Ecclesiastes 8 – “Reflections”

Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
Qohelet reflects upon wisdom, obeying the king, the unfairness of the world, and how the future is unknowable. He says that enjoying life is the best that one can do.

II. Photo
Death is inevitable: “No man has authority over the lifebreath… there is no authority over the day of death.” (v. 8)

III. Select Verses    
9-14: All these things I observed; I noted all that went on under the sun, while men still had authority over men to treat them unjustly.  And then I saw scoundrels coming from the Holy Site and being brought to burial, while such as had acted righteously were forgotten in the city. And here is another frustration:  the fact that the sentence imposed for evil deeds is not executed swiftly, which is why men are emboldened to do evil —  the fact that a sinner may do evil a hundred times and his [punishment] still be delayed. For although I am aware that “It will be well with those who revere God since they revere Him,  and it will not be well with the scoundrel, and he will not live long, because he does not revere God” —  here is a frustration that occurs in the world: sometimes an upright man is requited according to the conduct of the scoundrel; and sometimes the scoundrel is requited according to the conduct of the upright. I say all that is frustration.
15: I therefore praised enjoyment. For the only good a man can have under the sun is to eat and drink and enjoy himself. That much can accompany him, in exchange for his wealth, through the days of life that God has granted him under the sun.
16-17: For I have set my mind to learn wisdom and to observe the business that goes on in the world — even to the extent of going without sleep day and night —  and I have observed all that God brings to pass. Indeed, man cannot guess the events that occur under the sun. For man tries strenuously, but fails to guess them; and even if a sage should think to discover them he would not be able to guess them.

IV. Outline
1. Wisdom
2-5a. Obey the king
5b-8. The future is unknowable; Death is a certainty
9-14. An unfair world
15. Enjoy life
16-17. The future is unknowable

V. Comment
No comment today. Stay tuned.

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
C. L. Seow, Ecclesiastes (Anchor Yale Bible 18C; New Haven: Yale, 1997).
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