Ecclesiastes 8:16
Parallel Verses
New International Version
When I applied my mind to know wisdom and to observe the labor that is done on earth--people getting no sleep day or night--

New Living Translation
In my search for wisdom and in my observation of people's burdens here on earth, I discovered that there is ceaseless activity, day and night.

English Standard Version
When I applied my heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done on earth, how neither day nor night do one’s eyes see sleep,

New American Standard Bible
When I gave my heart to know wisdom and to see the task which has been done on the earth (even though one should never sleep day or night),

King James Bible
When I applied mine heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done upon the earth: (for also there is that neither day nor night seeth sleep with his eyes:)

Holman Christian Standard Bible
When I applied my mind to know wisdom and to observe the activity that is done on the earth (even though one's eyes do not close in sleep day or night),

International Standard Version
When I dedicated myself to experience wisdom and to observe what is undertaken on earth—even going without sleep day and night—

NET Bible
When I tried to gain wisdom and to observe the activity on earth--even though it prevents anyone from sleeping day or night--

GOD'S WORD® Translation
When I carefully considered how to study wisdom and how to look at the work that is done on earth (even going without sleep day and night),

Jubilee Bible 2000
Therefore I applied mine heart to know wisdom and to see the business that is done upon the earth (for also there is he that neither day nor night sees sleep with his eyes).

King James 2000 Bible
When I applied my heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done upon the earth: (for also there is one who neither day nor night sees sleep with his eyes:)

American King James Version
When I applied my heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done on the earth: (for also there is that neither day nor night sees sleep with his eyes:)

American Standard Version
When I applied my heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done upon the earth (for also there is that neither day nor night seeth sleep with his eyes),

Douay-Rheims Bible
And I applied my heart to know wisdom, and to understand the distraction that is upon earth: for there are some that day and night take no sleep with their eyes.

Darby Bible Translation
When I applied my heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done upon the earth (for also there is that neither day nor night seeth sleep with his eyes),

English Revised Version
When I applied mine heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done upon the earth: (for also there is that neither day nor night seeth sleep with his eyes:)

Webster's Bible Translation
When I applied my heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done upon the earth: (for also there is that neither day nor night seeth sleep with his eyes:)

World English Bible
When I applied my heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done on the earth (for also there is that neither day nor night sees sleep with his eyes),

Young's Literal Translation
When I gave my heart to know wisdom and to see the business that hath been done on the earth, (for there is also a spectator in whose eyes sleep is not by day and by night),
Parallel Commentaries
Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary

8:14-17 Faith alone can establish the heart in this mixed scene, where the righteous often suffer, and the wicked prosper. Solomon commended joy, and holy security of mind, arising from confidence in God, because a man has no better thing under the sun, though a good man has much better things above the sun, than soberly and thankfully to use the things of this life according to his rank. He would not have us try to give a reason for what God does. But, leaving the Lord to clear up all difficulties in his own time, we may cheerfully enjoy the comforts, and bear up under the trials of life; while peace of conscience and joy in the Holy Ghost will abide in us through all outward changes, and when flesh and heart shall fail.

Pulpit Commentary

Verse 16 - Ecclesiastes 9:10. - Section 7 (the division in the theme caused by the introduction of a new chapter is misleading). Man's wisdom is incapable of explaining the course of God's providential government; death awaits all without any exception, whatever be their condition or actions. These two considerations conduce to the old conclusion, that man had best enjoy life, only being careful to use it energetically and well. Verses 16, 17. - No mortal wisdom, combined with the closest observation and thought, can fathom the mysteries of God's moral government. Verse 16. - When I applied mine heart (Ecclesiastes 1:13). The answering member of the sentence is in ver. 17, the last clause of the present verse being parenthetical. To know wisdom. This was his first study (see on Ecclesiastes 1:16). He endeavored to acquire wisdom which might enable him to investigate God's doings. His second study was to see the business that is done upon the earth; i.e. not only to learn what men do in their several stations and callings, but likewise to understand what all this means, what it tends to, its object and result. (For "business," inyan, see on Ecclesiastes 1:13.) The Vulgate here renders it distentionem, "distraction," which is like the Septuagint περισπασμόν. For also there is that neither day nor night seeth sleep with his eyes. This is a parenthetical clause expressing either the restless, unrelieved labor that goes on in the world, or the sleepless meditation of one who tries to solve the problem of the order and disorder in men's lives. In the latter case, Koheleth may be giving his own experience. To "see sleep" is to enjoy sleep. The phrase is not found elsewhere in the Old Testament, but commentators quote parallels from classical sources. Thus Terence, 'Heautontim.,' 3:1.82 -

"Somnum hercle ego hac nocte cculis non vidi reels."

"No sleep mine eyes have seen this livelong night." Cicero, 'Ad Famil.,' 8:30, "Fuit mittflea vigilantia, qui tote sue consulatuson, hum non vidit." Of course, the expression is hyperbolical. The same idea is found without metaphor in such passages as Psalm 132:4; Proverbs 6:4.

Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

When I applied mine heart to know wisdom,.... The nature and causes of things; the wisdom of God in his providence, and the grounds and reasons of his various dispensations towards the children of men: the Targum interprets it, the wisdom of the law;

and to see the business that is done upon the earth; either the business of Providence, in dealing so unequally with the righteous and the wicked, before observed; and which is a business very afflictive and distressing for curious persons to look into, not being able to account for it: or the labour and toil of men to get wealth and riches, and to find happiness in them;

(for also there is that neither day nor night seeth sleep with his eyes); or has any sleep in his eyes, through his eager pursuit after worldly things, or, however, has but little; he rises early and sits up late at his business, so close and diligent is he at it, so industrious to obtain riches, imagining a happiness in them there is not: or else this describes persons curious and inquisitive into the affairs of Providence, and the reasons of them; who give themselves no rest, day nor night, being so intent upon their studies of this kind; and perhaps the wise man may design himself.

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

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.

Ecclesiastes 8:16 Additional Commentaries
Context
God's Ways are Mysterious
15So I commended pleasure, for there is nothing good for a man under the sun except to eat and to drink and to be merry, and this will stand by him in his toils throughout the days of his life which God has given him under the sun. 16When I gave my heart to know wisdom and to see the task which has been done on the earth (even though one should never sleep day or night), 17and I saw every work of God, I concluded that man cannot discover the work which has been done under the sun. Even though man should seek laboriously, he will not discover; and though the wise man should say, "I know," he cannot discover.
Cross References
Ecclesiastes 1:13
I applied my mind to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under the heavens. What a heavy burden God has laid on mankind!

Ecclesiastes 1:14
I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

Ecclesiastes 2:23
All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. This too is meaningless.
Treasury of Scripture

When I applied my heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done on the earth: (for also there is that neither day nor night sees sleep with his eyes:)

when I

Ecclesiastes 8:7 For he knows not that which shall be: for who can tell him when it shall be?

Ecclesiastes 7:25 I applied my heart to know, and to search, and to seek out wisdom, …

there is that

Ecclesiastes 2:23 For all his days are sorrows, and his travail grief; yes, his heart …

Ecclesiastes 4:8 There is one alone, and there is not a second; yes, he has neither …

Ecclesiastes 5:12 The sleep of a laboring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much: …

Genesis 31:40 Thus I was; in the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by …

Psalm 127:2 It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread …

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