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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Ecclesiastes 9:3

This is an evil in all that is done under the sun, that there is one fate for all men. Furthermore, the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil and insanity is in their hearts throughout their lives. Afterwards they go to the dead.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Death;   Depravity of Man;   Heart;   Thompson Chain Reference - Evil;   Fulness;   Heart;   Insanity;   Sin;   Sinful;   The Topic Concordance - Evil;   Heart;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Heart, Character of the Unrenewed;  
Dictionaries:
Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Sheol;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Madness;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Ecclesiastes, the Book of;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Ecclesiastes, Book of;   Fate;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Heart;  
Encyclopedias:
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Chance;   Event;   Hap;   Mad;   Wisdom;  
Devotionals:
Every Day Light - Devotion for August 24;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

Verse Ecclesiastes 9:3. The heart of the sons of men is full of evil — No wonder then that the curse of God should be frequent in the earth.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 9:3". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/ecclesiastes-9.html. 1832.

Bridgeway Bible Commentary


Life’s opportunities (9:1-12)

A person may believe that life is under the control of God, but still not know whether the experiences one meets in life are a sign of God’s pleasure or a sign of his anger. The same fate, death, comes to all (9:1-3). Good people have no advantage over the bad. The only advantage is that of the living over the dead. The living can still do things, but the dead are useless and forgotten (4-6).
Therefore, people should enjoy life to the full while they have the opportunity, as there will be no further opportunity when they are dead. Festive occasions, marital relations and daily work are all part of the order that God has instituted for human society, and he wants people to enjoy them (7-10). Much in life seems to depend on chance. Those who deserve success may miss out because of some misfortune; those who do not deserve defeat may be overtaken by calamity (11-12).

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 9:3". "Brideway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bbc/ecclesiastes-9.html. 2005.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Compare Ecclesiastes 8:11. The seeming indiscriminateness of the course of events tends to encourage evil-disposed men in their folly.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 9:3". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/ecclesiastes-9.html. 1870.

Chuck Smith Bible Commentary

Chapter 9

For all this I considered in my heart even to declare all this, that the righteous, and the wise, and their works, are in the hand of God: no man knows either love or hatred by all that is before them. All things come alike to all: there is one event to the righteous, and to the wicked; to the good and to the clean, and to the unclean; to him that sacrificeth, and to him that sacrificeth not: as is the good, so is the sinner; and he that sweareth, as he that fears an oath. This is an evil among all things that are done under the sun, that there is one event unto all: yea, also the heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live, and after that they go to the dead ( Ecclesiastes 9:1-3 ).

So one thing happens to everybody--they die whether you're good or bad, sacrifice or don't sacrifice. It doesn't matter. You're all going to die. And as far as Solomon was concerned, that was horrible. If all of your wisdom can't cause you to escape death, all of your wealth can't cause you to escape death, how dies the rich man? As the poor. How dies the wise? As the fool. They all die.

You can't escape death was the conclusion of his human wisdom, but Jesus taught us how to escape death. Jesus said, "He who lives and believes in Me shall never die" ( John 11:26 ). You can escape death by living and believing in Jesus Christ. But the human mind, human wisdom won't bring you to that. It takes the revelation of God. And if you're only coming at life from the human level and trying to find God from the human level, you'll never make it. God must reveal Himself to you by His Spirit. And God has revealed Himself through His Word. And God has revealed, "And this is the record, that God has given to us eternal life and this life is in the Son, and he who has the Son has life" ( 1 John 5:11-12 ). "He that lives and believes in Me," Jesus said, "will never die."

For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope: for a living dog is better than a dead lion ( Ecclesiastes 9:4 ).

I guess so.

For the living know that they shall die: but the dead don't know any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten ( Ecclesiastes 9:5 ).

Now those who teach the annihilation of the soul immediately turn to this as their scriptural proof. The book of Ecclesiastes, a book that deals with human reason, human intellect apart from God. And they pick out this scripture to prove soul annihilation. "For the living know that they shall die, but the dead know nothing, neither have they any more reward. For the memory of them is forgotten." And then in verse Ecclesiastes 9:9 , their second proof text. No, I beg your pardon. The second text is right in here somewhere close.

But anyway, Jesus tells us that there was a certain rich man who fared sumptuously every day. Moreover, there was a poor man who was daily brought at his gate, full of sores, begging bread and eating bread that fell from the rich man's table. And the poor man died and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom. And the rich man also died, and in hell, lifted up his eyes being in torment and said, "Father Abraham, have mercy on me and send Lazarus unto me that he may take his finger and dip it in water and touch my tongue, for I am tormented in this heat." And Abraham said unto him, "Son, remember that in thy lifetime you had good things." Now that's what Jesus said. The consciousness that exists after death.

Solomon with human reason and understanding said, "But the dead don't know anything." This guy knew that his tongue was tormented, he knew Lazarus, and he knew that he had brothers back on earth who were still living sinful lives. And he could remember his past sinful life. Now you have to either accept the word of Jesus or the word of Solomon in a backslidden state as he is trying to find the reason and purpose of life apart from God, life under the sun. It is wrong to take the book of Ecclesiastes for biblical doctrine. Better to turn to the words of Christ. He surely knew much better than did Solomon in his backslidden state.

Also their love [that is, of the dead], and their hatred, and their envy, [is forgotten] and it's perished [annihilated]; neither have they any more a portion for ever of any thing that is done under the sun ( Ecclesiastes 9:6 ).

They're through. It's over. It's all... it's the end.

Go thy way, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart; for God now accepts your works. Let your garments be always white; and let your head lack no ointment. Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest [all the days of your life] all the days of your empty life, which he hath given you under the sun, all the days of your emptiness: for that is your portion in this life, and in thy labor which you take under the sun ( Ecclesiastes 9:7-9 ).

That's all you're going to get, man, so you might as well go for it. That's life.

Whatsoever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave ( Ecclesiastes 9:10 ),

That's their other proof text. "No work, device, knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going." It's not what Jesus said.

I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happens to them all ( Ecclesiastes 9:11 ).

There is no purpose in life. There is no guiding hand in life. It's all a matter of time and chance. That's his conclusion. That is not a Scriptural doctrine. Only Solomon's conclusion of looking at things. Life is just time and chance. It doesn't matter how swift or slow, weak or strong, wise or foolish. Life is just time and chance.

For a man also knows not his time: as the fish that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare; so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them. This wisdom have I seen also under the sun, and it seemed great to me ( Ecclesiastes 9:12-13 ):

Now this is what I observed. It seemed like a great thing.

There was a little city, and few men within it; and there came a great king against it, and besieged it, and he built great bulwarks against it: Now there was in this little city found a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same poor man. Then I said, Wisdom is better than strength: nevertheless the poor man's wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard. The words of wise men are heard in quiet more than the cry of him that rules among fools. Wisdom is better than the weapons of war: but one sinner destroys much good ( Ecclesiastes 9:14-18 ).

So his conclusions of observing a city spared by a wise man. "





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Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 9:3". "Chuck Smith Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/csc/ecclesiastes-9.html. 2014.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

1. The future of the righteous on earth 9:1-10

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 9:3". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/ecclesiastes-9.html. 2012.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

In the sense just explained, all share the same fate. No one knows what God may send him or her. "Clean" (Ecclesiastes 9:2) means ritually clean. Because we do not know what our fate will be, we may yield to temptation to sin (Ecclesiastes 9:3). Everyone experiences both love and hate in his life, though in differing proportion, and everyone eventually dies.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 9:3". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/ecclesiastes-9.html. 2012.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

This [is] an evil among all [things] that are done under the sun, that [there is] one event unto all,.... A very great evil, a very sore one, the worst of evils. Not an evil, as the providence of God is concerned with it, who does no evil; nor is there any unrighteousness in him; he is righteous in all his ways: but this is an evil, and distressing thing, to the minds of good men; see Psalms 73:2; and is what bad men make an ill use of, to harden themselves in sin, and to despise religion as an unprofitable thing,

Job 21:14;

yea, also the heart of the sons of men is full of evil: they are naturally full of evil, of all unrighteousness and wickedness, what comes out of them show it; and because the same things happen to good and bad men, and the wicked pass with impunity, and are outwardly happy as others, or more so, their hearts are fully set in them to do evil, Ecclesiastes 8:11;

and madness is in their heart while they live; or "madnesses" x: every sin is madness; for who but a madman would stretch out his hand against God, and strengthen himself against the Almighty, and run upon him? who but a madman would rush into sin in the manner he does, and expose himself to dangers and death, even eternal death? Wicked men are mad upon their lusts, and mad against the saints, and all that is good; this insanity is in their hearts, and shows itself in their lives, and continues with them as long as they live, unless called by grace;

and after that [they go] to the dead; after all the madness of their lives, they die and go into the state of the dead, and are among which refers not so much to the interment of bodies in the grave, as the company with which their separate spirits are; they go not to the righteous dead, but to the wicked; see Proverbs 2:18; so Alshech; they go to the dead; not to the righteous, who, in their death, or when dead are called living, but, as Jarchi observes, at their end they go down to hell. The Targum is,

"after the end of a man, it is reserved for him that he be corrected with the dead, according to the judgment (or desert) of sins.''

x הוללות "insaniae", Montanus, Mercerus, Drusius, Amama, Gejerus, Rambachius; "omnis insania", Junius & Tremellius.

Copyright Statement
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 9:3". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/ecclesiastes-9.html. 1999.

Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

Mysteries in Providence.

      1 For all this I considered in my heart even to declare all this, that the righteous, and the wise, and their works, are in the hand of God: no man knoweth either love or hatred by all that is before them.   2 All things come alike to all: there is one event to the righteous, and to the wicked; to the good and to the clean, and to the unclean; to him that sacrificeth, and to him that sacrificeth not: as is the good, so is the sinner; and he that sweareth, as he that feareth an oath.   3 This is an evil among all things that are done under the sun, that there is one event unto all: yea, also the heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live, and after that they go to the dead.

      It has been observed concerning those who have pretended to search for the philosophers' stone that, though they could never find what they sought for, yet in the search they have hit upon many other useful discoveries and experiments. Thus Solomon, when, in the close of the foregoing chapter, he applied his heart to know the work of God, and took a great deal of pains to search into it, though he despaired of finding it out, yet he found out that which abundantly recompensed him for the search, and gave him some satisfaction, which he here gives us; for therefore he considered all this in his heart, and weighed it deliberately, that he might declare it for the good of others. Note, What we are to declare we should first consider; think twice before we speak once; and what we have considered we should then declare. I believed, therefore have I spoken.

      The great difficulty which Solomon met with in studying the book of providence was the little difference that is made between good men and bad in the distribution of comforts and crosses, and the disposal of events. This has perplexed the minds of many wise and contemplative men. Solomon discourses of it in Ecclesiastes 9:1-3, and, though he does not undertake to find out this work of God, yet he says that which may prevent its being a stumbling-block to us.

      I. Before he describes the temptation in its strength he lays down a great and unquestionable truth, which he resolves to adhere to, and which, if firmly believed, will be sufficient to break the force of the temptation. This has been the way of God's people in grappling with this difficulty. Job, before he discourses of this matter, lays down the doctrine of God's omniscience (Job 24:1), Jeremiah the doctrine of his righteousness (Jeremiah 12:1), another prophet that of his holiness (Habakkuk 1:13), the psalmist that of his goodness and peculiar favour to his own people (Psalms 73:1), and that is it which Solomon here fastens upon and resolves to abide by, that, though good and evil seem to be dispensed promiscuously, yet God has a particular care of and concern for his own people: The righteous and the wise, and their works, are in the hand of God, under his special protection and guidance; all their affairs are managed by him for their good; all their wise and righteous actions are in his hand, to be recompensed in the other world, though not in this. They seem as if they were given up into the hand of their enemies, but it is not so. Men have no power against them but what is given them from above. The events that affect them do not come to pass by chance, but all according to the will and counsel of God, which will turn that to be for them which seemed to be most against them. Let this make us easy, whatever happens, that all God's saints are in his hand, Deuteronomy 33:3; John 10:29; Psalms 31:15.

      II. He lays this down for a rule, that the love and hatred of God are not to be measured and judged of by men's outward condition. If prosperity were a certain sign of God's love, and affliction of his hatred, then it might justly be an offence to us to see the wicked and godly fare alike. But the matter is not so: No man knows either love or hatred by all that is before him in this world, by those things that are the objects of sense. These we may know by that which is within us; if we love God with all our heart, thereby we may know that he loves us, as we may know likewise that we are under his wrath if we be governed by that carnal mind which is enmity to him. These will be known by that which shall be hereafter, by men's everlasting state; it is certain that men are happy or miserable according as they are under the love or hatred of God, but not according as they are under the smiles or frowns of the world; and therefore if God loves a righteous man (as certainly he does) he is happy, though the world frown upon him; and if he hates a wicked man (as certainly he does) he is miserable, though the world smile upon him. Then the offence of this promiscuous distribution of events has ceased.

      III. Having laid down these principles, he acknowledges that all things come alike to all; so it has been formerly, and therefore we are not to think it strange if it be so now, if it be so with us and our families. Some make this, and all that follows to Ecclesiastes 9:13; Ecclesiastes 9:13, to be the perverse reasoning of the atheists against the doctrine of God's providence; but I rather take it to be Solomon's concession, which he might the more freely make when he had fixed those truths which are sufficient to guard against any ill use that may be made of what he grants. Observe here (Ecclesiastes 9:2; Ecclesiastes 9:2),

      1. The great difference that there is between the characters of the righteous and the wicked, which, in several instances, are set the one over-against the other, to show that, though all things come alike to all, yet that does not in the least confound the eternal distinction between moral good and evil, but that remains immutable. (1.) The righteous are clean, have clean hands and pure hearts; the wicked are unclean, under the dominion of unclean lusts, pure perhaps in their own eyes, but not cleansed from their filthiness, God will certainly put a difference between the clean and the unclean, the precious and the vile, in the other world, though he does not seem to do so in this. (2.) The righteous sacrifice, that is, they make conscience of worshipping God according to his will, both with inward and outward worship; the wicked sacrifice not, that is, they live in the neglect of God's worship and grudge to part with any thing for his honour. What is the Almighty, that they should serve him? (3.) The righteous are good, good in God's sight, they do good in the world; the wicked are sinners, violating the laws of God and man, and provoking to both. (4.) The wicked man swears, has no veneration for the name of God, but profanes it by swearing rashly and falsely; but the righteous man fears an oath, swears not, but is sworn, and then with great reverence; he fears to take an oath, because it is a solemn appeal to God as a witness and judge; he fears, when he has taken a oath, to break it, because God is righteous who takes vengeance.

      2. The little difference there is between the conditions of the righteous and the wicked in this world: There is one event to both. Is David rich? So is Nabal. Is Joseph favoured by his prince? So is Haman. Is Ahab killed in a battle? So is Josiah. Are the bad figs carried to Babylon? So are the good, Jeremiah 24:1. There is a vast difference between the original, the design, and the nature, of the same event to the one and to the other; the effects and issues of it are likewise vastly different; the same providence to the one is a savour of life unto life, to the other of death unto death, though, to outward appearance, it is the same.

      IV. He owns this to be a very great grievance to those that are wise and good: "This is an evil, the greatest perplexity, among all things that are done under the sun (Ecclesiastes 9:3; Ecclesiastes 9:3); nothing has given me more disturbance than this, that there is one event unto all." It hardens atheists, and strengthens the hands of evil-doers; for therefore it is that the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil and fully set in them to do evil,Ecclesiastes 8:11; Ecclesiastes 8:11. When they see that there is one event to the righteous and the wicked they wickedly infer thence that it is all one to God whether they are righteous or wicked, and therefore they stick at nothing to gratify their lusts.

      V. For the further clearing of this great difficulty, as he began this discourse with the doctrine of the happiness of the righteous (whatever they may suffer, they and their works are in the hands of God, and therefore in good hands, they could not be in better), so he concludes with the doctrine of the misery of the wicked; however they may prosper, madness is in their heart while they live, and after that they go to the dead. Envy not the prosperity of evil-doers, for, 1. They are now madmen, and all the delights they seem to be blessed with are but like the pleasant dreams and fancies of a distracted man. They are mad upon their idols (Jeremiah 50:38), are mad against God's people, Acts 26:11. When the prodigal repented, it is said, He came to himself (Luke 15:17), which intimates that he had been beside himself before. 2. They will shortly be dead men. They make a mighty noise and bustle while they live, but after awhile, they go to the dead, and there is an end of all their pomp and power; they will then be reckoned with for all their madness and outrage in sin. Though, on this side death, the righteous and the wicked seem alike, on the other side death there will be a vast difference between them.

Copyright Statement
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
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Ecclesiastes 9:3". "Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/ecclesiastes-9.html. 1706.