Ecclesiastes 3:16-22

From Dust to Dust

16 Moreover, 1I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, even 2there was wickedness, and in the place of righteousness, even there was wickedness.
17 I said in my heart, 3God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is 4a time for every matter and for every work.
18 I said in my heart with regard to the children of man that God is testing them that they may see that they themselves are but 5beasts.
19 6For what happens to the children of man and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts, for all is vanity.
20 All go to one place. All are from 7the dust, and to dust all return.
21 Who knows whether 8the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down into the earth?
22 So I saw that there is 9nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his work, for 10that is his lot. Who can bring him to see 11what will be after him?

Ecclesiastes 3:16-22 Meaning and Commentary


The general design of this chapter is to confirm what is before observed, the vanity and inconstancy of all things; the frailty of man, and changes respecting him; his fruitless toil and labour in all his works; that it is best to be content with present things, and cheerful in them, and thankful for them; that all comes from the hand of God; that such good men, who have not at present that joy that others have, may have it, since there is a time for it; and that sinners should not please themselves with riches gathered by them, since they may be soon taken from them, for there is a time for everything, Ec 3:1; of which there is an induction of particulars, Ec 3:2-8; so that though every thing is certain with God, nothing is certain with men, nor to be depended on, nor can happiness be placed therein; there is no striving against the providence of God, nor altering the course of things; the labour of man is unprofitable, and his travail affliction and vexation, Ec 3:9,10; and though all God's works are beautiful in their season, they are unsearchable to man, Ec 3:11; wherefore it is best cheerfully to enjoy the present good things of life, Ec 3:12,13; and be content; for the will and ways and works of God are unalterable, permanent, and perfect, Ec 3:14,15; and though wicked men may abuse the power reposed in them, and pervert public justice, they will be called to an account for it in the general judgment, for which there is a time set, Ec 3:16,17; and yet, such is the stupidity of the generality of men, that they have no more sense of death and judgment than the brutes, and live and die like them, Ec 3:18-21; wherefore it is best of all to make a right use of power and riches, or what God has given to men, for their own good and that of others, since they know not what shall be after them, Ec 3:22.

Cross References 11

  • 1. Ecclesiastes 4:1
  • 2. Ecclesiastes 5:8; [Ecclesiastes 4:1]
  • 3. Matthew 16:27; 2 Corinthians 5:10; See Romans 2:6-11; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10
  • 4. ver. 1; Ecclesiastes 8:6
  • 5. Psalms 49:12, 20; Psalms 73:22
  • 6. See Ecclesiastes 2:14
  • 7. Ecclesiastes 12:7; Genesis 3:19
  • 8. [Ecclesiastes 12:7]
  • 9. See Ecclesiastes 2:24
  • 10. See Ecclesiastes 2:10
  • 11. Ecclesiastes 2:19; Ecclesiastes 6:12; Ecclesiastes 8:7; Ecclesiastes 10:14
The English Standard Version is published with the permission of Good News Publishers.