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Ecclesiastes 8:8

Ecclesiastes 8:8

[There is] no man that hath power over the spirit to retain
the spirit
Which is not to be understood of the wind, which the word used sometimes signifies, and of men's having no power to restrain that, or hinder it from blowing; for to what purpose should Solomon mention this? rather it may be considered as a check upon despotic and arbitrary princes not to stretch their power too far; since they had none over the spirits or minds of men, and could not hinder them from thinking ill of them, and wishing ill to them, nor restrain their hatred of them; whatever power they had or exercised over their bodies and estates, they had none over their spirits, or their consciences; no lawful power to restrain them from their to God, nor to oblige them to do that which he has forbidden; nor to compel them to anything against conscience; nor to bind their consciences in matters indifferent: or as an argument with subjects to obey the commands of their sovereign; since it is not in their power to restrain the spirit and wrath of princes, which is as the roaring of a lion, and as: he messengers of death, ( Proverbs 16:14 ) ( 19:12 ) ; particularly to be careful that they do not commit any capital offence, for which sentence may be passed to take away life; when it will not be in their power to retain it; nor rescue themselves out of the hands of justice and the civil magistrate, but must submit. Or else it is to be understood of every man's spirit at the hour of death, and of the unavoidableness of it, as the next clause explains it; and by "spirit" is meant, either the sensitive soul, the same with the spirit of a beast, without which the body is dead, and is like the wind that passeth away, and ceaseth when the breath is stopped; or the rational soul, the spirit that is committed to God, and returns to him at death, ( Luke 23:43 ) ( Acts 7:59 ) ( Ecclesiastes 12:7 ) . This a man has not power over to dismiss or retain at pleasure; he cannot keep it one moment longer when it is called for and required by the Father of spirits, the Creator of it; he has not power "to restrain" F4 it, as in a prison, as the word signifies, as Alshech observes; whence Aben Ezra says, that the spirit or soul in the body is like a prisoner in a prison; but nothing, that attends a man in this life, or he is in possession of, can keep the soul in this prison, when the time of its departure is come; not riches, nor honours, nor wisdom and leaning, nor strength and youth, nor all the force of medicine; the time is fixed, it is the appointment of God, the bounds set by him cannot be passed, ( Ecclesiastes 3:2 ) ( Hebrews 9:27 ) ( Genesis 47:29 ) ( Job 14:5 ) . The Targum is,

``no man has power over the spirit of the soul to restrain the soul of life, that it might not cease from the body of man;''
and to the same sense Jarchi,
``to restrain the spirit in his body, that the angel of death should not take him;''
neither [hath he] power in the day of death;
or "dominion" F5; death strips a man of all power and authority, the power that the husband has over the wife, or parents over their children, or the master over his servant, or the king over his subjects; death puts down all power and authority: it is an observation of Jarchi's, that David after he came to the throne is everywhere called King David, but, when he came to die, only David, ( 1 Kings 2:1 ) ; no king nor ruler can stand against death any more than a beggar; up man is lord of death any more than of life, but death is lord of all; all must and do submit to it, high and low, rich and poor; there is a day fixed for it, and that day can never be adjourned, or put off to another; and as man has not power to deliver himself in the day of death, so neither his friend, as the Targum, nor any relation whatever; and [there is] no discharge in [that] war;
death is a warfare as well as life, with which nature struggles, but in vain; it is an enemy, and the last that shall be destroyed; it is a king, and a very powerful one; there is no withstanding him, he is always victorious; and there is no escaping the battle with him, or fleeing from him; a discharge of soldiers in other wars is sometimes obtained by interest, by the entreaty of friends, or by money; but here all cries and entreaties signify nothing; nor does he value riches, gold, or all the forces of strength; see ( 2 Samuel 12:18 ) ( Job 36:19 ) ; under the old law, if a person had built a new house, or married a wife, or was faint hearted, he was excused and dismissed; but none of these things are of any avail in this war, ( Deuteronomy 20:5 Deuteronomy 20:6 Deuteronomy 20:8 ) ; captives taken in war are sometimes dismissed by their conquerors, or they find ways and means to make their escape; but nothing of this kind can be done when death has seized on the persons of men. Some render it, there is "no sending to" or "in [that] war" F6; there is no sending forces against death to withstand him, it is to no purpose; there is no sending a message to him to sue for a peace, truce, or reprieve; he will hearken to nothing; there is no sending one in the room of another, as Jarchi observes,
``a man cannot say, I will send my son, or my servant;''
no surrogation is allowed of in this case, as David wished for, ( 2 Samuel 18:33 ) . Aben Ezra interprets it, no armour, and so many interpreters; and so the Targum;
``nor do instruments of armour help in war;''
in this war: in other wars a man may put on a helmet of brass and a coat of mail, to protect and defend him, or throw darts and arrows; but these signify nothing when death makes his approach and attack; neither shall wickedness deliver those that are given to it;
or "the masters of it" F7; that is, from death; neither Satan the wicked one, as Jerom, who is wickedness itself, and with whom wicked men are confederate, can deliver them from death; nor sinners the most abandoned deliver themselves, who have made a covenant with it, and an agreement with hell, ( Isaiah 28:15 Isaiah 28:18 ) ; such who are masters of the greatest wicked craft and cunning, and who devise many ways to escape other things, can contrive none to escape death; nor will riches gotten by wickedness deliver the owners of them from death; see ( Proverbs 10:2 ) ( 11:4 ) ; This sense is mentioned by Aben Ezra, and not to be despised.
FOOTNOTES:

F4 (awlkl) "ut coerceat", Piscator; "ad coercendum", Cocceius.
F5 (Nwjlv) "dominatio", Junius & Tremellius, Vatablus; "dominium", Rambachius.
F6 (hmxlmb txlvm Nya) "non est missio ad illud praelium", Varenius apud Gejerum.
F7 (wyleb ta) "dominos suos", Drusius.
Read Ecclesiastes 8:8