Ecclesiastes 9

Men Are in the Hand of God

1 For I have taken all this to my heart and explain it that righteous men, wise men, and their deeds are 1in the hand of God. 2Man does not know whether it will be 3love or hatred; anything awaits him.
2 4It is the same for all. There is 5one fate for the righteous and for the wicked; for the good, for the clean and for the unclean; for the man who offers a sacrifice and for the one who does not sacrifice. As the good man is, so is the sinner; as the swearer is, so is the one who is afraid to swear.
3 This is an evil in all that is done under the sun, that there is 6one fate for all men. Furthermore, 7the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil and 8insanity is in their hearts throughout their lives. Afterwards they go to the dead.
4 For whoever * is joined with all the living, there is hope; surely a live dog is better than a dead lion.
5 For the living know they will die; but the dead 9do not know anything, nor have they any longer a reward, for their 10memory is forgotten.
6 Indeed their love, their hate and their zeal have already perished, and they will no longer have a 11share in all that is done under the sun.
7 Go then, 12eat your bread in happiness and drink your wine with a cheerful heart; for God has already approved your works.
8 Let your 13clothes be white all the time, and let not 14oil be lacking on your head.
9 Enjoy life with the woman whom you love all the days of your 15fleeting life which He has given to you under the sun ; for this is your 16reward in life and in your toil in which you have labored under the sun.

Whatever Your Hand Finds to Do

10 Whatever * your hand finds to do, 17do it with all your might; for there is no 18activity or planning or knowledge or wisdom in 19Sheol where * you are going.
11 I again saw under the sun that the 20race is not to the swift and the 21battle is not to the warriors, and neither * is bread to the wise nor * 22wealth to the discerning nor * favor to men of ability; for time and 23chance overtake them all.
12 Moreover *, man does not 24know his time: like fish caught in a treacherous net and 25birds trapped in a snare, so the sons of men are 26ensnared at an evil time when it 27suddenly falls on them.
13 Also this I came to see as wisdom under the sun, and it impressed me.
14 There 28was a small city with few men in it and a great king came to it, surrounded it and constructed large siegeworks against it.
15 But there was found in it a 29poor wise man and he delivered the city 30by his wisdom. Yet 31no one remembered that poor man.
16 So I said, "32Wisdom is better than strength." But the wisdom of the poor man is despised and his words are not heeded.
17 The 33words of the wise heard in quietness are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools.
18 34Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but 35one sinner destroys much good.

Ecclesiastes 9 Commentary

Chapter 9

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.

Cross References 35

  • 1. Deuteronomy 33:3; Job 12:10; Psalms 119:109
  • 2. Ecclesiastes 10:14
  • 3. Ecclesiastes 9:6
  • 4. Job 9:22; Ecclesiastes 9:11
  • 5. Ecclesiastes 2:14; Ecclesiastes 3:19; Ecclesiastes 6:6; Ecclesiastes 7:2
  • 6. Ecclesiastes 9:2; Jeremiah 17:10
  • 7. Ecclesiastes 8:11
  • 8. Ecclesiastes 1:17
  • 9. Job 14:21
  • 10. Psalms 88:12; Ecclesiastes 1:11; Ecclesiastes 2:16; Ecclesiastes 8:10; Isaiah 26:14
  • 11. Ecclesiastes 2:10; Ecclesiastes 3:22
  • 12. Ecclesiastes 2:24; Ecclesiastes 8:15
  • 13. Revelation 3:4
  • 14. Psalms 23:5
  • 15. Ecclesiastes 6:12; Ecclesiastes 7:15
  • 16. Ecclesiastes 2:10
  • 17. Ecclesiastes 11:6; Romans 12:11; Colossians 3:23
  • 18. Ecclesiastes 9:5
  • 19. Genesis 37:35; Job 21:13; Isaiah 38:10
  • 20. Amos 2:14, 15
  • 21. 2 Chronicles 20:15; Psalms 76:5; Zechariah 4:6
  • 22. Deuteronomy 8:17, 18
  • 23. 1 Samuel 6:9
  • 24. Ecclesiastes 8:7
  • 25. Proverbs 7:23
  • 26. Proverbs 29:6; Isaiah 24:18; Hosea 9:8
  • 27. Luke 21:34, 35
  • 28. 2 Samuel 20:16-22
  • 29. Ecclesiastes 4:13
  • 30. 2 Samuel 20:22
  • 31. Ecclesiastes 2:16; Ecclesiastes 8:10
  • 32. Proverbs 21:22; Ecclesiastes 7:12, 19
  • 33. Ecclesiastes 7:5; Ecclesiastes 10:12
  • 34. Ecclesiastes 9:16
  • 35. Joshua 7:1-26; 2 Kings 21:2-17

Footnotes 7

Chapter Summary


Though the wise man, with all his wisdom, search, and labour, could not find out the causes and reasons of divine Providence, in the branches and methods of it; yet some things he did find out, and observe, in making this inquiry, and which he declares; as that good and wise men, more especially their persons and their affairs, were in the hand of God, under his guidance, government, and direction; and that an interest in his love and hatred was not to be known by the outward estate of men, Ec 9:1; That the same events happen to good and bad men, who are variously described; that the hearts of wicked men are full of sin and madness as long as they live, and that they all must and do die, Ec 9:2,3; and then the state of such dead is described, as being without hope, knowledge, reward, or memory; and without love, hatred, or envy, or any portion in the things of this life, Ec 9:4-6. Wherefore good men are advised to live cheerfully, in a view of acceptance with God, both of persons and services; and eat and drink, and clothe well, according to their circumstances, and enjoy their friends and families; since nothing of this kind can be done in the grave, Ec 9:7-10. Then the wise man observes another vanity; that success in undertakings is not always to persons who bid fair, and might hope for it, but looks like the effect of chance, Ec 9:11; which want of success is often owing to their ignorance of the proper time of doing things, and to their want of foresight, thought, and care, to prevent evils; for which reason they are compared to fishes and birds, taken in a net or snare, Ec 9:12. And concludes with a commendation of wisdom, illustrated by an example of it, in a certain person that delivered a city by it, Ec 9:13-15; and though the man's wisdom was despised, yet it is preferable to strength, or weapons of war, or the noise of a foolish ruler, who destroys much good, Ec 9:16-18.

Ecclesiastes 9 Commentaries

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