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Ecclesiastes 12:4 New English Translation (NET Bible)

and the doors along the street are shut;
when the sound of the grinding mill[a] grows low,
and one is awakened[b] by the sound of a bird,
and all their[c] songs[d] grow faint,[e]


  1. Ecclesiastes 12:4 tn The noun טַחֲנָה (takhanah) refers to a “grinding-mill” where grain is ground into flour (HALOT 374 s.v. טַחֲנָה). The term is here used as a double entendre, figuratively describing the loss of one’s teeth at the onset of old age. The figurative usage also draws upon the polysemantic nature of this noun; the related Arabic root tahinat means “molar tooth” (HALOT 374 s.v. *טֹחֲנָה).
  2. Ecclesiastes 12:4 tn Heb “rises up.” The verb קוּם (qum, “to arise”) refers to being awakened from sleep in the middle of the night by a sound (e.g., Exod 12:30; 1 Sam 3:6, 8) and waking up early in the morning (e.g., Gen 24:54; Judg 16:3; Ruth 3:14; Neh 2:12; Job 14:12; 24:14); see HALOT 1086 s.v. קוּם 1; BDB 877 s.v. קוּם 1.a. Here it describes one of the frustrations of old age: the elderly person is unable to get a full night’s sleep because every little sound awakens him in the middle of the night or too early in the morning.
  3. Ecclesiastes 12:4 tn The term “their” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity and smoothness.
  4. Ecclesiastes 12:4 tn Heb “all the daughters of song.” The expression “the daughters of song” (בְּנוֹת הַשִּׁיר, benot hashir) is an idiom for “songs; musical sounds; melodious notes” (HALOT 166 s.v. I בַּת 2; BDB 123 s.v. בַּת 5; GKC 418 §128.v). The genitive הַשִּׁיר (“song”) represents the nature, quality, character or condition of the construct בְּנוֹת (“daughters”); see IBHS 149-51 §9.5.3b. The idiom refers to the musical songs sung during one’s youth or to the ability to hear songs that are sung. This line is lamenting the loss of hearing which occurs at the onset of old age.
  5. Ecclesiastes 12:4 tn Heb “are brought low.”
New English Translation (NET)

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