Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Ecclesiastes 11:2

Divide your portion to seven, or even to eight, for you do not know what misfortune may occur on the earth.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Liberality;   Seven;   Thompson Chain Reference - Future, the;   Knowledge;   Mysteries-Revelations;   Seven;   The Topic Concordance - Bearing Fruit;   Giving and Gifts;   Knowledge;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Liberality;  
Dictionaries:
Fausset Bible Dictionary - Ecclesiastes, the Book of;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Ecclesiastes, Book of;   Poetry;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Ecclesiastes;   Gift, Giving;   Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types - Eight;  
Encyclopedias:
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Number;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Numbers and Numerals;  
Devotionals:
Every Day Light - Devotion for August 16;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

Give a portion to seven - Never cease giving while thou seest a person in distress, and hast wherewithal to relieve him.

Thou knowest not what evil - Such may be the change of times, that thou mayest yet stand in need of similar help thyself. Do as thou wouldst be done by.

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Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 11:2". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/ecclesiastes-11.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

The verse means: “Let your hospitality and your alms be extensive: for you know not what reverses may befall either that person who by your liberality will be strengthened to meet them, or yourself who may come to need grateful friends.” Compare Luke 16:9.

Seven, and also to eight - A definite number for an indefinite (compare marginal reference).

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 11:2". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/ecclesiastes-11.html. 1870.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Give a portion to seven, and also to eight,.... Or, a "part"F17חלק "partem", Pagninus, Montanus, Munster, Vatablus, Drusius, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, &c. ; not the whole of a man's substance, for he must have to support himself and his family; he that does not take care of that is worse than an infidel; a man may bestow all his goods on the poor, and not have charity; though no doubt there was true charity, or love, in the poor widow that threw in all her substance into the treasury, which was an extraordinary case, 1 Timothy 5:8; but a man is to give of such things that he has, ordinarily, and not all that he has, Luke 11:41; he is to give according to his ability, and what he can spare from the service of himself and family; and this is to be distributed, and given in parts to the poor, according to their necessities; not all to one, but something to everyone, "to seven, and also to eight": if seven persons apply, give them everyone a part; and, if an eighth person comes, send him not away empty; give to every one that asketh, Luke 6:30; compare with this phrase Micah 5:5; Some think this respects time, so Aben Ezra; that a man should give constantly and continually, should be daily giving, all the seven days of the week, and when the eighth day comes, or the week begins again, go on in the same course. The Targum is,

"put a good part of seed in thy field in Tisri (the seventh month), and do not cease from sowing even in Casleu,'

the eighth month;

for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth; what calamities shall come upon it, which may sweep away all a man's substance; it may be destroyed by fire, or washed away by a deluge of water, or plundered by an enemy; or, however, the day of death may quickly come, as it certainly shall, and then it will be no longer in a man's power to do good with what he has. Moreover, the arguments which covetous men use against liberality, the wise man uses for it; they argue that bad times may come, and they may sustain great losses; or have a greater charge upon them, a growing family; or they may live to old age, and want it themselves: be it no, these are reasons why they should give liberally while they can; that when these things they fear shall come upon them, they may be relieved and supplied by others; for those that show mercy shall find mercy; and this is the way to make themselves friends in a time of need, and against it; see Luke 16:9.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 11:2". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/ecclesiastes-11.html. 1999.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

portion — of thy bread.

seven — the perfect number.

eight — even to more than seven; that is, “to many” (so “waters,” Ecclesiastes 11:1), nay, even to very many in need (Job 5:19; Micah 5:5).

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.

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These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 11:2". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/ecclesiastes-11.html. 1871-8.

Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary

“Divide the portion into seven, yea, eight (parts); for thou knowest not what evil shall happen on the earth.” With that other interpretation, עליך was to be expected instead of 'al - haarets ; for an evil spreading abroad over the earth, a calamity to the land, does not yet fall on every one without exception; and why was not the רעה designated directly as personal? The impression of the words לשׁם ... תּן־, established in this general manner, is certainly this, that on the supposition of the possibility of a universal catastrophe breaking in, they advise a division of our property, so that if we are involved in it, our all may not at once be lost, but only this or that part of it, as Jacob, Genesis 32:9, says. With reference to 1 a, it is most natural to suppose that one is counselled not to venture his all in one expedition, so that if this is lost in a storm, all might not at once be lost (Mendelss., Preston, Hitz., Stuart); with the same right, since 1 a is only an example, the counsel may be regarded as denoting that one must not commit all to one caravan; or, since in Ecclesiastes 11:2 לחמך is to be represented not merely as a means of obtaining gain, that one ought not to lay up all he has gathered in one place, Judges 6:11; Jeremiah 41:8 (Nachtigal); in short, that one ought not to put all into one business, or, as we say literally, venture all on one card. חלק is either the portion which one possesses, i.e., the measure of the possession that has fallen to him (Psalms 16:5), or חלק נתן means to make portions, to undertake a division. In the first case, the expression ל ... נתן follows the scheme of Genesis 17:20 : make the part into seven, yea, into eight (parts); in the second case, the scheme of Joshua 18:5 : make division into seven, etc. We prefer the former, because otherwise that which is to be divided remains unknown; חלק is the part now in possession: make the much or the little that thou hast into seven or yet more parts. The rising from seven to eight is as at Job 5:19, and like the expression ter quaterque, etc. The same inverted order of words as in Ecclesiastes 11:2 is found in Esther 6:3; 2 Kings 8:12.

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The Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.
Bibliographical Information
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 11:2". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/kdo/ecclesiastes-11.html. 1854-1889.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

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

Give — A part of thy estate or provisions. He alludes to the ancient custom, whereby the master of the feast distributed several parts to each guest, and withal sent portions to the poor.

To eight — To as many as thou art able.

For — Great calamities may come whereby thou mayest be brought to poverty, and so disabled from doing good.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Wesley, John. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 11:2". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/ecclesiastes-11.html. 1765.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

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

Ver. 2. Give a portion to seven, and also to eight.] A portion - i.e., a good deal, a fair proportion - to a good many; as B. Hooper did to his board of beggars, whom he fed every day by course, serving them by four at a mess, with whole and wholesome food. (a) Or give a portion, i.e., a part, such as thou canst well part with, not stretching beyond the staple, lest ye mar all, while "others are eased, and you burdened, but by an equality," &c. [2 Corinthians 8:13-14] Give to him that asketh, saith our Saviour [Luke 6:30] - scil., according to his necessity, and thine ability. Give with discretion. [Psalms 112:5] Have a special respect to the family of faith, [Galatians 6:10] those "excellent ones of the earth," in whom was David’s "delight." [Psalms 16:3] The Jews, from this text, grounded a custom of giving alms to seven poor people every day, or to eight at utmost, if they saw cause. But here is a finite number put for an infinite, as when Christ bade Peter forgive his brother "seventy times seven times," and as [Micah 5:5] "seven shepherds and eight principal men" signify so many shepherds, both teachers and rulers, as shall sufficiently feed the flock of Christ, and defend it from enemies.

For thou knowest not what evll shall be upon the earth.] Therefore lay in lustily; or rather, lay out liberally, and so lay up for a rainy day. Thou mayest be soon shred of thy goods, and as much need other men’s mercy as they now need thine. Sow, therefore, while thou hast it, that thou mayest "reap again in due season." "Water, that thou mayest be watered again." [Proverbs 11:25] "Lay up for thyself a good foundation against the time to come." [1 Timothy 6:18] Lay out thy talent; work while the tool is in thine hand. Make friends with thy mammon. Say not, as one rich churl did, when requested to do somewhat toward his minister’s maintenance, The more I give, the less I have. Another answered that he knew how to bestow his money better. A third old man said, I see the beginning of my life, but I see not my latter; I may come to want that which I now give. Thou mayest do so, saith Solomon here, and by thy tenacity thou art very likely to do so; but wilt thou know, O man! how thou mayest prevent this misery, and not feel what thou fearest "Give a portion to seven," &c. Part, therefore, freely with that which thou art not sure to keep, that thou mayest gain that which thou art sure never to Lose."he that giveth to the poor shall not lack." [Proverbs 28:27]

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Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 11:2". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/ecclesiastes-11.html. 1865-1868.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Give a portion; a part of thy estate or provisions. He alludes to the ancient custom, whereby the master of the feast did distribute several parts to each guest, and withal sent portions to the poor; of which custom see 2 Samuel 6:19 Nehemiah 8:10,12 Es 9:22.

To seven, and also to eight; to as many as thou art able; a certain number for an uncertain, as Micah 5:5, and oft elsewhere.

Thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth; great calamities may come, whereby thou mayst be brought to poverty, and so both utterly lose that blessed opportunity of doing good, which now thou hast in thine hands, whereby thou mayst gain unspeakable honour, and comfort, and advantage to thyself, and moreover need the charity of others, which thou mayst comfortably expect, either from men, or at least from the powerful providence of God, disposing the hearts of men to pity and help thee, if thou hast been kind and merciful to others; as, on the contrary, they can expect no mercy from God or men, who have showed no mercy to others. Thus he not only answers, but retorts, the argument by which the covetous man excuseth his uncharitableness, because he must lay up against a rainy day.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 11:2". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/ecclesiastes-11.html. 1685.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

2.Give a portion — That is, of thy bread.

To seven, and also to eight — Meaning to no limited and selected number, but donating it widely and generously. “Seven” is often used in Scripture to suggest an exclusive number. Of those thus hospitably treated, some will be unthankful, but others will hold their kind treatment in grateful remembrance and in some emergency will repay it. But even where the generous man has reason to hope for nothing again, and even suffers from the sting of ingratitude, it is still good, when evil reverse of fortune — may come, to comfort one’s self, as the thought did Job, that he “ate not his morsel alone” while he had it.

 

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 11:2". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/ecclesiastes-11.html. 1874-1909.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

This proverb advocates diversifying your investments, rather than putting all of your resources in one place.

""Seven or eight" is a Hebrew numerical formula called X, X + 1. It occurs frequently in Proverbs (chaps6, 30) and in the first two chapters of Amos. Here it is not to be taken literally but means "plenty and more than plenty," "the widest possible diversification within the guidelines of prudence...." Seven means "plenty," and eight means, "Go a bit beyond that."" [Note: Hubbard, p227.]

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 11:2". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/ecclesiastes-11.html. 2012.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Ecclesiastes 11:2. Give a portion to seven — A part of thy estate or provisions. He alludes to the ancient custom, whereby the master of the feast distributed several parts to each guest, and withal sent portions to the poor. And also to eight — To as many as thou art able. For thou knowest not what evil shall be, &c. — Great calamities may come, whereby thou mayest be brought to poverty, and so disabled from doing good. And moreover thou mayest possibly hereafter need the charity of others, which thou wilt have good reason to expect, through the powerful providence of God disposing men’s hearts to pity and help thee, if thou hast been kind and merciful to others; whereas, on the contrary, they can expect no mercy from God or men, who have showed no mercy to others.

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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 11:2". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/ecclesiastes-11.html. 1857.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Eight. To as many as thou art able, (Calmet) especially to those who are of the household of faith, (Galatians vi. 10.; Haydock) whether under the old or the new Testament, signified by the numbers, seven and eight. (Worthington) (St. Jerome) --- Mandatum accipis octo illis partem dare, fortasse benedictionibus, (St. Ambrose in Luke vi. n. 49.) which intimates, that we must apply ourselves to the pursuit of al virtues, as the number eight denotes perfection. (Calmet)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 11:2". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/ecclesiastes-11.html. 1859.

Mark Dunagan Commentary on the Bible

"Divide your portion to seven, or even to eight, for you do not know what misfortune may occur on the earth."

"Divide your portion to seven"-The idea may be of unlimited benevolence, i.e. give to many people who might be in need. Or, the idea might be, "divide your ventures", i.e. one is wise if he does not trust his entire fortune to one ship. As one would say today, it is unwise to put all one"s eggs in the same basket. ""Seven" or "eight" represent a wide diversity of investments. Such diversification is necessary because it affords protection against unforeseen calamity in one or two of the enterprises" (Garrett p. 338).

"for you do not know what misfortune may occur on the earth"-Once again we are faced with the truth that man is completely unable to predict the future, and that time and chance happens to all (). "you never know what will go wrong in this world" (Mof).

3 Solomon might be saying, "Help as many people as you can now, because a time may be coming that you will need help from others" (Luke ; 2 Corinthians 8:14; Galatians 6:1).

4 This verse could also admonish us to allow wisdom to prepare one for the unexpected misfortunes of life which are beyond control---Plan for the future!

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Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 11:2". "Mark Dunagan Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dun/ecclesiastes-11.html. 1999-2014.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

Give: i.e. in charity.

a portion: i.e. a portion of the bread of Ecclesiastes 11:1.

seven . . . eight. An idiomatic phrase denoting several or many, like the idiom "once . . . twice" = several times (Job 33:14. Psalms 62:11); "twice. . . thrice" = often (Job 33:29. Isaiah 17:6); "three and four" = frequently, or many (Exodus 20:5; Exodus 34:7. Proverbs 30:15, Proverbs 30:18, Proverbs 30:21. Amos 1:3, Amos 1:6, Amos 1:9, Amos 1:11, Amos 1:13; Amos 2:1, Amos 2:4, Amos 2:6); "four and five" (Isaiah 17:6); "six and seven" = many (Job 5:19); "seven and eight" (Micah 5:5).

what evil. As the verb is Masculine but "evil" is feminine, render "what will prove a misfortune".

evil = misfortune. Hebrew. ra"a". App-44.

upon the earth. See note on Ecclesiastes 5:2.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 11:2". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/ecclesiastes-11.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

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.

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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 11:2". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/ecclesiastes-11.html. 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(2) To seven, and also to eight.—Quite similar forms of expression occur in Job 5:19; Proverbs 30:21; Amos 1:3; Micah 5:4. The numbers seven and eight are used indefinitely in the advice to multiply our modes of exertion, ignorant as we are which may miscarry.

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 11:2". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/ecclesiastes-11.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth.
a portion
Nehemiah 8:10; Esther 9:19,22; Psalms 112:9; Luke 6:30-35; 1 Timothy 6:18,19
seven
Job 5:19; Proverbs 6:16; Micah 5:5; Matthew 18:22; Luke 17:4
for
Daniel 4:27; Acts 11:28-30; Galatians 6:1; Ephesians 5:16; Hebrews 13:3
Reciprocal: Leviticus 19:25 - General1 Samuel 25:8 - a good day;  1 Samuel 25:11 - give it;  2 Samuel 17:29 - The people;  Psalm 41:1 - Blessed;  Proverbs 3:10 - GeneralProverbs 11:24 - that scattereth;  Proverbs 13:7 - that maketh himself poor;  Proverbs 14:21 - he that hath;  Proverbs 22:9 - He that hath a bountiful eye;  Proverbs 31:20 - she reacheth;  Isaiah 58:7 - to deal;  Ezekiel 18:16 - but hath;  Amos 1:3 - For;  Zechariah 8:23 - ten men;  Matthew 5:42 - GeneralMatthew 6:2 - when;  Matthew 14:16 - they;  Matthew 25:35 - I was an;  Luke 6:38 - and it;  Luke 11:41 - rather;  Luke 12:17 - shall;  Acts 2:45 - parted;  Acts 11:29 - to send;  Romans 12:8 - giveth;  1 Corinthians 7:31 - use

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 11:2". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/ecclesiastes-11.html.

Ernst Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms

Ecclesiastes 11:2. Give a portion, that is, of thy bread (compare Isaiah 58:7; Isaiah 58:10). The addition of the words, "also to eight," serves the purpose of indicating that the number seven did not mark the limit of the extent of our benevolence:—not, "at the utmost, seven," but, "seven and more." For thou knowest not, etc., and there, all depends on making to thyself friends of the unrighteous mammon. Cartwright observes, "Ad hanc autem munificentiam te excitare debet rerum omnium Europaea veluti inconstantia et incertitudo, quid aut de te, aut divitiis, quas possides, fiet: ut illud merito in lucro deputes, quod in pauperum subsidium conferendo veluti c flamma et incendio eripueris." In point of thought the following passages may be adduced as parallels; Psalms 112:9, "he disperseth, he giveth to the poor, his righteousness endureth for ever, his horn is exalted with honour,"—words which, by the way, belong also to the period of the rule of the Persians, and which teach the Jews that if they were pervaded by a liberal spirit, they would at some future time certainly rise to honour:—and then further Matthew 5:42, τῷ αἰτοῦντί σε δίδου.

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Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 11:2". Ernst Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/heg/ecclesiastes-11.html.