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Bible Commentaries
Ecclesiastes 8

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

Verses 1-17

B. God’s Inscrutable Plan chs. 7-8

Solomon proceeded in this section to focus on the comprehensive plan of God: His decree. His point was that we cannot fathom it completely.


3. The value and limitations of wisdom ch. 8

This chapter begins by lauding wisdom (Ecclesiastes 8:1), and it ends by showing that it has limitations (Ecclesiastes 8:17).

"At every turn this chapter will face us with our inability to call the tune and master our affairs. On one level after another we find ourselves pinned down, hunted down and disorientated." [Note: Kidner, p. 74.]

Verse 1

A wise man understands things that a fool does not. Moreover, he is able to behave appropriately. One’s facial and general appearances reflect wise behavior (cf. Numbers 6:25; Proverbs 7:13).

Verses 1-9

The value of Wisdom 8:1-9

In Solomon’s day, the king had far-reaching power over his subjects. Therefore it became imperative to avoid his wrath. We must keep this background in view because it lies behind what Solomon said in chapter 8.

Verses 2-4

The wise man behaves appropriately in the presence of his king. He keeps his oath of allegiance that he has made before God (Ecclesiastes 8:2). He does not resign from his service (Ecclesiastes 8:3 a) or join in a revolt against the king (Ecclesiastes 8:3 b). Furthermore, he does not dispute the king’s authority and sovereignty (Ecclesiastes 8:4).

Verses 5-7

The wise person also knows when and how to speak and act (Ecclesiastes 8:5). Often people suffer harm as a result of not knowing what will happen and when (Ecclesiastes 8:6-7). Consequently, they misdirect their words and deeds.

Verses 8-9

Ecclesiastes 8:8 means that no one can escape the consequences of his or her own wickedness. The idea is that the king will punish him or her (Ecclesiastes 8:9). Thus it is important to have wisdom.

Verses 10-14

There are two apparent inequities in Ecclesiastes 8:10. First, the wicked get an honorable burial. Second, people soon forget the godly. These verses provide instances of exceptions to the retribution doctrine.

Verses 10-17

The limitations of Wisdom 8:10-17

Wisdom can enable a person to avoid the king’s wrath (Ecclesiastes 8:2-9), but it cannot enable him or her to understand fully why God deals with people as He does (Ecclesiastes 8:10-17).

Verse 15

In view of these contradictions, Solomon again recommended the enjoyment of life, not in a pleasure-mad way but in the sense of enjoying the fruits of one’s labor (cf. Ecclesiastes 2:24; Ecclesiastes 3:12-13; Ecclesiastes 5:18-19). This joy will make labor more enjoyable. We should receive each day’s joys as God’s good gifts and rejoice in them.

Verses 16-17

Solomon meant that even the wisest, most energetic person could not fully understand God’s ways (cf. Ecclesiastes 7:14 b; Ecc_7:28 a; Matthew 9:34). This is a point he made since Ecclesiastes 6:10.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 8". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/ecclesiastes-8.html. 2012.
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