Ecclesiastes 8:4-6

Ecclesiastes 8:4-6

4 Since a king’s word is supreme, who can say to him, “What are you doing?”
5 Whoever obeys his command will come to no harm, and the wise heart will know the proper time and procedure.
6 For there is a proper time and procedure for every matter, though a person may be weighed down by misery.

Today we will look at verse five in chapter eight with few more verses added in for context. However, before I go any further I want to recommend to you the Bible Project’s video on the entire book of Ecclesiastes found here, it is only 8 minutes long. Then there is a video comparing Proverbs and Ecclesiastes (and Job) which is also very enlightening. It may be found here and is only 6 minutes and 40 seconds long.

Verse four is provided so we know the ‘him’ in verse five is the king. So let us look at verse five where we read Whoever obeys his command will come to no harm. Consider how closely this ties to Saying 30 of Proverbs 24

21 Fear the Lord and the king, my son, and do not join with rebellious officials,
22 for those two will send sudden destruction on them, and who knows what calamities they can bring?

When we read the last part of the opening phrase of verse five will come to no harm we may read this as shall be delivered from those mischiefs which befall the disobedient per Matthew Poole’s Commentary. On the other hand, Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible shows this is not so simple as there are conditions to be met

the commandment of an earthly king, which should be kept, when agreeably to the laws of the nation, and not inconsistent with the commands of God; and such as do observe it “know no evil”, as it may be rendered, or no sorrow; they live peaceably and quietly, and enjoy the favour and protection of the government under which they are …

Gill also quotes the Targum here which I find very appropriate.

“whoso keepeth the commandments of the Lord shall know no evil in the world to come.”

So what about the second half of verse five the wise heart will know the proper time and procedure. Here we are told a wise man or a man with a wise heart will know when the time is to obey and how far he should obey. Such a man remembers, knows always, there is a judgment to come – God’s judgment, when everything will be brought to an account; and, though he does not know the precise day and hour, yet he knows there will be such a time paraphrasing Gill’s.

Bottom line: follow God, obey God’s commandments, obey your king (leaders) as much as possible while following God for it is our status in the world to come that matters and matters most.