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Obey the King and Enjoy Yourself

 8

Who is like the wise man?

And who knows the interpretation of a thing?

Wisdom makes one’s face shine,

and the hardness of one’s countenance is changed.

2 Keep the king’s command because of your sacred oath. 3Do not be terrified; go from his presence, do not delay when the matter is unpleasant, for he does whatever he pleases. 4For the word of the king is powerful, and who can say to him, “What are you doing?” 5Whoever obeys a command will meet no harm, and the wise mind will know the time and way. 6For every matter has its time and way, although the troubles of mortals lie heavy upon them. 7Indeed, they do not know what is to be, for who can tell them how it will be? 8No one has power over the wind to restrain the wind, or power over the day of death; there is no discharge from the battle, nor does wickedness deliver those who practice it. 9All this I observed, applying my mind to all that is done under the sun, while one person exercises authority over another to the other’s hurt.

God’s Ways Are Inscrutable

10 Then I saw the wicked buried; they used to go in and out of the holy place, and were praised in the city where they had done such things. This also is vanity. 11Because sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the human heart is fully set to do evil. 12Though sinners do evil a hundred times and prolong their lives, yet I know that it will be well with those who fear God, because they stand in fear before him, 13but it will not be well with the wicked, neither will they prolong their days like a shadow, because they do not stand in fear before God.

14 There is a vanity that takes place on earth, that there are righteous people who are treated according to the conduct of the wicked, and there are wicked people who are treated according to the conduct of the righteous. I said that this also is vanity. 15So I commend enjoyment, for there is nothing better for people under the sun than to eat, and drink, and enjoy themselves, for this will go with them in their toil through the days of life that God gives them under the sun.

16 When I applied my mind to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done on earth, how one’s eyes see sleep neither day nor night, 17then I saw all the work of God, that no one can find out what is happening under the sun. However much they may toil in seeking, they will not find it out; even though those who are wise claim to know, they cannot find it out.


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Ec 8:1-17.

1. Praise of true wisdom continued (Ec 7:11, &c.). "Who" is to be accounted "equal to the wise man? … Who (like him) knoweth the interpretation" of God's providences (for example, Ec 7:8, 13, 14), and God's word (for example, see on Ec 7:29; Pr 1:6)?

face to shine—(Ec 7:14; Ac 6:15). A sunny countenance, the reflection of a tranquil conscience and serene mind. Communion with God gives it (Ex 34:29, 30).

boldness—austerity.

changed—into a benign expression by true wisdom (religion) (Jas 3:17). Maurer translates, "The shining (brightness) of his face is doubled," arguing that the Hebrew noun for "boldness" is never used in a bad sense (Pr 4:18). Or as Margin, "strength" (Ec 7:19; Isa 40:31; 2Co 3:18). But the adjective is used in a bad sense (De 28:50).

2. the king's—Jehovah, peculiarly the king of Israel in the theocracy; Ec 8:3, 4, prove it is not the earthly king who is meant.

the oath of God—the covenant which God made with Abraham and renewed with David; Solomon remembered Ps 89:35, "I have sworn," &c. (Ps 89:36), and the penalties if David's children should forsake it (Ps 89:30-32); inflicted on Solomon himself; yet God not "utterly" forsaking him (Ps 89:33, 34).

3. hasty—rather, "Be not terror-struck so as to go out of His sight." Slavishly "terror-struck" is characteristic of the sinner's feeling toward God; he vainly tries to flee out of His sight (Ps 139:7); opposed to the "shining face" of filial confidence (Ec 8:1; Joh 8:33-36; Ro 8:2; 1Jo 4:18).

stand not—persist not.

for he doeth—God inflicts what punishment He pleases on persisting sinners (Job 23:13; Ps 115:3). True of none save God.

4. God's very "word" is "power." So the gospel word (Ro 1:16; Heb 4:12).

who may say, &c.—(Job 9:12; 33:13; Isa 45:9; Da 4:35). Scripture does not ascribe such arbitrary power to earthly kings.

5. feel—experience.

time—the neglect of the right "times" causes much of the sinful folly of the spiritually unwise (Ec 3:1-11).

judgment—the right manner [Holden]. But as God's future "judgment" is connected with the "time for every purpose" in Ec 3:17, so it is here. The punishment of persisting sinners (Ec 8:3) suggests it. The wise man realizes the fact, that as there is a fit "time" for every purpose, so for the "judgment." This thought cheers him in adversity (Ec 7:14; 8:1).

6. therefore the misery, &c.—because the foolish sinner does not think of the right "times" and the "judgment."

7. he—the sinner, by neglecting times (for example, "the accepted time, and the day of salvation, 2Co 6:2), is taken by surprise by the judgment (Ec 3:22; 6:12; 9:12). The godly wise observe the due times of things (Ec 3:1), and so, looking for the judgment, are not taken by surprise, though not knowing the precise "when" (1Th 5:2-4); they "know the time" to all saving purposes (Ro 13:11).

8. spirit—"breath of life" (Ec 3:19), as the words following require. Not "wind," as Weiss thinks (Pr 30:4). This verse naturally follows the subject of "times" and "judgment" (Ec 8:6, 7).

discharge—alluding to the liability to military service of all above twenty years old (Nu 1:3), yet many were exempted (De 20:5-8). But in that war (death) there is no exemption.

those … given to—literally, the master of it. Wickedness can get money for the sinner, but cannot deliver him from the death, temporal and eternal, which is its penalty (Isa 28:15, 18).

9. his own hurt—The tyrannical ruler "hurts" not merely his subjects, but himself; so Rehoboam (1Ki 12:1-33); but the "time" of "hurt" chiefly refers to eternal ruin, incurred by "wickedness," at "the day of death" (Ec 8:8), and the "time" of "judgment" (Ec 8:6; Pr 8:36).

10. the wicked—namely, rulers (Ec 8:9).

buried—with funeral pomp by man, though little meriting it (Jer 22:19); but this only formed the more awful contrast to their death, temporal and eternal, inflicted by God (Lu 16:22, 23).

come and gone from the place of the holy—went to and came from the place of judicature, where they sat as God's representatives (Ps 82:1-6), with pomp [Holden]. Weiss translates, "Buried and gone (utterly), even from the holy place they departed." As Joab, by Solomon's command, was sent to the grave from the "holy place" in the temple, which was not a sanctuary to murderers (Ex 21:14; 1Ki 2:28, 31). The use of the very word "bury" there makes this view likely; still "who had come and gone" may be retained. Joab came to the altar, but had to go from it; so the "wicked rulers" (Ec 8:9) (including high priests) came to, and went from, the temple, on occasions of solemn worship, but did not thereby escape their doom.

forgotten—(Pr 10:7).

11. The reason why the wicked persevere in sin: God's delay in judgment (Mt 24:48-51; 2Pe 3:8, 9). "They see not the smoke of the pit, therefore they dread not the fire" [South], (Ps 55:19). Joab's escape from the punishment of his murder of Abner, so far from "leading him to repentance," as it ought (Ro 2:4), led him to the additional murder of Amasa.

12. He says this, lest the sinner should abuse the statement (Ec 7:15), "A wicked man prolongeth his life."

before him—literally, "at His presence"; reverently serve Him, realizing His continual presence.

13. neither shall he prolong—not a contradiction to Ec 8:12. The "prolonging" of his days there is only seeming, not real. Taking into account his eternal existence, his present days, however seemingly long, are really short. God's delay (Ec 8:11) exists only in man's short-sighted view. It gives scope to the sinner to repent, or else to fill up his full measure of guilt; and so, in either case, tends to the final vindication of God's ways. It gives exercise to the faith, patience, and perseverance of saints.

shadow—(Ec 6:12; Job 8:9).

14. An objection is here started (entertained by Solomon in his apostasy), as in Ec 3:16; 7:15, to the truth of retributive justice, from the fact of the just and the wicked not now receiving always according to their respective deserts; a cavil, which would seem the more weighty to men living under the Mosaic covenant of temporal sanctions. The objector adds, as Solomon had said, that the worldling's pursuits are "vanity" (Ec 8:10), "I say (not 'said') this also is vanity. Then I commend mirth," &c. [Holden]. Ec 8:14, 15 may, however, be explained as teaching a cheerful, thankful use of God's gifts "under the sun," that is, not making them the chief good, as sensualists do, which Ec 2:2; 7:2, forbid; but in "the fear of God," as Ec 3:12; 5:18; 7:18; 9:7, opposed to the abstinence of the self-righteous ascetic (Ec 7:16), and of the miser (Ec 5:17).

15. no better thing, &c.—namely, for the "just" man, whose chief good is religion, not for the worldly.

abideHebrew, "adhere"; not for ever, but it is the only sure good to be enjoyed from earthly labors (equivalent to "of his labor the days of his life"). Still, the language resembles the skeptical precept (1Co 15:32), introduced only to be refuted; and "abide" is too strong language, perhaps, for a religious man to apply to "eating" and "mirth."

16. Reply to Ec 8:14, 15. When I applied myself to observe man's toils after happiness (some of them so incessant as not to allow sufficient time for "sleep"), then (Ec 8:17, the apodosis) I saw that man cannot find out (the reason of) God's inscrutable dealings with the "just" and with the "wicked" here (Ec 8:14; Ec 3:11; Job 5:9; Ro 11:33); his duty is to acquiesce in them as good, because they are God's, though he sees not all the reasons for them (Ps 73:16). It is enough to know "the righteous are in God's hand" (Ec 9:1). "Over wise" (Ec 7:16); that is, Speculations above what is written are vain.




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