Ecclesiastes 8:17 MEANING

Ecclesiastes 8:17
Verse 17. - Then I beheld all the work of God. This is the apodosis to the first clause of ver. 16. "God's work" is the same as the work that is done under the sun, and means men's actions and the providential ordering thereof. This a man, with his finite understanding, cannot find out, cannot thoroughly comprehend or explain (comp. Ecclesiastes 3:11; Ecclesiastes 7:23, 24). Because though a man labor to seek it out. The Septuagint has, Ὅσα α}ν μοχθήσῃ, "Whatsoever things a man shall labor to seek;" Vulgate, Quanto plus laboraverit ad quaerendum, tanto minus inveniat. The interpreters waver between "how much so ever," and "wherefore a man labors." The latter seems to be best. Though a wise man think to know it, yet shall he not be able to find it. It is the part of wisdom to determine to know all that can be known; but the resolution is baffled here (comp. Ecclesiastes 7:23). The two verses, with their repetitions and tautologous expressions, seem to denote perturbation of mind in the author and his sense of the gravity of his assertions. He is overwhelmed with the thought of the inscrutability of God's judgments, while he is forced to face the facts. An exquisite commentary on this passage is found in Hooker, 'Eccl. Pol.,' 1:2. § 2, quoted by Plumptre; and in Bishop Butler's sermon 'On the Ignorance of Man,' where we read, "From it [the knowledge of our ignorance] we may learn with what temper of mind a man ought to inquire into the subject of religion, namely, with what expectation of finding difficulties, and with a disposition to take up and rest satisfied with any evidence whatever which is real. A man should beforehand expect things mysterious, and such as he will not be able thoroughly to comprehend or go to the bottom of.... Our ignorance is the proper answer to many things which are called objections against religion, particularly to those which arise from the appearance of evil and irregularity in the constitution of nature and the government of the world Since the constitution of nature and the methods and designs of Providence in the government of the world are above our comprehension, we should acquiesce in and rest satisfied with our ignorance, turn our thoughts from that which is above and beyond us, and apply ourselves to that which is level to our capacities, and which is our real business and concern .... Lastly, let us adore that infinite wisdom and power and goodness which is above our comprehension (Ecclus. 1:6). The conclusion is that in all lowliness of mind we set lightly by ourselves; that we form our temper to an implicit submission to the Divine Majesty, beget within ourselves an absolute resignation to all the methods of his providence in his dealings with the children of men; that in the deepest humility of our souls we prostrate ourselves before him, and join in that celestial song, 'Great and marvelous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints. Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy Name?' (Revelation 15:3, 4) (comp. Romans 11:33).

8:14-17 Faith alone can establish the heart in this mixed scene, where the righteous often suffer, and the wicked prosper. Solomon commended joy, and holy security of mind, arising from confidence in God, because a man has no better thing under the sun, though a good man has much better things above the sun, than soberly and thankfully to use the things of this life according to his rank. He would not have us try to give a reason for what God does. But, leaving the Lord to clear up all difficulties in his own time, we may cheerfully enjoy the comforts, and bear up under the trials of life; while peace of conscience and joy in the Holy Ghost will abide in us through all outward changes, and when flesh and heart shall fail.Then I beheld all the work of God,.... Not of creation, but of Providence; took notice of it, contemplated on it, considered it, and weighed it well; viewed the various steps and methods of it, to find out, if possible, at least, some general rule by which it proceeded: but all so various and uncertain,

that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun: he can find out that it is done, but not the reason why it is done: the ways of God are in the deep, and not to be traced; they are unsearchable and past finding out; there is a a depth of wisdom and knowledge, in them, inscrutable by the wisest of men, Psalm 72:19;

because, though a man labour to seek it out, yet he shall not find it; Noldius and others render it "although"; not only a man that, in a slight and negligent manner, seeks after the knowledge of the works of divine Providence, and the reasons of them; but even one that is diligent and laborious at it is not able to find them out; they being purposely concealed by the Lord, to answer some ends of his;

yea, further, though a wise man think to know it, yet shall he not be able to find it; a man of a great natural capacity, such an one as Solomon himself, though he proposes to himself, and determines within himself to find it out, and sets himself to the work, and uses all the means and methods he can devise, and imagines with himself he shall be able to find out the reasons of the divine procedure, in his dispensations towards the righteous and the wicked; and yet, after all, he is not able to do it. The Targum is,

"what shall be done in the end of days;''

wherefore it is best for a man to be easy and quiet, and enjoy what he has in the best manner he can, and submit to the will of God.

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