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Ecclesiastes 8 New English Translation (NET Bible)

Human Government Demonstrates Limitations of Wisdom

Who is a wise person? Who knows the solution to a problem?
A person’s wisdom brightens his appearance, and softens his harsh countenance.
Obey the king’s command,
because you took an oath before God to be loyal to him.
Do not rush out of the king’s presence in haste—do not delay when the matter is unpleasant,
for he can do whatever he pleases.
Surely the king’s authority is absolute;
no one can say to him, “What are you doing?”
Whoever obeys his command will not experience harm,
and a wise person knows the proper time and procedure.
For there is a proper time and procedure for every matter,
for the oppression of the king is severe upon his victim.
Surely no one knows the future,
and no one can tell another person what will happen.
Just as no one has power over the wind to restrain it,
so no one has power over the day of his death.
Just as no one can be discharged during the battle,
so wickedness cannot rescue the wicked.
While applying my mind to everything that happens in this world, I have seen all this:
Sometimes one person dominates other people to their harm.

Contradictions to the Law of Retribution

10 Not only that, but I have seen the wicked approaching and entering the temple,
and as they left the holy temple, they
boasted in the city that they had done so.
This also is an enigma.
11 When a sentence is not executed at once against a crime,
the human heart is encouraged to do evil.
12 Even though a sinner might commit a hundred crimes and still live a long time,
yet I know that it will go well with God-fearing people—for they stand in fear before him.
13 But it will not go well with the wicked,
nor will they prolong their days like a shadow,
because they do not stand in fear before God.
14 Here is another enigma that occurs on earth:
Sometimes there are righteous people who get what the wicked deserve,
and sometimes there are wicked people who get what the righteous deserve.
I said, “This also is an enigma.”

Enjoy Life In Spite of Its Injustices

15 So I recommend the enjoyment of life,
for there is nothing better on earth for a person to do except to eat, drink, and enjoy life.
So joy will accompany him in his toil
during the days of his life which God gives him on earth.

Limitations of Human Wisdom

16 When I tried to gain wisdom
and to observe the activity on earth—
even though it prevents anyone from sleeping day or night—
17 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 English Translation (NET)

NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2006 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. http://netbible.com All rights reserved.

Ecclesiastes 8 New International Version (NIV)

Who is like the wise?
    Who knows the explanation of things?
A person’s wisdom brightens their face
    and changes its hard appearance.

Obey the King

Obey the king’s command, I say, because you took an oath before God. Do not be in a hurry to leave the king’s presence. Do not stand up for a bad cause, for he will do whatever he pleases. Since a king’s word is supreme, who can say to him, “What are you doing?

Whoever obeys his command will come to no harm,
    and the wise heart will know the proper time and procedure.
For there is a proper time and procedure for every matter,
    though a person may be weighed down by misery.

Since no one knows the future,
    who can tell someone else what is to come?
As no one has power over the wind to contain it,
    so[a] no one has power over the time of their death.
As no one is discharged in time of war,
    so wickedness will not release those who practice it.

All this I saw, as I applied my mind to everything done under the sun. There is a time when a man lords it over others to his own[b] hurt. 10 Then too, I saw the wicked buried—those who used to come and go from the holy place and receive praise[c] in the city where they did this. This too is meaningless.

11 When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, people’s hearts are filled with schemes to do wrong. 12 Although a wicked person who commits a hundred crimes may live a long time, I know that it will go better with those who fear God, who are reverent before him. 13 Yet because the wicked do not fear God, it will not go well with them, and their days will not lengthen like a shadow.

14 There is something else meaningless that occurs on earth: the righteous who get what the wicked deserve, and the wicked who get what the righteous deserve. This too, I say, is meaningless. 15 So I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun.

16 When I applied my mind to know wisdom and to observe the labor that is done on earth—people getting no sleep day or night— 17 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.

Footnotes:

  1. Ecclesiastes 8:8 Or over the human spirit to retain it, / and so
  2. Ecclesiastes 8:9 Or to their
  3. Ecclesiastes 8:10 Some Hebrew manuscripts and Septuagint (Aquila); most Hebrew manuscripts and are forgotten
New International Version (NIV)

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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