Posted by: mattcolvin | November 26, 2011

Ecclesiastes 9:9: Enjoy life with…whom?

I have to give the nod to the NKJV over Robert Alter on one of my favorite Bible verses, Ecclesiastes 9:9. I have always liked the NKJV’s exhortation to married happiness:

Live joyfully with the wife whom you love all the days of your vain life which He has given you under the sun, all your days of vanity

In place of this, Alter has:

Enjoy life with a woman whom you love all your days of mere breath.

The latter half, “days of mere breath” seems to be an improvement, and indeed a correction: the chapter concerns how best we may enjoy our days in this present life, which has been linked with the phrase “mere breath” throughout Ecclesiastes. But I rather wince at “a woman whom you love.” The Hebrew is amenable to that, of course, but the only Biblical way of enjoying life with a woman “all the days of your mere breath” is to make her your wife.

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