[b-hebrew] Ecclesiastes 3:11
enkidu at bigpond.net.au
Thu Nov 15 08:13:16 EST 2007
Thanks for sharing this information. I've already commented on the
Greek and I don't think my understanding has changed, so I'll leave
that. I will make a few comments on Stuart Weeks' understanding of the
> None of these, I think, is readily construed in terms of double
> negation, and I
> would take the point to be that God has 'put eternity in their
> heart, without
> that which the human cannot discover (for himself) - the work which
> God has
> done'. In other words, humans have been given incomplete knowledge,
> with a
> deficit which they cannot fill for themselves. I think this fits in
> well with
> 8.17, which includes a rather similar statement. Overall, I would
> understand Q.
> to be suggesting that God has given humans a glimpse of how much
> there is to
> know, but not knowledge of his own actions, so that they are driven
> to occupy
> themselves in a quest for an understanding which they are not, in
> fact, capable
> of achieving.
> In short, then, I don't think that there's a double negation here,
> but 'without'
> + a negative relative clause, all qualifying the preceding
> statement. The
> relative clause is in the 'backward' form 'what is y ... (that is),
> x' (e.g. in
> English 'I like what I'm reading, a book by ...).
First, it is worth noting that HALOT says of בלי that it means "2.
negation, meaning without" and that I'd call the English preposition
"without" a negative. To some extent this is just quibbling over
terminology, but I don't think "negative" need be restricted to adverbs.
Second, if I correctly understand what Stuart Weeks has written, his
proposal also differs from the primary two interpretations found among
the majority of commentators on this verse. One major point of
difference is that he appears to be proposing that the relative אשר
has a prospective referent (i.e. it refers to the final clause: "what
God has done from beginning to end," and then that has to be
understood somewhat elliptically). Now I may have misunderstood him,
but ISTM he's arguing that the verse means "[God] has put eternity in
their mind/heart without (relative = '[knowledge of?] what God has
done from beginning to end')..." So while I agree that opting for the
normal sense of מבלי is appropriate, I think that an antecedent
referent for the relative is far more likely (I'm trying to think of
examples where the relative has a prospective referent, but none
spring to mind). IIRC most commentators either take העלם to be the
antecedent referent of אשר (as I do), or else treat מבלי
אשר לא as an expression somewhat akin to מבלי אין.
I think that the object marker on המעשה also counts against Weeks'
reading, because he seems to be taking המעשה אשר השלהים
as part of a prepositional phrase rather than the object of the verb
Finally, although 8:17 sounds similar, I think it is saying something
slightly different. Aside from this, Qohelet does have a propensity to
All this is not to say that there are not difficulties with any of the
other views: I think there are difficulties with all interpretations
of this verse that I've seen (including my own, I just don't think
mine are insurmountable although the opinion of others will differ).
More information about the b-hebrew