Ecclesiastes 8:16
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:)
Jump to: BarnesBensonBICambridgeClarkeDarbyEllicottExpositor'sExp DctGaebeleinGSBGillGrayGuzikHaydockHastingsHomileticsJFBKDKellyKingLangeMacLarenMHCMHCWParkerPoolePulpitSermonSCOTTBWESTSK
(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. Ecclesiastes 8:16"When I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to view the business which is done on the earth (for neither day nor night doth he see sleep with his eyes): then have I seen all the work of God, that a man is unable to find out the work which is done under the sun: therefore that a man wearieth himself to seek out, and yet findeth not; and although a wise man taketh in hand to know, - he is unable to find." A long period without a premeditated plan has here formed itself under the hand of the author. As it lies before us, it is halved by the vav in veraithi ("then I have seen"); the principal clause, introduced by "when I gave," can nowhere otherwise begin than here; but it is not indicated by the syntactical structure. Yet in Chr. and Neh. apodoses of כאשׁר begin with the second consec. modus, e.g., 1 Chronicles 17:1; Nehemiah 4:1, and frequently; but the author here uses this modus only rarely, and not (vid., Ecclesiastes 4:1, Ecclesiastes 4:7) as a sign of an apodosis.

We consider, first, the protasis, with the parenthesis in which it terminates. The phrase נתן את־הלב ל, to direct the heart, to give attention and effort toward something, we have now frequently met with from Ecclesiastes 1:13 down. The aim is here twofold: (1) "to know wisdom" (cf. Ecclesiastes 1:17), i.e., to gain the knowledge of that which is wisdom, and which is to be regarded as wisdom, viz., solid knowledge regarding the essence, causes, and objects of things; (2) by such knowledge about that which wisdom is in itself "to see earthly labour," and - this arises from the combination of the two resolutions - to comprehend this labour in accordance with the claims of true wisdom from the point of view of its last ground and aim. Regarding 'inyan, vid., under Ecclesiastes 3:10. "On the earth" and "under the sun" are parallel designations of this world.

With גּם כּי begins a parenthetical clause. Ki may also, it is true, be rendered as at Ecclesiastes 8:17: the labour on the earth, that he, etc. (Zckl.); but this restlessness, almost renouncing sleep, is thereby pressed too much into the foreground as the special obj. of the reuth (therefore Ginsburg introduces "how that"); thus better to render this clause with ki gam, as establishing the fact that there is 'inyan, self-tormenting, restless labour on the earth. Thus also איננּוּ is easier explained, which scarcely goes back to laadam, Ecclesiastes 8:15 (Hitz.), but shows that the author, by )inyan, has specially men in view. וּבלּ ... גּם is equals גם בי גם בל: as well by day as by night, with the negat. following (cf. Numbers 23:25; Isaiah 48:8): neither by day nor by night; not only by day, but also in the night, not. "To see sleep" is a phrase occurring only here; cf. Terence, Heautontim. iii. 1. 82, Somnum hercle ego hac nocte oculis non vidi meis, for which we use the expression: "In this whole night my eyes have seen no sleep." The not wishing to sleep, and not being able to sleep, is such an hyperbole, carrying its limitation in itself, as is found in Cicero (ad Famil. vii. 30): Fuit mirifica vigilantia, qui toto suo consulatu somnum non vidit.

With ור, "Then I have seen," begins the apodosis: vidi totum Dei opus non posse hominem assequi. As at Ecclesiastes 2:24, the author places the obj. in the foreground, and lets the pred. with ki follow (for other examples of this so-called antiposis, vid., under Genesis 1:4). He sees in the labour here below one side of God's work carrying itself forward amid this restless confusion, and sets forth this work of God, as at Ecclesiastes 3:11 (but where the connection of the thoughts is different), as an object of knowledge remaining beyond the reach of man. He cannot come to it, or, as מצא properly means, he reaches not to it, therefore "that a man wearies himself to seek, and yet finds not," i.e., that the search on the part of a man with all his endeavours comes not to its aim. אשׁר בכל Ewald's emendation, instead of the words of the text before us: for all this, that quantumcunque (Ewald, 362c), which seems to have been approved of by the lxx, Syr., and Jerome, is rightly rejected by Hitzig; beshel asher is Heb., exactly equivalent to Aram. בּדיל דּ, e.g., Genesis 6:3; and is rightly glossed by Rashi, Kimchi, Michlol 47b, by בּשׁביל שׁ and בּעבוּר שׁ. The accent dividing the verse stands on yimetsa, for to this word extends the first half of the apodosis, with vegam begins the second. Gam im is equals εἰ καί, as gam ki is equals ἐὰν καί. יאמר is to be understood after אם אח, Ecclesiastes 7:23 : also if (although) the wise man resolves to know, he cannot reach that which is to be known. The characteristic mark of the wise man is thus not so much the possession as the striving after it. He strives after knowledge, but the highest problems remain unsolved by him, and his ideal of knowledge unrealized.

Ecclesiastes 8:16 Interlinear
Ecclesiastes 8:16 Parallel Texts

Ecclesiastes 8:16 NIV
Ecclesiastes 8:16 NLT
Ecclesiastes 8:16 ESV
Ecclesiastes 8:16 NASB
Ecclesiastes 8:16 KJV

Ecclesiastes 8:16 Bible Apps
Ecclesiastes 8:16 Parallel
Ecclesiastes 8:16 Biblia Paralela
Ecclesiastes 8:16 Chinese Bible
Ecclesiastes 8:16 French Bible
Ecclesiastes 8:16 German Bible

Bible Hub

Ecclesiastes 8:15
Top of Page
Top of Page