Ecclesiastes 4:2
Parallel Verses
English Standard Version
And I thought the dead who are already dead more fortunate than the living who are still alive.

King James Bible
Wherefore I praised the dead which are already dead more than the living which are yet alive.

American Standard Version
Wherefore I praised the dead that have been long dead more than the living that are yet alive;

Douay-Rheims Bible
And I praised the dead rather than the living:

English Revised Version
Wherefore I praised the dead which are already dead more than the living which are yet alive;

Webster's Bible Translation
Wherefore I praised the dead who are already dead more than the living who are yet alive.

Ecclesiastes 4:2 Parallel
Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament

"Thus I said then in mine heart: (it happeneth) for the sake of the children of men that God might sift them, and that they might see that they are like the cattle, they in themselves." Regarding על־דּב for the sake of equals on account of as at Ecclesiastes 8:2, vid., under Psalm 110:4, where it signifies after (κατά) the state of the matter. The infin. לבּ is not derived from בּוּר. - לּבוּר, Ecclesiastes 9:1, is only the metaplastic form of לבר or לברר - but only from בּרר, whose infin. may take the form בּר, after the form רד, to tread down, Isaiah 45:1, שׁך, to bow, Jeremiah 5:26; but nowhere else is this infin. form found connected with a suff.; קחם, Hosea 11:3, would be in some measure to be compared, if it could be supposed that this equals בּקחתּם, sumendo eos. The root בר proceeds, from the primary idea of cutting, on the one side to the idea of separating, winnowing, choosing out; and, on the other, to that of smoothing, polishing, purifying (vid., under Isaiah 49:2). Here, by the connection, the meaning of winnowing, i.e., of separating the good from the bad, is intended, with which, however, as in לברר, Daniel 11:35, the meaning of making clear, making light, bringing forward into the light, easily connects itself (cf. Shabbath 138a, 74a), of which the meaning to winnow (cf. להבר, Jeremiah 4:11) is only a particular form;

(Note: Not "to sift," for not בּרר but רקּד, means "to sift" (properly, "to make to keep up," "to agitate"); cf. Shebith v. 9.)

cf. Sanhedrin 7b: "when a matter is clear, brwr, to thee (free from ambiguity) as the morning, speak it out; and if not, do not speak it."

In the expression לב האל, the word האל is, without doubt, the subject, according to Gesen. 133. 2. 3; Hitz. regards האל as genit., which, judged according to the Arab., is correct; it is true that for li-imti-ḥânihim allahi (with genit. of the subj.), also allahu (with nominat. of the subj.) may be used; but the former expression is the more regular and more common (vid., Ewald's Gramm. Arab. 649), but not always equally decisive with reference to the Heb. usus loq. That God delays His righteous interference till the time appointed beforehand, is for the sake of the children of men, with the intention, viz., that God may sift them, i.e., that, without breaking in upon the free development of their characters before the time, He may permit the distinction between the good and the bad to become manifest. Men, who are the obj. to לב, are the subject to לראותו to be supplied: et ut videant; it is unnecessary, with the lxx, Syr., and Jerome, to read ולראות ( equals וּלהר): ut ostenderet. It is a question whether המּה

(Note: המּה שׁהם בּהמה thus accented rightly in F. Cf. Michlol 216a.)

is the expression of the copula: sunt (sint), or whether hēmmah lahěm is a closer definition, co-ordinate with shehem behēmah. The remark of Hitzig, that lahěm throws back the action on the subject, is not clear. Does he suppose that lahem belongs to liroth? That is here impossible. If we look away from lahem, the needlessly circumstantial expression הם ... שה can still be easily understood: hemmah takes up, as an echo, behemah, and completes the comparison (compare the battology in Hosea 13:2). This play upon words musically accompanying the thought remains also, when, according to the accentuation שׁה בהם ה לה, we take hemmah along with lahem, and the former as well as the latter of these two words is then better understood. The ל in להם is not that of the pure dat. (Aben Ezra: They are like beasts to themselves, i.e., in their own estimation), but that of reference, as at Genesis 17:20, "as for Ishmael;" cf. Psalm 3:3; 2 Kings 5:7; cf. אל, 1 Samuel 1:27, etc. Men shall see that they are cattle (beasts), they in reference to themselves, i.e., either they in reference to themselves mutually (Luther: among themselves), or: they in reference to themselves. To interpret the reference as that of mutual relation, would, in looking back to Ecclesiastes 3:16, commend itself, for the condemnation and oppression of the innocent under the appearance of justice is an act of human brutishness. But the reason assigned in Ecclesiastes 3:19 does not accord with this reciprocal rendering of lahem. Thus lahem will be meant reflexively, but it is not on that account pleonastic (Knobel), nor does it ironically form a climax: ipsissimi equals hchstselbst (Ewald, 315a); but "they in reference to themselves" is equals they in and of themselves, i.e., viewed as men (viewed naturally). If one disregards the idea of God's interfering at a future time with the discordant human history, and, in general, if one loses sight of God, the distinction between the life of man and of beast disappears.

Ecclesiastes 4:2 Parallel Commentaries

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Ecclesiastes 2:17 Therefore I hated life; because the work that is worked under the sun is grievous to me: for all is vanity and vexation of spirit.

Ecclesiastes 9:4-6 For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope: for a living dog is better than a dead lion...

Job 3:17-21 There the wicked cease from troubling; and there the weary be at rest...

Cross References
Job 3:11
"Why did I not die at birth, come out from the womb and expire?

Ecclesiastes 2:17
So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me, for all is vanity and a striving after wind.

Ecclesiastes 7:1
A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of birth.

Jeremiah 22:10
Weep not for him who is dead, nor grieve for him, but weep bitterly for him who goes away, for he shall return no more to see his native land.

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