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He has made everything to be


in its proper time, and He

has placed ignorance

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in the hearts of men so that man will not find out the work ELOHIM does from beginning and to the end.

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He has ordained that every good activity we are engaged in has desirable consequences when done at the proper time and setting, but He has placed ignorance in the hearts of men so that men are incapable of fully understanding the work THE RULER OVER ALL THINGS does from beginning to the end.


1: “ignorance”

This word is highly debated. There are four main options for how to translate it.

First it may be a different spelling (it drops one letter) of a word that means “eternity, long time, future, world to come, or an enduring state of affairs both past and future.” The Cambridge Bible, the Pulpit commentary and Strong’s concordance say it comes from a root meaning “hidden.” TWOT indicates this spelling as the root spelling and the more popular spelling as the derivation. When the idea of hidden is tied to time, as it is in this word, it is easy to get things like “eternity, future, distant past and distant future.” The LXX renders it as “age” which is the Greek way of saying “eternity.” Most translators have chosen this option.

The second option is from this same root, but taking the meaning of “world,” instead of “world to come.” This is the reading in the KJV. Some have suggested that Solomon started the trend toward using this word to mean “world” instead of “eternity.” However, such usage of the word did not enter Hebrew until a later era; in fact it is never used in the Old Testament to mean anything except “long duration, or eternity.” If someone so influential as Solomon had coined a new meaning for this word it would surely have appeared in other Hebrew writings before the end of the Old Testament era, but it did not. Therefore, I consider it impossible for “world” to be the correct translation in this instance.

The third option is that it can be from a totally different root word meaning “ignorance, or darkness.” The editors of the NET Bible prefer this option. If that is the case, the usage of the word “eternity” in other parts of Ecclesiastes is irrelevant. The NET translation fits better with the immediate context of Eccl 3:11 than does “eternity.”

The fourth option is that it came from a word of Arabic origin which means “knowledge.” However, this root is not used anywhere else in Hebrew, and appears to be totally foreign to the Israelites of Solomon’s day.

Which root is this word from? It is hard for us to tell which root it is from because they never wrote the vowels, only the consonants, so options 1 and 3 look the same.

I favor option 3 with the meaning of “ignorance.” This fits the immediate context, and the context of the book as a whole better than “eternity,” which requires some explanation. Furthermore, the first option above in its correct spelling is used five other times in Ecclesiastes, 1:4; 2:16; 3:14; 9:6; 12:5. This tells us which spelling of “eternity” was in vogue in Solomon’s day. It is unlikely that he would spell it correctly five times and incorrectly one time and it never be caught by any copyist. The system of copying the Hebrew Scriptures was very respectful of the original text. If a copyist came upon something that was an obvious error he would copy it faithfully into his new copy exactly as it was in the original, including the error, but he would place the correct word or spelling in the margin. In this case there is no note in the margin indicating that this word is a different spelling of a word used five other times in the same book. Copyists of the Greek New Testament did not employ this system, they simply made changes with considerable liberty.

If you are interested in this debated word, please look into this yourself, but don’t be confused by the prevalence of the word “world” in the commentaries. Writers of commentaries do not make their own translations, they use already established versions of the Bible. All of the older commentaries start by using the word “world” because that is what the KJV used and that is what their readers would be familiar with as a starting point. Most of the commentaries use the word “world” to indicate what their comment will touch on, and they proceed to explain that “world” is not the best translation in this case.

2: “to the end”

We understand that human effort and accomplishments have their place, but our humanness does not see where the limits are so we do not know when to stop. We usually get carried away with our own accomplishments and turn good things into detrimental things. We do not naturally have a godly sense of when to stop pushing for what we want. It requires a great deal of closeness to God in order to sense His will about human effort and accomplishments.