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Wisdom’s Light and Limits

Who is like the wise person?
    Who knows the meaning of a matter?
A person’s wisdom makes his face shine,
    transforming the harshness of his face.

I say: “Obey the king’s command, and especially in regard to the oath of God. Do not be hasty to rush out of his presence. Do not stand up for an evil cause, because he will do whatever he desires. Since the word of a king has authority, who can say to him, ‘What are you doing?’

Whoever obeys his command will not experience harm, and a wise person’s heart discerns the proper time and procedure. For there is a proper time and procedure for every matter, though a person’s trouble is heavy upon him.

Since no one knows what will be,
    who can tell when it will happen?
No one has authority over the wind to restrain it,
    nor authority over the day of death.
As no one is discharged during a battle,
    so wickedness cannot rescue its master.

I have seen all this while applying my mind to everything done under the sun: sometimes one person dominates another person to his own harm. 10 Then I saw the wicked buried—they used to come and go from the holy place, but will soon be forgotten in the very city where they did this. This too is meaningless.

11 When the sentence against a crime is not swiftly carried out, the human heart is encouraged to do evil. 12 Even though a sinner might commit a hundred crimes and prolong his days, yet I know that it will be well for those who fear God, for those who revere Him. 13 But it will not go well with the wicked, and he will not lengthen his days like a shadow, because he does not fear God.

14 There is another enigma that occurs upon the earth: there are righteous people who are requited according to the work of the wicked, and there are wicked people who are requited according to the work of the righteous. I said, “This also is meaningless.” 15 So I recommend enjoyment, because there is nothing better for humanity under the sun except to eat, drink and enjoy it. So this joy will accompany him in his labor all the days of his life that God gives him under the sun.

16 When I applied my heart to know wisdom and to observe the activity that is done upon the earth (his eyes not seeing sleep either day or night), 17 then I saw all the work of God. No one can comprehend the work that is done under the sun. Despite all human efforts to seek it out, no one comprehends. Even if a wise person claims to know, he cannot really comprehend.