Ecclesiastes 8:3
Be not hasty to go out of his sight: stand not in an evil thing; for he does whatever pleases him.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(3) I believe the rendering of our version to be correct, though some have taken it, “Be not hasty: go out of his eight.” The best commentary on this verse is Ecclesiastes 10:4, which gives the meaning, “When censured by the king, do not abandon the hope of retaining his favour, nor obstinately persist in what he condemns.” I do not find adequate proof of the assertion of some commentators, that “go out of his sight” can mean “withdraw allegiance from him,” and so that the “evil thing” means a rebellious conspiracy. The advice, “Be not hasty” to rebel, instead of “do not rebel,” is inconsistent with the context.

8:1-5 None of the rich, the powerful, the honourable, or the accomplished of the sons of men, are so excellent, useful, or happy, as the wise man. Who else can interpret the words of God, or teach aright from his truths and dispensations? What madness must it be for weak and dependent creatures to rebel against the Almighty! What numbers form wrong judgments, and bring misery on themselves, in this life and that to come!Stand not ... - i. e., "Do not persist in rebellion." 3. hasty—rather, "Be not terror-struck so as to go out of His sight." Slavishly "terror-struck" is characteristic of the sinner's feeling toward God; he vainly tries to flee out of His sight (Ps 139:7); opposed to the "shining face" of filial confidence (Ec 8:1; Joh 8:33-36; Ro 8:2; 1Jo 4:18).

stand not—persist not.

for he doeth—God inflicts what punishment He pleases on persisting sinners (Job 23:13; Ps 115:3). True of none save God.

To go out of his sight, Heb. to go from his face or presence, to wit, in dislike, or in discontent, withdrawing thyself from thy king’s service or obedience, as malcontents use to do; for this will both provoke him, and lead thee by degrees into sedition or rebellion.

Stand not in an evil thing; if thou hast offended him, persist not in it, but humbly acknowledge thine offence, and beg his pardon and favour.

He doeth whatsoever pleaseth him; his power is uncontrollable in his dominions, and therefore thou canst neither resist nor avoid his fury. Be not hasty to go out of his sight,.... But of the sight of the King of kings. Do not think to hide thyself from him, for there is no fleeing from his presence, Psalm 139:7; it is best, when under some consternation, as the word (y) signifies, or under some fearful apprehension of his wrath and indignation, to fall down before him, acknowledge the offence, and pray for pardon: and to this purpose is the Targum,

"and in the time of the indignation of the Lord, do not cease to pray before him; being terrified (or troubled) before him, go and pray, and seek mercy of him;''

and with which agrees the note of Jarchi,

"be not troubled, saying that thou wilt go and free from his presence, to a place where he does not rule, for he rules in every place.''

Such who interpret this of an earthly king suppose this forbids a man going out from the presence of a king in a pet and passion, withdrawing himself from his court and service in a heat, at once;

stand not in an evil thing; having done it, continue not in it; but repent of it, acknowledge and forsake it, whether against God or an earthly king;

for he doeth whatsoever pleaseth him; which best agrees with the King of kings, who does what he pleases, in heaven above and in earth below, both in nature, providence, and grace; see Job 23:13; though earthly kings indeed have long hands, as is usually said, and can reach a great way, and do great things, especially despotic and arbitrary princes, and it is very difficult escaping their hands. The Targum is,

"for the Lord of all worlds, the Lord will do what he pleases.''

(y) "ne consterneris", Gejerus, and some in Rambachius.

{d} Be not hasty to go out of his sight: stand not in an evil thing; for he doeth whatever pleaseth him.

(d) Do not withdraw from yourself lightly from the obedience of your prince.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
3. Be not hasty to go out of his sight] The phrase is explained by Genesis 4:16; Hosea 11:2 as implying flight or desertion. Such a flight the Teacher looks on as an act of impatient unwisdom. It is better to bear the yoke, than to seek an unattainable independence. So those who have grown grey in politics warn younger and more impetuous men against the folly of a premature resignation of their office.

stand not in an evil thing] The Hebrew noun (as so often elsewhere) may mean either “word” or “thing:” the verb may mean “standing” either in the attitude (1) of persistence, or (2) protest, or (3) of hesitation, or (4) of obedient compliance. Hence we get as possible renderings, (1) “Persist not in an evil thing;” i.e. in conspiracies against the king’s life or power. (2) Protest not against an evil (i.e. angry) word. (3) Stand not, hesitate not, at an evil thing, i.e. comply with the king’s commands however unrighteous. (4) Obey not in an evil thing, i.e. obey, but let the higher law of conscience limit thy obedience. Of these (1) seems most in harmony with the context, and with O. T. usage as in Psalm 1:1. Perhaps, however, after the manner of an enigmatic oracle, not without a touch of irony, requiring the discernment of a wise interpreter, there is an intentional ambiguity, allowing the reader if he likes, to adopt (3) or (4) and so acting as a test of character.

he doeth whatsoever pleaseth him] The words paint a sovereignty such as Greek poets loved to hold up for men’s abhorence,

ἀλλʼ ἡ τυραννὶς πολλά τʼ ἄλλʼ ἐυδαιμονεῖ,

κἄξεστιν αὐτῇ δρᾶν λέγειν δʼ ἂ βούλεται.

“The tyrant’s might in much besides excels,

And it may do and say whate’er it wills.”

Soph. Antig. 507.

Here also we have an echo of the prudential counsel of Epicurus, who deliberately preferred a despotic to a democratic government (Sen. Ep. xxix. 10), and laid it down as a rule, that the wise man should at every opportune season court the favour of the monarch (καὶ μόναρχον ἐν καιρῷ θεραπεύσει), Diog. Laert. x. 1, § 121.Verse 3. - Further advice concerning political behavior. Be not hasty to go out of his (the king's) sight. Do not, from some hasty impulse, or induced by harsh treatment, cast off your allegiance to your liege lord. We have the phrase, "go away," in the sense of quitting of service or desertion of a duty, in Genesis 4:16; Hosea 11:2. So St. Peter urges servants to be subject unto their masters, "not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward" (1 Peter 2:18). Solomon might have given this advice to the Israelites who were ready to follow Jeroboam's lead; though they could have remained loyal to Rehoboam only from high religious motives. But it is better to bear even a heavy yoke than to rebel. The Septuagint has, "Be not hasty; thou shalt go from his presence" - which seems to mean, "Be not impatient, and all will be well." But the authorized rendering is correct (comp. Ecclesiastes 10:4). We may quote Mendelssohn's comment cited by Chance on Job 34:16, "This is a great rule in politics, that the people must have no power to pronounce judgment upon the conduct of a king, whether it be good or bad; for the king judges the people, and not the reverse; and if it were not for this rule, the country would never be quiet, and without rebels against the king and his law." Stand not in an evil thing; Vulgate, Neque permaneas in opere malo, "Persist not in an evil affair." But the verb here implies rather the engaging in a matter than continuing an undertaking already begun. The "affair" is conspiracy, insurrection; and Koheleth warns against entering upon and taking part in any such attempt. This seems to be the correct explanation of the clause; but it is, perhaps intentionally, ambiguous, and is capable of other interpretations. Thus Ginsburg, "Do not stand up (in a passion) because of an evil word." Others, "Obey not a sinful command," or "Hesitate not at an evil thing," i.e. if the king orders it. Wordsworth, referring to Psalm 1:1. renders, "Stand not in the way of sinners," which seems to be unsuitable to the context. The Septuagint gives, "Stand not in an evil word" (λόγῳ, perhaps "matter"). The reason for the injunction follows. For he doeth whatsoever pleaseth him. The irresponsible power of a despotic monarch is here signified, though the terms are applicable (as some, indeed, take them as alone appertaining) to God himself (but see Proverbs 20:2). The Septuagint combines with this clause the commencement of the following verse, "For he will do whatsover he pleases, even as a king using authority (ἐξουσιάζων)." Some manuscripts add λαλεῖ, "he speaks." "And I found woman more bitter than death; she is like hunting-nets. and like snares is her heart, her hands are bands: he who pleaseth God will escape from her; but the sinner is caught by them." As א ושׁ, Ecclesiastes 4:2, so here וּם א gains by the preceding אני וסבּותי a past sense;

(Note: With reference to this passage and Proverbs 18:22, it was common in Palestine when one was married to ask מצא או מוחא equals happy or unhappy? Jebamoth 63b.)

the particip. clause stands frequently thus, not only as a circumstantial clause, Genesis 14:12., but also as principal clause, Genesis 2:10, in an historical connection. The preceding pred. מר, in the mas. ground-form, follows the rule, Gesen. 147. Regarding the construction of the relative clause, Hitzig judges quite correctly: "היא is copula between subj. and pred., and precedes for the sake of the contrast, giving emphasis to the pred. It cannot be a nomin., which would be taken up by the suff. in לבהּ, since if this latter were subject also to מץ, היא would not certainly be found. Also asher here is not a conj." This הוּא (היא), which in relative substantival clauses represents the copula, for the most part stands separated from asher, e.g., Genesis 7:2; Genesis 17:12; Numbers 17:5; Deuteronomy 17:15; less frequently immediately with it, Numbers 35:31; 1 Samuel 10:19; 2 Kings 25:19; Leviticus 11:26; Deuteronomy 20:20. But this asher hu (hi) never represents the subj., placed foremost and again resumed by the reflex. pronoun, so as to be construed as the accentuation requires: quae quidem retia et laquei cor ejus equals cajus quidem cor sunt retia et laquei (Heiligst.). מצוד is the means of searching, i.e., either of hunting: hunting-net (mitsodah, Ecclesiastes 9:12), or of blockading: siege-work, bulwarks, Ecclesiastes 9:14; here it is the plur. of the word in the former meaning. חרם, Habakkuk 1:14, plur. Ezekiel 26:5, etc. (perhaps from חרם, to pierce, bore through), is one of the many synon. for fishing-net. אסוּרים, fetters, the hands (arms) of voluptuous embrace. The primary form, after Jeremiah 37:15, is אסוּר, אסוּר; cf. אבוּס, אב, Job 39:9. Of the three clauses following asher, vav is found in the second and is wanting to the third, as at Deuteronomy 29:22; Job 42:9; Psalm 45:9; Isaiah 1:13; cf. on the other hand, Isaiah 33:6. Similar in their import are these Leonine verses:

Femina praeclara facie quasi pestis amara,

Et quasi fermentum corrumpit cor sapientum.

That the author is in full earnest in this harsh judgment regarding woman, is shown by 26b: he who appears to God as good (cf. Ecclesiastes 2:26) escapes from her (the fut. of the consequence of this his relation to God); but the sinner (חוטאו) is caught by her, or, properly, in her, viz., the net-like woman, or the net to which she is compared (Psalm 9:16; Isaiah 24:18). The harsh judgment is, however, not applicable to woman as such, but to woman as she is, with only rare exceptions; among a thousand women he has not found one corresponding to the idea of a woman.

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