Ecclesiastes 8:12-13 NASB

“Although a sinner does evil a hundred times and may lengthen his life, still I know that it will be well for those who fear God, who fear Him openly. But it will not be well for the evil man and he will not lengthen his days like a shadow, because he does not fear God.” ‭‭

Is there a contradiction between these two sentences? It seems that the author is saying in the first verse that the evildoer may lengthen his life, but in the next verse says he can’t because he does not fear God.

  • Maybe "lengthening your life like a shadow" is a metaphor. As the sun sets shadows grow longer without end. So it suggest to me the sinner may lengthen his life, but not forever.
    – towr
    Commented Apr 20, 2022 at 15:29

4 Answers 4


The only explanation for the apparent contradiction between Eccl 8:12 vs 13 is the implied distinction between this mortal life and eternal life. The Psalmist makes the same distinction:

Ps 73:3 - For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

Asaph (the psalmist in this case) contrasts this with what he says in V16.

Ps 73:16, 17 - When I tried to understand all this, it was troublesome in my sight until I entered God’s sanctuary; then I discerned their end.

I think we have a similar distinction in Eccl 8:12,& 13.

  • 2
    Good job. If this interpretation is true, it disproves eternal conscious torment, which says that the wicked will live forever in immortal bodies. +1 :)
    – Rajesh
    Commented Apr 20, 2022 at 2:06
  • @Rajesh - good point - agreed.
    – Dottard
    Commented Apr 20, 2022 at 2:08

God has the power over the sinner's days, but the sinner himself does also have power over its own days, but only because God allows it.

An example where the same thing is going on is a shop owner who knows that a thief is stealing, and has already stolen more than 1000 dollars. The shop owner installs a camera but sees that the thief only steals 100 dollars, which is considered only Petty Theft. The shop owner allows the thief to keep stealing until he has enough evidence that the thief can be locked away for several years for Grand Felony Theft, instead of Petty Theft.

"lengthen his days like a shadow" A shadow can increase its length to infinity, a human can lengthen its days by a finite amount, and only if God allows it.

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    – Community Bot
    Commented Apr 20, 2022 at 16:24

No; it says so itself

Consider closely the subtle difference in words, merely from the sentences translated into English.

He may lengthen his days, but not lengthen them like an evening shadow.

Abbreviated from both verses in various versions, showing the same subtle difference:

Ecclesiastes 8:12-13


Although a sinner does evil a hundred times and may lengthen his life ... he will not lengthen his days like a shadow


But even though a person sins a hundred times and still lives a long time ... Their days will never grow long like the evening shadows.


Though a sinner does evil a hundred times and prolongs his life ... neither will he prolong his days like a shadow.

Also, the difference may have been with a common saying

This version shows another stark difference between a bad way of thinking vs a common, wise saying...


They commit hundreds of crimes and live a long time, in spite of the saying:

Everyone who lives right and respects God will prosper,

but no one who sins and rejects God will prosper or live very long.

It's not a contradiction; it is a contrast

Here were two reasons for believing it isn't a contradiction. First, there was the simple clarification difference of "like a shadow" in many English translations. Second, the CEV suggests that there was the thinking to "do evil and promote one's days" contrasted to the wise saying that went contrary to that.


There are two types of people in this passage: a sinner and an evil man.

A sinner (חֹטֶ֗א) - may do evil things a hundred times and still lengthen his life; what matters is not a count of the evil deeds done, but whether he openly fears God. That is a believer may be a sinner, and a sinner may be a believer and it is this that affects eternal life.

An evil man (רָשָׁ֔ע) - will not lengthen his life, because he does not fear God. Again, there is no count of evil deeds done but all that matters is a right fearing of God.

In conclusion, verse 12 seems to be talking about a sinner which could be a back sliding believer, whereas verse 13 appears to be talking about an evil person perhaps a non believer

  • But Ecclesiastes was written hundreds of years before it was even possible to be a backsliding believer.
    – RonJohn
    Commented Apr 20, 2022 at 13:17
  • This does not provide an answer to the question. Once you have sufficient reputation you will be able to comment on any post; instead, provide answers that don't require clarification from the asker. - From Review Commented Apr 20, 2022 at 14:58
  • We need to provide a basis for our conclusions on this site. Could you explain your basis and, specifically, address the Question of whether there is a contradiction?
    – Jesse
    Commented Apr 20, 2022 at 16:19
  • @HoldToTheRod I think it does answer the question: It is not a contradiction because one sentence is about a sinner and the other is about an evil man. Which is, as just a matter of the plain words, true. Commented Apr 20, 2022 at 16:44
  • @KyleJohansen But, this Answer still needs a little more elaboration. Would you like to do the honors and help this new user see an edited answer that clarifies what you see?
    – Jesse
    Commented Apr 22, 2022 at 7:05

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