Ecclesiastes 8:2
Keep the king's command, I say, because of your oath before God.
Obedience to the Civil GovernmentT. Payne, M. A.Ecclesiastes 8:2
Allegiance of SubjectsJ. Willcock Ecclesiastes 8:2-5
The Ruler and the SubjectD. Thomas Ecclesiastes 8:2-5

It is possible that some persons, living under a form of government very different from that presumed in the admonitions of this passage - under a limited monarchy or a republic instead of under an absolute monarchy of a special theocratic kind - may fancy that these verses have no special significance for them, no applicability to the practical conduct of their actual life. But reflection may show us that this is not so, that there are valuable principles of interest and import for the civil life of all men.

I. CIVIL AUTHORITY IS IN ITSELF OF DIVINE ORIGIN, AND POSSESSES DIVINE SANCTIONS. The king, the king's word, commandment, and pleasure, are all significant of order in society, of that great reality and power in human affairs - the state. "Order is Heaven's first law." Right does not, indeed, grow out of civil authority, but it is its Divine basis. That kingship has often become tyranny, and democracy mob-rule, that every form of government may be abused, is known to every student of history, to every reader of the newspapers. But law in itself is good, and its maintenance is the only security for public liberty. One of the first duties of a religious teacher is to impress upon the people the sacredness of civil authority, to inculcate reverence for law, to encourage to good citizenship. He is not called upon to flatter the great and powerful, to repress discussion, to enjoin servility. But that freedom which is the condition of the true development of national life, and which can only be preserved by reverence for rightful authority, for constitutional government, should be dear to every Christian, and should be held in honor by every Christian teacher and preacher. "The powers that be are ordained of God."

II. WISE PATRIOTISM LEADS TO CHEERFUL OBEDIENCE AND SUBMISSION TO AUTHORITY. Law for the most part is designed to repress crime, to maintain peace and tranquility, to afford protection to the honest, industrious, and law-abiding. Therefore to commit wrong of any kind, whether theft, or slander, or violence, is both evil in itself and is transgression of the law. A man who simply contents himself with breaking no civil law may indeed be a villain, for civil law is not all; there is a Divine Law which the civil ruler is not bound to enforce. But the bad citizen cannot be a good Christian; to break the laws of the state is not likely to lead to obedience to the commandments of the King of kings. It is, indeed, not to be expected that a man should approve of every command of the king, of every law which is enforced in his country. But if every man were to refuse to obey every statute of which he disapproved, how could government be carried on? The wonderful word of Christ is decisive, "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's." Where no Divine ordinance is violated by conforming to civil law, the duty of the subject, the citizen, is plain; be should obey. He is, of course, at liberty under a constitutional government to use means of an honorable kind to secure a change of law. It is a grand word of the Preacher, "Whoso keepeth the commandment shall know no evil thing."

III. LOYALTY TO EARTHLY, HUMAN AUTHORITY IS SUGGESTIVE OF LOYALTY TO GOD. When submission is enjoined, it is supported by a religious motive - "and that in regard of the oath of God." It is evident that the authority of a parent or a ruler, the subjection of a child or a citizen, are intended to symbolize the even higher facts of the spiritual kingdom - the empire of the "King, eternal, immortal, and invisible," and the loyalty of those who by the new birth have entered "the kingdom of heaven." - T.

I counsel thee to keep the king's commandment, and that in regard of the oath of God.
Notwithstanding men differ so much in their several opinions concerning human authority, and entertain such various notions about the rise and original foundation of civil government: yet it is generally agreed upon by all sides that it is absolutely necessary that there should be such a thing as government; and the common voice of reason (as well as the practice of all ages) plainly declares that the universal good of mankind can in no wise be carried on without it. From hence it appears to be the interest of mankind in general that government should be kept up and maintained; but because men are so partial to themselves, as through pride, ambition, or revenge, to overlook and disregard the public good, when it stands in competition with their own private advantage: God in His wisdom has thought fit not to leave us to the guidance and direction of natural reason only, but has also by His revealed will more strongly enforced our obligation to contribute in our several capacities towards promoting the public good and common welfare of society. In discoursing upon which words I propose to consider them —

I. AS THEY RELATED PARTICULARLY TO THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL. They may admit of this paraphrase: I advise and counsel you to pay all dutiful submission to your king and governor, to obey his commands in all instances which are not contrary to God's laws; and thus I counsel thee to observe the king's commandment, not only in point of prudence and humane policy, because he can do whatsoever pleaseth him, and has an absolute power to inflict punishment upon such as shall dare to disobey his commands; but upon a more weighty and religious account, because your disobedience will not only render you obnoxious to the wrath and displeasure of a powerful earthly prince, but provoke to anger the great God of heaven and earth, in whose presence you have obliged yourself by an oath to bear true allegiance to your sovereign; and who (as you very well know) has denounced severe threatenings against all such as shall presume to swear falsely by his name, and has positively declared that he will not hold him guiltless who is not careful to perform unto the Lord his oath.

II. AS CONTAINING THE GROUND AND REASON OF OUR OBEDIENCE TO GOVERNMENT. That obedience is due from subjects to their governors is a truth fairly deducible from natural reason; and that it is the duty of all men to comply with the laws of the particular constitution of the place where they live, the Scriptures evidently declare. They acquaint us that governors are the ministers of God, appointed for the common good of society, that whosoever resisteth the power resisteth the ordinance of God. As for the grounds and reasons upon which our obedience to government is founded, they are many and various; some take their force from those laws which the voice of reason dictates; some from those precepts and commands which are contained in the books of Scripture; some from that personal security which it has been the custom among many nations for the supreme authority to require of the several members which are under its jurisdiction; and from those engagements and promises which subjects have given the government to which they belong, that they will obediently submit to such rules and orders as the legislative power shall think fit to enjoin them to observe. An oath is a solemn appeal to Almighty God, as a Witness and Avenger. As a Witness to the truth of what we affirm, and the sincerity of our resolution to perform and do what we promise. As an Avenger in case we deliver for a truth what we know or believe to be false, and do not actually design to perform what we promise. It is therefore a most shameful and abominable practice to play fast and loose with things of so sacred a nature: it is one of the vilest as well as most dangerous sins a man can commit, one of the greatest indignities he can offer to his Creator; it is in a manner as enormous a crime as the calling in question God's infinite truth and knowledge, and near as hazardous a provocation as that of bidding defiance to His almighty power.

(T. Payne, M. A.)

Account, Command, Commandment, Counsel, Dismayed, King's, Law, Oath, Regard, Respect, Sacred, Sake
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 8:2

     5219   authority, human institutions
     5255   citizenship
     5430   oaths, human
     8243   ethics, social
     8304   loyalty

Ecclesiastes 8:2-5

     5257   civil authorities

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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