Exhortation to liberality. (1-6) An admonition to prepare for death, and to young persons to be religious. (7-10)
Verses 1-6 Solomon presses the rich to do good to others. Give freely, though it may seem thrown away and lost. Give to many. Excuse not thyself with the good thou hast done, from the good thou hast further to do. It is not lost, but well laid out. We have reason to expect evil, for we are born to trouble; it is wisdom to do good in the day of prosperity. Riches cannot profit us, if we do not benefit others. Every man must labour to be a blessing to that place where the providence of God casts him. Wherever we are, we may find good work to do, if we have but hearts to do it. If we magnify every little difficulty, start objections, and fancy hardships, we shall never go on, much less go through with our work. Winds and clouds of tribulation are, in God's hands, designed to try us. God's work shall agree with his word, whether we see it or not. And we may well trust God to provide for us, without our anxious, disquieting cares. Be not weary in well-doing, for in due season, in God's time, you shall reap, ( Galatians 6:9 ) .
Verses 7-10 Life is sweet to bad men, because they have their portion in this life; it is sweet to good men, because it is the time of preparation for a better; it is sweet to all. Here is a caution to think of death, even when life is most sweet. Solomon makes an effecting address to young persons. They would desire opportunity to pursue every pleasure. Then follow your desires, but be assured that God will call you into judgment. How many give loose to every appetite, and rush into every vicious pleasure! But God registers every one of their sinful thoughts and desires, their idle words and wicked words. If they would avoid remorse and terror, if they would have hope and comfort on a dying bed, if they would escape misery here and hereafter, let them remember the vanity of youthful pleasures. That Solomon means to condemn the pleasures of sin is evident. His object is to draw the young to purer and more lasting joys. This is not the language of one grudging youthful pleasures, because he can no longer partake of them; but of one who has, by a miracle of mercy, been brought back in safety. He would persuade the young from trying a course whence so few return. If the young would live a life of true happiness, if they would secure happiness hereafter, let them remember their Creator in the days of their youth.
Ecclesiastes 11:1-10 .
1. Ecclesiastes 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 ( Ecclesiastes 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 ( Isaiah 32:20 ). "Waters" express multitudes, so Ecclesiastes 11:2 , Revelation 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 ( Isaiah 49:4 ).
2. portion--of thy bread.
seven--the perfect number.
eight--even to more than seven; that is, "to many" (so "waters," Ecclesiastes 11:1 ), nay, even to very many in need ( Job 5:19 , Micah 5:5 ).
evil--The day may be near, when you will need the help of those whom you have bound to you by kindnesses ( Luke 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" ( Ecclesiastes 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 ( Ecclesiastes 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 ( Revelation 22:11 Revelation 22:14 Revelation 22:15 ). Now is his time for liberality, before the evil days come ( Ecclesiastes 12:1 ).
4. Therefore sow thy charity in faith, without hesitancy or speculation as to results, because they may not seem promising ( Ecclesiastes 9:10 ). So in Ecclesiastes 11:1 , man is told to "cast his bread corn" on the seemingly unpromising "waters" ( Psalms 126:5 Psalms 126:6 ). 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" ( Ecclesiastes 1:6 , John 3:8 ).
bones . . . grow--( Job 10:8 Job 10:9 , Psalms 139:15 Psalms 139:16 ).
knowest not the works of God--( Ecclesiastes 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 ( Hosea 10:12 , 2 Corinthians 9:10 , Galatians 6:7 ).
prosper--( Isaiah 55:10 Isaiah 55:11 ).
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 ( Ecclesiastes 7:11 , Psalms 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 Job 10:22 , Psalms 88:12 ), also days of "evil" in this world ( Ecclesiastes 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 ( Ecclesiastes 9:10 ).
9. Rejoice--not advice, but warning. So 1 Kings 22:15 , is irony; if thou dost rejoice (carnally, Ecclesiastes 2:2 , 7:2 , not moderately, as in Ecclesiastes 5:18 ), &c., then "know that . . . God will bring thee into judgment" ( Ecclesiastes 3:17 , 12:14 ).
youth . . . youth--distinct Hebrew words, adolescence or boyhood (before Ecclesiastes 12:13 ), 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 ( Luke 14:28 ).
10. sorrow--that is, the lusts that end in "sorrow," opposed to "rejoice," and "heart cheer thee" ( Ecclesiastes 11:9 ), Margin, "anger," that is, all "ways of thine heart"; "remove," &c., is thus opposed to "walk in," &c. ( Ecclesiastes 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 Ecclesiastes 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 ( Ecclesiastes 12:1 ).
youth--literally, the dawn of thy days.