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12 Surely, no one[a] knows his appointed time.[b]
Like fish that are caught in a deadly[c] net, and like birds that are caught in a snare—
just like them, all people[d] are ensnared[e] at an unfortunate[f] time that falls upon them suddenly.

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  1. Ecclesiastes 9:12 tn Heb “man.” The term is used here in a generic sense and translated “no one.”
  2. Ecclesiastes 9:12 tn Heb “time.” BDB 773 s.v. עֵת 2.d suggests that עֵת (ʿet, “time”) refers to an “uncertain time.” On the other hand, HALOT 901 s.v. עֵת 6 nuances it as “destined time,” that is, “no one knows his destined time [i.e., hour of destiny].” It is used in parallelism with זְמָן (zeman, “appointed time; appointed hour”) in 3:1 (HALOT 273 s.v. זְמָן; BDB 273 s.v. זְמָן). Eccl 3:9-15 teaches God’s sovereignty over the appointed time-table of human events. Similarly, Qoheleth here notes that no one knows what God has appointed in any situation or time. This highlights the limitations of human wisdom and human ability, as 9:11 stresses.
  3. Ecclesiastes 9:12 tn Heb “bad, evil.” The moral connotation hardly fits here. The adjective would seem to indicate that the net is the instrument whereby the fish come to ruin.
  4. Ecclesiastes 9:12 tn Heb “the sons of man.”
  5. Ecclesiastes 9:12 tn The Masoretes pointed the consonantal form יוקשׁים (“are ensnared”) as יוּקָשִׁים (yuqashim, Pual participle mpl from יָקֹשׁ , yaqosh, “to be ensnared”). This is an unusual form for a Pual participle: (1) The characteristic doubling of the middle consonant was omitted due to the lengthening of the preceding short vowel from יֻקָּשִׁים to יוּקָשִׁים (GKC 74 §20.n and 143 §52.s), and (2) The characteristic prefix מ (mem) is absent, as in a few other Pual participles, e.g., Exod 3:2; Judg 13:8; 2 Kgs 2:10; Isa 30:24; 54:11 (GKC 143 §52.s). On the other hand, the consonant form יוקשים might actually be an example of the old Qal passive participle which dropped out of Hebrew at an early stage, and was frequently mistaken by the Masoretes as a Pual form (e.g., Jer 13:10; 23:32) (GKC 143 §52.s). Similarly, the Masoretes pointed אכל as אֻכָּל (ʾukkal, Pual perfect third person masculine singular “he was eaten”); however, it probably should be pointed אֻכַל (ʾukhal, old Qal passive perfect third person masculine singular “he was eaten”) because אָכַל (ʾakhal) only occurs in the Qal (see IBHS 373-74 §22.6a).
  6. Ecclesiastes 9:12 tn Heb “evil.” The term רָעָה (raʿah, “evil; unfortunate”) is repeated in v. 12 in the two parts of the comparison: “fish are caught in an evil (רָעָה) net” and “men are ensnared at an unfortunate (רָעָה) time.”