Ecclesiastes 1:1New English Translation (NET Bible)
1 The words of the Teacher,[a] the son[b] of David, king[c] in Jerusalem:[d]
Ecclesiastes 1:1tn The meaning of קֹהֶלֶת (qohelet) is somewhat puzzling. The verb קָהַל (qahal) means “to assemble, summon” (HALOT 1078-79 s.v. קהל), and is derived from the noun קָהָל (qahal, “assembly”; HALOT 1079-80 s.v. קָהָל). Thus קֹהֶלֶת might mean: (1) convener of the assembly, (2) leader, speaker, teacher, or preacher of the assembly, or (3) member of the assembly. Elsewhere in the book, קֹהֶלֶת is used in collocation with statements about his position as king in Jerusalem (Eccl 1:12), his proclamations about life (Eccl 1:2; 7:27; 12:8), and his teaching of wisdom and writing wise sayings (Eccl 12:9-10). Thus, קֹהֶלֶת probably means “the leader of the assembly” or “speaker of the assembly.” (See also the following study note.) Rabbinic literature treats קֹהֶלֶת as a traditional surname for Solomon, that is, “Qoheleth,” relating it to the noun קָהָל. For example, this explanation is found in rabbinic literature (Qoheleth Rabbah 1:1): “Why was his name called Qoheleth [קֹהֶלֶת]? Because his words were proclaimed in public meeting [קָהַל], as it is written (1 Kgs 8:1).” The LXX rendered it ἐκκλησιαστής (ekklēsiastēs, “member of the assembly,” LSJ 509), as was the custom of relating Greek ἐκκλησία (ekklēsia, “assembly”) to Hebrew קָהָל. The book’s English title, “Ecclesiastes,” is simply a transliteration of the Greek term from the LXX. Symmachus’ παροιμιαστής (paroimiastēs, “author of proverbs,” LSJ 1342 s.v.) is not a translation of קֹהֶלֶת but refers to his authorship of many proverbs (Eccl 12:9-10). In terms of the participial form, קֹהֶלֶת is used substantively to designate the profession or title of the author. The term is used in 12:8 with the article, indicating that it is a professional title rather than a personal surname: הַקּוֹהֶלֶת (haqqohelet, “the Teacher”). Substantival participles often designate the title or profession of an individual: כֹּהֵן (kohen), “priest”; רֹזֵן (rozen), “ruler”; שֹׁטֵר (shoter), “officer”; נֹקֵד (noqed), “sheep-breeder”; שֹׁפֵט (shofet), “judge”; יֹצֵר (yotser), “potter”; כֹּרֵם (korem), “vine-dresser”; יֹגֵב (yogev), “farmer”; שׁוֹעֵר (shoʿer), “gate-keeper”; צוֹרֵף (tsoref), “smelter”; and רֹפֵא (rofeʾ), “doctor” (IBHS 614-15 §37.2a). In terms of its feminine ending with a male referent, Joüon 1:266-67 §89.b suggests that it is intensive, e.g., מוֹדַעַת (moda’at) “close relative” from מוֹדָע (modaʿ) “kinsman.” The feminine ending is used similarly in Arabic in reference to a male referent, e.g., Arabic rawiyat “a great narrator” from rawi “narrator” (C. P. Caspari, A Grammar of the Arabic Language, 1:233c). So קֹהֶלֶת may mean “the leader/teacher of the assembly” from the noun קָהָל. When used in reference to a male referent, feminine forms denote a professional title or vocational office (as in Arabic, Ethiopic, and Aramaic), e.g., סֹפֶרֶת (soferet), “scribe”; פֹּכֶרֶת (pokheret), “gazelle-catcher”; פֶּחָה (pekhah), “provincial governor”; and פְּרָעוֹת (peraʿot), “princes” (GKC 393 §122.r). Occasionally, a professional name later became a personal name, e.g., the title סֹפֶרֶת (“scribe”) became the name “Sophereth” (Ezra 2:55; Neh 7:57), פֹּכֶרֶת (“gazelle-catcher”) became “Pokereth” (Ezra 2:57; Neh 7:59), and perhaps קֹהֶלֶת (“assembler”) became the surname “Qoheleth” (HALOT 926 s.v. פֹּכֶרֶת הַצְּבָיִים). Many 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).sn The verbal root קהל means “to assemble; to summon” (HALOT 1078-79 s.v. קהל). It is used of assembling or summoning various groups of people: “all Israel” (1 Chr 13:5; 15:3), “the elders of Israel” (1 Kgs 8:1; 2 Chr 5:2), all the elders of their tribes” (Deut 31:28), “all the princes of Israel” (1 Chr 28:1), “your tribes” (Deut 31:28), “all the house of Judah” (1 Kgs 12:21; 2 Chr 11:1), “the people” (Deut 4:10; 31:12), “the whole congregation” (Lev 8:3; Num 1:18; 16:19; 20:8), “all the congregation of the sons of Israel” (Exod 35:1; Num 8:9), “the assembly” (Num 10:7; 20:10), and “your assembly” (Ezek 38:13). The verb is often used in reference to summoning/assembling people for a religious occasion (Exod 35:1; Lev 8:3-4; Num 8:9; Deut 4:10; Josh 18:1; 22:12; 1 Kgs 8:1; 2 Chr 5:2-3), a political occasion (2 Sam 20:14), a military occasion (Judg 20:11; 2 Chr 11:1), or a judicial occasion (Job 11:10). The Hiphil stem is used to describe the action of the leader (usually a single individual who possesses/commands authority) summoning the people, e.g., Moses (Exod 35:1; Lev 8:3; Num 20:10), Moses and Aaron (Num 1:18), Korah (Num 16:19), King David (1 Chr 13:5; 15:3; 28:1), King Solomon (1 Kgs 8:1; 12:21; 2 Chr 5:2), and King Rehoboam (2 Chr 11:1). In almost every case, he who assembles the people is a person invested with authority; he makes a public proclamation or leads the nation in an important action. The Niphal stem is most often used to describe the people assembling at the direction of the leader (e.g., Lev 8:4; Josh 18:1; 22:12; 1 Kgs 8:2; 2 Chr 5:3). The root קהל is a denominative derived from the noun קָהָל (qahal, “assembly, contingent”; HALOT 1079-80 s.v. קָהָל). The noun has numerous referents: the congregated nation as a whole in the wilderness, assembled for ceremonies and instruction (Exod 16:3; Lev 4:13, 21; 16:17, 33; Num 10:7; 14:5; 15:15; 16:3; 17:12; 19:20; 20:4, 6, 10, 12; Deut 9:10; 10:4; 18:16); the congregation of Israel assembled for divine worship (Pss 22:23, 26; 26:5; 35:18; 40:10; 107:32; 149:1; Lam 1:10); the postexilic community assembled to hear the Torah and instruction (Neh 13:1); a military contingent assembled for warfare (Num 16:3; 20:4; Judg 20:2; 21:5, 8; 1 Sam 17:47; 2 Chr 28:14); people summoned to court (Ezek 16:40; 23:46-47); judicial authorities (Jer 26:17; Prov 5:14; 26:26; Sir 7:7). The term is often used as a designation for Israel: “the assembly of Israel” (Lev 16:17; Deut 31:30; Josh 8:35; 1 Kgs 8:14, 22, 55; 12:3; 2 Chr 6:3, 12-13; Sir 50:13, 20), “the assembly of the congregation” (Exod 12:6); “the assembly of the congregation of the sons of Israel” (Num 14:5), and “the assembly of God” (Neh 13:1). The related noun קְהִלָּה (qehillah) means “assembly, community” (HALOT 1080 s.v. קְהִלָּה), e.g., in the idiom נָתַן קְהִלָּה (natan qehillah) “to hold an assembly”: “I called a great assembly to deal with them” (Neh 5:7).
Ecclesiastes 1:1sn While 1:1 says only “king in Jerusalem” (מֶלֶךְ בִּירוּשָׁלָםִ, melekh birushala[y]im), 1:12 adds “king over Israel in Jerusalem” (מֶלֶךְ עַל־יִשְׂרָאֵל בִּירוּשָׁלָםִ, melekh ʿal-yisraʾel birushala[y]im). The LXX adds “Israel” in 1:1 to harmonize with 1:12; however, the MT makes sense as it stands. Apart from David, only Solomon was “king over Israel in Jerusalem”—unless the term “Israel” (יִשְׂרָאֵל, yisraʾel) in 1:12 is used for Judah or the postexilic community. Solomon would fit the description of the author of this book, who is characterized by great wisdom (1:13, 16), great wealth (2:8), numerous servants (2:7), great projects (2:4-6), and the collection, editing, and writing of many proverbs (12:9-10). All of this generally suggests Solomonic authorship. However, many scholars deny Solomonic authorship on the basis of linguistic and historical arguments.
Ecclesiastes 1:1sn The form of the title is typical: (1) “the words of [the writer],” (2) his family name or name of his father, and (3) his social/political position in Israel (e.g., Prov 22:17; 24:23; 30:1; 31:1). Sometimes, the writer’s qualifications are given in the introduction to an OT book (e.g., Jer 1:1; Amos 1:1). Qoheleth lists his qualifications at the end of the book (12:9-12).
You'll get this book and many others when you join Bible Gateway Plus. Learn more
You must be logged in to view your newly purchased content. Please log in below or if you don't have an account, creating one is easy and only takes a few moments. After you log in your content will be available in your library.
Step 1 - Create an account or log in to start your free trial.
Starting your free trial of Bible Gateway Plus is easy. You’re already logged in with your Bible Gateway account. The next step is to choose a monthly or yearly subscription, and then enter your payment information. Your credit card won’t be charged until the trial period is over. You can cancel anytime during the trial period.
Click the button below to continue.
Step 1 - Create an account or log in to start your subscription.
You’ve already claimed your free trial of Bible Gateway Plus. To subscribe at our regular subscription rate, click the button below.
Upgrade, and get the most out of your new account. An integrated digital Bible study library - including complete notes from the NIV Study Bible and the NKJV MacArthur Study Bible, 2nd Edition - is just a step away! Try it free for 30 days.