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Go to Bible: Ecclesiastes 8
“interpretation.” This only occurs here in Ecclesiastes. This is used in Daniel of the interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. It is also used in the Qumran literature about giving the interpretation of the text. It is about understanding something.
“thing.” This is the common word for “word,” “matter,” or “thing.”
“makes his face shine.” The demeanor of a person reflects what is happening in the life of a person.(top)
“the oath of God.” The Hebrew is unclear as to whether this is the oath of God to support the king or the oath a person takes to God to obey the king. The scope of Scripture supports that this refers to the oath of God to the king, based on God establishing and supporting human government (cp. Rom. 13).(top)
|Ecc 8:3||- (top)|
“authoritative.” God has ordained human authority in government, and in general supports kings and rulers. This is the same word as “power” in Ecclesiastes 8:8.(top)
“will not come to harm.” Literally, “will know no evil.”(top)
“even though the misery of man is heavy on him.” The Hebrew conjunction that begins the verse can be translated different ways, and the versions differ, but the evidence supports the commentators and translators who see the second phrase as being connected by reason with the first phrase (cp. CSB; ESV; NASB2020; NIV; NLT; NRS; RSV). The misery of mankind, which weighs heavily on us all, often causes us to take shortcuts in life that are ungodly, immoral, and even sometimes illegal. The New Testament is clear that “if anyone competes as an athlete, he is not crowned unless he competed according to the rules” (2 Tim. 2:5). Wise people, who keep everlasting life and rewards in mind, do the godly thing even when life is difficult and “cheating a little” would give them what they wanted in life. As Ecclesiastes 8:6 says, there is a proper time and procedure (way of doing things) for all that we do. The glory we receive for doing things the right and godly way will far exceed the suffering we are going through now (Rom. 8:18).(top)
“when.” The Hebrew text reads “when,” but the Aramaic and Vulgate amend that to “what” (sometimes translated “how”), but the emendation is unnecessary. While it is true that we often don’t know what, in this context the timing seems to be the major issue. For example, we know we will die, we just don’t know when.(top)
“power over the spirit.” The Hebrew word translated “spirit” is ruach (#07307 רוּחַ), and it is the common word for “spirit,” but it has many meanings. It refers to the spirit life in man, thus “life” or sometimes “breath;” the attitudes and emotions of man; God, who is the Spirit; angels; demons; the wind; and more. [For much more on the use of ruach, see Appendix 6, “Usages of ‘Spirit’”].
Many commentators think that in this verse, ruach refers to the wind, and that may be possible, but in light of the second phrase about the day of death, it seems to be more connected to our life, making “spirit” a good translation (cp. ASV, ESV, KJV, NLT, Rotherham, and cp. NAB). The fact is that any person reading the Hebrew text itself would read ruach and immediately see all the possibilities, including both our life and the wind, neither of which we can retain or restrain. For all the bravado about how powerful we humans are, the actual fact is that we don’t know that much and don’t have much power. God, on the other hand, knows everything available to know and created the whole universe from nothing. No wonder Jesus told us to trust God (John 14:1), and no wonder Jeremiah said we would be cursed if we trusted in humans and relied on human power (Jer. 17:5).
“that war.” The war between life and death. The Hebrew is literally, “the war,” but “that war” is nuanced from the context (cp. Fox, Ecclesiastes).
“rescue its owners.” There is an inherent deception in witchcraft and evil in general, and that is that the person who is doing the evil “owns” it, that is, they have a measure of control over the demons they are using or the evil they are doing. The person doing evil may feel that they are in control of their situation and what they are doing will get them what they want—power, prestige, money, sex, etc.—but in the end they will find that aging and death happens to everyone. They will discover that the evil they have been involved with will not be able to rescue them from death no matter how much power and/or control they thought it gave them in life. After the Fall, God decreed that humans would age and die, and after death comes the Day of Judgment (Heb. 9:27), and wickedness cannot rescue an evil person from death and the Lake of Fire and everlasting death that comes after Judgment Day. In fact, far from delivering the wicked, Psalm 34:21 even says that wickedness will kill the wicked.
[For information on annihilation in the Lake of Fire, see Appendix 5, “Annihilation in the Lake of Fire].(top)
“to his hurt.” The text is not clear about who is hurt, and likely for good reason. The oppressed are the ones generally hurt in this life (although the oppressors are hurt in this life too), and the oppressors are hurt on Judgment Day. The Hebrew is ambiguous, and likely for the very reason that both the “oppressors” and the “oppressed” are hurt.(top)
“wicked buried.” The fact that a wicked person was buried indicated that he or she was buried with respect.
“and were praised.” This translation follows the Septuagint, Vulgate, and several other ancient sources, and makes very good sense in the context and so is supported by a number of scholars. The Hebrew text is that they “were forgotten,” which also could make sense. The wicked practice wickedness to get ahead, but are eventually forgotten just like everyone else.
“pointless.” See commentary on Ecclesiastes 1:2.(top)
“the sons of men.” An idiom for humankind.(top)
“fear God, who are reverent before him.” The word “fear” is repeated twice, but with a slightly different emphasis, and the REV translation tries to bring that out (cp. NIV2011).(top)
|Ecc 8:13||- (top)|
“pointless.” See commentary on Ecclesiastes 1:2.(top)
“So I recommend the enjoyment of life.” Many verses in Ecclesiastes encourage people to rejoice and have fun in life (cp. Ecc. 2:24-25; 3:4, 12-13, 22; 5:18-19; 8:15; 9:7-9; 10:19; 11:7-8). See commentary on Ecclesiastes 2:24.(top)
“sees sleep with his eyes.” This cute phrase catches the attention because people don’t “see” sleep with their eyes, their eyes are closed. The word “see” here is being used in its common idiomatic sense of “experience.”(top)
“the work of God.” Contrasted with the work of the wicked and the work of the righteous in Ecclesiastes 8:14).(top)