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Ecclesiastes 8:1 New English Translation (NET Bible)

Human Government Demonstrates Limitations of Wisdom

Who is[a] a[b] wise person? Who knows the solution[c] to a problem?[d]
A person’s wisdom brightens his appearance,[e] and softens[f] his harsh countenance.[g]


  1. Ecclesiastes 8:1 tn The preposition כ (kaf) prefixed to כְּהֶחָכָם (kehekhakham, “wise man”) is traditionally taken in a comparative sense: “Who is like [or as] the wise man?” On the other hand, it may denote identity, e.g., Gen 1:26; Num 11:1; 1 Sam 20:3; 2 Sam 9:8; Neh 7:2; Job 10:9; Nah 3:6 (see R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 47, §261; IBHS 202-4 §11.2.9b).
  2. Ecclesiastes 8:1 tn The definite article on הֶחָכָם (hekhakham, “wise man”) may be taken in an individualizing (“the wise man”) or generic sense (“a wise man”).
  3. Ecclesiastes 8:1 tn Or “the explanation.” The noun פֵּשֶׁר (pesher) denotes “solution; explanation; interpretation; meaning” (HALOT 982-83 s.v. פֵּשֶׁר; BDB 833 s.v. פֵּשֶׁר). The Hebrew term is an Aramaic loanword from פִּשְׁרָא (pishraʾ, “diagnosis; meaning; solution”). The Aramaic noun פְּשַׁר (peshar, “interpretation of a dream or prophecy”) and verb פְּשַׁר (peshar, “to interpret a dream or prophecy”) reflect a later meaning not present in Ecclesiastes, but current at the time of Daniel (Dan 2:5-7; 4:3, 15, 16; 5:12, 15, 16; 7:16) and Qumran (e.g., 1QpHab).
  4. Ecclesiastes 8:1 tn Heb “a thing.”
  5. Ecclesiastes 8:1 tn Heb “makes his face shine.”
  6. Ecclesiastes 8:1 tc The MT vocalizes the consonantal form ישנא as יְשֻׁנֶּא (yeshunneʾ, Pual imperfect third person masculine singular from I שָׁנָה, shanah, “to change”). However, the LXX μισθήσεται (misthēsetai) reflects an alternate vocalization tradition of יִשָּׂנֵא (yissaneʾ, Niphal imperfect third person masculine singular from שָׂנֵא, saneʾ, “to hate”), while the Vulgate’s commutabit reflects יְשַׁנֶּה (yeshanneh, Piel imperfect third person masculine singular from II שָׁנָה, shanah, “to repeat”).tn Heb “the strength of his face is changed.”
  7. Ecclesiastes 8:1 tn Heb “the strength of his face is changed.” The expression עֹז פָּנָיו (ʿoz panayv, “strength of his face”) is an idiom for “boldness; impudence” (BDB 739 s.v. עֹז 4) or “hard face” = harsh countenance (HALOT 805 s.v. I עֹז 1.c).
New English Translation (NET)

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