Ecclesiastes 8:1, a commentary: The Grand Entrance of Wisdom with study questions

Written by Paul J. Bucknell on October, 27, 2022

Ecclesiastes 8:1, a Commentary: The Grand Entrance of Wisdom with Study Questions

“Who is like the wise man and who knows the interpretation of a matter? A man’s wisdom illumines him and causes his stern face to beam.” (Ecc 8:1, NASB)

“Who is like the wise man? Who knows the explanation of things? Wisdom brightens a man’s face and changes its hard appearance.” (Ecc 8:1, NIV)

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Today’s world boasts intelligent men, but Ecclesiastes 8:1 describes the value of a wise man and what happens when they gain wisdom.

1) The Value of a Wise Man (Ecc 8:1a)

“Who is like the wise man and who knows the interpretation of a matter?” (Ecc 8:1a)

Solomon portrays the wise man as an esteemed person who unlocks the mysteries of God’s world—“Who is like the wise man?” The advancement of Christianity and its accompanying wisdom have paved the way for the advancement of knowledge—not mentioned in this verse. Wisdom is knowledge applied to one’s life and situation. “Wisdom” is used 49 times in Proverbs and “knowledge” 39 times. Wisdom is the ability to live in light of God’s person, knowledge, and purpose. 

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Prov 9:10).

While wisdom marks man’s highest calling, foolishness pictures man’s worst condition. Knowledge is bankrupt without wisdom. Knowledge, or access to it through the web, is unimpressive if disconnected from its relevance to moral living and God’s purpose for our lives.

Wisdom can unlock the toughest puzzles.

Today’s technocratic mindset has bred an unsightly form of arrogance with advancing information and knowledge. The world without wisdom is like a bicycle with only one wheel; knowledge cannot properly move without the wheel of wisdom. Together, they can speed down the hill.

Although we have access to many blogs and podcasts, how many people correctly assess or “knows the interpretation of a matter”? Departure from the authority of Scripture has diminished proper thinking and voided wisdom’s insights. Media commentators now spin false narratives rather than inform people of the facts; knowledge is lost, being cloaked in a plethora of lies.

How rare is the person who can rightly access and properly assess the information, bringing clarity to a confused generation. This prized gift of insight stands out even more in our age of purposed deception.

2) The Description of a Wise Man (Ecc 8:1b)

“A man’s wisdom illumines him and causes his stern face to beam.” (Ecc 8:1b)

A wise man not only understands matters but is inwardly enriched by new insights, lightening up his whole person—“A man’s wisdom illumines him”. The wise man is like a glowing light bulb. 

That discovered nugget of discernment resolves a complex situation or brings healing to a marriage. Wise people explore God’s word and world like unexplored mines, applying their discoveries to the world, bringing further illumination to others (Mat 5:14-16). Wisdom shines light into dark situations, providing rays of hope and understanding from God’s Word. 

Once problems are resolved, the stern or serious face is transformed into a beaming face, giving hope. The last phrase, “causes his stern face to beam” can describe surprise, but is more accurately written in the NIV,  “changes its hard appearance” (Hebrew: “the strength of his face is changed”). Wisdom brings impressive changes to people’s lives, especially those enriched by wisdom.

City faces are typically hardened; countenances are darkened. Faces are dismayed by the weight of sin, including injustice and the pressures of life. Without deeper insight into God’s larger purposes, life’s experiences surely drag people downward, causing stern and graceless lives. 

The Holy Spirit is said to illuminate or cause to shine. Paul prays for illumination for the Ephesian believers, “ I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened” (Eph 1:15-23). When we gain God’s perspective, we find peace of heart that the world cannot know.

3) The Greatest Wisdom in Christ

People came from afar to seek out Solomon’s wisdom. Looking at the whole of Scripture, we find that Solomon’s wisdom foreshadowed Christ’s. “Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor 1:24; Prov 8:22-27).

Christ who lived in the presence of His Father now constantly lives within His people through His Spirit, illuminating them and filling their lives with joy.

God and His wisdom have set us free from how sinfulness has seized and corrupted our world. Our brazen faces disappear upon our belief in Christ when God’s beaming grace fills our souls.

Summary

Though arrogance has shut out God, people are willing to corrupt and misuse their knowledge. They call evil good and good evil, bringing great pain upon the world. Christ is the Wisdom of God incarnated.

Wisdom has power to change people!

Bible Study Questions on Ecclesiastes 8:1

“Who is like the wise man and who knows the interpretation of a matter? A man’s wisdom illumines him and causes his stern face to beam.” (Ecc 8:1, NASB)

  1. What is wisdom?
  2. How are wisdom and knowledge related?
  3. How does wisdom help explain things?
  4. Is wisdom common? Why or why not?
  5. What does it mean that “wisdom illumines him?” Give an example.
  6. Think about the faces around you. Are people stern and severe? What about you?
  7. How can wisdom free a person “to beam?”
  8. What does it mean that Solomon’s wisdom foreshadowed Christ and His wisdom?
  9. What are three points of wisdom you have gained through Jesus Christ? Give thanks to Him for this.

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