There are a few different ideas about the meaning of this passage. Clearly, however, it is about wicked people who are also very powerful. The author has just written about wicked people in Ecclesiastes 8:8. They cannot avoid death, so they will not avoid the punishment for their evil deeds.
During their lives, their wicked schemes caused much pain and trouble. It did not matter to them that other people suffered. Those wicked people cared only about themselves: their wealth, success and happiness. But evil schemes do not always achieve the results that people expect. Sometimes criminals must go to prison. And sometimes wicked people suffer because of their own evil actions.
These wicked people went to and from the holy place. Perhaps that means God’s house, called the temple. They had some sort of religion, but they were still wicked. Perhaps they thought that their religion would protect them. It did not. They died; the author of Ecclesiastes saw their funerals.
We are not sure whether the correct word is ‘praised’ or ‘forgot’ in Ecclesiastes 8:10. Ancient copies of the Bible do not agree. But both statements are true. At the funerals people praised those wicked people, but afterwards they forgot them. That is how many people behave. They praise someone when they hope to benefit from that person’s wealth, importance or power. But they forget that person soon afterwards.
Of course, such people quickly forget a good person, too. Such behaviour is evidence of people’s weakness. God does not behave like that. He remembers the people who are loyal to him (Hebrews 13:5). He gives them honour (Luke 19:12-19; Revelation 22:3-5).
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© 2014, Keith Simons.