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Ecclesiastes 5:7–8 (BHS/WHM 4.2)

7 אִם־עֹ֣שֶׁק רָ֠שׁ וְגֵ֨זֶל מִשְׁפָּ֤ט וָצֶ֙דֶק֙ תִּרְאֶ֣ה בַמְּדִינָ֔ה אַל־תִּתְמַ֖הּ עַל־הַחֵ֑פֶץ כִּ֣י גָבֹ֜הַּ מֵעַ֤ל גָּבֹ֙הַּ֙ שֹׁמֵ֔ר וּגְבֹהִ֖ים עֲלֵיהֶֽם׃ 8 וְיִתְר֥וֹן אֶ֖רֶץ בַּכֹּ֣ל ה֑יּ֯א מֶ֥לֶךְ לְשָׂדֶ֖ה נֶעֱבָֽד׃


Ecclesiastes 5:8–9 (ESV)

8 If you see in a province the oppression of the poor and the violation of justice and righteousness, do not be amazed at the matter, for the high official is watched by a higher, and there are yet higher ones over them. 9 But this is gain for a land in every way: a king committed to cultivated fields.

These two verses present considerable difficulties to both interpreter and translator. It is very likely that we shall never be fully clear about their meaning, but we must still attempt to understand and convey their meaning as best we can.

One thing is clear: the subject matter relates to injustice, a theme that catches Qoheleth’s interest on several occasions. This switch in subject matter, leaving behind the religious setting, and stylistic features that do not match those of the previous section, demonstrate that this is a new subsection. We should mark it by a new section heading.

Graham S. Ogden and Lynell Zogbo, A Handbook on Ecclesiastes, UBS Handbook Series (New York: United Bible Societies, 1998), 163.