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Answering The Atheist
July 14, 2002 / Volume 2, Issue 28

THE ATHEIST'S COMPLAINT:
Some Scriptures say the righteous suffer like the wicked (Ecclesiastes 9:2; Isaiah 57:1), and others say that the righteous will flourish (Psalm 92:12-13). Is there a contradiction?

RESPONSE:
Let us look at the passages in question:

Ecclesiastes 9:2
All things come alike to all: One event happens to the righteous and the wicked; to the good, the clean, and the unclean; to him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice. As is the good, so is the sinner; he who takes an oath as he who fears an oath.

Isaiah 57:1
The righteous perishes, and no man takes it to heart; merciful men are taken away, while no one considers that the righteous is taken away from evil.

Psalms 92:12-13
The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree, he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those who are planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God.

First, it appears that the questioner has a specific idea of what it means to flourish. The word flourish could apply to numerous areas of life: material wealth, health, long life, spiritual maturity, etc.. It certainly seem likely that such a statement, made about the people of God would have some fulfillment in spiritual service before the Lord.

If the questioner had read further in the text of Ecclesiastes 9, the statement would have been found in verse 11, "The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding, nor favor to men of skill; but time and chance happen to them all." Solomon has acknowledged through the chapter that good or bad may happen to one in this life without partiality. Notice though, just prior to entering this discussion of one thing happening to all alike, the writer declared, "Though a sinner does evil a hundred times, and his days are prolonged, yet I surely know that it will be well with those who fear God, who fear before Him. But it will not be well with the wicked; nor will he prolong his days, which are as a shadow, because he does not fear before God." (Ecclesiastes 8:12-13). Does that not ring similarly to "...the righteous shall flourish..."?

It appears the questioner failed to understand the Isaiah 57:1 text. The righteous perish in body, which is not given much thought among the peoples of the world; but their end is much greater than their former state. They are "...taken away form evil." The Psalmist records, "Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints." (Psalm 116:15). The child of God receives rest when death comes. The righteous are brought closer to their eternal reward and to their great God.

There is no contradiction.

This article is a response to Skeptic's Annotated Bible