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Ecclesiastes 8 The Message (MSG)

There’s nothing better than being wise,
Knowing how to interpret the meaning of life.
Wisdom puts light in the eyes,
And gives gentleness to words and manners.

No One Can Control the Wind

2-7 Do what your king commands; you gave a sacred oath of obedience. Don’t worryingly second-guess your orders or try to back out when the task is unpleasant. You’re serving his pleasure, not yours. The king has the last word. Who dares say to him, “What are you doing?” Carrying out orders won’t hurt you a bit; the wise person obeys promptly and accurately. Yes, there’s a right time and way for everything, even though, unfortunately, we miss it for the most part. It’s true that no one knows what’s going to happen, or when. Who’s around to tell us?

No one can control the wind or lock it in a box.
No one has any say-so regarding the day of death.
No one can stop a battle in its tracks.
No one who does evil can be saved by evil.

All this I observed as I tried my best to understand all that’s going on in this world. As long as men and women have the power to hurt each other, this is the way it is.

One Fate for Everybody

10 One time I saw wicked men given a solemn burial in holy ground. When the people returned to the city, they delivered flowery eulogies—and in the very place where wicked acts were done by those very men! More smoke. Indeed.

11 Because the sentence against evil deeds is so long in coming, people in general think they can get by with murder.

12-13 Even though a person sins and gets by with it hundreds of times throughout a long life, I’m still convinced that the good life is reserved for the person who fears God, who lives reverently in his presence, and that the evil person will not experience a “good” life. No matter how many days he lives, they’ll all be as flat and colorless as a shadow—because he doesn’t fear God.

* * *

14 Here’s something that happens all the time and makes no sense at all: Good people get what’s coming to the wicked, and bad people get what’s coming to the good. I tell you, this makes no sense. It’s smoke.

15 So, I’m all for just going ahead and having a good time—the best possible. The only earthly good men and women can look forward to is to eat and drink well and have a good time—compensation for the struggle for survival these few years God gives us on earth.

16-17 When I determined to load up on wisdom and examine everything taking place on earth, I realized that if you keep your eyes open day and night without even blinking, you’ll still never figure out the meaning of what God is doing on this earth. Search as hard as you like, you’re not going to make sense of it. No matter how smart you are, you won’t get to the bottom of it.

The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson

Ecclesiastes 8 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Obey Rulers

Who is like the wise person and who knows the meaning of a matter? A person’s wisdom illuminates his face and makes his stern face [a]brighten up.

I say, “Keep the [b]command of the king because of the oath [c]before God. Do not be in a hurry [d]to leave him. Do not join in an evil matter, for he will do whatever he pleases.” Since the word of the king is authoritative, who will say to him, “What are you doing?”

One who keeps a royal command experiences no [e]trouble, for a wise heart knows the proper time and procedure. For there is a proper time and procedure for every delight, though a person’s trouble is heavy upon him. If no one knows what will happen, who can tell him when it will happen? No one has authority over the wind to restrain the wind, nor authority over the day of death; and there is no military discharge in the time of war, and evil will not save [f]those who practice it. All this I have seen, and have applied my [g]mind to every deed that has been done under the sun at a time when one person has exercised authority over another person to his detriment.

10 So then, I have seen the wicked buried, those who used to go in and out of the holy place, and they are soon forgotten in the city where they did such things. This too is futility. 11 Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, therefore the hearts of the sons of mankind among them are [h]fully given to do evil. 12 Although a sinner does evil a hundred times and may lengthen his life, still I know that it will go well for those who fear God, who fear [i]Him openly. 13 But it will not go well for the evil person and he will not lengthen his days like a shadow, because he does not fear God.

14 There is futility which is done on the earth, that is, there are righteous people to whom it [j]happens according to the deeds of the wicked. On the other hand, there are evil people to whom it [k]happens according to the deeds of the righteous. I say that this too is futility. 15 So I commended pleasure, for there is nothing good for a person under the sun except to eat, drink, and be joyful, and this will stand by him in his labor throughout the days of his life which God has given him under the sun.

16 When I devoted my [l]mind to know wisdom and to see the business which has been done on the earth (even though one should [m]never sleep day or night), 17 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.

Footnotes:

  1. Ecclesiastes 8:1 Or change
  2. Ecclesiastes 8:2 Lit mouth
  3. Ecclesiastes 8:2 Lit of
  4. Ecclesiastes 8:3 Lit to go out from his presence
  5. Ecclesiastes 8:5 Lit evil thing
  6. Ecclesiastes 8:8 Lit its possessors
  7. Ecclesiastes 8:9 Lit heart
  8. Ecclesiastes 8:11 Lit full to do
  9. Ecclesiastes 8:12 Lit before Him
  10. Ecclesiastes 8:14 Lit strikes
  11. Ecclesiastes 8:14 Lit strikes
  12. Ecclesiastes 8:16 Lit heart
  13. Ecclesiastes 8:16 Lit see no sleep in his eyes
New American Standard Bible (NASB)

New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995, 2020 by The Lockman Foundation. All rights reserved.

Ecclesiastes 8 Amplified Bible (AMP)

Obey Rulers

Who is like the wise man?
And who knows the interpretation of a matter?
A man’s wisdom illumines his face,
And causes his stern face to beam.

I counsel you to keep the command of the king because of the oath before God [by which you swore loyalty to him]. Do not be in a hurry to get out of his presence. Do not join in a malevolent matter, for the king will do whatever he pleases.


For the word of a king is authoritative and powerful,
And who will say to him, “What are you doing?”

Whoever keeps and observes a royal command will experience neither trouble nor misery;
For a wise heart will know the [a]proper time and [appropriate] procedure.

For there is a [b]proper time and [appropriate] procedure for every delight,
Though mankind’s misery and trouble lies heavily upon him [who rebels against the king].

For no one knows what will happen;
So who can tell him how and when it will happen?

There is no man who has power and authority over the wind to restrain the wind,
Nor does he have authority over the day of death;
There is no discharge [from service] during time of war,
And evil will not rescue those who [actively seek to] practice it.

All this I have seen while applying my mind to every deed that is done under the sun. There is a time in which one man has exercised power over others to their detriment.

10 So then, I have seen the wicked buried, those who used to go in and out of the holy place [but did not thereby escape their doom], and they are [praised in spite of their evil and] soon forgotten in the city where they did such things. This too is futility (vanity, emptiness). 11 Because the sentence against an evil act is not executed quickly, the hearts of the sons of men are fully set to do evil. 12 Though a sinner does evil a hundred times and his life [seemingly] is prolonged [in spite of his wickedness], still I know that it will be well with those who [reverently] fear God, who fear and worship Him openly [realizing His omnipresence and His power]. 13 But it will not be well for the evil man, nor will he lengthen his days like a shadow, because he does not fear God.

14 There is a meaningless and futile thing which is done on the earth: that is, there are righteous men whose gain is as though they were evil, and evil men whose gain is as though they were righteous. I say that this too is futility (meaningless, vain). 15 Then I commended pleasure and enjoyment, because a man [without God] has no better thing under the sun than to eat and to drink and to be merry, for this will stand by him in his toil through the days of his life which God has given him under the sun.

16 When I applied my mind to know wisdom and to see the activities [of mankind] that take place upon the earth—how some men seem to sleep neither day nor night— 17 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.

Footnotes:

  1. Ecclesiastes 8:5 Lit time and judgment.
  2. Ecclesiastes 8:6 Lit time and judgment.
Amplified Bible (AMP)

Copyright © 2015 by The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, CA 90631. 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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