Good and bad men fare alike as to this world. (1-3) All men must die, Their portion as to this life. (4-10) Disappointments common. (11,12) Benefits of wisdom. (13-18)
Verses 1-3 We are not to think our searching into the word or works of God useless, because we cannot explain all difficulties. We may learn many things good for ourselves and useful to others. But man cannot always decide who are objects of God's special love, or under his wrath; and God will certainly put a difference between the precious and the vile, in the other world. The difference as to present happiness, arises from the inward supports and consolations the righteous enjoy, and the benefit they derive from varied trials and mercies. As far as the sons of men are left to themselves, their hearts are full of evil; and prosperity in sin, causes them even to set God at defiance by daring wickedness. Though, on this side death, the righteous and the wicked may often seem to fare alike, on the other side there will be a vast difference between them.
Verses 4-10 The most despicable living man's state, is preferable to that of the most noble who have died impenitent. Solomon exhorts the wise and pious to cheerful confidence in God, whatever their condition in life. The meanest morsel, coming from their Father's love, in answer to prayer, will have a peculiar relish. Not that we may set our hearts upon the delights of sense, but what God has given us we may use with wisdom. The joy here described, is the gladness of heart that springs from a sense of the Divine favour. This is the world of service, that to come is the world of recompence. All in their stations, may find some work to do. And above all, sinners have the salvation of their souls to seek after, believers have to prove their faith, adorn the gospel, glorify God, and serve their generation.
Verses 11-12 Men's success seldom equals their expectations. We must use means, but not trust to them: if we succeed, we must give God the praise; if crossed, we must submit to his will. Those who put off the great concerns of their souls, are caught in Satan's net, which he baits with some worldly object, for which they reject or neglect the gospel, and go on in sin till they suddenly fall into destruction.
Verses 13-18 A man may, by his wisdom, bring to pass that which he could never do by his strength. If God be for us, who can be against us, or stand before us? Solomon observes the power of wisdom, though it may labour under outward disadvantages. How forcible are right words! But wise and good men must often content themselves with the satisfaction of having done good, or, at least, endeavoured to do it, when they cannot do the good they would, nor have the praise they should. How many of the good gifts, both of nature and Providence, does one sinner destroy and make waste! He who destroys his own soul destroys much good. One sinner may draw many into his destroying ways. See who are the friends and enemies of a kingdom or a family, if one saint does much good, and one sinner destroys much good.
Ecclesiastes 9:1-18 .
1. declare--rather, explore; the result of my exploring is this, that "the righteous, &c., are in the hand of God. No man knoweth either the love or hatred (of God to them) by all that is before them," that is, by what is outwardly seen in His present dealings ( Ecclesiastes 8:14 Ecclesiastes 8:17 ). However, from the sense of the same words, in Ecclesiastes 9:6 , "love and hatred" seem to be the feelings of the wicked towards the righteous, whereby they caused to the latter comfort or sorrow. Translate: "Even the love and hatred" (exhibited towards the righteous, are in God's hand) ( Psalms 76:10 , Proverbs 16:7 ). "No man knoweth all that is before them."
2. All things . . . alike--not universally; but as to death. Ecclesiastes 9:2-10 are made by HOLDEN the objection of a skeptical sensualist. However, they may be explained as Solomon's language. He repeats the sentiment already implied in Ecclesiastes 2:14 , 3:20 , 8:14 .
one event--not eternally; but death is common to all.
sacrificeth--alike to. Josiah who sacrificed to God, and to Ahab who made sacrifice to Him cease.
sweareth--rashly and falsely.
3. Translate, "There is an evil above all (evils) that are done," &c., namely, that not only "there is one event to all," but "also the heart of the sons of men" makes this fact a reason for "madly" persisting in "evil while they live, and after that," &c., sin is "madness."
the dead--( Proverbs 2:18 , 9:18 ).
4. For--rather, "Nevertheless." English Version rightly reads as the Margin, Hebrew, "that is joined," instead of the text, "who is to be chosen?"
hope--not of mere temporal good ( Job 14:7 ); but of yet repenting and being saved.
dog--metaphor for the vilest persons ( 1 Samuel 24:14 ).
lion--the noblest of animals ( Proverbs 30:30 ).
better--as to hope of salvation; the noblest who die unconverted have no hope; the vilest, so long as they have life, have hope.
5. know that they shall die--and may thereby be led "so to number their days, that they may apply their hearts to wisdom" ( Ecclesiastes 7:1-4 , Psalms 90:12 ).
dead know not anything--that is so far as their bodily senses and worldly affairs are concerned ( Job 14:21 , Isaiah 63:16 ); also, they know no door of repentance open to them, such as is to all on earth.
neither . . . reward--no advantage from their worldly labors ( Ecclesiastes 2:18-22 , 4:9 ).
memory--not of the righteous ( Psalms 112:6 , Malachi 3:16 ), but the wicked, who with all the pains to perpetuate their names ( Psalms 49:11 ) are soon "forgotten" ( Ecclesiastes 8:10 ).
6. love, and . . . hatred, &c.--(referring to Ecclesiastes 9:1 ; Not that these cease in a future world absolutely ( Ezekiel 32:27 , Revelation 22:11 ); but as the end of this verse shows, relatively to persons and things in this world. Man's love and hatred can no longer be exercised for good or evil in the same way as here; but the fruits of them remain. What he is at death he remains for ever. "Envy," too, marks the wicked as referred to, since it was therewith that they
portion--Their "portion" was "in this life" ( Psalms 17:14 ), that they now "cannot have any more."
7. Addressed to the "righteous wise," spoken of in Ecclesiastes 9:1 . Being "in the hand of God," who now accepteth "thy works" in His service, as He has previously accepted thy person ( Genesis 4:4 ), thou mayest "eat . . . with a cheerful (not sensually 'merry') heart" ( Ecclesiastes 3:13 , 5:18 , Acts 2:46 ).
8. white--in token of joy ( Isaiah 61:3 ). Solomon was clad in white (JOSEPHUS, Antiquities, 8:7,3); hence his attire is compared to the "lilies" ( Matthew 6:29 ), typical of the spotless righteousness of Jesus Christ, which the redeemed shall wear ( Revelation 3:18 , 7:14 ).
ointment--( Psalms 23:5 ), opposed to a gloomy exterior ( 2 Samuel 14:2 , Psalms 45:7 , Matthew 6:17 ); typical, also ( Ecclesiastes 7:1 , Solomon 1:3 ).
9. wife . . . lovest--godly and true love, opposed to the "snares" of the "thousand" concubines ( Ecclesiastes 7:26 Ecclesiastes 7:28 ), "among" whom Solomon could not find the true love which joins one man to one woman ( Proverbs 5:15 Proverbs 5:18 Proverbs 5:19 , 18:22 , 19:14 ).
10. Whatsoever--namely, in the service of God. This and last verse plainly are the language of Solomon, not of a skeptic, as HOLDEN would explain it.
hand, &c.--( Leviticus 12:8 , Margin; 1 Samuel 10:7 , Margin).
thy might--diligence ( Deuteronomy 6:5 ; Jeremiah 48:10 , Margin).
no work . . . in the grave--( John 9:4 , Revelation 14:13 ). "The soul's play-day is Satan's work-day; the idler the man the busier the tempter" [SOUTH].
11. This verse qualifies the sentiment, Ecclesiastes 9:7-9 . Earthly "enjoyments," however lawful in their place ( Ecclesiastes 3:1 ), are to give way when any work to be done for God requires it. Reverting to the sentiment ( Ecclesiastes 8:17 ), we ought, therefore, not only to work God's work "with might" ( Ecclesiastes 9:10 ), but also with the feeling that the event is wholly "in God's hand" ( Ecclesiastes 9:1 ).
race . . . not to the swift--( 2 Samuel 18:23 ); spiritually ( Zephaniah 3:19 , Romans 9:16 ).
nor . . . battle to . . . strong--( 1 Samuel 17:47 , 2 Chronicles 14:9 2 Chronicles 14:11 2 Chronicles 14:15 , Psalms 33:16 ).
favour--of the great.
chance--seemingly, really Providence. But as man cannot "find it out" ( Ecclesiastes 3:11 ), he needs "with all might" to use opportunities. Duties are ours; events, God's.
12. his time--namely, of death ( Ecclesiastes 7:15 , Isaiah 13:22 ). Hence the danger of delay in doing the work of God, as one knows not when his opportunity will end ( Ecclesiastes 9:10 ).
evil net--fatal to them. The unexpected suddenness of the capture is the point of comparison. So the second coming of Jesus Christ, "as a snare" ( Luke 21:35 ).
evil time--as an "evil net," fatal to them.
13. Rather, "I have seen wisdom of this kind also," that is, exhibited in the way which is described in what follows [MAURER].
14, 15. ( 2 Samuel 20:16-22 ).
bulwarks--military works of besiegers.
15. poor--as to the temporal advantages of true wisdom, though it often saves others. It receives little reward from the world, which admires none save the rich and great.
no man remembered--( Genesis 40:23 ).
16. Resuming the sentiment ( Ecclesiastes 7:19 , Proverbs 21:22 , 24:5 ).
poor man's wisdom is despised--not the poor man mentioned in Ecclesiastes 9:15 ; for his wisdom could not have saved the city, had "his words not been heard"; but poor men in general. So Paul ( Acts 27:11 ).
17. The words of wise, &c.--Though generally the poor wise man is not heard ( Ecclesiastes 9:16 ), yet "the words of wise men, when heard in quiet (when calmly given heed to, as in Ecclesiastes 9:15 ), are more serviceable than," &c.
ruleth--as the "great king" ( Ecclesiastes 9:14 ). Solomon reverts to "the rulers to their own hurt" ( Ecclesiastes 8:9 ).
18. one sinner, &c.--( Joshua 7:1 Joshua 7:11 Joshua 7:12 ). Though wisdom excels folly ( Ecclesiastes 9:16 , Ecclesiastes 7:19 ), yet a "little folly (equivalent to sin) can destroy much good," both in himself ( Ecclesiastes 10:1 , 2:10 ) and in others. "Wisdom" must, from the antithesis to "sinner," mean religion. Thus typically, the "little city" may be applied to the Church ( Luke 12:32 , Hebrews 12:22 ); the great king to Satan ( John 12:31 ); the despised poor wise man, Jesus Christ ( Isaiah 53:2 Isaiah 53:3 , 6:3 , 2 Corinthians 8:9 , Ephesians 1:7 Ephesians 1:8 , Colossians 2:3 ).