Verse 1 Wisdom is Wonderful
This verse praises the man and his wisdom. The man himself may not be attractive but his wisdom changes him in a wonderful manner. Wisdom is a wonderful thing. The only man in the Bible that is considered to be perfect is Jesus Christ. (Hebrews 7:24-26) So it seems right to praise Jesus Christ here and His wisdom.
As a child Jesus astonished the teachers of the law of God. (Luke 2:46-47) When Jesus taught the people were astonished by His wisdom. (Mark 1:21-22) No one had taught Jesus His wisdom and all were impressed by Him. (John 7:15)
The wisdom of Jesus is for all of the people of God. In the Bible we read of a face that shone. The Face of Moses had shone when He had spoken to God. (Exodus 34:30) On one occasion in the Bible the face of Jesus shone too. (Matthew 17:2) When the people of God see Him their face will shine too. (2 Corinthians 3:18) The light that shines is the greatness of God’s perfect wisdom.
Verses 2-4 When You Appeal to a King
In chapter 5 Solomon has already advised us how to appeal to God for help. Now Solomon is telling how were are to appeal to a king. For help
In ancient Israel the king had complete authority and he was not just the ruler but also the judge. The kings word was law and all had to obey. No one would speak against the king unless he wanted to fight the king. The Israelite people had promised before God that they would obey the king.
People may have been afraid to make an appeal before the king. Some Bible translations say do not be in a hurry but the in the Hebrew language it means “Do not tremble because you are afraid.” If the king has allowed you to make an appeal before him, then you should not be afraid to do so. The king will listen to your troubles and decide what he considers to be right.
Evil people should be afraid of the king as he should not be persuaded to support them in their wicked ways. The king has complete authority and will use that authority to punish them.
We can learn something form the ancient kings of Israel about God’s work as a judge. Even evil rulers and judges are serving God when they use their power properly. (Romans 13:1-7) Rulers and judges are people and they make bad decisions as anyone else and in this world some judgments and laws themselves are wicked.
God has authority over all. He has authority over the kings, rulers, and judges. (Revelation 20:11-12) God alone is perfect and His judgments are in righteousness. (Deuteronomy 32:4)
Verses 5-6 When We Must Wait for Judgment
The king was the most important judge in ancient Israel. The king would use his power to support those who obeyed the law. Even the poor could request the help of the king. That may seem to be a good arrangement but it had its problems. The king was too busy to speak to everyone who had a problem. (2 Samuel 15:1-4)
The people had to wait for the opportunity to come to speak to the king and sometimes it would be as long as several years. They knew the king desired to help them but they did not know when the opportunity would come to see him.
In order to receive help form the king the people would have to wait for the right time. (2 Kings 8:3-6) To see the king the people would have to make their request in the proper manner. The king was willing to help anyone who obeyed his law but if the person did not wait for the proper time or ask in the proper manner they would receive no help from the king.
This problem is seen even in our modern judicial system. The troubles of a person may be great, he may deserve the judge’s support. But that person cannot be sure the judge will see him and there may be a long delay before the judge does see him.
We do not usually see the results of God’s judgments immediately. God too has chosen a proper time for His judgments. God has made a proper time for everything. There is a reason for God to do this. God is holy and He is not like a human ruler or judge who may disappoint us. God has made everything beautiful at the right time, and that includes His judgments, as they are perfect.
Verses 7-8 Nobody Can Prevent His Own Death
You can appeal to a judge or a king and they may help you but this may not be the end of your troubles. Nobody knows what the future holds and the troubles that may come and nobody knows the appointed time of their death.
But we all know that there will be a time to die. (Hebrews 9:27) Even those who are powerful know that there is a time they will take their last breath. The breath of a man is very weak in comparison to the wind of a storm. A powerful person may be able to control other people but none can control the storm.
A wicked person believes that he is able to control the people and events of life. If he is a person of great position he may even think that he is able to control the judge or the king. In the end the wicked person will receive that which he deserves. The Apostle Paul wrote that the wage for evil behavior is death. (Romans 6:23) Neither the wicked nor the righteous by their lives in the world can prevent their deaths.
After death God will judge and nobody controls God. He will punish the wicked people. (3:17) The wicked may avoid the punishment they deserve for their whole lives through but when they face God their punishment is certain. Through the Prophet Ezekiel God urged the wicked people to change their behavior and their attitudes. They should turn from their wicked ways and be loyal to God and walk in His ways. God wants to forgive them and does not want them to suffer. (Ezekiel 18:21-23)
Verses 9-10 The Fate of Powerful Wicked People
In the lifetime of the wicked their schemes have caused much pain and trouble. They had no concern for the suffering of the ones they effected. Their only concern was for themselves, their wealth and success and happiness. The evil schemes did not always cause the effect that they would have supposed. Sometimes they are caught in their crimes and must go to prison. And there are times that the wicked suffer because of their own schemes.
The Church is not filled only with righteous seeking people as there are wicked people in the Church too. They have a pseudo religion but at their heart they are wicked. Maybe they thought that their religious acts would save them but it will not. Solomon as he attended their funerals gave thought to these wicked people.
There is a question of the true meaning of the word forgot in verses 10. Some manuscripts use the word praise while others use the word forgotten. Both words praise and forgotten can be seen as true. At the funerals of the wicked they are praised as people seldom speak poorly of the dead. But afterwards they are soon forgotten. This is the nature of men that they will praise someone hoping to receive some of their wealth, importance or power but then will soon forget them.
It is true for the good person as well, as in time they too will be forgotten. It the short time of a hundred years no one will remember our names. This too is the evidence of the weakness of people. God is not like that He has remembered every person who has lived, and will live. He knew them before they were ever born. And He will remember them in the Day of Judgment. God remembers the ones who are loyal to Him. (Hebrews 13:5) To them God will give honor. (Luke 19:12-19; Revelation 22:3-5)
Verse 11How Countries Become Evil
Solomon had become dismayed by the corruption of the legal system of the Israelite state. The people had become wicked and powerful, acting in a cruel manner. (Ecclesiastes 4:1-3) The poor were suffering and the judges of the land were not helping them. (Ecclesiastes 3:16) The people could appeal to the king but had to wait for the proper time and the proper manner. (Ecclesiastes 8:5-6) If they did not, then the king would not help them.
God’s laws as given by Moses would protect the rights of the poor. (Deuteronomy 24) It was the responsibility of the judges and the king to defend the people’s rights. (Deuteronomy 16:18-20; Deuteronomy 17:14-20) But the people were not obeying the laws of God. The rich would bribe the judges to make the decisions that they wanted. The poor who did not have money would have to wait for judgments. The judges were corrupted by their greed. The delays in judgment were as bad as wrong judgments. The poor were neglected and their rights were not protected.
God had given these rights to the poor and it was the judges that had taken them away. This behavior was running the whole of the nation. People then saw that wicked behavior was a way to become rich. As a result those who wanted to become rich began to act wickedly. They were not afraid of judgment as they could bribe the judges. They all had forgotten that one day they will face God who will hold them accountable and God cannot be bribed. (Micah 6:6-8)
Verses 12-13 Is It Better to be Good or Evil
The shadow seems to be a good description of the life of the wicked. As the evening of the day approaches the shadows become longer and continue until they die in the darkness. Wherever the wicked may travel the effects of his wickedness will follow him as a shadow. As he grows older his wicked deeds increase. Solomon looks to the eternal perspective that in the time the life of the wicked will dye and the power of his wickedness will die with him.
People are wicked because they have no reverent fear of God and they care not that He is their judge. (Ecclesiastes 3:16-17) If they are blind to the judgment, then they live in disobedience to His law. Where the wicked are swallowed in their darkness the righteous live in the light of God’s Word. “But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, That shines brighter and brighter until the full day.” (Proverbs 4:18)
Proverbs 4:18 describes the good person’s life as the light of the dawn. His light increases to the full day and overcomes the darkness. (John 1:5; 1 Thessalonians 5:4-5; Psalm 36:6)
Solomon tells us it is better to respect God and not be as the wicked. It is better to live in God’s light than the darkness of sin because of the future glory that God will give to His own. God will judge all people and His justice will be given to all. (Ecclesiastes 3:17) God will reward the person who has walked in His ways. (1 Samuel 2:30)
Verses 14-15 Who Should Enjoy Life the Most
We all have our own thoughts of what should happen in this world. These thoughts remain strong in our own minds even when the facts do not support our thoughts. The book of Ecclesiastes is a book that clearly expresses the facts of life even when we do not like them. We like to believe that good people deserve better lives, but that does not happen in this world. In this world there seems to be benefits for those who act wickedly and they seem to have better lives.
What do people mean by a better life? Some see the good life as health, wealth, and happiness. The desire of people is to have health and wealth so they can be happy. But there are many who have health and wealth that are not happy. With that fact then happiness is what matters to have a good life.
We see the expression of happiness mostly at parties where they eat the best of food and drink plenty of wine. Their songs are filled with laughter. In Chapter 7:1-6 Solomon warned about people who carried on in such a way as foolish behavior. Solomon says that these people are not preparing for the day of their death and the judgment of God.
Here in Ecclesiastes 8:17 Solomon is saying what good people deserve. Solomon knows that no one is completely good. (7:20) So Solomon is taking about people who respect God. (8:12) These people understand that God will judge them for their deeds in the flesh here in this world so they behave in a proper manner. (Ecclesiastes 7:3)
Some good people may seem sad but they have every reason to be happy. Good people deserve to know constant joy! Solomon describes this as a party as Jesus did in the Gospel of Luke. (Luke 15:22-25)
If Solomon is giving advice in these verses to whom is he giving that advice? He is certainly not telling the wicked to enjoy their lives. Solomon did not believe that the wicked should have any good thing. This would not be Solomon’s advice to foolish people as he had told them to stop their parties. (Ecclesiastes 7:1-6) They were also to be in preparation for the day they would face God. Solomon is not advising good people to behave as a fool as that would soon make them a fool.
In this world the people of God must be serious and sensible because there are so many wrong things here. If the happiness of good people is just for a few special occasions? Are the wicked people to have parties while the good people suffer? (Mark 6:21-28) We must remember that we live in a world that is not as God had intended.
It will be a different world in the future when all live under the rule of God. In Heaven God’s people will not know sadness. (Revelation 21:3-4) Heaven is being in a wonderful party. (Luke 14:15-24) There will be no wicked people in Heaven as there is here on earth. (Revelation 22:15) While we are here on earth God gives His invitation to everyone to come and live in Heaven. (Revelation 22:17)
Verses 16-17 The Greatness of God’s Work
Solomon studied the efforts and achievements of man’s labors. But in comparison to the works of God’s Creation the efforts of men are weak. All the works of men’s lives would not achieve much in comparison to the work of God. Neither do the labors of man last. This study of the works of man helped Solomon to better understand how great God is. Everything that God does achieves the purpose for which it was created. God always acts at the proper time and none of His work is in vain.
The greatness of God’s work astonishes us today. We cannot comprehend the mysteries of His creation. We see the plants and the animals and know the perfection of their forms. We see that they are a tiny part of the vast creation of God here in this world. The world itself is only a tiny part of all that God has made.
Scientist study these things their whole lives and cannot begin to understand all that God has done. Scientist throughout the ages have not scratched the surface of all that God has done. Only a fool imagines that he knows everything. The Scriptures tell us that true wisdom comes from God and the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. (Job 28:27-28’ Proverbs 2:5-6)
It is unpleasant to us to know that our human knowledge and effort are ever so weak in the truth of God’s work. But that truth can make us free when we realize our weakness and do not depend upon our own intelligence for our work. It is then that we can really trust God and if we do He will teach us. (Proverbs 3:5-6)