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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Ecclesiastes 8

 

 

Verses 1-17

Ecclesiastes 8:1. Who is as the wise man; and who knoweth the interpretation of a thing? In the Vulgate these two questions end the seventh chapter, to which they evidently belong. Placing them at the head of a new chapter, confuses the sense.— A man’s wisdom maketh his face to shine. It is surprising how strikingly the intellectual powers, and the moral qualities of the soul are seen through the countenance. Art and courtly graces are all hypocrisy here. We must be as innocent as the children, to look as innocently. A mind improved by wisdom, a heart inspired with the love of God, and delighting in piety and holiness, will change and hallow the aspects of a carnal man; while, as the LXX read, he that has an impudent look shall be hated. Wisdom has an intelligent aspect, and virtue an open countenance.

Ecclesiastes 8:2. Keep the king’s commandment, as all his servants have sworn to do. He is a monarch, who knows nothing in those about him but obedience: his anger is a storm that must not be resisted. If this be the law of earthly courts, what then is due to the supreme Being? By him kings reign, and princes decree justice.

Ecclesiastes 8:6. To every purpose there is time and judgment. This whole passage seems to be a caution against sedition, revolt, and rebellion, by which the misery of man is great in the earth. He knows not what shall be the event of war, nor when the day of death shall come. Neither has any man power to retain his spirit, when the body shall cease to breathe. In our warfare with death, and all its train of evils, there is no discharge; no hiring of a substitute; money is of no value in that exchange. The emperor Adrian addresses his soul, as flying into every avenue, and hiding in every retreat of the body, to shun the arrest of death, as a bird flutters in the cage to avoid the invading foe. So HORACE, book 2. ode 13.

What though, where thundering lightnings play, The coward sculks from death?

In vain—for death, a subtle foe, Pursues where’er he flies; And where he least expects the blow, Even there the dastard dies.

Ecclesiastes 8:10. I saw the wicked buried, characters distinguished by their nobility, and more so by their errors and sins. The readings vary here. The LXX, “I have seen the wicked buried, and carried (in splendid processions) from the holy place; and they returned, and were eulogized in the city, [by a venal orator] for what they had done.” Funeral orations had this character. The orators sent all their heroes to the field of Elysian delight; but Solomon had his silent doubts. The gospel respecting the Sadducee, destitute of charity, has no doubt. In hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments. Luke 16:23.

Ecclesiastes 8:11. Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily. See Proverbs 29:1, where similar words occur, and Psalms 10:11.

Ecclesiastes 8:12. Though a sinner do evil a hundred times. Though he enjoy long life and prosperity, it only proves that providence in this world is beclouded; but putting all cases of the righteous and the wicked in the balances, it will very clearly demonstrate that there is a God who judges in the earth. The righteous suffer in excellence of temper; they are armed with patience and are joyful in hope, while the wicked are far otherwise. The afflictions of the one work for good, but the sorrows of the other tend to death.

Ecclesiastes 8:14-17. There is a vanity which is done upon the earth. The substance of all these verses is repeated from the preseding chapters, to place the facts in a fuller and clearer view. The word “vanity” is repeated here to show that the good things, alike enjoyed by the virtuous and the profane, are not the best things; and by reversion, the evils which they both suffer are not the final sufferings for sin. The abstruse ways of providence, notwithstanding the nuances attendant on diversity of character, are to be studied, and studied with a view to improve the moral condition of man.

REFLECTIONS.

In recreations for health there is nothing unreasonable; the mind requires relaxation from office, from labour, and study: a bow always bent, loses its power. But all our pleasures should be of a hallowed character, and associated with delight in God. Rejoice in the Lord, and again I say rejoice. “When Solomon commends mirth, and says, he had valued pleasure above all things, he speaks of reasonable pleasures, which proceed from a lawful and moderate use of the goods that God has given us, which have nothing in them irregular and contrary to piety.”

 


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Bibliography Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 8:4". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jsc/ecclesiastes-8.html. 1835.

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