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The Value of Diligence


Send out your bread upon the waters,

for after many days you will get it back.


Divide your means seven ways, or even eight,

for you do not know what disaster may happen on earth.


When clouds are full,

they empty rain on the earth;

whether a tree falls to the south or to the north,

in the place where the tree falls, there it will lie.


Whoever observes the wind will not sow;

and whoever regards the clouds will not reap.

5 Just as you do not know how the breath comes to the bones in the mother’s womb, so you do not know the work of God, who makes everything.

6 In the morning sow your seed, and at evening do not let your hands be idle; for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good.

Youth and Old Age

7 Light is sweet, and it is pleasant for the eyes to see the sun.

8 Even those who live many years should rejoice in them all; yet let them remember that the days of darkness will be many. All that comes is vanity.

9 Rejoice, young man, while you are young, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Follow the inclination of your heart and the desire of your eyes, but know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.

10 Banish anxiety from your mind, and put away pain from your body; for youth and the dawn of life are vanity.

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Ec 11:1-10.

1. Ec 11:2 shows that charity is here inculcated.

bread—bread corn. As in the Lord's prayer, all things needful for the body and soul. Solomon reverts to the sentiment (Ec 9:10).

waters—image from the custom of sowing seed by casting it from boats into the overflowing waters of the Nile, or in any marshy ground. When the waters receded, the grain in the alluvial soil sprang up (Isa 32:20). "Waters" express multitudes, so Ec 11:2; Re 17:15; also the seemingly hopeless character of the recipients of the charity; but it shall prove at last to have been not thrown away (Isa 49:4).

2. portion—of thy bread.

seven—the perfect number.

eight—even to more than seven; that is, "to many" (so "waters," Ec 11:1), nay, even to very many in need (Job 5:19; Mic 5:5).

evil—The day may be near, when you will need the help of those whom you have bound to you by kindnesses (Lu 16:9). The very argument which covetous men use against liberality (namely, that bad times may come), the wise man uses for it.

3. clouds—answering to "evil" (Ec 11:2), meaning, When the times of evil are fully ripe, evil must come; and speculations about it beforehand, so as to prevent one sowing seed of liberality, are vain (Ec 11:4).

tree—Once the storm uproots it, it lies either northward or southward, according as it fell. So man's character is unchangeable, whether for hell or heaven, once that death overtakes him (Re 22:11, 14, 15). Now is his time for liberality, before the evil days come (Ec 12:1).

4. Therefore sow thy charity in faith, without hesitancy or speculation as to results, because they may not seem promising (Ec 9:10). So in Ec 11:1, man is told to "cast his bread corn" on the seemingly unpromising "waters" (Ps 126:5, 6). The farmer would get on badly, who, instead of sowing and reaping, spent his time in watching the wind and clouds.

5. spirit—How the soul animates the body! Thus the transition to the formation of the body "in the womb" is more natural, than if with Maurer we translate it "wind" (Ec 1:6; Joh 3:8).

bones … grow—(Job 10:8, 9; Ps 139:15, 16).

knowest not the works of God—(Ec 3:11; 8:17; 9:12).

6. morning … evening—early and late; when young and when old; in sunshine and under clouds.

seed—of godly works (Ho 10:12; 2Co 9:10; Ga 6:7).

prosper—(Isa 55:10, 11).

both … alike—Both the unpromising and the promising sowing may bear good fruit in others; certainly they shall to the faithful sower.

7. light—of life (Ec 7:11; Ps 49:19). Life is enjoyable, especially to the godly.

8. But while man thankfully enjoys life, "let him remember" it will not last for ever. The "many days of darkness," that is, the unseen world (Job 10:21, 22; Ps 88:12), also days of "evil" in this world (Ec 11:2), are coming; therefore sow the good seed while life and good days last, which are not too long for accomplishing life's duties.

All that cometh—that is, All that followeth in the evil and dark days is vain, as far as work for God is concerned (Ec 9:10).

9. Rejoice—not advice, but warning. So 1Ki 22:15, is irony; if thou dost rejoice (carnally, Ec 2:2; 7:2, not moderately, as in Ec 5:18), &c., then "know that … God will bring thee into judgment" (Ec 3:17; 12:14).

youth … youth—distinct Hebrew words, adolescence or boyhood (before Ec 11:10), and full-grown youth. It marks the gradual progress in self-indulgence, to which the young especially are prone; they see the roses, but do not discover the thorns, until pierced by them. Religion will cost self-denial, but the want of it infinitely more (Lu 14:28).

10. sorrow—that is, the lusts that end in "sorrow," opposed to "rejoice," and "heart cheer thee" (Ec 11:9), Margin, "anger," that is, all "ways of thine heart"; "remove," &c., is thus opposed to "walk in," &c. (Ec 11:9).

flesh—the bodily organ by which the sensual thoughts of the "heart" are embodied in acts.

childhood—rather, "boyhood"; the same Hebrew word as the first, "youth" in Ec 11:9. A motive for self-restraint; the time is coming when the vigor of youth on which thou reliest, will seem vain, except in so far as it has been given to God (Ec 12:1).

youth—literally, the dawn of thy days.