Ecclesiastes 8:3
Be not hasty to go out of his sight: stand not in an evil thing; for he doeth whatsoever pleaseth him.
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(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.

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." Ecclesiastes 8:3The warning, corresponding to the exhortation, now follows: One must not thoughtlessly avoid the duty of service and homage due to the king: "Hasten not to go away from him: join not in an evil matter; for he executeth all that he desireth." Regarding the connection, of two verbs with one idea, lying before us in תּלך ... אל־, as e.g., at Zechariah 8:15; Hosea 1:6, vid., Gesen. 142. 3b. Instead of this sentence, we might use אל־תבהל ללכת מפניו, as e.g., Aboth v. 8: "The wise man does not interrupt another, and hastens not to answer," i.e., is not too hasty in answering. As with עם, to be with the king, Ecclesiastes 4:15 equals to hold with him, so here מפניו הלך means to take oneself away from him, or, as it is expressed in Ecclesiastes 10:4, to leave one's station; cf. Hosea 11:2 : "They (the prophets of Jahve) called to them, forthwith they betook themselves away from them." It is possible that in the choice of the expression, the phrase נבהל מפני, "to be put into a state of alarm before any one," Job 23:15, was not without influence. The indef. רע דּבר, Deuteronomy 17:1; Deuteronomy 23:10, cf. Deuteronomy 13:12; Deuteronomy 19:20, 2 Kings 4:41, etc., is to be referred (with Rosenm., Knobel, Bullock, and others) to undertakings which aim at resisting the will of the king, and reach their climax in conspiracy against the king's throne and life (Proverbs 24:21). אל־תּעמד בּ might mean: persist not in it; but the warning does not presuppose that the entrance thereon had already taken place, but seeks to prevent it, thus: enter not, go not, engage not, like 'amad bederek, Psalm 1:1; 'amad babrith, 2 Kings 23:3; cf. Psalm 106:23; Jeremiah 23:18. Also the Arab. 'amada li equals intendit, proposuit sibi rem, is compared; it is used in the general sense of "to make toward something, to stretch to something." Otherwise Ewald, Elst., Ginsb., and Zckl.: stand not at an evil word (of the king), provoking him to anger thereby still more, - against Ecclesiastes 8:5, where רע דבר, as generally (cf. Psalm 141:4), means an evil thing, and against the close connection of בּ עמד, which is to be presupposed. Hitzig even: stand not at an evil command, i.e., hesitate not to do even that which is evil, which the king commands, with the remark that here a servilismus is introduced as speaking, who, in saying of the king, "All that pleaseth him he doeth," uses words which are used only of God the Almighty, John 1:14; Psalm 33:9, etc. Hengst., Hahn, Dale, and others therefore dream of the heavenly King in the text. But proverbs of the earthly king, such as Proverbs 20:2, say the very same thing; and if the Mishna Sanhedrin ii. 2, to which Tyler refers, says of the king, "The king cannot himself be a judge, nor can any one judge him; he does not give evidence, and no evidence can be given against him," a sovereignty is thus attributed to the king, which is formulated in 3b and established in the verse following.
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