Ecclesiastes 8:16
When I applied my heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done on the earth: (for also there is that neither day nor night sees sleep with his eyes:)
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(16) It would have been better if the new chapter had been made to begin here. The sentiment is that already expressed in Ecclesiastes 3:11.

Seeth sleep with his eyes.Psalm 132:4; Proverbs 6:4; Genesis 31:40. The identical expression occurs in Terence, Heaut III. 1:82, “Somnum hercle ego hae nocte oculis non vidi meis.”

Ecclesiastes 8:16. When I applied my heart to know wisdom — He seems to be here assigning the reason of that judgment which he had now passed, (Ecclesiastes 8:15,) which reason is, that he had diligently studied wherein man’s wisdom consists, and had observed the restlessness of men’s minds and bodies in other courses; and to see the business — To observe men’s various designs and employments, and their unwearied labours about worldly things. For there is that neither day nor night seeth sleep — Having now mentioned the business which is done, or which man doth, upon earth, he further adds, as an evidence of man’s eagerness in pursuing his business, For even by day and by night he — The busy man; seeth not sleep with his eyes — He grudges himself necessary refreshments, and disquiets himself with endless cares and labours.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.These verses supplement Ecclesiastes 8:15 with the reflection that the man who goes beyond that limited sphere within which he can labor and be contented, and investigates the whole work of God, will find that his finite intelligence cannot grasp it.

Ecclesiastes 8:16

Business - Or, "travail" Ecclesiastes 1:13; Ecclesiastes 3:10. The sleeplessness noted probably refers to the writer himself.

16. Reply to Ec 8:14, 15. When I applied myself to observe man's toils after happiness (some of them so incessant as not to allow sufficient time for "sleep"), then (Ec 8:17, the apodosis) I saw that man cannot find out (the reason of) God's inscrutable dealings with the "just" and with the "wicked" here (Ec 8:14; Ec 3:11; Job 5:9; Ro 11:33); his duty is to acquiesce in them as good, because they are God's, though he sees not all the reasons for them (Ps 73:16). It is enough to know "the righteous are in God's hand" (Ec 9:1). "Over wise" (Ec 7:16); that is, Speculations above what is written are vain. I applied mine heart to know wisdom: this he seems to add as the reason of that judgment which he had now passed, Ecclesiastes 8:15, because he had diligently studied wherein man’s wisdom did consist, and had observed the restlessness of men’s minds and bodies in other courses.

To see the business; either,

1. To find out the work of God, as the next verse may seem to explain it, and all the mysteries of God’s providence in the government of this present and lower world. Or,

2. To observe men’s various designs and employments, and their toilsome and unwearied businesses or labours about worldly things; which sense seems best to agree, both with the use of this Hebrew word, which is constantly used in this sense in all the places of Scripture where it is, which are Ecclesiastes 1:13 2:23,26 3:10 4:8 5:3,14 8:16, and never concerning the works of God; and with the foregoing and following words, as we shall see. There is that neither day nor night seeth sleep with his eyes: the sense of the words thus translated and pointed seems to be this, There is a certain man, whom it is needless to name, (which is a modest designation of himself, like that of St. Paul, 2 Corinthians 12:2, I knew a man in Christ, &c.,) who studied those matters day and night, and therefore is very capable of passing a judgment about them. But, with submission, there seems to be no need of a parenthesis to cut off these words from the former, with whom they have a fit connexion. For having now mentioned the business which is done, or which man doeth, upon earth, he further adds, as an evidence of man’s eagerness in pursuing his business, for even by day and by night he (to wit, the busy man, which is easily understood from the foregoing clause) seeth not sleep with his eyes, i.e. he grudgeth himself even necessary refreshments, and disquiets himself with endless cares and labours, the fruit whereof he doth but little enjoy; and therefore it is better to eat and drink, &c., as I now said, Ecclesiastes 8:15. As for the phrase of seeing sleep, it is a figurative expression used in other authors, and is like that of seeing death, Psalm 89:48. When I applied mine heart to know wisdom,.... The nature and causes of things; the wisdom of God in his providence, and the grounds and reasons of his various dispensations towards the children of men: the Targum interprets it, the wisdom of the law;

and to see the business that is done upon the earth; either the business of Providence, in dealing so unequally with the righteous and the wicked, before observed; and which is a business very afflictive and distressing for curious persons to look into, not being able to account for it: or the labour and toil of men to get wealth and riches, and to find happiness in them;

(for also there is that neither day nor night seeth sleep with his eyes); or has any sleep in his eyes, through his eager pursuit after worldly things, or, however, has but little; he rises early and sits up late at his business, so close and diligent is he at it, so industrious to obtain riches, imagining a happiness in them there is not: or else this describes persons curious and inquisitive into the affairs of Providence, and the reasons of them; who give themselves no rest, day nor night, being so intent upon their studies of this kind; and perhaps the wise man may design himself.

When I applied mine heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done upon the earth: (for also there is that neither day nor night seeth sleep with his eyes:)
16. When I applied mine heart to know wisdom] The opening formula has met us before in ch. Ecclesiastes 1:13. The parenthetical clause expresses, with a familiar imagery, the sleepless meditation that had sought in vain the solution of the problem which the order and disorder of the world presented. So Cicero (ad Fam. vii. 30) says “Fuit mirificâ vigilantiâ qui toto suo consulatu somnum non vidit.”Verse 16 - Ecclesiastes 9:10. - Section 7 (the division in the theme caused by the introduction of a new chapter is misleading). Man's wisdom is incapable of explaining the course of God's providential government; death awaits all without any exception, whatever be their condition or actions. These two considerations conduce to the old conclusion, that man had best enjoy life, only being careful to use it energetically and well. Verses 16, 17. - No mortal wisdom, combined with the closest observation and thought, can fathom the mysteries of God's moral government. Verse 16. - When I applied mine heart (Ecclesiastes 1:13). The answering member of the sentence is in ver. 17, the last clause of the present verse being parenthetical. To know wisdom. This was his first study (see on Ecclesiastes 1:16). He endeavored to acquire wisdom which might enable him to investigate God's doings. His second study was to see the business that is done upon the earth; i.e. not only to learn what men do in their several stations and callings, but likewise to understand what all this means, what it tends to, its object and result. (For "business," inyan, see on Ecclesiastes 1:13.) The Vulgate here renders it distentionem, "distraction," which is like the Septuagint περισπασμόν. For also there is that neither day nor night seeth sleep with his eyes. This is a parenthetical clause expressing either the restless, unrelieved labor that goes on in the world, or the sleepless meditation of one who tries to solve the problem of the order and disorder in men's lives. In the latter case, Koheleth may be giving his own experience. To "see sleep" is to enjoy sleep. The phrase is not found elsewhere in the Old Testament, but commentators quote parallels from classical sources. Thus Terence, 'Heautontim.,' 3:1.82 -

"Somnum hercle ego hac nocte cculis non vidi reels."

"No sleep mine eyes have seen this livelong night." Cicero, 'Ad Famil.,' 8:30, "Fuit mittflea vigilantia, qui tote sue consulatuson, hum non vidit." Of course, the expression is hyperbolical. The same idea is found without metaphor in such passages as Psalm 132:4; Proverbs 6:4. "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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