The phrase “should never” appears only twice in the English translations, and a popular song tells people to “never be discouraged” while the facts are that Christ himself was profoundly troubled and needed encouragement in the last hours of his life. There however are lots of verbs with the following meaning:
The phrase “should never” appears only twice in the English translations, even though there are lots of verbs with the following meaning:
- let us never
- you/they must never
- we/I will by no means
- they will never
The first “should never” is not even a command or expectation; it is one of the conclusions from the preacher (of Ecclesiastes).
“When I gave my heart to know wisdom and to see the task which has been done on the earth (even though one should never sleep day or night),”Ecclesiastes 8:16, NASB
Three Clauses make up this verse.
- “When I gave my heart to know wisdom
- and [gave my heart] to see the task which has been done on the earth
- (even though one should never sleep day or night),” (Ecclesiastes 8:16, NASB)
- כַּאֲשֶׁ֨ר נָתַ֤תִּי אֶת־לִבִּי֙ לָדַ֣עַת חָכְמָ֔ה
- וְלִרְאוֹת֙ אֶת־הָ֣עִנְיָ֔ן אֲשֶׁ֥ר נַעֲשָׂ֖ה עַל־הָאָ֑רֶץ
- כִּ֣י גַ֤ם בַּיּוֹם֙ וּבַלַּ֔יְלָה שֵׁנָ֕ה בְּעֵינָ֖יו אֵינֶ֥נּוּ רֹאֶֽה׃” (Ecclesiastes 8:16, WLC)
The 3rd clause seems to be the preacher’s conclusion that in both day and night (= every 4 hour day) his inner (heart) processes to (a) acquire wisdom and (b) to see [by looking at] the common inyan, business, come up empty-handed.
His conclusion: [my translation]
because indeed daily for sleepy eyes there is no sight.
He was accusing his generation of being busy sleepy heads, unseeing and therefore not wise. Who is going to dispute the progress of the Israelite kingdom during Solomon’s reign? The busy sleepyhead is not missing in the modern era. We find them in all the areas of public endeavour and public service. There are employers whose practice is to rob the worker, peace officers and judges who pervert justice, preachers, rabbis, imams, and prophets who have no master. If we think the Ecclesiastes preacher is arrogant then consider that lilies of the field and the birds of the sky know their path and follow it, yet they have neither book, prophet nor magic wand. I recommend a pin for that balloon: the idea that busyness is evidence of knowledge or wisdom.