Ecclesiastes 8:10
And so I saw the wicked buried, who had come and gone from the place of the holy, and they were forgotten in the city where they had so done: this is also vanity.
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(10) They had so done.—An ambiguity in translation of this verse arises from the fact that the word translated “so” is rendered “well” (2Kings 7:9 and elsewhere). Consequently some understand the verse, “The wicked receive an honourable burial, while those who have acted well are driven away from the holy place (viz. Jerusalem, Isaiah 48:2; Neh. xi, 1, 18) and forgotten.” But we prefer to translate the word “so” the second time, as well as the first, where it occurs in the verse; and to take the meaning to be that the oppressor’s prosperity is but temporary, for soon comes death, burial, and forgetfulness of his honour.

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.i. e., "I saw wicked (rulers) buried, who came into the world and went from the Holy place (the seat of authority and justice, Deuteronomy 19:17; 2 Chronicles 19:6), and they were forgotten in the city where they had so ruled to the hurt of their subjects: this - their death and oblivion - shews their lot also to be vanity." Others interpret the verse: "I have seen wicked men buried; and (others) came into the world, and from the Holy place they went out of the world, and were forgotten in the city where they had done rightly" (compare 2 Kings 7:9). 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).

And so, in like manner, or such another vanity or disorder, I saw the wicked; wicked princes or rulers, as the next clause limits this.

Buried; die quietly in their beds, and afterward be buried with state and pomp, whereas in truth they deserved an untimely end, and no other than the burial of an ass.

Who had come and gone; who had administered public justice and government, which is frequently signified by the phrase of coming in and going out before the people, as Numbers 27:17 Deu 31:2. The seventy Jewish interpreters, whom some others follow, render the word, they were praised, applauded and adored, by the variation of one letter in the Hebrew word, which also is very like that letter which is in the text.

The place of the holy; by which he understands either,

1. The holy city Jerusalem, or the Holy Land, where Israel dwelt; which may be added to aggravate the wickedness of such persons, from the obligations, and counsels, and examples which they had to do better things. Or,

2. The seat of majesty and judgment, which may well be called the place or seat of the Holy, i.e. of God, who is called the Holy One, Habakkuk 3:3, and oft elsewhere, who is in a special manner present in and president over those places, whose work, and for whom, and in whose name and stead, magistrates act, who therefore are called gods; of all which see Exodus 22:28 Deu 1:17 1 Chronicles 29:23 Psalm 82:1, &c. And the throne or tribunal seems to be so called here, to aggravate their wickedness, who being sacred persons, and advanced by God into so high and sacred a place, betrayed so great a trust, and both practised and encouraged that wickedness which by their office they were obliged to suppress and punish. They were forgotten; whereas they designed to spread and perpetuate their names and memories to succeeding ages, Psalm 49:11. Where they had so done, i.e. come to and go from the place of the holy; where they lived in great splendour, and were buried with great magnificence; which might have kept up their remembrance at least in that place. This is also vanity; that men should so earnestly thirst after and please themselves with worldly greatness and glory, which is so soon extinct, and the very memory of it quickly worn out of the minds of men.

And so I saw the wicked buried,.... Or "truly" (k), verily, as the Targum, this is matter of fact; or "then I saw", as Aben Ezra and others, upon applying his heart to every work; or when be observed particularly wicked magistrates, he took notice that some of them continued in their power until death, and died in their beds, and were carried to their graves in great pomp and state, and interred in a very magnificent manner, when they deserved no burial at all, but, as King Jeconiah, to be buried with the burial of an ass;

who had come and gone from the place of the holy; which most understand of the same persons, of wicked magistrates buried, who kept their posts of honour and places of power and authority as long as they lived; and went to and came from the courts of judicature and tribunals of justice, in great state and splendour; where they presided as God's vicegerents, and therefore called the place of the holy, Psalm 82:1; or though they were sometimes deposed, yet they were restored again to their former dignity; or though they died and were buried, yet in a sense rose again in their children that succeeded them, so Aben Ezra: but it seems better to understated it of other persons, and render the, words thus, "and they came, and from the place of the holy", or "the holy place they walked" (l); that is, multitudes came to attend the funeral of such rich and mighty men, and walked after or followed the corpse; and ever, the priests and Levites from the temple made a part of the funeral procession, and walked in great solemnity from thence to the place of interment, which was usually without the city;

and they were forgotten in the city where they had done; all their evil deeds were forgotten, their acts of oppression and injustice, as if they had never been done by them. The Septuagint and Vulgate Latin versions are, "and they were praised in the city"; panegyrics upon them were written and rehearsed, monuments were erected to their honour, with large encomiums of them; and so it may be read by the change of a letter; and Jarchi says, do not read "forgotten", but "praised"; and so he says it is interpreted by their Rabbins. The whole may be considered in a very different view thus "but then I saw", &c. such arbitrary rulers die, and laid in the grave, one after another, and their names have been buried in oblivion, and never remembered more in the city where they have exercised so much power and authority. The latter part of the text is by many understood of good men, and rendered thus, "and" or "but on the contrary they were forgotten in the city where they had done right" (m); their persons and their good deeds were remembered no more; but this seems contrary to Psalm 112:6. The Targum paraphrases the whole thus;

"and in truth I have seen sinners that are buried and destroyed out of the world, from the holy place where the righteous dwell, who go to be burned in hell; and they are forgotten among the inhabitants of the city; and as they have done, it is done to them;''

this is also vanity; the pompous funeral of such wicked magistrates.

(k) "et vere", Vatablus. (l) "et venerunt, immo ex ipso etiam loco sancti itabant", Rambaschius. (m) So Piscator, Mercerus, Cocceius, Gejerus, Rambachius.

And so I saw the wicked buried, who had come and {i} gone from the {k} place of the holy, and they were forgotten in the city where they had so done: this is also vanity.

(i) That is, others as wicked as they.

(k) They who feared God and worshipped him as he had appointed.

10. And so I saw the wicked buried] The English version is scarcely intelligible, and as far as it is so, goes altogether astray. We must therefore begin with a new translation, And so I have seen the wicked buried and they went their way (i. e. died a natural death and were carried to the grave); but from the holy place they departed (i. e. were treated with shame and contumely, in some way counted unholy and put under a ban), and were forgotten in the city, even such as acted rightly.

The verse will require, however, some explanation in details. In the burial of the wicked we have a parallel to the pregnant significance of the word in the parable of Dives and Lazarus, where “the rich man died and was buried” (Luke 16:22). This, from the Jewish standpoint, was the fit close of a prosperous and honoured life (comp. 2 Chronicles 16:14; 2 Chronicles 26:23; 2 Chronicles 28:27; Jeremiah 22:18-19). It implied a public and stately ceremonial. The words “they are gone” are not, as some have thought, equivalent to “they have entered into rest” (Isaiah 57:2), but, as in ch. Ecclesiastes 1:4, are given as the way in which men speak respectfully of the dead as “gone” or “gathered to their fathers.” So the Latins said Abiit ad plures. So we speak, half-pityingly, of the dead, “Ah, he’s gone!”

The “holy place” may possibly mean the consecrated ground (I do not use the word in its modern technical sense) of sepulture, but there is no evidence that the term was ever so used among the Jews, and it is more natural to take it, as explained by the use of the same term in Matthew 24:15, as referring to the Temple. The writer has in his mind those whose names had been cast out as evil, who had been, as it were, excommunicated, “put out of the synagogue” (as in John 9:22; John 12:42), compelled to leave the Temple they had loved and worshipped in, departing with slow and sorrowing tread (comp. Psalm 38:6; Job 30:28). And soon their place knows them no more. A generation rises up that knows them not, and they are forgotten in the very city where they had once been honoured. The reflection was, perhaps, the result of a personal experience. The Debater himself may have been so treated. The hypocrites whom he condemned (ch. Ecclesiastes 5:1-7) may have passed their sentence upon him as heretical, as some did afterwards upon his writings (see Introduction, ch. iii). If he was suspected of being in any way a follower of Epicurus, that would seem to them a sufficient ground for their anathemas. Epicureanism was, as it were, to the later Rabbis the deadliest of all heresies, and when they wanted to brand the believers in Christ with the last stigma of opprobrium, they called them not Christians, or even Nazarenes, but Epicureans. Something of this feeling may be traced, as has been shewn in the Introduction, ch. v., even in the Wisdom of Solomon. The main thought, so far as it refers only to the perishableness of human fame, has been common to the observers of the mutability of human things in all ages, and the Debater had himself dwelt on it (chaps. Ecclesiastes 1:11, Ecclesiastes 6:4). It finds, perhaps, its most striking echo in a book which has much in common with one aspect of Ecclesiastes, the De Imitatione Christi of à Kempis (B. i. 3). In substituting “such as acted rightly” for “where they had so done,” I follow the use of the word which the A. V. translates as “so” (ken); in 2 Kings 7:9 (“we do not well”); Numbers 27:7 (“speak right”); Exodus 10:29 (“thou hast spoken well”); Joshua 2:4; Proverbs 15:7; Isaiah 16:6; Jeremiah 8:6; Jeremiah 23:10, and other passages.

I have given what seems to me (following wholly, or in part, on the lines of Ginsburg, Delitzsch, Knobel, and Bullock), the true meaning of this somewhat difficult verse, and it does not seem expedient, in a work of this nature, to enter at length into a discussion of the ten or twelve conflicting and complicated interpretations which seem to me, on various grounds, untenable. The chief points at issue are (1) whether the “departing from the place of the holy” belongs to “the wicked” of the first clause, or to those who are referred to in the second; (2) whether it describes that which was looked on as honourable or dishonourable, a stately funeral procession from temple or synagogue, or a penal and disgraceful expulsion; and (3) whether the latter are those who “act so,” i.e. as the wicked, or, as above, those who act rightly; and out of the varying combinations of the answers to these questions and of the various meanings attached to the phrases themselves, we get an almost indefinite number of theories as to the writer’s meaning.

this is also vanity] The recurrence of the refrain of the book at this point is interesting. It is precisely the survey of the moral anomalies of the world that originates and sustains the feeling so expressed.

Verses 10-15. - Section 6. Koheleth is troubled by apparent anomalies in God's moral government. He notes the prosperity of the godless and the misery of the righteous, God's abstention and the seeming impunity of sinners make men incredulous of Providence; but God is just in reward and punishment, as the end will prove. Meantime, returning to his old maxim, he advises men patiently to acquiesce in things as they are, and to make the best of life. Verse 10. - And so (וּבְכֵן); then, in like manner, under the same circumstances (Esther 4:16). The writer notes some apparent exceptions to the law of retribution of which he has just been speaking, the double particle at the beginning of the verse implying the connection with the preceding statement. I saw the wicked buried. "The wicked" are especially the despots (ver. 9). These are carried to their graves with every outward honor and respect, like the rich man in the parable, who "died, and was buried" (Luke 16:22). Such men, if they had received their due reward, far from having a pompous and magnificent funeral (which would befit only a good and honored life), would have been buried with the burial of an ass (comp. Isaiah 14:19; Jeremiah 22:19). So far the Authorized Version is undeniably correct. What follows is as certainly inaccurate as it is unintelligible. Who had come and gone from the place of the holy; literally, and they came, and from the place of the holy they went. The first verb seems to mean, "they came to their rest," they died a natural death. The words, in themselves ambiguous, are explained by the connection in which they stand (comp. Isaiah 57:2). Wright renders, "they came into being," and explains it with the following clause, "they went away from the holy place," as one generation coming and another going, in constant succession. But if, as we suppose, the paragraph applies to the despot, such an interpretation is unsuitable. Cox's idea, that oppressive despots "come again" in the persons of their wicked children, is wholly unsupported by the text. The verse admits and has received a dozen explanations differing more or less from one another. A good deal depends upon the manner in which the succeeding clause is translated, And they were forgotten in the city where they had so done. As the particle rendered "so" (ken) may also mean "well," "rightly," we get the rendering, "even such as acted justly," and thus introduce a contrast between the fate of the wicked man who is honored with a sumptuous funeral, and that of the righteous whose name is cast out as pollution and soon forgotten. So Cheyne ('Job and Solomon') gives, "And in accordance with this I have seen ungodly men honored, and that too in the holy place (the temple, Isaiah 18:7), but those who had acted rightly had to depart, and were forgotten in the city." Against this interpretation, which has been adopted by many, it may reasonably be urged that in the same verse ken would hardly be used in two different senses, and that there is nothing in the text to indicate a change of subject. It seems to me that the whole verse applies to the wicked man. He dies in peace, he leaves the holy place; the evil that he has done is forgotten in the very city where he had so done, i.e. done wickedly. "The place of the holy" is Jerusalem (Isaiah 48:2; Matthew 27:53) or the temple (Matthew 24:15). He is removed by death from that spot, the very name of which ought to have cried shame on his crimes and impiety. The expression seems to picture a great procession of priests and Levites accompanying the corpse of the deceased tyrant to the place of burial, while the final clause implies that no long lamentation was made over him, no monument erected to his memory (see the opposite of this in the treatment of Josiah, 2 Chronicles 35:24, 25). They who consider "the righteous " to be the subject of the last clauses see in the words, "from the holy place they departed," an intimation that these were excommunicated from the synagogue or temple, or banished from the promised land, on account of their opinions. I would translate the passage thus: In like manner have I seen the wicked buried, and they came to their rest, and they went from the holy place, and were forgotten in the city where they had so (wickedly) acted. The versions have followed various readings. Thus the Septuagint: "And then I saw the impious brought unto graves, and from the holy place; and they departed and were praised in the city, because they had so done;" Vulgate, "I have seen the impious buried, who also, while they still lived, were in the holy place, and were praised in the city as if men of just doings." Commenting oh this version, St. Gregory writes, "The very tranquility of the peace of the Church conceals many under the Christian name who are beset with the plague of their own wickedness. But if a light breath of persecution strikes them, it sweeps them away at once as chaff from the threshing-floor. But some persons wish to bear the mark of Christian calling, because, since the name of Christ has been exalted on high, nearly all persons now look to appear faithful, and from seeing others called thus, they are ashamed not to seem faithful themselves; but they neglect to be that which they beast of being called. For they assume the reality of inward excellence, to adorn their outward appearance; and they who stand before the heavenly Judge, naked from the unbelief of their heart, are clothed, in the sight of men, with a holy profession, at least in words" ('Moral.,' 25:26). This is also vanity. The old refrain recurs to the writer as he thinks on the prosperity of the wicked, and the conclusions which infidels draw therefrom. Here is another example of the vanity that prevails in all earthly circumstances. Ecclesiastes 8:10"And then I have seen the wicked buried, and they came to rest; but away from the holy place they had to depart, and were forgotten in the city, such as acted justly: also this is vain." The double particle בּכן signifies, in such a manner, or under such circumstances; with "I have seen" following, it may introduce an observation coming under that which precedes (בכן equals Mishnic בּכך), or, with the force of the Lat. inde, introduce a further observation of that ruler; this temporal signification "then" ( equals אז), according to which we have translated, it has in the Targ. (vid., Levy's W.B.).

(Note: Cf. וכן, 2 Chronicles 32:31; Ewald, 354a; Baer's Abodath Jisrael, pp. 384, 386.)

Apparently the observation has two different classes of men in view, and refers to their fate, contradicting, according to appearance, the rectitude of God. Opposite to the רשׁ ("the wicked") stand they who are described as וגו אשׁר: they who have practised what is rightly directed, what stands in a right relation (vid., regarding כּן, as noun, under Proverbs 11:19), have brought the morally right into practice, i.e., have acted with fidelity and honour (כּן עשׂה, as at 2 Kings 7:9). Koheleth has seen the wicked buried; ראה is followed by the particip. as predic. obj., as is שׁמע, Ecclesiastes 7:21; but קבוּרים is not followed by וּבאים (which, besides not being distinct enough as part. perfecti, would be, as at Nehemiah 13:22, part. praes.), but, according to the favourite transition of the particip. into the finite, Gesen. 134. 2, by ובאוּ, not וּבאוּ; for the disjunctive Reba has the fuller form with waa; cf. Isaiah 45:20 with Job 17:10, and above, at Ecclesiastes 2:23. "To enter in" is here, after Isaiah 47:2, equals to enter into peace, come to rest.

(Note: Cf. Zunz, Zur Gesch. u. Literatur, pp. 356-359.)

That what follows ומם does not relate to the wicked, has been mistaken by the lxx, Aquila, Symm., Theod., and Jerome, who translate by ἐπῃνήθησαν, laudabantur, and thus read ישתבחו (the Hithpa., Psalm 106:47, in the pass. sense), a word which is used in the Talm. and Midrash along with שתכחו.

(Note: The Midrash Tanchuma, Par. יתרו, init., uses both expressions; the Talm. Gittin 56b, applies the passage to Titus, who took away the furniture of the temple to magnify himself therewith in his city.)

The latter, testified to by the Targ. and Syr., is without doubt the correct reading: the structure of the antithetical parallel members is chiastic; the naming of the persons in 1a a precedes that which is declared, and in 1a b it follows it; cf. Psalm 70:5, Psalm 75:9. The fut. forms here gain, by the retrospective perfects going before, a past signification. מק קד, "the place of the holy," is equivalent to מקום קדושׁ, as also at Leviticus 7:6. Ewald understands by it the place of burial: "the upright were driven away (cast out) from the holy place of graves." Thus e.g., also Zckl., who renders: but wandered far from the place of the holy ... those who did righteously, i.e., they had to be buried in graves neither holy nor honourable. But this form of expression is not found among the many designations of a burial-place used by the Jews (vid., below, Ecclesiastes 12:5, and Hamburger's Real-Encykl. fr Bibel u. Talm., article "Grab"). God's-acre is called the "good place,"

(Note: Vid., Tendlau's Sprichw., No. 431.)

but not the "holy place." The "holy place," if not Jerusalem itself, which is called by Isaiah II (Isaiah 48:2), Neh., and Dan., 'ir haqqodesh (as now el-ḳuds), is the holy ground of the temple of God, the τόπος ἃγιος (Matthew 24:15), as Aquila and Symm. translate. If, now, we find min connected with the verb halak, it is to be presupposed that the min designates the point of departure, as also השׁלך מן, Isaiah 14:19. Thus not: to wander far from the holy place; nor as Hitz., who points יהלכוּ: they pass away (perish) far from the holy place. The subject is the being driven away from the holy place, but not as if יהלּ were causative, in the sense of יוליכוּ fo esne, and meant ejiciunt, with an indef. subj. (Ewald, Heiligst., Elst.), - it is also, Ecclesiastes 4:15; Ecclesiastes 11:9, only the intens. of Kal, - but יהלּ denotes, after Psalm 38:7; Job 30:28, cf. Job 24:10, the meditative, dull, slow walk of those who are compelled against their will to depart from the place which they love (Psalm 26:8; Psalm 84:2.). They must go forth (whither, is not said, but probably into a foreign country; cf. Amos 7:17), and only too soon are they forgotten in the city, viz., the holy city; a younger generation knows nothing more of them, and not even a gravestone brings them back to the memory of their people. Also this is a vanity, like the many others already registered - this, viz., that the wicked while living, and also in their death, possess the sacred native soil; while, on the contrary the upright are constrained to depart from it, and are soon forgotten. Divine rectitude is herein missed. Certainly it exists, and is also recognised, but it does not show itself always when we should expect it, nor so soon as appears to us to be salutary.

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