Ecclesiastes 8:12
Though a sinner do evil an hundred times, and his days be prolonged, yet surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him:
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(12) Though.—Better, Because; the first part of this verse being in continuation of the preceding. The latter part of the verse states the faith which the writer holds in spite of apparent contrary experience.

Ecclesiastes 8:12-13. Though a sinner do evil a hundred times — Frequently, and innumerably; and his days be prolonged — The time of his life and prosperity; yet it shall be well with them that fear God — This implies both that good men might for a time suffer grievous things from tyrants, oppressors, and persecutors, and that it should be very ill with the wicked, which, indeed, is expressed in the following verse: which fear before him — Who stand in awe of God, and fear and forbear to sin, out of a sincere regard and reverence for him. But it shall not be well with the wicked — That is, it shall go very ill with him; great miseries are prepared for him; neither shall he prolong his days — Namely, very long, as he desires; which are as a shadow — His life, though it may seem long, yet in truth is but a shadow, which will quickly vanish and disappear. Because he feareth not God — He is cut off, and this misery is prepared for him as the punishment of his casting off the fear and service of God.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.His days be prolonged - i. e., in his wickedness Ecclesiastes 8:8.

"I" is emphatic, as if to mark the opposition to the "sons of men" Ecclesiastes 8:11.

12. He says this, lest the sinner should abuse the statement (Ec 7:15), "A wicked man prolongeth his life."

before him—literally, "at His presence"; reverently serve Him, realizing His continual presence.

An hundred times; frequently and innumerably.

His days; the time of his life and prosperity.

It shall be well with them that fear God; whereby he implies, both that good men might for a time suffer grievous things from such wicked tyrants, and that it should be very ill with the wicked, which is manifest from the contrary course and condition of good and bad men, and which is expressed in the following words: compare Psalm 2:12. Before him; or, at his presence; who stand in awe of God, and forbear and fear to sin out of a sincere respect and reverence to God. Though a sinner do evil an hundred times,.... That is ever so many times, a certain number for an uncertain; though he lives in a continued course of sin, being resolved upon the above consideration to give himself a swing to his lusts. The Targum renders it a hundred years; though be should live so long in sin, yet at last should be accursed Isaiah 65:20. This and what follows are said to check the boldness and presumption of the sinner upon the patience of God; and to make the people of God easy under the delay of justice, and the prosperity of the wicked;

and his days be prolonged: or rather, "and he prolongs unto him" (o); that is, God prolongs unto him, not days only, but the execution of the sentence against his evil works; or defers his wrath and punishment; so Jarchi,

"and the holy blessed God prolongs to him, and does not take vengeance on him;''

and to this purpose is the Targum,

"and from the Lord is given to him space to return;''

yet surely I know; from the word and promise, and from experience, having observed it in a multitude of instances, which have abundantly confirmed the truth;

that it shall be well with them that fear God; not with a servile but filial fear, with a holy, humble, fiducial, affectionate, and an obediential fear; not through any terrible apprehension of his majesty, his judgment, his wrath now and hereafter; but under a sense of his being and perfections, and especially his mercy, grace, and goodness: it is well with such persons in all things; with respect to things temporal they shall not want what is proper for them; and with respect to things spiritual they are interested in the love, grace, and mercy of God; have much made known to them; are remembered by him; the sun of righteousness rises upon them; the eye of God is on them, and his heart towards them, and his hand communicates every needful supply to them; and they are guarded, not only by his angels, but by himself; and it is well with them at all times; in times of public calamity they are either taken from it beforehand, or preserved in it; all afflictions are for their good; it goes well with them at death and judgment; and they will be happy both in the millennium state and in the ultimate glory, So the Targum,

"it shall be well in the world to come with them that fear the Lord;''

see Psalm 34:7; with this compare Isaiah 3:10; it is added,

which fear before him: whose fear is not hypocritical, but sincere and hearty; not in show only, but in reality; not the precepts of men, and as before them, but as the sight of God; having always a sense of omniscience and omnipresence before them; and especially this fear is exercised by them when they are his house, in the assembly of his saints, attending his word and ordinances: or "which fear at his presence"; which fills them with a holy awe, as wall as with joy and gladness. The Targum is,

"which fear before him, and do his will.''

(o) "et prolongans ei", Montanus; "et prolongat in Deus dies", Pagninus; so Mercerus, Junius & Tremellius, supply it; "et prorogat dei Deus poenam", Piscator; "et differt Deus iram suam propter illium", Vatablus.

Though a sinner do evil an hundred times, and his days be prolonged, yet surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him:
12. Though a sinner do evil an hundred times] The definite number is used, of course, as in Proverbs 17:10; or the “hundred years” of Isaiah 65:20; or the “seventy times seven” of Matthew 18:22, for the indefinite. There is no adequate reason for inserting “years” instead of “times.” By some grammarians it is maintained that the conjunctions should be read “Because a sinner …” and “although I know,” but the Authorised Version is supported by high authority.

yet surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God] The adverb “surely” has nothing answering to it in the Hebrew, and seems an attempt to represent the emphasis of the Hebrew pronoun. Better, perhaps, I for my part. We may compare the manner in which Æschylus utters a like truth on the moral government of the world:

δίχα δʼ ἄλλων μονόφρων εἰμί. τὸ γὰρ δυσσεβὲς ἔργον

μετὰ μὲν πλείονα τίκτει, σφετέρᾳ δʼ εἰκότα γέννᾳ.

“But I, apart from all,

Hold this my creed alone:

For impious act it is that offspring breeds,

Like to their parent stock.”

Agam. 757, 8.

There is an obviously intentional contrast between what the thinker has seen (Ecclesiastes 8:9), and what he now says he knows as by an intuitive conviction. His faith is gaining strength, and he believes, though, it may be, with no sharply defined notion as to time and manner, that the righteousness of God, which seems to be thwarted by the anomalies of the world, will in the long run assert itself. There is at least an inward peace with those who fear God, which no tyrant or oppressor can interfere with. The seeming tautology of the last clause is best explained by supposing that the term “God-fearers” had become (as in Malachi 3:16) the distinctive name of a religious class, such as the Chasidim (the “Assideans” of 1Ma 2:42; 1Ma 7:13; 2Ma 14:6), or “devout ones” were in the time of the Maccabees. The Debater, with the keen scent for the weaknesses of a hypocritical formalism, which we have seen in ch. Ecclesiastes 5:1-7, says with emphatic iteration, as it were, “when I say ‘God-fearing’ I mean those that do fear God in reality as well as name.” So in French men talk of la vérité vraie, or we might speak of “a liberal indeed liberal,” “religious people who are religious,” and so on.Verse 12. - Though a sinner do evil a hundred times. The sentence begins again, as ver. 11, with asher, followed by a participle; and the conjunction ought to be rendered "because," the statement made in the former verse being resumed and strengthened. The Vulgate has attamen, which our version follows. The Septuagint goes astray, translating, ο{ς ἥμαρτεν, "He that has sinned has done evil from that time." The sinner is here supposed to have transgressed continually without cheek or punishment. The expression, "a hundred times," is used indefinitely, as Proverbs 17:10; Isaiah 65:20. And his days be prolonged; better, prolongeth his days for it; i.e. in the practice of evil, with a kind of contentment and satisfaction, the pronoun being the ethic dative. Contrary to the usual course of temporal retribution, the sinner often lives to old age The Vulgate has, Et per patientiam sustentatur, which signifies that he is kept in life by God's long-suffering. Ginsburg gives, "and is perpetuated," i.e. in his progeny - which is a possible, but not a probable, rendering. Yet surely I know; rather, though I for my part know. He has seen sinners prosper; this experience has been forced upon him; yet he holds an inward conviction that God's moral government will vindicate itself at some time and in some signal manner. It shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him. This is not really tautological; it is compared to St. Paul's expression (1 Timothy 5:3), "widows that are widows indeed" (ὄντως), implying that they are, in fact and life, what they profess to be. Delitzsch and Plumptre suggest that in Koheleth's time "God-fearers" had become the name of a religious class, as the Chasidim, or "Assideaus," in I Macc. 2:42; 7:13, etc. Certainly a trace of this so-named party is seen in Psalm 118:4; Malachi 3:16. When this adjustment of anomalies shall take place, whether in this life or in another, the writer says not here. In spite of all contrary appearances, he holds firm to his faith that it will be welt with the righteous in the long run. The comfort and peace of a conscience at rest, and the inward feeling that his life was ordered after God's will, would compensate a good man for much outward trouble; and if to this was added the assured hope of another life, it might indeed be said that it was well with him. The Septuagint has, "that they may fear before him," which implies that the mercy and loving-kindness of God, manifested in his care of the righteous, lead to piety and true religion. Cheyne ('Job and Solomon'), combining this verse with the next, produces a sense which is certainly not in the present Hebrew text, "For I know that it ever happens that a sinner does evil for a long time, and yet lives long, whilst he who fears before God is short-lived as a shadow." "For there is a time and decision for everything, for the wickedness of man becomes too great." From Ecclesiastes 8:6 there follow four clauses with כּי; by such monotonous repetition of one and the same word, the author also elsewhere renders the exposition difficult, affording too free a space for understanding the כי as confirming, or as hypothetical, and for co-ordinating or subordinating to each other the clauses with כי. Presupposing the correctness of our exposition of Ecclesiastes 8:5, the clause Ecclesiastes 8:6 with כי may be rendered parenthetically, and that with כי in Ecclesiastes 8:6 hypothetically: "an end and decision the heart of the wise man will come to experience (because for everything there is an end and decision), supposing that the wickedness of man has become great upon him, i.e., his burden of guilt has reached its full measure." We suppose thereby (1) that בּה, which appears from the accent on the ult. to be an adj., can also be the 3rd pret., since before ע the tone has gone back to h (cf. Genesis 26:10; Isaiah 11:1), to protect it from being put aside; but generally the accenting of such forms of עע hovers between the penult. and the ult., e.g., Psalm 69:5; Psalm 55:22; Proverbs 14:19. Then (2) that עליו goes back to האדם without distinction of persons, which has a support in Ecclesiastes 6:1, and that thus a great רעה is meant lying upon man, which finally finds its punishment. But this view of the relation of the clauses fails, in that it affords no connection for Ecclesiastes 8:7. It appears to be best to co-ordinate all the four כי as members of one chain of proof, which reaches its point in Ecclesiastes 8:8, viz., in the following manner: the heart of a wise man will see the time and the judgment of the ruler, laying to his heart the temptation to rebellion; for (1) as the author has already said, Ecclesiastes 3:17 : "God will judge the righteous as well as the wicked, for there is with Him a time for every purpose and for every act;" (2) the wickedness of man (by which, as Ecclesiastes 3:9 shows, despots are aimed at) which he has committed, becomes great upon him, so that suddenly at once the judgment of God will break in upon him; (3) he knows not what will be done; (4) no one can tell him how (quomodo) it, the future, will be, so that he might in any way anticipate it - the judgment will overwhelm him unexpectedly and irretrievably: wickedness does not save its possessor.
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