In the Fourth Book (Ecc.7:13-9:15) Ecclesiastes returns
to the subject dealt with in Book II - the work of God. There he emphasized
the antagonism between good and evil. Here he considers the relation
between the two opposites. The opening sentence strikes the keynote of the
||See the work of the One, Elohim;|
For who can
set in order that which He has overturned?
||In a day of good be resting in the good, |
in a day of evil, be vigilant;
Indeed the One,
Elohim, has made this one along with that one
this reason, that a man cannot find out
anything about his hereafter.
This is an epitome of the thesis which our author
proposes to consider. In accord with God's Word as a whole, the Assembler
traces all to God.
A detailed exposition is not in harmony with the
suggestive character of these studies. Hence we must content ourselves
with noting the general drift of thought and offering a few remarks on the
more obscure passages.
Having stated that God has made the day of good along
with the day of evil, Ecclesiastes instances familiar experiences
supporting the assertion (7:15-22), and then, surveying the totality of
things, expresses the conviction that man lacks the power to solve the
mystery of the whole.
||I have seen all this in my days of vanity:
There is the righteous man who perishes in
And there is the wicked man
who is prolonged in his evil.
||Do not be abundantly self-righteous, |
And do not be
thinking yourself superlatively wise;
you make yourself desolate?
||Do not be abundantly wicked, and do not be frivolous; |
should you die when it is not your season?
||It is good that you hold to this, |
And from that also
do let your hand rest;
For he who is fearful of Elohim
shall come forth from them all.
||Wisdom itself gives more strength to the wise
Than ten men of authority who are in a
||For there is no righteous man in the earth |
does good and never sins.
||Moreover, to all the words that people speak
do not give your heart's
That you may not hear your servant maledicting
||For even many times your heart knows |
yourself also have maledicted others.
||All this I probed by wisdom; |
I said, I shall be wise,
Yet it was far from me;
||Far away is that which has been, and deep, deep - |
can find it out?
Accordingly, in what follows, Ecclesiastes endeavors to
find a partial solution answering the practical ends of life.
||I turned about that my heart may know and explore,
That it may seek out wisdom and design
may know the wickedness of stupidity and the frivolity
||I found more bitter than death: |
That kind of
woman whose heart is like weir traps and seine
And her hands like bonds;
man doing well before the One, Elohim, he shall escape
And the sinner, he shall be seized by
||See, this is what I found, said the
Assembler: - |
Adding one thing to another to
find a design,
||Which my soul still sought, but I could not find, |
found one man out of a thousand,
could not find a woman among all these -
||See, I found this alone: |
That the One, Elohim, made
Yet they seek many
In seeking to understand this portion of Ecclesiastes the
student is confronted with a formidable obstacle. The AV translates the
noun cheshbon in three different ways: "reason" (7:25), "account"
(7:27) and, later on, "device" (9:10). In addition, the feminine form of
this noun is rendered "invention" in 7:29. It must be evident to the least
critical reader that the writer's thought is necessarily obscured when a
Hebrew term is represented by such different words in English. When
attention is given to the usage of these terms and their adjective and
verbal forms it becomes clear that the sense of "device" or "scheme" is in
view. [The CV uses "design" when the terms are used of divine or truly
This whole paragraph, more especially verses 26-28, has
occasioned many gratuitous remarks. As regards verse 27 the difficulty
lies in determining to what the phrase "one to one" may refer. Since the
topic consistently discussed throughout the section is the relation
between good and evil, the likely point is that to arrive at an
intelligent understanding of the universe, good and evil must be
considered together as parts of the divine plan. This fits with the
special scope of this "book," and throws light on many otherwise obscure
Relating the words of verse 28 to verse 26, the idea
develops that one God-pleasing man among a thousand succumbing to feminine
temptation can be found; a God-pleasing woman among courtesans is not yet
In the progress of his quest concerning all that is done
under the sun Ecclesiastes has arrived at the truth that God is
universally supreme. This conclusion is reached not by a process of
consequence-making resting on presumed premises. It is forced upon our
thinker by the existing order of things. When his inquiring mind turned
from the consideration of the problems of individual experience to the
larger problems of the universe, the world seemed a house hopelessly
divided into two irreconcilable rival factions scrambling for the mastery.
Chaos and anarchy seemed to reign. Then flashes the idea that good and
evil are integral parts of one great plan, and therefore must be taken
together and considered as a whole. The thought is firmly grasped that God
is absolutely the first great cause; absolutely all things are of Him; all
things are His servants working out His will. With the dawning of this
truth a mighty change steals over Ecclesiastes. He breaks away from his
gloomy thoughts, to apostrophize in a tone of rapture the man who has
||Who is like the wise man? |
And who knows
the interpretation of a matter?
a man lightens up his countenance,
harsh strength of his face is altered.
||Observe the king's bidding, |
And that on
account of the oath of Elohim.
||Do not be rash in going from his presence; |
stand in an evil matter,
For all that he desires he
||Since a king's word has authority, |
can say to him, What are you doing?
||He who observes instruction shall know no evil matter,
And the wise heart shall know season and judgment.
||For there is season and judgment for every event,
Since the evil for a man is abundant upon
||For no one knows what shall come, |
For just as it shall be,
who can tell him?
||No man has authority over the spirit to detain the
And no one has authority over the day of death;
There is no dismissal in war,
And wickedness shall
make no way of escape for its possessor.
||All this I have seen and have applied my heart |
work that is done under the sun,
At a season when
a man has authority over another man to his
||In such a case I saw the wicked entombed,
Those who used to come and go from the holy
And were lauded in the city where they had done such
This too is vanity.
||Because there is no sentence executed quickly
against the evil deed, |
Therefore the heart of the
sons of humanity
in them is fully
given to do evil.
||Though a sinner does a hundred evils and days
are prolonged for him, |
Yet I know that good shall come to
those fearful of the One, Elohim,
stand in fear before Him.
||Yet good shall not come to the wicked one, |
shall he prolong his days which are like a
Because he has no fear before Elohim.
||There is another vanity that is done on the earth:
There are righteous men for whom retribution
is according to the work
of the wicked,
And there are wicked ones for whom
is according to
the work of the righteous;
I say that this too is
||So I lauded rejoicing, |
Since there is no good for
a man under the sun
Save to eat and to drink and to
And it shall be allied with him in his toil
through the days of his life,
Which the One,
Elohim, gives to him under the sun.
The difficulty which many experience with 8:9 arises from
considering the verse by itself. The passage becomes clear (though not
free from all difficulty)when 8:9-13 is treated as a whole paragraph
elaborating one phase of the common argument. The thought is: There is a
time (season) when one individual has the power to oppress another. The
wicked tyrant who brings evil to another is buried without having received
quick sentence for his evil, and the sight of this transitory vanity of
providence encourages sin.
Though a sinner does evil, and his days are prolonged,
yet I know that good shall come to those who fear God. A paradox: In
spite of appearances it is not so; or in spite of individual cases the
principle of judgment on the wicked is sound. Ecclesiastes impresses the
importance of maintaining moral principle side by side with our inability
to perceive the justice of God's ways.
||When I applied my heart to know wisdom, |
And to see the
experience that is appointed on earth
(Even though by day and
night, one does not see sleep with his eyes),
||Then I saw in all the work of the One,
That a man is not able to find out the
work that is done under the sun,
Forasmuch as a man may
toil in seeking it out but shall not find it;
even if a wise man says he knows, he is not
able to find it out.
||For I laid all this on my heart, and my heart saw all this:
That the righteous and the wise and their services are in
the hand of the One, Elohim;
Whether it will
be love or hate, a man is not able to know;
Everything before them is vanity.
||Just as to all, there is one destiny for the
righteous one and for the wicked one, For
the good one and for the bad one,
For the clean one and for the unclean
For the one who sacrifices and for him who
makes no sacrifice,
So it is for the good person
as for the sinner,
For the one who swears
just as for one fearful of an oath.
||This is the evil in all that is done under the sun:
That one destiny is for all; Moreover the heart of
the sons of humanity is full of evil,
are in their heart throughout their lives,
Yet after it,
they are joined to the dead.
||Indeed for anyone who is joined with all the living
there is trust; |
For it is better to be a
living cur than a dead lion.
||For the living know that they shall die, |
But the dead know
nothing whatsoever; There is no further reward for
Indeed remembrance of them is forgotten.
||Both their love and their hate as well as their jealousy have
perished already, |
And there is no further portion for
them for the eon
In all that is done under the sun.
||Go, eat your bread with rejoicing, and drink your wine with good
For already the One, Elohim, has approved
of your works.
||In every season, let your garments be white, |
And oil on your
head, let it not be lacking.
||See life with a wife whom you love all the days of
your transitory life, |
Which He gives to you under the sun - all
your transitory days,
For this is your portion in life
And in your toil that you are toiling under the
||All that your hand finds to do, do with your vigor, |
there is no doing or devising or knowledge or wisdom
the unseen where you are going.
||Again I saw under the sun |
That the race is not to
Nor the battle to masters of war,
Nor even bread for the wise,
Nor even riches for
Nor even favor for the knowing,
For a season of mischance shall happen to them
||For, moreover, a man does not know his season;
Like fish that are held in a vicious weir,
like birds that are held in a snare,
So the sons
of humanity themselves are trapped by a season of
When it falls on them suddenly.
||I also saw this wisdom under the sun, |
And it seemed
great to me:
||There was a small city with only a few mortals in
And a great king came against it and surrounded it,
And he built great siege works against it.
||Now a man was available in it, provident and wise,
And he would have provided escape for the city by his
Yet not one person remembered that provident
ALL OF GOD
The tone of confidence deepens as the thinker advances
toward his conclusion. From the vantage point of God's immutable,
sovereign "design" he can, with perfect composure, look down upon the
"many devisings" of puny men with the assurance that they work out the
will of God. Can the knowledge that all things have their origin in a
divine forepurpose, that they are under absolute divine control, and that
neither wicked men, nor any other evil power, nor all of them combined,
can act independent of God, fail to give rest to the heart? Under the
shadow of this great truth we may abide in perfect safety.
The word "mischance" is connected with the term "season"
in 9:11 and refers to the season, not when things are favorable to man,
but are adverse to him. It is a fresh reiteration of the dominant thought
of the book that adverse and favorable seasons take place in accordance
with God's pleasure and affect all men alike, irrespective of character,
ability or personal accomplishments. Ecclesiastes dwells with all possible
emphasis on the absolute deity of God. Herein lies the reason why his book
is neglected and misrepresented. The dualistic theology of Christendom,
with its Manichean idea of conflict between two rival deities and its
dogma of the permanence of evil, found itself at irreconcilable variance
with absolute supremacy of God postulated by the Assembler. Accordingly,
theology contrived to set aside the testimony of this unique book by
throwing over it the veil of false interpretation.