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Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible
Ecclesiastes 8

 

 

Verses 1-17


Kings'Courts Need Wary Walking

1-17. Be discreet in relation with a ruler. God's purpose must be carried out. His rule must be righteous, though this is often not seen in actual life. God's ways are just, and past finding out.

The writer now enters on a subject which it would not have been wise to treat too plainly, viz. the need of showing tact in dealing with the arbitrary power of an absolute monarch. No part of the book is more decidedly at variance with the Solomonic authorship than this c.

1. Who is, etc.] Which of his readers has skill to see the meaning of his language, intentionally left obscure? Boldness] RV 'hardness.' Skill of this kind refines the features.

2. Oath of God] Ptolemy Soter, king of Egypt (305-285 b.c.), having transplanted certain Jews from Palestine to Alexandria, caused them to swear allegiance to his successors. It is possible that the reference here may be to that event. If so, we have an indication of the place and time of writing.

3. Be not hasty] Do not rashly throw up office. Stand, etc.] RV 'persist.' Do not take sides with the ruler's open or covert enemies. The expression, however, in the Heb. is obscure, probably of set intention.

5. Whose keepeth, etc.] Submission is a practical guide in life. Time and judgment] The wise man will bide his time, hoping that justice will be done in the end.

6. To every purpose] God's purpose must eventually prevail, and retribution, if deserved, come even on the highest. Therefore] RV 'because.' Misery] RM 'evil.' Wickedness, like a lead, bears the bad man down to his doom.

8. Spirit] RM 'wind,' which it is God's prerogative to control. No discharge] Under the Jewish law exemption from service in war was granted in certain cases (Deuteronomy 20:5-8). In the battle with death no such release may be had.

9, 10. These vv. are expressed in such guarded language that to us they are scarcely intelligible. The line of thought is probably as follows. Although death swallows up the wicked in the end, nevertheless the writer's wide experience ever brings back to his mind cases where a man has exercised misrule to the hurt of his fellow-men. And then these evil men have received a stately burial, and been gathered to their fathers with all due observances. On the contrary, those who had lived virtuously have been dishonoured, expelled from the Temple and the Holy City, and dismissed from the minds even of the people among whom their good deeds had been done. Both honour and oblivion had been misplaced.

10. Who had come] RV 'and they came' to the grave. And gone.. so done] RV 'and they that had done right went away from the holy place, and were forgotten in the city.'

12. I know that it shall be well] The writer, after all, is one of those who 'keep' (or at any rate revert) 'to the sunny side of doubt.' The rule of final justice, he says, must hold.

14, 15. But now it is often not so. Therefore temperate enjoyments, joined with labour, are the most abiding possession of man: cp. Ecclesiastes 2:2-4, etEcclesiastes

16, 17. These problems are beyond man's power.

16. For also, etc.] RM 'how that neither by day nor by night do men see sleep with their eyes.'

 


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Bibliography Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 8:4". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcb/ecclesiastes-8.html. 1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, December 8th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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