They Seize the Land for Themselves

Reading the Word

Ecclesiastes 5:8–9 (ESV)
8 If you see in a province the oppression of the poor and the violation of justice and righteousness, do not be amazed at the matter, for the high official is watched by a higher, and there are yet higher ones over them.
9 But this is gain for a land in every way: a king committed to cultivated fields.

Understanding and Applying the Word

The subject matter of these verses is oppression of the poor. We read that positions of authority, at every level of the ladder to even the king, are prone to take advantage of those beneath. This tells us that this world and its structure are fully corrupt. The final verse is difficult to translate, which leads to multiple renderings. To see the differences, just compare a few of the more well-known English translations.

The English Standard Version’s translation of verse 9 is shown above. If it is correct, we see that, even with all of the corruption throughout the different levels of authority, a king committed to cultivated fields, which would provide for the people of the land, is a great benefit to a nation. However, the verse may also be translated much differently. The New English Translation serves as a good example. It translates verse 9 as “The produce of the land is seized by all of them, even the king served by the fields.” If this is the case, there is no positive ending. It simply tells us that most of us live life under the oppression of corrupt power structures and this adds to the vanity of it all. This seems like the most likely way to take this passage given everything else we have read in Ecclesiastes. Praise God that there is One who is in authority over all who will ultimately judge every injustice.

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