King James and some other versions translated וְשַׁ֣בְתִּֽי as "And I returned" whereas many other versions translated it differently.

I further observed all the oppression that goes on under the sun: the tears of the oppressed, with none to comfort them; and the power of their oppressors—with none to comfort them. (The Israel Bible).

So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter. (King James)

Why do the King James and those other versions translate וְשַׁ֣בְתִּֽי as "And I returned"?


2 Answers 2


The King James translates it that way because that's the "basic" meaning of the word. BDB gives the primary definition of the verb שוב:

turn back, return

However, as I suspect prompted OP's question question, there's no obvious physical "return" in mind here. The three usages in Ecclesiastes mentioned above (4:1, 4:7, 9:11) fall more naturally under an abstract understanding of שוב, which also finds expression in all of the major lexicons:

שׁוב as auxiliary verb, modifying another verb, denoting repetition, renewal of action, etc., usu. followed by a finite form of the other verb

-- Dictionary of Classical Hebrew, ש-ת Ed. David Clines, p. 286

See also, entry 8 in BDB and entry 5 in HALOT. This is the interpretation taken by most modern translations.


I believe the translation is proper; the usage would be a part of normal literary expression. We have to remember to greater context concerning Solomon’s purpose in the Book of Ecclesiastes.

Ecclesiates 1:13:

13 And I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven. This sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith.

Solomon was on a quest to search out all things done under the sun to find the answer to all the inequity that he saw upon the earth. Solomon was on a personal quest and he searched the earth trying different ways of life to find meaning and peace for his soul.

He then started his search and tried different behaviors to find meaning. In chapter 2 he tries wisdom, wine and labor. After he tries labor he looks now in “another direction” to find another work to try. Look at Ecclesiastes 2:12, note the word “turned”.

Ecclesiastes 2:11-12

11 Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labor that I had labored to do; and behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun. 12 Then I turned myself to behold wisdom and madness and folly; for what can the man do that cometh after the king? Even that which hath been already done.

In verse 12 he states that he turned (Hebrew Panah “to turn”) himself, meaning that he left labor and turned to find another behavior/work to invest himself into.

This would be the same principal seen in Chapter 4:1.

So I returned and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: And behold, the tears of those who were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power, but they had no comforter.

The word “returned” here is the Hebrew shawb which mean to “turn back” or “face away”. The idea here is the same as in chapter 2 verse 12; he faces/turns away from one behavior and looks to another one to try or gains ("sees") more understanding. Note the next two usages.

Same word returned (shawb) in verse 7.

7 Again I returned, and I saw vanity under the sun:

Again in Chapter 9 verse 1:

11 I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

All verses KJV21

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