Ecclesiastes 9:11

11 I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

Ecclesiastes 9:11 Meaning and Commentary

Ecclesiastes 9:11

I returned, and saw under the sun
The wise man returned to his former subject, concerning the same events happening to all sorts of persons, righteous and wicked, wise and unwise, ( Ecclesiastes 10:1 Ecclesiastes 10:2 ) ; and enlarged upon it in his mind; and took notice of various things done under the sun, and made the following remarks: and whereas he had exhorted men to use all their might in doing the duties of their calling while they lived here; he suggests, that they should not depend upon, and promise themselves, anything from their own strength and wisdom; but have a regard to the providence of God, that superintends all affairs, and gives or withholds success as he pleases; since it may be observed, that the race [is] not to the swift;
swiftness oftentimes is of no service to a man to escape dangers, as may be seen in the case of Asahel and others, ( 2 Samuel 2:18 2 Samuel 2:23 ) ( Amos 2:14 Amos 2:15 ) ; so the Targum,

``men who are swift as eagles are not helped by running to escape from death in battle.''
Or the sense may be, that the swift are not always made use of in running a race; or, if they are, they do not always win the prize, something or other happens to hinder them; they fall, or become lame, when one more slow gets the advantage of them, ( 1 Corinthians 9:24 ) ; and so in spiritual things, one that is ready to halt, as David says of himself, gets to heaven, and is saved, ( Psalms 38:17 ) ( Zephaniah 3:19 ) ; when others, at first starting or setting out in a profession, run well for a while, as the Galatians did, ( Galatians 5:7 ) ; but afterwards drop and fall short; for "it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God, that sheweth mercy", ( Romans 9:16 ) ; nor the battle to the strong:
as not to the Midianites, nor to Goliath, nor to Abner, in whom Jarchi instances; victory is not always on the side of the mighty and the many, but oftentimes on the side of the weak and few; see ( 2 Chronicles 14:9-15 ) ( Psalms 33:16 Psalms 33:17 ) ; so in spirituals, such who go forth in their own strength against an enemy, trusting in it, fall; while weak believers, depending on the grace and strength of Christ, wrestle with principalities and powers, and come off victorious; neither yet bread to the wise:
the Targum adds, in a time of famine, when their wisdom cannot help them; but the sense rather is, that skilful artificers, in any trade or business, do not always get the best livelihood, yea, sometimes want the necessaries of life, or eat the bread of sorrow, when persons of meaner capacities shall thrive and flourish; and even the wisest of men sometimes have been obliged to others for bread, as was the case of David, ( 1 Samuel 21:3 ) ( 25:8 ) ; and even of a wiser than he, our Lord himself, ( Luke 8:2 ) ; and as for the wise men of this world, the bread of life, Christ Jesus, is neither enjoyed nor sought after by them; nor yet riches to men of understanding;
mention is afterwards made of a wise man that was poor, Jarchi instances in Job; and, on the other hand, sometimes fools are rich, as Nabal and others; and as for the riches of grace, and treasures of spiritual knowledge, they are not usually given to the wise and prudent ( Matthew 11:25 ) ; Nor yet favour to men of skill; to men of knowledge and learning, whose genius and abilities might be thought sufficient to recommend them to the favour, affection, and applause of men, and yet oftentimes fall herein; such who have the art of address and persuasion are not always able to ingratiate themselves, and gain the esteem of men: Jarchi interprets it of the favour of God, and instances in Moses; than whom there was not a more knowing and understanding man in Israel, yet could not by his prayer find grace and favour to enter into the land: but the Targum is better;
``neither they that know understanding are helped by their knowledge to find favour in the eyes of a king;''
but time and chance happeneth to them all;
to the swift and strong, the wise, understanding, and skilful; or to the swift and slow, to the strong and weak, to the wise and unwise; everything befalls them just as it is ordered by divine Providence; for there is a certain "time" fixed by the Lord for every event; and whatever seems casual and contingent to man, and which he is ready to call "chance", is noticing but "decree" with God, firm and unalterable; Plato F5 has the same expression. The word signifies "occurrence" F6, or event, which is under the wise direction and order of the providence of God, with respect to whom nothing comes by chance; and it is rendered "occurrent", ( 1 Kings 5:4 ) ; and so it is here, by the Septuagint version, "occurrence" or "event"; and in the Targum, event by their star, which is fate: and Aben Ezra interprets it (hnwyle hkremh) , the "superior ordination"; it is something we meet, or meets us, by divine appointment. Aben Ezra and Kimchi, who are followed by others, think that, from ( Ecclesiastes 10:4 ) ; to this, Solomon is speaking in the person of epicures and atheists; which is not likely, since it is not in character for such persons to talk of God's acceptance of men's works; of living joyfully with a wife; of this life being a life of vanity; and of death and the grave; and of diligence in working while the present life lasts.

F5 (meta yeou tuch kai kairov) , Plato de Leg. l. 4. p. 827.
F6 (egp) "occursus", Montanus; "sive eventus", Mercerus, Rambachius; "occurrent", Broughton,

Ecclesiastes 9:11 In-Context

9 Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which he hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity: for that is thy portion in this life, and in thy labour which thou takest under the sun.
10 Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.
11 I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.
12 For man also knoweth not his time: as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare; so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them.
13 This wisdom have I seen also under the sun, and it seemed great unto me:
The King James Version is in the public domain.