Ecclesiastes 8

Listen to Ecclesiastes 8

Keep the King's Command

1 Who is like the wise? And who knows the interpretation of a thing? 1A man's wisdom makes his face shine, and 2the hardness of his face is changed.
2 I say:[a] Keep the king's command, because of 3God's oath to him.[b]
3 Be not hasty to 4go from his presence. Do not take your stand in an evil cause, for he does whatever he pleases.
4 For the word of the king is supreme, and 5who may say to him, "What are you doing?"
5 Whoever keeps a command will know no evil thing, and the wise heart will know the proper time and the just way.
6 For there is a time and a way 6for everything, although man's trouble[c] lies heavy on him.
7 For he 7does not know what is to be, for 8who can tell him how it will be?
8 No man has power to 9retain the spirit, 10or power over the day of death. There is no 11discharge from war, nor will wickedness deliver those who are given to it.
9 12All this I observed while applying my heart to all that is done under the sun, when man had power over man to his hurt.

Those Who Fear God Will Do Well

10 Then I saw the wicked buried. They used to go in and out of 13the holy place and were 14praised[d] in the city where they had done such things. This also is vanity.
11 Because 15the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, 16the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil.
12 Though a sinner does evil a hundred times and 17prolongs his life, yet I know that 18it will be well with 19those who fear God, because they fear before him.
13 But it will 20not be well with the wicked, neither will he prolong his days like 21a shadow, because he does not fear before God.

Man Cannot Know God's Ways

14 There is a vanity that takes place on earth, that there are righteous people 22to whom it happens according to the deeds of the wicked, and there are wicked people 23to whom it happens according to the deeds of the righteous. I said that this also is vanity.
15 And I commend joy, for man 24has no good thing under the sun but to 25eat and drink and be joyful, for this will go with him in his toil through the days of his life that God has given him under the sun.
16 When I applied my heart to know wisdom, and to see 26the business that is done on earth, how neither 27day nor night do one's eyes see sleep,
17 then I saw all the work of God, that 28man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun. However much man may toil in seeking, he will not find it out. Even though a wise man claims to know, 29he cannot find it out.

Ecclesiastes 8 Commentary

Chapter 8

Commendations of wisdom. (1-5) To prepare for sudden evils and death. (6-8) It shall be well with the righteous, and ill with the wicked. (9-13) Mysteries of Providence. (14-17)

Verses 1-5 None of the rich, the powerful, the honourable, or the accomplished of the sons of men, are so excellent, useful, or happy, as the wise man. Who else can interpret the words of God, or teach aright from his truths and dispensations? What madness must it be for weak and dependent creatures to rebel against the Almighty! What numbers form wrong judgments, and bring misery on themselves, in this life and that to come!

Verses 6-8 God has, in wisdom, kept away from us the knowledge of future events, that we may be always ready for changes. We must all die, no flight or hiding-place can save us, nor are there any weapons of effectual resistance. Ninety thousand die every day, upwards of sixty every minute, and one every moment. How solemn the thought! Oh that men were wise, that they understood these things, that they would consider their latter end! The believer alone is prepared to meet the solemn summons. Wickedness, by which men often escape human justice, cannot secure from death.

Verses 9-13 Solomon observed, that many a time one man rules over another to his hurt, and that prosperity hardens them in their wickedness. Sinners herein deceive themselves. Vengeance comes slowly, but it comes surely. A good man's days have some substance; he lives to a good purpose: a wicked man's days are all as a shadow, empty and worthless. Let us pray that we may view eternal things as near, real, and all-important.

Verses 14-17 Faith alone can establish the heart in this mixed scene, where the righteous often suffer, and the wicked prosper. Solomon commended joy, and holy security of mind, arising from confidence in God, because a man has no better thing under the sun, though a good man has much better things above the sun, than soberly and thankfully to use the things of this life according to his rank. He would not have us try to give a reason for what God does. But, leaving the Lord to clear up all difficulties in his own time, we may cheerfully enjoy the comforts, and bear up under the trials of life; while peace of conscience and joy in the Holy Ghost will abide in us through all outward changes, and when flesh and heart shall fail.

Cross References 29

  • 1. Proverbs 4:8, 9; [Acts 6:15]
  • 2. Proverbs 21:29; [Deuteronomy 28:50]
  • 3. Exodus 22:11; 2 Samuel 21:7; 1 Kings 2:43; [2 Chronicles 36:13; Ezekiel 17:18]
  • 4. [Ecclesiastes 10:4]
  • 5. Daniel 4:35; See Job 9:12
  • 6. Ecclesiastes 3:1, 17
  • 7. [Proverbs 24:22]
  • 8. Ecclesiastes 3:22; Ecclesiastes 6:12; Ecclesiastes 9:12; Ecclesiastes 10:14
  • 9. [Job 14:5]
  • 10. [Ecclesiastes 3:19; Ecclesiastes 9:11]
  • 11. See Deuteronomy 20:5-8
  • 12. [Ecclesiastes 1:13]
  • 13. [Nehemiah 11:1; Matthew 24:15]
  • 14. [Ecclesiastes 9:5; Proverbs 10:7]
  • 15. [Psalms 10:6; Psalms 50:21; Isaiah 26:10; Romans 2:4, 5; 2 Peter 3:9]
  • 16. [Esther 7:5; Acts 5:3]
  • 17. Ecclesiastes 7:15; Isaiah 65:20
  • 18. [Deuteronomy 12:25; Isaiah 3:10]
  • 19. [Ps. 37:11, 18, 19; Proverbs 1:33; Matthew 25:34]
  • 20. Isaiah 3:11
  • 21. Ecclesiastes 6:12; See Job 14:2
  • 22. Ecclesiastes 7:15; [Psalms 73:3]; See Ecclesiastes 2:14
  • 23. [Job 21:7; Psalms 17:9, 10; Psalms 73:12; Jeremiah 12:1]
  • 24. See Ecclesiastes 2:24
  • 25. 1 Kings 4:20
  • 26. Ecclesiastes 1:13; Ecclesiastes 3:10
  • 27. [Psalms 127:2]
  • 28. [Proverbs 25:2]; See Ecclesiastes 3:11
  • 29. [Psalms 73:16]

Footnotes 4

  • [a]. Hebrew lacks say
  • [b]. Or because of your oath to God
  • [c]. Or evil
  • [d]. Some Hebrew manuscripts, Septuagint, Vulgate; most Hebrew manuscripts forgotten

Chapter Summary


The preacher begins this chapter with the praise of wisdom, from its excellency and usefulness, Ec 8:1; and advises men, if they would live quietly and comfortably, to honour and obey the king that rules over them, and not be rebellious against him, since he has great power and authority, Ec 8:2-5; and not be anxious about things to come, since there is a set time for everything, and future things cannot be known nor frustrated; and, particularly, there is no avoiding the hour and stroke of death, Ec 8:6-8; Though there are times wherein wicked men rule over others, it is to their own hurt, and they must die; and though they may be pompously buried, yet are soon forgotten, Ec 8:9,10; and the reason of their insolence is the delay of justice; yet there will come a time when it shall be well with them that fear God, and ill with the wicked, though they may live long in wickedness; and for the present it may befall good then what wicked men deserve, and wicked men may have that which might, be thought more proper for good men, Ec 8:11-14; wherefore this should give no uneasiness; but men should cheerfully and freely enjoy what they have with thankfulness, there being nothing better than that under the sun, Ec 8:15; and the chapter is concluded with observing the unsearchableness of divine Providence, Ec 5:16,17.

Ecclesiastes 8 Commentaries

The English Standard Version is published with the permission of Good News Publishers.