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Bible Commentaries

Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures
Ecclesiastes 3

 

 

Verses 1-8

The Preacher Concludes that God Has a Purpose for Mankind - King Solomon now acknowledges that God has a purpose (or calling) for people based upon His divine intervention in the affairs of mankind. He now attempts to understand the meaning of life in light of God's divine intervention, which the Preacher calls "seasons" and "purpose under heaven." Ecclesiastes 3:1-15 represents the Preacher's next phase of learning when he tells us that our life is made up of times and seasons, or periods of change; and we learn that these seasons have been divinely placed within our lives by God ( Ecclesiastes 3:1). The Preacher lists these divine seasons in Ecclesiastes 3:2-8. We clearly identify with such a description of our lives as we recall how we move from birth to childhood to adolescence to adulthood to old age and finally to death.

Outline - Here is a proposed outline:

1. General Summary — Ecclesiastes 3:1

2. The Vanity of Wisdom — Ecclesiastes 3:2-3

3. The Vanity of Mirth and Pleasure — Ecclesiastes 3:4

4. The Vanity of Strength and Conquest — Ecclesiastes 3:5

5. The Vanity of Riches — Ecclesiastes 3:6

6. The Vanity of the King's Rule over Israel and the Nations — Ecclesiastes 3:7-8

Ecclesiastes 3:1 — General Summary- In a summary of this passage of Scripture, we see that Solomon begins by making a general summary of about the divinely orchestrated seasons in the affairs of mankind ( Ecclesiastes 3:1).

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

Ecclesiastes 3:1Comments- Having pursued every vanity of life that was with his reach, and having found all of life's pleasures unfulfilling, King Solomon now turns his attention to the divine element of life. In Ecclesiastes 3:1 he reflects upon God's divine timetable for every aspect of creation. He acknowledges that every person, every nation, every aspect of creation, has a purpose and plan that God Himself embedded within its design. God has a plan that is made up of times and seasons, which were beyond Solomon or man's ability to determine and orchestrate. King Solomon had spent much of his life trying to orchestrate the affairs of his kingdom, pursuing Wisdom of Solomon , mirth, building projects and the acquisition of great wealth. Yet in all of these pursuits the king realized he was subject to the design and predetermined plan of his Creator, the God of Israel.

Illustration- Our life is a series of seasons. When we yield our lives into the hands of divine providence and provision, God is allowed to orchestrate these seasons in a magnificent way. I have seen these seasons very clearly in my life as God has orchestrated them towards a greater level of sacrifice and service. I began making a sacrifice as a Seminary student, and watched God's hand provide my needs. As I continued to serve the Lord, I have had the experiences of sensing seasons of change soon before they arrive. For example, in 1988, the Lord dealt with me about returning to Fort Worth to finish my Seminary degree. In 1993 I received a promotion with DMJ Management, where I served for 4years. It was a season of learning how to deal with Christian business ethics in a corporate world. In 1997, I sensed a season of change coming just before being called into the mission field. In 2010-2011, I took a sabbatical of rest and saw God's divine hand of provision. After one year, I was called back into the mission field in an amazing series of divinely orchestrated events. In contrast, I have observed men and women as they orchestrate their own careers apart from divine intervention. They do reach their peaks of success, but in an exhausted state of ill marriage or ill health or broken marriages. Such individuals have not relinquished their lives unto divine providence and provision. Thus, life is busy and difficult and eventually failures await them in some form or manner. This is the vanity that the preachers describes in the first chapters of Ecclesiastes.

Ecclesiastes 3:2-3 — The Vanity of Wisdom of Solomon - Ecclesiastes 3:2-3 reflects upon King Solomon's conclusion regarding the vanity of his pursuit of wisdom ( Ecclesiastes 1:12-18), where he realizes that he cannot control life and death, the seasons of this earth, and good and evil. These are events that God alone has determined and can judge. In Ecclesiastes 3:2 the king deals with the issues of life and death, and with the seasons of planting and harvesting, which often determined life and death in these ancient world. In Ecclesiastes 3:3 King Solomon acknowledges that, despite his vast knowledge and wisdom he obtained, he alone cannot control the forces of good and evil, to stop killing and other destructive forces of mankind; neither can he heal and restore things to good. Although he is a king, he does not have the power to control evil or good. Despite his vast Wisdom of Solomon , the king acknowledges that only God determines life and death, and He also judges good and evil upon this earth. These aspects of one's life are beyond King Solomon's grasp. These outcomes were in the hands of God.

Ecclesiastes 3:2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

Ecclesiastes 3:2 — "a time to be born" - Comments- In Luke 2, Jesus" birth was in the fullness of time ( Galatians 4:4).

Galatians 4:4, "But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Song of Solomon , made of a woman, made under the law,"

Ecclesiastes 3:2 "and a time to die" - Comments- Jesus had an appointed time to die ( Luke 9:51, Hebrews 9:27).

Luke 9:51, "And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem"

Hebrews 9:27, "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment."

Ecclesiastes 3:2"to plant….to pluck up" - Comments- A time to sow and reap ( Galatians 6:9).

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

Ecclesiastes 3:2Comments- In Ecclesiastes 3:2 the king deals with the issues of life and death, and with the seasons of planting and harvesting, which often determined life and death in these ancient world. The phrase "a time to live and die" refers to human life and the animal kingdom. The phrase "a time to plant and pluck up that which is planted" refers to the plant kingdom. In all of his pursuits of wisdom ( Ecclesiastes 1:12-18), King Solomon realizes that he cannot affect the timing of one's birth, nor of one's death. It is a time that God alone has determined. Neither can he change the seasons of the earth. There is a planting season and a harvest season determined by God, which no man can change ( Genesis 8:22). Even with modern science and technology, man still cannot understand how life begins, nor can he conquer death; neither can he control the seasons and weather under creation. He cannot determine the days of the year to plant, nor the days to harvest. This timing is left up to the seasons that only God controls ( Genesis 8:22).

Genesis 8:22, "While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease."

Ecclesiastes 3:3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

Ecclesiastes 3:3 — "A time to kill" - Illustrations:

God ordained laws for those who murder:

Genesis 9:6, "Whoso sheddeth man"s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man."

God ordained the offering of burnt sacrifices:

Genesis 8:20, "And Noah builded an altar unto the LORD and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar."

Ecclesiastes 3:3 — "and a time to heal" - Illustration- Jesus taught, preached and healed.

Matthew 4:23, "And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people."

Ecclesiastes 3:3 — "a time to break down" - Comments- Jesus cleanses the temple. Illustration:

John 2:15, "And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers" money, and overthrew the tables."

Ecclesiastes 3:3 — "and a time to build up" - Illustration- Jesus builds the Church.

Matthew 16:18, "And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."

Ecclesiastes 3:3Comments- The phrase "A time to kill, and a time to heal" refers to the aspect of creation that has the breath of life, which is the plant and animal kingdoms. The phrase "a time to break down, and a time to build up" refers to that part of creation that does not contain life, such as the geological and mineral elements of creation. In Ecclesiastes 3:3 King Solomon acknowledges that, despite his vast knowledge and wisdom he obtained ( Ecclesiastes 1:12-18), he alone cannot stop killing and other destructive forces of mankind. Neither can he heal and restore things to good. Even as a king he does not have the power to control evil or good. In Ecclesiastes 3:2 the king acknowledges that only God determines life and death, and He also judges good and evil upon this earth. Both are beyond King Solomon's grasp.

Ecclesiastes 3:4 — The Vanity of Mirth and Pleasure - Ecclesiastes 3:4 reflects upon King Solomon's conclusion regarding the vanity of his pursuit of mirth and pleasure ( Ecclesiastes 2:1-3). King Solomon had pursued mirth and pleasure with the greatest of resources that man could obtain; yet, in all of these pursuits he now realizes that he cannot determine the time of a person's weeping and laughter, mourning and dancing. The reason is because even Solomon could not determine the outcome of every person's situation, whether it saddened or rejoiced the heart. These outcomes were in the hands of God.

Ecclesiastes 3:4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

Ecclesiastes 3:4 — "A time to weep" - Illustration:

John 11:35, "Jesus wept,"

1 Samuel 30:4, "Then David and the people that were with him lifted up their voice and wept, until they had no more power to weep."

Ecclesiastes 3:4 — "and a time to laugh" - Illustration:

Psalm 2:4, "He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision."

Ecclesiastes 3:4 — "a time to mourn" - Comments- Mourning for King Saul ( 1 Samuel 31:13, 2 Samuel 1:17).

1 Samuel 31:13, "And they took their bones, and buried them under a tree at Jabesh, and fasted seven days."

2 Samuel 1:17, "And David lamented with this lamentation over Saul and over Jonathan his son."

Ecclesiastes 3:4 — "and a time to dance" - Illustration:

2 Samuel 6:16, "And as the ark of the LORD came into the city of David, Michal Saul"s daughter looked through a window, and saw king David leaping and dancing before the LORD and she despised him in her heart."

Ecclesiastes 3:4Comments- King Solomon had pursued mirth and pleasure with the greatest of resources that man could obtain ( Ecclesiastes 2:1-3); yet, in all of these pursuits he now realizes in Ecclesiastes 3:4 that he cannot determine the time of a person's weeping and laughter, mourning and dancing. The reason is because even Solomon could not determine the outcome of every person's situation, whether it saddened or rejoiced the heart. These outcomes were in the hand of God.

Ecclesiastes 3:5 — The Vanity of Strength and Conquest- Ecclesiastes 3:5 reflects upon King Solomon's conclusion regarding the vanity of his pursuit of strength and conquest ( Ecclesiastes 2:4-6). The king had embarked upon some of the greatest building projects of the ancient world, carving and moving great stones; yet he could not determine the timing of when these projects could be completed, or even accomplished. His people had gathered stones and cast them away; his hired servants had grasped hold of these projects, and postponed or even cancelled them. The timing of these great building projects was in the hands of God.

Ecclesiastes 3:5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

Ecclesiastes 3:5Comments- King Solomon had embarked upon some of the greatest building projects of the ancient world ( Ecclesiastes 2:4-6), carving and moving great stones, yet he could not determine the timing of when these projects could be completed. His people had gathered stones and cast them away; his hired servants had grasped hold of these projects, and postponed or even cancelled them. The timing of these great building projects was in God's hands.

Ecclesiastes 3:6 — The Vanity of Riches - Ecclesiastes 3:6 reflects upon King Solomon's conclusion regarding the vanity of his pursuit of riches ( Ecclesiastes 2:7-11). The king had gathered the greatest accumulation of wealth that had ever been collected upon earth, yet this wealth could not be kept entirely safe and secure. There were times he must give it away, and there were times thieves broke in and stole this wealth. He determined that riches were in the hands of an Almighty God as to whom He would give it to and whom He would take it away.

Ecclesiastes 3:6 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

Ecclesiastes 3:6 — "A time to get" - Illustration:

Matthew 6:33, "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."

Ecclesiastes 3:6 — "and a time to lose" - Illustration:

Matthew 16:25, "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it."

Ecclesiastes 3:6 — "a time to keep" - Illustration- God keeps Israel as His people ( Exodus 32:11; Exodus 32:14).

Exodus 32:11; Exodus 32:14, "And Moses besought the LORD his God, and said, LORD, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand?... And the LORD repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people."

Ecclesiastes 3:6 — " and a time to cast away" - Illustration:

Jeremiah 33:26, "Then will I cast away the seed of Jacob, and David my servant, so that I will not take any of his seed to be rulers over the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: for I will cause their captivity to return, and have mercy on them."

Ecclesiastes 3:6Comments- King Solomon had gathered the greatest accumulation of wealth that had ever been collected upon earth ( Ecclesiastes 2:7-11), yet this wealth could not be kept entirely safe and secure. There were times he must give it away, and there were times thieves broke in and stole this wealth. He determined that riches were in the hands of an Almighty God as to whom He would give it to and whom He would take it away.

As we reflect upon Israel's redemptive history, we now can see that there is a predetermined time for them to prosper; and there will be a time when God will utter waste them in divine judgment. There is a time in their history for gathering stones and building the glorious Temple, and there will be a time of tearing it down in judgment. All of this was beyond Solomon's judgment as a mortal king over Israel.

Ecclesiastes 3:7-8 — The Vanity of the King's Rule over Israel and the Nations - Ecclesiastes 3:7-8 reflects upon King Solomon's conclusion regarding the vanity and limitations of his rule over Israel and the nations. The king had decreed some of the wisest judgment among men, yet these judgments could not fix everyone's problems in the kingdom ( Ecclesiastes 3:7). In this respect he found himself in the hands of an Almighty God in knowing when to keep silent and let God work things out, and when to intervene and speak his royal judgment. Although King Solomon was the greatest king upon earth during his period of reign, with the divine wisdom to maintain peace over his kingdom, yet he was not able to control love and hate, war and peace upon the earth ( Ecclesiastes 3:8). These were things too great for him, things he had to look to God for their outcome. In all of his judgments, he could not resolve all conflicts. It was beyond his mortal ability to do so; thus, judgment ultimately rested in God's hands.

Ecclesiastes 3:7 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

Ecclesiastes 3:7 — "A time to rend" - Illustrations:

1 Samuel 15:28, "And Samuel said unto him, The LORD hath rent the kingdom of Israel from thee this day, and hath given it to a neighbour of thine, that is better than thou."

Mark 15:38, "And the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom."

Acts 14:14, "Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out,"

Ecclesiastes 3:7 — "and a time to sew" - Illustration:

Genesis 37:3, "Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colours."

Ecclesiastes 3:7 — "a time to keep silence" - Illustrations:

Proverbs 10:19, "In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise."

Proverbs 15:28, "The heart of the righteous studieth to answer: but the mouth of the wicked poureth out evil things."

Proverbs 17:27, "He that hath knowledge spareth his words: and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit."

Proverbs 17:28 Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding."

Proverbs 18:13, "He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him."

Proverbs 20:3, "It is an honour for a man to cease from strife: but every fool will be meddling."

Proverbs 21:23, "Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles."

Proverbs 29:20, "Seest thou a man that is hasty in his words? there is more hope of a fool than of him."

Isaiah 53:7, "He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth."

Matthew 26:62-63, "And the high priest arose, and said unto him, Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee? But Jesus held his peace."

Matthew 27:12, "And when he was accused of the chief priests and elders, he answered nothing."

Acts 8:32, "The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth:"

James 1:19, "Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:"

1 Peter 2:23, "Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:"

Ecclesiastes 3:7 — "and a time to speak" - Comments- We see this same thought in Proverbs 25:11.

Proverbs 25:11, "Apples of gold in imagery of silver, Is the word spoken at its fit times." (Young's Literal Translation)

Illustration- Jesus taught daily in the temple.

Matthew 26:55, "In that same hour said Jesus to the multitudes, Are ye come out as against a thief with swords and staves for to take me? I sat daily with you teaching in the temple, and ye laid no hold on me."

Proverbs 31:8-9, "Open thy mouth for the dumb in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction. Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy."

Ecclesiastes 3:7Comments- King Solomon had decreed some of the wisest judgment among men, yet these judgments could not fix everyone's problems in the kingdom. In this respect he found himself in the hands of an Almighty God in knowing when to keep silent and let God work things out, and when to intervene and speak his royal judgment.

Ecclesiastes 3:8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:8 — "A time to love" - Illustration:

John 3:16, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Song of Solomon , that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

Ecclesiastes 3:8 — "and a time to hate" - Illustrations:

Psalm 97:10, "Ye that love the LORD, hate evil: he preserveth the souls of his saints; he delivereth them out of the hand of the wicked.""

Psalm 139:21-22, "Do not I hate them, O LORD, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee? I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies."

Ecclesiastes 3:8 — "a time of war, and a time of peace" - Comments- Before there is peace, there must be a war. For example, the nation of Israel enjoyed peace during the reign of King Solomon because David was a man of war. He had subdued all nations surrounding him in order to have peace. Also, in order for a believer to walk in victory and peace in his life, he must first learn to kick the devil out of his life by spiritual warfare. The Lord once spoke to me and said, "There is peace in a home when there is dominion in that home." He then quickened to me Luke 11:21. There can only be peace in a home when a man is armed for war. Unless the United States had gone to war during the First and Second World War, this world would not have enjoyed peace.

Luke 11:21, "When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace:"

There are a number of biblical examples where the Lord called for war and failure to execute a war would have been sin. God told Joshua to go destroy the inhabitants of Canaan so that the children of Israel could possess the land and have rest ( Hebrews 4:1-9). The Lord also told Saul to destroy the Amalekites so that His people would have rest from their wars. Note:

1 Samuel 15:18, "And the LORD sent thee on a journey, and said, Go and utterly destroy the sinners the Amalekites, and fight against them until they be consumed."

Ecclesiastes 3:8Comments- Although King Solomon was the greatest king upon earth during his period of reign, with the divine wisdom to maintain peace over his kingdom, yet he was not able to control love and hate, war and peace upon the earth. These were things too great for him, things he had to look to God for their outcome. In all of his judgments he could not resolve all conflicts. It was beyond his mortal ability to do so; thus, judgment ultimately rested in God's hands.

As we reflect upon Israel's redemptive history, we now can see that there is a predetermined time for them to be at peace, and there is a time God brought the nations into their land to judge them by waging war upon His people.


Verses 1-15

Calling: God's Calling Through His Divine Intervention in the Affairs of Mankind (The Seasons of Our Life) - After the Preacher concludes that God has predestined mankind and creation to vanity based upon reflects upon his own frustrations of life ( Ecclesiastes 1:12 to Ecclesiastes 2:11) and upon those of others ( Ecclesiastes 2:12-26), he turns himself to a wider search by looking above. He realizes that God has a purpose for mankind based upon the realization that He continually intervenes in the affairs of mankind, and because His divine laws govern the outcome of men's lives. We call this divine calling, in which we come to realize that God has a redemptive purpose and plan in His creation.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-15 represents the Preacher's next phase of learning when he teaches us that our life is made up of times and seasons, or periods that change into another period of life. We learn that these seasons have been divinely placed within our lives by God ( Ecclesiastes 3:1). Once the Preacher recognizes these divine seasons of life ( Ecclesiastes 3:1-8), he concludes that man should simply rest in God and enjoy each day's journey, knowing that God will work in his life each day ( Ecclesiastes 3:9-15).

There are twenty-eight seasons listed in the following verses. It is in these seasons of life orchestrated by God that we find meaning and purpose in our lives. The closing verses to Ecclesiastes ( Ecclesiastes 12:13-14) will warn us that everything we do in these seasons of life must be undergirded with the fear of God and the keeping of His commandments. The fact that there are twenty-eight is significance. Anytime in historical events the number seven or a factor of seven is used, it serves as a witness of divine intervention. One clear example is found in Matthew's description of Jesus' divine lineage, where God brought Israel through seasons of change every fourteen generations.

Matthew 1:17, "So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David until the carrying away into Babylon are fourteen generations; and from the carrying away into Babylon unto Christ are fourteen generations."

We see these divine seasons (and purposes) listed in Ecclesiastes 3:2-8. We clearly identify with such descriptions of our lives as we recall how we move from birth to childhood to adolescence to adulthood to old age and finally to death. God"s involvement in human affairs leads to the understanding that there will be an eternal judgment ( Ecclesiastes 3:17). Therefore, enjoy the goodness that God gives to us in this life, but remember to fear God because His judgment will come upon every man.

Ecclesiastes 3:17, "I said in mine heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked: for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work."

Each verse in this passage of Ecclesiastes 3:2-8 contains two couplets. Each of these sets of couplets is similar to one another. For example, in verse two birth is contrasted with death. In Ecclesiastes 3:3 killing and healing are similar to breaking down and building up. In Ecclesiastes 3:4 weeping and laughter are similar to mourning and dancing.

These couplets appear to represent individual seasons of our earthly lives. Within each season in this life there are both good things and evil things to deal with. This is because mankind has been subjected to vanity because of the Fall. Evil is now a part of this life that must be dealt with during every season of life. Thus, we see the struggle between good and evil, between God's ways and the ways of the devil as we walk through our journey in life.

For example, the joy of the birth of a child will always be overshadowed by the knowledge that he will one day have to die ( Ecclesiastes 3:2 a). We see this in the birth of our Saviour Jesus Christ. His birth was accompanied with exciting prophecies and visits from wise men from the East. In the Temple Simeon spoke not only of His office as a Saviour but balanced his prophecy with words of sorrow and grief for Mary. Regarding Proverbs 3:2 b, the travail of planting in the field and waiting patiently for the fruit will one day be forgotten by the joy of taking in a great harvest ( Ecclesiastes 3:2 b). In our times of sorrow we must not forget how God brings us a ray of sunshine during our darkest hours ( Ecclesiastes 3:4 a). We know that one day sadness will be overcome by joy; for this is how Jesus, because of the joy set before Him, endured the Cross and suffered the shame ( Ecclesiastes 3:4 b). There is a season in our lives when we hold our children tightly and protect them in our embrace, while knowing that one day we must release them and send them out to pursue their own destinies (5b). We understand that as horrible wars can be, they always produce peace for a nation if fought in righteousness ( Ecclesiastes 3:8). Thus, every season and event in our lives is mixed with sadness as well as joy if we will look for God's handiwork in it.

The preacher then asks himself the value of labouring and travailing during the seasons of life ( Ecclesiastes 3:9). For God subjected mankind to travail at the time of the Fall in the Garden in order to keep us humble ( Ecclesiastes 3:10). For it is in humility that we will turn back to God.

Now the answer comes when God reveals to him that there is a beauty to be found within each of these seasons in our lives; because each one will teach us a new lesson that we cannot learn from an earlier season of life ( Ecclesiastes 3:11 a).

God created our life as a series of seasons so that we would better understand that eternity is made up of ages and periods in which God takes mankind from one dispensation into another. This is why Ecclesiastes 3:11 b says that God has placed eternity in our hearts. He did this by subjecting us to the pattern of seasons the He has subjected eternity to.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 c then tells us that no man can find contentment in these seasons by pursuing earthly works and ambitions. If we try to fully understand the fullness of the world around us during each season of life, just as Song of Solomon , we will realize that we cannot complete such pursuits; for God's creation is far to vast and our lives too short. This causes us to become unfulfilled with earthly pursuits and dreams, because by them we will only find discontentment in watching them go incomplete as we move into another season of life. As Solomon amidst his vast gardens and building projects, we must conclude that contentment and joy will only be found in pursuing our divine assignment on a daily basis. All other pursuits and ambitions will fall incomplete and unfulfilled at the end of one's life. We must find our joy today as we serve the Lord.

We must resign ourselves to serving the Lord with gladness of heart ( Ecclesiastes 3:12) and enjoy the benefits that God has given us during our daily service to Him, and this without coveting more than we have been given ( Ecclesiastes 3:13). This is the secret of happiness in the midst of our being subjected to travail all the days of our lives.

Outline - Here is a proposed outline:

1. The Preacher Concludes God Has a Purpose — Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

2. The Preacher Explains His Conclusion — Ecclesiastes 3:9-15


Verses 9-15

The Preacher Explains His Conclusion of Man's Purpose- The Preacher will then acknowledge each man's purpose, or calling, in this life, in Ecclesiastes 3:9-15 as a calling to rejoice and to do good in this life by enjoying the good of each day's labours ( Ecclesiastes 3:13). In other words, mankind has been called to serve the Lord by doing good works and to rest in God's divine provision for his life.

Ecclesiastes 3:9 What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth?

Ecclesiastes 3:9Comments- Having pursued wisdom ( Ecclesiastes 1:12-18), mirth ( Ecclesiastes 2:1-3), building projects ( Ecclesiastes 2:4-6) and material riches ( Ecclesiastes 2:7-11), all to a greater extend that any man before him had been able to achieve, and having realized both the vanity of his own pursuits and of mankind in general) as he now reflects upon his utter helplessness to obtain true happiness and fulfill his own destiny in this life ( Ecclesiastes 2:12-26), and acknowledging the reality of divine providence over all of mankind and creation ( Ecclesiastes 3:1-8), the preachers asks the most basic question regarding his life on earth, "What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth?" In other words, what is my purpose and destiny? How can I find true happiness and satisfaction and contentment and utter fulfillment?

Ecclesiastes 3:10 I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it.

Ecclesiastes 3:10Comments- Ecclesiastes 3:10 tells us that mankind was subjected to sorrow and travail in order to humble him. This subjection took place at the time of the Fall in the Garden of Eden. In contrast to God's curse upon the serpent, God sought to lead Adam and Eve into repentance and redemption. Thus, God did not curse them, but instead, subjected them unto vanity. The reason God subjected them to vanity was for their own well-being. For in their daily pain and travail, they would look to their Creator for hope and future redemption.

Man's original role in taking dominion over the earth was to tend the Garden. The woman's role in taking dominion over the earth was not in tilling the soil, but in bearing children. We then see how man was working the land while woman was tending to children. This was God's original divine order and plan for mankind to prosper and fulfill their destinies. This is reflected in the way in which God judged Adam and Eve in the Fall. The woman had her pain and sorrow increased in the area of childbearing while the man had his sorrow and pain increased in tilling the earth. God added travail and sorrow to each of their earthly journeys so that they would learn to turn to Him for their daily peace and rest. Such daily travail brings humility, and humility leads us back to God. In fact, Ecclesiastes 3:10 tells us, "I have seen the travail that God hath given to the sons of man to be humbled by it."

Ecclesiastes 3:11 He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 — "He hath made every thing beautiful in his time" - Comments- Ecclesiastes 3:11 teaches us that there is a beauty to be found within each of the seasons in our lives listed in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8; because each one will teach us a new lesson that we cannot learn from an earlier season of life. Even what may seem bad, such as war and destruction, has its beautiful purpose in this world. For example, in the Story of Creation God says that everything was good. But as we look around us we see so many things that are bad and evil. But if we step back and look at creation from God's perspective, that Isaiah , from eternity past to eternity future, we will realize that the season that we are living in was placed upon mankind in order to produce something good.

Ecclesiastes 3:11"also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end" - Comments- We can see Ecclesiastes 3:11 reflected in the work of NASA, the U.S. space agency whose job is to explore space, God's creation. The more they learn, the more vast and enormous space and learning becomes.

Ecclesiastes 3:11Comments- Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that God has placed eternity in our hearts. He did this by subjecting us to the pattern of seasons that He has subjected eternity to. These seasons in our life are listed in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.

God has put a desire within our hearts to discover and find out all knowledge, yet in our short, mortal lifespan, no man can live long enough to discover everything. We have been made to labour and travail in this life as a way of humbling us ( Ecclesiastes 3:10). If a man were a king and all others served him, so that he had not travail to humble him, then his heart would be lifted up. Therefore, God has designed this life with the travail of labour, and in this labour we strive to find out all things of this world, which we cannot do in this short life.

Ecclesiastes 3:12 I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life.

Ecclesiastes 3:12Comments- In Ecclesiastes 3:12 the Preacher answers his own question from Ecclesiastes 3:9, "What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth?" He decides that the only way to fulfill his purpose and destiny, and find true happiness and satisfaction and contentment and utter fulfillment in this life is to use each day as an opportunity to do good, which means to serve one another. He will find true joy and happiness in simply helping others.

Since we cannot discover everything and fulfill every aspect of this mortal life ( Ecclesiastes 3:12), we should realize that God has given us something each day to accomplish, something good to do to help others as a way of obeying His commandments. We are to rejoice in each day's divine blessings.

Ecclesiastes 3:13 And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God.

Ecclesiastes 3:12Comments- Besides doing good in this life ( Ecclesiastes 3:11), the Preacher also realizes that in order to find true happiness and contentment, he must be thankful for each day. He should be content and rejoice in the things he possesses, for these are the things that God has given to him ( Ecclesiastes 3:12).

Ecclesiastes 3:14 I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him.

Ecclesiastes 3:14Comments- In our decision to rejoice in each day's labours and to do good, we begin to realize that God is orchestrating each day, so that we cannot change what He has designed for us. It would be vain and futile for us to labour to design the outcome of each day. God has designed it this way so that we may acknowledge Him and look to Him and fear Him as we seek direction in each day's journey. We must realize that we cannot begin the day and determine its outcome at the end of the day.

Ecclesiastes 3:15 That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past.

Ecclesiastes 3:15Comments- Ecclesiastes 3:15 seems to serve as a summary of the entire passage of Ecclesiastes 3:1-15. Thus, the Preacher is reflecting upon God's divine intervention in the affairs of mankind by noting how the past, present, and future of His plan of redemption involve the repetition of events; or, in simple terms, is overseeing all matters of life.


Verse 16

Justification: The Depravity of Mankind - The Preacher has concluded that this world has been subjected to vanity ( Ecclesiastes 1:1 to Ecclesiastes 2:26); yet, God has a purpose for mankind, which can be called a plan of redemption ( Ecclesiastes 3:1-15). He now seeks out God's plan of justification for mankind in the midst of a depraved humanity, but first he must build a case for man's need of redemption. Thus, in Ecclesiastes 3:16-22 he makes the conclusion that mankind is depraved. In Ecclesiastes 4:1 to Ecclesiastes 6:12 the Preacher uses illustrations from life and from creation to support his theme that all is vanity. In this section he discusses the overall condition of mankind in his fallen state of depravity and his need for redemption.

Outline - Here is a proposed outline:

1. The Preacher Concludes Man's Depravity — Ecclesiastes 3:16-22

2. The Preacher Explains His Conclusion — Ecclesiastes 4:1 to Ecclesiastes 6:12


Verses 16-22

The Preacher Concludes that Mankind is Unjust - In Ecclesiastes 3:16-22 the Preacher makes the conclusion that mankind is depraved. He understands that God will judge every man according to his works, both the righteous and the wicked. He observes that wickedness was found in the place of judgment ( Ecclesiastes 3:16). He first concludes that God will ultimately give a final and true judgment ( Ecclesiastes 3:17). He makes a second conclusion that man is mortal just like beasts ( Ecclesiastes 3:18-21). He comes to the conclusion that because of this vanity of unrighteous upon earth a person should respond by learning to enjoy the labours of each day without coveting for more, or worrying about tomorrow; for man is not able to determine his own future, which belongs to God alone ( Ecclesiastes 3:22).

Outline - Here is a proposed outline:

1. Man's Depravity — Ecclesiastes 3:16-17

2. Man's Mortality — Ecclesiastes 3:18-21

3. Conclusion — Ecclesiastes 3:22

Ecclesiastes 3:16-17 — Man's Depravity - The Preacher makes his first observation by stating the wickedness and depravity of mankind. He concludes that God will bring justice upon this sad condition of man since man is not judging himself righteously.

Ecclesiastes 3:16 And moreover I saw under the sun the place of judgment, that wickedness was there; and the place of righteousness, that iniquity was there.

Ecclesiastes 3:17 I said in mine heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked: for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work.

Ecclesiastes 3:17Comments- The Preacher now makes an evaluation of the vanities of life from a divine perspective for the first time in the book. He repeats his statement in Ecclesiastes 3:1 by saying that there is a time for every purpose.

Ecclesiastes 3:18-21 — Man's Mortality- In Ecclesiastes 3:18 the Preacher compares mankind to beasts from the aspect that they are both mortal. He will elaborate on this in Ecclesiastes 3:19 by saying that death befalls them both. Thus, from an earthly perspective, no one is better than the other, since both die and are no more ( Ecclesiastes 3:20). In addition, neither man nor beast is able to determine his individual fate, whether he goes up to heaven, or down to hell ( Ecclesiastes 3:21).

Ecclesiastes 3:18 I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts.

Ecclesiastes 3:18Comments- Ecclesiastes 3:18 compares mankind to animals in the respect that both are mortal ( Ecclesiastes 3:19-21).

Ecclesiastes 3:19 For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity.

Ecclesiastes 3:20 All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.

Ecclesiastes 3:20Comments- The description of man and beast being made up of dust and returning to dust is a figurative way of referring to their mortality.

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 3:21Comments- Ecclesiastes 3:21 makes the statement that the spirit of man can go upward and the spirit of beasts can go downward. However, within the context of Hebrew poetry we man interpret this verse to say, "Man nor beast is able to decide whether his spirit goes upwards or downwards after death." In other words, the eternal destiny of the spirit of man and beast is in God's hands alone. He will decide their destiny.

We know that upwards represents heaven, and downwards represents hell. Thus, we are given a clue from Scripture that animals as well as mankind have a destiny after death. Those believers who have been given the opportunity to visit heaven and hell, such as Rebecca Springer, Mary K. Baxter, Roberts Lairdon, and Bill Wiese testify to seeing animals both in heaven and in hell. 26] Baxter says that hell is full of unclean animals and that heaven has beautiful, clean animals, in a similar way that the Scriptures classify between clean and unclean animals ( Leviticus 1:1-17). These people mention seeing beautiful horses and birds in heaven, as well as awful giant snakes, rats, spiders and worms in hell. Lairdon says that there is every kind of animal imaginable in Heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:21 suggests that animals also can go to heaven or hell.

26] Rebecca Springer, Within Heaven's Gates (Springdale, Pennsylvania: Whitaker House, 1984), 53-4, 107; Mary K. Baxter, A Divine Revelation of Heaven (New Kensington, Pennsylvania: Whitaker House, 1998), 38, 82-3, 127-9; Mary K. Baxter, A Divine Revelation of Hell (Springdale, Pennsylvania: Whitaker House, 1993), 64; Roberts Lairdon, I Saw Heaven (Tulsa Oklahoma: Aubury Publishing, c 1983, 1991), 31; Bill Wiese, 23Minutes in Hell (Lake Mary, Florida: Charis House, c 2006), 30.

Ecclesiastes 3:22 — Conclusion - In Ecclesiastes 3:22 the Preacher makes his concluding remarks about man's depravity and mortality. He decides that man should learn to enjoy those things which God has blessed him with as a result of the works of his own hands.

Ecclesiastes 3:22 Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better, than that a man should rejoice in his own works; for that is his portion: for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him?

 


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 3:4". Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ghe/ecclesiastes-3.html. 2013.

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Tuesday, January 28th, 2020
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