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when those who keep watch over the house[a] begin to tremble,[b]
and the virile men begin to stoop over,[c]
and the grinders[d] begin to cease because they grow few,
and those who look through the windows grow dim,[e]

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  1. Ecclesiastes 12:3 tn Heb “the watchers of the house.”
  2. Ecclesiastes 12:3 tn The verb זְוּעַ (zeuaʿ, “to tremble”) probably does not refer to physical tremors but to trembling in fear (e.g., Esth 5:9; Hab 2:7; Sir 48:12); cf. HALOT 267 s.v. זוע). At the onset of old age, those who had been the most courageous during their youth suddenly become fearful.
  3. Ecclesiastes 12:3 tn The verb עָוַת (ʿavat, “to bend; to stoop”) means “to be stooped” (HALOT 804 s.v. עות) rather than “to bend themselves” (BDB 736 s.v. עות). The perfect tense may be taken in an ingressive sense (“begin to stoop over”).
  4. Ecclesiastes 12:3 tn The term הַטֹּחֲנוֹת (hattokhanot, Qal active participle feminine plural from טָחַן, takhan, “to grind”) is a double entendre. In its literal sense, it refers to female mill-grinders; in its figurative sense, it refers to molar teeth (HALOT 374 s.v. *טֹחֲנָה). The related Hebrew noun טַחֲנָה (takhanah) refers to a “mill,” and the related Arabic noun tahinat means “molar tooth” (HALOT 374 s.v. *טַחֲנָה).
  5. Ecclesiastes 12:3 tn The verb חָשַׁךְ (khashakh, “to grow dim”) is used elsewhere in reference to failing eyesight (e.g., Ps 69:24; Lam 5:17); see HALOT 361 s.v. חשׁך 2. Therefore, the phrase “those who look through the windows” is probably a figurative description of the eyes, picturing failing eyesight at the onset of old age.