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Bible Commentaries
Ecclesiastes 8

Ellicott's Commentary for English ReadersEllicott's Commentary

Verse 1


(1) This verse in praise of wisdom can be connected either with what precedes or what follows. (See Hosea 14:9.)

Interpretation.—The word occurs elsewhere in the Chaldee parts of Daniel.

Boldness.—Impudence is removed from the countenance. See Proverbs 7:13; Proverbs 21:29; Sir. 13:25.

Verse 2

(2) The unconnected “I” with which this verse begins, indicates that some word has early dropped out of the text. The italics with which our translators fill the gap no doubt give the right sense. It may be mentioned that Ecclesiastes is characterised by a superfluous use of the pronoun “I” after the verb, just as if in Latin we constantly had, instead of “dixi,” “dixi ego.” The counsels given here and Ecclesiastes 10:4 are not what we should expect from Solomon, but rather from one who had himself lived under a despotism.

In regard of.—The words so translated are found again Ecclesiastes 3:18; Ecclesiastes 7:14; see also Psalms 45:5; Psalms 79:9; Psalms 110:4.

The oath of God.—Unsuccessful attempts have been made to find in these words a definite historic reference. It is idle to quote the fact recorded by Josephus that Ptolemy Lagus secured the allegiance of his Jewish subjects by exacting an oath from them. This book has no connection with Egypt, and we need not look beyond the Bible for proof that an oath of vassalage was imposed on the Jews by their foreign masters, and that the breach of such an oath was regarded by the prophets as sin (2 Chronicles 36:13; Ezekiel 17:13; Ezekiel 17:16; Ezekiel 17:18). And there is reason to think that similar pledges had been given to native kings (1 Samuel 10:3; 1 Chronicles 29:24; 2 Chronicles 23:3).

Of God.—2 Samuel 21:7; 1 Kings 2:43.

Verse 3

(3) I believe the rendering of our version to be correct, though some have taken it, “Be not hasty: go out of his eight.” The best commentary on this verse is Ecclesiastes 10:4, which gives the meaning, “When censured by the king, do not abandon the hope of retaining his favour, nor obstinately persist in what he condemns.” I do not find adequate proof of the assertion of some commentators, that “go out of his sight” can mean “withdraw allegiance from him,” and so that the “evil thing” means a rebellious conspiracy. The advice, “Be not hasty” to rebel, instead of “do not rebel,” is inconsistent with the context.

Verse 4

(4) Power.—The word used here and Ecclesiastes 5:8, only occurs again in the Chaldee part of Daniel. In the latter part of the Hebrew verse is one of the many reminiscences of the work of Job (Job 9:12; see also Wis. 12:12).

Verse 6

(6) The connecting particles here present difficulties which have not been satisfactorily solved; and it has even been conjectured that some words may have dropped out of the text. The first half of the verse repeats Ecclesiastes 3:1; the second almost verbally Ecclesiastes 6:1; on this account our translation “misery” is to be preferred to “wickedness” as some render it.

Verse 8

(8) Spirit.—As has been remarked in similar cases, the translation “wind” is possible; but the rendering of the whole verse as given in our version seems to me as good as any that it has been proposed to substitute.

Discharge.—Elsewhere only (Psalms 78:49) where it is translated “sending.”

Verse 9

(9) Own hurt.—The Hebrew is ambiguous. We might omit “own,” and understand the verse of the misery inflicted by a tyrant on his subject, not on himself. But the context speaks of the small gain from his oppressions to the tyrant himself.

Verse 10

(10) They had so done.—An ambiguity in translation of this verse arises from the fact that the word translated “so” is rendered “well” (2 Kings 7:9 and elsewhere). Consequently some understand the verse, “The wicked receive an honourable burial, while those who have acted well are driven away from the holy place (viz. Jerusalem, Isaiah 48:2; Neh. xi, 1, 18) and forgotten.” But we prefer to translate the word “so” the second time, as well as the first, where it occurs in the verse; and to take the meaning to be that the oppressor’s prosperity is but temporary, for soon comes death, burial, and forgetfulness of his honour.

Verse 11

(11) Sentence.—This is a Persian word only found in Esther 1:20, and in Chaldee parts of Ezra and Daniel.

Verse 12

(12) Though.—Better, Because; the first part of this verse being in continuation of the preceding. The latter part of the verse states the faith which the writer holds in spite of apparent contrary experience.

Verse 13

(13) As a shadow.—Ecclesiastes 6:12; Wis. 2:5; see also Wis. 4:8.

Verse 14

(14) Happeneth.—The word is used in this sense only in Esther 9:26.

Verse 15

(15) The writer returns to the sentiment expressed already (Ecclesiastes 2:24; Ecclesiastes 3:12; Ecclesiastes 3:22; Ecclesiastes 5:17).

Eat, and to drink, and to be merry.—The three words occur together 1 Kings 4:20.

Verse 16

(16) It would have been better if the new chapter had been made to begin here. The sentiment is that already expressed in Ecclesiastes 3:11.

Seeth sleep with his eyes.Psalms 132:4; Proverbs 6:4; Genesis 31:40. The identical expression occurs in Terence, Heaut III. 1:82, “Somnum hercle ego hae nocte oculis non vidi meis.”

Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 8". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ebc/ecclesiastes-8.html. 1905.
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