1. Praise of true wisdom continued (Ec 7:11, &c.). |Who| is to be accounted |equal to the wise man? ... Who (like him) knoweth the interpretation| of God's providences (for example, Ec 7:8, 13, 14), and God's word (for example, see on Ec 7:29; Pr 1:6)?
face to shine -- (Ec 7:14; Ac 6:15). A sunny countenance, the reflection of a tranquil conscience and serene mind. Communion with God gives it (Ex 34:29, 30).
boldness -- austerity.
changed -- into a benign expression by true wisdom (religion) (Jas 3:17). Maurer translates, |The shining (brightness) of his face is doubled,| arguing that the Hebrew noun for |boldness| is never used in a bad sense (Pr 4:18). Or as Margin, |strength| (Ec 7:19; Isa 40:31; 2Co 3:18). But the adjective is used in a bad sense (De 28:50).
2. the king's -- Jehovah, peculiarly the king of Israel in the theocracy; Ec 8:3, 4, prove it is not the earthly king who is meant.
the oath of God -- the covenant which God made with Abraham and renewed with David; Solomon remembered Ps 89:35, |I have sworn,| &c. (Ps 89:36), and the penalties if David's children should forsake it (Ps 89:30-32); inflicted on Solomon himself; yet God not |utterly| forsaking him (Ps 89:33, 34).
3. hasty -- rather, |Be not terror-struck so as to go out of His sight.| Slavishly |terror-struck| is characteristic of the sinner's feeling toward God; he vainly tries to flee out of His sight (Ps 139:7); opposed to the |shining face| of filial confidence (Ec 8:1; Joh 8:33-36; Ro 8:2; 1Jo 4:18).
stand not -- persist not.
for he doeth -- God inflicts what punishment He pleases on persisting sinners (Job 23:13; Ps 115:3). True of none save God.
4. God's very |word| is |power.| So the gospel word (Ro 1:16; Heb 4:12).
who may say, &c. -- (Job 9:12; 33:13; Isa 45:9; Da 4:35). Scripture does not ascribe such arbitrary power to earthly kings.
5. feel -- experience.
time -- the neglect of the right |times| causes much of the sinful folly of the spiritually unwise (Ec 3:1-11).
judgment -- the right manner [Holden]. But as God's future |judgment| is connected with the |time for every purpose| in Ec 3:17, so it is here. The punishment of persisting sinners (Ec 8:3) suggests it. The wise man realizes the fact, that as there is a fit |time| for every purpose, so for the |judgment.| This thought cheers him in adversity (Ec 7:14; 8:1).
6. therefore the misery, &c. -- because the foolish sinner does not think of the right |times| and the |judgment.|
7. he -- the sinner, by neglecting times (for example, |the accepted time, and the day of salvation, 2Co 6:2), is taken by surprise by the judgment (Ec 3:22; 6:12; 9:12). The godly wise observe the due times of things (Ec 3:1), and so, looking for the judgment, are not taken by surprise, though not knowing the precise |when| (1Th 5:2-4); they |know the time| to all saving purposes (Ro 13:11).
8. spirit -- |breath of life| (Ec 3:19), as the words following require. Not |wind,| as Weiss thinks (Pr 30:4). This verse naturally follows the subject of |times| and |judgment| (Ec 8:6, 7).
discharge -- alluding to the liability to military service of all above twenty years old (Nu 1:3), yet many were exempted (De 20:5-8). But in that war (death) there is no exemption.
those ... given to -- literally, the master of it. Wickedness can get money for the sinner, but cannot deliver him from the death, temporal and eternal, which is its penalty (Isa 28:15, 18).
9. his own hurt -- The tyrannical ruler |hurts| not merely his subjects, but himself; so Rehoboam (1Ki 12:1-33); but the |time| of |hurt| chiefly refers to eternal ruin, incurred by |wickedness,| at |the day of death| (Ec 8:8), and the |time| of |judgment| (Ec 8:6; Pr 8:36).
10. the wicked -- namely, rulers (Ec 8:9).
buried -- with funeral pomp by man, though little meriting it (Jer 22:19); but this only formed the more awful contrast to their death, temporal and eternal, inflicted by God (Lu 16:22, 23).
come and gone from the place of the holy -- went to and came from the place of judicature, where they sat as God's representatives (Ps 82:1-6), with pomp [Holden]. Weiss translates, |Buried and gone (utterly), even from the holy place they departed.| As Joab, by Solomon's command, was sent to the grave from the |holy place| in the temple, which was not a sanctuary to murderers (Ex 21:14; 1Ki 2:28, 31). The use of the very word |bury| there makes this view likely; still |who had come and gone| may be retained. Joab came to the altar, but had to go from it; so the |wicked rulers| (Ec 8:9) (including high priests) came to, and went from, the temple, on occasions of solemn worship, but did not thereby escape their doom.
forgotten -- (Pr 10:7).
11. The reason why the wicked persevere in sin: God's delay in judgment (Mt 24:48-51; 2Pe 3:8, 9). |They see not the smoke of the pit, therefore they dread not the fire| [South], (Ps 55:19). Joab's escape from the punishment of his murder of Abner, so far from |leading him to repentance,| as it ought (Ro 2:4), led him to the additional murder of Amasa.
12. He says this, lest the sinner should abuse the statement (Ec 7:15), |A wicked man prolongeth his life.|
before him -- literally, |at His presence|; reverently serve Him, realizing His continual presence.
13. neither shall he prolong -- not a contradiction to Ec 8:12. The |prolonging| of his days there is only seeming, not real. Taking into account his eternal existence, his present days, however seemingly long, are really short. God's delay (Ec 8:11) exists only in man's short-sighted view. It gives scope to the sinner to repent, or else to fill up his full measure of guilt; and so, in either case, tends to the final vindication of God's ways. It gives exercise to the faith, patience, and perseverance of saints.
shadow -- (Ec 6:12; Job 8:9).
14. An objection is here started (entertained by Solomon in his apostasy), as in Ec 3:16; 7:15, to the truth of retributive justice, from the fact of the just and the wicked not now receiving always according to their respective deserts; a cavil, which would seem the more weighty to men living under the Mosaic covenant of temporal sanctions. The objector adds, as Solomon had said, that the worldling's pursuits are |vanity| (Ec 8:10), |I say (not 'said') this also is vanity. Then I commend mirth,| &c. [Holden]. Ec 8:14, 15 may, however, be explained as teaching a cheerful, thankful use of God's gifts |under the sun,| that is, not making them the chief good, as sensualists do, which Ec 2:2; 7:2, forbid; but in |the fear of God,| as Ec 3:12; 5:18; 7:18; 9:7, opposed to the abstinence of the self-righteous ascetic (Ec 7:16), and of the miser (Ec 5:17).
15. no better thing, &c. -- namely, for the |just| man, whose chief good is religion, not for the worldly.
abide -- Hebrew, |adhere|; not for ever, but it is the only sure good to be enjoyed from earthly labors (equivalent to |of his labor the days of his life|). Still, the language resembles the skeptical precept (1Co 15:32), introduced only to be refuted; and |abide| is too strong language, perhaps, for a religious man to apply to |eating| and |mirth.|
16. Reply to Ec 8:14, 15. When I applied myself to observe man's toils after happiness (some of them so incessant as not to allow sufficient time for |sleep|), then (Ec 8:17, the apodosis) I saw that man cannot find out (the reason of) God's inscrutable dealings with the |just| and with the |wicked| here (Ec 8:14; Ec 3:11; Job 5:9; Ro 11:33); his duty is to acquiesce in them as good, because they are God's, though he sees not all the reasons for them (Ps 73:16). It is enough to know |the righteous are in God's hand| (Ec 9:1). |Over wise| (Ec 7:16); that is, Speculations above what is written are vain.