Concerning Human Destiny
v. 1. For all this I considered in my heart, in applying himself to learn true wisdom, even to declare all this, that the righteous, and the wise, and their works, their fate or destiny, are in the hand of God, that human effort with all its results depends entirely upon God; no man knoweth either love or hatred by all that is before them, that is, he cannot tell whether happiness or unhappiness will be his lot, for his future is hidden by a veil which he cannot penetrate.
v. 2. All things come alike to all, the destiny of all men is decided by the Lord; there is one event to the righteous, and to the wicked, the same Providence governing the lives of both; to the good, and to the clean, and to the unclean, in the moral sense; to him that sacrificeth, fulfilling the outward obligations of divine worship, and to him that sacrificeth not; as is the good, so is the sinner; and he that sweareth as he that feareth an oath, the one who is rash and frivolous with his oath and he who holds it sacred.
v. 3. This is an evil among all things that are done under the sun, that there is one event unto all, that they are all subject to the same destiny, as it seems to the observer; yea, also the heart of the sons of men it full of evil, since they all apparently are in the power of death in the same manner, and madness is in their heart while they live, since they have their inevitable lot before their eyes, and after that they go to the dead, which seems to be the aim of existence and the end of all men, their ultimate fate.
v. 4. For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope, and so the condition of the living is still to be preferred, one should not give way to a sinful hopelessness; for a living dog is better than a dead lion, that is, no matter how lowly is a person's position in life, his condition is preferable to that of even the most honored person who has been claimed by death and can therefore no longer labor nor enjoy the fruits of his labor.
v. 5. For the living know that they shall die, the consciousness of their inevitable fate gives them at least so much superiority over the dead; but the dead know not anything, neither have they any more a reward, their fate is decided for the present, they are beyond reward; for the memory of them is forgotten, in most cases their very name becoming a hollow, meaningless mound in a few years.
v. 6. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, all the sentiments which actuated them in life, is now perished, the activities connected with these attributes have ceased; neither have they any more a portion forever in anything that is done under the sun, their bodies are in the grave, and all communication with the world of the living has ceased. Note that both the doctrine of purgatory and the vagaries of spiritism are here denied.
v. 7. Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart, this being the conclusion which the author reaches on the basis of his contemplations; for God now, at the present time, here in this world, accepteth thy works. Note that the text presupposes food gained by each person by his own efforts.
v. 8. Let thy garments be always white, in token of joy; and let thy head lack no ointment, for its absence would have been considered a sign of grief.
v. 9. Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest, the lawfully wedded spouse, all the days of the life of thy vanity, which He hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity, Pro_5:15-19; Pro_18:22; for that is thy portion in this life, and in thy labor which thou takest under the sun, that is, a proper enjoyment of God's blessings will compensate the believer for the toil and labor which is the inevitable lot of men in life.
v. 10. Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, whatever task falls to man's lot in life, whether in daily labor or in any other undertaking begun in the name of the Lord, do it with thy might, with vigor and energy; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave, whither thou goest. It is necessary for the believers to work the works of their heavenly Father while it is day; the night cometh when no man can work, Joh_9:4.
Wisdom Still to be Sought
v. 11. I returned and saw under the sun, throughout the world, in all circumstances and conditions of men, that the race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong, that is, by their own absolute determination and effort, neither yet bread to the wise, whose wisdom might be expected to provide food for himself in large amounts, nor yet riches to men of understanding, who would presumably know how to acquire them, nor yet favor to men of skill, although one might expect that a man of ability should be hailed with acclaim; but time and chance happeneth to them all, all the success of human endeavor depends upon circumstances and powers beyond their control, which, in turn, are in the hands of God.
v. 12. For man also knoweth not his time, he knows neither when death will overtake him nor the hour when some special work is expected of him; as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, their fate suddenly overtaking them, and as the birds that are caught in the snare, altogether unawares; so are the sons of men, all weak and sinful mortals, snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them, the unexpected suddenness of the capture being the point of comparison.
v. 13. This wisdom have I seen also under the sun, and it seemed great unto me:
v. 14. There was a little city, and few men within it, to serve as its defenders against an enemy; and there came a great king against it, quite naturally in command of a large force, and besieged it, and built great bulwarks against it, in order to prepare for the storming of the city;
v. 15. now, there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city, several instances of this kind being recorded in history; yet no man, in the extremity of the siege, remembered that same poor man, whose cleverness might well have found a way of saving the city, if he had been given a chance.
v. 16. Then said I, Wisdom is better than strength, that fact being universally conceded; nevertheless the poor man's wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard, his counsel is ignored.
v. 17. The words of wise men are heard in quiet more than the cry of him that ruleth among fools, the superiority of wisdom being established in spite of the fact that it is often neglected, for those who give heed to its advice will surely receive benefit, while even a king who listens to folly does so to his own hurt.
v. 18. Wisdom is better than weapons of war, it is more desirable than the greatest physical and martial strength; but one sinner, placing himself in opposition to the counsels of wisdom, Cf Jos_7:1-12, destroyeth much good, his folly quickly undoing the measures proposed by wisdom. It should be noted in this entire chapter that Solomon does not teach hopeless pessimism and fatalism, but a tender and mournful realism, relieved by his admonition to make use of the proper cheerfulness in enjoying the blessings of the Lord in this life.
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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 9". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Easter