Ecclesiastes 1:6
The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits.
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(6) The order of the Hebrew words permits the first clause, “going towards the south and returning towards the north,” to be understood in continuation of the description of the movements of the sun, and so some interpreters have taken them, but probably erroneously. The verse gains in liveliness if more literally rendered, “going towards the south and circling towards the north, circling, circling goes the wind, and to its circles the wind returns.”

1:4-8 All things change, and never rest. Man, after all his labour, is no nearer finding rest than the sun, the wind, or the current of the river. His soul will find no rest, if he has it not from God. The senses are soon tired, yet still craving what is untried.More literally, Going toward the south and veering toward the north, veering, veering goes the wind; and to its veerings the wind returns. 6. according to his circuits—that is, it returns afresh to its former circuits, however many be its previous veerings about. The north and south winds are the two prevailing winds in Palestine and Egypt. The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; the wind also sometimes blows from one quarter of the world, and sometimes from another; all of them being synecdochically comprehended under these two eminent quarters. But because this word, the wind, is not expressed in the Hebrew, but is only borrowed or understood from the latter clause of the verse, this first clause is by other judicious interpreters understood of the sun, of whom he last spake; the words being thus rendered according to the Hebrew, He (the sun) goeth towards the south, (which he doth one half of the year,) and turneth about unto the north, which he doth the other half. And so here is the whole motion of the sun towards the four quarters of the world particularly described; his daily motion from east to, vest, and back again, Ecclesiastes 1:5; and his yearly motion from north to south, between the signs of Cancer and Capricorn.

The wind returneth again according to his circuits: this clause is by all understood of the wind, which is fitly mentioned immediately after the sun, because it hath its rise from the sun, who is therefore called the father of winds, and the winds do usually rise with the sun, and are laid when he sets. But then it is rendered thus, and that very agreeably to the Hebrew, the wind goeth continually whirling or compassing about, and he returneth again to his circuits, being sometimes in one, and sometimes in another quarter, and successively returning to the same quarters in which he had formerly been.

The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north,.... The word "wind" is not in this clause in the original text, but is taken from the next, and so may be rendered, "it goeth towards the south", &c. that is, the sun (x) before mentioned, which as to its diurnal and nocturnal course in the daytime goes towards the south, and in the night towards the north; and as to its annual course before the winter solstice it goes to the south, and before the summer solstice to the north, as interpreters observe. And the Targum not only interprets this clause, but even the whole verse, of the sun, paraphrasing the whole thus,

"it goes all the side of the south in the daytime, and goes round to the side of the north in the night, by the way of the abyss; it goes its circuit, and comes to the wind of the south corner in the revolution of Nisan and Tammuz; and by its circuit it returns to the wind of the north corner in the revolution of Tisri and Tebet; it goes out of the confines of the east in the morning, and goes into the confines of the west in the evening.''

But Aben Ezra understands the whole of the wind, as our version and others do, which is sometimes in the south point of the heavens, and is presently in the north;

it whirleth about continually; and the wind returneth again according to his circuits; which may be meant of the circuits of the sun, which has a great influence on the wind, often raising it in a morning and laying it at night; but it is the wind itself which whirls and shifts about all the points of the compass, and returns from whence it came, where the treasures of it are. Agreeably to Solomon's account of the wind is Plato's definition of it,

"the wind is the motion of the air round about the earth (y).''

This also exemplifies the rotation of men and things, the instability, inconstancy, and restless state of all sublunary enjoyments; the unprofitableness of men's labours, who, while they labour for riches and honour, and natural knowledge, labour for the wind, and fill their belly with east wind, which cannot satisfy, Ecclesiastes 5:16; as well as the frailty of human life, which is like the wind that passes away and comes not again; and in this respect, like the rest of the instances, exceed man, which returns to its place, but man does not, Job 7:7.

(x) Jarchi, Alshech, and Titatzak, interpret it of the sun; so Mercerus, Varenius, Gejerus; accordingly Mr. Broughton renders it "he walketh to the south." (y) Definition. p. 1337. Ed. Ficin.

The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits.
6. The wind goeth toward the south] This comes after the sun as exhibiting a like, though more irregular, law of mutability. “South and north” only are named, partly, perhaps, because east and west were implied in the sunrise and sunset of the previous verse, more probably because these were the prevailing currents of air in Palestine. Comp. “Awake, O north wind; blow, O south,” in Song of Solomon 4:16; Sir 43:20; Luke 12:55.

It whirleth about continually] The whole verse gains in poetic emphasis by a more literal rendering, It goeth to the south, and it circleth to the north, circling, circling goeth the wind, and on its circlings returneth the wind. The iteration and order of the words seem to breathe the languor of one who was weary with watching the endless and yet monotonous changes. (Comp. the illustration in Introduction, chap. iii.)

Verse 6. - The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; literally, going towards the south, and circling towards the north. These words, as we have seen above, are referred to the sun by the Septuagint, Vulgate, and Syriac; but it is best to make this verse refer only to the wind - a fresh example of motion continually repeated with no real progress to an end. Thus each verse comprises one subject and idea, ver. 4 being concerned with the earth, ver. 5 with the sun, ver. 6 with the wind, and ver. 7 with the waters. There seems to be no particular force in the naming of north and south, unless it be in contrast to the sun's motion from east to west, mentioned in the preceding verse. The words following show that these two directions are not alone intended. Thus the four quarters are virtually included. It whirleth about continually. The original is more forcible, giving by its very form the idea of weary monotony. The subject is delayed till the last, thus: Going towards the south... circling, circling, goeth the wind; i.e. it blows from all quarters at its own caprice. And the wind returneth again according to his circuits. And on its circlings returneth the wind; it comes back to the point whence it started. The wind, seemingly the freest of all created things, is bound by the same law of immutable changeableness, insensate repetition. Ecclesiastes 1:6"It goeth to the south, and turneth to the north; the wind goeth ever circling, and the wind returneth again on its circuits." Thus designedly the verse is long-drawn and monotonous. It gives the impression of weariness. שׁב may be 3rd pret. with the force of an abstract present, but the relation is here different from that in 5a, where the rising, setting, and returning stand together, and the two former lie backwards indeed against the latter; here, on the contrary, the circling motion and the return to a new beginning stand together on the same line; שׁב is thus a part., as the Syr. translates it. The participles represent continuance in motion. In Ecclesiastes 1:4 the subjects stand foremost, because the ever anew beginning motion belongs to the subject; in Ecclesiastes 1:5 and Ecclesiastes 1:6, on the contrary, the pred. stands foremost, and the subject in Ecclesiastes 1:6 is therefore placed thus far back, because the first two pred. were not sufficient, but required a third for their completion. That the wind goes from the south (דּרום, R. דר, the region of the most intense light) to the north (צפון, R. צפן, the region of darkness), is not so exclusively true of it as it is of the sun that it goes from the east to the west; this expression requires the generalization "circling, circling goes the wind," i.e., turning in all directions here and there; for the repetition denotes that the circling movement exhausts all possibilities. The near defining part. which is subordinated to "goeth," elsewhere is annexed by "and," e.g., Jonah 1:11; cf. 2 Samuel 15:30; here סבב סובב , in the sense of סביב סביב, Ezekiel 37:2 (both times with Pasek between the words), precedes. סביבה is here the n. actionis of סבב. And "on its circuits" is not to be taken adverbially: it turns back on its circuits, i.e., it turns back on the same paths (Knobel and others), but על and שׁב are connected, as Proverbs 26:11; cf. Psalm 19:7 : the wind returns back to its circling movements to begin them anew (Hitzig). "The wind" is repeated (cf. Ecclesiastes 2:10; Ecclesiastes 4:1) according to the figure Epanaphora or Palindrome (vid., the Introd. to Isaiah, c. 40-66). To all regions of the heavens, to all directions of the compass, its movement is ceaseless, ever repeating itself anew; there is nothing permanent but the fluctuation, and nothing new but that the old always repeats itself. The examples are thoughtfully chosen and arranged. From the currents of air, the author now passes to streams of water.
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