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  1. Interestingly appropriate timing! According to Jewish tradition, each one of the Five Scrolls (Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther) has a particular festival that it is characteristically read at. Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) is particularly read during the Shabbat of the Sukkot festival — ie, this Saturday, when you made this post!

    Unfortunately my own Hebrew isn’t yet much beyond decoding the letters. But luckily Susannah was here to help; and (though some people look down on it), I also find the Blue Letter Bible very useful, with its word-by-word linking of the Hebrew to 19th century concordances and lexicons.

    You’re right that “ha maim” just means the waters. But the relevant phrase for your investigation is actually the immediately preceding “al p’nay”. The KJV translates this as “upon”; which is not wrong, because it is such a standard Hebrew idiom, that it doesn’t really imply much more than this. But the real root of “p’nay” is actually “paniym”, meaning “face”.

    So the idiom can be more fully rendered “upon the face of the waters” — which of course the KJV famously has when this same phrase appears at the end of Genesis 1:2

    So, for once, the Septuagint is not so far off after all.

    Other sources online that can be worth a look at in general for a more Hebrew take than some other translations include the JPS 1917 translation, which can be closer to the Masoretic Hebrew and traditional Jewish understanding of the text, while in the same sort of register as the KJV

    and of course the Rashi commentary (sometimes apparently on a different planet altogether; but sometimes quite an eye opener)
    though I’m not sure how much either add here.

    But you can be relieved that Rashi isn’t going overboard for foreign trade!

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