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Who is smart enough
    to explain everything?
Wisdom makes you cheerful
    and gives you a smile.

Obey the King

If you promised God that you would be loyal to the king, I advise you to keep that promise. Don’t quickly oppose the king or argue when he has already made up his mind. The king’s word is law. No one can ask him, “Why are you doing this?” If you obey the king, you will stay out of trouble. So be smart and learn what to do and when to do it. Life is hard, but there is a time and a place for everything, though no one can tell the future. We cannot control the wind[a] or determine the day of our death. There is no escape in time of war, and no one can hide behind evil. I noticed all this and thought seriously about what goes on in the world. Why does one person have the power to hurt another?

Who Can Understand the Ways of God?

10 I saw the wicked buried with honor, but God’s people had to leave the holy city and were forgotten.[b] None of this makes sense. 11 When we see criminals commit crime after crime without being punished, it makes us want to start a life of crime. 12 They commit hundreds of crimes and live to a ripe old age, in spite of the saying:

Everyone who lives right
and respects God
    will prosper,
13 but no one who sins
    and rejects God
will prosper or live very long.

14 There is something else that doesn’t make sense to me. Good citizens are treated as criminals, while criminals are honored as though they were good citizens. 15 So I think we should get as much out of life as we possibly can. There is nothing better than to enjoy our food and drink and to have a good time. Then we can make it through this troublesome life that God has given us here on earth.

16 Day and night I went without sleep, trying to understand what goes on in this world. 17 I saw everything God does, and I realized that no one can really understand what happens. We may be very wise, but no matter how much we try or how much we claim to know, we cannot understand it all.

Footnotes

  1. 8.8 control the wind: Or “escape from death.”
  2. 8.10 but. . . forgotten: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.

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.(A) 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?(B)

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,(C)
    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(D)—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(E) with those who fear God,(F) who are reverent before him.(G) 13 Yet because the wicked do not fear God,(H) it will not go well with them, and their days(I) 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.(J) This too, I say, is meaningless.(K) 15 So I commend the enjoyment of life(L), because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink(M) and be glad.(N) 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(O) and to observe the labor that is done on earth(P)—people getting no sleep day or night— 17 then I saw all that God has done.(Q) 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.(R)

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

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