The Book of Ecclesiastes
James J. Barker

Lesson 9



  1. Ecclesiastes 8 continues with the theme of wisdom (8:1).
  2. Commenting on Ecclesiastes 8:1, Merrill Unger writes, “This is true wisdom – genuine piety that trusts in God and reveres Him.  Who is…the wise man?  The man who possesses this heavenly wisdom, possesses grace, and is accepted by God” (Unger’s Commentary on the OT).
  3. Dr. Unger also points out that this wisdom “beautifies a man and maketh his face to shine (like Moses’, Ex. 34:29, 30; and Stephen’s, Acts 6:15) and causes the boldness (strength, austerity, severity) of his face to be changed (Deut. 28:50) into a benign expression as the result of true faith.”
  4. This reminds us of the story about President Abraham Lincoln.   It is said that Lincoln, when he was President of the U.S., was advised to include a certain man in his cabinet. When he refused he was asked why he would not accept him. “I don’t like his face,” the President replied. “But the poor man isn’t responsible for his face,” said the advisor. To this, President Lincoln said, “Every man over forty is responsible for his face.”
  5. President Lincoln understood that wisdom (or a lack of wisdom) affects a man’s countenance. King Solomon came to realize there was “sore travail” (1:13) and “much grief” (1:18) in searching for wisdom.
  6. Furthermore, Solomon discovered that while he searched earnestly for wisdom (and was considered the wisest man in the world), ultimate wisdom was still “far from him” (7:23, 24; cf. 8:16, 17).
  7. Ecclesiastes 8 teaches that we need wisdom as we deal with worldly leaders, some of whom are good, but some that are wicked (Eccl. 8:2-4; cf. Romans 13:1-7; Titus 3:1; I Peter 2:13-18).
  8. The Bible teaches us that because God is righteous and God is holy, He must punish sin and reward righteousness.
  9. Even the thief on the cross understood this.  He said to the impenitent thief, “Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?  And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss” (Luke 23:40, 41).
  10. The apostle Paul wrote in Romans 1:18, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.”



  1. Human government (like marriage, the family, and the church) was instituted by God. Since God ordained human government (back in the days of Noah – cf. Genesis 9:6) for man’s protection and man’s benefit, man is obligated to obey those in authority (8:2-4).
  2. The “oath” (8:2) was a promise to God by the people to be faithful to their king and to give him their allegiance. Today, we are obligated to obey and pray for those in authority (I Timothy 2:1-3).
  3. And we pledge allegiance to our flag.
  4. As we submit to those God has placed over us, we also recognize that God is the righteous Judge over all human kings and rulers (8:5—8).
  5. There are many examples in the Bible of believers who acted wisely before heathen rulers (e.g., Joseph, Daniel, Paul).
  6. In Acts 5:29, Peter and the other apostles stood before the council and said, “We ought to obey God rather than men.”
  7. The purpose of government is the righteous administration of justice.  When rulers properly perform their duties, both they and the people they rule enjoy the blessings of God.  However those in authority are often unjust (8:9).



  1. In verse 10, King Solomon refers to a funeral service.  “The place of the holy” refers to the temple in Jerusalem.  Apparently the wicked man was given a proper funeral service, with a nice eulogy.  But soon the wicked are forgotten.
  2. I heard about these two brothers who were very wicked.  One of them died, and his brother told the preacher that he would make a very generous contribution to the church if he would say something nice about his brother at the funeral.  The preacher prayed about it, and accepted the offer.
  3. This is what he said at the funeral: “John Smith was a dirty, lowdown rascal.  He was a drunkard, a crook, and a liar.  But he was a fine, upstanding citizen compared to his no-good brother.”
  4. The wicked continue to sin with impunity because they think they can get away with it (8:11).  Trials seem to drag on for ever; witnesses are intimidated or even murdered; judges and jurors are bribed, etc.
  5. The wicked do not realize that someday they will stand before God and be judged (8:12, 13).
  6. The prosperity of the wicked has always been a stumbling block to both unbelievers and believers.   The Psalmist deals with this in Psalm 73.   “For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked” (Ps. 73:3; cf. Eccl. 4:1).
  7. In this life, the wicked often get away with their crimes, but some day they will face God (8:14).  King Solomon’s father, King David, said in Psalm 9:17: “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.”
  8. Oftentimes, Christians are frustrated and upset at the injustice they see in the judicial system.  Rich people often get away with all sorts of crimes, even murder.  Solomon says in Eccl. 8:14 that this “is a vanity which is done upon the earth.”



  1. Rather than get upset over the unfairness we see in this sinful world, we are to enjoy the blessings of God (8:15).
  2. This is a frequent theme of Ecclesiastes (cf. 2:24; 3:12, 13; 5:18; 9:7).
  3. Once again we are reminded of the apostle Paul’s words in I Timothy 6:17, God “giveth us richly all things to enjoy.”
  4. This Thanksgiving we should be grateful for all of God’s blessings.
  5. True, godly wisdom is manifested in a humble acceptance of the will of God (8:16, 17).   We have to accept the fact that there are many things we will never understand in this world (8:17; cf. 3:11; 7:23, 24); i.e. “under the sun” (cf. 8:9, 15, 17).



Romans 11:33 says, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!”

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