The Pulpit Commentary

Ecclesiastes 7:8-14 (Ecclesiastes 7:8-14)

Section 2. Here follow some recommendations to patience and resignation under the ordering of God's providence. Such conduct is shown to be true wisdom.

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Ecclesiastes 7:14 (Ecclesiastes 7:14)

In the day of prosperity be joyful ; literally, in the day of good be in good i . e . when things go well with you, be cheerful ( Ecclesiastes 9:7 ; Esther 8:17 ); accept the situation and enjoy it. The advice is the same as that which runs through the book, viz. to make the best of the present. So Ben-Sira says, "Defraud not thyself of the good day, and let not a share in a good desire pass thee by" (Ecclesiasticus 14:14). Septuagint ἐν ἡμέρᾳ ἀγαθωσύνης ζῆθι ἐν αγαθῷ , "In a day of good live in (an atmosphere of) good;" Vulgate, in die bona fruere bonis , "In a good day enjoy your good things." But in the day of adversity consider ; in the evil day look well . The writer could not conclude this clause so as to make it parallel with the other, or he would have had to say, "In the ill day take it ill," which would be far from his meaning; so he introduces a thought which may help to make one resigned to adversity. The reflection follows. Septuagint, καὶ ἴδε ἐν ἡμέρᾳ κακίας ἴδε κ . τ . λ ..; Vulgate, Et malam diem praecave , "Beware of the evil day." But, doubtless, the object of the verb is the following clause. God also hath set the one over against the other ; or, God hath made the one corresponding to the other ; i . e . he hath made the day of evil as well as the day of good. The light and shade in man's life are equally under God's ordering and permission. "What?" cries Job ( Job 2:10 ), "shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?" Corn. Lapide quotes a saying of Plutarch to this effect: the harp gives forth sounds acute and grave, and both combine to form the melody; so in man's life the mingling of prosperity and adversity yields a well-adjusted harmony. God strikes all the strings of our life's harp, and we ought, not only patiently, but cheerfully, to listen to the chords produced by this Divine Performer. To the end that man should find nothing after him. This clause gives Koheleth's view of God's object in the admixture of good and evil; but the reason has been variously interpreted, the explanation depending on the sense assigned to the term "after him" ( אַתַרָיו ). The Septuagint gives ὀπίσω αὐτοῦ , which is vague; the Vulgate, contra eum , meaning that man may have no occasion to complain against God. Cheyne ('Job and Solomon') considers that Koheleth here implies that death closes the scene, and that there is then nothing more to fear, rendering the clause, "On the ground that man is to experience nothing at all hereafter." They who believe that the writer held the doctrine of a future life cannot acquiesce in this view. The interpretation of Delitzsch is this—God lets man pass through the whole discipline of good and evil, that when lie dies there may be nothing which he has not experienced. Hitzig and Nowack explain the text to mean that, as God designs that man after his death shall have done with all things, he sends upon him evil as well as good, that he may not have to punish him hereafter—a doctrine opposed to the teaching of a future judgment. Wright deems the idea to be that man may be kept in ignorance of what shall happen to him beyond the grave, that the present life may afford no clue to the future. One does not see why this should be a comfort, nor how it is compatible with God's known counsel of making the condition of the future life dependent upon the conduct of this. Other explanations being more or less unsatisfactory, many modem commentators see in the passage an assertion that God intermingle8 good and evil in men's lives according to laws with which they are unacquainted, in order that they may not disquiet themselves by forecasting the future, whether in this life or after their death, but may be wholly dependent upon God, casting all their care upon him, knowing that he careth for them ( 1 Peter 5:7 ). We may safely adopt this explanation (comp. Ecclesiastes 3:22 ; Ecclesiastes 6:12 ). The paragraph then con-rains the same teaching as Horace's oft-quoted ode-

"Prudens futuri temporis exitum," etc.

('Carm.,' 3.29. 29.)

Theognis', 1075—

πρήγματος ἀπρήκτου χαλεπώτατόν ἐστι τελεντὴν

γνῶναι ὅπως μέλλει τοῦτο θεὸς τελέσαι

ορφνη γὰρ τέταται πρὸ δὲ τοῦ μέλλοντος ἔσεσθαι

οὐ ξυνετὰ θνητοῖς πείρατ ἀμηχανίης ,

"The issue of an action incomplete,

'Tis hard to forecast how God may dispose it;

For it is veiled in darkest night, and man

In present hour can never comprehend

His helpless efforts."

Plumptre quotes the lines in Cleanthes's hymn to Zeus, verses 18-21—

ἀλλὰ σὺ καὶ τὰ περισσά κ . τ . λ ..

"Thou alone knowest how to change the odd

To even, and to make the crooked straight;

And things discordant find accent in thee.

Thus in one whole thou blendest ill with good,

So that one law works on for evermore."

Ben-Sira has evidently borrowed the idea in Ecclesiasticus 33:13-15 (36.) from our passage; after speaking of man being like clay under the potter's hand, he proceeds, "Good is set over against evil, and life over against death; so is the godly against the sinner, and the sinner against the godly. So look upon all the works of the Mast High: there are two and two, one against the ether."

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