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Bible Commentaries
Ecclesiastes 8

Wesley's Explanatory NotesWesley's Notes

Verse 1

Who is as the wise man? and who knoweth the interpretation of a thing? a man’s wisdom maketh his face to shine, and the boldness of his face shall be changed.

Who is wise — There are few wise men in this world.

Who knoweth — How few understand the reasons of things and can rightly expound the word and works of God.

Wisdom — Makes a man venerable, chearful, mild, and amiable. The face is put for the mind, because the mind discovers itself in the countenance.

Boldness — The roughness or fierceness.

Changed — Into gentleness and humility.

Verse 2

I counsel thee to keep the king’s commandment, and that in regard of the oath of God.

The oath — Because of that oath which thou hast taken to keep all God’s laws, whereof this of obedience to superiors is one.

Verse 3

Be not hasty to go out of his sight: stand not in an evil thing; for he doeth whatsoever pleaseth him.

To go — In discontent, withdrawing thyself from the king’s service or obedience.

Stand not — if thou hast offended him, persist not in it.

For — His power is uncontrollable.

Verse 5

Whoso keepeth the commandment shall feel no evil thing: and a wise man’s heart discerneth both time and judgment.

The commandment — Solomon passes to a new subject.

Shall feel — Shall be delivered from those mischiefs which befal the disobedient.

Discerneth — Both when, and in what manner he must keep the commands of God.

Verse 6

Because to every purpose there is time and judgment, therefore the misery of man is great upon him.

Because — There is a fit way and season for the accomplishment of every business, which is known to God, but for the most part hidden from man.

Therefore — Because there are few who have wisdom to discern this, most men expose themselves to manifold miseries.

Verse 7

For he knoweth not that which shall be: for who can tell him when it shall be?

For — Men are generally ignorant of future events, and therefore their minds are disquieted.

Verse 8

There is no man that hath power over the spirit to retain the spirit; neither hath he power in the day of death: and there is no discharge in that war; neither shall wickedness deliver those that are given to it.

To retain — To keep it in the body. This is added as another evidence of man’s misery.

No discharge — In that fatal conflict between life and death, when a man is struggling with death, though to no purpose, for death will be always conqueror.

Neither — And although wicked men, who most fear death, use all possible means, to free themselves from it, yet they shall not escape it. The most subtle wickedness cannot outwit death, nor the most daring wickedness out-brave it.

Verse 9

All this have I seen, and applied my heart unto every work that is done under the sun: there is a time wherein one man ruleth over another to his own hurt.

To his hurt — There are some kings, who use their power tyrannically, whereby they not only oppress their people, but hurt themselves, bringing the vengeance of God upon their own heads.

Verse 10

And so I saw the wicked buried, who had come and gone from the place of the holy, and they were forgotten in the city where they had so done: this is also vanity.

And so — In like manner.

The wicked — Wicked princes or rulers.

Buried — With state and pomp.

Who — Had administered publick justice, which is frequently signified by the phrase of coming in and going out before the people.

The holy — The throne or tribunal seems to be so called here, to aggravate their wickedness, who being advanced by God into so high and sacred a place, betrayed so great a trust.

Where — They lived in great splendor, and were buried with great magnificence.

This — That men should so earnestly thirst after glory, which is so soon extinct.

Verse 11

Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.

Therefore — God’s forbearance makes them presumptuous and secure.

Verse 13

But it shall not be well with the wicked, neither shall he prolong his days, which are as a shadow; because he feareth not before God.

A shadow — His life, though it may seem long, yet in truth is but a shadow, which will quickly vanish and disappear.

Verse 14

There is a vanity which is done upon the earth; that there be just men, unto whom it happeneth according to the work of the wicked; again, there be wicked men, to whom it happeneth according to the work of the righteous: I said that this also is vanity.

Done — Either by wicked potentates, who do commonly advance unworthy men, and oppress persons of greatest virtue and merit: or, by God’s providence, who sees it fit for many weighty reasons so to manage the affairs of the present world.

To whom — Who meet with such usage as the worst of men deserve.

It happeneth — Who, instead of those punishments which they deserve, receive those rewards which are due to virtuous men.

Verse 15

Then I commended mirth, because a man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry: for that shall abide with him of his labour the days of his life, which God giveth him under the sun.

To be merry — This he speaks of sensual delights.

Verse 16

When I applied mine heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done upon the earth: (for also there is that neither day nor night seeth sleep with his eyes:)

To see — To observe mens various designs and employments, and their unwearied labours about worldly things.

For there is — Having now mentioned the business which is done, or which man doth, upon earth, he further adds, as an evidence of man’s eagerness in pursuing his business, for even by day and by night he (the busy man) seeth not sleep with his eyes. He grudges himself necessary refreshments, and disquiets himself with endless cares and labours.

Verse 17

Then I beheld all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun: because though a man labour to seek it out, yet he shall not find it; yea further; though a wise man think to know it, yet shall he not be able to find it.

I beheld — I considered the counsels and ways of God, and the various methods of his providence, and the reasons of them.

Find out — No man, though ever so wise, is able fully and perfectly to understand these things. And therefore it is best for man not to perplex himself with endless enquiries, but quietly to submit to God’s will and providence, and to live in the fear of God, and the comfortable enjoyment of his blessing.

Bibliographical Information
Wesley, John. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 8". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/wen/ecclesiastes-8.html. 1765.
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