Qoheleth now expresses his dismay at the injustice he observes in the world. The wicked are praised and receive an honorable funeral in the very city where they perpetrated their crimes (8:10). Such a delay in retribution incites further wrongdoing (v. 11). In vv. 12 and 13 Qoheleth either affirms his faith in ultimate justice or is citing a popular position which he then rejects in the next verse on the basis of empirical data he has collected. Retribution and reward are interchanged and not appropriately distributed as some claim (v. 14). This does not make sense to the writer, and he labels it meaningless.
If Qoheleth is anticipating ultimate justice, he is then allowing for momentary success of the wicked. But he insists that God's patience should not be misunderstood. There is a limit to the success of the wicked. Justice will ultimately be administered. Meanwhile, he urges enjoyment and contentment (v. 15). God is in charge of the events of life. While we will struggle to understand the events of life, we will remain in ignorance even though the wise may claim otherwise (v. 17). We must learn to live with mystery and ignorance.
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