8 Qohelet once again resorts to “better-than” proverbs. He promotes the end over the beginning of a matter in the first colon. In the second colon, he prefers patience over pride.
At first glance, this verse has no obvious connection with the broader context. In addition, it is not immediately obvious how the first colon of the verse is related to the second. Closer analysis, however, recognizes a link with the overall theme of death.
In 7:1b, for instance, Qohelet preferred the day of death (the end of life) over the day of birth (its beginning). While v. 8a has a much broader application, it is surely connected with the idea that the matter here is life.
The second proverb of the verse gives the relative value of patience over pride. Literally, the terms are translated “length of spirit” and “height of spirit,” respectively, and these spatial terms are used metaphorically here. Bringing this out more explicitly, we might translate, “Better long patience than soaring pride.” The expression for patience (ʾerek rûaḥ) is a hapax, but its meaning cannot be disputed. It is synonymous with another expression for patience, namely ʾerek-ʾappayim (“long of anger”), found in Proverbs 14:29 and elsewhere. rûaḥ substitutes for ʾappayim here because of the parallel with gᵊbah-rûaḥ. Also, rûaḥ connotes “anger” (Isa. 25:4; Prov. 16:32) and “impatience” (Mic. 2:7; Prov. 14:29).
R. N. Whybray has suggested a plausible connection between the two parts of the verse: “self-control is needed to carry through any project.” I would go on to add that no one can know the outcome of anything until it is completed, so patience, not pride, is called for, the latter presuming to control the future or outcome. Crenshaw quotes the proverb in 2 Kings 20:11: “Let not the person putting on armor brag like the one taking it off.”
7:8 It seemed to Solomon that the end of a thing is better than its beginning. Perhaps he was thinking of the tremendous inertia that must often be overcome to begin a project and of the drudgery and discipline that go into its early stages. Then by contrast there is the sense of achievement and satisfaction that accompanies its completion.
But it doesn’t take much insight to realize that the rule does not always hold. The end of righteous deeds is better than the beginning, but the end of sin is worse. The latter days of Job were better than the beginning (Job 42:12), but the end of the wicked is indescribably terrible (Heb. 10:31).
The Preacher was on firmer ground when he said that the patient in spirit is superior to the proud in spirit. Patience is an attractive virtue, whereas pride is the parent sin. Patience fits a man for God’s approval (Rom. 5:4), whereas pride fits him for destruction (Prov. 16:18).
8. connected with Ec 7:7. Let the “wise” wait for “the end,” and the “oppressions” which now (in “the beginning”) perplex their faith, will be found by God’s working to be overruled to their good. “Tribulation worketh patience” (Ro 5:3), which is infinitely better than “the proud spirit” that prosperity might have generated in them, as it has in fools (Ps 73:2, 3, 12–14, 17–26; Jam 5:11).
Ver. 8.—Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof. This is not a repetition of the assertion in ver. 1 concerning the day of death and the day of birth, but states a truth in a certain sense generally true. The end is better because we then can form a right judgment about a matter; we see what was its purpose; we know whether it has been advantageous and prosperous or not. Christ’s maxim, often repeated (see Matt. 10:22; 24:13; Rom. 2:7; Heb. 3:6, etc.), is, “He that shall endure unto the end shall be saved.” No one living can be said to be so absolutely safe as that he can look to the great day without trembling. Death puts the seal to the good life, and obviates the danger of falling away. Of course, if a thing is in itself evil, the gnome is not true (comp. Prov. 5:3, 4; 16:25, etc.); but applied to things indifferent at the outset, it is as correct as generalizations can be. The lesson of patience is here taught. A man should not be precipitate in his judgments, but wait for the issue. From the ambiguity in the expression dabar (see on Ch. 6:11), many render it “word” in this passage. Thus the Vulgate, Melior est finis orationis, quam principium; and the Septuagint, Ἀγαθὴ ἐσχάτη λόγων ὑπὲρ ἀρχήν αὐτοῦ, where φωνή, or some such word, must be supplied. If this interpretation be preferred, we must either take the maxim as stating generally that few words are better than many, and that the sooner one concludes a speech, so much the better for speaker and hearer; or we must consider that the word intended is a well-merited rebuke, which, however severe and at first disliked, proves in the end wholesome and profitable. And the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit. “Patient” is literally “long of spirit,” as the phrase, “short of spirit,” is used in Prov. 14:29 and Job 21:4 to denote one who loses his temper and is impatient. To wait calmly for the result of an action, not to be hasty in arraigning Providence, is the part of a patient man; while the proud, inflated, conceited man, who thinks all must be arranged according to his notions, is never resigned or content, but rebels against the ordained course of events. “In your patience ye shall win your souls,” said Christ (Luke 21:19); and a Scotch proverb declares wisely, “He that weel bides, weel betides.”
8 Many commentators (e.g., W. Zimmerli, R. Gordis) consider vv 8–10 as a unit in which Qoheleth offers advice that is very much like traditional wisdom. It is certainly true that vv 8–9 reflect such wisdom.
Taken independently, v 8a could be understood as a comment on vv 1–2. But paired with v 8b, it suggests a venerable wisdom ideal. The sage is better off for being at the end than at the beginning. He is not subject to overconfidence or pride (v 8b); he knows, for experience has taught him. The patient spirit is the opposite of the “short of spirit” (Prov 14:29), who lacks self-control (cf. Prov 25:28). The impatient and proud cannot wait for the final result; they act precipitously; cf. 1 Kgs 20:11. Instead, the wise are careful and cautious. The metaphors with רוּחַ, “spirit,” are determined by extension in space. If רוּחַ is stretched out, it is patient; if stretched high, it is proud (cf. Prov 14:29, “short of spirit”; 16:5, “high of heart”).
 Longman, T. (1998). The Book of Ecclesiastes (pp. 187–188). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 901). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
 Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 1, p. 409). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
 Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1909). Ecclesiastes (p. 158). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.
 Murphy, R. (1992). Ecclesiastes (Vol. 23A, p. 65). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.