The Pulpit Commentary

Ecclesiastes 3:1-22 (Ecclesiastes 3:1-22)

Section 4. In confirmation of the truth that man's happiness depends upon the will of God, Koheleth proceeds to show how Providence arranges even the minutest concerns; that man can alter nothing, must make the best of things as they are, bear with anomalies, bounding his desires by this present life.

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Ecclesiastes 3:10-15 (Ecclesiastes 3:10-15)

There is a plan and system in all the circumstances of man's life; he feels this instinctively, but he cannot comprehend it. His duty is to make the best of the present, and to recognize the immutability of the law that governs all things.

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Ecclesiastes 3:11 (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

He hath made every thing beautiful in his ( its ) time . "Everything:" ( eth hacol ) does not refer so much to the original creation which God made very good ( Genesis 1:31 ), as to the travail and business mentioned in Ecclesiastes 3:10 . All parts of this have, in God's design, a beauty and a harmony, their own season for appearance and development, their work to do in carrying on the majestic march of Providence. Also he hath set the world in their heart. "The world;" eth-haolam , placed (as hacol above) before the verb, with eth , to emphasize the relation. There is some uncertainty in the translation of this word. The LXX . has, σύμπαντα τὸν αἰῶνα ; Vulgate, Mundum tradidit disputationi eorum . The original meaning is "the hidden," and it is used generally in the Old Testament of the remote past, and sometimes of the future, as Da 3:33, so that the idea conveyed is of unknown duration, whether the glance looks backward or forward, which is equivalent to our word "eternity." It is only in later Hebrew that the word obtained the signification of "age" ( αἰών ), or "world" in its relation to time. Commentators who have adopted the latter sense here explain the expression as if it meant that man in himself is a microcosm, a little world, or that the love of the world, the love of life, is naturally implanted in him. But taking the term in the signification found throughout the Bible, we are justified in translating it "eternity." The pronoun in "their heart" refers to "the sons of men" in the previous verse. God has put into men's minds a notion of infinity of duration; the beginning and the end of things are alike beyond his grasp; the time to be born and the Lime to die are equally unknown and uncontrollable. Koheleth is not thinking of that hope of immortality which his words unfold to us with our better knowledge; he is speculating on the innate faculty of looking backward and forward which man possesses, but which is insufficient to solve the problems which present themselves every day. This conception of eternity may be the foundation of great hopes and expectations, but as an explanation of the ways of Providence it fails. So that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end ; or, without man being able to penetrate ; yet so that he cannot , etc. Man sees only minute parts of the great whole; he cannot comprehend all at one view, cannot understand the law that regulates the time and season of every circumstance in the history of man and the world. He feels that, as there has been an infinite past, there will be an infinite future, which may solve anomalies and demonstrate the harmonious unity of God's design, and he must be content to wait and hope. Comparison of the past with the present may help to adumbrate the future, but is inadequate to unravel the complicated thread of the world's history (comp. Ecclesiastes 8:16 , Ecclesiastes 8:17 , and Ecclesiastes 9:1 , where a similar thought is expressed).

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