Ecclesiastes 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.
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(9) Own hurt.—The Hebrew is ambiguous. We might omit “own,” and understand the verse of the misery inflicted by a tyrant on his subject, not on himself. But the context speaks of the small gain from his oppressions to the tyrant himself.

Ecclesiastes 8:9-10. All this I have seen — All these things before mentioned; and applied my heart unto every work — I have been a diligent observer of all actions and events. There is a time when one man ruleth, &c. — There are some kings, who use their power tyrannically, whereby they not only oppress their people, but hurt themselves, bringing the vengeance of God upon their own heads. And so I saw — In like manner; the wicked — Wicked princes or rulers, buried — With state or pomp; who had come and gone — Had administered public justice, which is frequently signified by the phrase of coming in and going out before the people; from the place of the holy — The seat of majesty and judgment, which may well be termed, the place, or seat, of the holy — That is, of God, often called the holy one; who is in a special manner present in, and presides over those places where justice is administered: and for whom, and in whose name and stead, magistrates act, who, therefore, are called gods. And the tribunal seems to be so called here, to aggravate their sin, who, being advanced by God into so high and sacred a place, betrayed so great a trust, and both practised and encouraged that wickedness which, by their office, they were obliged to suppress and punish. And they were forgotten — Although they designed to perpetuate their names and memories to succeeding ages; in the city where they had so done — Where they had lived in great splendour, and were buried with great magnificence, which one might have thought would have kept up their remembrance, at least, in that place. This is also vanity — That men should so earnestly thirst after, and please themselves with worldly glory, which is so soon extinct, and the very memory of which is so quickly worn out of the minds of men.

8:9-13 Solomon observed, that many a time one man rules over another to his hurt, and that prosperity hardens them in their wickedness. Sinners herein deceive themselves. Vengeance comes slowly, but it comes surely. A good man's days have some substance; he lives to a good purpose: a wicked man's days are all as a shadow, empty and worthless. Let us pray that we may view eternal things as near, real, and all-important.To his own hurt - Or, "to the hurt of the subject." The case is still that of an unwise king whose command is obeyed Ecclesiastes 8:2 even to the hurt of the wise man who obeys him. 9. his own hurt—The tyrannical ruler "hurts" not merely his subjects, but himself; so Rehoboam (1Ki 12:1-33); but the "time" of "hurt" chiefly refers to eternal ruin, incurred by "wickedness," at "the day of death" (Ec 8:8), and the "time" of "judgment" (Ec 8:6; Pr 8:36). All this; all these things before mentioned.

Applied my heart unto every work; I have been a diligent observer of all actions and events.

There is a time wherein one man ruleth over another; there are some kings who use their power tyrannically and wickedly, whereby they do not only oppress their people, but hurt themselves, by bringing the vengeance of God and men upon their own heads; which is here noted, partly for the terror of tyrants, and partly for the caution and comfort of subjects groaning under those heavy pressures which they are not able to remove, that they may forbear unlawful or rebellious courses, and quietly commit themselves and their cause to God, who judgeth righteously, and who both can and will call the greatest monarchs to a sad account for all their impious and unrighteous courses.

All this have I seen,.... Observed, taken notice of, and thoroughly considered; all that is said above, concerning the scarcity of good men and women, the fall of our first parents, the excellency of wisdom, the necessity and advantage of keeping the king's commandment, the time and manner of doing it, the evil consequences that follow an inattention to these things, ignorance of what is to come, and the unavoidableness of death;

and applied my heart unto every work that is done under the sun; not so much to mechanic works and manual operations performed by men, as to moral or immoral works, and chiefly the work of Providence with respect to good and bad men, the consequence of which were the following observations;

there is a time wherein one man ruleth over another to his own hurt; or "the man ruleth over men" (h); for this is not to be understood of private rule in families, of the parent over his children, or master over his servant, but of a king over his subjects; who is the man, the principal man in the kingdom; and such a man ruling in an arbitrary and tyrannical way is to his own detriment in the issue. So Rehoboam; by his oppressive government, lost ten tribes out of twelve. Some have lost their whole kingdoms, and come to an untimely end; as well as ruined their immortal souls. Some render it "to his hurt" (i); to the hurt of those that are ruled, when it should be for their good, the protection of their persons and properties; but instead of that they lay heavy burdens upon them, take away their property, and injure and insult their persons. So the Targum,

"to do ill to him.''

But Jarchi interprets it of the king himself. Some take it in both senses; and so it is usually in fact, that wicked princes rule to their own hurt, and the hurt of their subjects.

(h) "homo", Pagninus, Montanus, Tigurine version, Junius & Tremellius, &c. (i) "in ipsus perniciem", Tigurine version; "in noxam ipsi", Cocceius.

All this have I seen, and applied my heart to every work that is done under the sun: there is a time in which one man ruleth over another to his own {h} hurt.

(h) As comes often to tyrants and wicked rulers.

9. All this have I seen] The formula which had been used before (chs. Ecclesiastes 5:18, Ecclesiastes 7:23) to enforce the results of the Debater’s experience of life in general, is now employed to emphasize the wide range of the political induction on which the conclusions of the previous verses rested.

there is a time wherein one man ruleth over another to his own hurt] The Hebrew is, as in so many other instances, ambiguous. The English reflexive pronoun, in which our Version follows the Vulgate, misrepresents the purport of the sentence. What is described is, as before, the misrule of the tyrant-king who rules over others (the indefinite “another” standing for the plural) to their hurt. The wide induction had not been uniform in its results. The law of Nemesis was traversed by the law of apparent impunity. We have the “two voices” once again, and the writer passes, like Abelard in his Sic et Non, from affirmation to denial. The English version seems to have originated in the wish to make this verse also repeat the affirmation of the preceding. The immediate context that follows shews however that this is not now the writer’s thought, and that he is troubled by the apparent exceptions to it.

Verse 9. - All this have I seen (Ecclesiastes 5:18; Ecclesiastes 7:23); i.e. all that has been mentioned in the preceding eight verses, especially the conviction of retributive justice. He gained this experience by giving his mind to the consideration of men's actions. There is a time wherein one man ruleth over another to his own hurt. This version is certainly incorrect. A new sentence is not commenced here, but the clause is closely connected with what precedes; and "his own hurt" should he "his [equivocally] hurt." Thus Wright and Volck: "All this have I seen, even by applying my heart to all the work that is done under the sun, at a time when man ruleth over man to his hurt." Most modern commentators consider that the hurt is that of the oppressed subject; but it is possible that the sense is intentionally ambiguous, and the injury may be that which the despot inflicts, and that which he has to suffer. Both these have been signified above. There is no valid reason for making, as Cox does, this last clause commence ver. 10, and rendering, "But there is a time when a man ruleth over men to their hurt." Ecclesiastes 8:9"All that I have seen, and that, too, directing my heart to all the labour that is done under the sun: to the time when a man rules over a man to his hurt." The relation of the clauses is mistaken by Jerome, Luther, Hengst., Vaih., Ginsburg, and others, who begin a new clause with עת: "there is a time," etc.; and Zckl., who ventures to interpret עת וגו as epexegetical of כּל־מע וגו ("every work that is done under the sun"). The clause ונתון is an adverbial subordinate clause (vid., under Ecclesiastes 4:2): et advertendo quidem animum. עת is accus. of time, as at Jeremiah 51:33; cf. Psalm 4:8, the relation of 'eth asher, like מק שׁ, Ecclesiastes 1:7; Ecclesiastes 11:3. All that, viz., the wisdom of patient fidelity to duty, the perniciousness of revolutionary selfishness, and the suddenness with which the judgment comes, he has seen (for he observed the actions done under the sun), with his own eyes, at the time when man ruled over man לו לרע, not: to his own the ruler's injury (Symm., Jerome), but: to the injury (lxx, Theod., τοῦ κακῶσαι αὐτόν, and thus also the Targ. and Syr.) of this second man; for after 'eth asher, a description and not a judgment was to be expected. The man who rules over man to the hurt of the latter rules as a tyrant; and this whole section, beginning with Ecclesiastes 8:1, treats of the right wisdom of life at a time of tyrannical government.
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