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stand before the king

stand before the king October 23, 2021

The spoken word of the king carries great authority, in the same way the written word of our Constitution in America carries authority today. The view of civil authority in the ancient Near East, is it does not flow from the written law as much as it flows from the king.

The reading is Ecclesiastes 8.1-5, primarily with the NRSV and NLT CLICK HERE

i. obey the king as if obeying God

From a compassionate look at injustice in the world and in the work place…

  • The Preacher weighs in on the gift of work CLICK HERE || *see note

…we now turn to what Koheleth has to say about those who maintain justice, those in authority. He starts by exclaiming:

How wonderful to be wise,
to analyze and interpret things.
Wisdom lights up a person’s face,
softening its harshness. (Ecclesiastes 8.1, NLT)

This translation brings out a little more of the rich language of this passage, particularly the comparison between wisdom and light. In a similar way, we may say that when someone has an idea, “the lights just came on,” “someone just flipped the switch,” or “did you see his face light up?” etc.

Koheleth recognizes this change in a person’s countenance, but he also sees a change in character, “softening its harshness.” The root word for this change is shana. Shana means to change or alter, also translated “to beam” (NASB).

However, the connotation is deeper. “The verb shana is sometimes used to describe a change in character or way of life” (R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, and Bruce K. Waltke, eds., Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, vol. 2, Moody Press, p. 941).

ii. true wisdom changes who we are

Both the Hebrews and classical Greeks understand this.

“The ethical dynamic of Greek philosophy lay in the intellect; if a person had perfect knowledge he could live the good life (Plato). Knowledge was virtue. The emphasis of OT wisdom was that the human will, in the realm of practical matters, was to be subject to divine causes. Therefore, Hebrew wisdom was not theoretical and speculative. It was practical, based on revealed principles of right and wrong, to be lived out in daily life.” (Harris et al., Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, vol. 1, p. 283).

Now that Koheleth has whet our appetites for more life-changing wisdom, he counsels us:

Keep the king’s command because of your sacred oath. (Eccl 8.2, NRSV)

The spoken word of the king carries great authority, in the same way the written word of our Constitution in America carries authority today.

The view of civil authority in the ancient Near East (aNE), is it does not flow from the written law as much as it flows from the king. The monarch, or any established ruler, is the seat of authority.

In the Bible, kings are highly regarded because ancient Israel considers herself a Theocracy, governed by God. Therefore, the Word of the king, priest, and prophet is regarded as the voice of God.

Ignacio-de-Ries-king-El-rey-David-Museo-del-Prado-Israel-Jerusalem
Ignacio de Ries | El rey David | Museo del Prado | 1650 | public domain

To stand before Israel’s king is to stand before God. To keep the commandment of the king is to keep the commandment of God.

The oath mentioned in verse 2 may refer to a practice in the aNE. Monarchs made their subjects swear an oath of fealty to them by some deity:

…because of your sacred oath. (Eccl 8.2)

The people of Israel also covenanted with similar oaths to serve their leaders.

iii. the power of the king

Don’t try to avoid doing your duty, and don’t stand with those who plot evil, for the king can do whatever he wants. (Eccl 8.3, NLT)

This is a good rendering of the language because it implies the deeper meaning, which is not merely leaving the king’s presence, but forsaking his word and rebelling.

  • With those the Lord places in authority over us, are we quick to criticize and sow seeds of dissension?
  • Do we find ourselves standing with those who stand opposed to authority?

To stand before the king, to stand before God, is a position of respect.

  • Do we stand in respect, or in a counterfeit stance of rebellion?

The Septuagint, the first Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, combines a couple of parts of verses 3-4. “For he will do whatsoever he pleases, even as a king using authority” (W.J. Deane, “Ecclesiastes,” The Pulpit Commentary: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, vol. 9, ed. H.D.M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, Wm. B. Eerdmans, p. 200).

“He will do whatever he pleases,” whatever he delights in, whatever he takes pleasure in, whatever he desires; which indicates the emotional involvement of the king. It is therefore the heart of the king that drives his “word,” which is “powerful” or authoritative.

For the word of the king is powerful, and who can say to him, “What are you doing?” (Eccl 8.4, NRSV)

iv. questions to consider

  • Is it not the heart of our Lord and King that drives his will and authority?

Key passages explaining the will of God for salvation begin with His emotional investment, for example:

For God so loved . . . and But God commendeth his love toward us . . . etc. (John 3.16; Romans 5.8, KJV)

Other passages speak of love above all else.

  • What is the difference between disobeying God’s authority and betraying His love?
  • Does it motivate us to know that His heart, not just His will, is invested in us?

Those who keep the commandment of the king, who know the proper times and means of justice, will have nothing to fear.

Whoever obeys a command will meet no harm, and the wise mind will know the time and way. (Eccl 8.5, NRSV)

W.J. Deane expounds: “The wise man bears oppression and remains unexcited even in evil days, because he is convinced that there is a time of judgment coming when all will be righted” (“Ecclesiastes,” The Pulpit Commentary, p. 200).


*note

This is the 9th article on some select readings from Ecclesiastes. They are all easy to find. At this point in time, these articles are the only ones I am sharing in The Writings category. Follow this link and you will find them all there in order CLICK HERE

About Rev. Jared Ingle
Since 1993 I have served as a local minister, a regional consultant, Christian college faculty, and a denominational representative. I have also offered student development counseling, pastoral care, and formal counseling. I now offer online counseling for people in Michigan. My writings reflect an integrated approach, both in practice and philosophy. Reach out for bookings, counseling, or consultation. You can read more about the author here.

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