Relate skillfully to your king. The court process should be speedy. We cannot know God fully.
VERSE 1. Who is like the wise man? And who knows the interpretation of a thing? A man’s wisdom makes his face shine, and the hardness of his face is changed.
makes his face shine. Wisdom makes our lives radiant.
because of the oath to God. In those days, obeying the king was considered equal to obeying the LORD God.
In later centuries, we learned that kings are often quite corrupt. And that their decrees rarely have anything to do with the will of the LORD God.
VERSE 3. Don’t be hasty to go out of his presence. Don’t persist in an evil thing, for he does whatever pleases him,
Don’t be hasty to go out of his presence. Many people feel nervous when they are in front of a ruler. They want to leave as soon as possible.
However, that sends a bad signal to the ruler.
VERSE 4. for the king’s word is supreme. Who can say to him, “What are you doing?”
VERSE 5. Whoever keeps the commandment shall not come to harm, and his wise heart will know the time and procedure.
shall not come to harm. In those days, disobeying the king was considered a crime that could be punished.
VERSE 6. For there is a time and procedure for every purpose, although the misery of man is heavy on him.
VERSE 7. For he doesn’t know that which will be; for who can tell him how it will be?
VERSE 8. There is no man who has power over the spirit to contain the spirit; neither does he have power over the day of death. There is no discharge in war; neither shall wickedness deliver those who practice it.
NAB translation. No one is master of the breath of life so as to retain it, and none has mastery of the day of death. There is no exemption in wartime, nor does wickedness deliver those who practice it.
No one is master of the breath of life. Some people say this verse teaches us to meditate by focusing on our breath.
However, that interpretation does not fit the context. The context is that we cannot control when we die.
VERSE 9. All this I have seen, and applied my mind to every work that is done under the sun. There is a time in which one man has power over another to his hurt.
VERSE 10. So I saw the wicked buried. Indeed they came also from holiness. They went and were forgotten in the city where they did this. This also is vanity.
VERSE 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.
not executed speedily. The legal process of a court trial often takes years. However, it should be speedy.
VERSE 12. Though a sinner commits crimes a hundred times, and lives long, yet surely I know that it will be better with those who fear God, who are reverent before him.
VERSE 13. But it shall not be well with the wicked, neither shall he lengthen days like a shadow; because he doesn’t fear God.
it shall not be well with the wicked. The author believed in retribution. That evildoers should be punished to the fullest extent possible.
VERSE 14. There is a vanity which is done on the earth, that there are righteous men to whom it happens according to the work of the wicked. Again, there are wicked men to whom it happens according to the work of the righteous. I said that this also is vanity.
There is a vanity. That is, “here is something that is meaningless.”
righteous men. Righteous people sometimes get what the wicked deserve. This too is meaningless.
wicked men. Wicked people sometimes get what the righteous deserve. This too is meaningless.
VERSE 15. Then I commended mirth, because a man has no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be joyful: for that will accompany him in his labor all the days of his life which God has given him under the sun.
VERSE 16. When I applied my heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done on the earth (even though eyes see no sleep day or night),
VERSE 17. then I saw all the work of God, that man can’t find out the work that is done under the sun, because however much a man labors to seek it out, yet he won’t find it. Yes even though a wise man thinks he can comprehend it, he won’t be able to find it.
I saw all the work of God. Presumably this was revealed to the author by divine revelation.
seek it out. No matter how much we seek to discover the workings of God, we will not find them all.
This does not mean that seeking is a waste. Rather, it indicates the greatness of God. He is far greater than we can ever discover.
a wise man. No matter how wise we are, we will never comprehend the entire workings of God.
This does not mean that wisdom is powerless. Rather, it indicates the greatness of God. He is far greater than we can ever comprehend.
Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations on this page are from the World English Bible and the World Messianic Edition. These translations have no copyright restrictions. They are in the Public Domain.