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Ecclesiastes 12:6-8 New English Translation (NET Bible)

before the silver cord is removed,
or the golden bowl is broken,
or the pitcher is shattered at the well,[a]
or the water wheel[b] is broken at the cistern—
and the dust returns to the earth as it was,
and the life’s breath[c] returns to God who gave it.

Concluding Refrain: The Teacher Restates His Thesis

“Absolutely futile!”[d] laments the Teacher,[e]
“All these things[f] are futile!”[g]

Footnotes:

  1. Ecclesiastes 12:6 tn Heb “water-spring.”
  2. Ecclesiastes 12:6 tn The term גַּלְגַּל (galgal, “wheel”) refers to the “water wheel” or “paddle wheel” for drawing water from a well (HALOT 190 s.v. I גַּלְגַּל 2; BDB 165 s.v. גַּלְגַּל 1.b). This Hebrew noun is related to the Akkadian term gulgullu (“pot”), as well as Phoenician (?) גלגל (“wheel for drawing water”). The Latin term girgillus (“lever for the bucket”) is a late derivation from this term. See G. Dalman, Arbeit und Sitte in Palästina, 2:225-28.
  3. Ecclesiastes 12:7 tn Or “spirit.” The likely referent is the life’s breath that originates with God. See Eccl 3:19, as well as Gen 2:7; 6:17; 7:22.
  4. Ecclesiastes 12:8 tn Heb “futility of futilities.” The phrase “absolutely futile” (הֲבֶל הֲבָלִים, havel havalim) is a superlative genitive construction (GKC 431 §133.i). See note on “futile” at 1:2.
  5. Ecclesiastes 12:8 tn Elsewhere in the book, the author is identified with the anarthrous term קֹהֶלֶת (qohelet, Eccl 1:1, 2, 12; 7:27; 12:9, 10); however, in 12:8 it is used with the article, indicating that it is a professional title rather than a personal surname: הַקּוֹהֶלֶת (haqqohelet, “the Teacher”). Numerous English translations render קֹהֶלֶת as a professional title: “the Speaker” (NEB, Moffatt); “the Preacher” (KJV, RSV, YLT, MLB, ASV, NASB); “the Teacher” (NIV, NRSV); “the Leader of the Assembly” (NIV margin); “the Assembler” (NJPS margin). Others render it as a personal surname: “Koheleth” (JPS, NJPS) and “Qoheleth” (NAB, NRSV margin).
  6. Ecclesiastes 12:8 tn Heb “Everything.” The term is rendered “all of these things” for clarity. Although כֹּל (kol, “everything; all”) is often used in an absolute or comprehensive sense (BDB 481 s.v. כֹּל 1), it is frequently used as a synecdoche of the general for the specific, that is, its sense is limited contextually to the topic at hand (BDB 482 s.v. 2). This is particularly true of הַכֹּל (hakkol, BDB 482 s.v. 2.b) in which the article particularizes or limits the referent to the contextual or previously mentioned topic (e.g., Gen 16:12; 24:1; Exod 29:24; Lev 1:9, 13; 8:27; Deut 2:36; Josh 11:19 [see 2 Sam 19:31; 1 Kgs 14:26 = 2 Chr 12:9]; 21:43; 1 Sam 30:19; 2 Sam 17:3; 23:5; 24:23; 1 Kgs 6:18; 2 Kgs 24:16; Isa 29:11; 65:8; Jer 13:7, 10; Ezek 7:14; Pss 14:3; 49:18; 1 Chr 7:5; 28:19; 29:19; 2 Chr 28:6; 29:28; 31:5; 35:7; 36:17-18; Ezra 1:11; 2:42; 8:34-35; 10:17; Eccl 5:8). Thus, “all” does not always mean “all” absolutely or universally in comprehension. In several cases the context limits its reference to two classes of objects/issues being discussed, so הַכֹּל means “both” (e.g., 2:14; 3:19: 9:1, 2). Thus, הַכֹּל (“all; everything”) refers only to what Qoheleth characterizes as “futile” (הֶבֶל, hevel) in the context. This does not mean that everything is futile. For example, fearing God is not “futile” (2:26; 3:14-15; 11:9-10; 12:1, 9, 13-14). Only those objects/issues that are contextually placed under כֹּל are designated as “futile” (הֶבֶל).
  7. Ecclesiastes 12:8 tn The term הֶבֶל (hevel, “futile”) is repeated three times within the six words of this verse for emphasis. See footnote on “futile” at 1:2.sn Absolutely futile!…All of these things are futile! This motto is the theme of the book. It occurs at the beginning (1:2) and end of the book (12:8), forming an envelope structure (inclusio). Everything described in 1:2—12:8 is the supporting proof of the thesis of 1:2. With few exceptions (e.g., 2:24-26; 3:14-15; 11:9-12:1, 9), everything described in 1:2—12:8 is characterized as “futile” (הֶבֶל, hevel).
New English Translation (NET)

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