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Bible Commentaries
Ecclesiastes 8

Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament CommentaryKeil & Delitzsch

Verse 1

“Who is like the wise? and who understandeth the interpretation of things? The wisdom of a man maketh his face bright, and the rudeness of his face is changed.” Unlike this saying: “Who is like the wise?” are the formulas חכם מי , Hosea 14:9, Jeremiah 11:11, Psalms 107:43, which are compared by Hitzig and others. “Who is like the wise?” means: Who is equal to him? and this question, after the scheme מי־כמכה , Exodus 15:11, presents him as one who has not his like among men. Instead of כּה the word כּחכם might be used, after לחכם , Ecclesiastes 2:16, etc. The syncope is, as at Ezekiel 40:25, omitted, which frequently occurs, particularly in the more modern books, Ezekiel 47:22; 2 Chronicles 10:7; 2 Chronicles 25:10; 2 Chronicles 29:27; Nehemiah 9:19; Nehemiah 12:38. The regular giving of Dagesh to כ after מי , with Jethib, not Mahpach, is as at Ecclesiastes 8:7 after כּי ; Jethib is a disjunctive. The second question is not כּיודע , but יודע וּמי , and thus does not mean: who is like the man of understanding, but: who understands, viz., as the wise man does; thus it characterizes the incomparably excellent as such. Many interpreters (Oetinger, Ewald, Hitz., Heiligst., Burg., Elst., Zöckl.) persuade themselves that דּבר פּשׁר is meant of the understanding of the proverb, 8 b. The absence of the art., says Hitzig, does not mislead us: of a proverb, viz., the following; but in this manner determinate ideas may be made from all indeterminate ones. Rightly, Gesenius: explicationem ullius rei ; better, as at Ecclesiastes 7:8: cujusvis rei . Ginsburg compares נבון דּבר , 1 Samuel 16:18, which, however, does not mean him who has the knowledge of things, but who is well acquainted with words. It is true that here also the chief idea פּשׁר first leads to the meaning verbum (according to which the lxx, Jer., the Targ., and Syr. translate; the Venet.: ἑρμηνείαν λόγου ); but since the unfolding or explaining ( pēshěr ) refers to the actual contents of the thing spoken, verbi and rei coincide. The wise man knows how to explain difficult things, to unfold mysterious things; in short, he understands how to go to the foundation of things.

What now follows, Ecclesiastes 8:1, might be introduced by the confirming כי , but after the manner of synonymous parallelism it places itself in the same rank with 1 a, since, that the wise man stands so high, and no one like him looks through the centre of things, is repeated in another form: “Wisdom maketh his face bright” is thus to be understood after Psalms 119:130 and Psalms 19:9, wisdom draws the veil from his countenance, and makes it clear; for wisdom is related to folly as light is to darkness, Ecclesiastes 2:13. The contrast, ישׁ ... עזו (“and the rudeness of his face is changed”), shows, however, that not merely the brightening of the countenance, but in general that intellectual and ethical transfiguration of the countenance is meant, in which at once, even though it should not in itself be beautiful, we discover the educated man rising above the common rank. To translate, with Ewald: and the brightness of his countenance is doubled, is untenable; even supposing that ישׁנּא can mean, like the Arab. yuthattay , duplicatur , still עז , in the meaning of brightness, is in itself, and especially with פּניו , impossible, along with which it is, without doubt, to be understood after az panim , Deuteronomy 28:50; Daniel 8:23, and hē'ēz panim , Proverbs 7:13, or bephanim , Proverbs 21:29, so that thus פנים עז has the same meaning as the post-bibl. פנים עזּוּת , stiffness, hardness, rudeness of countenance = boldness, want of bashfulness, regardlessness, e.g., Shabbath 30 b, where we find a prayer in these words: O keep me this day from פנים עזי and from עזות פ (that I may not incur the former or the latter). The Talm. Taanith 7 b, thus explaining, says: “Every man to whom עזות פ belongs, him one may hate, as the scripture says, ישּׂנא ... ועז (do not read ישׁנּא ).” The lxx translates μισητηήσεται will be hated, and thus also the Syr.; both have thus read as the Talm. has done, which, however, bears witness in favour of ישׁנּא as the traditional reading. It is not at all necessary, with Hitzig, after Zirkel, to read y|shane': but boldness disfigureth his countenance; עז in itself alone, in the meaning of boldness, would, it is true, along with פניו as the obj. of the verb, be tenable; but the change is unnecessary, the passive affords a perfectly intelligible meaning: the boldness, or rudeness, of his visage is changed, viz., by wisdom (Böttch., Ginsb., Zöckl.). The verb שׁנה ( שנא , Lamentations 4:1) means, Malachi 3:6, merely “to change, to become different;” the Pih. שׁנּה , Jeremiah 52:33, שׁנּא , 2 Kings 25:29, denotes in these two passages a change in melius , and the proverb of the Greek, Sir. 13:24, -

Καρδία ἀντηρώπου ἀλλοιοῖ τὸ πρόσωπον αὐτοῦ

ἐάν τε εἰς ἀγαθὰ ἐάν τε εἰς κακά ,

is preserved to us in its original form thus:

לב אדם ישׁנּא פניו

בּין לטוב וּבין לרע׃

so that thus שׁנּא , in the sense of being changed as to the sternness of the expression of the countenance, is as good as established. What Ovid says of science: emollit mores nec sinit esse feros , thus tolerably falls in with what is here said of wisdom: Wisdom gives bright eyes to a man, a gentle countenance, a noble expression; it refines and dignifies his external appearance and his demeanour; the hitherto rude external, and the regardless, selfish, and bold deportment, are changed into their contraries. If, now, Ecclesiastes 8:1 is not to be regarded as an independent proverb, it will bear somewhat the relation of a prologue to what follows. Luther and others regard Ecclesiastes 8:1 as of the nature of an epilogue to what goes before; parallels, such as Hosea 14:9, make that appear probable; but it cannot be yielded, because the words are not חכם מי , but מי כהח . But that which follows easily subordinates itself to Ecclesiastes 8:1, in as far as fidelity to duty and thoughtfulness amid critical social relations are proofs of that wisdom which sets a man free from impetuous rudeness, and fits him intelligently and with a clear mind to accommodate himself to the time.

Verse 2

The faithfulness of subjects, Koheleth says, is a religious duty: “I say: Observe well the kings' command, and that because of the oath of God.” The author cannot have written Ecclesiastes 8:2 as it here stands; אני hovers in the air. Hitzig reads, with Jerome, שׁמר , and hears in Ecclesiastes 8:2-4 a servile person speaking who veils himself in the cloak of religion; in Ecclesiastes 8:5-8 follows the censura of this corrupt theory. but we have already remarked that Ecclesiastes 8:2 accords with Romans 13:5, and is thus not a corrupt theory; besides, this distribution of the expressions of the Book of Koheleth between different speakers is throughout an expedient resting on a delusion. Luther translates: I keep the word of the king, and thus reads אשׁרּ ; as also does the Jer. Sanhedrin 21 b, and Koheleth rabba, under this passage: I observe the command of the king, of the queen. In any case, it is not God who is meant here by “the king;” the words: “and that because of the oath of God,” render this impossible, although Hengst. regards it as possible; for (1) “the oath of God” he understands, against all usage, of the oath which is taken to God; and (2) he maintains that in the O.T. scarcely any passage is to be found where obedience to a heathen master is set forth as a religious duty. But the prophets show themselves as morally great men, without a stain, just in this, that they decidedly condemn and unhesitatingly chastise any breach of faith committed against the Assyrian or Chaldean oppressor, e.g., Isaiah 28:15; Isaiah 30:1; Ezekiel 17:15; cf. Jeremiah 27:12. However, although we understand mělěk not of the heavenly, but of an earthly king, yet אשׁמר does not recommend itself, for Koheleth records his experience, and derives therefrom warnings and admonitions; but he never in this manner presents himself as an example of virtue. The paraenetic imper. שׁמר is thus not to be touched. Can we then use ani elliptically, as equivalent to “I say as follows”? Passages such as Jeremiah 20:10 (Elst.), where לאמר is omitted, are not at all the same. Also Ezekiel 34:11, where הנני is strengthened by ani, and the expression is not elliptical, is not in point here. And Isaiah 5:9 also does not apply to the case of the supposed ellipsis here. In an ingenious bold manner the Midrash helps itself in Lev 18 and Num 14, for with reference to the self-introduction of royal words like פרעה אני it explains: “Observe the I from the mouth of the king.” This explanation is worthy of mention, but it has little need of refutation; it is also contrary to the accentuation, which gives Pashta to ani, as to ראה , Ecclesiastes 7:27, and לבד , Ecclesiastes 7:29, and thus places it by itself. Now, since this elliptical I, after which we would place a colon, is insufferably harsh, and since also it does not recommend itself to omit it, as is done by the lxx, the Targ., and Syr., - for the words must then have a different order, המלך פי שׁמר , - it is most advisable to supply אמרתּי , and to write אם אני or אני אם , after Ecclesiastes 2:1; Ecclesiastes 3:17-18. We find ourselves here, besides, within an I section, consisting of sentences interwoven in a Mashal form. The admonition is solemnly introduced, since Koheleth, himself a king, and a wise man in addition, gives it the support of the authority of his person, in which it is to be observed that the religious motive introduced by ו explic. ( vid., Ewald, §340 b) is not merely an appendix, but the very point of the admonition. Kleinert, incorrectly: “Direct thyself according to the mouth of the king, and that, too, as according to an oath of God.” Were this the meaning, then we might certainly wish that it were a servile Alexandrian court-Jew who said it. But why should that be the meaning? The meaning “ wegen ” because of, which is usually attributed to the word-connection עלדברת here and at Ecclesiastes 3:18; Ecclesiastes 7:14, Kleinert maintains to be an arbitrary invention. But it alone fits these three passages, and why an arbitrary invention? If על־דּבר , Psalms 45:5; Psalms 79:9, etc., means “ von wegen ” on account of, then also על־דברת will signify “ propter rationem, naturam ,” as well as (Psalms 110:4) ad rationem . שׁב אל is, as elsewhere שׁב יה , e.g., Exodus 22:10, a promise given under an appeal to God, a declaration or promise strengthened by an oath. Here it is the oath of obedience which is meant, which the covenant between a king and his people includes, though it is not expressly entered into by individuals. The king is designated neither as belonging to the nation, nor as a foreigner; that which is said is valid also in the case of the latter. Daniel, Nehemiah, Mordecai, etc., acted in conformity with the words of Koheleth, and the oath of vassalage which the kings of Israel and Judah swore to the kings of Assyria and of Babylon is regarded by the prophets of both kingdoms as binding on king and people.

Verse 3

The warning, corresponding to the exhortation, now follows: One must not thoughtlessly avoid the duty of service and homage due to the king: “Hasten not to go away from him: join not in an evil matter; for he executeth all that he desireth.” Regarding the connection, of two verbs with one idea, lying before us in תּלך ... אל־ , as e.g., at Zechariah 8:15; Hosea 1:6, vid., Gesen. §142. 3 b. Instead of this sentence, we might use אל־תבהל ללכת מפניו , as e.g., Aboth v. 8: “The wise man does not interrupt another, and hastens not to answer,” i.e., is not too hasty in answering. As with עם , to be with the king, Ecclesiastes 4:15 = to hold with him, so here מפניו הלך means to take oneself away from him, or, as it is expressed in Ecclesiastes 10:4, to leave one's station; cf. Hosea 11:2: “They (the prophets of Jahve) called to them, forthwith they betook themselves away from them.” It is possible that in the choice of the expression, the phrase נבהל מפני , “to be put into a state of alarm before any one,” Job 23:15, was not without influence. The indef. רע דּבר , Deuteronomy 17:1; Deuteronomy 23:10, cf. Deuteronomy 13:12; Deuteronomy 19:20, 2 Kings 4:41, etc., is to be referred (with Rosenm., Knobel, Bullock, and others) to undertakings which aim at resisting the will of the king, and reach their climax in conspiracy against the king's throne and life ( Proverbs 24:21). אל־תּעמד בּ might mean: persist not in it; but the warning does not presuppose that the entrance thereon had already taken place, but seeks to prevent it, thus: enter not, go not, engage not, like 'amad bederek , Psalms 1:1; 'amad babrith , 2 Kings 23:3; cf. Psalms 106:23; Jeremiah 23:18. Also the Arab. 'amada li = intendit, proposuit sibi rem , is compared; it is used in the general sense of “to make toward something, to stretch to something.” Otherwise Ewald, Elst., Ginsb., and Zöckl.: stand not at an evil word (of the king), provoking him to anger thereby still more, - against Ecclesiastes 8:5, where רע דבר , as generally (cf. Psalms 141:4), means an evil thing, and against the close connection of בּ עמד , which is to be presupposed. Hitzig even: stand not at an evil command, i.e., hesitate not to do even that which is evil, which the king commands, with the remark that here a servilismus is introduced as speaking, who, in saying of the king, “All that pleaseth him he doeth,” uses words which are used only of God the Almighty, John 1:14; Psalms 33:9, etc. Hengst., Hahn, Dale, and others therefore dream of the heavenly King in the text. But proverbs of the earthly king, such as Proverbs 20:2, say the very same thing; and if the Mishna Sanhedrin ii. 2, to which Tyler refers, says of the king, “The king cannot himself be a judge, nor can any one judge him; he does not give evidence, and no evidence can be given against him,” a sovereignty is thus attributed to the king, which is formulated in 3b and established in the verse following.

Verse 4

“Inasmuch as the word of a king is powerful; and who can say to him: What doest thou?” The same thing is said of God, Job 9:12; Isaiah 45:9; Daniel 4:32, Wisd. 12:12, but also of the king, especially of the unlimited monarch of a despotic state. Baasher verifies as בּשׁ at Ecclesiastes 2:16; cf. Genesis 39:9, Genesis 39:23; Greek, ἐν ᾧ and ἐφ ̓ ᾧ . Burger arbitrarily: quae dixit ( דּבּר for דּבר ), rex, in ea potestatem habet . The adjectival impers. use of the noun shilton = potestatem habens , is peculiar; in the Talm. and Midrash, shilton , like the Assyr. siltannu ,

(Note: Vid., Fried. Delitzsch's Assyr. Stud. p. 129f.)

means the ruler ( vid., under Ecclesiastes 5:8). That which now follows is not, as Hitzig supposes, an opposing voice which makes itself heard, but as Ecclesiastes 8:2 is compared with Romans 13:5, so is Ecclesiastes 8:5 with Romans 13:3.

Verse 5

“Whoso remaineth true to the commandment will experience nothing evil; and the heart of the wise man will know a time and judicial decision.” That by מצוה is here to be understood not the commandment of God, at least not immediately, as at Proverbs 19:16 (Ewald), but that of the king, and generally an injunction and appointment of the superior authority, is seen from the context, which treats not of God, but of the ruler over a state. Knobel and others explain: He who observeth the commandment engageth not with an evil thing, and the wise mind knoweth time and right. But ידע is never thus used (the author uses for this, בּ עמד ), and the same meaning is to be supposed for the repeated ידע : it means to arrive at the knowledge of; in the first instance: to suffer, Ezekiel 25:14; cf. Isaiah 9:8; Hosea 9:7; in the second, to experience, Joshua 24:31; Psalms 16:11. It may also, indeed, be translated after Ecclesiastes 9:12: a wise heart knoweth time and judgment, viz., that they will not fail; but why should we not render ידע both times fut., since nothing stands in the way? We do not translate: a wise heart, a wise mind (Knobel), although this is possible, 1 Kings 3:12 (cf. Psalms 90:12), but: the heart of a wise man, which is made more natural by Ecclesiastes 10:2, Proverbs 16:23. The heart of a wise man, which is not hurried forward by dynastic oppression to a selfish forgetfulness of duty, but in quietness and hope (Lamentations 3:26) awaits the interposition of God, will come to the knowledge that there is an eth, a time, when oppression has an end, and a mishpat , when it suffers punishment. Well adapted to the sense in which eth is here used is the remark of Elia Levita in his Tishbi, that זמן corresponds to the German Zeit and the Romanic tempo , but עת to the German Ziel and the Romanic termino . The lxx translates καιρὸν κρίσεως ; and, inf act, עת ום is a hendiadys, which, however, consists in the division of one conception into two. The heart of the wise man remaining true to duty will come to learn that there is a terminus and judicial decision, for everything has an end when it falls under the fate for which it is ripe, especially the sinner.

Verse 6

“For there is a time and decision for everything, for the wickedness of man becomes too great.” From Ecclesiastes 8:6 there follow four clauses with כּי ; by such monotonous repetition of one and the same word, the author also elsewhere renders the exposition difficult, affording too free a space for understanding the כי as confirming, or as hypothetical, and for co-ordinating or subordinating to each other the clauses with כי . Presupposing the correctness of our exposition of Ecclesiastes 8:5, the clause Ecclesiastes 8:6 with כי may be rendered parenthetically, and that with כי in Ecclesiastes 8:6 hypothetically: “an end and decision the heart of the wise man will come to experience (because for everything there is an end and decision), supposing that the wickedness of man has become great upon him, i.e., his burden of guilt has reached its full measure.” We suppose thereby (1) that בּה , which appears from the accent on the ult. to be an adj., can also be the 3rd pret., since before ע the tone has gone back to áh (cf. Genesis 26:10; Isaiah 11:1), to protect it from being put aside; but generally the accenting of such forms of עע hovers between the penult. and the ult., e.g., Psalms 69:5; Psalms 55:22; Proverbs 14:19. Then (2) that עליו goes back to האדם without distinction of persons, which has a support in Ecclesiastes 6:1, and that thus a great רעה is meant lying upon man, which finally finds its punishment. But this view of the relation of the clauses fails, in that it affords no connection for Ecclesiastes 8:7. It appears to be best to co-ordinate all the four כי as members of one chain of proof, which reaches its point in Ecclesiastes 8:8, viz., in the following manner: the heart of a wise man will see the time and the judgment of the ruler, laying to his heart the temptation to rebellion; for (1) as the author has already said, Ecclesiastes 3:17: “God will judge the righteous as well as the wicked, for there is with Him a time for every purpose and for every act;” (2) the wickedness of man (by which, as Ecclesiastes 3:9 shows, despots are aimed at) which he has committed, becomes great upon him, so that suddenly at once the judgment of God will break in upon him; (3) he knows not what will be done; (4) no one can tell him how ( quomodo) it, the future, will be, so that he might in any way anticipate it - the judgment will overwhelm him unexpectedly and irretrievably: wickedness does not save its possessor.

Verses 7-8

Ecclesiastes 8:7 and Ecclesiastes 8:8 thus continue the For and For: “For he knoweth not that which shall be; for who can tell him who it will be? There is no man who has power over the wind, to restrain the wind; and no one has authority over the day of death; and there is no discharge in the war; and wickedness does not save its possessor.” The actor has the sin upon himself, and bears it; if it reaches the terminus of full measure, it suddenly overwhelms him in punishment, and the too great burden oppresses its bearer (Hitzig, under Isaiah 24:20). This עת ומשׁ comes unforeseen, for he (the man who heaps up sins) knoweth not id quod fiet; it arrives unforeseen, for quomodo fiet, who can show it to him? Thus, e.g., the tyrant knows not that he will die by assassination, and no one can say to him how that will happen, so that he might make arrangements for his protection. Rightly the lxx κατηὼς ἔσται ; on the contrary, the Targ., Hitzig, and Ginsburg: when it will be;

(Note: The Venet. ἐν ᾧ , as if the text had בּאשׁר .)

but כּאשׁר signifies quum , Ecclesiastes 5:1; Ecclesiastes 5:3; Ecclesiastes 8:16, but not quando , which must be expressed by מתי (Mishnic אימתי , אימת ).

Now follows the concluding thought of the four כי , whereby Ecclesiastes 8:5 is established. There are four impossibilities enumerated; the fourth is the point of the enumeration constructed in the form of a numerical proverb. (1) No man has power over the wind, to check the wind. Ewald, Hengst., Zöckl., and others understand רוּח , with the Targ., Jerome, and Luther, of the Spirit ( חיים( tir רוח ); but man can limit this physically when he puts a violent termination to life, and must restrain it morally by ruling it, Proverbs 16:32; Proverbs 25:28. On the contrary, the wind hrwch is, after Ecclesiastes 11:5, incalculable, and to rule over it is the exclusive prerogative of Divine Omnipotence, Proverbs 30:4. The transition to the second impossibility is mediated by this, that in רוח , according to the usus loq., the ideas of the breath of animal life, and of wind as the breath as it were of the life of the whole of nature, are interwoven. (2) No one has power over the day of death: death, viz., natural death, comes to a man without his being able to see it before, to determine it, or to change it. With שׁלּיט there here interchanges שׁלטון , which is rendered by the lxx and Venet. as abstr., also by the Syr. But as at Daniel 3:2, so also above at Ecclesiastes 8:4, it is concr., and will be so also in the passage before us, as generally in the Talm. and Midrash, in contradistinction to the abstr., which is שׁלטן , after the forms אבדן , דּרבן , etc., e.g., Bereshith rabba, c. 85 extr.: “Every king and ruler שלטון who had not a שולטן , a command (government, sway) in the land, said that that did not satisfy him, the king of Babylon had to place an under-Caesar in Jericho,” etc.

(Note: Regarding the distinction between שׁלטון and שׁלטן , vid., Baer's Abodath Jisrael, p. 385.)

Thus: no man possesses rule or is a ruler ... .

A transition is made from the inevitable law of death to the inexorable severity of the law of war; (3) there is no discharge, no dispensation, whether for a time merely ( missio ), or a full discharge ( dimissio ), in war, which in its fearful rigour ( vid., on the contrary, Deuteronomy 20:5-8) was the Persian law. Even so, every possibility of escape is cut off by the law of the divine requital; (4) wickedness will not save ( מלּט , causative, as always) its lord (cf. the proverb: “Unfaithfulness strikes its own master”) or possessor; i.e., the wicked person, when the עת ום comes, is hopelessly lost. Grätz would adopt the reading עשׁר instead of רשע ; but the fate of the רשׁע בּעל , or of the רשׁע , is certainly that to which the concatenation of thought from Ecclesiastes 8:6 leads, as also the disjunctive accent at the end of the three first clauses of Ecclesiastes 8:8 denotes. But that in the words בּעל רשׁע (not בּעלי ) a despotic king is thought of ( בּעליו , as at Ecclesiastes 5:10, Ecclesiastes 5:12; Ecclesiastes 7:12; Proverbs 3:27; cf. under Proverbs 1:19), is placed beyond a doubt by the epilogistic verse:

Verse 9

“All that I have seen, and that, too, directing my heart to all the labour that is done under the sun: to the time when a man rules over a man to his hurt.” The relation of the clauses is mistaken by Jerome, Luther, Hengst., Vaih., Ginsburg, and others, who begin a new clause with עת : “there is a time,” etc.; and Zöckl., who ventures to interpret עת וגו as epexegetical of כּל־מע וגו (“every work that is done under the sun”). The clause ונתון is an adverbial subordinate clause ( vid., under Ecclesiastes 4:2): et advertendo quidem animum . עת is accus. of time, as at Jeremiah 51:33; cf. Psalms 4:8, the relation of 'eth asher , like מק שׁ , Ecclesiastes 1:7; Ecclesiastes 11:3. All that, viz., the wisdom of patient fidelity to duty, the perniciousness of revolutionary selfishness, and the suddenness with which the judgment comes, he has seen (for he observed the actions done under the sun), with his own eyes, at the time when man ruled over man לו לרע , not: to his own the ruler's injury (Symm., Jerome), but: to the injury (lxx, Theod., τοῦ κακῶσαι αὐτόν , and thus also the Targ. and Syr.) of this second man; for after 'eth asher , a description and not a judgment was to be expected. The man who rules over man to the hurt of the latter rules as a tyrant; and this whole section, beginning with Ecclesiastes 8:1, treats of the right wisdom of life at a time of tyrannical government.

Verse 10

“And then I have seen the wicked buried, and they came to rest; but away from the holy place they had to depart, and were forgotten in the city, such as acted justly: also this is vain.” The double particle בּכן signifies, in such a manner, or under such circumstances; with “I have seen” following, it may introduce an observation coming under that which precedes ( בכן = Mishnic בּכך ), or, with the force of the Lat. inde , introduce a further observation of that ruler; this temporal signification “then” (= אז ), according to which we have translated, it has in the Targ. ( vid., Levy's W.B.).

(Note: Cf. וכן , 2 Chronicles 32:31; Ewald, §354 a; Baer's Abodath Jisrael, pp. 384, 386.)

Apparently the observation has two different classes of men in view, and refers to their fate, contradicting, according to appearance, the rectitude of God. Opposite to the רשׁ (“the wicked”) stand they who are described as וגו אשׁר : they who have practised what is rightly directed, what stands in a right relation ( vid., regarding כּן , as noun, under Proverbs 11:19), have brought the morally right into practice, i.e., have acted with fidelity and honour ( כּן עשׂה , as at 2 Kings 7:9). Koheleth has seen the wicked buried; ראה is followed by the particip. as predic. obj., as is שׁמע , Ecclesiastes 7:21; but קבוּרים is not followed by וּבאים (which, besides not being distinct enough as part. perfecti, would be, as at Nehemiah 13:22, part. praes.), but, according to the favourite transition of the particip. into the finite, Gesen. §134. 2, by ובאוּ , not וּבאוּ ; for the disjunctive Rebîa has the fuller form with waa; cf. Isaiah 45:20 with Job 17:10, and above, at Ecclesiastes 2:23. “To enter in” is here, after Isaiah 47:2, = to enter into peace, come to rest.

(Note: Cf. Zunz, Zur Gesch. u. Literatur, pp. 356-359.)

That what follows ומם does not relate to the wicked, has been mistaken by the lxx, Aquila, Symm., Theod., and Jerome, who translate by ἐπῃνήθησαν , laudabantur, and thus read ישתבחו (the Hithpa., Psalms 106:47, in the pass. sense), a word which is used in the Talm. and Midrash along with שתכחו .

(Note: The Midrash Tanchuma, Par. יתרו , init., uses both expressions; the Talm. Gittin 56 b, applies the passage to Titus, who took away the furniture of the temple to magnify himself therewith in his city.)

The latter, testified to by the Targ. and Syr., is without doubt the correct reading: the structure of the antithetical parallel members is chiastic; the naming of the persons in 1 a a precedes that which is declared, and in 1 a b it follows it; cf. Psalms 70:5, Psalms 75:9. The fut. forms here gain, by the retrospective perfects going before, a past signification. מק קד , “the place of the holy,” is equivalent to מקום קדושׁ , as also at Leviticus 7:6. Ewald understands by it the place of burial: “the upright were driven away (cast out) from the holy place of graves.” Thus e.g., also Zöckl., who renders: but wandered far from the place of the holy ... those who did righteously, i.e., they had to be buried in graves neither holy nor honourable. But this form of expression is not found among the many designations of a burial-place used by the Jews ( vid., below, Ecclesiastes 12:5, and Hamburger's Real-Encykl. für Bibel u. Talm., article “Grab”). God's-acre is called the “good place,”

(Note: Vid., Tendlau's Sprichw., No. 431.)

but not the “holy place.” The “holy place,” if not Jerusalem itself, which is called by Isaiah II (Isaiah 48:2), Neh., and Dan., 'ir haqqodesh (as now el - ḳuds ), is the holy ground of the temple of God, the τόπος ἃγιος (Matthew 24:15), as Aquila and Symm. translate. If, now, we find min connected with the verb halak , it is to be presupposed that the min designates the point of departure, as also השׁלך מן , Isaiah 14:19. Thus not: to wander far from the holy place; nor as Hitz., who points יהלכוּ : they pass away (perish) far from the holy place. The subject is the being driven away from the holy place, but not as if יהלּ were causative, in the sense of יוליכוּ fo esne , and meant ejiciunt , with an indef. subj. (Ewald, Heiligst., Elst.), - it is also, Ecclesiastes 4:15; Ecclesiastes 11:9, only the intens. of Kal, - but יהלּ denotes, after Psalms 38:7; Job 30:28, cf. Job 24:10, the meditative, dull, slow walk of those who are compelled against their will to depart from the place which they love (Psalms 26:8; Psalms 84:2.). They must go forth (whither, is not said, but probably into a foreign country; cf. Amos 7:17), and only too soon are they forgotten in the city, viz., the holy city; a younger generation knows nothing more of them, and not even a gravestone brings them back to the memory of their people. Also this is a vanity, like the many others already registered - this, viz., that the wicked while living, and also in their death, possess the sacred native soil; while, on the contrary the upright are constrained to depart from it, and are soon forgotten. Divine rectitude is herein missed. Certainly it exists, and is also recognised, but it does not show itself always when we should expect it, nor so soon as appears to us to be salutary.

Verse 11

“Because judgment against the work of the wicked man is not speedily executed, for this reason the heart of the children of men is full within them, to this, that they do evil.” The clause with asher is connected first with the foregoing הז ־ מג havel : thus vain, after the nature of a perverted world ( inversus ordo ) events go on, because ... ( asher, as at Ecclesiastes 4:3; Ecclesiastes 6:12; cf. Deuteronomy 3:24); but the following clause with 'al - ken makes this clause with asher reflex. an antecedent of itself (asher = 'al - asher ) - originally it is not meant as an antecedent. פּתגם

(Note: With ג raph. in H. P. and the older edd., as also Esther 1:20; Daniel 3:16. Thus also the punctuator Jekuthiél in his En hakore to Esther 1:20.)

(here to be written after נעשׂה , with פ raph., and, besides, also with ג raph.), in the post-exilian books, is the Persian paigam , Armen. patgam , which is derived from the ancient Pers. paiti - gama : “Something that has happened, tidings, news.” The Heb. has adopted the word in the general sense of “sentence;” in the passage before us it signifies the saying or sentence of the judge, as the Pers. word, like the Arab. nabazn , is used principally of the sayings of a prophet (who is called peighâm - bar ). Zirkel regards it as the Greek φθέγμα ; but thus, also, the words אזמל , אפּריון strangely agree in sound with σμίλη φορεῖον , without being borrowed from the Greek. The long a of the word is, as Elst. shows, Eccl 1:20, invariable; also here פּתגם is the constr. To point פּתגם , with Heiligst. and Burg., is thus unwarrantable. It is more remarkable that the word is construed fem. instead of mas. For since אין is construed

(Note: Ginsburg points in favour of נעשׂה as fin. to Exodus 3:2, but there אכּל is particip.; to Jeremiah 38:5, but there יוּכל (if it is not to be read יכול ) represents an attributive clause; and to Job 35:15, but there the word is rightly pointed אין , not אין ; and this, like the vulg. Arab. laysa , is used as an emphatic לא .)

neither in the bibl. nor in the Mishnic style with the finite of the verb, נעשׂה is not the 3rd pret., but the particip. It is not, however, necessary, with Hitz., to read נישׂה . The foreign word, like the (Arab.) firdans , παράδεισος , admits of use in the double gend. (Ewald, §174 g); but it is also possible that the fem. נעשׂה is per. attract. occasioned by הרעה , as Kimchi, Michlol 10 a, supposes (cf. besides, under Ecclesiastes 10:15). מעשׂה is const. governed by phithgam , and hara'ah is thus obj. gen. The lxx, Syr., and Jerome read מעשׂי , which would be possible only if phithgam min - after the analogy of the Heb.-Aram. phrase, niphra' ( 'ithpera' ) min , to take one's due of any one, i.e., to take vengeance on him, to punish him - could mean the full execution of punishment on any one; but it means here, as Jerome rightly translates, sententia ; impossible, however, with me'ose hara'ah , sententia contra malos . Hengst. supposes that not only the traditional text, but also the accentuation, is correct, for he construes: because a sentence (of the heavenly Judge) is not executed, the work of wickedness is haste, i.e., speedy. Thus also Dachselt in the Biblia accentuata. Mercerus, on the contrary, remarks that the accents are not in the first instance marks of interpunction, but of cantillation. In fact, genit. word-connections do not exclude the keeping them asunder by distinctives such as Pashta and Tiphcha, Isaiah 10:2, and also Zakeph, as e.g., Esther 1:4. The lxx well renders: “Therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully persuaded in them to do evil;” for which Jerome, freely, after Symm.: absque timore ullo filii hominum perpetrant mala . The heart of one becomes full to do anything, is = it acquires full courage thereto (Luzzatto, §590: gli blastò l'animo); cf. Esther 7:5: “Where is he who has his heart filled to do?” (thus rightly, Keil), i.e., whom it has encourage to so bold an undertaking. בּהם in itself unnecessarily heightens the expression of the inwardness of the destructive work ( vid., Psychol. p. 151f.). The sentence of punishment does not take effect mehera , hastily (adv. accus. for bimherah , Ecclesiastes 4:12), therefore men are secure, and they give themselves with full, i.e., with fearless and shameless, boldness to the practice of evil. The author confirms this further, but not without expressing his own conviction that there is a righteous requital which contradicts this appearance.

Verses 12-13

“Because a sinner doeth evil an hundred times, and he becometh old therein, although I know that it will go well with them that fear god, that fear before Him: but it will not go well with the wicked, and he shall not live long, like a shadow; because he feareth not before God.” Ewald (whom Heiligst., Elst., and Zצckl. follow), as among the ancients, e.g., Mendelssohn, translates Ecclesiastes 8:12: “Though a sinner do evil an hundred times, and live long, yet I know,” etc. That an antecedent may begin with asher is admissible, Leviticus 4:22; Deuteronomy 18:22; but in the case lying before us, still less acceptable than at Ecclesiastes 8:11. For, in the first place, this asher of the antecedent cannot mean “although,” but only “considering that;” and in places such as Ecclesiastes 6:3, where this “considering that” may be exchanged with “although,” there follows not the part., but the fut. natural to the concessive clause; then, in the second place, by this antecedent rendering of asher a closer connection of Ecclesiastes 8:12 and Ecclesiastes 8:12 is indeed gained, but the mediation of Ecclesiastes 8:12 and Ecclesiastes 8:11 is lost; in the third place, גם כי , in the meaning “however” ( gam, ὃμως , with affirmative ki), is not found; not asher, but just this ki gam,

(Note: That גּם is pointed גּם , has its reason in the disjunctive Jethîb with כי , which is not interchanged with the conjunctive Mahpach . Thus, Ecclesiastes 8:1, כּ מי , and Ecclesiastes 8:7, כּ כּי .)

signifies, in the passage before us, as at Ecclesiastes 4:14, εἰ καί , although, - only a somewhat otherwise applied gam ki, Ewald, §362 b, as כי על־כן is a somewhat otherwise applied על־כן כי . Rightly, Hitzig: “In Ecclesiastes 8:12, Ecclesiastes 8:11 is again resumed, and it is explained how tardy justice has such a consequence.” The sinner is thereby encouraged in sinning, because he does evil, and always again evil, and yet enjoys himself in all the pleasures of long life. Regarding חטא for חטא , vid., above, p. 641, 1. מאת is = פעמים מאה , an hundred times, as אחת , Job 40:5, is = אחת פעם ; Hengst. and others, inexactly: an hundredfold, which would have required the word מאתים ; and falsely, Ginsburg, with the Targ.: an hundred years, which would have required מאה , scil. שׁנה , Genesis 17:17. This centies (Jerome) is, like מאה , scil. בנים , Ecclesiastes 6:3, a round number for a great many, as at Proverbs 17:10, and frequently in the Talm. and Midrash, e.g., Wajikra rabba , c. 27: “an hundred deeply-breathed sighs ( מאה פעיות ) the mother gave forth.”

(Note: Vid., Jac. Reifmann in the Zeitsch., המגיד , 1874, p. 342.)

The meaning of לו וּמעריך לו is in general clear: he becomes therein old. Jerome, improbable: et per patientiam sustentatur , as Mendelssohn: he experiences forbearance, for they supply 'pow (Isaiah 48:9), and make God the subject. לּו is in any case the so-called dat. ethic.; and the only question is, whether the doing of evil has to be taken from רע עשׂה ,

(Note: We expect these two words (cf. Genesis 31:12) with the retrogression of the tone; but as this ceases, as a rule, with Mercha before Tifcha and Pashta, Genesis 47:3; Exodus 18:5; Deuteronomy 4:42; Deuteronomy 19:4; Isaiah 10:14 (cf. the penult. accent of יאכל , Leviticus 22:10, Leviticus 22:10, Leviticus 22:19, and בּנה , Genesis 4:17, with the ult. accent Leviticus 22:14; Habakkuk 2:12), so with Mercha sometimes also before other disjunctives, as here before Tebîr.)

as obj. to ומא : he practises it to him long, or whether, which is more probable, ימים is to be supplied after Ecclesiastes 8:13, so that האריך signifies to live long, as at Proverbs 28:2, to last long; the dat. ethic. gives the idea of the feeling of contentment connected with long life: he thereupon sins wantonly, and becomes old in it in good health.

That is the actual state of the case, which the author cannot conceal from himself; although, on the other hand, as by way of limitation he adds ki... ani, he well knows that there is a moral government of the world, and that this must finally prevail. We may not translate: that it should go well, but rather: that it must go well; but there is no reason not to interpret the fut. as a pure indic.: that it shall go well, viz., finally, - it is a postulate of his consciousness which the author here expresses; that which exists in appearance contradicts this consciousness, which, however, in spite of this, asserts itself. That to ליר האל the clause אשׁר מלּ , explaining idem per idem , is added, has certainly its reason in this, that at the time of the author the name “fearers of God” [ Gottesfürchitige ] had come into use. “The fearers of God, who fear before ( מלּפני , as at Ecclesiastes 3:14) Him,” are such as are in reality what they are called.

In Ecclesiastes 8:13, Hitzig, followed by Elster, Burg., and Zöckl., places the division at ימים : like the shadow is he who fears not before God. Nothing can in point of syntax be said against this (cf. 1 Chronicles 29:15), although אשׁר כּצּל , “like the shadow is he who,” is in point of style awkward. But that the author did not use so rude a style is manifest from Ecclesiastes 6:12, according to which כצל is rightly referred to ימים ... ולא־ . Is then the shadow, asks Hitzig, because it does not “prolong its days,” therefore ימים קצר ? How subtle and literal is this use of ימים ! Certainly the shadow survives not a day; but for that very reason it is short-lived, it may even indeed be called קצר ימים , because it has not existence for a single day. In general, qetsel , ὡς σκιά , is applicable to the life of all men, Psalms 144:4, Wisd. 2:5, etc. It is true of the wicked, if we keep in view the righteous divine requital, especially that he is short-lived like the shadow, “because he has no fear before God,” and that in consequence of this want of fear his life is shortened by his sin inflicting its own punishment, and by the act of God. Asher, Ecclesiastes 8:13, as at Ecclesiastes 8:11, Ecclesiastes 8:12, is the relative conj. Also in Ecclesiastes 8:14, אשׁר ( שׁ ) as a pronoun, and אשׁר ( שׁ ) as a conj., are mixed together. After the author has declared the reality of a moral government of the world as an inalienable fact of human consciousness, and particularly of his own consciousness, he places over against this fact of consciousness the actual state of things partly at least contradicting it.

Verse 14

“There is a vanity which is done on the earth; that there be just men, to whom it happeneth according to the conduct of the wicked; and that there be wicked men, to whom it happeneth according to the conduct of the righteous - I said, that also this is vain.” The limiting clause with ki gam, Ecclesiastes 8:12, Ecclesiastes 8:13, is subordinated to the observation specified in Ecclesiastes 8:10-12, and the confirmation of it is continued here in Ecclesiastes 8:14. Regarding הגּיע , to happen, vid., above, p. 639, under נגע . Jerome translates כּם הר by quasi opera egerint impiorum , and כם הץ by quasi justorum facta habeant; instar operis ... would be better, such as is conformable to the mode of acting of the one and of the other; for כ is in the Semitic style of speech a nomen, which annexes to itself the word that follows it in the genitive, and runs through all the relations of case. This contradictory distribution of destiny deceives, misleads, and causes to err; it belongs to the illusory shadowy side of this present life, it is a hevel. The concluding clause of this verse: “I said, that also this is vain,” begins to draw the facit from the observation, and is continued in the verse following.

Verse 15

“And I commended joy, that there is nothing better for a man under the sun than to eat and drink and enjoy himself; and that this accompanies him in his labour throughout all the days of his life, which God hath given him under the sun.” We already read the ultimatum, 15 a, in a similar form at Ecclesiastes 2:24; Ecclesiastes 3:12, Ecclesiastes 3:22; cf. Ecclesiastes 5:17. With הוּא יל either begins a new clause, and the fut. is then jussive: “let this accompany him,” or it is subordinate to the foregoing infinitives, and the fut. is then subjunctive: et ut id eum comitetur . The lxx and other Greeks translate less appropriately indicat.: καὶ αὐτὸ συμπροσέσται αὐτῷ . Thus also Ewald, Hengst., Zöckl., and others: and this clings to him, which, however, would rather be expressed by לו יתרון והוא or וה חלקו . The verb לוה (R. לו , to twist, to bend) does not mean to cling to = to remain, but to adhere to, to follow, to accompany; cf. under Genesis 18:16. The possibility of the meaning, “to accompany,” for the Kal, is supported by the derivatives לויה and לוּוּי (particularly לוית המתים , convoy of the dead); the verb, however, in this signification extra-bibl. is found only in Pih. and Hiph.

(Note: Vid., Baer in Abodath Jisrael, p. 39.)

Verses 16-17

“When I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to view the business which is done on the earth (for neither day nor night doth he see sleep with his eyes): then have I seen all the work of God, that a man is unable to find out the work which is done under the sun: therefore that a man wearieth himself to seek out, and yet findeth not; and although a wise man taketh in hand to know, - he is unable to find.” A long period without a premeditated plan has here formed itself under the hand of the author. As it lies before us, it is halved by the vav in veraithi (“then I have seen”); the principal clause, introduced by “when I gave,” can nowhere otherwise begin than here; but it is not indicated by the syntactical structure. Yet in Chr. and Neh. apodoses of כאשׁר begin with the second consec. modus, e.g., 1 Chronicles 17:1; Nehemiah 4:1, and frequently; but the author here uses this modus only rarely, and not ( vid., Ecclesiastes 4:1, Ecclesiastes 4:7) as a sign of an apodosis.

We consider, first, the protasis, with the parenthesis in which it terminates. The phrase נתן את־הלב ל , to direct the heart, to give attention and effort toward something, we have now frequently met with from Ecclesiastes 1:13 down. The aim is here twofold: (1) “to know wisdom” (cf. Ecclesiastes 1:17), i.e., to gain the knowledge of that which is wisdom, and which is to be regarded as wisdom, viz., solid knowledge regarding the essence, causes, and objects of things; (2) by such knowledge about that which wisdom is in itself “to see earthly labour,” and - this arises from the combination of the two resolutions - to comprehend this labour in accordance with the claims of true wisdom from the point of view of its last ground and aim. Regarding 'inyan , vid., under Ecclesiastes 3:10. “On the earth” and “under the sun” are parallel designations of this world.

With גּם כּי begins a parenthetical clause. Ki may also, it is true, be rendered as at Ecclesiastes 8:17: the labour on the earth, that he, etc. (Zöckl.); but this restlessness, almost renouncing sleep, is thereby pressed too much into the foreground as the special obj. of the reuth (therefore Ginsburg introduces “how that”); thus better to render this clause with ki gam, as establishing the fact that there is 'inyan , self-tormenting, restless labour on the earth. Thus also איננּוּ is easier explained, which scarcely goes back to laadam , Ecclesiastes 8:15 (Hitz.), but shows that the author, by )inyan , has specially men in view. וּבלּ ... גּם is = גם בי גם בל : as well by day as by night, with the negat. following (cf. Numbers 23:25; Isaiah 48:8): neither by day nor by night; not only by day, but also in the night, not. “To see sleep” is a phrase occurring only here; cf. Terence, Heautontim. iii. 1. 82, Somnum hercle ego hac nocte oculis non vidi meis , for which we use the expression: “In this whole night my eyes have seen no sleep.” The not wishing to sleep, and not being able to sleep, is such an hyperbole, carrying its limitation in itself, as is found in Cicero ( ad Famil. vii. 30): Fuit mirifica vigilantia, qui toto suo consulatu somnum non vidit .

With ור , “Then I have seen,” begins the apodosis: vidi totum Dei opus non posse hominem assequi . As at Ecclesiastes 2:24, the author places the obj. in the foreground, and lets the pred. with ki follow (for other examples of this so-called antiposis, vid., under Genesis 1:4). He sees in the labour here below one side of God's work carrying itself forward amid this restless confusion, and sets forth this work of God, as at Ecclesiastes 3:11 (but where the connection of the thoughts is different), as an object of knowledge remaining beyond the reach of man. He cannot come to it, or, as מצא properly means, he reaches not to it, therefore “that a man wearies himself to seek, and yet finds not,” i.e., that the search on the part of a man with all his endeavours comes not to its aim. אשׁר בכל Ewald's emendation, instead of the words of the text before us: for all this, that quantumcunque (Ewald, §362 c), which seems to have been approved of by the lxx, Syr., and Jerome, is rightly rejected by Hitzig; beshel asher is Heb., exactly equivalent to Aram. בּדיל דּ , e.g., Genesis 6:3; and is rightly glossed by Rashi, Kimchi, Michlol 47 b, by בּשׁביל שׁ and בּעבוּר שׁ . The accent dividing the verse stands on yimetsa , for to this word extends the first half of the apodosis, with vegam begins the second. Gam im is = εἰ καί , as gam ki is = ἐὰν καί . יאמר is to be understood after אם אח , Ecclesiastes 7:23: also if (although) the wise man resolves to know, he cannot reach that which is to be known. The characteristic mark of the wise man is thus not so much the possession as the striving after it. He strives after knowledge, but the highest problems remain unsolved by him, and his ideal of knowledge unrealized.

Bibliographical Information
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 8". Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kdo/ecclesiastes-8.html. 1854-1889.
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