Ecclesiastes 3:1-13

Ecclesiastes 3:1-13
New Year’s Day ABC


For everything there is a season,A and a timeB for every matterC under heaven:D

Notes on verse 1

A “season” = zeman. 4x in OT – including twice in Esther of the time appointed for Purim. From zaman (to set a time, be appointed); perhaps from zamam (to devise, plot, imagine, intend, scheme, think evil; usually in an evil sense). This is a specific time, occasion, or season.
B “time” = et. Probably from anah (to answer, sing, announce); from ad (forever, all, old); from adah (to pass on, advance, decorate oneself). This is a period or season. It can also mean whenever or continually.
C “matter” = chephets. From chaphets (properly, inclined towards or bending to; figuratively, to desire, delight in, or be pleased with). This is a delight, care, or pleasure. It is what you desire or what is acceptable. It can also be used concretely for a precious thing or something that one is thinking about.
D “heaven” = shamayim. Root may mean being lofty. This is sky, the air, or heaven. It is in a dual noun form so this might refer to the part of the sky where the clouds move on the one hand and the part beyond that where the sun, moon, and stars are on the other hand.

a time to be born,E and a time to die;F
a time to plant,G and a time to pluck upH what is planted;

Notes on verse 2

E “born” = yalad. This is to bear or bring forth. It can mean to act as midwife or to show one’s lineage. This is often used for birth or begetting.
F “die” = mut. This is to die in a literal or figurative sense. It can also refer to being a dead body.
G “plant” = nata. To fix or fasten, establish or plant. This is planting in a literal or figurative sense.
H “pluck up” = aqar. 7x in OT. From eqer (stock, member, offshoot; figuratively, could be a descendant or someone who is transplanted like an immigrant who takes up permanent residence). This is to dig down, pull up – particularly by root. It can also mean to hamstring (oxen or horses) or figuratively to exterminate.

a time to kill,I and a time to heal;J
a time to break down,K and a time to build up;L

Notes on verse 3

I “kill” = harag. This is to strike with deadly intent so it can be kill, destroy, murder, or put to death.
J “heal” = rapha. Properly, this is to repair by stitching – figuratively this means to heal or cure. It can also mean to make whole.
K “break down” = parats. This is to make a breach, burst out, compel, disperse. It is to break out literally or figuratively.
L “build up” = banah. This is to build, make, set up, restore, repair, or obtain children. It is to build literally or figuratively.

a time to weep,M and a time to laugh;N
a time to mourn,O and a time to dance;P

Notes on verse 4

M “weep” = bakah. This is to weep, complain, or lament.
N “laugh” = sachaq. This is to laugh, celebrate, joke, mock, scorn. This is laughing, whether for joy or scorn. It can imply plays or holding a contest.
O “mourn” = saphad. This is to wail, mourn. Properly, it is lamenting by tearing one’s hair and beating one’s chest. It implies wailing.
P “dance” = raqad. 9x in OT– 4x of dancing, 3x of animals skipping, 2x of chariots leaping/bounding. This is to skip, spring around, leap, frolic, dance. Properly, it means to stamp.

a time to throw awayQ stones,R and a time to gatherS stones together;
a time to embrace,T and a time to refrainU from embracing;

Notes on verse 5

Q “throw away” = shalak. This is to throw, fling, or hurl. It can also be to throw away in a literal or figurative sense.
R “stones” = eben. This is a stone, weight, or mason. It is part of the word “Ebenezer.”
S “gather” = kanas. 11x in OT. This is to gather, assemble, enfold.
T “embrace” = chabaq. 13x in OT. This is to embrace, clasp one’s hands, or cling.
U “refrain” = rachaq. This is to widen, become distant, cast, or remove. It can be in a literal or figurative sense.

a time to seek,V and a time to lose;W
a time to keep,X and a time to throw away;

Notes on verse 6

V “seek” = baqash. This is to seek, ask, desire, or request. It can be any kind of searching. It can also mean to worship or pray – implies a striving for.
W “lose” = abad. To wander off, lose self. This implies to perish, destroy, die, vanish, or be broken or corrupt.
X “keep” = shamar. This is to keep, watch, or preserve. It means to guard something or to protect it as a thorny hedge protects something.

a time to tear,Y and a time to sew;Z
a time to keep silence,AA and a time to speak;BB

Notes on verse 7

Y “tear” = qara. This is to tear or cut out in a literal or figurative sense. It an also be to revile or to apply eye make up – as though they are made to look larger.
Z “sew” = taphar. 4x in OT – including sewing fig leaves together in Genesis 3:7. This is to sew together or women who sew.
AA “keep silence” = chashah. 15x in OT. This is silent or not doing anything.
BB “speak” = dabar. This is generally to speak, answer, declare, or command. It might mean to arrange and so to speak in a figurative sense as arranging words.

a time to love,CC and a time to hate;DD
a time for war,EE and a time for peace.FF

Notes on verse 8

CC “love” = aheb. This is to love, beloved, friend. It is to have affection for sexually or otherwise.
DD “hate” = sane. This is an enemy or foe. It is to hate with a personal hatred.
EE “war” = milchamah. From lacham (to eat or feed on; figuratively, to battle as a kind of consumption/destruction). This is battle, war, fighting, or one who fights (i.e. a warrior).
FF “peace” = shalom. From shalam (to be complete or sound; to have safety mentally, physically, or extending to one’s estate; so, if these things are safe and complete, the implication is that one would be friendly; and, if being friendly, one would make amends and that friendship would be reciprocated). This is completeness, soundness, welfare, favor, friend, good health. It is to be safe and figuratively well, happy, at peace, friendly. Abstractly, it includes the ideas of welfare and prosperity (not in excessive wealth, but in having enough).

What gainGG have the workersHH from their toil?II 

Notes on verse 9

GG “gain” = yithron. 10x in OT – all in Ecclesiastes. From yathar (to jut over, remain behind, preserve, to excel). This is gain, profit, advantage, preeminence.
HH “workers” = asah. This is to make, do, act, appoint, become in many senses.
II “toil” = amel. 9x in OT. From amal (to work – hard labor). This is a laborer, one who suffers, wicked. It could also mean sorrowful.

10 I have seenJJ the businessKK that GodLL has given to everyoneMM to be busyNN with. 

Notes on verse 10

JJ “seen” = raah. This is to see in a literal or figurative sense so stare, advise, think, view.
KK “business” = inyan. 8x in OT– all in Ecclesiastes. From anah (to be busy or occupied with something; also, to be afflicted). This is a task, effort, business, or investment.
LL “God” = Elohim.
MM “everyone” = ben + adam. Literally “children of humanity.” Ben is son, age, child. It is son in a literal or figurative sense. Adam is perhaps from adam (to be red, make ruddy); related to adamah (ground, dirt, earth). This is man, humankind, also Adam’s name. It refers to a human individual or humanity.
NN “be busy” = anah. Related to “business” in v10. See note KK above.

11 He has madeOO everything suitablePP for its time; moreover he has putQQ a sense of past and futureRR into their minds,SS

Notes on verse 11a

OO “made” = asah. Same as “workers” in v9. See note HH above.
PP “suitable” = yapheh. From yaphah (to be beautiful, decorate; root means being bright, which implies being beautiful). This is beautiful in a literal or figurative sense – appropriate, handsome, godly, pleasant.
QQ “put” = natan. Same as “give” in v10. This is to give, put, set, offer. It is to give literally or figuratively.
RR “past and future” = olam. This is a long scope of time whether in the past (antiquity, ancient time) or in the future (eternal, everlasting).
SS “minds” = leb. May be related to labab (to encourage; properly, to be encased as with fat; used in a good sense, this means to transport someone with love; used in a bad sense, it can mean to dull one’s senses). This is the heart, courage, one’s inner self, the mind, or the will. Heart is only used in a figurative sense in the Old and New Testaments.

yet theyTT cannot find outUU what God has doneVV from the beginningWW to the end.XX 

Notes on verse 11b

TT “they” = adam. Same as “everyone” in v10. See note MM above.
UU “find out” = matsa. This is to find, catch or acquire. It can also mean to come forth or appear. Figuratively, this can mean to meet or be together with.
VV “done” = maaseh. Related to “workers” in v9. From asah (see note HH above). This is a word – any action whether positive or negative. It can also be a transaction, construction, activity, property, or something that is produced.
WW “beginning” = rosh. This may come a word that means to shake. It is the head, captain, or chief. It can also be excellent or the forefront. It can be first in position or in statue or in time (i.e. the beginning).
XX “end” = soph. 5x in OT. From suph (to cease, snatch away, consume, remove). This is an end or termination. It can also refer to the back.

12 I knowYY that there is nothing betterZZ for them than to be happyAAA and enjoyBBB themselves as long as they live;CCC 

Notes on verse 12

YY “know” = yada. This is to know, acknowledge, advise, answer, be aware, be acquainted with. Properly, this is to figure something out by seeing. It includes ideas of observation, recognition, and care about something. It can be used causatively for instruction, designation, and punishment.
ZZ “better” = tob. From tob (to be pleasing, to be good). This is good, beautiful, pleasant, agreeable, bountiful, at ease. This word is used for goodness as a concept, a good thing, a good person. This can refer to prosperity and welfare as well as joy, kindness, sweetness, and graciousness. So, this is ethically good, but also enjoyably good.
AAA “be happy” = samach. This is to rejoice or be glad. Properly, it is to brighten up in a literal or figurative sense.
BBB “enjoy” = asah + tob. Literally “do good” or “make good.” Asah is the same as “workers” in v9. See note HH above. Tob is the same as “better” in v12. See note ZZ above.
CCC “live” = chay. From chayah (to live or keep alive literally or figuratively). This is alive, living, lifetime. It can also be used to describe someone’s age. It can refer to animals, plants, water, or a company or congregation of people. It is life in a very broad sense.

13 moreover, it is God’s giftDDD that allEEE should eatFFF and drinkGGG and take pleasureHHH in all their toil.III 

Notes on verse 13

DDD “gift” = mattath. Related to “given” in v10. 6x in OT. From mattan (gift, reward, to give); from natan (see note QQ above). This is a gift or reward.
EEE {untranslated} = adam. Same as “everyone” in v10. See note MM above.
FFF “eat” = akal. This is to eat, devour, burn up, or otherwise consume. It can be eating in a literal or figurative sense.
GGG “drink” = shathah. This is to drink literal or figurative.
HHH “take pleasure” = raah + tob. Literally “see the good.” Raah is the same as “seen” in v10. See note JJ above. Tob is the same as “better” in v12. See note ZZ above.
III “toil” = amal. Related to “toil” in v9. From amal (see note II above). This is trouble, toil, labor as well as misery, sorrow, or iniquity. It is work that wearies through effort so hence worry – can refer to body or mind.

Image credit: “Four Seasons” by Leonard French, 1978.

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