Earthly pursuits are no doubt lawful in their proper
time and order (Ec 3:1-8),
but unprofitable when out of time and place; as for instance, when
pursued as the solid and chief good (Ec 3:9, 10); whereas God makes everything beautiful
in its season, which man obscurely comprehends (Ec 3:11). God allows man to enjoy moderately and
virtuously His earthly gifts (Ec 3:12, 13). What consoles us amidst the
instability of earthly blessings is, God's counsels are immutable
1. Man has his appointed cycle of seasons and
vicissitudes, as the sun, wind, and water (Ec 1:5-7).
purpose—as there is a fixed "season"
in God's "purposes" (for example, He has fixed the "time" when man is
"to be born," and "to die," Ec 3:2), so
there is a lawful "time" for man to carry out his "purposes" and
inclinations. God does not condemn, but approves of, the use of
earthly blessings (Ec 3:12); it
is the abuse that He condemns, the making them the chief end
7:31). The earth, without
human desires, love, taste, joy, sorrow, would be a dreary waste,
without water; but, on the other hand, the misplacing and excess of
them, as of a flood, need control. Reason and revelation are given to
2. time to die—(Ps 31:15; Heb
plant—A man can no more reverse the
times and order of "planting," and of "digging up," and transplanting,
than he can alter the times fixed for his "birth" and "death." To try
to "plant" out of season is vanity, however good in
season; so to make earthly things the chief end is vanity,
however good they be in order and season. Gill takes it, not so well, figuratively (Jer 18:7, 9; Am 9:15; Mt 15:13).
3. time to kill—namely, judicially,
criminals; or, in wars of self-defense; not in malice. Out of this time
and order, killing is murder.
to heal—God has His times for
"healing" (literally, Isa 38:5, 21; figuratively, De 32:39; Ho
6:1; spiritually, Ps
147:3; Isa 57:19). To
heal spiritually, before the sinner feels his wound,
would be "out of time," and so injurious.
time to break down—cities, as
Jerusalem, by Nebuchadnezzar.
build up—as Jerusalem, in the time of
Zerubbabel; spiritually (Am 9:11),
"the set time" (Ps 102:13-16).
4. mourn—namely, for the dead (Ge 23:2).
dance—as David before the ark (2Sa
6:12-14; Ps 30:11);
spiritually (Mt 9:15; Lu 6:21; 15:25). The Pharisees, by requiring sadness
out of time, erred seriously.
5. cast away stones—as out of a garden
or vineyard (Isa 5:2).
gather—for building; figuratively, the
Gentiles, once castaway stones, were in due time made parts of the
spiritual building (Eph 2:19, 20), and children of Abraham (Mt 3:9); so the restored Jews hereafter (Ps
102:13, 14; Zec 9:16).
refrain … embracing—(Joe
2:16; 1Co 7:5, 6).
6. time to get—for example, to gain
honestly a livelihood (Eph 4:23).
lose—When God wills losses to us, then
is our time to be content.
keep—not to give to the idle beggar
cast away—in charity (Pr 11:24); or to part with the dearest object,
rather than the soul (Mr 9:43). To
be careful is right in its place, but not when it comes between us and
Jesus Christ (Lu 10:40-42).
7. rend—garments, in mourning (Joe 2:13); figuratively, nations, as Israel
from Judah, already foretold, in Solomon's time (1Ki 11:30, 31), to be "sewed" together hereafter
silence—(Am 5:13), in a national calamity, or that of a
2:13); also not to murmur
under God's visitation (Le 10:3; Ps 39:1, 2, 9).
8. hate—for example, sin, lusts (Lu 14:26); that is, to love God so
much more as to seem in comparison to hate "father or mother,"
when coming between us and God.
a time of war … peace—(Lu 14:31).
9. But these earthly pursuits, while lawful in
their season, are "unprofitable" when made by man, what God never
intended them to be, the chief good. Solomon had tried to create an
artificial forced joy, at times when he ought rather to have been
serious; the result, therefore, of his labor to be happy, out of God's
order, was disappointment. "A time to plant" (Ec 3:2) refers to his planting (Ec 2:5); "laugh" (Ec 3:4), to Ec 2:1, 2; "his mirth," "laughter"; "build up,"
"gather stones" (Ec 3:3, 5),
to his "building" (Ec 2:4);
"embrace," "love," to his "princess" (see on Ec
2:8); "get" (perhaps also "gather," Ec 3:5, 6), to his "gathering" (Ec 2:8). All these were of "no profit," because
not in God's time and order of bestowing happiness.
10. (See on Ec
11. his time—that is, in its
proper season (Ps 1:3),
opposed to worldlings putting earthly pursuits out of their proper
time and place (see on Ec 3:9).
set the world in their heart—given
them capacities to understand the world of nature as reflecting
God's wisdom in its beautiful order and times (Ro 1:19, 20). "Everything" answers to "world,"
in the parallelism.
so that—that is, but in such a manner
that man only sees a portion, not the whole "from beginning to end"
(Ec 8:17; Job 26:14; Ro 11:33; Re 15:4). Parkhurst, for "world," translates: "Yet He hath put
obscurity in the midst of them," literally, "a secret," so man's
mental dimness of sight as to the full mystery of God's works.
So Holden and Weiss. This incapacity for "finding out"
(comprehending) God's work is chiefly the fruit of the fall. The
worldling ever since, not knowing God's time and order, labors in vain,
because out of time and place.
12. in them—in God's works (Ec 3:11), as far as relates to man's duty. Man
cannot fully comprehend them, but he ought joyfully to receive
("rejoice in") God's gifts, and "do good" with them to himself and to
others. This is never out of season (Ga 6:9, 10). Not sensual joy and self-indulgence
(Php 4:4; Jas 4:16, 17).
13. Literally, "And also as to every man who
eats … this is the gift of God" (Ec 3:22; 5:18). When received as God's gifts, and to
God's glory, the good things of life are enjoyed in their due time and
order (Ac 2:46; 1Co 10:31; 1Ti 4:3, 4).
3:12; 2Sa 23:5; Ps 89:34; Mt 24:35; Jas 1:17).
for ever—as opposed to man's perishing
labors (Ec 2:15-18).
any thing taken from it—opposed to
man's "crooked and wanting" works (Ec 1:15; 7:13). The event of man's labors depends
wholly on God's immutable purpose. Man's part, therefore, is to do and
enjoy every earthly thing in its proper season (Ec 3:12, 13), not setting aside God's order,
but observing deep reverence towards God; for the mysteriousness and
unchangeableness of God's purposes are designed to lead "man to fear
before Him." Man knows not the event of each act: otherwise he would
think himself independent of God.
15. Resumption of Ec 1:9. Whatever changes there be, the
succession of events is ordered by God's "everlasting" laws (Ec 3:14), and returns in a fixed
requireth that … past—After many
changes, God's law requires the return of the same cycle of
events, as in the past, literally, "that which is driven on."
The Septuagint and Syriac translate: "God requireth (that
is, avengeth) the persecuted man"; a transition to Ec 3:16, 17. The parallel clauses of the verse
support English Version.
16. Here a difficulty is suggested. If God
"requires" events to move in their perpetual cycle, why are the wicked
allowed to deal unrighteously in the place where injustice ought least
of all to be; namely, "the place of judgment" (Jer 12:1)?
17. Solution of it. There is a coming judgment
in which God will vindicate His righteous ways. The sinner's "time" of
his unrighteous "work" is short. God also has His "time" and "work" of
judgment; and, meanwhile, is overruling, for good at last, what seems
now dark. Man cannot now "find out" the plan of God's ways (Ec 3:11;
Ps 97:2). If judgment
instantly followed every sin, there would be no scope for free will,
faith, and perseverance of saints in spite of difficulties. The
previous darkness will make the light at last the more glorious.
there—(Job 3:17-19) in eternity, in the presence of the
Divine Judge, opposed to the "there," in the human place of judgment
3:16): so "from
thence" (Ge 49:24).
18. estate—The estate of fallen man is
so ordered (these wrongs are permitted), that God might "manifest,"
that is, thereby prove them, and that they might themselves see
their mortal frailty, like that of the beasts.
sons of men—rather, "sons of Adam," a
phrase used for "fallen men." The toleration of injustice until the
judgment is designed to "manifest" men's characters in their fallen
state, to see whether the oppressed will bear themselves aright amidst
their wrongs, knowing that the time is short, and there is a coming
judgment. The oppressed share in death, but the comparison to "beasts"
applies especially to the ungodly oppressors (Ps 49:12, 20). They too need to be "manifested"
("proved"), whether, considering that they must soon die as the
"beasts," and fearing the judgment to come, they will repent (Da 4:27).
19. Literally, "For the sons of men (Adam)
are a mere chance, as also the beast is a mere chance." These
words can only be the sentiments of the skeptical oppressors. God's
delay in judgment gives scope for the "manifestation" of their
infidelity (Ec 8:11; Ps 55:19; 2Pe 3:3,4). They are "brute beasts,"
morally (Ec 3:18; Jude 10); and they end by maintaining that man,
physically, has no pre-eminence over the beast, both alike being
"fortuities." Probably this was the language of Solomon himself in his
apostasy. He answers it in Ec 3:21. If
20 be his words, they
express only that as regards liability to death, excluding the
future judgment, as the skeptic oppressors do, man is on a level with
the beast. Life is "vanity," if regarded independently of religion. But
Ec 3:21 points out the vast difference
between them in respect to the future destiny; also (Ec 3:17) beasts have no "judgment" to come.
21. Who knoweth—Not doubt of the
destination of man's spirit (Ec 12:7); but
"how few, by reason of the outward mortality to which man is as
liable as the beast and which is the ground of the skeptic's argument,
comprehend the wide difference between man and the beast" (Isa 53:1). The Hebrew expresses the
difference strongly, "The spirit of man that ascends, it belongeth to
on high; but the spirit of the beast that descends, it belongeth to
below, even to the earth." Their destinations and proper element differ
22. (Compare Ec 3:12; 5:18). Inculcating a thankful enjoyment of
God's gifts, and a cheerful discharge of man's duties, founded on fear
of God; not as the sensualist (Ec 11:9); not as the anxious money-seeker (Ec 2:23;
his portion—in the present life. If it
were made his main portion, it would be "vanity" (Ec 2:1; Lu
for who, &c.—Our ignorance as to
the future, which is God's "time" (Ec 3:11), should lead us to use the present time
in the best sense and leave the future to His infinite wisdom (Mt 6:20,