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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Ecclesiastes 8:5

He who keeps a royal command experiences no trouble, for a wise heart knows the proper time and procedure.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - King;   Righteous;   Wisdom;   The Topic Concordance - Discerning;   Heart;   Obedience;   Wisdom;  
Dictionaries:
Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Know, Knowledge;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Ecclesiastes, Book of;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Ecclesiastes;  
Encyclopedias:
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Discern;   Ecclesiastes, or the Preacher;  
Devotionals:
Every Day Light - Devotion for August 28;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

Verse Ecclesiastes 8:5. Both time and judgment. — It is a matter of great importance to be able to discern WHEN and HOW both to speak and act; but when time and manner are both determined, the matter comes next. WHAT shall I speak? WHAT shall I do? When, how, and what, answer to time, manner, and matter. To discern all these, and act suitably, is a lesson for a philosopher, and a study for a Christian.

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These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 8:5". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/ecclesiastes-8.html. 1832.

Bridgeway Bible Commentary


Compromise, despair and joy (8:1-17)

Wisdom helps people see the underlying meaning of things and teaches them that to act with pleasantness is better than to act with harshness (8:1). If, for example, people work in the king’s palace, they will do what the king says, partly because they have sworn before God to be obedient and partly because they will be punished if they disobey. But if they find the king’s command unreasonable, wisdom will show them a way out. They will wait for a suitable opportunity to act, then act in such a way that, though they do not disobey the king, neither do they sin against their conscience (2-5).
Despite the compromise he recommends, the writer knows that people remain uneasy about the outcome and about the future in general. They know they have no control over life or death. Just as there is no escape from a battle, so there is no guaranteed success to wrongdoers (6-8).
Often there appears to be no principle of justice at work in the world. The wicked go unpunished and, even when they are dead and buried, people still praise them for their achievements in life (9-10). It seems that this lack of punishment encourages people to sin (11-12a). The writer knows what the traditional teachers say: that those who fear God will be rewarded and those who are wicked will be punished (12b-13). But he also knows that often the opposite is true (14). People should not despair over these problems, but rather enjoy whatever God has given them in life (15). They should not spend weary days and sleepless nights puzzling over problems to which only God knows the answer (16-17).

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 8:5". "Brideway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bbc/ecclesiastes-8.html. 2005.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Feel - literally, know. The meaning is, “He who obeys the commandment (i. e., the word of the king, Ecclesiastes 8:4), will not be an accomplice in any act of rebellion; and if he be a wise man he discerns (literally knows) that the king’s commandment or action is liable to correction, if it be wrong, in God’s time and by God’s judgment.” Compare Ecclesiastes 3:11, Ecclesiastes 3:17.

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These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 8:5". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/ecclesiastes-8.html. 1870.

Chuck Smith Bible Commentary

Chapter 8

Who is as the wise man? and who knows the interpretation of a thing? a man's wisdom makes his face to shine, and the boldness of his face shall be changed. I counsel thee to keep the king's commandment, and that in regard of the oath of God. Be not hasty to go out of his sight: stand not in an evil thing; for he doeth whatsoever pleaseth him. Where the word of the king is, there is power: and who may say unto him, What are you doing? ( Ecclesiastes 8:1-4 )

The king stands as the authority. You can't really come to the king and say, "Hey, what are you doing?" And the same is true of God. Paul said, "Who are you to say unto Him that has created you, 'Why hast Thou made me thus?'" ( Romans 9:20 ) The sovereignty of the king, which also speaks to the sovereignty of God.

Whoso keeps the commandment shall feel no evil thing: and a wise man's heart discerns both time and judgment. Because to every purpose there is time and judgment, therefore the misery of man is great upon him. For he knoweth not that which shall be: for who can tell him when it shall be? ( Ecclesiastes 8:5-7 )

So you don't really know what's going to be, when it's going to be. The future is so uncertain.

There is no man that has power over his 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 ( Ecclesiastes 8:8 ).

No man has any power over the spirit. When the time comes for you to die, you don't have any power over your spirit to retain it, to cause your spirit to remain. No power in death. The only one who really did exercise that kind of power over his spirit was Jesus Christ. When on the cross, it said, "He bowed his head and dismissed His Spirit" ( John 19:30 ). He had earlier said unto them, "No man takes My life from Me, I give My life" ( John 10:18 ). In order to keep with what He said, "No man takes My life," when He was hanging there on the cross after He cried, "It is finished" ( John 19:30 ), "Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit" ( Luke 23:46 ), He bowed His head, and it said, "And He dismissed His Spirit." He said, "Okay, you can go now." And He died. He had power over His Spirit to dismiss it. We don't have that power.

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 rules over another to his own hurt. 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 ( Ecclesiastes 8:9-10 ).

I see life moving on. People are soon forgotten after they die. Life is empty.

Now 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 ( Ecclesiastes 8:11 ).

One of the common mistakes that people make is that of misinterpreting the nature of God. One aspect of God's nature is His tremendous patience with rebelling man. God is exceedingly long-suffering. God puts up with so much. He doesn't strike immediately, but oftentimes forestalls judgment for months, for years. And thus, it appears that the evil man is getting away with his evil actions, his evil deeds. And people begin to misinterpret the long-suffering of God. Because He doesn't execute His sentence speedily, because He doesn't immediately come down to the fist of judgment upon a man, a man many times thinks he's getting away with his evil. Thinks he has put one over on God. Thinks that he has been clever and has hid his sin from God, or worse yet, thinks that God is condoning what he has done. Because I'm still blessed and I'm prosperous. "I'm a prosperous cheat, so God is condoning my cheating. It doesn't matter to God that I cheat. It doesn't matter to God that I lie or I steal or whatever because look, I'm blessed. It doesn't matter to God that I'm living an immoral life, because look at all that I have." And people begin to misinterpret God's grace and God's long suffering as God's approbation for their actions and for their lives. Not so. That's a fatal mistake to make. God does know. God does see. God does care. God will judge. But because God doesn't judge immediately, because the sentence of God isn't executed speedily, because God is giving you opportunity to turn, God is giving you opportunity to repent, God is giving you the opportunity to come out of your sin and to be saved and He's very patient with you. God's not willing that any should perish but that all should come into repentance. You see, the real delay in the return of Jesus Christ is just God's unwillingness that men should perish.

As Peter is talking about the second coming of the Lord, he said, "Hey, in the last days there are going to be scoffers that are going to come saying, 'Where is the promise of Jesus coming again? They've been talking about that for years. He hasn't come and He's not going to come. Things just continue as they were from the beginning.'" But Peter said, "God isn't slack concerning His promises, as some men count slackness, but He's faithful to usward. But He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" ( 2 Peter 3:9 ). Therefore, consider ye actually this time as God's patience in order that men might be saved.

So, because God has waited so long, because God hasn't speedily executed His sentence against the evil, people begin to assume that God has just withdrawn Himself. That Jesus isn't coming again. That all of the talk of the rapture of the church and the return of Jesus Christ is just piped dreams, a misinterpretation of scriptures. And they begin to make fun of the return of Jesus Christ. They begin to scoff at it, even as Peter said they would. It's because they are misinterpreting the patience of God waiting for men to be saved, because God is not willing that any should perish. So God is very kind. He's very loving. He's very patient. He's very long-suffering. He's giving you chance after chance after chance. But it is tragic when people misinterpret God's patience and God's kindness. And thus, they give their hearts over to evil because they think that God is too remote to care. "It doesn't really matter to God how I live. God doesn't really know." And they give their hearts and their lives over to evil to live an evil life. That is a tragic, fatal mistake of misinterpreting God's grace and God's goodness to you.

Though a sinner do evil an hundred times, and his days be prolonged ( Ecclesiastes 8:12 ),

Remember he was talking about how he saw that the ungodly man was living a long life, the righteous were dying young and the ungodly were living long. So, "Though a sinner do evil a hundred times, and his days be prolonged,"

yet surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him ( Ecclesiastes 8:12 ):

Now, in the end the best life is the life of fearing God, walking with God. Fear of the Lord is to depart from evil. So I know that in the long run that life is the best. It's going to be well with the man who has departed from evil.

But it shall not be well with the wicked ( Ecclesiastes 8:13 ),

In the end God's judgment will come. You can't escape it. God's judgment will come, and thus, I surely know it will be well with those that fear God. "But it shall not be well with the wicked."

neither shall he prolong his days, which are as a shadow; because he fears not before God. There is a vanity which is done upon the earth; that there be just men, unto whom it happens according to the work of the wicked; again, there be wicked men, to whom it happens according to the work of the righteous: so I said that this also is vanity ( Ecclesiastes 8:13-14 ).

Things happen to both good and evil men. Same kind of experiences to both. A righteous man gets cancer; an unrighteous man gets cancer. A righteous man has prospered; an unrighteous man has prospered. Who makes this observation? What happens to one happens to the other. It's emptiness.

Then I commended merriment, because a man hath no better thing ( Ecclesiastes 8:15 )

And this is his human philosophy and human reasoning coming out again. Hey, it's great to be merry because a man has no better thing under the sun. And it's probably true. Under the sun, man, life is just very shallow and you live life in a very shallow level, and

under the sun the best thing to do is just to eat and drink and be merry ( Ecclesiastes 8:15 ):

Because man, that's all she wrote. That's the sum of life for you, so you might as well live it up because you're going to be burning after a while. So you know, live it up now. Life under the sun.

for that shall abide with him of his labor the days of his life, which God gives him under the sun ( Ecclesiastes 8:15 ).

Might as well enjoy what you got now, because man, it's going to be tough later.

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:) 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 labor to seek it out, yet he shall not find it; yea farther; though a wise man think to know it, yet shall he not be able to find it ( Ecclesiastes 8:16-17 ).

A man cannot find out the work of God though you search it out. "





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Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 8:5". "Chuck Smith Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/csc/ecclesiastes-8.html. 2014.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

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.

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 8:5". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/ecclesiastes-8.html. 2012.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

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.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 8:5". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/ecclesiastes-8.html. 2012.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Whoso keepeth the commandment shall feel no evil thing,.... Either the commandment of an earthly king, which should be kept, when agreeably to the laws of the nation, and not inconsistent with the commands of God; and such as do observe it "know no evil" a, as it may be rendered, or no sorrow; they live peaceably and quietly, and enjoy the favour and protection of the government under which they are, and have praise of men; see Romans 13:3; or the commandments of the heavenly King, the singular being put for the plural; so the Targum,

"whoso keepeth the commandments of the Lord shall know no evil in the world to come.''

Nor in this world neither; no evil befalls them; what may be thought to be so is for their good; though they know and are conscious of the evil of sin, and commit it, yet not willingly, and with love to it, and so as to make it the work of their lives; but lament it, repent of it, and forsake it, and do not feel the evil of punishment for it; yea, such enjoy much good; have much communion with God; large discoveries of his love; dwell in him, and shall at last dwell with him in the heavenly city; see John 14:21;

and a wise man's heart discerneth both time and judgment; he knows not only what is his duty to do, both with respect to God and men, to a temporal prince or the King eternal; but he knows also the most fit and convenient time of doing it; and lays hold on every opportunity that offers, and which may be called "redeeming time", Galatians 6:10; and he knows the right manner in which it should be performed, with all the agreeable circumstances of it, which he carefully observes; or he knows the judgment that will be passed, or the punishment that will be inflicted on delinquents, either by God or men; and therefore is careful to keep the commandment, and avoid it: and especially he remembers there is a judgment to come, when everything will be brought to an account; and, though he does not know the precise day and hour, yet he knows there will be such a time; so some render it, "the time of judgment" b: the Targum is,

"and the time of prayer, and of judgment, and of truth, is known by the heart of the wise.''

a לא ידע "non cognoscet", Vatablus, Mercerus, Gejerus, Rambachius, Cocceius. b ועת ומשפט καιρον κρισεως, Sept. so some in Drusius.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 8:5". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/ecclesiastes-8.html. 1999.

Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

The Excellence of Wisdom; The Duty of Subjects.

      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.   2 I counsel thee to keep the king's commandment, and that in regard of the oath of God.   3 Be not hasty to go out of his sight: stand not in an evil thing; for he doeth whatsoever pleaseth him.   4 Where the word of a king is, there is power: and who may say unto him, What doest thou?   5 Whoso keepeth the commandment shall feel no evil thing: and a wise man's heart discerneth both time and judgment.

      Here is, I. An encomium of wisdom (Ecclesiastes 8:1; Ecclesiastes 8:1), that is, of true piety, guided in all its exercises by prudence and discretion. The wise man is the good man, that knows God and glorifies him, knows himself and does well for himself; his wisdom is a great happiness to him, for, 1. It advances him above his neighbours, and makes him more excellent than they: Who is as the wise man? Note, Heavenly wisdom will make a man an incomparable man. No man without grace, though he be learned, or noble, or rich, is to be compared with a man that has true grace and is therefore accepted of God. 2. It makes him useful among his neighbours and very serviceable to them: Who but the wise man knows the interpretation of a thing, that is, understands the times and the events of them, and their critical junctures, so as to direct what Israel ought to do,1 Chronicles 12:32. 3. It beautifies a man in the eyes of his friends: It makes his face to shine, as Moses's did when he came down from the mount; it puts honour upon a man and a lustre on his whole conversation, makes him to be regarded and taken notice of, and gains him respect (as Job 29:7, c.) it makes him lovely and amiable, and the darling and blessing of his country. The strength of his face, the sourness and severity of his countenance (so some understand the last clause), shall be changed by it into that which is sweet and obliging. Even those whose natural temper is rough and morose by wisdom are strangely altered; they become mild and gentle, and learn to look pleasant. 4. It emboldens a man against his adversaries, their attempts and their scorn: The boldness of his face shall be doubled by wisdom; it will add very much to his courage in maintaining his integrity when he not only has an honest cause to plead, but by his wisdom knows how to manage it and where to find the interpretation of a thing. He shall not be ashamed, but shall speak with his enemy in the gate.

      II. A particular instance of wisdom pressed upon us, and that is subjection to authority, and a dutiful and peaceable perseverance in our allegiance to the government which Providence has set over us. Observe,

      1. How the duty of subjects is here described. (1.) We must be observant of the laws. In all those things wherein the civil power is to interpose, whether legislative or judicial, we ought to submit to its order and constitutions: I counsel thee; it may as well be supplied, I charge thee, not only as a prince but as a preacher: he might do both; "I recommend it to thee as a piece of wisdom; I say, whatever those say that are given to change, keep the king's commandment; wherever the sovereign power is lodged, be subject to it. Observe the mouth of a king" (so the phrase is); "say as he says; do as he bids thee; let his word be a law, or rather let the law be his word." Some understand the following clause as a limitation of this obedience: "Keep the king's commandment, yet so as to have a regard to the oath of God, that is, so as to keep a good conscience and not to violate thy obligations to God, which are prior and superior to thy obligations to the king. Render to Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's, but so as to reserve pure and entire to God the things that are his." (2.) We must not be forward to find fault with the public administration, or quarrel with every thing that is not just according to our mind, nor quit our post of service under the government, and throw it up, upon every discontent (Ecclesiastes 8:3; Ecclesiastes 8:3): "Be not hasty to go out of his sight, when he is displeased at thee (Ecclesiastes 10:4; Ecclesiastes 10:4), or when thou art displeased at him; fly not off in a passion, nor entertain such jealousies of him as will tempt thee to renounce the court or forsake the kingdom." Solomon's subjects, as soon as his head was laid low, went directly contrary to this rule, when upon the rough answer which Rehoboam gave them, they were hasty to go out of his sight, would not take time for second thoughts nor admit proposals of accommodation, but cried, To your tents, O Israel! "There may perhaps be a just cause to go out of his sight; but be not hasty to do it; act with great deliberation." (3.) We must not persist in a fault when it is shown us: "Stand not in an evil thing; in any offence thou hast given to thy prince humble thyself, and do not justify thyself, for that will make the offence much more offensive. In any ill design thou hast, upon some discontent, conceived against thy prince, do not proceed in it; but if thou hast done foolishly in lifting up thyself, or hast thought evil, lay thy hand upon thy mouth," Proverbs 30:32. Note, Though we may by surprise be drawn into an evil thing, yet we must not stand in it, but recede from it as soon as it appears to us to be evil. (4.) We must prudently accommodate ourselves to our opportunities, both for our own relief, if we think ourselves wronged, and for the redress of public grievances: A wise man's heart discerns both time and judgment (Ecclesiastes 8:5; Ecclesiastes 8:5); it is the wisdom of subjects, in applying themselves to their princes, to enquire and consider both at what season and in what manner they may do it best and most effectually, to pacify his anger, obtain his favour, or obtain the revocation of any grievous measure prescribed. Esther, in dealing with Ahasuerus, took a deal of pains to discern both time and judgment, and she sped accordingly. This may be taken as a general rule of wisdom, that every thing should be well timed; and our enterprises are then likely to succeed, when we embrace the exact opportunity for them.

      2. What arguments are here used to engage us to be subject to the higher powers; they are much the same with those which St. Paul uses, Romans 13:1, c. (1.) We must needs be subject, for conscience-sake, and that is the most powerful principle of subjection. We must be subject because of the oath of God, the oath of allegiance which we have taken to be faithful to the government, the covenant between the king and the people,2 Chronicles 23:16. David made a covenant, or contract, with the elders of Israel, though he was king by divine designation, 1 Chronicles 11:3. "Keep the king's commandments, for he has sworn to rule thee in the fear of God, and thou hast sworn, in that fear, to be faithful to him." It is called the oath of God because he is a witness to it and will avenge the violation of it. (2.) For wrath's sake, because of the sword which the prince bears and the power he is entrusted with, which make him formidable: He does whatsoever pleases him he has a great authority and a great ability to support that authority (Ecclesiastes 8:4; Ecclesiastes 8:4): Where the word of a king is, giving orders to seize a man, there is power; there are many that will execute his orders, which makes the wrath of a king, or supreme government, like the roaring of a lion and like messengers of death. Who may say unto him, What doest thou? He that contradicts him does it at his peril. Kings will not bear to have their orders disputed, but expect they should be obeyed. In short, it is dangerous contending with sovereignty, and what many have repented. A subject is an unequal match for a prince. He may command me who has legions at command. (3.) For the sake of our own comfort: Whoso keeps the commandment, and lives a quiet and peaceable life, shall feel no evil thing, to which that of the apostle answers (Romans 13:3), Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power of the king? Do that which is good, as becomes a dutiful and loyal subject, and thou shalt ordinarily have praise of the same. He that does no ill shall feel no ill and needs fear none.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Ecclesiastes 8:5". "Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/ecclesiastes-8.html. 1706.