Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary
Ecclesiastes 11:8

Indeed, if a man should live many years, let him rejoice in them all, and let him remember the days of darkness, for they will be many. Everything that is to come will be futility.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Death;   Joy;   Thompson Chain Reference - Dark Days;   Death;   Life-Death;   Man;   Readiness;   The Topic Concordance - Vanity;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Joy;  
Dictionaries:
Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Memorial;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Ecclesiastes, Book of;   Time, Meaning of;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Ecclesiastes;  
Encyclopedias:
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Dark;  
Devotionals:
Every Day Light - Devotion for August 13;  

Clarke's Commentary

Verse Ecclesiastes 11:8. If a man live many years — And even have prosperity through the whole; yet the days of darkness-times of affliction, weakness, and perhaps old age, will be many. If he die not a violent death, which no man can wish, he will die a lingering death; and this is ordinarily attended with many pains, and many sorrows; therefore let him prepare to meet his God; and to carry this thought through life, that all must terminate in death. The writer of Ecclesiasticus, Eccl 7:36, has a good saying, similar to this: "Whatsoever thou takest in hand, remember thy END; and thou shalt never do amiss;" ουκ αμαρτησεις, thou wilt not sin.

Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 11:8". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​acc/​ecclesiastes-11.html. 1832.

Bridgeway Bible Commentary


11:1-12:14 HAVE A POSITIVE ATTITUDE TO LIFE

Boldness in spite of uncertainty (11:1-8)

It is typical of the writer that he encourages a positive attitude to life. True, life may be uncertain, but that is no reason to refuse to act positively. Regardless of what people decide to do, they must work at it boldly in spite of the risks, expecting results in due time. However, they should not put all their goods or money into one project. Then, if they meet misfortune in one place, the rest of the investment will be safe (11:1-2).
The world of nature shows that there are many things in life that people can neither control nor alter. There is much they do not know. If they always wait till they are certain before putting their plans into action, they will never do anything (3-5). Rather their attitude should be positive and optimistic (6). Life is compared to the light of day, death to the darkness of night. People should therefore enjoy life to the full while the light of day lasts (7-8).

Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 11:8". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​bbc/​ecclesiastes-11.html. 2005.

Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

The sense appears to be, “Let the timely recollection of God’s judgment, and of the fleeting character of youth, so influence your conduct that you will refrain from acts which entail future remorse and pain.”

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 11:8". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​bnb/​ecclesiastes-11.html. 1870.

Smith's Bible Commentary

Chapter 11

Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days. Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for you don't know what evil shall be upon the eaRuth ( Ecclesiastes 11:1-2 ).

You don't know when you're going to be in trouble, so be generous. Give out a portion to seven or eight people, because there might be a time when you're going to be needing a handout yourself.

If the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth: and if the tree falls toward the south, or toward the north, in the place where the tree falls, there it shall be. He that observes the wind shall not sow; and he that regards the clouds will not reap. As you know 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 you know not the works of God who makes all ( Ecclesiastes 11:3-5 ).

Things that we just don't understand--how the bones grow in the womb, the way of the spirit. Jesus said, "The wind bloweth where it listeth, thou hearest the sound thereof, but you cannot tell from whence it is coming, or where it is going. So is he that is born of the Spirit" ( John 3:8 ). So we don't know the works of God who makes all.

In the morning sow your seed, and in the evening withhold not your hand: for you know not whether it shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good. Truly the light is sweet, and the pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun: 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 emptiness ( Ecclesiastes 11:6-8 ).

You might live a lot of years, but remember, you're going to be dead longer than you're alive. So you live to be 105, but those that back in the year 547 lived up to 680 even. You know, they've been dead a long time. This is what he's saying. You might see the life for many years, but you're going to see the darkness longer. Again, that's life under the sun.

Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of your eyes ( Ecclesiastes 11:9 ):

Poor advice.

but know thou, that for all these things God will bring you into judgment ( Ecclesiastes 11:9 ).

Do what you want, but just remember, God's going to judge you.

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

Too soon old, too late smart. Someone said, "It's a shame that youth has to be wasted on the young." You think now, though, if you could only go back to your youth with the advantage of all of your experience and advantage of life now, man, what you could do. If you were just a teenager again back in high school with all of your knowledge and understanding at this point. I think of all of the wasted time that I had. I think of all of the opportunities that I had to learn and I didn't take full advantage of them. It was a crazy thing, but I really didn't decide to learn until I got into college. And then even at that point I look back to my high school years and I thought, "Oh, how ridiculous that I bragged that I never took a book home from school through high school. What a stupid boast!" Oh, of course, I've got my grades for college. But yet, I could have learned so much more. I wasted my youth in many ways. But what can you do? You can't go back. "





Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 11:8". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​csc/​ecclesiastes-11.html. 2014.

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

The first reason we should enjoy life now is that we cannot do so after we die. As Christians we realize that life beyond the grave will be much better for believers than life on this earth. Solomon would not have disputed this had he known what we do as a result of revelation given after his lifetime. For Solomon, the future after death was unclear, enigmatic, and therefore vaporous (Heb. hebel, "futility" in Ecclesiastes 11:8) in this sense (cf. Ecclesiastes 8:10; Ecclesiastes 8:14). Solomon’s advice to enjoy life is still good for today, since our earthly experience is indeed short, and we will never return this way again. Even though the future is bright for the believer, the relative futility of our work and the uncertainty of our future on the earth still make joyful living a wise choice.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 11:8". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​dcc/​ecclesiastes-11.html. 2012.

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

1. Joyful living 11:7-10

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 11:8". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​dcc/​ecclesiastes-11.html. 2012.

Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

But if a man live many years,.... Enjoying light and life, and beholding the sun with much delight and pleasure. The days of men on earth, or under the sun, are but few at most; but some live many days, in comparison of others; they come to a good old age, as Abraham did; and to their graves like a shock of corn fully ripe; and arrive to, or beyond, the common term of human life;

[and] rejoice in them all; in and throughout the many years he lives, even all his days; that is, is blessed with a plentiful portion of the good things of life, and enjoys them in a free and comfortable manner, with moderation and thankfulness; partakes of the good of his labour, and rejoices in his works, in the fruit and effects of them, through the blessing of divine Providence; not only is blessed with many days, but those days good ones, days of prosperity: such a man is in a happy case; and especially if he is possessed of spiritual joy, of joy in the Holy Ghost; if he rejoices in Christ, and in what he is to him, and has done for him; and having professed him, and submitted to his ordinances, goes on his way, rejoicing. Some render it, "let him rejoice in them all" w; a good man has reason to rejoice always, throughout the whole course of his life; because of the goodness of divine Providence to him; because of the blessings of grace bestowed on him; and because of his good hope of eternal glory and happiness. The Targum is,

"in all these it becomes him to rejoice, and to study in the law of the Lord;''

yet let him remember the days of darkness, for they shall be many; or, "they may be" x; meaning either, that though persons may live long, and enjoy much health and prosperity; yet, in the midst of all, they should consider, that it is possible that days of adversity and distress may come upon them, and continue; and therefore should not please themselves, as Job did, that they shall die in their nest in the height their prosperity, since they know not what days of evil may come, and how long they will last; or, however, they should remember the night of death, that is hastening, the land of darkness, and the shadow of death, they are going to; the dark grave, they will soon be laid in, where they will remain many days; many more than those in which they have lived, enjoying the light of the sun, even till the heavens shall be no more; though these days will not be infinite, they will have an end, and there will be a resurrection from the dead: and particularly if a man is a wicked man, that has lived a long and prosperous life, he should not only remember the above things; but also that outer darkness, that blackness of darkness reserved for him, the darkness of eternal death, which will be his portion for evermore. The Targum is,

"he shall remember the days of the darkness of death, and shall not sin; for many are the days that he shall lie dead in the house of the grave.''

All that cometh [is] vanity; Aben Ezra interprets this of every man that comes into the world, as in Ecclesiastes 1:2; whether high or low, rich or poor, in prosperity or adversity; man, at his best estate, is vanity: let a man therefore be in what circumstances he will, he should not take up his rest here; all that comes to him, everything that befalls him, is vanity. The wise man keeps in view the main thing he proposed, to prove that is vanity, all in this life; for what is to come hereafter, in a future state of happiness, cannot come under this name and character.

w בכלם ישמח "in eis omnibus laetetur", Junius Tremellius, Mercerus, Cocceius, Gejerus. x כי הרבה יהיה "quia multi sint", Amama, so some in Drusius "quod multi futuri sint", Piscator, Gejerus, Rambachius.

Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 11:8". "Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​geb/​ecclesiastes-11.html. 1999.

Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

A Caution to the Young; Exhortation to Early Piety.

      7 Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun:   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.   9 Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment.   10 Therefore remove sorrow from thy heart, and put away evil from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity.

      Here is an admonition both to old people and to young people, to think of dying, and get ready for it. Having by many excellent precepts taught us how to live well, the preacher comes now, towards the close of his discourse, to teach us how to die well and to put us in mind of our latter end.

      I. He applies himself to the aged, writes to them as fathers, to awaken them to think of death, Ecclesiastes 11:7; Ecclesiastes 11:8. Here is, 1. A rational concession of the sweetness of life, which old people find by experience: Truly the light is sweet; the light of the sun is so; it is a pleasant thing for the eyes to behold it. Light was the first thing made in the formation of the great world, as the eye is one of the first in the formation of the body, the little world. It is pleasant to see the light; the heathen were so charmed with the pleasure of it that they worshipped the sun. It is pleasant by it to see other things, the many agreeable prospects this world gives us. The light of life is so. Light is put for life, Job 3:20; Job 3:23. It cannot be denied that life is sweet. It is sweet to bad men because they have their portion in this life; it is sweet to good men because they have this life as the time of their preparation for a better life; it is sweet to all men; nature says it is so, and there is no disputing against it; nor can death be desired for its own sake, but dreaded, unless as a period to present evils or a passage to future good. Life is sweet, and therefore we have need to double a guard upon ourselves, lest we love it too well. 2. A caution to think of death, even in the midst of life, and of life when it is most sweet and we are most apt to forget death: If a man live many years, yet let him remember the days of darkness are coming. Here is, (1.) A summer's day supposed to be enjoyed--that life may continue long, even many years, and that, by the goodness of God, it may be made comfortable and a man may rejoice in them all. There are those that live many years in this world, escape many dangers, receive many mercies, and therefore are secure that they shall want no good, and that no evil shall befal them, that the pitcher which has come so often from the well safe and sound shall never come home broken. But who are those that live many years and rejoice in them all? Alas! none; we have but hours of joy for months of sorrow. However, some rejoice in their years, their many years, more than others; if these two things meet, a prosperous state and a cheerful spirit, these two indeed may do much towards enabling a man to rejoice in them all, and yet the most prosperous state has its alloys and the most cheerful spirit has its damps; jovial sinners have their melancholy qualms, and cheerful saints have their gracious sorrows; so that it is but a supposition, not a case in fact, that a man should live many years and rejoice in them all. But, (2.) Here is a winter's night proposed to be expected after this summer's day: Yet let this hearty old man remember the days of darkness, for they shall be many. Note, [1.] There are days of darkness coming, the days of our lying in the grave; there the body will lie in the dark; there the eyes see not, the sun shines not. The darkness of death is opposed to the light of life; the grave is a land of darkness,Job 10:21. [2.] Those days of darkness will be many; the days of our lying under ground will be more than the days of our living above ground. They are many, but they are not infinite; many as they are, they will be numbered and finished when the heavens are no more,Job 14:12. As the longest day will have its night, so the longest night will have its morning. [3.] It is good for us often to remember those days of darkness, that we may not be lifted up with pride, nor lulled asleep in carnal security, nor even transported into indecencies by vain mirth. [4.] Notwithstanding the long continuance of life, and the many comforts of it, yet we must remember the days of darkness, because those will certainly come, and they will come with much the less terror if we have thought of them before.

      II. He applies himself to the young, and writes to them as children, to awaken them to think of death (Ecclesiastes 11:9; Ecclesiastes 11:10); here we have,

      1. An ironical concession to the vanities and pleasures of youth: Rejoice, O young man! in thy youth. Some make this to be the counsel which the atheist and the epicure give to the young man, the poisonous suggestions against which Solomon, in the close of the verse, prescribes a powerful antidote. But it is more emphatic if we take it, as it is commonly understood, by way of irony, like that of Elijah to the priests of Baal (Cry aloud, for he is a god), or of Micaiah to Ahab (Go to Ramoth-Gilead, and prosper), or of Christ to his disciples, Sleep on now. "Rejoice, O young man! in thy youth, live a merry life, follow thy sports, and take thy pleasures; let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, cheer thee with its fancies and foolish hopes; entertain thyself with thy pleasing dreams; walk in the ways of thy heart; do whatever thou hast a mind to do, and stick at nothing that may gratify the sensual appetite. Quicquid libet, licet--Make thy will thy law. Walk in the ways of thy heart, and let thy heart walk after thy eyes, a rambling heart after a roving eye; what is pleasing in thy own eyes do it, whether it be pleasing in the eyes of God or no." Solomon speaks thus ironically to the young man to intimate, (1.) That this is that which he would do, and which he would fain have leave to do, in which he places his happiness and on which he sets his heart. (2.) That he wishes all about him would give him this counsel, would prophesy to him such smooth things as these, and cannot brook any advice to the contrary, but reckons those his enemies that bid him be sober and serious. (3.) To expose his folly, and the great absurdity of a voluptuous vicious course of life. The very description of it, if men would see things entirely, and judge of them impartially, is enough to show how contrary to reason those act that live such a life. The very opening of the cause is enough to determine it, without any argument. (4.) To show that if men give themselves to such a course of life as this it is just with God to give them up to it, to abandon them to their own heart's lusts, that they may walk in their own counsels,Hosea 4:7.

      2. A powerful check given to these vanities and pleasures: "Know thou that for all these things God shall bring thee into judgment, and duly consider that, and then live such a luxurious life if thou canst, if thou darest." This is a kolasterion--a corrective to the foregoing concession, and plucks in the reins he had laid on the neck of the young man's lust. "Know then, for a certainty, that, if thou dost take such a liberty as this, it will be thy everlasting ruin; thou hast to do with a God who will not let it go unpunished." Note, (1.) There is a judgment to come. (2.) We must every one of us be brought into judgment, however we may now put far from us that evil day. (3.) We shall be reckoned with for all our carnal mirth and sensual pleasures in that day. (4.) It is good for all, but especially for young people, to know and consider this, that they may not, by the indulgence of their youthful lusts, treasure up unto themselves wrath against that day of wrath, the wrath of the Lamb.

      3. A word of caution and exhortation inferred from all this, Ecclesiastes 11:10; Ecclesiastes 11:10. Let young people look to themselves and manage well both their souls and their bodies, their heart and their flesh. (1.) Let them take care that their minds be not lifted up with pride, nor disturbed with anger, or any sinful passion: Remove sorrow, or anger, from thy heart; the word signifies any disorder or perturbation of the mind. Young people are apt to be impatient of check and control, to vex and fret at any thing that is humbling and mortifying to them, and their proud hearts rise against every thing that crosses and contradicts them. They are so set upon that which is pleasing to sense that they cannot bear any thing that is displeasing, but it goes with sorrow to their heart. Their pride often disquiets them, and makes them uneasy. "Put that away, and the love of the world, and lay thy expectations low from the creature, and then disappointments will not be occasions of sorrow and anger to thee." Some by sorrow here understand that carnal mirth described Ecclesiastes 11:9; Ecclesiastes 11:9, the end of which will be bitterness and sorrow. Let them keep at a distance from every thing which will be sorrow in the reflection. (2.) Let them take care that their bodies be not defiled by intemperance, uncleanness, or any fleshly lusts: "Put away evil from the flesh, and let not the members of thy body be instruments of unrighteousness. The evil of sin will be the evil of punishment, and that which thou art fond of, as good for the flesh, because it gratifies the appetites of it, will prove evil, and hurtful to it, and therefore put it far from thee, the further the better."

      III. The preacher, to enforce his admonition both to old and young, urges, as an effectual argument, that which is the great argument of his discourse, the vanity of all present things, their uncertainty and insufficiency. 1. He reminds old people of this (Ecclesiastes 11:8; Ecclesiastes 11:8): All that comes is vanity; yea, though a man live many years and rejoice in them all, All that has come already, and all that is yet to come, how much soever men promise themselves from the concluding scenes, it is all vanity. What will be will do no more to make men happy than what has been. All that come into the world are vanity; they are altogether so, at their best estate. 2. He reminds young people of this: Childhood and youth are vanity. The dispositions and actions of childhood and youth have in them a great deal of impertinence and iniquity, sinful vanity, which young people have need to watch against and get cured. The pleasures and advantages of childhood and youth have in them no certainty, satisfaction, nor continuance. They are passing away; these flowers will soon wither, and these blossoms fall; let them therefore be knit into good fruit, which will continue and abound to a good account.

Bibliographical Information
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Ecclesiastes 11:8". "Henry's Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​mhm/​ecclesiastes-11.html. 1706.