Ecclesiastes 8:9-17 “There Is A Time Wherein One Man Rules Over Another to His Own Hurt”

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Ecc 8:9 All this have I seen, and applied my heart unto every work that is done under the sun: there is a time wherein one man ruleth over another to his own hurt.
Ecc 8:10 And so I saw the wicked buried, who had come and gone from the place of the holy, and they were forgotten in the city where they had so done: this is also vanity.
Ecc 8:11 Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.
Ecc 8:12 Though a sinner do evil an hundred times, and his days be prolonged, yet surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him:
Ecc 8:13 But it shall not be well with the wicked, neither shall he prolong his days, which are as a shadow; because he feareth not before God.
Ecc 8:14 There is a vanity which is done upon the earth; that there be just men, unto whom it happeneth according to the work of the wicked; again, there be wicked men, to whom it happeneth according to the work of the righteous: I said that this also is vanity.
Ecc 8:15 Then I commended mirth, because a man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry: for that shall abide with him of his labour the days of his life, which God giveth him under the sun.
Ecc 8:16 When I applied mine heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done upon the earth: (for also there is that neither day nor night seeth sleep with his eyes:)
Ecc 8:17 Then I beheld all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun: because though a man labour to seek it out, yet he shall not find it; yea further; though a wise man think to know it, yet shall he not be able to find it.

Introduction

For a man who tells us “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven” (Ecc 3:1), King Solomon makes it perfectly clear that he hasn’t a clue as to what the purpose for this life is by repeatedly declaring this life to be nothing more than “vanity and a vexation of spirit”.

Ecc 1:14 I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit.
Ecc 2:11 Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.
Ecc 2:17 Therefore I hated life; because the work that is wrought under the sun is grievous unto me: for all is vanity and vexation of spirit.

While it is true that every part of the kingdom of the beast which we are must be destroyed, and we will take nothing of this life with us, it is not true that the time we have spent in these marred clay vessels is for nothing and is without purpose as repeating the statement “all is vanity and a vexation of spirit” has led this apostatized king to think. Even sin and vanity has a good purpose inasmuch as we must all be “the first man Adam” before we can even hope to become “the last Adam”. We must all bear the earthy before we will be given to bear the heavenly spiritual body.

1Co 15:44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.
1Co 15:45 And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.
1Co 15:46 Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual.
1Co 15:47 The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven.
1Co 15:48 As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.
1Co 15:49 And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.
1Co 15:50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.

These physical bodies are called “corruption”, and they must be relinquished, but there is a purpose in being given these physical bodies first, and this verse tells us one of those purposes:

Ecc 8:9 All this have I seen, and applied my heart unto every work that is done under the sun: there is a time wherein one man ruleth over another to his own hurt.

We are all born with our beastly nature bearing rule over the yet to come “new man… the last Adam”. As we “bear the earthy” the ‘earthy… beast’ bears rule over us “to [ our] own hurt”.
This spiritual truth is seen in “the things that are made”, as Solomon has earlier expressed in the book of Proverbs, and as he has already demonstrated here is this same book of Ecclesiastes:

Pro 19:10 Delight is not seemly for a fool; much less for a servant to have rule over princes.
Ecc 3:16 And moreover I saw under the sun the place of judgment, that wickedness was there; and the place of righteousness, that iniquity was there.
Ecc 4:1 So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter.

The beast within us should be the servant to our new man, but for many years the opposite it true. Every beast a man owns ought to be under his subjection and control. When our own beast is not in our control, it will bring us death.

Exo 21:29 But if the ox were wont to push with his horn in time past, and it hath been testified to his owner, and he hath not kept him in, but that he hath killed a man or a woman; the ox shall be stoned, and his owner also shall be put to death.

A beast that is out of the control of its master is a type of the wickedness and iniquity which dominates the rule of the beast within, and the wages of such a rule is death.

Ecc 8:10 And so I saw the wicked buried, who had come and gone from the place of the holy, and they were forgotten in the city where they had so done: this is also vanity.

The word “and” connects this thought to that of the previous verse, which tells us that the wicked are often in places of rulership, “to [ their] own hurt”. It is true that the beast of our old man, and the harlot who dominates him, will be destroyed and die, and he will be forgotten:

Ecc 9:5 For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.
Jer 30:14 All thy lovers have forgotten thee; they seek thee not; for I have wounded thee with the wound of an enemy, with the chastisement of a cruel one, for the multitude of thine iniquity; because thy sins were increased.
Hos 4:6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.

But the punishment of the wicked is seldom administered immediately following some obviously wicked action. On the contrary, it often seems that God blesses those who curse Him and His ways.

Job 21:7 Wherefore do the wicked live, become old, yea, are mighty in power?
Job 21:8 Their seed is established in their sight with them, and their offspring before their eyes.
Job 21:9 Their houses are safe from fear, neither is the rod of God upon them.
Job 21:10 Their bull gendereth, and faileth not; their cow calveth, and casteth not her calf.
Job 21:11 They send forth their little ones like a flock, and their children dance.
Job 21:12 They take the timbrel and harp, and rejoice at the sound of the organ.
Job 21:13 They spend their days in wealth, and in a moment go down to the grave.
Job 21:14 Therefore they say unto God, Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways.
Job 21:15 What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? and what profit should we have, if we pray unto him?

Jeremiah saw the same phenomenon. God’s own people had forsaken His just statutes and had forgotten His ways, and were being physically blessed as they did so:

Jer 5:28 They are waxen fat, they shine: yea, they overpass the deeds of the wicked: they judge not the cause, the cause of the fatherless, yet they prosper; and the right of the needy do they not judge.
Jer 12:1 Righteous art thou, O LORD, when I plead with thee: yet let me talk with thee of thy judgments: Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? wherefore are all they happy that deal very treacherously?
Jer 12:2 Thou hast planted them, yea, they have taken root: they grow, yea, they bring forth fruit: thou art near in their mouth, and far from their reins.

In other words, they say “Lord, Lord, but do not the things [ He] says”.

Luk 6:46 And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?

Yet God is patient with us, and Solomon tells us what God’s patience with us produces within us:

Ecc 8:11 Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.

Israel, as a type of us as God’s own people, demonstrates the truth of these words. We all “live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Mat 4:4), including these very prophetic words:

Jer 7:18 The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead their dough, to make cakes to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto other gods, that they may provoke me to anger.

This is Jer 7, and this is how those words were fulfilled and how they are fulfilled to this very day in God’s people who seek after Him but do so only after ” the idols of their hearts” (Eze 14:1-9):

Jer 44:17 But we will certainly do whatsoever thing goeth forth out of our own mouth, to burn incense unto the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, as we have done, we, and our fathers, our kings, and our princes, in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem: for then had we plenty of victuals, and were well, and saw no evil.
Jer 44:18 But since we left off to burn incense to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, we have wanted all things, and have been consumed by the sword and by the famine.
Jer 44:19 And when we burned incense to the queen of heaven, and poured out drink offerings unto her, did we make her cakes to worship her, and pour out drink offerings unto her, without our men?

When we are being judged, we do not have ‘plenty of victuals’, we endure ‘much tribulations’, and things are not “well with [ us]”, and we experience nothing but evil. Job’s protracted trial is a type of those who are being judged now, and his judgment is the Old Testament type of the wrath of God being poured out upon us now. It appears that those who are not now being judged are being blessed of God for their willingness to “pour out offerings unto other gods”, even as God is pouring our His wrath upon us.

Jer 44:25 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, saying; Ye and your wives have both spoken with your mouths, and fulfilled with your hand, saying, We will surely perform our vows that we have vowed, to burn incense to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her: ye will surely accomplish your vows, and surely perform your vows.

Israel is us, and we simply do not like God’s ways of putting us to grief before He redeems us. We always have a better plan. Ours is a plan which does away with that messy and painful thing called ‘the cross of Christ’ with all of its suffering and its shame. Paul forewarns us:

Php 3:18 (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:
Php 3:19 Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)

This is our walk in our own time. We don’t consider ourselves enemies of Christ, we just do not want to do what He says and “take up our cross and follow [ Him]”. As Jeremiah told us earlier “… thou art near in their mouth, and far from their reins”. We want no part in His ways, and this is where that spirit will get us:

Jer 44:20 Then Jeremiah said unto all the people, to the men, and to the women, and to all the people which had given him that answer, saying,
Jer 44:21 The incense that ye burned in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem, ye, and your fathers, your kings, and your princes, and the people of the land, did not the LORD remember them, and came it not into his mind?
Jer 44:22 So that the LORD could no longer bear, because of the evil of your doings, and because of the abominations which ye have committed; therefore is your land a desolation, and an astonishment, and a curse, without an inhabitant, as at this day.

King Solomon reveals that even he is aware of the truth of Jeremiah’s words. King Solomon is truly conflicted. Even in his apostatized state, he knows that “it shall not be well with the wicked”, regardless of how long he prospers in his wickedness. As the type of our old man in his physical prosperity, he has physically prospered even as he continued to add to his collection of Pagan wives and their gods.
Yet he confesses:

Ecc 8:12 Though a sinner do evil an hundred times, and his days be prolonged, yet surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him:
Ecc 8:13 But it shall not be well with the wicked, neither shall he prolong his days, which are as a shadow; because he feareth not before God.

It will not “be well with [ us]” when we do evil and “fear not before God”, even if our evil seems to prosper for a season. This is the Old Testament type of what happens to us when we stubbornly refuse to submit to God and to hear and obey His Word:

Jer 44:26 Therefore hear ye the word of the LORD, all Judah that dwell in the land of Egypt; Behold, I have sworn by my great name, saith the LORD, that my name shall no more be named in the mouth of any man of Judah in all the land of Egypt, saying, The Lord GOD liveth.
Jer 44:27 Behold, I will watch over them for evil, and not for good: and all the men of Judah that are in the land of Egypt shall be consumed by the sword and by the famine, until there be an end of them.
Jer 44:28 Yet a small number that escape the sword shall return out of the land of Egypt into the land of Judah, and all the remnant of Judah, that are gone into the land of Egypt to sojourn there, shall know whose words shall stand, mine, or theirs.

While we are in Egypt or Babylon, we don’t think we are rebelling against God. Sure, we are not doing exactly what His words tell us to do, but we tell ourselves that it would actually be evil to do what the Lord tells us to do, and it would be divisive and bring down the wrath of men upon us for no really good reason. So we convince ourselves that not every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God is essential, and that in practical fact there are many non- essential words in the Word of God, which we can and should agree are not essential to obey if we truly love our brothers.
This logic is reinforced as we watch Job being judged, and we are convinced that being at peace with Egypt and Babylon is where the blessings are to be enjoyed, and to be obedient to every Word of God will bring us to misery.
Solomon observes all of this in these words:

Ecc 8:14 There is a vanity which is done upon the earth; that there be just men, unto whom it happeneth according to the work of the wicked; again, there be wicked men, to whom it happeneth according to the work of the righteous: I said that this also is vanity.

Like all of us, Solomon, a “natural man”, finds the ways of the spirit to be nothing short of foolishness. As Jeremiah tells us, here is what we all conclude under the influence of such “idols of our hearts”:

Jer 44:17 But we will certainly do whatsoever thing goeth forth out of our own mouth, to burn incense unto the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, as we have done, we, and our fathers, our kings, and our princes, in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem: for then had we plenty of victuals, and were well, and saw no evil.

Paul explains why Israel feels as she does:

1Co 2:14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

The leaders of Israel had sought God’s direction at the feet of Jeremiah, but when they were told to trust God to protect them and to forsake their Pagan holidays, and they were told not to leave for Egypt after the rebellion of Ishmael, who had slain Gedaliah, “whom the king of Babylon had made governor in the land”, this is what happened:

Jer 41:16 Then took Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces that were with him, all the remnant of the people whom he had recovered from Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, from Mizpah, after that he had slain Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, even mighty men of war, and the women, and the children, and the eunuchs, whom he had brought again from Gibeon:
Jer 41:17 And they departed, and dwelt in the habitation of Chimham, which is by Bethlehem, to go to enter into Egypt,
Jer 41:18 Because of the Chaldeans: for they were afraid of them, because Ishmael the son of Nethaniah had slain Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, whom the king of Babylon made governor in the land.

But Johanan was ruling over the people to his own hurt, and the people listened to him instead of the Word of the Lord which they had inquired of from Jeremiah.

Jer 42:1 Then all the captains of the forces, and Johanan the son of Kareah, and Jezaniah the son of Hoshaiah, and all the people from the least even unto the greatest, came near,
Jer 42:2 And said unto Jeremiah the prophet, Let, we beseech thee, our supplication be accepted before thee, and pray for us unto the LORD thy God, even for all this remnant; (for we are left but a few of many, as thine eyes do behold us:)
Jer 42:3 That the LORD thy God may shew us the way wherein we may walk, and the thing that we may do.
Jer 42:4 Then Jeremiah the prophet said unto them, I have heard you; behold, I will pray unto the LORD your God according to your words; and it shall come to pass, that whatsoever thing the LORD shall answer you, I will declare it unto you; I will keep nothing back from you.
Jer 42:5 Then they said to Jeremiah, The LORD be a true and faithful witness between us, if we do not even according to all things for the which the LORD thy God shall send thee to us.
Jer 42:6 Whether it be good, or whether it be evil, we will obey the voice of the LORD our God, to whom we send thee; that it may be well with us, when we obey the voice of the LORD our God.

We are a type of Johanan. We say we want to obey God long before we are dragged to do so. We seek God’s Words, but when we hear them, we reject them:

Jer 43:1 And it came to pass, that when Jeremiah had made an end of speaking unto all the people all the words of the LORD their God, for which the LORD their God had sent him to them, even all these words,
Jer 43:2 Then spake Azariah the son of Hoshaiah, and Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the proud men, saying unto Jeremiah, Thou speakest falsely: the LORD our God hath not sent thee to say, Go not into Egypt to sojourn there:
Jer 43:3 But Baruch the son of Neriah setteth thee on against us, for to deliver us into the hand of the Chaldeans, that they might put us to death, and carry us away captives into Babylon.
Jer 43:4 So Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces, and all the people, obeyed not the voice of the LORD, to dwell in the land of Judah.

King Solomon lived many years before Johanan, but like Johanan, Solomon had sought the Lord and then turned his back on the Lord’s commandments against marrying strange women and serving the gods of his Pagan wives. Even knowing “it will not be well with the wicked”, he still declares:

Ecc 8:15 Then I commended mirth, because a man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry: for that shall abide with him of his labour the days of his life, which God giveth him under the sun.

Those words are the mantra of the natural man. There is a bumper sticker which says “The one who dies with the most toys wins”, and that is words coming from the heart of the beast which is within us all by nature.
This is what we do to get those ‘toys’:

Ecc 8:16 When I applied mine heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done upon the earth: (for also there is that neither day nor night seeth sleep with his eyes:)

It is natural to want to work hard and to get ahead in this world. Any man with any ambition does so before the Lord takes it all away, either literally or figuratively and shows us that this life is “but a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away”.

Jas 4:13 Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: [ Get ahead in this life]
Jas 4:14 Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.

The verse we conclude with is certainly true. As James makes so very clear. “… Ye know not what shall be on the morrow”.

Ecc 8:17 Then I beheld all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun: because though a man labour to seek it out, yet he shall not find it; yea further; though a wise man think to know it, yet shall he not be able to find it.

Those who “know the voice of [ their true] shepherd”, and confess that they can and must “know the Truth”, as Christ told us we must, will always be accused of thinking they ‘know it all’. The fact is, that anyone who is speaking “in Christ” will always be a humble person who, like Christ Himself, will always give all glory to Christ and His Father, and will confess that without Christ, he is nothing in and of himself. There is a world of difference between confessing to “know[ ing] the Truth” when you hear it, and knowing all Truth.
Here are Christ’s own words:

Joh 10:4 And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.

As both Solomon and James agree, “man cannot find out… all the work of God… that is done under the sun”, and it is foolish to ever claim to “know what shall be on the morrow”. Anyone who sets dates is therefore not speaking with “the voice of the true shepherd”, because of what James says in Jas 4:4 and because of what Christ tells us here:

Mar 13:32 But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.

We do not know everything, but we do know when we are hearing “His voice… the Truth”.

Joh 8:31 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;
Joh 8:32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

When we say we cannot be certain that we “know the Truth”, we will be judged out of our own mouth, because what we are confessing “out of [ our] own mouth” is that we cannot be certain that we know Christ who is the Truth, when Christ Himself informs us:

Joh 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

Next week, Lord willing, we will find that the scriptures teach that “All things come alike to all”.

Ecc 9:1 For all this I considered in my heart even to declare all this, that the righteous, and the wise, and their works, are in the hand of God: no man knoweth either love or hatred by all that is before them.
Ecc 9:2 All things come alike to all: there is one event to the righteous, and to the wicked; to the good and to the clean, and to the unclean; to him that sacrificeth, and to him that sacrificeth not: as is the good, so is the sinner; and he that sweareth, as he that feareth an oath.
Ecc 9:3 This is an evil among all things that are done under the sun, that there is one event unto all: yea, also the heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live, and after that they go to the dead.
Ecc 9:4 For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope: for a living dog is better than a dead lion.
Ecc 9:5 For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.
Ecc 9:6 Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun.
Ecc 9:7 Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works.
Ecc 9:8 Let thy garments be always white; and let thy head lack no ointment.
Ecc 9:9 Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which he hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity: for that is thy portion in this life, and in thy labour which thou takest under the sun.

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