And moreover I saw under the sun the place of judgment, that wickedness was there; and the place of righteousness, that iniquity was there.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Ecclesiastes 4:1; Ecclesiastes 5:8; Ecclesiastes 6:7; Ecclesiastes 8:9-10.Ecclesiastes 3:16. And moreover, &c. — This is another argument of the vanity of worldly things, and a hinderance of that comfort which men expect in this life, because they are oppressed by their rulers. I saw the place of judgment — In the thrones of princes, and tribunals of magistrates, where judgment should be duly executed. Solomon is still showing that every thing in this world, without the fear of God, is vanity. In these verses he shows that power, of which men are so ambitious, and life itself, are nothing worth without it.Ecclesiastes 3:16-17. As for people, they are placed by God, who is their teacher, in a humble condition, even on a level with inferior animals, by death, that great instance of their subjection to vanity Ecclesiastes 3:18-19, which reduces to its original form all that was made of the dust of the ground Ecclesiastes 3:20. And though the destinies of man and beast are different, yet in our present lack of knowledge as to God's future dealing with our spirits Ecclesiastes 3:21, man finds his portion (see the Ecclesiastes 2:10 note) in such labor and such joy as God assigns to him in his lifetime Ecclesiastes 3:22.
1. As another vanity, to wit, the vanity of honour and power, which is so oft an instrument of injustice and oppression. Or rather,
2. As another argument of the vanity of worldly things, or a hinderance of that comfort which men expect in this life, because they are oppressed by their rulers.
I saw; I perceived it by information from others, and by my own observation.
The place of judgment; in the thrones of princes and tribunals of magistrates, where judgment should be duly executed.
Wickedness was there; judgment was perverted, the guilty acquitted, and the innocent condemned.
The place of righteousness; in which righteousness should be found and should dwell, if it were banished from all other places.
that wickedness was there, wicked judges sat there, and wickedness was committed by them; instead of doing justice they perverted it; condemned the righteous, and acquitted the wicked; and oppressed the widow, fatherless, and stranger, whose cause, being just, they should have defended. So the Targum,
"in which lying judges condemn the innocent.''
Well does the wise man say he saw this "under the sun", for there is nothing of this kind above it; nor approved of by him that is above it;
and the place of righteousness, that iniquity was there; this signifies the same as before, only it is expressed in different words. The Midrash and Jarchi interpret this of the middle gate in Jerusalem, where Nergal Sharezer, and other princes of the king of Babylon, sat, and which Solomon foresaw by a spirit of prophecy; but the better sense is, that Solomon had observed a great deal of this kind in reading the histories and annals of nations; knew that much of this sort was practised in other countries, and had seen a great deal of it in his own, done in inferior courts, and by subordinate officers; and though he was a wise and righteous prince, yet was not able to rectify all these abuses, for want of sufficient proof, which yet he lamented, and it gave him a concern; compare with this Isaiah 1:21.And moreover I saw under the sun the place of judgment, that wickedness was there; and the place of righteousness, that iniquity was there.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)16. I saw under the sun the place of judgment] The Hebrew gives slightly different forms of the same noun, so as to gain the emphasis, without the monotony, of iteration, where the A.V. has the needless variation of “wickedness” and “iniquity.” Either word will do, but it should be the same in both clauses. We enter on another phase of the seeker’s thoughts. The moral disorder of the world, its oppressive rulers, its unjust judges, its religious hypocrisies, oppress him even more than the failure of his own schemes of happiness. In part the feeling implies a step out of selfishness, sympathy with the sufferers, the perception of what ought to be, as contrasted with what is, and therefore an upward step in the seeker’s progress. In the “place of judgment” we may see the tribunal where justice is administered: in that of “righteousness” the councils, secular, or, it may be, ecclesiastical, in which men ought to have been witnesses for the divine law of Righteousness and were self-seeking and ambitious.Verses 16-22. - Acknowledging the providential government of God, which controls events and places man's happiness out of his own power, one is confronted also by the fact that there is much wickedness, much injustice, in the world, which oppose all plans for peaceful enjoyment. Doubtless there shall be a day of retribution for such iniquities; and God allows them now in order to try men and to teach them humility. Meantime man's duty and happiness consist, as before said, in making the best use of the present and improving the opportunities which God gives him. Verse 16. - And moreover I saw under the sun the place of judgment. Koheleth records his experience of the prevalence of iniquity in high places. The place of judgment (mishat); where justice is administered. The accentuation allows (cf. Genesis 1:1) this to be regarded as the object of the verb. The Revised Version, with Hitzig, Ginsburg, and others, take מְקום as an adverbial expression equivalent to "in the place." The former is the simpler construction. "And moreover," at the commencement of the verse, looks back to ver. 10," I have seen the travail," etc. That wickedness (resha) was there. On the judicial seat iniquity sat instead of justice. The place of righteousness (tsedek). "Righteousness" is the peculiar characteristic of the judge himself, as "justice" is of his decisions. That iniquity (resha) was there. The word ought to be translated "wickedness" or "iniquity" in both clauses. The Septuagint takes the abstract for the concrete, and at the end has apparently introduced a clerical error, which has been perpetuated in the Arabic and elsewhere, "And moreover I saw under the sun the place of judgment, there was the ungodly (ἀσεβής); and the place of the righteous, there was the godly (εὐσεβής)." The Complutensian Polyglot reads ἀσεβὴς in both places. It is impossible to harmonize these statements of oppression and injustice here and elsewhere (e.g., Ecclesiastes 4:1; Ecclesiastes 5:8; Ecclesiastes 8:9, 10) with Solomon's authorship of the book. It is contrary to fact that such a corrupt state of things existed in his time, and in writing thus he would be uttering a libel against himself. If he was cognizant of such evils in his kingdom, he had nothing to do but to put them down with a high hand. There is nothing to lead to the belief that he is speaking of other countries and other times; he is stating his own personal experience of what goes on around him. It is true that in Solomon's latter days disaffection secretly prevailed, and the people felt his yoke grievous (1 Kings 12:4); but there is no evidence of the existence of corruption in judicial courts, or of the social and political evils of which he speaks in this book. That he had a prophetical for, sight of the disasters that would accompany the reign of his successor, and endeavors herein to provide consolation for the future sufferers, is a pious opinion without historical basis, and cannot be justly used to support the genuineness of the work. Ecclesiastes 1:14, ראיתי is here seeing in the way of research, as elsewhere, e.g., at Ecclesiastes 2:24, it is as the result of research. In Ecclesiastes 3:10 the author says that he closely considered the labour of men, and in Ecclesiastes 3:11 he states the result. It is impossible to render the word ענין everywhere by the same German (or English) word: Ecclesiastes 1:13, wearisome trouble; Ecclesiastes 2:26, business; here: Geschftigkeit, the idea is in all the three places the same, viz., an occupation which causes trouble, costs effort. What presented itself to the beholder was (1) that He (viz., God, cf. Ecclesiastes 3:10 and Ecclesiastes 3:11) has made everything beautiful in its time. The author uses יפה as synon. of טוב (Ecclesiastes 3:17); also in other languages the idea of the beautiful is gradually more and more generalized. The suffix in בּעתּו does not refer to God, but to that which is in the time; this word is equals ἐν καιρῷ ιδίῳ (Symm.), at its proper time (vid., Psalm 1:3; Psalm 104:27; Jeremiah 5:24, etc.), since, as with יחדּו (together with) and כּלּו (every one), the suffix is no longer thought of as such. Like יפה, בעתו as pred. conception belongs to the verb: He has made everything beautiful; He has made everything (falling out) at its appointed time. - The beauty consists in this, that what is done is not done sooner or later than it ought to be, so as to connect itself as a constituent part to the whole of God's work. The pret. עשׂה is to be also interpreted as such: He "has made," viz., in His world-plan, all things beautiful, falling out at the appointed time; for that which acquires an actual form in the course of history has a previous ideal existence in the knowledge and will of God (vid., under Isaiah 22:11; Isaiah 37:26).
That which presented itself to the beholder was - (2) the fact that He (God) had put את־העלם in their hearts (i.e., the hearts of men). Gaab and Spohn interpret 'olam in the sense of the Arab. 'ilam, knowledge, understanding; and Hitz., pointing the word accordingly עלם, translates: "He has also placed understanding in their heart, without which man," etc. The translation of אשׁר אשׁלי is not to be objected to; מבּ is, however, only seldom a conjunction, and is then to be translated by eo quod, Exodus 14:11; 2 Kings 1:3, 2 Kings 1:6, 2 Kings 1:16, which is not appropriate here; it will thus be here also a prep., and with asher following may mean "without which," as well as "without this, that" equals "besides that" (Venet. ἄνευ τοῦ ὃτι, "except that"), as frequently כּי אפס, e.g., at Amos 9:8. But that Arab. 'ilam is quite foreign to the Heb., which has no word עלם in the sense of "to rise up, to be visible, knowable," which is now also referred
(Note: Vid., Fried. Delitzsch's Assyr. Stud. (1874), p. 39. Otherwise Fleischer, who connects 'alima, "to know," with 'alam, "to conceal," so that to know equals to be concealed, sunk deep, initiated in something (with ba of the obj., as sh'ar, whence shâ'ir, the poet as "one who marks").)
to for the Assyr. as the stem-word of עילם equals highland. It is true Hitzig believes that he has found the Heb. עלם equals wisdom, in Sir. 6:21, where there is a play on the word with נעלם, "concealed:" σοφία γὰρ κατὰ τὸ ὄνομα αὐτῆς ἐστί, καὶοὐ πολλοῖς ἐστὶ φανερά. Drusius and Eichhorn have here already taken notice of the Arab. 'ilam; but Fritzsche with right asks, "Shall this word as Heb. be regarded as traceable only here and falsely pointed only at Ecclesiastes 3:11, and shall no trace of it whatever be found in the Chald., Syr., and Rabbin.?" We have also no need of it. That Ben-Sira has etymologically investigated the word חכמה as going back to חכם, R. chap, "to be firm, shut up, dark" (vid., at Psalm 10:8), is certainly very improbable, but so much the more probable (as already suggested by Drusius) that he has introduced
(Note: Grtz translates eth-ha'olam by "ignorance" (vid., Orelli, p. 83). R. Achwa in the Midrash has added here the scriptio defectiva with the remark, שהועלם וגו, "for the mysterious name of God is concealed from them.")
into חכמה, after the Aram. אכם, nigrescere, the idea of making dark. Does eth-ha'olam in this passage before us then mean "the world" (Jerome, Luther, Ewald), or "desire after the knowledge of the world" (Rashi), or "worldly-mindedness" (Gesen., Knobel)? The answer to this has been already given in my Psychol. p. 406 (2nd:ed.): "In post-bibl. Heb. 'olam denotes not only 'eternity' backwards and forwards as infinite duration, but also 'the world' as that which endures for ever (αἰών, seculum); the world in this latter sense is, however, not yet known
(Note: In the Phoen. also, 'olam, down to a late period, denotes not the world, but eternity: melek 'olam, βασιλεὺς αἰώνος (αἰώνιος), seculo frugifero on a coin equals the fruit-bringing 'olam (Αἰών).)
to the bibl. language, and we will thus not be able to interpret the words of Koheleth of the impulse of man to reflect on the whole world." In itself, the thought that God has placed the whole world in man's heart is not untrue: man is, indeed, a micro-cosmos, in which the macrocosmos mirrors itself (Elster), but the connection does not favour it; for the discussion does not proceed from this, that man is only a member in the great universe, and that God has given to each being its appointed place, but that in all his experience he is conditioned by time, and that in the course of history all that comes to him, according to God's world-plan, happens at its appointed time. But the idea by which that of time, את (זמן), is surpassed is not the world, but eternity, to which time is related as part is to the whole (Cicero, Inv. i. 26. 39, tempus est pars quaedam aeternitatis). The Mishna language contains, along with the meaning of world, also this older meaning of 'olam, and has formed from it an adv. עולמית, aeterne. The author means to say that God has not only assigned to each individually his appointed place in history, thereby bringing to the consciousness of man the fact of his being conditioned, but that He has also established in man an impulse leading him beyond that which is temporal toward the eternal: it lies in his nature not to be contented with the temporal, but to break through the limits which it draws around him, to escape from the bondage and the disquietude within which he is held, and amid the ceaseless changes of time to console himself by directing his thoughts to eternity.
This saying regarding the desiderium aeternitatis being planted in the heart of man, is one of the profoundest utterances of Koheleth. In fact, the impulse of man shows that his innermost wants cannot be satisfied by that which is temporal. He is a being limited by time, but as to his innermost nature he is related to eternity. That which is transient yields him no support, it carries him on like a rushing stream, and constrains him to save himself by laying hold on eternity. But it is not so much the practical as the intellectual side of this endowment and this peculiar dignity of human nature which Koheleth brings her to view.
It is not enough for man to know that everything that happens has its divinely-ordained time. There is an instinct peculiar to his nature impelling him to pass beyond this fragmentary knowledge and to comprehend eternity; but his effort is in vain, for (3) "man is unable to reach unto the work which God accomplisheth from the beginning to the end." The work of God is that which is completing itself in the history of the world, of which the life of individual men is a fragment. Of this work he says, that God has wrought it עשׂה; because, before it is wrought out in its separate "time," it is already completed in God's plan. Eternity and this work are related to each other as the accomplished and the being accomplished, they are interchangeably the πλήρωμα to each other. ימצא is potential, and the same in conception as at Ecclesiastes 8:17; Job 11:7; Job 37:23; a knowledge is meant which reaches to the object, and lays hold of it. A laying hold of this work is an impossibility, because eternity, as its name 'olam denotes, is the concealed, i.e., is both forwards and backwards immeasurable. The desiderium aeternitatis inherent in man thus remains under the sun unappeased. He would raise himself above the limits within which he is confined, and instead of being under the necessity of limiting his attention to isolated matters, gain a view of the whole of God's work which becomes manifest in time; but this all-embracing view is for him unattainable.
If Koheleth had known of a future life - which proves that as no instinct in the natural world is an allusion, so also the impulse toward the eternal, which is natural to man, is no illusion-he would have reached a better ultimatum than the following: -
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