Ecclesiastes 8:17
New International Version
then I saw all that God has done. No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all their efforts to search it out, no one can discover its meaning. Even if the wise claim they know, they cannot really comprehend it.

New Living Translation
I realized that no one can discover everything God is doing under the sun. Not even the wisest people discover everything, no matter what they claim.

English Standard Version
then I saw all the work of God, that man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun. However much man may toil in seeking, he will not find it out. Even though a wise man claims to know, he cannot find it out.

Berean Study Bible
I saw every work of God, and that a man is unable to comprehend the work that is done under the sun. Despite his efforts to search it out, he cannot find its meaning; even if the wise man claims to know, he is unable to comprehend.

King James Bible
Then I beheld all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun: because though a man labour to seek it out, yet he shall not find it; yea further; though a wise man think to know it, yet shall he not be able to find it.

New King James Version
then I saw all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun. For though a man labors to discover it, yet he will not find it; moreover, though a wise man attempts to know it, he will not be able to find it.

New American Standard Bible
and I saw every work of God, I concluded that one cannot discover the work which has been done under the sun. Even though a person laboriously seeks, he will not discover; and even if the wise person claims to know, he cannot discover.

NASB 1995
and I saw every work of God, I concluded that man cannot discover the work which has been done under the sun. Even though man should seek laboriously, he will not discover; and though the wise man should say, "I know," he cannot discover.

NASB 1977
and I saw every work of God, I concluded that man cannot discover the work which has been done under the sun. Even though man should seek laboriously, he will not discover; and though the wise man should say, “I know,” he cannot discover.

Amplified Bible
and I saw all the work of God, I concluded that man cannot discover the work that is done under the sun. Even though man may labor in seeking, he will not discover; and [more than that], though a wise man thinks and claims he knows, he will not be able to find it out.

Christian Standard Bible
I observed all the work of God and concluded that a person is unable to discover the work that is done under the sun. Even though a person labors hard to explore it, he cannot find it; even if a wise person claims to know it, he is unable to discover it.

Holman Christian Standard Bible
I observed all the work of God and concluded that man is unable to discover the work that is done under the sun. Even though a man labors hard to explore it, he cannot find it; even if the wise man claims to know it, he is unable to discover it.

American Standard Version
then I beheld all the work of God, that man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun: because however much a man labor to seek it out, yet he shall not find it; yea moreover, though a wise man think to know it, yet shall he not be able to find it.

Aramaic Bible in Plain English
And I have seen all the work of God, for a son of man will not master the work that is done under the sun. All that a son of man toils that he may seek he will not find, and none who will claim to know The Wise One will be able to find

Brenton Septuagint Translation
And I beheld all the works of God, that a man shall not be able to discover the work which is wrought under the sun; whatsoever things a man shall endeavour to seek, however a man may labour to seek it, yet he shall not find it; yea, how much soever a wise man may speak of knowing it, he shall not be able to find it: for I applied all this to my heart, and my heart has seen all this.

Contemporary English Version
I saw everything God does, and I realized no one can really understand what happens. We may be very wise, but no matter how much we try or how much we claim to know, we cannot understand it all.

Douay-Rheims Bible
And I understood that man can find no reason of all those works of God that are done under the sun: and the more he shall labour to seek, so much the less shall he find: yea, though the wise man shall say, that he knoweth it, he shall not be able to find it.

English Revised Version
then I beheld all the work of God, that man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun: because however much a man labour to seek it out, yet he shall not find it; yea moreover, though a wise man think to know it, yet shall he not be able to find it.

Good News Translation
and never be able to understand what God is doing. However hard you try, you will never find out. The wise may claim to know, but they don't.

GOD'S WORD® Translation
then I saw everything that God has done. No one is able to grasp the work that is done under the sun. However hard a person may search for it, he will not find [its meaning]. Even though a wise person claims to know, he is not able to grasp it.

International Standard Version
I saw all of it as the activity of God. Frankly, a human being cannot understand what happens on earth, because however hard a man works to discover it, he will not find out. Despite what he thinks he knows, he will not be able to figure it out.

JPS Tanakh 1917
then I beheld all the work of God, that man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun; because though a man labour to seek it out, yet he shall not find it; yea further, though a wise man think to know it, yet shall he not be able to find it.

Literal Standard Version
then I considered all the work of God, that man is not able to find out the work that has been done under the sun, because though man labor to seek, yet he does not find; and even though the wise man speak of knowing he is not able to find.

NET Bible
then I discerned all that God has done: No one really comprehends what happens on earth. Despite all human efforts to discover it, no one can ever grasp it. Even if a wise person claimed that he understood, he would not really comprehend it.

New Heart English Bible
then I saw all the work of God, that man can't find out the work that is done under the sun, because however much a man labors to seek it out, yet he won't find it. Yes even though a wise man thinks he can comprehend it, he won't be able to find it.

World English Bible
then I saw all the work of God, that man can't find out the work that is done under the sun, because however much a man labors to seek it out, yet he won't find it. Yes even though a wise man thinks he can comprehend it, he won't be able to find it.

Young's Literal Translation
then I considered all the work of God, that man is not able to find out the work that hath been done under the sun, because though man labour to seek, yet he doth not find; and even though the wise man speak of knowing he is not able to find.

Additional Translations ...
Context
God's Ways are Mysterious
16When I applied my mind to know wisdom and to observe the task that one performs on the earth—though his eyes do not see sleep in the day or even in the night— 17I saw every work of God, and that a man is unable to comprehend the work that is done under the sun. Despite his efforts to search it out, he cannot find its meaning; even if the wise man claims to know, he is unable to comprehend.

Cross References
Romans 11:33
O, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and untraceable His ways!

Psalm 73:16
When I tried to understand all this, it was troublesome in my sight

Ecclesiastes 1:13
And I set my mind to seek and explore by wisdom all that is done under heaven. What a heavy burden God has laid upon the sons of men to occupy them!

Ecclesiastes 3:11
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men, yet they cannot fathom the work that God has done from beginning to end.

Ecclesiastes 7:13
Consider the work of God: Who can straighten what He has bent?

Ecclesiastes 7:23
All this I tested by wisdom, saying, "I resolve to be wise." But it was beyond me.

Ecclesiastes 7:24
What exists is out of reach and very deep. Who can fathom it?

Ecclesiastes 11:5
As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the bones are formed in a mother's womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.


Treasury of Scripture

Then I beheld all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun: because though a man labor to seek it out, yet he shall not find it; yes farther; though a wise man think to know it, yet shall he not be able to find it.

that a man

Ecclesiastes 3:11
He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.

Ecclesiastes 7:23,24
All this have I proved by wisdom: I said, I will be wise; but it was far from me…

Ecclesiastes 11:5
As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all.









Verse 17. - Then I beheld all the work of God. This is the apodosis to the first clause of ver. 16. "God's work" is the same as the work that is done under the sun, and means men's actions and the providential ordering thereof. This a man, with his finite understanding, cannot find out, cannot thoroughly comprehend or explain (comp. Ecclesiastes 3:11; Ecclesiastes 7:23, 24). Because though a man labor to seek it out. The Septuagint has, Ὅσα α}ν μοχθήσῃ, "Whatsoever things a man shall labor to seek;" Vulgate, Quanto plus laboraverit ad quaerendum, tanto minus inveniat. The interpreters waver between "how much so ever," and "wherefore a man labors." The latter seems to be best. Though a wise man think to know it, yet shall he not be able to find it. It is the part of wisdom to determine to know all that can be known; but the resolution is baffled here (comp. Ecclesiastes 7:23). The two verses, with their repetitions and tautologous expressions, seem to denote perturbation of mind in the author and his sense of the gravity of his assertions. He is overwhelmed with the thought of the inscrutability of God's judgments, while he is forced to face the facts. An exquisite commentary on this passage is found in Hooker, 'Eccl. Pol.,' 1:2. § 2, quoted by Plumptre; and in Bishop Butler's sermon 'On the Ignorance of Man,' where we read, "From it [the knowledge of our ignorance] we may learn with what temper of mind a man ought to inquire into the subject of religion, namely, with what expectation of finding difficulties, and with a disposition to take up and rest satisfied with any evidence whatever which is real. A man should beforehand expect things mysterious, and such as he will not be able thoroughly to comprehend or go to the bottom of.... Our ignorance is the proper answer to many things which are called objections against religion, particularly to those which arise from the appearance of evil and irregularity in the constitution of nature and the government of the world Since the constitution of nature and the methods and designs of Providence in the government of the world are above our comprehension, we should acquiesce in and rest satisfied with our ignorance, turn our thoughts from that which is above and beyond us, and apply ourselves to that which is level to our capacities, and which is our real business and concern .... Lastly, let us adore that infinite wisdom and power and goodness which is above our comprehension (Ecclus. 1:6). The conclusion is that in all lowliness of mind we set lightly by ourselves; that we form our temper to an implicit submission to the Divine Majesty, beget within ourselves an absolute resignation to all the methods of his providence in his dealings with the children of men; that in the deepest humility of our souls we prostrate ourselves before him, and join in that celestial song, 'Great and marvelous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints. Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy Name?' (Revelation 15:3, 4) (comp. Romans 11:33).





Parallel Commentaries ...


Hebrew
I saw
וְרָאִיתִי֮ (wə·rā·’î·ṯî)
Conjunctive waw | Verb - Qal - Conjunctive perfect - first person common singular
Strong's 7200: To see

every
כָּל־ (kāl-)
Noun - masculine singular construct
Strong's 3605: The whole, all, any, every

work
מַעֲשֵׂ֣ה (ma·‘ă·śêh)
Noun - masculine singular construct
Strong's 4639: An action, a transaction, activity, a product, property

of God,
הָאֱלֹהִים֒ (hā·’ĕ·lō·hîm)
Article | Noun - masculine plural
Strong's 430: gods -- the supreme God, magistrates, a superlative

and that
כִּי֩ (kî)
Conjunction
Strong's 3588: A relative conjunction

a man
הָאָדָ֗ם (hā·’ā·ḏām)
Article | Noun - masculine singular
Strong's 120: Ruddy, a human being

is unable
לֹ֨א (lō)
Adverb - Negative particle
Strong's 3808: Not, no

to comprehend
לִמְצוֹא֙ (lim·ṣō·w)
Preposition-l | Verb - Qal - Infinitive construct
Strong's 4672: To come forth to, appear, exist, to attain, find, acquire, to occur, meet, be present

the work
הַֽמַּעֲשֶׂה֙ (ham·ma·‘ă·śeh)
Article | Noun - masculine singular
Strong's 4639: An action, a transaction, activity, a product, property

that
אֲשֶׁ֣ר (’ă·šer)
Pronoun - relative
Strong's 834: Who, which, what, that, when, where, how, because, in order that

is done
נַעֲשָׂ֣ה (na·‘ă·śāh)
Verb - Nifal - Perfect - third person masculine singular
Strong's 6213: To do, make

under
תַֽחַת־ (ṯa·ḥaṯ-)
Preposition
Strong's 8478: The bottom, below, in lieu of

the sun.
הַשֶּׁ֔מֶשׁ (haš·še·meš)
Article | Noun - common singular
Strong's 8121: The sun, the east, a ray, a notched battlement

Despite
בְּ֠שֶׁל (bə·šel)
Preposition-b | Pronoun - relative
Strong's 7945: On account of, whatsoever, whichsoever

[his]
הָאָדָ֛ם (hā·’ā·ḏām)
Article | Noun - masculine singular
Strong's 120: Ruddy, a human being

efforts
יַעֲמֹ֧ל (ya·‘ă·mōl)
Verb - Qal - Imperfect - third person masculine singular
Strong's 5998: To toil, work severely and with irksomeness

to search it out,
לְבַקֵּ֖שׁ (lə·ḇaq·qêš)
Preposition-l | Verb - Piel - Infinitive construct
Strong's 1245: To search out, to strive after

he cannot
וְלֹ֣א (wə·lō)
Conjunctive waw | Adverb - Negative particle
Strong's 3808: Not, no

find [its meaning];
יִמְצָ֑א (yim·ṣā)
Verb - Qal - Imperfect - third person masculine singular
Strong's 4672: To come forth to, appear, exist, to attain, find, acquire, to occur, meet, be present

even
וְגַ֨ם (wə·ḡam)
Conjunctive waw | Conjunction
Strong's 1571: Assemblage, also, even, yea, though, both, and

if
אִם־ (’im-)
Conjunction
Strong's 518: Lo!, whether?, if, although, Oh that!, when, not

the wise
הֶֽחָכָם֙ (he·ḥā·ḵām)
Article | Adjective - masculine singular
Strong's 2450: Wise

man claims
יֹאמַ֤ר (yō·mar)
Verb - Qal - Imperfect - third person masculine singular
Strong's 559: To utter, say

to know,
לָדַ֔עַת (lā·ḏa·‘aṯ)
Preposition-l | Verb - Qal - Infinitive construct
Strong's 3045: To know

he is unable
לֹ֥א (lō)
Adverb - Negative particle
Strong's 3808: Not, no

to comprehend.
לִמְצֹֽא׃ (lim·ṣō)
Preposition-l | Verb - Qal - Infinitive construct
Strong's 4672: To come forth to, appear, exist, to attain, find, acquire, to occur, meet, be present


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OT Poetry: Ecclesiastes 8:17 Then I saw all the work (Ecclesiast. Ec Ecc Eccles.)
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