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8:9-11 The Westminster Leningrad Codex

9 אֶת־כָּל־זֶ֤ה רָאִ֙יתִי֙ וְנָת֣וֹן אֶת־לִבִּ֔י לְכָֽל־מַעֲשֶׂ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֥ר נַעֲשָׂ֖ה תַּ֣חַת הַשָּׁ֑מֶשׁ עֵ֗ת אֲשֶׁ֨ר שָׁלַ֧ט הָאָדָ֛ם בְּאָדָ֖ם לְרַ֥ע לֽוֹ׃

10 וּבְכֵ֡ן רָאִיתִי֩ רְשָׁעִ֨ים קְבֻרִ֜ים וָבָ֗אוּ וּמִמְּק֤וֹם קָדוֹשׁ֙ יְהַלֵּ֔כוּ וְיִֽשְׁתַּכְּח֥וּ בָעִ֖יר אֲשֶׁ֣ר כֵּן־עָשׂ֑וּ גַּם־זֶ֖ה הָֽבֶל׃

11 אֲשֶׁר֙ אֵין־נַעֲשָׂ֣ה פִתְגָ֔ם מַעֲשֵׂ֥ה הָרָעָ֖ה מְהֵרָ֑ה עַל־כֵּ֡ן מָלֵ֞א לֵ֧ב בְּֽנֵי־הָאָדָ֛ם בָּהֶ֖ם לַעֲשׂ֥וֹת רָֽע׃

Ecclesiastes 8:9-11 New American Standard Bible 1995

9 All this I have seen and applied my [a]mind to every deed that has been done under the sun wherein a man has exercised authority over another man to his hurt.

10 So then, I have seen the wicked buried, those who used to go in and out from the holy place, and they are soon forgotten in the city where they did thus. This too is futility. 11 Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, therefore the hearts of the sons of men among them are given fully to do evil.

Ecclesiastes 8:9-11 New King James Version

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. Death Comes to All

10 Then I saw the wicked buried, who had come and gone from the place of holiness, and they were forgotten[a] in the city where they had so done. This also is vanity. 11 Because the 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.

Ecclesiastes 8:9-11 English Standard Version

9 All this I observed while applying my heart to all that is done under the sun, when man had power over man to his hurt. Those Who Fear God Will Do Well

10 Then I saw the wicked buried. They used to go in and out of the holy place and were praised[a] in the city where they had done such things. This also is vanity.[b] 11 Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil.

The NASB1995 and the ESV translations of Ecclesiastes 8:10 seem to suggest that there are wicked people who can also frequently attend holy places ( i.e., temples, synagogues, churches) for services and rituals. 

However, the NKJV translation of Ecclesiastes 8:10 seem to suggest that the funerals of some of the wicked would entail their bodies arriving at holy places, and then being taken away for burial after the funeral ceremony.

Within the larger context of Ecclesiastes 8:9-11 ,

would it be correct to interpret Ecclesiastes 8:10 to be referring to pretentiously deceptive followers of God ( like many of the Pharisees mentioned in the Gospels - Luke 11:37–54, Matthew 23:1–39, Mark 12:35–40 and Luke 20:45–47 )

Or is Ecclesiastes 8:10 merely referring to the customary funeral ceremony that most people who die would undergo?

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  • It's a good question, though the title is a bit wordy and could probably use some refinement
    – Steve can help
    Dec 31, 2022 at 14:04

2 Answers 2

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If context is anything to go by v11 plays an important clarifying statement.

In v9 it’s simply repeating the quest to understand life under the sun but in the second part it speaks of one man being given or allocated a time to rule/have power/have influence over another man and does so inflicting hurt/pain/loss onto his subject

If these verses have any continuity and I believe they do, it would follow that v10 is speaking of the initial man who inflicted damage to his fellow man(possibly men) and dying without any sort of recompense for their brutal unjust dominance. They die and end up sleeping or resting in their place of rest.

And now

As a consequence when Justice is not served to the unjust first man, the man who was unfairly abused departs from the holy place, departs from the path, (implied is the idea that so long as the other man was living there was hope that the tables would turn or at least he would see God enact vengeance to justify the time of being under the evil man’s heavy hand, like the story of Joseph for example).

But as such he departs from the way and is forgot.

Then in v11 it summarizes the whole scenario again, because Justice for evil is not speedily enacted, men turn away and seek to do evil themselves.

It’s the condition of man, it exposes the rottenness of all men’s hearts and it shows a perpetual cycle of how evil begets more evil, even if initially the hurt was righteous in his ways, the lack of speedy justice causes a man to bring out evil too.

In other words even if one lives righteously, it’s not because it’s in his character but because conditions are right and favorable. The moment conditions change he does away with righteous living because he is being utilitarian and using God as a means to an end and not an end deserving service regardless the course of life.

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Text Matter

The text of Eccl 8:10 is disputed between two readings:

  • "they are praised" according to some Hebrew MSS and LXX and Vulgate, eg, NIV, NLT, ESV, BSB, CSB, HCSB, NRSV, etc.
  • "were soon forgotten" according to most Hebrew MSS, including the MT, eg, KJV, NKJV, NASB, ASV, LSB, CEV, ERV, ISV, JPS, LSV, NAB, etc.

Modern versions are divided between these two readings as documented above.

Exegesis

The matter discussed in Eccl 8:9-13 is a common theme by Bible writers - the difference between the immediate prosperity of the wicked vs the ultimate fate of people; namely

  • everyone dies and is buried (whether wicked or righteous)
  • the wicked often prosper in this life, despite a sham-show of piety by going to "holy places"
  • However, Solomon also hints at what might happen to people in the after-life depending on whether one has been righteous or wicked

That is, the wicked may prosper in this life, but the righteous will be better-off in the next life.

We see this same theme is Ps 73 where we read:

  • V3: For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
  • V16, 17: When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.

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