|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
8:9-13 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.
Verse 13. - But it shall not be well with the wicked. If experience seemed often to militate against this assertion, Koheleth's faith prevailed against apparent contradictions. Neither shall he prolong his days, which are as a shadow. Above we read of a wicked man enjoying a long, untroubled life; here the contrary is stated. Such contradictions are seen every day. There are inscrutable reasons for the delay of judgment; but on the whole moral government is vindicated, and even the long life of a sinner is no blessing. The author of the Book of Wisdom writes (4:8), "Honorable age is not that which standeth in length of time, nor that is measured by number of years;" and Isaiah (Isaiah 65:20), "The sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed." Man's life is compared to a shadow because it passes away with the setting sun (see on Ecclesiastes 6:12). The Vulgate, in order to obviate the apparent discrepancy between this and the preceding verses, renders the verb in a precatory form: Non sit bonum impio, etc., "Let it not be well with the wicked, and let his days not be prolonged; but let them pass away as a shadow who fear not the Lord." This is quite unnecessary; and the words, "as a shadow," according to the accents, belong to what precedes, as in the Authorized Version. Hitzig and others have adopted the Vulgate division, and render, "Like a shadow is he who fears not God." But there is no sufficient reason for disregarding the existing accentuation. Septuagint, "He shall not prolong his days in a shadow (ἐν σκιᾷ)." Because he feareth not before God. This is the reason, looking to temporal retribution, why the wicked shall not live out half their days (Ecclesiastes 7:17; Proverbs 10:27; Psalm 55:23). Koheleth cleaves to the doctrine received from old time, although facts seem often to contradict it.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
But it shall not be well with the wicked,.... It shall be ill with him; more is designed than is expressed, Isaiah 3:11; in life they have no solid peace and comfort; at death they will be turned into at judgment they will hear the awful sentence, "Go, ye cursed", and will be in torment to all eternity, Matthew 25:41;
neither shall he prolong his days, which are as a shadow: wicked men sometimes do not live out half their days, which, according to the course of nature, and common term of life, they might be thought to live; or if they prolong their days in wickedness, as sometimes they do, Ecclesiastes 7:15; yet their days at longest are but a shadow which declines, and is quickly gone; or, however, they do not attain to eternal life, which is sometimes meant by prolonging days, and is length of days for ever and ever, Isaiah 53:10; this they never enjoy; but when the righteous go into life lasting, they go into everlasting punishment. The reason of this is,
because he feareth not before God; the fear of God is not before his eyes, nor in his heart; he goes on in sin without fear of him, boldly and openly commits it, and instead of taking shame for it, or repenting of it, glories in it; stretches out his hand against God, and bids defiance to him, and desires not the knowledge of him, and refuses to obey him The Targum of the whole is,
"and it shall not be well with the wicked, and he shall have no space in the world to come; and in this world his days shall be cut off, and they shall flee and pass away as a shadow, because he fears not God.''
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
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).
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