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Ecclesiastes 08


 

Ecc 8:1-2a . .Who is like the wise man, and who knows the meaning of the adage: A man's wisdom lights up his face, so that his deep discontent is dissembled? — I do!

There's another way to say some of that.

"Crafty people are good at hiding their true feelings." (especially politicians; it's very difficult sometimes to get a straight answer out of them)

Every day I'm asked by somebody; "Hey, how's it going?" or "How are you today?" Of course I always smile and say; "Great" or "Okay" but inside I might not be having a good day at all. People don't want to hear about your problems. Sometimes just for fun I'll answer those kinds of greetings with; "I'm blue, depressed, overweight, in ill health, despondent, and wish I was never born." Or I'll say; "I feel pretty good; for a guy my age." (chuckle) Those always gets a reaction.

Ecc 8:2b . . Obey the king's command, I say, because you took an oath before God.

An oath taken "before God" may not seem valid to an atheist, but when the wording is formal; as in legally binding oaths required for various government positions, then the oath becomes enough rope to hang yourself with if you go back on it.

Ecc 8:3-5a . . Leave his presence; do not tarry in a dangerous situation, for he can do anything he pleases; inasmuch as a king’s command is authoritative, and none can say to him: What are you doing? One who obeys orders will not suffer from the dangerous situation.

In Solomon's day, it wasn't wise to provoke a king, nor to interfere with his business, nor to block his way when he came down your street. Kings were despotic monarchs: they answered to no one, and could have people executed at whim all without the bother of due process. This is still true today in a number of nations. Every year, Parade magazine publishes a list of the world's ten worst dictators. Those men practice a degree of tyranny that you definitely do not want to oppose if perchance you're one of their citizens.

Ecc 8:5b . . A wise man, however, will bear in mind that there is a time of doom.

No matter who you are, or how high your station in life, no one is above the law. Those who become just a little too familiar with kings, dictators, and presidents, sometimes think their association with those high-ranking leaders gives them some sort of immunity. That's when they get careless, goof up and cross over a line; and the ruler, who in the past was their friend, then becomes their dread enemy.

Ecc 8:6-7 . . for there is a time and a judgment for everything. Yet it is a great affliction for man that he is ignorant of what is to come; for who will make known to him how it will be?

We have to expect to get caught up sometimes in circumstances beyond our control. Often those circumstances are unforeseen and blindside us— they catch us off guard, and unprepared to cope with them.

Sometimes in the performance of duty, or in compliance with the law, (serving King, country, or employer) people have to do unpleasant things in order to avoid unpleasant consequences; e.g. young men in the Marines may be called upon to go kill non combatants; or construction workers may have to destroy wildlife habitat for a suburb; or friends may be subpoenaed to testify in court against their buddies.

Sure they could refuse to kill non combatants, and they could refuse to drive a bulldozer through wetlands, prairies, and pastures, and they could refuse to testify. But there is a price to pay for anarchy and insubordination. The young Marine could be court-martialed for dereliction of duty, the construction guy would most likely be fired, and the friend who refuses to help the law convict their buddy could be hauled into court for the crime of misprision. Those kinds of circumstances are cold, hard facts of life; they are a normal part of the human experience. They come at us like juggernauts; big-foot trucks that crush us under their tires; permanently altering our personalities and the way we feel about ourselves.

Ecc 8:8 . . No man has authority over the life-breath— to hold back the life-breath; there is no authority over the day of death. There is no mustering out from that war; wickedness is powerless to save its owner.

The ultimate life-changing event— DEATH —is the supreme circumstance, the undefeated champ, rated as among those beyond our control. No king can stop it from laying claim to his life; as if it were one of his subjects. No draft dodger can run away to Canada to avoid Death's induction. Death's time cannot be delayed by failure to appear in court. One day; in spite of anyone's strong objections to the contrary, our number will come up— at that time no matter who we are, or who we were, we will die; and it matters little how, or when, or where we depart. The world was getting along just fine without us before we arrived, and it will do just fine without us after we're gone. A supervisor once told me; "Cliff, don't ever think you can't be replaced."

Ecc 8:9 . . All these things I observed; I noted all that went on under the sun, while men still had authority over men to treat them unjustly.

Solomon's venue throughout the book of Ecclesiastes is "under the sun". It's important to always keep that in mind or risk getting the wrong impression from his sayings. His is not a book of inspired doctrine; but rather of inspired philosophy from the perspective of an earthy man rather than a heavenly man.

I have personally experienced Solomon's observation on several of the internet forums I've been on in the last fifteen years. I have been given infractions by forum managers for flaming based solely on complaints lodged by somebody whose nose got bent over something I posted. I was summarily convicted of flaming without the prosecution first establishing intent of malice. That is not only unjust, but it isn't even rational jurisprudence in a land where the accused are presumed innocent until proven guilty. (emphasis upon proven).

Another unjust habit that internet forum managers have is that of construing the language of their rules to mean whatever suits their purpose. Forum contributors don't stand a chance against those kinds of arbitrary management practices.

Soviet leader Joseph Stalin eliminated threats to his power through Purge Trials and widespread secret executions and persecution of his own fellow Soviet citizens. He left behind a legacy of repression and fear as well as industrial and military power. Stalin rid himself of all potential rivals in the party, first by having many of them condemned as deviationists, and later by ordering them executed.

To ensure his position and to push forward "socialism in one country" he put the Soviet Union on a crash course of collectivization and industrialization. An estimated 25 million farmers were forced onto state farms. Collectivization alone killed as many as 14.5 million Soviet people, and Russia's agricultural output was reduced by 25 percent, according to some estimates.

Stalin is only one example of the many oppressive rulers in the course of human history, like Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein, Robert Mugabe, Hosni Mubarak, and Kim Jong Il who use and abuse their citizens; instead of managing countries for the country's good, these kinds of rulers manage countries for their own personal good. Their citizens are valued as commodities rather than fellow men.

Ecc 8:10a . . And then I saw scoundrels coming from the Holy Site and being brought to burial

It is truly amazing how the wicked of the world have the nerve to attend church and synagogue. Where's their conscience? And then their families have the chutzpah to make sure the wicked get honorable, Church sanctioned funerals when they die!

Paul Castellano— John J. Gotti's predecessor as boss of the Gambino clan —was denied a funeral mass in 1985 based upon the notoriety of his background. The decision was backed up by canon law, which prohibits funeral Masses that would engender public scandal among the faithful.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, Rome can deny a Mass of Christian Burial in the case of those persons who have not lived in communion with Rome according to the maxim which comes down from the time of Pope Leo the Great: (448) quibus viventibus non communicavimus mortuis communicare non possumus (We cannot hold communion in death with those who in life were not in communion with us).

Ecc 8:10b . . while such as had acted righteously were forgotten in the city.

Many good people often live out their lives in total obscurity, never basking in any limelight nor making a name for themselves. Their funerals? You won't see them on a nationally televised broadcast and probably not in a newspaper's obituary column.

Ecc 8:10c-13 . . And here is another frustration: the fact that the sentence imposed for evil deeds is not executed swiftly, which is why men are emboldened to do evil— the fact that a sinner may do evil a hundred times and his [punishment] still be delayed. For although I am aware that it will be well with those who revere God since they revere Him, and it will not be well with the scoundrel, and he will not live long, because he does not revere God.

Justice is indeed slow, especially if the accused has lots of money because their lawyers can tie up the courts for as long as ten years with appeals and continuances.

BTW: John J. Gotti died in 2002. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn finally did permit a mass of Christian burial for Mr. Gotti but only after he was in the ground. Still it just seems so preposterous to grant a man like that any kind of Christian burial let alone one garnished with a high mass.

Ecc 8:14 . . here is a frustration that occurs in the world: sometimes an upright man is requited according to the conduct of the scoundrel; and sometimes the scoundrel is requited according to the conduct of the upright. I say all that is frustration.

Nowhere is that principle more evident than in group discipline. The military commonly punishes an entire platoon for the bad conduct of just one man. In that scenario, there is no individual justice; but collective justice; so that the innocent suffer right along with the guilty. The same effect occurs in group rewards. The people who performed well get no more honor than the people who did poorly because the group as a whole gets the credit; not the individual. Injustice of that nature is indeed frustrating; but nevertheless, unavoidable under the sun.

Ecc 8:15 . . I therefore praised enjoyment. For the only good a man can have under the sun is to eat and drink and enjoy himself. That much can accompany him, in exchange for his wealth, through the days of life that God has granted him under the sun.

There are some things in life; like injustice, that we just have to accept. To fret about it is totally a waste of precious life and energy. It is far better to cope, to adjust, to adapt, and to enjoy life as best as possible with what you have at hand to work with and within the circumstances wherein you find yourself imprisoned.

Ecc 8:16 . . For I have set my mind to learn wisdom and to observe the business that goes on in the world— even to the extent of going without sleep day and night—

Well; Solomon was one of the filthy rich and could afford to lose some sleep now and then, but working men dare not deprive themselves of sleep. They need their rest; and don't need to lay awake nights fretting over things in the world that are beyond their IQ, and beyond their control.

Ecc 8:17 . . and I have observed all that God brings to pass. Indeed, man cannot guess the events that occur under the sun. For man tries strenuously, but fails to guess them; and even if a sage should think to discover them he would not be able to guess them.

The View Point Inn, perched along the rim of the Columbia Gorge in Oregon, was slowly sinking into financial ruin for lack of business. Then, out of the blue, the production company of the first of the Twilight series of movies selected the inn for Edward's and Bella's prom scene. Subsequently the inn became a popular tourist attraction, and co-owner Geoff Thomson said the inn's business improved 30 to 40 percent. You just never know what a day will bring forth.

Chess masters can often see twelve moves ahead. But they cannot see into their opponent's mind. Just when the master thinks he has the game figured out, his opponent launches an unsuspected strategy and throws the master's calculations off and he must begin to calculate a different twelve moves ahead than before.

Solomon may have been just a bit too superstitious in this regard. He seemed to think that God's hand is in everything. Although that really isn't true, it is a pretty good way for a philosopher to explain away things that we can neither control, alter, foresee, understand, nor do anything about.

 

 

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