Ecclesiastes 8


A man's wisdom makes his face shine, 1.

Kings are to be greatly respected, 2-4.

Of him who keeps the commandment; of the misery of man; of the

certainty of death, 5-8.

Of him that rules another to his own hurt, 9.

The end of the wicked, 10.

God's longsuffering, 11, 12.

It shall be ill with wicked men, 13.

Strange events in the course of Providence, 14, 15.

God's works cannot be found out, 16, 17.


Verse 1. Who knoweth the interpretation] pesher, a pure

Chaldee word, found nowhere else in the Bible but in the Chaldee

parts of Daniel. "A man's wisdom maketh his face to shine." Every

state of the heart shines through the countenance; but there is

such an evidence of the contented, happy, pure, benevolent state

of the soul in the face of a truly pious man, that it must be

observed, and cannot be mistaken. In the Hebrew the former clause

of this verse ends the preceding chapter. Who has ever been

deceived in the appearance of the face that belonged to a savage

heart? Those who represent, by painting or otherwise, a wise man,

with a gravely sour face, striking awe and forbidding approach,

have either mistaken the man, or are unacquainted with some

essential principles of their art.

The boldness of his face shall be changed.] Instead of

yeshunne, which signifies shall be hated, many of Kennicott's

and De Rossi's MSS. have yeshunneh, shall be changed or

doubled. Hence the verse might be read, "The wisdom of a man shall

illuminate his face; and the strength of his countenance shall be

doubled." He shall speak with full confidence and conviction on a

subject which he perfectly understands, and all will feel the

weight of his observations.

Verse 2. To keep the king's commandment] This sentence would be

better translated, I keep the mouth of the king; I take good heed

not to meddle with state secrets; and if I know, to hide them. Or,

I am obedient to the commands of the laws; I feel myself bound by

whatever the king has decreed.

In regard of the oath of God.] You have sworn obedience to him;

keep your oath, for the engagement was made in the presence of

God. It appears that the Jewish princes and chiefs took an oath

of fidelity to their kings. This appears to have been done to

David, 2Sa 5:1-3; to

Joash, 2Ki 11:17; and to

Solomon, 1Ch 29:24.

Verse 3. Be not hasty] I consider the first five verses here as

directions to courtiers, and the more immediate servants of kings.

Be steadily faithful to your sovereign. Do not stand in an evil

thing. If you have done wrong, do not endeavour to vindicate

yourself before him; it is of no use; his power is absolute, and

he will do what he pleases. He will take his own view of the

subject, and he will retain it. The language of a despotic

sovereign was ever this, Sic volo sic jubeo, stat pro ratione

voluntas; "I will this. I command that. No hesitation! My will is

law!" Therefore it is added here, Where the word of a king is,

there is power-influence, authority, and the sword. And who may

say unto him, whether he acts right or wrong, What doest thou?

Ec 8:4. No wonder in such governments there are so many

revolutions; but they are revolutions without amendment, as it

is one tyrant rising up to destroy another, who, when seated in

authority, acts in the way of his predecessor; till another, like

himself, do to him as he has done to the former. In our country,

after a long trial, we find that a mixed monarchy is the safest,

best, and most useful form of government: we have had, it is true,

unprincipled ministers, who wished to turn our limited into an

absolute monarchy; and they were always ready to state that an

absolute monarchy was best. Granted; provided the monarch be as

wise, as holy, and as powerful as GOD!

Verse 5. Both time and judgment.] It is a matter of great

importance to be able to discern WHEN and HOW both to speak and

act; but when time and manner are both determined, the matter

comes next. WHAT shall I speak? WHAT shall I do? When, how, and

what, answer to time, manner, and matter. To discern all these,

and act suitably, is a lesson for a philosopher, and a study for

a Christian.

Verse 6. To every purpose there is time] chaphets, every

volition, every thing that depends on the will of man. He has

generally the opportunity to do whatever he purposes; and as his

purposes are frequently evil, his acts are so too: and in

consequence his misery is great.

Verse 8. There is no man that hath power over the spirit to

retain the spirit] The Chaldee has, "There is no man who can rule

over the spirit of the breath, so as to prevent the animal life

from leaving the body of man." Others translate to this sense: "No

man hath power over the wind to restrain the wind; and none has

power over death to restrain him; and when a man engages as a

soldier, he cannot be discharged from the war till it is ended;

and by wickedness no man shall be delivered from any evil." Taking

it in this way, these are maxims which contain self-evident

truths. Others suppose the verse to refer to the king who

tyrannizes over and oppresses his people. He shall also account

to God for his actions; he shall die, and he cannot prevent it;

and when he is judged, his wickedness cannot deliver him.

Verse 9. One man ruleth over another to his own hurt.] This may

be spoken of rulers generally, who, instead of feeding, fleece the

flock; tyrants and oppressors, who come to an untimely end by

their mismanagement of the offices of the state. All these things

relate to Asiatic despots, and have ever been more applicable to

them than to any other sovereigns in the world. They were

despotic; they still are so.

Verse 10. Who had come and gone from the place of the holy] The

place of the holy is the sacred office which they held, anointed

either as kings or priests to God; and, not having fulfilled the

holy office in a holy way, have been carried to their graves

without lamentation, and lie among the dead without remembrance.

Verse 11. Because sentence] pithgam, a Divine decree

or declaration. This is no Hebrew, but a mere Chaldee word, and

occurs only in the later books of the Bible-Esther, Ezra and

Daniel, and nowhere else but in this place. Because God does not

immediately punish every delinquency, men think he disregards evil

acts; and therefore they are emboldened to sin on. So this

longsuffering of God, which leadeth to repentance, is abused so as

to lead to farther crimes! When men sin against the remedy of

their salvation, how can they escape perdition?

Verse 12. Though a sinner do evil a hundred times] If God bear

so long with a transgressor, waiting in his longsuffering for him

to repent and turn to him, surely he will be peculiarly kind to

them that fear him, and endeavour to walk uprightly before him.

Verse 13. But it shall not be well with the wicked] Let not the

long-spared sinner presume that, because sentence is not speedily

executed on his evil works, and he is suffered to go on to his

hundredth transgression, God has forgotten to punish. No; he

feareth not before God; and therefore he shall not ultimately


Verse 14. There be just men] See on Ec 7:16.

Verse 15. Then I commended mirth] These are some more of the

cavils of the infidel objector: "Since virtue is frequently under

oppression, and vice triumphs in health, and rolls in wealth, I

see plainly that we should not trouble ourselves about future

things; and therefore should be governed by the maxim EDE, BIBE,

LUDE. Post mortem nulla voluptas."

Eat, drink, and play,

While here you may;

For soon as death

Has stopp'd your breath,

Ye ne'er shall see a cheerful day.

Verse 16. When I applied mine heart to know wisdom] This is the

reply of the wise man: "I have also considered these seeming

contradictions. God governs the world; but we cannot see the

reasons of his conduct, nor know why he does this, omits that, or

permits a third thing. We may study night and day, and deprive

ourselves of rest and sleep, but we shall never fathom the depths

that are in the Divine government; but all is right and just. This

is the state of probation; and in it neither can the wicked be

punished, nor the righteous rewarded. But eternity is at hand; and

then shall every man receive according to his works. He that

spends his life in the eat, drink, and play, will find in that day

that he has lost the time in which he could have prepared for


Verse 17. Then I beheld all the work of God, that a man cannot

find out the work that is done under the sun] I saw it to be of

such a nature-1, That a man cannot find it out. 2. That if he

labour to find it out, he shall not succeed. 3. That though he

be wise-the most instructed among men, and think to find it out,

he shall find he is not able. It is beyond the wisdom and power of

man. How vain then are all your cavils about Providence. You do

not understand it; you cannot comprehend it. Fear God!

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