Submission: Everyone’s Favorite Thing

Ecclesiastes 8:1-8

Our adventure moves into chapter 8 and brings us to what no doubt will be a favorite subject for all of us: submission and obedience. As you can see, verse 1 is transitional; the meat begins to be seen in 2-4:

Obey the king’s command, I say, because you took an oath before God. Do not be in a hurry to leave the king’s presence. Do not stand up for a bad cause, for he will do whatever he pleases. Since a king’s word is supreme, who can say to him, “What are you doing?”

The Teacher gives some very practical advice here; don’t mess around with the king! I’m sure that everyone can understand this; the king was the last word on every matter.

I skimmed through a commentary or two to see if the commentators pointed out the obvious, and at least in the ones I could get hold of quickly, none did, but here it is: The Teacher who is telling us this is the king! My point in mentioning this is that the author in this case, will be the beneficiary of his own advice; you may do with this information what you like.

To be fair, this is good advice in any case after all, didn’t your Mama warn you not to go looking for trouble? Mine did.

Verses 5-6 amplify his point with the statement that the person who obeys the command of the king (comparable to our saying “is law abiding”) will come to no harm, and “the wise heart will know the proper time and procedure” of course is indicative of the fact the wise will know the rules to play by.  Playing by the rules is the most intelligent policy, even in times of difficulty. Our final two verses amplify this further by pointing out that in matters of submission to higher authority, we simply lack the power to prevail if we choose to oppose it, and once we act in a wicked way, we are pretty well stuck with a wicked outcome.

So far, chapter 8 seems fairly obvious to me; there isn’t really much for me to add to it to make it more interesting, which as you know, makes the writer’s job much more difficult. I’m tempted to do as any good preacher might and introduce a tangent that leads to a hobby horse, so I can take you all for a nice ride and ‘fill the time,’ but not today… I will tell you this, however: This writer sees a ray of hope in the next section, for we are about to come upon a subtle change in our text, but alas, that is for our next adventure!

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4 thoughts on “Submission: Everyone’s Favorite Thing”

  1. I disagree with part of your observations

    “don’t mess around with the king! I’m sure that everyone can understand this; the king was the last word on every matter.”

    I don’t think there are many people nowadays who understand life under a king, there are so few kingdoms around anymore, and we tend to try to eliminate those rulers: Castro, Asaad, Quadaffhi, to name a few. Kings were ultimate, there was no disputing their rulings (if you had enough money you could buy your ruling). No protests, even bad mouthing a king in public could get you executed. Good, bad, or indifferent, there was no questioning a king. People today just don’t understand fully what being under a king means.

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