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I've seen a couple of translations for the Hebrew in this passage. On this forum, someone noted " זְמָן which means set or appointed time or עֵת which means time of an event or experience "

Is it correct to translate 2165. zeman as "season" (see NIV)? I'm asking because commentators note the verse indicates there is a starting moment (time) and a duration (season) for every purpose under heaven. That interpretation assumes 2165.zeman is season and not an appointed time (see Esther 9:27).

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  • To everything -- a season, and a time to every delight under the heavens: YLT.
    – Nigel J
    May 20, 2022 at 16:21

1 Answer 1

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The two operative words in Eccl 3:1 are:

  1. זְמָן (zeman) = appointed time as per Neh 2:6, Est 9:27, 31, Eccl 3:1. [These are the only four places the word occurs] Always the meaning is "appointed time", or "definite time". This may refer to a date (Est 9:27, 31) or a starting time, or a duration (Neh 2:6), etc.

  2. עֵת (eth) = appointed time, season, time, period, etc. See appendix below. It occurs much more often and the meaning overlaps with the above word. Many times they are direct synonyms.

Eccl 3:1 uses these two words in synthetic chiastic parallelism as follows (my literal translation):

  • To everything an appointed time
  • A time for every purpose under heaven

Therefore, Solomon has used two words with almost the same meaning.

BDB entry for עֵת (eth)

  1. time of an event, etc.:

a. usually (213 t.) with preposition: with בְּ (142 t.), especially הַהִוא ׳בָּע Genesis 21:22 (E) in that time, Genesis 38:1 (J), Numbers 22:4 (E), Deuteronomy 1:9 14t. Deuteronomy; הַהִיא ׳בָּע Joshua 5:2; Amos 5:13; Daniel 12:1 (twice in verse). + (69 t., not in P); הַזּאֹת ׳בָּע Esther 4:14, בָּעִתִּים הָהֵם2Chronicles 15:5; Daniel 11:14; בְּכָלעֵֿת at all times Exodus 18:22,26 (E), Leviticus 16:2 (P) Psalm 34:2 +; = continually Proverbs 8:30, בְּכָלעֵֿת אֲשֶׁר Esther 5:13 as long as I see Mordecai; with לְ (31 t.; compare ל

6, p. 516 above), 2 Samuel 11:1 + at the time, but Ezekiel 12:27 for distant times, compare לְעֵת כָּזֹאת Esther 4:14, etc.; with כְּ (21 t.; compare כ 1a, p. 453 above), הַזּאֹת ׳מָחָר כָּע Joshua 11:6 (JE) tomorrow about this time, usually מָחָר ׳כָּע (KöSynt. 401 o) Exodus 9:18 (J), 1 Samuel 9:16 (compare Dr), 1 Samuel 20:12; 1 Kings 19:2; 1 Kings 20:6; 2 Kings 7:1,18; 2 Kings 10:6 ; כָּעֵת חַיָה; כָּעֵת הָרִאשׁוֺן Isaiah 8:23 at the former time; כָּעֵת alone Numbers 23:23 (JE) at this time = now (probably, compare Di), Judges 13:23; Judges 21:22 , etc.; with מִן (8 t.), מִן הָעֵת הַהִא Nehemiah 13:21, etc.; with עַד (12 t.), הַהִיא ׳עַדהָֿע Nehemiah 6:1 up to that time, מֵעֵת עַדעֵֿת Ezekiel 4:10,11 etc. (5 t. Daniel); with אלֿ, מֵעֵת אֶלעֵֿת 1 Chronicles 9:25.

b often construct defined by n.following: בְּעֵת צָהֳרָ֑יִם Jeremiah 20:16, לְעֵת (הָ)עֶרֶב 2 Samuel 11:12; Genesis 8:11; Genesis 24:11 (both J), Isaiah 17:14; Zechariah 14:7; עַדעֵֿת הָעָ֑רֶב Joshua 8:29 (JE), כְּעֵת מִנְחַת עֶרֶב Daniel 9:21, redundantly לְעֶתיֿוֺם בְּיוֺם 1 Chronicles 12:22, (ה)קָצִיר ׳ע Jeremiah 50:16; Jeremiah 51:33, הַוָּמִיר ׳ע Songs 2:12, וִקְנָה ׳ע 1 Kings 11:4; 1 Kings 15:23; Psalm 71:9, אַמְּךָ ׳בְּע Jeremiah 18:23 = מָּנְיךָ ׳לְע Psalm 21:10 (of anger), לְעִתּוֺת בַּצָּרָה Psalm 9:10; Psalm 10:1 at time destitution (see בַּצָּרָה), etc.

c. followed by infinitive בּוֺא הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ ׳לְע Joshua 10:27 (JE), 2 Chronicles 18:34, קָרְאָם ׳בְּע Jeremiah 11:14a (read בְּעֵת also vb, Gie), etc.

d. followed by clause with finite verb (in poetry or late) Deuteronomy 32:35; Job 6:17; 2Chronicles 20:22; 24:11; 29:27 + (compare 2c).

  1. a. = usual time: צֵאת ׳לְע 2 Samuel 11:1 at time of kings' going forth = 1 Chronicles 20:1; בְּעֵת יַחֵם Genesis 31:10; עֵת לֶדֶת Job 39:1,2.

b. proper, suitable time: rain בְּעִתּוֺ Deuteronomy 11:14 Jeremiah 5:24 +, compare Leviticus 26:4 (H), also Psalm 1:3; Psalm 104:27; Psalm 145:15; Proverbs 15:23; Isaiah 60:22; Ecclesiastes 3:11 עֵת מִלְחָמָה Ecclesiastes 3:8; שָׁלוֺם ׳ע Ecclesiastes 3:8; followed by infinitive Hosea 10:12, הַעֵת לָקַחַת 2 Kings 5:26 is it a time to take money? Haggai 1:4, עֶתבֵּֿית לְהִבָּנוֺת ׳י Haggai 1:2 (v:a read עַתָּ בָּא Hi We Now and others); עֵת לַעֲשׂוֺת Psalm 119:126, compare Ecclesiastes 3:2-8 (26 t.); absolute כִּי עֵת Hosea 13:13 (Hi We and others; GuKau gives עַתָּ; > Now כָּעֵת); absolute with negative Job 22:16; Ecclesiastes 7:17; hence (late) יוֺדְעֵי בִינָה לָעִתִּים 1 Chronicles 12:32, יִדְעֵי הָעִתִּים Esther 1:13 i.e. astrologers, etc.

c. appointed time, ׳בְּעֵת תֵּת וגו 1 Samuel 18:19 at the appointed time of giving, Ezekiel 7:7,12; Isaiah 13:22, מְּקֻדָּתָם ׳ע Jeremiah 8:12; Jeremiah 10:15 = Jeremiah 51:18; Jeremiah 46:21; Jeremiah 50:27 compare (with finite verb) Jeremiah 6:15; Jeremiah 49:8; Jeremiah 50:31, אַרְצוֺ ׳ע Jeremiah 27:7, גּוֺיִם ׳ע Ezekiel 30:3,לְעִתִּים מְזֻמָּנִים Ezra 10:14; Nehemiah 10:35 compareNehemiah 13:31; מוֺעֵד ׳עַדעֿ 2 Samuel 24:15; Psalm 103:14 ("" מוֺעֵד), etc.; compare עֵת וּמִשְׁמָּט Ecclesiastes 8:5,6 (for time of judgment),עִתּוֺ Ecclesiastes 9:12; especially לְעֵת קֵץ Daniel 8:7; compare Daniel 11:35,40; Daniel 12:4,9, עֲוֺן קֵץ ׳כְּע Ezekiel 21:30; Ezekiel 21:34; compare Ezekiel 35:5; לְקֵץ הָעִתִּים Daniel 11:13.

d. as uncertain עֵת וָפֶגַע Ecclesiastes 9:11.

  1. = experiences, fortunes, plural אֱמוּנַת עִתֶּיךָ Isaiah 33:6; Psalm 31:16; הָעִתִּים אֲשֶׁר עָֽבְרוּ עָלָיו 1 Chronicles 29:30

  2. occurrence, occasions (= מַּעַם), רַבּוֺת עִתִּים Nehemiah 9:28 great numbers of times (= very often).

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