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Bible Commentaries

Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures
Ecclesiastes 11



Verses 1-6

The Principles of Sowing and Reaping - The Preacher began his sermon in Ecclesiastes 1:1-2 by asking the rhetorical question, "Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?" Throughout this book, the Preacher will begin to answer this question. Ecclesiastes 11:6 teaches us one thing we can do to overcome the vanities of this life, which is to sow. This passage of Scripture motivates us to give by teaching God"s divine laws of sowing and reaping.

Outline - Here is a proposed outline:

1. Give with Patience — Ecclesiastes 11:1

2. Give Bountifully — Ecclesiastes 11:2

3. The Certainty of Giving and Receiving: A Divine Law — Ecclesiastes 11:3

4. Giving in Faith — Ecclesiastes 11:4-5

5. Give Continually — Ecclesiastes 11:6

Ecclesiastes 11:1 — Give with Patience- The passage in Ecclesiastes 11:1-6 gives us principles of sowing and reaping. Ecclesiastes 11:1 teaches us to give and be willing to wait patiently for the harvest. We are to always be willing to spread God's Word and to help others, trusting that somehow, someway, God will return upon us His blessings. Whether we cast our bread upon calm waters or turbulent floodwaters, we must trust that God's Word will not return void ( Isaiah 55:10-11).

Isaiah 55:10-11, "For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it."

Somehow, by God's marvelous design, we will receive God's blessings and go forth rejoicing ( Isaiah 55:12-13).

Isaiah 55:12-13, "For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree: and it shall be to the LORD for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off."

We are not called to understand all of God's ways, but we are called to follow Him, by looking to Him each day as our Provider.

Ecclesiastes 11:1 Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.

Ecclesiastes 11:1 — "Cast thy bread upon the waters" - Scripture References- Note a similar verse:

Isaiah 32:20, "Blessed are ye that sow beside all waters, that send forth thither the feet of the ox and the ass."

Ecclesiastes 11:1 — "for thou shalt find it after many days" - Comments- Compare this phrase to Galatians 6:9, "in due season."

Galatians 6:9, "And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not."


Ecclesiastes 3:1, "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:"

Reaping does not always come immediately; rather, it comes at a certain time, which could be sooner or later. It always in time to meet our needs.

Ecclesiastes 11:1Illustrations:

1. Giving to orphans, widows and strangers:

Deuteronomy 10:18, "He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment."

2. Giving to poor:

Deuteronomy 15:10, "Thou shalt surely give him, and thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him: because that for this thing the LORD thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto."

Proverbs 19:17, "He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the LORD and that which he hath given will he pay him again."

Proverbs 22:9, "He that hath a bountiful eye shall be blessed; for he giveth of his bread to the poor."

Proverbs 28:27, "He that giveth unto the poor shall not lack: but he that hideth his eyes shall have many a curse."

3. Giving to those in the ministry:

Galatians 6:6, "Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things."

3 John 1:8, "We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellowhelpers to the truth."

4. Do good to all, especially to the saints:

Galatians 6:10, "As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith."

Ecclesiastes 11:2Give Bountifully- The passage in Ecclesiastes 11:1-6 gives us principles of sowing and reaping. Ecclesiastes 11:2 teaches us to give bountifully, for we do not know what may befall us. If we continually sow in faith we position ourselves to receive during evil times. Since we have sown bountifully we are qualified to reap bountifully.

Numerical Proverbs - Ecclesiastes 11:2 is a numerical proverb. We find this style of numerical collections also used in Job 5:19, Job 33:14, Proverbs 6:16, Proverbs 30 and Amos 2, 3. Scholars believe that this phrase means that the list is not exhaustive.

Ecclesiastes 11:2 Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth.

Ecclesiastes 11:2 — "Give a portion to seven, and also to eight" - Comments- In other words, we are to sow bountifully, not sparingly ( 2 Corinthians 9:6).

2 Corinthians 9:6, "But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully."

Ecclesiastes 11:2 "for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth" - Comments- Evil may come ( Luke 16:9).

Luke 16:9, "And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations."

Ecclesiastes 11:3The Certainty of Giving and Receiving: A Divine Law- The passage in Ecclesiastes 11:1-6 gives us principles of sowing and reaping. Ecclesiastes 11:3 teaches us about the certainty of giving. In order to make this point the Preacher uses two illustrations from nature. The divine principles of sowing and reaping are as certain and sure to take place as the events in nature. These illustrations tell us that certain events are sure to follow others in the natural realm. Rain is certain to come with rain clouds. A tree is certain to lie in place once it falls, wherever it may be. Likewise, reaping is certain to follow sowing in the spiritual realm ( Galatians 6:7).

Galatians 6:7, "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."

Ecclesiastes 11:3 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.

Ecclesiastes 11:4-5Giving in Faith- The passage in Ecclesiastes 11:1-6 gives us principles of sowing and reaping. Ecclesiastes 11:4-5 tells us to not consider our circumstances when sowing. We are to sow in all seasons at all times. We are to be instant or ready, in season, out of season, when we feel ready to work and when we do not feel ready.

2 Timothy 4:2, "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine."

Sowing is an act of faith. Ecclesiastes 11:4-5 tells us that if we wait for the right conditions to sow, we will never sow in faith because our senses will always tell us that the conditions are not right. Our senses will never approval of our sowing. But as children of God we walk by faith, not by sight, from Ecclesiastes 11:4, (see 2 Corinthians 5:7), trusting that God is able to make all grace abound toward you (see 2 Corinthians 9:8), from Ecclesiastes 11:5. Many times giving has to be done by faith, even out of poverty, so it can be difficult sometimes to make that decision to sow. This is when our faith in God as our Provider has to prevail over our senses, which is always moved by circumstances.

2 Corinthians 5:7, "(For we walk by faith, not by sight:)"

2 Corinthians 9:8, "And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:"

Ecclesiastes 11:4 He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap.

Ecclesiastes 11:4Comments- The wind and the clouds symbolic the many circumstances in this life that encompass us as we make decisions to serve the Lord and fulfill His plan in our lies.

Illustration- While working as a carpenter doing construction, many mornings were overcast, and there was always that hope of getting enough rain to call off the entire work day, but without fail, we always showed up at work and were not easily dismissed for rain, unless long, hard showers persisted. I have gone to work many mornings with a cloud of adverse weather hanging in the sky. Many times, these clouds would eventually dissipate into a beautiful day.

Ecclesiastes 11:5 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.

Ecclesiastes 11:5 "As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit" - Comments- This illustration of the wind helps explain John 3:8, "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit."

Ecclesiastes 11:5 — "even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all" - Comments- Note a similar verse in Isaiah 55:8-9, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."

Ecclesiastes 11:5Comments- Because we do not understand God's ways, we do not always know and understand why God leads us to do such and such things and to sow in such manners. Thus, within the contest of Ecclesiastes 11:1-6 about sowing and reaping we interpret Ecclesiastes 11:5 to mean that we do not have to understand how God is going to bring us our harvest. Our job is to sow in faith believing that God will certainly bring us a reward for our sowing.

Also, Ecclesiastes 11:5 teaches us that the mystery of the forming of a child in the womb testifies to us that God's ways are beyond our understanding.

Ecclesiastes 11:6Give Continually- Ecclesiastes 11:1-6 gives us principles of sowing and reaping. Ecclesiastes 11:4-5 teaches us to sow continually. Note the parable of the sower (See Mark 4:1-20). Some seed had no success, some did for a short time, then failed and some produced fruit at different amounts. We cannot always tell how much impact our witnessing and good works will have in the kingdom of God. We may lead a great preacher to Jesus, or change a nation, etc.

Ecclesiastes 11:6 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.

Ecclesiastes 11:6 — "In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand" - Comments- In the context of this passage, we are to sow at all times when the opportunity arises.

In the field of agricultural, farmers know that it is best to water in the morning or the evening, when the sun is not so hot as to scorch plants.

Verse 7-8

A Reminder of the Vanities of Life - In between the Preacher's proclamation of things man must do to overcome the vanities of life he interjects a sober reminder of why we must head his advice. Ecclesiastes 11:7-8 tells us again that everything in this life is vanity.

Ecclesiastes 11:7 Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun:

Ecclesiastes 11:8 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.

Verse 9

Perseverance: Warning to the Youth to Fear God- In Ecclesiastes 11:9 thru Ecclesiastes 12:7 the Preacher tells young people to enjoy their days of youthfulness, but to balance their lives by remembering the coming Day of Judgment. The Preacher began his sermon in Ecclesiastes 1:1-2 by asking the rhetorical question, "Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?" Throughout this book he explains this statement by answering his own opening question. Remember that the book of Ecclesiastes tells us the vanity of our physical labors and of our earthly possessions. It is structured in a way that teaches us how to take our physical journey through this life, from youth to old age. A young person tends to find life adventurous and exciting. He spends much effort in exploring and achieving new feats. But the Preacher knows how vain these youthful adventures can be because he has pursued them all. Since he was once a youth, he knows how much more difficult a youth has in seeing the vanities of life. It is only with wisdom and age that anyone can see the vanities of man"s pursuits. This focus upon youth and old age reflects the theme of Ecclesiastes , which is to serve the Lord with all of our strength. The Preacher could have addresses a number of people in society, but he spoke directly to the youth because once they miss this truth in their early years, their life is too far spent to correct this grave error. If they miss their destiny when they are young, it is much harder to put their lives together when they are old and be used by God to fulfill their destinies.

Ecclesiastes 11:9 Rejoice, O young Prayer of Manasseh , 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.

Ecclesiastes 11:9Comments- Youth is a time when the senses are keen, the body is strong and enjoyment is easy to find. The Preacher is telling the youth to cheer himself during these days, but cautions him to remember the ways of the Lord as he cheers himself.

Also embedded within this verse is the message that God has placed within every person certain interests and desires. We are all uniquely made with different interests. These have been planted within us as a seed towards our divine destiny. We are to follow our heart and walk by what we see, because this is how we stay on the path of our destiny. However, we must remember that God will bring us into judgment for having missed our destiny for what we were created for.

Ecclesiastes 11:10 Therefore remove sorrow from thy heart, and put away evil from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity.

Ecclesiastes 12:1 Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them;

Ecclesiastes 12:1 — "Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth" - Comments- The Scriptures refer to God as "thy Creator" in Ecclesiastes 12:1. Many names for God could have been chosen in this verse, such as "thy God," or "the Almighty," but none fit the need for describing God's character better within this context than "thy Creator." The description of God as one's Creator implies that God directs the affairs of one's life. He is the One who oversees His own creation, and He divinely intervenes in order to accomplish His purposes and plans. This reflects the theme of the book of Ecclesiastes , which is the fact that God gives mankind a purpose in life when he serves Him.

Statistics reveal that people are less prone to give their lives to Jesus the older they get. The best time to give one's life to Jesus is while we are young and easily obedient to the ways of God. An older person becomes set in his ways and more stubborn to change.

Ecclesiastes 12:1 — "while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them" - Comments- One characteristic of youth is their zeal to find some enjoyable activity each day. As a parent, I look forward to spending the day at home resting, but our children are trying to get us to take them out somewhere so that they can do something fun. Many old people lose the desire to live. They say that they want to die.

Ecclesiastes 12:2 While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain:

Ecclesiastes 12:2 — "While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened" - Comments- This refers to the loss of sight that accompanies old age. The loss of keen eyesight is usually the first sign of the onset of old age.

Ecclesiastes 12:2 — "nor the clouds return after the rain" - Comments- This is figurative of depression or sadness. A long life can give a person many opportunities to remember the past and become depressed.

Ecclesiastes 12:3 In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened,

Ecclesiastes 12:3 — "In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble" - Comments- The hands are what a person has used all of one"s life to keep the house and do work. In old age, the hands began to tremble.

Ecclesiastes 12:3 — "and the strong men shall bow themselves" - Comments- Old age tends to cause one to bend or stoop. The "strong men" may refer to the two legs, or to the back.

Ecclesiastes 12:3 — "and the grinders cease because they are few" - Comments- This is a reference to the loss of teeth.

Ecclesiastes 12:3 — "and those that look out of the windows be darkened" - Comments- This is a reference to the two eyes.

Ecclesiastes 12:4 And the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of musick shall be brought low;

Ecclesiastes 12:4 — "And the doors shall be shut in the streets" - Comments- Old people seldom go out, but rather keep their doors shut.

Ecclesiastes 12:4 — "when the sound of the grinding is low" - Comments- This refers to slow or poor eating habits, and, because of tooth loss, they tend to eat soft foods. They eat less often because it is no longer a pleasure to them. This may refer to the loss of hearing.

Ecclesiastes 12:4 — "and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird" - Comments- Elderly people tend to get up early, sleep less, and are easily awakened.

Ecclesiastes 12:4 — "and all the daughters of musick shall be brought low" - Comments- This is a reference to the loss of hearing.

Ecclesiastes 12:5 Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets:

Ecclesiastes 12:5 — "Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way" - Comments- Old people"s depth of perception is poor, and therefore, they are subject to falling and injuring themselves. So they avoid climbing due to these cautions and fears.

Ecclesiastes 12:5 — "and the almond tree shall flourish" - Comments- The almond tree shall blossom. The almond blossom is white. This refers to white hair.

Ecclesiastes 12:5 — "and the grasshopper shall be a burden" - Comments- The little things in life are difficult to perform, and lifting is also a burden.

Ecclesiastes 12:5 — "and desire shall fail" - Comments- Elderly people lack a desire for an active life, for sex, for doing things and having interests.

Ecclesiastes 12:5 — "because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets" - Comments- This refers to a funeral.

Ecclesiastes 12:6 Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern.

Ecclesiastes 12:6 — "the silver cord be loosed" - Comments- Billye Brim teaches that many people have visitations into heaven, or near death experiences, and even returning from death. 28] She says as long as the silver cord is not broken, they can get back to earth.

28] Billye Brim, interviewed by Gloria Copeland, Believer's Voice of Victory (Kenneth Copeland Ministries, Fort Worth, Texas), on Trinity Broadcasting Network (Santa Ana, California), television program.

Ecclesiastes 12:6Comments- These are figures of speech for death. J. Vernon McGee suggests that the "silver cord" describes the spinal marrow, the "golden bowl" the basin which holds the brain, the "pitcher" the lungs, and the "wheel" the heart. 29] John Wesley says that the silver cord represents the spinal cord, which has a white color, and that the golden bowl the brain, which can have a yellowish appearance. Wesley goes on to interpret the pitcher and the wheel as the circulatory system, with the fountain figurative of the right ventricle of the heart, which is now acknowledged to be the spring of life. He says the pitcher would represent the veins, which convey the flow of blood to the body, and the cistern would be the left ventricle and the wheel the great artery. 30]

29] J. Vernon McGee, Ecclesiastes , in Thru the Bible With J. Vernon McGee (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Pub, 1998), in Libronix Digital Library System, v 21c [CD-ROM] (Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp, 2000-2004), comments on Ecclesiastes 12:6.

30] John Wesley, Notes on the Old Testament: Proverbs -, Malachi , in The Wesleyan Heritage Library Commentary [CD-ROM] (Rio, WI: Ages Software, Inc, 2002), comments on Ecclesiastes 12:6.

Ecclesiastes 12:7 Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.

Ecclesiastes 12:7 — "Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was" - Scripture References- Note:

Genesis 2:7, "And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul."

Ezekiel 37:3-5, "And he said unto me, Son of Prayer of Manasseh , can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord GOD, thou knowest. Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus saith the Lord GOD unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live."

Psalm 104:29,"Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled: thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust."

Job 34:14-15, "If he set his heart upon Prayer of Manasseh , if he gather unto himself his spirit and his breath; All flesh shall perish together, and man shall turn again unto dust."

Ecclesiastes 12:7 — "and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it" - Comments- Jesse Duplantis little babies around the throne of God as if they were newly created by the "breath of God." 31] Thus, our life originated with God, and to God who gave it we will return ( Ecclesiastes 3:21; Ecclesiastes 8:8, James 2:26).

31] Jesse Duplantis, Heaven Close Encounters of the God Kind (Tulsa, Oklahoma: Harrison House, 1996), 119.

Ecclesiastes 3:21, "Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?"

Ecclesiastes 8:8, "There is no man that hath power over the spirit to retain the spirit; neither hath he power in the day of death: and there is no discharge in that war; neither shall wickedness deliver those that are given to it."

James 2:26, "For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also."


Copyright Statement
These files are copyrighted by the author, Gary Everett. Used by Permission.
No distribution beyond personal use without permission.

Bibliography Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 11:4". Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, October 21st, 2020
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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