But it shall not be well with the wicked, neither shall he prolong his days, which are as a shadow; because he fears not before God.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)As a shadow.—Ecclesiastes 6:12; Wisdom Of Solomon 2:5; see also Wisdom Of Solomon 4:8.Ecclesiastes 8:8.
"I" is emphatic, as if to mark the opposition to the "sons of men" Ecclesiastes 8:11.
shadow—(Ec 6:12; Job 8:9).It shall not be well, i.e. it shall go very ill with him; great miseries are prepared for him; which is a figure oft used in Scripture, as hath been formerly and frequently observed.
Neither shall he prolong his days, to wit, very long, or for ever, as he desireth.
As a shadow; his life, though it may be or seem to be long, yet in truth is but a mere shadow, which will quickly vanish and disappear, and be as if it never had been; and many times, like a shadow, when it is longest, it is nearest to abolition.
Because he feareth not before God; this is the punishment of his wickedness, and his casting off the fear and service of God. For although the lives of good men upon earth are short, as well as the lives of the wicked, yet their days are not like a shadow, because they are prolonged far beyond this mortal state, even to all eternity, and death itself doth but open the way for them to an endless life. Isaiah 3:11; in life they have no solid peace and comfort; at death they will be turned into at judgment they will hear the awful sentence, "Go, ye cursed", and will be in torment to all eternity, Matthew 25:41;
neither shall he prolong his days, which are as a shadow: wicked men sometimes do not live out half their days, which, according to the course of nature, and common term of life, they might be thought to live; or if they prolong their days in wickedness, as sometimes they do, Ecclesiastes 7:15; yet their days at longest are but a shadow which declines, and is quickly gone; or, however, they do not attain to eternal life, which is sometimes meant by prolonging days, and is length of days for ever and ever, Isaiah 53:10; this they never enjoy; but when the righteous go into life lasting, they go into everlasting punishment. The reason of this is,
because he feareth not before God; the fear of God is not before his eyes, nor in his heart; he goes on in sin without fear of him, boldly and openly commits it, and instead of taking shame for it, or repenting of it, glories in it; stretches out his hand against God, and bids defiance to him, and desires not the knowledge of him, and refuses to obey him The Targum of the whole is,
"and it shall not be well with the wicked, and he shall have no space in the world to come; and in this world his days shall be cut off, and they shall flee and pass away as a shadow, because he fears not God.''But it shall not be well with the wicked, neither shall he prolong his days, which are as a shadow; because he feareth not before God.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)13. neither shall he prolong his days, which are as a shadow] The words seem at first in direct contradiction to the admission of the previous verse. But it is of the nature of the method of the book to teach by paradoxes, and to let the actual contradictions of the world reflect themselves in his teaching. What is meant is that the wicked does not gain by a prolonged life; that, as Isaiah had taught of old, “the sinner though he die a hundred years old, is as one accursed” (Isaiah 65:20). His life is still a shadow and “he disquieteth himself in vain” (Psalm 39:6). So the writer of the Wisdom of Solomon (Ecclesiastes 4:8) writes, probably not without a reference to this very passage, that “honourable age is not that which standeth in length of time, nor that is measured by the number of the years.” In the “days which are as a shadow,” so far as they refer to the shortness of human life in general, we find, as before in ch. Ecclesiastes 6:12, echoes of Greek thought.
It is noticeable that in Wis 2:5, in accordance with what one may call the polemic tendency of the writer, the thought and the phrase are put into the mouth of the “ungodly, who reasoned not aright.” The universal fact, however, has become a universal thought and finds echoes everywhere (Psalm 102:11; Psalm 144:4).Verse 13. - But it shall not be well with the wicked. If experience seemed often to militate against this assertion, Koheleth's faith prevailed against apparent contradictions. Neither shall he prolong his days, which are as a shadow. Above we read of a wicked man enjoying a long, untroubled life; here the contrary is stated. Such contradictions are seen every day. There are inscrutable reasons for the delay of judgment; but on the whole moral government is vindicated, and even the long life of a sinner is no blessing. The author of the Book of Wisdom writes (4:8), "Honorable age is not that which standeth in length of time, nor that is measured by number of years;" and Isaiah (Isaiah 65:20), "The sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed." Man's life is compared to a shadow because it passes away with the setting sun (see on Ecclesiastes 6:12). The Vulgate, in order to obviate the apparent discrepancy between this and the preceding verses, renders the verb in a precatory form: Non sit bonum impio, etc., "Let it not be well with the wicked, and let his days not be prolonged; but let them pass away as a shadow who fear not the Lord." This is quite unnecessary; and the words, "as a shadow," according to the accents, belong to what precedes, as in the Authorized Version. Hitzig and others have adopted the Vulgate division, and render, "Like a shadow is he who fears not God." But there is no sufficient reason for disregarding the existing accentuation. Septuagint, "He shall not prolong his days in a shadow (ἐν σκιᾷ)." Because he feareth not before God. This is the reason, looking to temporal retribution, why the wicked shall not live out half their days (Ecclesiastes 7:17; Proverbs 10:27; Psalm 55:23). Koheleth cleaves to the doctrine received from old time, although facts seem often to contradict it. Ecclesiastes 8:7 and Ecclesiastes 8:8 thus continue the For and For: "For he knoweth not that which shall be; for who can tell him who it will be? There is no man who has power over the wind, to restrain the wind; and no one has authority over the day of death; and there is no discharge in the war; and wickedness does not save its possessor." The actor has the sin upon himself, and bears it; if it reaches the terminus of full measure, it suddenly overwhelms him in punishment, and the too great burden oppresses its bearer (Hitzig, under Isaiah 24:20). This עת ומשׁ comes unforeseen, for he (the man who heaps up sins) knoweth not id quod fiet; it arrives unforeseen, for quomodo fiet, who can show it to him? Thus, e.g., the tyrant knows not that he will die by assassination, and no one can say to him how that will happen, so that he might make arrangements for his protection. Rightly the lxx κατηὼς ἔσται; on the contrary, the Targ., Hitzig, and Ginsburg: when it will be;
(Note: The Venet. ἐν ᾧ, as if the text had בּאשׁר.)
Now follows the concluding thought of the four כי, whereby Ecclesiastes 8:5 is established. There are four impossibilities enumerated; the fourth is the point of the enumeration constructed in the form of a numerical proverb. (1) No man has power over the wind, to check the wind. Ewald, Hengst., Zckl., and others understand רוּח, with the Targ., Jerome, and Luther, of the Spirit (חיים( tir רוח); but man can limit this physically when he puts a violent termination to life, and must restrain it morally by ruling it, Proverbs 16:32; Proverbs 25:28. On the contrary, the wind hrwch is, after Ecclesiastes 11:5, incalculable, and to rule over it is the exclusive prerogative of Divine Omnipotence, Proverbs 30:4. The transition to the second impossibility is mediated by this, that in רוח, according to the usus loq., the ideas of the breath of animal life, and of wind as the breath as it were of the life of the whole of nature, are interwoven. (2) No one has power over the day of death: death, viz., natural death, comes to a man without his being able to see it before, to determine it, or to change it. With שׁלּיט there here interchanges שׁלטון, which is rendered by the lxx and Venet. as abstr., also by the Syr. But as at Daniel 3:2, so also above at Ecclesiastes 8:4, it is concr., and will be so also in the passage before us, as generally in the Talm. and Midrash, in contradistinction to the abstr., which is שׁלטן, after the forms אבדן, דּרבן, etc., e.g., Bereshith rabba, c. 85 extr.: "Every king and ruler שלטון who had not a שולטן, a command (government, sway) in the land, said that that did not satisfy him, the king of Babylon had to place an under-Caesar in Jericho," etc.
(Note: Regarding the distinction between שׁלטון and שׁלטן, vid., Baer's Abodath Jisrael, p. 385.)
Thus: no man possesses rule or is a ruler ... .
A transition is made from the inevitable law of death to the inexorable severity of the law of war; (3) there is no discharge, no dispensation, whether for a time merely (missio), or a full discharge (dimissio), in war, which in its fearful rigour (vid., on the contrary, Deuteronomy 20:5-8) was the Persian law. Even so, every possibility of escape is cut off by the law of the divine requital; (4) wickedness will not save (מלּט, causative, as always) its lord (cf. the proverb: "Unfaithfulness strikes its own master") or possessor; i.e., the wicked person, when the עת ום comes, is hopelessly lost. Grtz would adopt the reading עשׁר instead of רשע; but the fate of the רשׁע בּעל, or of the רשׁע, is certainly that to which the concatenation of thought from Ecclesiastes 8:6 leads, as also the disjunctive accent at the end of the three first clauses of Ecclesiastes 8:8 denotes. But that in the words בּעל רשׁע (not בּעלי) a despotic king is thought of (בּעליו, as at Ecclesiastes 5:10, Ecclesiastes 5:12; Ecclesiastes 7:12; Proverbs 3:27; cf. under Proverbs 1:19), is placed beyond a doubt by the epilogistic verse:
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