Ecclesiastes 5-8 They do not know that they are doing evil

From Ecclesiastes 5-8

20 21 Solomon Proverbs Ecclesiastes thumbThe Preacher continues his description of wisdom, toil and life. He still has the same theme of ‘striving after the wind’ and nothing changes under the sun’. But occasionally he has words of encouragement and instruction. He starts off with their version of church.

This post is part of my bible in a year series.

Passage and Comments

5 Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. 2 Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. 3 For a dream comes with much business, and a fool’s voice with many words. (Ec 5.1-3)

The Preacher has some strong words for those who offer sacrifices. The immediate context suggests they are being too hasty with offering the sacrifice. Perhaps in doing so they are unprepared and are thus being insincere. Its easy to offer the expected words when among others. The question is are we seeking to please God or man? He advises that God’s true worshippers first listen. Listen to what God may be saying and speak a few considered words in response.

4 When you vow a vow to God, do not delay paying it, for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you vow. 5 It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay. 6 Let not your mouth lead you into sin, and do not say before the messenger that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry at your voice and destroy the work of your hands? 7 For when dreams increase and words grow many, there is vanity; but God is the one you must fear. (Ec 5.4-7)

People make a vow to God when they request he do something for them in return for some sort of service or pledge. I’ve spoken of it before regarding women who have yet to have children. Sometimes they made rash vows. Normally they believed if someone didn’t pay their vow, the LORD would become angry and punish them. In this instance the Preacher suggests they either make payment for the vow quickly or not even make the vow in the first place.

8 If you see in a province the oppression of the poor and the violation of justice and righteousness, do not be amazed at the matter, for the high official is watched by a higher, and there are yet higher ones over them. 9 But this is gain for a land in every way: a king committed to cultivated fields. (Ec 5.8-9)

The existence of poor and injustice (suffering and evil) says things about those who are in charge. (In the bible the existence of suffering and evil questions whether God is loving and powerful. He is, and he has initiated a plan through Jesus to set all things right.) The Preacher here highlights the chain of authority.

  • 1) The poor and unjust
  • 2) High Official
  • 3) Higher Official
  • 4) Yet higher one (King?)
  • x) The LORD

There is a chain of authority. The ones above are responsible to care for those under them and execute judgment on those who do evil under them. They in turn are accountable to the ones above them in rank and authority. So the chain goes up all the way to the LORD. The presence of suffering and evil questions the official who is in charge over it. The Preacher says don’t be amazed, eventually things will be set right and all the officials in some way will be held to account for their rule. Kings who are committed to cultivating the fields in their care serve well and care for the people under them.

10 He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity. 11 When goods increase, they increase who eat them, and what advantage has their owner but to see them with his eyes? 12 Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much, but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep. (Ec 5.10-12)

The greedy will never have enough money to satisfy their greed. The key idea here is to be content with what you have and to keep a watch on your desires. Those who labour and work for their wages sleep well. There is something to be said for a well earned rest. The Preacher implies the rich are not labourers. I suggest because they have been given their wealth and have people who work for them. So they become wealthy without working for it. The rich have trouble sleeping. The Preacher implies that people sleep better when they labour and produce something. So work at something (cf. 2 Thes 3.6-15).

Story of Jesus

At the start of the passage the Preacher says the fools in offering a sacrifice do not know what they are doing. What he says is prophetic and can be associated with Jesus’ death on the cross.

32 Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. 35 And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” (Lk 23.32-35)

The people who condemned Jesus and put him on the cross did not believe he was the promised Christ of God and Chosen One. They did not know what they were doing in killing him. Yet he was God’s sin offering and sacrifice for our sins.

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