Ecclesiastes 11

Living in the Light of the Limits of Human Knowledge

1 Send out your bread on the water, for in many days you will find it.
2 Divide your share in seven or in eight, for you do not know what disaster will happen on the earth.
3 When the clouds are full, they empty rain on the earth. Whether a tree falls to the south or whether it falls to the north, the place where the tree falls--there it will be.
4 Whoever watches the wind will not sow; whoever watches the clouds will not reap.
5 Just as you do not know how the path of the wind [goes], nor how the bones [of a fetus] form in a mother's womb, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything.
6 Sow your seed in the morning, and do not let your hands rest in the evening, for you do not know what will prosper-- whether this or that, or whether both of them alike will succeed.

Enjoy Life to the Fullest within the Auspices of the Fear of God

7 The light is sweet, and it [is] pleasant for the eyes to see the sun.
8 For if a man lives many years, let him rejoice in all of them! Let him remember that the days of the darkness will be many-- all that is coming [is] vanity!
9 Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth! Follow the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes-- but know that God will bring you into judgment for all these things.
10 Banish anxiety from your heart, and put away pain from your body, for youth and vigor [are] vanity.

Ecclesiastes 11 Commentary

Chapter 11

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.

Footnotes 1

Chapter Summary

INTRODUCTION TO ECCLESIASTES 11

This chapter begins with an exhortation to liberality to the poor, enforced by several reasons and arguments, and the objections to it removed; and the whole illustrated by various similes, Ec 11:1-6; and then it is observed, that a life attended with outward prosperity and inward peace, and spent in doing good, is very delightful, and very desirable it is to have it continued; yet it should be remembered this will not be always, that many days of darkness in the grave will come; and after all the whole of a man's life is vanity, as is often inculcated, Ec 11:7,8; and the chapter is closed with an ironic address to young men, designed to show them the folly and danger of sinful courses, to reform them from them, and to put them in mind of a future judgment, Ec 11:9,10.

Ecclesiastes 11 Commentaries