Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, May 21st, 2024
the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
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Bible Commentaries
Ecclesiastes 11

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.

Bread - bread-corn. As in the Lord's prayer, all things needful for the body and soul. Solomon reverts to the sentiment in Ecclesiastes 9:4.

Waters - image from the custom of sowing seed by casting it from boats into the overflowing waters of the Nile, or in any marshy ground. When the waters receded, the grain in the alluvial soil sprang up (Isaiah 32:20). "Waters" express multitudes; so Ecclesiastes 11:2; Revelation 17:15; also the seemingly hopeless character of the recipients of the charity; but it shall prove at last to have been not thrown away (Isaiah 49:4). Earthly seed is sometimes lost, but not so any heavenly seed of good works, sown in faith and love.

Verse 2

Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth.

Portion - of thy bread.

To seven - the perfect number.

To eight - even to more than seven; i:e., to many (so "waters," Ecclesiastes 11:1), nay, even to very many in need (Job 5:19).

For thou knowest not what evil - the day may be near when you will need the help of those whom you have bound to you by kindnesses (Luke 16:9). The very argument which covetous men use against liberality-namely, that bad times may come-the wise man uses for it. The only gain which you can ensure to yourself in the prospect of bad times, which may rob you of all your earthly goods, is that heavenly gain which you make by now giving liberally to the poor, and to the cause of God.

Verse 3

If the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth: and if the tree fall toward the south, or toward the north, in the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be.

Clouds - answering to "evil" (Ecclesiastes 11:2); meaning, When the times of evil are fully ripe, evil must come; and speculations about it beforehand, so as to prevent one sowing seed of liberality, are vain, (Ecclesiastes 11:4). So far from being a ground for not giving, they are the very ground for giving. "Clouds" and "rain" represent the divine judgments (Ecclesiastes 12:2; Psalms 18:11). When the measure of sin is "full," and the clouds of divine wrath gather, the storm will surely break forth. Forestall it by godly liberality while you may (Matthew 24:28).

Tree - once that the storm uproots it, it lies either northward or southward, according as it fell. So man's character is unchangeable, whether for hell or heaven, once that death overtakes him. Now is his time for becoming a new man in faith and love. The tree represents the now overshadowing world-power which, when once it hath fallen, cannot be raised again by man's power.

Shall not sow. Sow thy charity in faith, not yielding to despondency and inactivity because of the threatening aspect of the times. Toward the close of Solomon's reign things wore a gloomy look, (1 Kings 11:9-40; 1 Kings 12:1-33.) The wind might no doubt blow away the seed, and the clouds injure the crops; but the result rests with God (Ecclesiastes 9:10). So in Ecclesiastes 11:1 man is told to 'cast his bread-corn' on the seemingly unpromising "waters." The farmer would get on badly who, instead of sowing and reaping, spent his time in watching the wind and clouds.

Verse 4

He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 5

As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all.

Thou knowest not ... way of the spirit - how the soul animates the body. Thus the transition to the formation of the body "in the womb" is more natural than if we translated it "wind." Ecclesiastes 1:6; John 3:8 evidently refers to this, "The wind bloweth, etc.

Bones do grow. The passage, John 3:3-7, again accords with this (cf. Job 10:8-12).

Knowest not the works of God. Since thou art no judge of what is the way of God's operation, as yet invisible to us, thy part is to work that which He commands now, undeterred by the threatening aspect of the political and social "clouds."

Verse 6

In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good.

Morning ... evening - early and late; when young and when old; in sun shine and under clouds.

Sow thy seed - of godly works (Hosea 10:12).

Prosper - (Isaiah 55:10-11.)

Both ... alike - both the unpromising and the promising sowing may bear good fruit in others: certainly they shall to Both ... alike - both the unpromising and the promising sowing may bear good fruit in others: certainly they shall to the faithful sower.

Verse 7

Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun:

Light - of life (Ecclesiastes 7:11; Psalms 49:19).

Is sweet. Life is enjoyable, especially to the godly. No impatience because of present trials, and the vanity of earthly goods, should make us forget that life is a blessing and an opportunity for doing and receiving good.

Verse 8

But if a man live many years, and rejoice in them all; yet let him remember the days of darkness; for they shall be many. All that cometh is vanity.

But if a man live many years, (and) rejoice in them all. So Vulgate, supplying 'and.' Rather, as Chaldaic, Syriac, and Arabic, translate, without ellipsis, 'For' [ kiy (H3588)] or 'Yea, even if a man live many years, let him (not tire of life, but) rejoice in them all.'

Days of darkness. But while man thankfully enjoys life, "let him remember" it will not last forever. The 'many days of darkness' - i:e., while the body and its powers lie in the dark grave (Job 10:21-22); also days of "evil" in this world (Ecclesiastes 11:2) - are coming; therefore enjoy life, and saw the good seed while life and good days last, which are not too long for accomplishing life's duties.

All that cometh - i:e., All that followeth in the evil and dark days is vain, as far as work for God is concerned (Ecclesiastes 9:10).

Verse 9

Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment. Rejoice - not advice, but warning. So 1 Kings 22:15 is irony; if thou dost rejoice (carnally, Ecclesiastes 2:2; not moderately, as Ecclesiastes 5:18), etc., then "know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment" - (Ecclesiastes 3:17; Ecclesiastes 12:14.)

In thy youth-in the days of thy youth - Hengstenberg thinks, distinct Hebrew words [ yalduwt (H3208)], adolescence or boyhood, and full-grown youth [ bªchuwrowt (H979) literally, the choice age]. This Solomon marks the gradual progress in self-indulgence to which the young especially are prone: they see the roses, but do not discover the thorns, until pierced by them. Religion will cost self-denial, but the want of it infinitely more. Hengstenberg takes the whole literally, and not the first part ironically, as if it were a dissuasion from 'rejoicing.' The parallels (Ecclesiastes 11:8; Ecclesiastes 2:24; Ecclesiastes 3:13; Ecclesiastes 5:18; Ecclesiastes 9:7, favour this. Not excess or self- indulgence, but a cheerful use of God's gifts, as distinguished from a self-righteous, gloomy asceticism, is in this view what is inculcated. Contrast Colossians 2:23. But to "walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes" is expressly forbidden in Numbers 15:39; Deuteronomy 29:19. I therefore prefer the former view.

Verse 10

Therefore remove sorrow from thy heart, and put away evil from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity.

Sorrow - i:e., the lusts that end in "sorrow," opposed to "rejoice," and "heart cheer thee" (Ecclesiastes 11:9); i:e., "Remove" all "the ways of thine heart:" "remove," etc., is thus opposed to "walk in," etc. (Ecclesiastes 11:9). The Hebrew for "sorrow" or 'anger' [ ka`ac (H3708)] expresses any mental excitement, whether from anger (a tendency of the young especially), jealousy, ambition, etc. Remove these, and all the self-indulgences that cause them, and retain the serene tranquillity of a godly mind.

Flesh - the bodily organ by which the sensual thoughts of the "heart" are embodied in acts. 'The sight of the eyes' (Ecclesiastes 11:9) ministers to the lust of the "flesh."

Childhood - rather, boyhood; the same Hebrew word as the first "youth" in Ecclesiastes 11:9.

Are vanity. A motive for self-restraint; the time is coming when the vigour of youth, on which thou reliest, will seem vain, except in so far as it has been given to God (Ecclesiastes 12:1).

Youth - Hebrew, Shakaruth; literally, the dawn of thy days.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 11". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/ecclesiastes-11.html. 1871-8.
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