Ecclesiastes 8:5
Whoever keeps the commandment shall feel no evil thing: and a wise man's heart discerns both time and judgment.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Ecclesiastes 8:5. Whoso keepeth the commandment — Solomon here passes to a new subject; shall feel no evil thing — Shall be delivered from those mischiefs which befall the disobedient. A wise man’s heart discerneth, &c. — Both when, and in what manner, he must keep the commands of God.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!Feel - literally, know. The meaning is, "He who obeys the commandment (i. e., the word of the king, Ecclesiastes 8:4), will not be an accomplice in any act of rebellion; and if he be a wise man he discerns (literally knows) that the king's commandment or action is liable to correction, if it be wrong, in God's time and by God's judgment." Compare Ecclesiastes 3:11, Ecclesiastes 3:17. 5. feel—experience.

time—the neglect of the right "times" causes much of the sinful folly of the spiritually unwise (Ec 3:1-11).

judgment—the right manner [Holden]. But as God's future "judgment" is connected with the "time for every purpose" in Ec 3:17, so it is here. The punishment of persisting sinners (Ec 8:3) suggests it. The wise man realizes the fact, that as there is a fit "time" for every purpose, so for the "judgment." This thought cheers him in adversity (Ec 7:14; 8:1).

The commandment; either,

1. Of the king, of which he hath hitherto spoken. Or,

2. Of God; for the word, or commandments, or law are oft used emphatically for the word, law, or command of God, as hath been formerly and frequently observed, and the commandment is put for the commandments, as is very usual. And so Solomon passeth from his former to a new subject.

Shall feel no evil thing; shall be delivered from those mischiefs which befall the disobedient.

Both time and judgment; both when, and how far, and in what manner he may or must keep the commands of the king or God. For the word here rendered judgment doth signify right, as Deu 21:17, as also a cause or controversy, as Numbers 27:5, and the manner or rule of actions, as Judges 13:12. The sense is, A wise man knows both what he ought to do, and what are the fittest seasons for doing it, which he seeketh and embraceth. Whoso keepeth the commandment shall feel no evil thing,.... Either the commandment of an earthly king, which should be kept, when agreeably to the laws of the nation, and not inconsistent with the commands of God; and such as do observe it "know no evil" (a), as it may be rendered, or no sorrow; they live peaceably and quietly, and enjoy the favour and protection of the government under which they are, and have praise of men; see Romans 13:3; or the commandments of the heavenly King, the singular being put for the plural; so the Targum,

"whoso keepeth the commandments of the Lord shall know no evil in the world to come.''

Nor in this world neither; no evil befalls them; what may be thought to be so is for their good; though they know and are conscious of the evil of sin, and commit it, yet not willingly, and with love to it, and so as to make it the work of their lives; but lament it, repent of it, and forsake it, and do not feel the evil of punishment for it; yea, such enjoy much good; have much communion with God; large discoveries of his love; dwell in him, and shall at last dwell with him in the heavenly city; see John 14:21;

and a wise man's heart discerneth both time and judgment; he knows not only what is his duty to do, both with respect to God and men, to a temporal prince or the King eternal; but he knows also the most fit and convenient time of doing it; and lays hold on every opportunity that offers, and which may be called "redeeming time", Galatians 6:10; and he knows the right manner in which it should be performed, with all the agreeable circumstances of it, which he carefully observes; or he knows the judgment that will be passed, or the punishment that will be inflicted on delinquents, either by God or men; and therefore is careful to keep the commandment, and avoid it: and especially he remembers there is a judgment to come, when everything will be brought to an account; and, though he does not know the precise day and hour, yet he knows there will be such a time; so some render it, "the time of judgment" (b): the Targum is,

"and the time of prayer, and of judgment, and of truth, is known by the heart of the wise.''

(a) "non cognoscet", Vatablus, Mercerus, Gejerus, Rambachius, Cocceius. (b) , Sept. so some in Drusius.

He who keepeth the commandment shall feel no evil thing: and a wise man's heart discerneth both {e} time and judgment.

(e) That is, when time is to obey, and how far he should obey.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
5. Whoso keepeth the commandment shall feel no evil thing] The words are once again ambiguous. If the “commandment” is that of the king, they enjoin unhesitating servile obedience as in the interpretation (3) of Ecclesiastes 8:3. If, according to the all but invariable use of the word in the O. T., we take it as the “commandment” of God, the meaning is in harmony with the interpretation (4) of the previous precept, and parallel with the French motto, “Fais ton devoir, avienne que pourra” (“Do thy duty, come what may”). Here again, it seems natural to assume an intentional ambiguity. A like doubt hangs over the words “shall feel (literally know) no evil thing” which may mean either “shall be anxious about no moral evil,” or more probably “shall suffer no physical evil as the penalty of moral.” Can we not imagine the writer here also with a grave irony, uttering his Delphic oracles, and leaving men to choose their interpretation, according as their character was servile or noble, moved by “the fear of the Lord,” or only by the fear of men?

a wise man’s heart discerneth both time and judgment] The “heart” as, for the most part, elsewhere in the Old Testament, includes the intellectual as well as the moral element in man’s nature. In the word “time” we have, as in ch. Ecclesiastes 3:1, the καιρός or “season” on which Greek sages laid so great a stress. What is meant is that the wise man, understanding the true meaning of the previous maxim, will not be impatient under oppression, but will bide his time, and wait in patience for the working of the Divine Law of retribution. This meaning is, however, as before, partially veiled, and the sentence might seem to imply that he should let his action depend on opportunities and be a time-server in the bad sense.Verse 5. - Whoso keepeth the commandment shall feel no evil thing. This is an encouragement to obedience to royal authority (comp. Proverbs 24:21, 22; Romans 13:3). The context plainly shows that it is not God's commandment that is spoken of (though, of course, the maxim would be very true in this case), but the king's. Nor is it necessarily a servile and unreasoning obedience that is enjoined. Koheleth is dealing with generals. Such cases as that of Daniel and the three children, where obedience would have been sinful, are not here taken into consideration. "Shall feel," literally, "shall know," i.e. experience no physical evil. Quiet submission to the powers that be guarantees a peaceful and happy life. Ginsburg and others translate, "knoweth not an evil word," i.e. is saved from abuse and reproach, which seems somewhat meager, though the Septuagint gives, Οὐ γνώσεται ῤῆμα πονηρόν. The Vulgate is better, Non experietur quidquam malt. And a wise man's heart discerneth (knoweth) both time and judgment. The verb is the same in both clauses, and ought to have been so translated. The "heart" includes the moral as well as the intellectual faculties; and the maxim says that the wise man bears oppression and remains unexcited even in evil days, because he is convinced that there is a time of judgment coming when all will be righted (Ecclesiastes 12:14). The certainty of retributive justice is so strong in his mind that he does not resort to rebellion in order to rectify matters, but possesses his soul in patience, leaving the correction of abuses in God's hands. Septuagint, "The wise man's heart knoweth the time of judgment," making a hendiadys of the two terms. The Vulgate has tempus et responsionem, "time and answer." "Behold what I have found, saith Koheleth, adding one thing to another, to find out the account: What my soul hath still sought, and I have not found, (is this): one man among a thousand have I found; and a woman among all these have I not found." It is the ascertained result, "one man, etc.," which is solemnly introduced by the words preceding. Instead of אם קה, the words ראמר הקּה are to be read, after Ecclesiastes 12:8, as is now generally acknowledged; errors of transcription of a similar kind are found at 2 Samuel 5:2; Job 38:12. Ginsburg in vain disputes this, maintaining that the name Koheleth, as denoting wisdom personified, may be regarded as fem. as well as mas.; here, where the female sex is so much depreciated, was the fem. self-designation of the stern judge specially unsuitable. Hengst. supposes that Koheleth is purposely fem. in this one passage, since true wisdom, represented by Solomon, stands opposite to false philosophy. But this reason for the fem. rests on the false opinion that woman here is heresy personified; he further remarks that it is significant for this fem. personification, that there is "no writing of female authorship in the whole canon of the O.T. and N.T." But what of Deborah's triumphal song, the song of Hannah, the magnificat of Mary? We hand this absurdity over to the Clementines! The woman here was flesh and blood, but pulchra quamvis pellis est mens tamen plean procellis; and Koheleth is not incarnate wisdom, but the official name of a preacher, as in Assyr., for חזּנרם, curators, overseers, hazanâti

(Note: Vid., Fried. Delitzsch's Assyr. Stud. (1874), p. 132.)

is used. זה, Ecclesiastes 7:27, points, as at Ecclesiastes 1:10, to what follows. אחת ל, one thing to another (cf. Isaiah 27:12), must have been, like summa summarum and the like, a common arithmetical and dialectical formula, which is here subordinate to מצא, since an adv. inf. such as לקוח is to be supplemented: taking one thing to another to find out the חשׁבּון, i.e., the balance of the account, and thus to reach a facit, a resultat.

(Note: Cf. Aboth iv. 29, וגו ליתן, "to give account;" וגו הכל, "all according to the result.")

That which presented itself to him in this way now follows. It was, in relation to woman, a negative experience: "What my soul sought on and on, and I found not, (is this)." The words are like the superscription of the following result, in which finally the זה of Ecclesiastes 7:27 terminates. Ginsburg, incorrectly: "what my soul is still seeking," which would have required מבקּשׁת. The pret. בּקשׁה (with ק without Dagesh, as at Ecclesiastes 7:29)

(Note: As generally the Piel forms of the root בקשׁ, Masor. all have Raphe on the ,ק except the imper. בּקּשׁוּ; vid., Luzzatto's Gramm. 417.)

is retrospective; and עוד, from עוּד, means redire, again and again, continually, as at Gen.. Genesis 46:29. He always anew sought, and that, as biqshah naphshi for בקשׁתי denotes, with urgent striving, violent longing, and never found, viz., a woman such as she ought to be: a man, one of a thousand, I have found, etc. With right, the accentuation gives Garshayim to adam; it stands forth, as at Ecclesiastes 7:20, as a general denominator - the sequence of accents, Geresh, Pashta, Zakef, is as at Genesis 1:9. "One among a thousand" reminds us of Job 33:23, cf. Ecclesiastes 9:3; the old interpreters (vid., Dachselt's Bibl. Accentuata), with reference to these parallels, connect with the one man among a thousand all kinds of incongruous christological thoughts. Only, here adam, like the Romanic l'homme and the like, means man in sexual contrast to woman. It is thus ideally meant, like ish, 1 Samuel 4:9; 1 Samuel 6:15, and accordingly also the parall. אשּׁה. For it is not to be supposed that the author denies thereby perfect human nature to woman. But also Burger's explanation: "a human being, whether man or woman," is a useless evasion. Man has the name adam κατ ̓ ἐξ. by primitive hist. right: "for the man is not of the woman, but the woman of the man," 1 Corinthians 11:8. The meaning, besides, is not that among a thousand human beings he found one upright man, but not a good woman (Hitz.), - for then the thousand ought to have had its proper denominator, אדם בני, - but that among a thousand persons of the male sex he found only one man such as he ought to be, and among a thousand of the female sex not one woman such as she ought to be; "among all these" is thus equals among an equal number. Since he thus actually found the ideal of man only seldom, and that of woman still seldomer (for more than this is not denoted by the round numbers), the more surely does he resign himself to the following resultat, which he introduces by the word לבד (only, alone), as the clear gain of his searching:

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