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Ecclesiastes 11:5

5 Just as you'll never understand the mystery of life forming in a pregnant woman, So you'll never understand the mystery at work in all that God does.

Ecclesiastes 11:5 Meaning and Commentary

Ecclesiastes 11:5

As thou knowest not what [is] the way of the spirit
If indeed a man could foresee and be assured of seasonable weather for sowing and reaping, or a proper opportunity for doing good, all circumstances agreeing, it would be right to wait for it, and take it; but as these things are not in our power, nor within the compass of our knowledge, we should take the first opportunity of doing good, and leave the issue to divine Providence: as in many things in nature we are and should be content to be ignorant of them, and leave them with God, who brings them about by his secret power and providence: as, for instance, we know not "the way of the spirit", or "of the wind" F18, as some render it; from whence it comes and whither it goes, where and when it will subside, or what wind will blow next; or of the spirit or soul of man, how it enters into the body. So the Targum,

``how the spirit of the breath of life goes into the body of an infant:''
whether it is by traduction, as some, which is not likely; or by transfusion, or by creation out of nothing, or by formation out of something pre-existent, and by an immediate infusion of it: or, "what is the way of the breath"; of the breath of a child in the womb, whether it breathes or not; if it does, how? if not, how does it live? or what is the way of the soul out of the body, how it goes out of it when the body dies; [nor] how the bones [do grow] in the womb of her that is with child;
or is "full", pregnant, big with child: or "in the womb that is full" F19; full of liquids, and yet bones are separated from them, grow out of them, and in them, and are hardened; all which how it should be is unknown: "bones" are mentioned because they are the more solid and substantial parts of the body, the basis and strength of it; and because it may seem more difficult how any part of the seed should harden into them, while other parts are converted into skin and flesh; even so thou knowest not the works of God, who maketh all;
the Targum adds, in wisdom; as men are ignorant of many of the works of nature, so of those of Providence, especially which are future; as whether men shall be rich or poor, have days of prosperity or adversity; what their latter end will be, whether they shall not stand in need of the assistance of others, it may be of them or theirs to whom they now give; or what will be the issue of present acts of beneficence and liberality; these, with many other things of the like kind, should be left with God. Some understand this of the work of grace and conversion, which is a secret and difficult work, only wrought by the power and grace of God; and may be begun, or shortly will, in a poor person, judged an unworthy object of charity for supposed want of it, a thing unknown.

F18 (xwrh) "venti", Pagninus, Montanus, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Drusius, Mercerus, Amama, Cocceius, Gejerus, Rambachius; so Broughton, and the Syriac and Arabic versions.
F19 (halmh Njbb) "in utero pleno", Mercerus, Gejerus, Gussetius, p. 936. "in ventre pleno", Cocceius, so Aben Ezra.

Ecclesiastes 11:5 In-Context

3 When the clouds are full of water, it rains. When the wind blows down a tree, it lies where it falls.
4 Don't sit there watching the wind. Do your own work. Don't stare at the clouds. Get on with your life.
5 Just as you'll never understand the mystery of life forming in a pregnant woman, So you'll never understand the mystery at work in all that God does.
6 Go to work in the morning and stick to it until evening without watching the clock. You never know from moment to moment how your work will turn out in the end. Before the Years Take Their Toll
7 Oh, how sweet the light of day, And how wonderful to live in the sunshine!
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved.