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The God-Given Task

9 What gain have the workers from their toil? 10I have seen the business that God has given to everyone to be busy with. 11He has made everything suitable for its time; moreover he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. 12I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; 13moreover, it is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil. 14I know that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it; God has done this, so that all should stand in awe before him. 15That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already is; and God seeks out what has gone by.


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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 1:13).

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).

14. (1Sa 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 cycle.

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.




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