5שׁוֹמֵ֣ר מִצְוָ֔ה לֹ֥א יֵדַ֖ע דָּבָ֣ר רָ֑ע וְעֵ֣ת וּמִשְׁפָּ֔ט יֵדַ֖ע לֵ֥ב חָכָֽם׃
Keeping a command – thus, one keeping a command.
“Some words with the qotel pattern (5.2) are used as nouns ….” (Waltke & O’Connor, 37.1f, 614). Here “keeping” means “one who keeps”.
לֹ֥א יֵדַ֖ע דָּבָ֣ר רָ֑ע
Does not know an evil thing.
Here “know” would mean “experience” not merely possess cognitive information. It refers back to the “evil thing/matter” of verse 3.
Ginsburg makes an observation that anyone on the other side of the 20th century would find difficult to support:
Whoso keepeth the commandment, &c. But though the part of wisdom is not to defy the power of a potentate, even if that power is abused, and is made to weigh heavily upon us, yet such abuses are not the rule, but the exception. Generally speaking, a peaceful and obedient subject, who submits to the institutions of the sovereign, will not experience evil words. מִצְוָה, i.e., מִצְוַתהַמֶּלֶךְ, the commandment of the king, so that שׁוֹמֵרמִצְוָה is the same as פִּימֶלֶךְשְׁמֹר in verse 2. יָדַע, to see, to observe, to perceive, experience, either with the eye, ear, or feelings; hence, also, to hear (comp. Gen. 9:24; Levit. 5:1)
Christian D. Ginsburg, Coheleth, Commonly Called the Book of Ecclesiastes: Translated from the Original Hebrew, With a Commentary, Historical and Critical (London: Longman, Green, Longman, and Roberts, 1861), 394.
And a suitable time and judgment (Longman suggests, “custom”). Seow: “a time of judgment”.
Suitable time was referenced back in 3:1, making another verbal echo of that section.
עתומשׁפט is usually rendered “time of judgment.” Perhaps the connective waw was lacking for LXX, which understands the phrase as hendiadys here, καιρὸν κρίσεως, but not in v 6 (καιρὸς και κρίσις). R. Gordis translates משׁפט as “procedure,” and also A. Barucq (conduite à tenir), who refers to Judg 13:12.
Roland Murphy, vol. 23A, Ecclesiates, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1998), 80.
יֵדַ֖ע לֵ֥ב חָכָֽם
He will know the wise at heart: the wise heart will know.
And the wise man’s heart discerneth both time and order.
Benjamin Weiss, New Translation and Exposition of the Book of Ecclesiastes: With Critical Notes on the Hebrew Text (Edinburgh; London: William Oliphant and Co.; Hamilton, Adams & Co., 1858), 262. He goes to state:
If we were left to ourselves in the wilderness of this world, we had certainly every reason to despair and tremble at every step we make in the dangerous journey of life. Our weakness, our darkness, our hesitations, the changes of times, subjects, objects, and circumstances, the trials and troubles which overtake us, the snares and stumbling-blocks put in our way by Satan and his emissaries, all would combine to make us miserable, and to lead us to destruction. But, blessed be God, this is not the case; for He has not left us without guides, without light, or without instruction how to behave, and how to proceed on our journey. His holy commandments are so many brilliant lamps to our feet, to enlighten our steps, and to lead us in the path of righteousness. If the law of God be our rule and guide, and if we are so enlightened by the wisdom of God as to discern the times and orders of things, and foresee all the changes to which they and we are liable, and thus be always armed and ready to meet whatever come, then no evil shall befall us. Though the afflictions, calamities, vicissitudes, and disorders multiply daily upon us—though we are too shortsighted to know and foresee exactly how and when they shall take place, or how we should provide and prepare antidotes against them, still if the Lord is our refuge, and His wisdom our guide, we have nothing to fear even should all the orders of this globe change, and the mountains be removed into the depth of the ocean. The Lord our God knows these changes well; for He orders them beforehand to come, and He it is likewise who calls by name all the hosts of heaven, who numbereth the stars, and also the hairs of our head; it is therefore certain that He will cause all things to turn out for the best for those that fear Him. If there are any who have reason to tremble at the changes of life and time, these are the wicked who live without God and without the precepts of His wisdom, and whom the least storm may overturn and cast into a gulf of destruction. But they that fear the Lord and live in Him are under His omnipotent protection—change world, change time, change circumstances, our God never changes; His promises never fail. He shall never leave us and never forsake us, until He has taken us from the midst of a tumultuous world of changes and dangers into the stable and unchangeable world of eternal peace and unmingled happiness.
Benjamin Weiss, New Translation and Exposition of the Book of Ecclesiastes: With Critical Notes on the Hebrew Text (Edinburgh; London: William Oliphant and Co.; Hamilton, Adams & Co., 1858), 263-64.
Whoso keepeth the command, that is, as much as, “whoso standeth not in an evil thing,” (ver. 3). מצוה is to be taken as a kind of nomen proprium, signifying, the command absolutely, the divine command; compare שמרמצוה, used n 1 Kings 11:34, of the observance of the divine commands. Shall experience no evil thing: whoso avoids the evil of guilt, shall be spared the evil of punishment. Knobel’s explanation ידע “to know,” “to make the acquaintance,” רעדבר “of moral culpability,” does not suit the second clause. He may fall into great sufferings, as the pious in Israel were now compelled to experience,—by way of consolation for the bearers of the cross are the words spoken—but only into such sufferings as are blessings, when more carefully examined, and as shall have a joyous termination: compare Romans 8:28, οἴδαμεν δὲ, ὄτι τοῖς ἀγαπῶσι τὸν Θεὸν, πάντα συνεργεῖ εἰς ἀγαθόν. And a wise heart discerneth both time and judgment. According to chap. 3:1, “the time”can only be the time of the interference of God. “Judgment” consequently must refer to God’s exercise of judgment and right. Time and judgment taken together, signify that God will judge at his own time. The meaning of the entire verse is as follows: As certainly as God in his own time shall judge righteously—a thing which is known to the wise heart—so certain is it, that those who hold God’s commands, and therefore have God on their side, cannot be really and lastingly unhappy.
E. W. Hengstenberg, Commentary on Ecclesiastes, trans. D. W. Simon (Philadelphia; New York; Boston: Smith, English, & Co.; Sheldon and Company; Gould and Lincoln, 1860), 196-97.
Admonition to submit to the existing arrangements of this life, all of which have God as their final author.—Whoso keepeth the commandment shall feel no evil thing.—מִצְוָה “the commandment,” is undoubtedly the same as דְּבַר־מֶלֶך, ver. 4, therefore not the Divine law (VAIHINGER, HAHN, HENGSTENBERG, etc.), but the law of earthly authority as the Divine representative. The feeling no evil thing (לאידעדבררע) most probably signifies the remaining distant from evil counsels, taking no part in rebellious enterprises (KNOBEL, VAIHINGER, etc.), so that, therefore, דבררע here expresses a sense different from that in verse 3 above. Yet another explanation of the language, and one consistent with the context, is as follows: “He experiences no misfortune, remains protected from the punishment of transgressing the laws” (ELSTER, HENGSTENBERG). But HEILIGSTEDT, on the contrary, is wrong (comp. EWALD): “he pays no attention to the evil that is done to him, and does not grieve about the injustice that he suffers, but bears it with equanimity;” and also HITZIG: “the keeper of the commandment (the servile slave of tyrants) does not first consider an evil command of his superior, in so far as it is morally evil, but executes it blindly, and thus commits a sin at the bidding of a higher power; the wise man, on the contrary, etc.”—a declaration which stands and falls with the previously quoted artificial understanding of ver. 2–4 as antagonistic in speech.*—And a wise man’s heart discerneth both time and judgment.—That is, the wise man knows that for every cvil attempt there comes a time of judgment; see ver. 6. This explanation alone, which is that of the Septuagint [καὶ καιρὸν κρισέως γινώσκει καρδία σοφοῦ] is in accordance with the text; one needs think as little of the judgment which awaits all men, especially wicked princes and tyrants, as of the appointed time of existence of all civil ordinances [ELSTER], or of the proper time and authority to do any thing, or not (HAHN). Ver. 6.
John Peter Lange, Philip Schaff, Otto Zöckler et al., A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Ecclesiastes (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008), 117-18.
6כִּ֣י לְכָל־חֵ֔פֶץ יֵ֖שׁ עֵ֣ת וּמִשְׁפָּ֑ט כִּֽי־רָעַ֥ת הָאָדָ֖ם רַבָּ֥ה עָלָֽיו׃
כִּ֣י לְכָל־חֵ֔פֶץ יֵ֖שׁ עֵ֣ת וּמִשְׁפָּ֑ט
For everything desired there is a suitable time and judgment. ESV, “There is a time and a way for everything”. Fredericks, “Yes, for every choice there is a suitable time and judgment.”
Compare the language of 3:1:
1לַכֹּ֖ל זְמָ֑ן וְעֵ֥ת לְכָל־חֵ֖פֶץ תַּ֥חַת הַשָּׁמָֽיִם׃ ס
Again, a substantial verbal parallel between the two sections. Thematically, this section seems to reconsider the matters raised in 3:1, et seq. and 5:1, et seq. However, on this occasion, the actor is not God and one’s interaction with God but rather a king and one’s interaction with a king. The only tie to God in this passage comes in 8:2 with “God’s oath”.
כִּֽי־רָעַ֥ת הָאָדָ֖ם רַבָּ֥ה עָלָֽיו׃
(Fredericks begins a separate paragraph at this point. )
For evil is to the human being [adam] much upon him: ESV: although a man’s trouble lies heavy upon him.
A great deal of the difference in the translations comes about due to the understanding of the particle ki at the beginning of each clause. Should one translate the ki here as “because” or “although” or “for” or some other way?
Seow at this point looks back to 8:5b and notes the repeated use of ki. He suggests, “We may, however, take all four [ki’s] the same way, as indicative objects of yeda [he knows]” (Seow, 281). Using the ESV translation as a basis, we would read:
Ecclesiastes 8:5–7 (ESV)
As for the proper time and the just way,
the wise heart will know:
1) [that there] is a time and a way for everything,
2) [that a] man’s trouble lies heavy on him;
3)[That] he does not know what is to be,
4) [That no one] can tell him how it will be.
This makes a great deal of sense and follows from the overall course of the book.
We are not to mourn, though often oppressed by the unjust and powerful; since all these things come to an end in death, and the proud potentate himself, after all his tyrannical cruelties, cannot retain the soul when taken away by death.—CRAMER (Ver. 7):—It is vain that we anxiously trouble ourselves about the progress and issue of things to come; therefore we should abandon our prying desire. Ps. 37:5.—GEIER:—The last conflict and struggle is the hardest and most dangerous; but a pious Christian should not be terrified at it; for the conquest of Jesus over death will become his own through faith; temporal death is for him only a dissolution, a passing away in peace.
MELANCHTHON:—This question tortures all minds; so that many who see the prosperity of the wicked, and the misfortunes of the just, begin to think there is no Providence. It is the excelling strength of faith, that it is not broken by such spectacles, but retains the true cognition of God, and waits patiently for the judgment.—OSIANDER:—It does not become us to dictate to God how He shall rule the world. Let it satisfy us that God rules, and will finally bring to light the justice of His judgment.—Because God delays a while in the punishment of sin, men falsely convince themselves that their wickedness will go wholly unpunished, Sirach 5:4, 5.—J. Lange:—The children of God consider the patience of the Lord their salvation [2 Pet. 3:15]; whilst the wicked consider this patience as a privilege to sin the more boldly (Rom. 6:1). But however happy they may esteem themselves, they nevertheless die unblessed, and their happiness is changed into eternal shame.
John Peter Lange, Philip Schaff, Otto Zöckler et al., A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Ecclesiastes (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008), 121-22.
7כִּֽי־אֵינֶ֥נּוּ יֹדֵ֖עַ מַה־שֶּׁיִּֽהְיֶ֑ה כִּ֚י כַּאֲשֶׁ֣ר יִֽהְיֶ֔ה מִ֖י יַגִּ֥יד לֽוֹ׃
[For/because/although] there is no one who knows what will be.
For ki, see comment on 8:6.
Longman makes the pointed observation, “Above, Qoheleth stated his belief that there is a time for everything. Now he is admitting the counterveiling truth: no one can know that proper time. It is beyond human ability” (Longman, 214). Now, such an observation need not end in despair or indicate cynicism. Earlier in the book Qoheleth announced that God has barred such knowledge so that human beings will fear God (Ecclesiastes 3:14 & 7:14). Since the point of the book is to fear God, such a recognition is merely what Qoheleth intends to prove.
כִּ֚י כַּאֲשֶׁ֣ר יִֽהְיֶ֔ה מִ֖י יַגִּ֥יד לֽוֹ׃
For what shall be, who can tell it to him? ESV, “for who can tell him how it will be?”
As, according as ….
Hifil imperfect, may/will say?
Ecclesiastes 8:8 (BHS/WHM 4.2)
8אֵ֣ין אָדָ֞ם שַׁלִּ֤יט בָּר֙וּחַ֙ לִכְל֣וֹא אֶת־הָר֔וּחַ וְאֵ֤ין שִׁלְטוֹן֙ בְּי֣וֹם הַמָּ֔וֶת וְאֵ֥ין מִשְׁלַ֖חַת בַּמִּלְחָמָ֑ה וְלֹֽא־יְמַלֵּ֥ט רֶ֖שַׁע אֶת־בְּעָלָֽיו׃
There is no one
With power over the wind. Note the pointing for the article, not “wind” but “the wind”.
The object of this verse apparently is to show the unprofitableness and danger of wickedness, and probably, as Bp. Patrick thinks, it may be intended as a caution to princes not to abuse their authority. שַׁלִּיט having power, conf. 7:19. בָּרוּחַ over the wind, Syr. and Arab.; so Döderlein, Dathe, Schmidt, Hitzig, M. Stuart, and others; conf. 9:5; Prov. 30:4; John 3:8: Eng. Vers., over the spirit, as in 12:7; LXX., ἐν πνεύματι. If the immaterial spirit is referred to, the meaning is, that no one can retain it in the body, when the time for its departure has arrived; but as this is implied in the next clause, viz., there is to man no dominion over the day of death, the translation “wind” is, I think, preferable.
J. Lloyd, An Analysis of the Book of Ecclesiastes: With Reference to the Hebrew Grammar of Gesenius, and With Notes Critical and Explanatory (London: Samuel Bagster and Sons, 1874), 109-10.
The word here for power is the adjectival form of the word used in 8:4a, the king’s word is power/mighty. Seow translates it as “proprietor”.
The use of beth:
(iii) Localizes through: indicating contact with an x
a. Material contact: person or thing
Let not my hand be upon him, but let the hand of the Philistines be upon him (1 Sam. 18:17).
Christo Van der Merwe, Jackie Naudé, Jan Kroeze et al., A Biblical Hebrew Reference Grammar, electronic ed. (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1999), 280.
To restrain the wind.
“The infinitive construct with [lamed] is very often used after a verb to express an action which gives more details about or explains the preceding action” (Jouon, section 124o, 437). “Qoheleth illustrates the powerlessness of man to know the future by examples of powerlessness in other respects. He cannot control the winds” (Barton, 151).
וְאֵ֤ין שִׁלְטוֹן֙ בְּי֣וֹם הַמָּ֔וֶת
And there is no one with power over the death of death.
Parallel construction to the preceding clause – since this clause is parallel, it may indicate that one should translate ruach as “spirit” [of a human being] not “wind” (see, Longman, 214). Seow sees a shift in the two uses (282). Fredericks sees this as “intentionally vague” and notes the two translations.
וְאֵ֥ין מִשְׁלַ֖חַת בַּמִּלְחָמָ֑ה
There is no discharge in war.
Difficult word: the translators are uniform with “discharge”. The LXX has apostle: dispatch. Longman finds the base meaning as “to send” (which matches the LXX). Seow refers to the Persian custom of sending a substitute for one during time of battle.
The wind blows where it listeth, and no man can restrain it or change its torrent; no more can a man restrain the torrent of death, or prolong his stay on earth by a single day. The same it is in war, where no one knows who will fall, and whose destiny it is, fall he must, as the arrows of the enemy make no distinction between the men that fill the ranks and lines. As long as human breasts are of flesh, and arrows of sharp iron, there will be no discharge (or distinction) in war; the king’s or the general’s breast may be pierced by an arrow of no more worth than that which fatally wounds a common soldier. These three messengers, tempest, death, and war, sweep and carry everything before them, without distinction of persons; nor will the riches accumulated by violence and unrighteousness deliver their wicked owners when their time comes to perish. While the death of the righteous is a triumph unto them, as they go over from a world of changes and trials into one of peace and happiness, that of the wicked is a beginning of never-ending misery and agony. While the fear and wisdom of God affords comfort, counsel, and peace in time, shields against the sting of death, and carries victory in eternity, wickedness absorbs peace, and multiplies fear and sorrow in time, heaps agonizing horrors at the hour of death, and opens the door of hell and everlasting torments for those that practise it.
Benjamin Weiss, New Translation and Exposition of the Book of Ecclesiastes: With Critical Notes on the Hebrew Text (Edinburgh; London: William Oliphant and Co.; Hamilton, Adams & Co., 1858), 264-65.