Ecclesiastes 8:17
Parallel Verses
New International Version
then I saw all that God has done. No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all their efforts to search it out, no one can discover its meaning. Even if the wise claim they know, they cannot really comprehend it.

New Living Translation
I realized that no one can discover everything God is doing under the sun. Not even the wisest people discover everything, no matter what they claim.

English Standard Version
then I saw all the work of God, that man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun. However much man may toil in seeking, he will not find it out. Even though a wise man claims to know, he cannot find it out.

New American Standard Bible
and 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.

King James Bible
Then I beheld all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun: because though a man labour to seek it out, yet he shall not find it; yea further; though a wise man think to know it, yet shall he not be able to find it.

Holman Christian Standard Bible
I observed all the work of God and concluded that man is unable to discover the work that is done under the sun. Even though a man labors hard to explore it, he cannot find it; even if the wise man claims to know it, he is unable to discover it.

International Standard Version
I saw all of it as the activity of God. Frankly, a human being cannot understand what happens on earth, because however hard a man works to discover it, he will not find out. Despite what he thinks he knows, he will not be able to figure it out.

NET Bible
then I discerned all that God has done: No one really comprehends what happens on earth. Despite all human efforts to discover it, no one can ever grasp it. Even if a wise person claimed that he understood, he would not really comprehend it.

GOD'S WORD® Translation
then I saw everything that God has done. No one is able to grasp the work that is done under the sun. However hard a person may search for it, he will not find [its meaning]. Even though a wise person claims to know, he is not able to grasp it.

Jubilee Bible 2000
And I have seen regarding all the works of God that man cannot attain to understand the work that is being done under the sun, because though a man labours to seek it out, yet he shall not find it; even though the wise man says that he knows it, yet he shall not be able to attain it.

King James 2000 Bible
Then I beheld all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun: because though a man labors to seek it out, yet he shall not find it; yea moreover; though a wise man thinks to know it, yet shall he not be able to find it.

American King James Version
Then I beheld all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun: because though a man labor to seek it out, yet he shall not find it; yes farther; though a wise man think to know it, yet shall he not be able to find it.

American Standard Version
then I beheld all the work of God, that man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun: because however much a man labor to seek it out, yet he shall not find it; yea moreover, though a wise man think to know it, yet shall he not be able to find it.

Douay-Rheims Bible
And I understood that man can find no reason of all those works of God that are done under the sun: and the more he shall labour to seek, so much the less shall he find: yea, though the wise man shall say, that he knoweth it, he shall not be able to find it.

Darby Bible Translation
then I saw that all [is] the work of God, [and] that man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun: because however man may labour to seek [it] out, yet doth he not find [it]; and even, if a wise [man] think to know [it], he shall not be able to find [it] out.

English Revised Version
then I beheld all the work of God, that man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun: because however much a man labour to seek it out, yet he shall not find it; yea moreover, though a wise man think to know it, yet shall he not be able to find it.

Webster's Bible Translation
Then I beheld all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun: because though a man may labor to seek it out, yet he shall not find it; yes further; though a wise man thinketh to know it, yet shall he not be able to find it.

World English Bible
then I saw all the work of God, that man can't find out the work that is done under the sun, because however much a man labors to seek it out, yet he won't find it. Yes even though a wise man thinks he can comprehend it, he won't be able to find it.

Young's Literal Translation
then I considered all the work of God, that man is not able to find out the work that hath been done under the sun, because though man labour to seek, yet he doth not find; and even though the wise man speak of knowing he is not able to find.
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 17. - Then I beheld all the work of God. This is the apodosis to the first clause of ver. 16. "God's work" is the same as the work that is done under the sun, and means men's actions and the providential ordering thereof. This a man, with his finite understanding, cannot find out, cannot thoroughly comprehend or explain (comp. Ecclesiastes 3:11; Ecclesiastes 7:23, 24). Because though a man labor to seek it out. The Septuagint has, Ὅσα α}ν μοχθήσῃ, "Whatsoever things a man shall labor to seek;" Vulgate, Quanto plus laboraverit ad quaerendum, tanto minus inveniat. The interpreters waver between "how much so ever," and "wherefore a man labors." The latter seems to be best. Though a wise man think to know it, yet shall he not be able to find it. It is the part of wisdom to determine to know all that can be known; but the resolution is baffled here (comp. Ecclesiastes 7:23). The two verses, with their repetitions and tautologous expressions, seem to denote perturbation of mind in the author and his sense of the gravity of his assertions. He is overwhelmed with the thought of the inscrutability of God's judgments, while he is forced to face the facts. An exquisite commentary on this passage is found in Hooker, 'Eccl. Pol.,' 1:2. § 2, quoted by Plumptre; and in Bishop Butler's sermon 'On the Ignorance of Man,' where we read, "From it [the knowledge of our ignorance] we may learn with what temper of mind a man ought to inquire into the subject of religion, namely, with what expectation of finding difficulties, and with a disposition to take up and rest satisfied with any evidence whatever which is real. A man should beforehand expect things mysterious, and such as he will not be able thoroughly to comprehend or go to the bottom of.... Our ignorance is the proper answer to many things which are called objections against religion, particularly to those which arise from the appearance of evil and irregularity in the constitution of nature and the government of the world Since the constitution of nature and the methods and designs of Providence in the government of the world are above our comprehension, we should acquiesce in and rest satisfied with our ignorance, turn our thoughts from that which is above and beyond us, and apply ourselves to that which is level to our capacities, and which is our real business and concern .... Lastly, let us adore that infinite wisdom and power and goodness which is above our comprehension (Ecclus. 1:6). The conclusion is that in all lowliness of mind we set lightly by ourselves; that we form our temper to an implicit submission to the Divine Majesty, beget within ourselves an absolute resignation to all the methods of his providence in his dealings with the children of men; that in the deepest humility of our souls we prostrate ourselves before him, and join in that celestial song, 'Great and marvelous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints. Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy Name?' (Revelation 15:3, 4) (comp. Romans 11:33).





Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

Then I beheld all the work of God,.... Not of creation, but of Providence; took notice of it, contemplated on it, considered it, and weighed it well; viewed the various steps and methods of it, to find out, if possible, at least, some general rule by which it proceeded: but all so various and uncertain,

that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun: he can find out that it is done, but not the reason why it is done: the ways of God are in the deep, and not to be traced; they are unsearchable and past finding out; there is a a depth of wisdom and knowledge, in them, inscrutable by the wisest of men, Psalm 72:19;

because, though a man labour to seek it out, yet he shall not find it; Noldius and others render it "although"; not only a man that, in a slight and negligent manner, seeks after the knowledge of the works of divine Providence, and the reasons of them; but even one that is diligent and laborious at it is not able to find them out; they being purposely concealed by the Lord, to answer some ends of his;

yea, further, though a wise man think to know it, yet shall he not be able to find it; a man of a great natural capacity, such an one as Solomon himself, though he proposes to himself, and determines within himself to find it out, and sets himself to the work, and uses all the means and methods he can devise, and imagines with himself he shall be able to find out the reasons of the divine procedure, in his dispensations towards the righteous and the wicked; and yet, after all, he is not able to do it. The Targum is,

"what shall be done in the end of days;''

wherefore it is best for a man to be easy and quiet, and enjoy what he has in the best manner he can, and submit to the will of God.



Ecclesiastes 8:17 Additional Commentaries
Context
God's Ways are Mysterious
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
Romans 11:33
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!

Psalm 73:16
When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply

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 3:11
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

Ecclesiastes 7:13
Consider what God has done: Who can straighten what he has made crooked?

Ecclesiastes 7:23
All this I tested by wisdom and I said, "I am determined to be wise"-- but this was beyond me.

Ecclesiastes 7:24
Whatever exists is far off and most profound-- who can discover it?

Ecclesiastes 11:5
As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother's womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.
Treasury of Scripture

Then I beheld all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun: because though a man labor to seek it out, yet he shall not find it; yes farther; though a wise man think to know it, yet shall he not be able to find it.

that a man

Ecclesiastes 3:11 He has made every thing beautiful in his time: also he has set the …

Ecclesiastes 7:23,24 All this have I proved by wisdom: I said, I will be wise; but it …

Ecclesiastes 11:5 As you know not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones …

Job 5:9 Which does great things and unsearchable; marvelous things without number:

Job 11:7-9 Can you by searching find out God? can you find out the Almighty …

Psalm 40:5 Many, O LORD my God, are your wonderful works which you have done, …

Psalm 73:16 When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me;

Psalm 104:24 O LORD, how manifold are your works! in wisdom have you made them …

Proverbs 30:3,4 I neither learned wisdom, nor have the knowledge of the holy…

Isaiah 40:28 Have you not known? have you not heard, that the everlasting God, …

Romans 11:33 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! …

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