Saturday, May 22, 2010

God in Qohelet

In an earlier post on morality I note that Qohelet never uses any designation for God except Elohim and ha-Elohim - that is God with the definite article. "There is no Lord, no LORD, no El Shaddai, no El, in that book."  But what about Ecclesiastes 12:1 - remember your creator etc. Does this appearance of 'create' violate the designations of God in the text? It does seem to jump out somewhat.

Seow has much to say about whether creator is apt. The letters בּוֹרְאֶיךָ can of course spell 'your creator'. It appears to be a qal active participle with a plural ending as usual truncated when a singular second person direct object is appended. So the 'meaning' is 'the plural one creating thee.' The plural might be a plural of majesty but even though Elohim is naturally plural, it does take a singular verb form - so the phrase is rather odd.

There is another word with the same letters in BDB - p 135, meaning to be fat - or sound, healthy. And given the vav, perhaps 'well' as a symbol for wife, or 'cistern' or 'pit' for grave, as a recognition that you will die. Seow lists a number of suggested alternatives.

בּוֹר as wife seems unlikely. Qohelet seems to have no metaphor for wife in Eccl 9:9 where the author uses אִשָּׁה as expected. Cistern / pit seems even more unlikely though the word occurs in Eccl 12:6 and would perhaps provide a recurrence pattern in the poem. Both these choices are still encumbered with the plural singular conundrum.  So I stayed with 'creator' - just that one word - in tension with 'make / do' which is pervasive in Qohelet, might be enough to suggest the responsibility each of us has towards this mysterious plural One who loves us.