Section 16. Leaving alone unanswerable questions, man's duty and happiness are found in activity, especially in doing all the good in his power, for he knows not how soon he himself may stand in need of help. This is the first remedy for the perplexities of life . The wise man will not charge himself with results.
As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit. In this verse are presented one or two examples of man's ignorance of natural facts and processes as analogous to the mysteries of God's moral government. The word translated "spirit" ( ruach ) may mean also "wind," and is so taken hero by many commentators (see Ecclesiastes 1:6 ; Ecclesiastes 8:8 ; and comp. John 3:8 ). In this view there would be two instances given, viz. the wind and the embryo. Certainly, the mention of the wind seems to come naturally after what has preceded; and man's ignorance of its way, and powerlessness to control it, are emblematic of his attitude towards Divine providence. The versions, however, seem to support the rendering of the Authorized Version. Thus the Septuagint (which connects the clause with Ecclesiastes 11:4 ), ἐν οἷς ("among whom," i.e. those who watch the weather), "There is none that knoweth what is the way of the spirit ( τοῦ πνεύματος ); " Vulgate. Quomodo ignoras quae sit via spiritus . If we take this view, we have only one idea in the verse, and that is the infusion of the breath of life in the embryo, and its growth in its mother's womb. Nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child . Our version, by its insertions, has made two facts out of the statement in the Hebrew, which is literally, holy the bones (are) in the womb of a pregnant woman . Septuagint, "As ( ὡς ) bones are in the womb," etc.; Vulgate, Et qua ratione compingantur ossa in ventre praegnantis, " And in what way the bones are framed in the womb of the pregnant." The formation and quickening of the foetus were always regarded as mysterious and inscrutable (comp. Job 10:8 , Job 10:9 ; Psalms 139:15 ; Wis. 7:1, etc.). Wright compares M. Aurelius, 10:26, "The first principles of life are extremely slender and mysterious; and yet nature works them up into a strange increase of bulk, diversity, and proportion." Controversies concerning the origin of the soul have been rife from early times, some holding what is called Traducianism, i.e. that soul and body are both derived by propagation from earthly parents; others supporting Creationism, i.e. that the soul, created specially by God, is infused into the child before birth. St. Augustine confesses ('Op. Imperf.,' 4.104) that he is unable to determine the truth of either opinion. And, indeed, this is one of those secret things which Holy Scripture has not decided for us, and about which no authoritative sentence has been given. The term "bones" is used for the whole conformation of the body (comp. Proverbs 15:30 ; Proverbs 16:24 ); meleah, "pregnant," means literally, "full," and is used like the Latin plena can here and nowhere else in the Old .Testament, though common in later Hebrew. Thus Ovid, 'Metam.,' 10.469—
"Plena patris thalamis excedit, et impia dire
Semina fert utero."
And 'Fast.,' 4.633—
"Nunc gravidum pecus est; gravidae sunt semine terrae
Telluri plenae victima plena datur."
Even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all. Equally mysterious in its general scope and in its details is the working of God's providence. And as everything lies in God's hands, it must needs be secret and beyond human ken. This is why to "the works of God" ( Ecclesiastes 7:13 ) is added, "who maketh all." The God of nature is Lord of the future (comp. Amos 3:6 ; Ec 18:6); man must not disquiet himself about this.