Ecclesiastes 8:1
Who is like the wise man? Who knows the interpretation of a matter? A man's wisdom brightens his face, and the sternness of his face is changed.
Gospel of the Shining FaceHomiletic ReviewEcclesiastes 8:1
Sweetness and LightJ. Willcock Ecclesiastes 8:1
The Human FaceT. De Witt Talmage.Ecclesiastes 8:1
The Tokens of WisdomD. Thomas Ecclesiastes 8:1

This book, and those which have affinity with it, both canonical and apocryphal, are in nothing more remarkable than in the stress they lay upon wisdom. This is the quality of the spirit which in its highest manifestation is godliness and piety, which in its ordinary manifestations distinguishes the ruler from the subject, the sage from the fool. The reader of Ecclesiastes cannot fail to admire the independence of the author of common human standards of well-being, such as wealth, prosperity, and pleasure; wisdom is with him "the principal thing." The signs of true wisdom are graphically portrayed in this verse.

I. WISDOM IMPARTS INSIGHT. Ordinary men are not even, as a rule, observant; but there are men who are observant of what strikes the senses, of the phenomena of nature, of external life, but who go no further. Now, it is characteristic of the wise that they are not satisfied to know what lies upon the surface. The first stage of wisdom is science; the scientific man notes resemblances and differences, antecedents and sequences; he arranges phenomena into classes and species and genera upon the one principle, and into physical causes and effects upon the other. He recognizes similarities and uniformities in nature, and terms these arrangements laws. The second stage of wisdom is philosophy, whose province it is not only to proceed to higher generalizations, but to discover in all the processes of nature and in all the activities of mind the presence and operation of reason. The third stage of wisdom is theology, or religion, i.e. the discernment of the ubiquitous presence in the universe of the Eternal Spirit, from whom all individual minds proceed, and whose language, by which he holds communion with those minds, is nature. The scientist, the philosopher, the theologian, are all men who possess wisdom, who are dissatisfied with superficial knowledge, who "know the interpretation of a thing." Their wisdom is limited indeed if they disparage one another's work and service, for the world has need of them all. And there is no occasion why, in a measure, one man should not partake all three characters.

II. WISDOM IMPARTS BRIGHTNESS. The stupid and brutal betray themselves by an expression of stolidity. The cunning and crafty often display their characteristic quality by a keen, designing, "underhand," and sinister glance. But the wise are bright; clearness of perception, width of judgment, decisiveness of purpose, seem written upon the brow, seem to gleam from the steady eye of the wise man. The entrance of a wise man into the council-chamber is like the rising of the sun upon a landscape, - when the mists are cleared away and the dark places are illumined.

III. WISDOM IMPARTS STRENGTH, BOLDNESS, CONFIDENCE. The wise man is prepared for difficulties and dangers, and because he is prepared he is not alarmed. He measures circumstances, and sees how they may be bent to his will, how their threats may be turned into favor. He measures his fellow-men, discerns the strength of the strong, the depth of the thoughtful, the trustworthiness of the firm, the incompetency of the pretender, and the worthlessness of the shifty. He measures himself, and neither exaggerates or underestimates his abilities and his resources. Hence the boldness, the hardness of his face, when he turns to survey his task, to encounter his adversary, to endure his test. His heart is not dismayed, for his trust is ever in his God and Savior. - T.

A man's wisdom maketh his face to shine and the boldness of his face shall be changed.
In all the works of God there is nothing more wonderful than the human countenance. The face is ordinarily the index of character. It is the throne of the emotions, the battlefield of the passions. It is the catalogue of character, the map of the mind, the geography of the soul. Whether we will or not, physiognomy decides a thousand things in commercial, and financial, and social, and religious domains. From one lid of the Bible to the other there is no science so recognized as that of physiognomy, and nothing more thoroughly taken for granted than the power of the soul to transfigure the face. The Bible speaks of the "face of God," the "face of Jesus Christ," the "face of Esau," the "face of Israel," the "face of Job," the "face of the old man," the shining "face of Moses," the wrathful "face of Pharaoh," the ashes on the face of humiliation, the resurrectionary staff on the face of the dead child, the hypocrites disfiguring their face, and in my text the Bible declares, "A man's wisdom maketh his face to shine and the sourness of his face shall be sweetened." And now I am going to tell you of some of the chisels that work for the disfiguration or irradiation of the human countenance. One of the sharpest and most destructive of those chisels of the countenance is —

I. CYNICISM. That sours the disposition and then sours the face. It gives a contemptuous curl to the lip. It draws down the corners of the mouth and inflates the nostril as with a mal-odour. It is the chastisement of God that when a man allows his heart to be cursed with cynicism his face becomes gloomed, and scowled, and lachrymosod, and blasted with the same midnight.

II. But let CHRISTIAN CHEERFULNESS try its chisel upon a man's countenance. Feeling that all things are for his good, and that God rules, and that the Bible being true the world's floralization is rapidly approaching, and the day when distillery, and bomb-shell, and rifle-pit, and seventy-four pounders, and roulette-tables, and corrupt book, and satanic printing press will have quit work, the brightness that comes from such anticipation not only gives zest to his work, but shines in his eyes and glows in his cheek, and kindles a morning in his entire countenance. The grace of God comes to the heart of a man or woman and then attempts to change a forbidding and prejudicial face into attractiveness. Perhaps the face is most unpromising for the Divine Sculptor. But having changed the heart it begins to work on the countenance with celestial chisel, and into all the lineaments of the face puts a gladness and an expectation that changes it from glory to glory, and though earthly criticism may disapprove of this or that in the appearance of the face, Christ says of the newly-created countenance that which Pilate said of Him, "Behold the man!"

III. Here is another mighty chisel for the countenance, and you may call it REVENGE, OR HATE, OR MALEVOLENCE. This spirit having taken possession of the heart it encamps seven devils under the eyebrows. It puts cruelty into the compression of the lips. You can tell from the man's looks that he is pursuing some one and trying to get even with him. There are suggestions of Nero, and Robespierre, and Diocletian, and thumbscrews, and racks all up and down the features. Infernal artists with murderers' daggers have been cutting away at that visage. The revengeful heart has built its perdition in the revengeful countenance. Disfiguration of diabolic passion!

IV. But here comes another chisel to shape the countenance, and it is KINDNESS. There came a moving day, and into her soul moved the whole family of Christian graces, with all the children and grandchildren, and the command has come forth from the heavens that that woman's face shall be made to correspond with her superb soul. Her entire face from ear to ear becomes the canvas on which all the best artists of heaven begin to put their finest strokes, and on the small compass of that face are put pictures of sunrise over the sea, and angels of mercy going up and down ladders all a-flash, and mountains of transfiguration and noon-day in heaven. Kindness! It is the most magnificent sculptor that over touched human countenance. It makes the face to shine while life lasts, and after death puts a summer sunset between the still lips and the smoothed hair that makes me say sometimes at obsequies, "She seems too beautiful to bury."

V. But here comes another chisel, and its name is HYPOCRISY. Christ with one terrific stroke in his Sermon on the Mount described this character: "When ye fast be not as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance; for they disfigure their faces that they may appear unto men to fast." Hypocrisy having taken possession of the soul it immediately appears in the countenance. Hypocrites are always solemn. They carry several country graveyards in their faces. They are tearful when there is nothing to cry about. A man cannot have hypocrisy in his heart without somehow showing it in his face. All intelligent people who witness it know it is nothing but a dramatization.

VII. Here comes another chisel, and that belongs to the OLD-FASHIONED RELIGION. It first takes possession of the whole soul, washing out its sins by the blood of the Lamb and starting heaven right there and then. This is done deep down in the heart. Religion says, "Now let me go up to the windows and front gate of the face and set up some signal that I have taken possession of this castle. I will celebrate the victory by an illumination that no one can mistake. I have made this man happy, and now I will make him look happy. I will draw the corners of his mouth as far up as they were drawn down. I will take the contemptuous curl away from the lip and nostril. I will make his eyes flash and his cheeks glow at every mention of Christ and heaven. I will make even the wrinkles of his face lock like furrows ploughed for the harvests of joy. I will make what we call the 'crow's feet' around his temples suggestive that the dove of peace has been alighting there." There may be signs of trouble on that face, but trouble sanctified. There may be scars of battle on that face, but they will be scars of campaigns won.

(T. De Witt Talmage.)

Homiletic Review.
(with Matthew 17:2): — Note the variation of the Douay version: "The wisdom of a man shineth in his countenance." We would have been glad to stand with the disciples on the mountain to see Jesus when His face shone.


1. "A man's wisdom maketh his face to shine." The genuine radiance of wisdom is not an outside application. Outward polish desirable, but not to be substituted for inward character.

2. There is a human wisdom in man that comes up through nature that seems to have some radiating quality. The reign of life begins with the creature fiat on his face. Ascending orders are, on the whole, increasingly erected, until man comes, the only creature with wisdom to turn his face upward. He is the "being with the upturned face."

3. But the light of nature in man was not that which shone in the transfigured face of Jesus. This light does not come up through nature, but down from God. Entering man, it changes the qualities of the nature light. It is only when it streams out again that we also get transfiguration experiences. This light in us is the "wisdom" that makes the face shine.


1. Companying with Christ. The true disciple's face will always reflect the Master's light.

2. Busy interest in a great aim pursued for Jesus' sake. In cheerful work the face will shine.

3. Faith in the coming triumph of the kingdom.

4. The immortal hope. Upon the disciple's face the light is always that of the eternal city. Dying saints in pain comfort us with shining faces when we go hoping to comfort them. "Let your light shine."

(Homiletic Review.)

Anything, Appearance, Beam, Boldness, Brightens, Causes, Causeth, Changed, Changes, Clear, Countenance, Explanation, Face, Hardness, Illumines, Interpretation, Knoweth, Makes, Maketh, Man's, Matter, Sense, Shine, Shining, Stern, Wisdom, Wise
1. true wisdom is modest
2. Kings are to be respected
6. Divine providence is to be observed
12. It is better with the godly in adversity, than with the wicked in prosperity
16. The work of God is unsearchable

Dictionary of Bible Themes
Ecclesiastes 8:1

     4836   light, and people of God
     5150   face
     5173   outward appearance

Misused Respite
'Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil'--ECCLES. viii. 11. When the Pharaoh of the Exodus saw there was respite, he hardened his heart. Abject in his fear before Moses, he was ready to promise anything; insolent in his pride, he swallows down his promises as soon as fear is eased, his repentance and his retractation of it combined to add new weights about his neck. He was but a conspicuous example of
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

Five Fears
Now, you will notice that fear may be yoked into the service of God. True fear, not fearing, but believing, saves the soul; not doubt, but confidence, is the strength and the deliverance of the Christian. Still, fear, as being one of those powers which God hath given us, is not in itself sinful. Fear may be used for the most sinful purposes; at the same time it may be so ennobled by grace, and so used for the service of God, that it may become the very grandest part of man. In fact, Scripture has
Charles Haddon Spurgeon—Spurgeon's Sermons Volume 3: 1857

The Wicked Man's Life, Funeral, and Epitaph
We shall this morning want you, first of all, to walk with a living man; it is said of him that he did "come and go from the place of the holy:" next, I shall want you to attend his funeral, and then, in conclusion I shall ask you to assist in writing his epitaph--"and they were forgotten in the city where they had so done: this also is vanity." I. In the first place, HERE IS SOME GOOD COMPANY FOR YOU; some with whom you may walk to the house of God, for it is said of them, that they did come and
Charles Haddon Spurgeon—Spurgeon's Sermons Volume 4: 1858

Whether Christ Should have Been Circumcised?
Objection 1: It would seem that Christ should not have been circumcised. For on the advent of the reality, the figure ceases. But circumcision was prescribed to Abraham as a sign of the covenant concerning his posterity, as may be seen from Gn. 17. Now this covenant was fulfilled in Christ's birth. Therefore circumcision should have ceased at once. Objection 2: Further, "every action of Christ is a lesson to us" [*Innoc. III, Serm. xxii de Temp.]; wherefore it is written (Jn. 3:15): "I have given
Saint Thomas Aquinas—Summa Theologica

Whether in Loving God we Ought to Observe any Mode?
Objection 1: It would seem that we ought to observe some mode in loving God. For the notion of good consists in mode, species and order, as Augustine states (De Nat. Boni iii, iv). Now the love of God is the best thing in man, according to Col. 3:14: "Above all . . . things, have charity." Therefore there ought to be a mode of the love of God. Objection 2: Further, Augustine says (De Morib. Eccl. viii): "Prithee, tell me which is the mode of love. For I fear lest I burn with the desire and love of
Saint Thomas Aquinas—Summa Theologica

i. editions of chrysostom's works. S. Joannis Chrysostomi, archiepiscopi Constantinopolitani, Opera omnia quæ exstant vel quæ ejus nomine circumferuntur, ad mss. codices Gallicos, Vaticanos, Anglicos, Germanicosque castigata, etc. Opera et studio D.Bernardi de Montfaucon, monachi ordinis S. Benedicti e congregatione S. Mauri, opem ferentibus aliis ex codem sodalitio, monachis. Greek and Latin, Paris, 1718-'38, in 13 vols., fol. This is the best edition, and the result of about twenty
St. Chrysostom—On the Priesthood

Concerning Jonathan, one of the Sicarii, that Stirred up a Sedition in Cyrene, and was a False Accuser [Of the Innocent].
1. And now did the madness of the Sicarii, like a disease, reach as far as the cities of Cyrene; for one Jonathan, a vile person, and by trade a weaver, came thither and prevailed with no small number of the poorer sort to give ear to him; he also led them into the desert, upon promising them that he would show them signs and apparitions. And as for the other Jews of Cyrene, he concealed his knavery from them, and put tricks upon them; but those of the greatest dignity among them informed Catullus,
Flavius Josephus—The Wars of the Jews or History of the Destruction of Jerusalem

A Few Sighs from Hell;
John Bunyan—The Works of John Bunyan Volumes 1-3

It is not surprising that the book of Ecclesiastes had a struggle to maintain its place in the canon, and it was probably only its reputed Solomonic authorship and the last two verses of the book that permanently secured its position at the synod of Jamnia in 90 A.D. The Jewish scholars of the first century A.D. were struck by the manner in which it contradicted itself: e.g., "I praised the dead more than the living," iv. 2, "A living dog is better than a dead lion," ix. 4; but they were still more
John Edgar McFadyen—Introduction to the Old Testament

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