Online Bible Commentary
Ecclesiastes 8:1 Who is like a wise man? And who knows the interpretation of a thing? A man's wisdom makes his face shine, And the sternness of his face is changed. 2 I say, "Keep the king's commandment for the sake of your oath to God. 3 Do not be hasty to go from his presence. Do not take your stand for an evil thing, for he does whatever pleases him." 4 Where the word of a king is, there is power; And who may say to him, "What are you doing?" 5 He who keeps his command will experience nothing harmful; And a wise man's heart discerns both time and judgment, 6 Because for every matter there is a time and judgment, Though the misery of man increases greatly. 7 For he does not know what will happen; So who can tell him when it will occur? 8 No one has power over the spirit to retain the spirit, And no one has power in the day of death. There is no release from that war, And wickedness will not deliver those who are given to it. 9 All this I have seen, and applied my heart to every work that is done under the sun: There is a time in which one man rules over another to his own hurt. (NKJV)
The book of Ecclesiastes is classified as wisdom literature. Wisdom literature is especially concerned with helping us to deal with the issues of life. It is believed that Solomon wrote this book late in his life.
When Solomon became the king of Israel in 970 B.C. the first thing he asked of God was to be wise. God answered his prayer and made him the wisest man ever to live, at the age of nineteen (1 Kings 3:12).
Solomon begins this passage by declaring that there are not many truly wise men (v. 1a). The evidence of a wise man can be found in his appearance. He exudes a sense of joy and peace, which come only from God (v. 1b).
Scripture informs us that God has placed rulers in their positions and we are to obey their commands as if they were commands from God (v. 2). The only exception would be if we know for sure that their command is not from God (v. 3a). We are not to “stand for an evil thing”, sin (v. 3b), for rulers stand for what pleases them, even when it does not please God (v. 3c). We must stand only for what pleases God.
However, we must be mindful of the power wielded by the laws of rulers, and who can question them (v. 4)? If we obey the law we will not be harmed, physically, and the wise man has good timing and “judgment” concerning the law (v. 5). He is able to judge between good and evil and the proper course of action if needed to resist evil. His judgment to resist evil will “greatly” increase his “misery” (v. 6). But “he does not know what will happen; So who can tell him when it will occur” ( v.7)?
No man has the power over our spirit, to “retain” it, and no one has the power over the “day of death”, the day when our spirit will depart (v. 8a). There is no escaping “that war”, death (v. 8b). “Wickedness”, doing evil, will not allow those who practice it to escape death (v. 8c). Only God has the power over life and death.
Solomon, in his “work” as king, has “seen” all of this in action (v. 9a). “There is a time in which one man rules over another to his own hurt” (v. 9b).
So who is the man being hurt by the giving of laws that do not please God? Is it the one who gives the law, the one who obeys the law, or both? The text is not clear, perhaps on purpose. Solomon likely means that both are hurt.
The ones who establish evil laws, such as abortion and homosexual marriage, will face judgment from God. He has given them great authority and with that comes great accountability. They have acted in a manner that does not please God and they will be held accountable.
By the same token, those who stand up for these evil laws will also be held accountable for supporting and promoting sin. They will be judged by God.
Either way, I would not want to be in their shoes. Christians are called to obey God first, and man second. We are called to please God at all times. That is how we glorify God with our lives. That is our purpose in life.