think there are good grounds for understanding העלם
> as something like "eternity" since "from beginning to end" sounds a
> lot like a temporal reference, and עלם is often temporal (in
> whatever way "eternity" is temporal, we need to be careful not to read
> modern notions of eternity into the text), and that עולם in 3:14
> has the meaning "eternity."
> I'm not sure what Karl's "hidden things" are without which we cannot
> find what God is doing from beginning to end. He may be able to
> elucidate further.
> Further, double negatives are more complex in English than you
> suggest. "No, that will never happen" is an example of an emphatic
> double negative with negative meaning. I think there is a similar
> range of possibilities in both Greek and BH.
> Martin Shields,
> Sydney, Australia.
> On 03/11/2007, at 11:06 AM, Bryant J. Williams III wrote:
> > [Karl]
> > "...He even placed the hidden things in their hearts, without which
> > they would
> > not know ..."
> >
> > [Bryant]
> > Thank you, Karl. I will have to think your translation through a
> > bit. It does
> > give a different nuance to the negatives. I know that in English the
> > double
> > negative would turn a phrase into a positive, while Greek
> > intensifies it or
> > turns it to a positive (OU MH vs MH OU), but would Hebrew do the
> > same as the
> > English here is a good question.
> >
> > Martin, et al, what do you think?

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