Vanity of Philosophizing
Ecclesiastes 8:16, 17
When I applied my heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done on the earth…

The endeavor had been in vain to discover the principle according to which it happens that the just sometimes receive the reward of the wicked, and the wicked that of the righteous (Ecclesiastes 8:14). Equal failure attends the endeavor to understand the purpose and end of the toil and labor in which men are ceaselessly engaged. That all that was done was "a work of God," the carrying out of a Divine law. the accomplishment of a Divine plan, he did not doubt (ver. 17); but he was unable {o see the connection of the individual parts with the whole - the order and symmetry of events in their course he could not recognize. Two things he had sought to attain:

(1) to know wisdom, to understand the essence and causes and objects of things; and

(2) to bring this wisdom to bear upon the facts of life, to find in it a clue for the interpretation of that which was perplexing and abnormal. But success in his endeavor was denied him. The toils and cares which fill up laborious days, and drive away sleep from the eyes of the weary, seemed to him to be in many cases utterly fruitless; to be imposed upon men for no end; to have no connection with any higher plan or purpose by which one might suppose the world to be governed. What, then, is his conclusion? It is that the finite cannot comprehend the infinite; that no effort is adequate for the task; that the highest human wisdom is but as folly when it is bent upon forcing a solution of this great problem (ver. 17). "Then I beheld all the work of God, that man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun: because however much a man labor to seek it out, yet he shall not find it; yea, moreover, though a wise man think to know it, yet he shall not be able to find it." The agnosticism of the writer does not tend to atheism. He does not deny - on the contrary, he affirms - his faith in a great Divine plan to which all the labors of men are related, though what it is and how it is being fulfilled he does not know. The tone in which he records his failure is not without a strain of bitterness; but one would wish to believe that its prevailing note is that of reverent submission to the Almighty, whose ways he could not comprehend, and that the writer's thoughts would find adequate expression in the devout ejaculation of the apostle, "Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out?" (Romans 11:33). The pregnant words of Hooker describe the attitude appropriate for creatures in presence of their Creator: "Dangerous it were for the feeble brain of man to wade far into the doings of the Most High; whom although to know be life, and joy to make mention of his -Name; yet our soundest knowledge is to know that we know him not as indeed he is, neither can know him, and our safest eloquence concerning him is our silence, when we confess without confession that his glory is inexplicable, his greatness above our Capacity and reach. He is above, and we upon the earth; therefore it behooveth our words to be wary and few" ('Eccl. Pol.' 1:2, 3). - J.W.

Parallel Verses
KJV: When I applied mine heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done upon the earth: (for also there is that neither day nor night seeth sleep with his eyes:)

WEB: When I applied my heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done on the earth (for also there is that neither day nor night sees sleep with his eyes),

Man's Busy Life
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