If you haven't seen it already, I would recommend "The Chosen"! The first episode of Season 2 can be viewed by clicking here!

Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Ecclesiastes 9:7

Go then, eat your bread in happiness and drink your wine with a cheerful heart; for God has already approved your works.
New American Standard Version
    Jump to:
  1. Adam Clarke Commentary
  2. Bridgeway Bible Commentary
  3. Coffman Commentaries on the Bible
  4. Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible
  5. E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes
  6. Brian Bell Commentary on the Bible
  7. Chuck Smith Bible Commentary
  8. John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible
  9. Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable
  10. Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable
  11. Mark Dunagan Commentary on the Bible
  12. Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
  13. Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
  14. Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
  15. Arno Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
  16. G. Campbell Morgan's Exposition on the Whole Bible
  17. John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible
  18. Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures
  19. Geneva Study Bible
  20. George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary
  21. Ernst Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms
  22. Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible
  23. Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
  24. The People's Bible by Joseph Parker
  25. Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments
  26. John Trapp Complete Commentary
  27. Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary
  28. Kingcomments on the Whole Bible
  29. The Popular Commentary by Paul E. Kretzmann
  30. Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible
  31. Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible
  32. Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible
  33. Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
  34. Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
  35. Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
  36. Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary
  37. Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary
  38. Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
  39. Sermon Bible Commentary
  40. The Biblical Illustrator
  41. The Biblical Illustrator
  42. The Biblical Illustrator
  43. Expositor's Bible Commentary
  44. Expositor's Bible Commentary
  45. The Pulpit Commentaries
  46. Treasury of Scripture Knowledge
  47. Wesley's Explanatory Notes
  48. Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Bible Study Resources

Nave's Topical Bible - Contentment;   Thompson Chain Reference - Epicureans;   Joy;   Joy-Sorrow;   Merriment;   Mirth;   Pleasure, Worldly;   Self-Indulgence-Self-Denial;   Worldly;   The Topic Concordance - Deeds;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Anointing;  
Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Bread;   Food;   Grapes;   Joy;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Death, Mortality;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Banquets;   Ecclesiastes, the Book of;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Ecclesiastes, Book of;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Ecclesiastes;  
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Ecclesiastes, or the Preacher;   Wine;   Wisdom;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Atonement;   Bat Ḳol;   Essenes;   Happiness;   Joy;   Samuel ben Jonah;   Teḥina, Abba;  
Every Day Light - Devotion for August 25;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy - Do not vex and perplex yourselves with the dispensations and mysteries of Providence; enjoy the blessings which God has given you, and live to his glory; and then God will accept your works.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 9:7". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 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 Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 9:7". "Brideway Bible Commentary". 2005.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible


"Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God hath already accepted thy works. Let thy garments be always white; and let not thy head lack oil. Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of thy life of vanity, which he (God) hath given thee under the sun, all thy days of vanity; for that is thy portion in life, and in thy labor wherein thou laborest under the sun. Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, that do with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in Sheol, whither thou goest."

This, of course, is Epicureanism. "Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die." This philosophy is absolutely worthless, unless death is the end of everything. As Paul stated it, "If the dead are not raised up, let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die" (1 Corinthians 15:32). Solomon has repeatedly advocated this doctrine, not only here, but in Ecclesiastes 1:9; 1:15; 3:1-9; and in Ecclesiastes 3:14-15. This was evidently the position that he accepted during the days of his apostasy. One question that arises from this interpretation is that of whether or not Solomon ever repented and turned to God as the Jews allege that he did. We find no Biblical support of that idea anywhere. Nevertheless, that is a necessary corollary of our interpretation of Ecclesiastes.

"God hath already accepted thy works" (Ecclesiastes 9:7) "... Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest ... which he (God) hath given thee" (Ecclesiastes 9:9). Here we have a glimpse of the penitent and restored Solomon honoring God for his marvelous gifts and praising him for the blessings given to the sons of men, even while he is still relating the stubborn and rebellious things that he had once believed. Note that he referred twice in these few verses to life as "vanity." There is also here a favorable mention of marriage and the loving of one wife "all the days of thy vanity" (Ecclesiastes 9:9), which is surprising enough from an author like Solomon.

The great value of Ecclesiastes is that it elaborates fully the absolute worthlessness and vanity of life on earth by any man who lives without the fear of God and submission to the divine authority of our Creator.

Copyright Statement
Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 9:7". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Read these six verses connectedly, in order to arrive at the meaning of the writer; and compare Ecclesiastes 2:1-12.

After the description Ecclesiastes 9:5-6 of the portionless condition of the dead, the next thought which occurs is that the man who is prosperous and active should simply enjoy his portion all through this life Ecclesiastes 9:7-10; and then Ecclesiastes 9:11-12 follows the correcting thought (see Ecclesiastes 3:1-15 note), introduced as usual Ecclesiastes 2:12; Ecclesiastes 4:1, Ecclesiastes 4:7 by “I returned,” namely, that the course of events is disposed and regulated by another will than that of man.

The person addressed is one whose life of labor is already pleasing to God, and who bears visible tokens of God‘s favor.

Ecclesiastes 9:7

Now accepteth - Rather: “already has pleasure in.” Joy (the marginal reference note) is regarded as a sign of the approbation and favor of God.

Ecclesiastes 9:8

White garments and perfume are simply an expressive sign of joy.

Ecclesiastes 9:10

The works which we carry on here with the combined energies of body and soul come to an end in the hour of death, when the soul enters a new sphere of existence, and body and soul cease to act together. Compare John 9:4.

Device - See Ecclesiastes 7:25 note.

Ecclesiastes 9:11

Chance - Or, “incident,” that which comes to us from without, one of the external events described in Ecclesiastes 2:14 note.

Ecclesiastes 9:12

Time - See Ecclesiastes 3:1 ff.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 9:7". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

wine. Hebrew. yayin. App-27.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 9:7". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". 1909-1922.

Brian Bell Commentary on the Bible

  1. Intro:
    1. Death is Predictable but Life Isn’t. - Death is a Fact of Life. Life is…
      1. Thomas Carlyle called life a little gleam of time between two eternities.
      2. Seneca said, as a tale, so is life; not how long it is, but how good it is.
    2. Let’s remember, Solomon is coming to these conclusions using only observable data found in the material universe. And that the finite cannot understand the infinite.
  2. FACING DEATH (1-6)
    1. I guess you can say regarding God, He’s got the whole world in His hands. (1)
    2. (2) Yes we share a common destiny on earth (NIV) in that all go to the grave. But, we DO NOT share a common eternity.
      1. Like the popular epitaph: Pause stranger when you pass by, As you are now, so once was I. As I am now, so you will be, So prepare for death & follow me. (an unknown passer by scratched this reply below) To follow you I’m not content. Until I know which way you went.
    3. Death should energize you not paralyze you.
      1. Phil.1:20-26 And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. 22 But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. 23 I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. 24 But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live. 25 Knowing this, I am convinced that I will remain alive so I can continue to help all of you grow and experience the joy of your faith. 26 And when I come to you again, you will have even more reason to take pride in Christ Jesus because of what he is doing through me.
    4. Death is not an accident, but an appointment.
      1. is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment
      2. So, we all must face honestly & soberly The Last Enemy...DEATH.
        1. Believers have this confidence: Sins wages is death, the Gift of God is eternal life. Promise of resurrection to glory. To ever be with him. That where He is there we will be also. The sting of death is taken care of for us. [Unbelievers don’t hav this confidence]
        2. They say when death comes to a family it doesn’t create problems, it reveals them.
    5. (4-6) Lions were respected as majestic, powerful predators. Dogs were looked down upon as despised scavengers (today we’d use…well cat’s)
      1. This group doesn’t take the plunge into sin, they set their face to their goal, lean forward, & chant, Where there is life, there’s hope.
      2. I asked an old man I met in a hospital elevator, how you doing? Well, I can still sit up & feed myself. It’s a good day.
      3. We can learn from this to seize opportunities while we live.
        1. ​​​​​​​Don’t blindly hope for your future.
        2. Death ends your opportunities here on earth. Like Jesus said I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. Jn.9:4
  3. FACING LIFE (7-10)
    1. ​​​​​​​With Enjoyment
      1. ​​​​​​​Yes death is coming, but God gives us gifts to enjoy them.
      2. Note: these things listed aren’t exotic pleasures in far away places. Instead they are common experiences of home life. [feast, family, work]
    2. The author’s call to enjoy life does not grant permission to live in self-indulgence.
      1. We know pleasure for the sake of pleasure provides no value.
      2. We know a life of wealth and possessions does not guarantee happiness.
      3. We also note enjoyment is not to be based on...perfect circumstances in your life, or on him or on her, on a raise at work, on getting the house, on an individual in your past finally telling the truth, on a certain situation changing, on a turn of events, on a change of environment.
      4. Rather, this is an invitation to enjoy life to its fullest, while being content with what God has given, while recognizing God’s supremacy & human limitation.
    3. Accepted ratsah - often translated as approved - can also mean to take pleasure in.
      1. ​​​​​​​The ability to enjoy life is not just a gift from God, it is His desire.
    4. Enjoy Relaxing Meals (7)
      1. Jews custom: Early snack. Brunch (10-noon). And their main meal (sunset).
        1. Main meal: after all work was done. Consisted of bread & wine, often milk & cheese, few veg’s or fruit depending on season, sometimes fish (meat more expensive).
      2. Solomon knew...not all meals are enjoyed.
      3. Prov.15:17 Better is a dinner of herbs/broccoli where love is, Than a fatted calf/steak with hatred.
      4. Prov.17:1 Better is a dry morsel (crouton) with quietness, Than a house full of feasting with strife.
        1. ​​​​​​​What was your most memorable meal? (1st date, Sea Fare Inn, Whittier)
        2. What was your worst meal? (when stomach in knots, couldn’t enjoy)
      5. Meals weren’t only about food but fellowshipIt was a communal act of friendship & commitment.
        1. ​​​​​​​Love is the most important thing on any family menu. It turns an ordinary meal into a banquet.
    5. Enjoy all Occasions (8)
    6. Let your garments always be white & let your head lack no oil – make every occasion a special occasion, even if its ordinary & routine. Phil.4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always.
    7. The wealthy could afford to keep their garments white. The poor have to keep one set they only wear on special occasions (Haiti).
      1. White garments became an emblem of Joy & Festivity.
      2. Rev.3:4,5 You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name​​​​​​​ from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.
    8. Enjoy Your Marriage (9)
      1. Your vain life - The word hevel literally means breath or vapor.
        1. Normally the author uses this term to indicate senselessness or absurdity.
        2. Here, the author uses its literal meaning to emphasize the brevity of life.
      2. Whom you love – you may fall out of like with them, but the one in whom you’ve covenanted to love, till death do you part.
        1. It is possible to feel you were madly in love with someone, when it is really just an attraction to someone who can meet your needs and address insecurities and doubts you have about yourself. And that kind of relationship, you will demand and control rather than serve and give. (Timothy/Kathy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, pg.77.)
          1. Must move from a consumer relationship to a covenantal relationship. One that doesn’t promise their current love for each other, but one that covenants to be loving, faithful, & true to the other person in the future, regardless of undulating(wave) internal feelings or external circumstances.
        2. I love the illustration Timothy/Kathy Keller use in their book, The Meaning of Marriage (Read pg.153, Bridge Analogy)
          1. Like Ulysses putting wax in his sailors ears, tying himself to the mast, & telling his men to keep him on course whatever he keep him from giving into the beautiful but dangerous Sirens. Your marriage cov, your oath to the world, your oath before God, keeps you tied to the mast until your mind clears.
      3. It might seem weird getting marriage counseling from one who abused its system. Yet what he says about it is always true. (inspired by the HS)
        1. Note: it doesn’t say, Live joyfully with your wives.
        2. His wives seduced him away from the Lord, & he paid for it. Maybe this is his later on in life confession. Now I know better!
    9. Enjoy Your Work (10)
      1. The Jews saw work not as a curse but as stewardship.
      2. This verse gives us a great work ethic.
        1. Col.3:17 applies this to the N.T. Christian, And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
      3. Have you exchanged leisure meals, for fast food & fast schedules?
      4. Have you exchanged enjoying all occasions, for living for the weekend?
      5. Have you exchanged a faithful loving marriage, for a quick test drive with a different model?
      6. Have you exchanged hard work, for shortcuts to help you avoid work, & run after Get rich quick schemes?
        1. Little brother found out in the prodigal parable, Everything I really wanted was at home in my Fathers house.
    1. ​​​​​​​Life is unpredictable, but it need not be irrational.
    2. Chance pega - occurrence or event. Not chance like the role of the die.
      1. These times & occurrences lie beyond the control of man, & this is, in the final result, conditioned by God.
      2. Christians don’t lean on luck, nor champion for chance, because our confidence is in the loving Providence of God.
    3. This verse provides more examples of injustice: the swift should win the race, and the strong should win the battle.
      1. ​​​​​​​However, this is not always the case. Often, time and chance affect the outcome more than skill or ability.
    4. Our abilities are no guarantee of success
      1. ​​​​​​​It is generally true that the fastest runner will win...but, we’ve seen upsets, like when I lost in a foot race to Dan Effinger 1998 family camp. But I’m not bitter.
      2. The strongest soldier or best equipped army wins the battle...but, we’ve seen upsets.
      3. The best skilled gets the best jobs. Yet, the same gifted people can miserably fail.
      4. God is in control of time & chance/occurrence/events in our lives.
    5. (12) You never know when your plans will be thwarted.
      1. Events happen all of a sudden, & your like a fish caught in a net.
      2. James 4:13-17 NLT Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog - it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” Otherwise you are boasting about your own pretentious plans, and all such boasting is evil. Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.
  5. FACING FOLLY (13-18)
    1. ​​​​​​​Our opportunities are no guarantee of success.
    2. Here is an example that a battle is not always to the strong.
    3. Vs.14,15 is a OT parable.
      1. ​​​​​​​This wise poor man wasn’t properly recognized for his victory. But still wisdom is better than strength. (16)
    4. (18b) One sinner destroys much good - yep, just ask Adam & Eve. Just ask the spouse that blew up their marriage. Just ask the addict that after months of sobriety returns to his crutch just one more time.
    5. Let God give you wisdom to use each day profitably for His Glory.
Copyright Statement
These files are the property of Brian Bell.
Text Courtesy of Calvary Chapel of Murrieta. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Bell, Brian. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 9:7". "Brian Bell Commentary". 2017.

Chuck Smith Bible Commentary


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. "

Copyright Statement
Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 9:7". "Chuck Smith Bible Commentary". 2014.

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible

Live Worthily While You May

1-3. The future is in God's hands. Good and bad alike must die.

1. Considered in] RV 'laid to.' Declare] RV 'explore.' No man.. before them] RV 'whether it be love or hatred, man knoweth it not; all is before them.' Whether God's dealings with them shall be such as to suggest His favour or displeasure is unknown, because the part of life not yet traversed cannot be penetrated.

2. There seems no discrimination in the lot of men.

4. A living dog] Life has at any rate one advantage over death. The miserable hope that either positive happiness, or at least better fortune than in the past, may lie before them. The saying receives its point from the contempt with which a dog is regarded in the East.

5. The living know] A conscious recognition of the inevitable is better than the oblivion which belongs to death.

7-10. Couple enjoyment and work.

8. White] as symbolical of cheerfulness (2 Chronicles 5:12), and perhaps here, as later (e.g. Revelation 3:4.), of purity. White was constantly worn at feasts. Ointment] Sweet fragrant unguents for perfuming the person.

10. Be not half-hearted in any duty. The present alone is yours: cp. 'in diligence not slothful' (Romans 12:11 RV). In St. Paul's day the darkness had been lighted up, and this precept consequently transformed in the words which close the great Resurrection chapter (1 Corinthians 15:58).

11-18. Results must be left to God. Wisdom is better than strength, yet it is despised.

17. Are heard in quiet] RV'spoken in quiet are heard.' There are times when men's voices are hushed to listen to wise counsel.

18. One sinner, etc.] One man's evil deed may bring to nought wide-reaching purposes of good.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 9:7". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". 1909.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

1. The future of the righteous on earth9:1-10

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 9:7". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

Again Solomon recommended the present enjoyment of the good things God allows us to experience in life (cf. Ecclesiastes 2:24-26; Ecclesiastes 3:12-13; Ecclesiastes 3:22; Ecclesiastes 5:18-19). This was his conclusion, since our future on the earth is uncertain, and since after we die, we cannot enjoy these things. In particular, we should enjoy food and drink ( Ecclesiastes 9:7), clean clothing and perfume ( Ecclesiastes 9:8), and marital companionship ( Ecclesiastes 9:9), among other of life"s legitimate pleasures. This list includes some luxuries as well as the necessities of life (cf. Ecclesiastes 5:19).

"God has already approved your works" ( Ecclesiastes 9:7) means such enjoyment is God"s will for us. This encouraging word does not contradict the fact that we are the stewards of all God entrusts to us. However, this verse should help us realize that it is not sinful to take pleasure in what God has given us, even some luxuries. We need to balance gratefulness and generosity, keeping some things and giving away others. This balance is not easy, but it is important.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 9:7". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

Mark Dunagan Commentary on the Bible

"Go then, eat your bread in happiness, and drink your wine with a cheerful heart; for God has already approved your works."

"eat your bread in happiness"-Far from being depressed or discouraged by the previous facts, Solomon exhorts the living to make the most of the wholesome pleasures of this life. "Go then"-Go to it then. "It is a summons to be up and doing and is directed against the tendency to brood and to ponder over problems" (Leupold p. 213).

"wine"-doesn"t mean go out and get drunk. Even denominational sources, such as the Theological Workbook Of The Old Testament, notes: "All the wine was light wine, i.e. not fortified with extra alcohol. Concentrated alcohol was only known in the Middle Ages when the Arabs invented distillation ("alcohol" is an Arabic word), so what is now called liquor or strong drink and the twenty per cent fortified wines were unknown in Bible times….To avoid drunkenness, mingling wine with water was practiced" (p. 376). In addition, many writers note that the Hebrew word translated "wine" (yayin), simply can refer to all stages of the juice of the grape. It can describe simple grape juice, or a thickened syrup, etc…It is a generic term, which depending on the context can mean either fermented or unfermented drink. In this verse it appears that wine simply means "drink", for obviously, "bread" applies to all things that a person might eat.

"with a cheerful heart"-Compare with ; 3:12-13,22; 5:18; 8:15 and 1 Timothy 4:3-4 "which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth".

Point To Note:

Note that the righteous man has been delivered from so many of the worries which plague other people. How many people are so worried about their health, so determined to live long, that they can"t enjoy the simple pleasures of today. How many people can"t even enjoy a good meal, because they are trying to analyze everything to death? Isn"t it ironic that a world bent on ignoring God and doing whatever it wants to do, has forfeited the ability to enjoy the simple and wholesome pleasures of each day? God doesn"t want the godly to be eating their meal in terror or dread. Notice how being a Christian helps you to be relaxed!

"for God has already approved your works"-hence the promise of this verse and the following, only applies to the righteous. God is telling the righteous man or woman, "I know that good and harm happen to all, and I know that from outward appearances, there are typically no clear outward signs of Divine approval or disapproval, but rest assured righteous man, long ago God has accepted your course of conduct, so persevere in that course and joyfully use what God has given you.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 9:7". "Mark Dunagan Commentaries on the Bible". 1999-2014.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(6, 7) Now.—Rather, long ago.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 9:7". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". 1905.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(7) Accepteth.—The thought has been expressed before (Ecclesiastes 2:24; Ecclesiastes 8:15), that earthly enjoyment is to be received as given by God’s favour.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 9:7". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". 1905.

Expositor's Dictionary of Texts

Ecclesiastes 9:2

It is verbally true, that in the sacred Scriptures it is written: As is the good, so is the sinner, and he that sweareth as he that feareth an oath. A man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, drink, and be merry, etc. But he who should repeat these words, and this assurance, to an ignorant man in the hour of his temptation, lingering at the door of an ale-house, or hesitating as to the testimony required of him in the court of justice, would, spite of this verbal truth, be a liar, and the murderer of his brother"s conscience.

—Coleridge, The Friend, v.

References.—IX:3.—G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p64. IX:7, 8.—J. Keble, Sermons for Ascension Day to Trinity Sunday, p315. J. Thomas, Myrtle Street Pulpit, vol. iii. p334. IX:8.—H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Common Life Religion, p117. S. Baring-Gould, Village Preaching for a Year (2Series), vol. ii. p226.

Ecclesiastes 9:9

Do you know what it is to love and to be loved? Do you know—not by hearsay merely, but by experience—this absorption of the life of one human being in another, the one man in the one woman, the one woman in the one man? For the time they, each to each, alike the centre and the sum, the very end and purpose of creation; the rest vague, phantasmal—they, each to each, the only abiding reality. For the time they, each through the other, possessors and interpreters of all things; this immense universe a setting merely, the sights and sounds, the glory and wonder of it, but ministers to their delight in one another. For them stare rise and set, and the wheat waves under the summer wind. For them the sea grows white westward, at evening, meeting the sky in long embrace. For them all fair pictures are painted; all songs sung; and even common things become instinct with a strange sacramental grace. For them the oracles are no longer dumb, the mysteries lie open, they walk with the gods.

This is the crown and triumph of the riddle of sex; wherein, for the time, the long torment, shame, and anguish of it is forgotten, so that man"s curse becomes, for the time, his most exquisite blessing—a blessing in which body and spirit equally participate.

—Lucas Malet.

It is not by renouncing the joys which lie close to us that we shall grow wise. As we grow wise, we unconsciously abandon the joys that now are beneath us.


See also Mark Rutherford"s Autobiography, p8 (Preface to second edition), and R. L. Stevenson"s lines on "The Celestial Surgeon" (in Underwoods). "I shall marry Charlotte, we shall live here together all our lives and die here," thought Barnabas, as he went up the hill. "I shall lie in my coffin in the north room, and it will all be over." But his heart leaped with joy. He stepped out proudly like a soldier in a battalion."

—M. E. Wilkins in Pembroke.

The Lapse of Time

Ecclesiastes 9:10

Life is ever crumbling away under us. What should we say to a Prayer of Manasseh, who was placed on some precipitous ground, which was ever crumbling under his feet, and affording less and less secure footing, yet was careless about it? Or what should we say to one who suffered some precious liquor to run from its receptacle into the thoroughfare of men, without a thought to stop it? who carelessly looked on and saw the waste of it, becoming greater and greater every minute? But what treasure can equal time? It is the seed of eternity: yet we suffer ourselves to go on, year after year, hardly using it at all in God"s service, or thinking it enough to give Him at most a tithe or a seventh of it, while we strenuously and heartily sow to the flesh, that from the flesh we may reap corruption. We try how little we can safely give to religion, instead of having the grace to give abundantly.

—J. H. Newman.

Ecclesiastes 9:10

Noble, upright, self-relying Toil! who that knows thy solid worth and value, would be ashamed of thy hard hands, and thy obscure tasks, thy humble cottage, and hard couch, and homely fare! Save for thee and thy lessons, man in society would everywhere sink into a sad compound of the fiend and the wild beast; and this fallen world would be as certainly a moral as a natural wilderness. But I little thought of the excellence of thy character and of thy teachings, when, with a heavy heart, I set out on a morning of early spring, to take my first lesson from thee in a sandstone quarry.

—Hugh Miller, My Schools and Schoolmasters, chap. viii.

Ecclesiastes 9:10

I lie down on my child"s grave and fill my mouth with the clay, and say nothing.... But then, dear Mosley, do not think that I do not react under the stroke: I am not merely passive. This is my action. Death teaches me to act thus—to cling with tenfold tenacity to those that remain. A man might, indeed, argue thus. The pain of separation from those we love is so intense that I will not love, or, at least, I will withdraw myself into a delicate suspension of bias, so that when the time comes I may not feel the pang, or hardly feel it. This would be the economical view, and a sufficiently base one. But I am taught by death to run the fullest flood into my family relations. The ground is this. He is gone: I have no certain ground whatever for expecting that that relation can be renewed. Therefore, I am thankful that; I actualized it intensely, ardently, and effectually, while it existed; and now I will do the same for what is left to me; nay, I will do much more; for I did not do enough. He and I might have been intertwined a great deal more, and that we were not appears to me now a great loss. In this, as in everything else, I accept the words of the Ecclesiast—"What thine hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for"—you know the rest.

—Letters of T. E. Brown, vol. I. pp88, 89.

Ecclesiastes 9:10

His career was one of unbroken shame. He did not drink, he was exactly honest, he was never rude to his employers, yet he was everywhere discharged. Bringing no interest to his duties, he brought no attention; his day was a tissue of things neglected and things done amiss; and from place to place and from town to town he carried the character of one thoroughly incompetent.

—R. L. Stevenson, The Ebb Tide, I.

See Ruskin"s Lectures on Art, p86.

Here on earth we are as soldiers, fighting in a foreign land, that understand not the plan of the campaign, and have no need to understand it; seeing well what is at our hand to be done. Let us do it like soldiers, with submission, with courage, with a heroic joy. Whatever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might.


References.—IX:10.—Penny Pulpit, No1605, p239. W. Brock, Midsummer Morning Sermons, p155. H. M. Butler, Harrow School Sermons, p398. J. H. Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. vii. p1. C. Bosanquet, Blossoms for the King"s Garden, p125. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. v. No259. Ibid. vol. xix. No1119. IX:10, 11.—J. C. M. Bellew, Sermons, vol. iii. p35.

Ecclesiastes 9:11

Between unarmed men the battle is to the strong, where the strong is no blunderer.

—George Eliot.

Borrow, writing in Lavengro of his father"s abilities and misfortunes, declares that, "with far inferior qualifications many a man has become a field-marshal or general... but the race is not always for the swift, nor the battle for the strong; indeed, I ought rather to say very seldom; certain it is that my father, with all his high military qualifications, never became emperor, field-marshal, or even general". See Jowett"s College Sermons, pp244 f.

The Race Not to the Swift

Ecclesiastes 9:11

I. One of the favourite words of Dr. John Brown—the gentle author of Rab and His Friends—one of the words that was often on his lips was the word unexpectedness. And as we look on the men whom we have known since childhood, and whose lives we have watched unrolling in the years, there are very few of us who cannot discern that unexpected element

a. We may trace our text through all kinds of achievement. You have but to think of the books by which we live, or of those lives of thought or action which are our richest heritage, to be face to face with the incalculable element which lies in the Divine method of surprise. There is a hand at work we cannot stay, and it hath exalted those of low degree.

b. Our text has singular significance in that universal search, the search for happiness. It is not those who have most to make them happy who always prove themselves the happy people.
And this is conspicuously true of Jesus Christ, the Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief. I like sometimes to contrast the Man of Nazareth with the Emperor who was reigning then, Tiberius.

c. Our text applies to the spiritual life, for not many wise, not many mighty are called. God hath chosen the weak things of the world to bring to naught those that are strong in battle. I know no sphere in human life where the element of unexpectedness so largely enters as in the sphere that we call spiritual, and in the movements and changes of the soul.

II. Let me suggest to you some of the moral values of this truth: (1) It is mighty to keep us from discouragement, and to cheer us when the lights are burning dim. It gives a chance to mediocre people, to commonplace and undistinguished thousands, when above all might and brilliance is a power that has a way of working to unexpected ends. (2) It is meant to wean us from all pride, and to keep us watchful, humble, and dependent (3) It clears the ground for God, and leaves a space to recognize Him in. If the strongest were sure of triumph in every battle there would be little room on the field for the Divine. Just because He reigns, the battle is not always to the strong.

—G. H. Morrison, The Wings of the Morning, p66.

References.—IX:11-18.—T. C. Finlayson, A Practical Exposition of Ecclesiastes, p213. R. Buchanan, Ecclesiastes; its Meaning and Lessons, p344. IX:12.—S. A. Brooke, Sermons (2Series), p178.

Ecclesiastes 9:14-15

Here the corruption of states is set forth, that esteem not virtue or merit longer than they have use of it.


See Spenser"s Ruines of Time, p422 f. Also Addison in The Spectator (No464).

Schopenhauer somewhere observes that "people in general have eyes and ears, but not much else—little judgment and even little memory. There are many services to the State quite beyond the range of their understanding."

References.—IX:14, 15.—J. Thomas, Myrtle Street Pulpit, vol. ii. p97. S. Baring-Gould, One Hundred Sermon-Sketches, p96. X:1.—Ibid. p10. X:7.—Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p140.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 9:7". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. 1910.

Arno Gaebelein's Annotated Bible


1. The common fate (Ecclesiastes 9:1-6)

2. Make the best of life (Ecclesiastes 9:7-10)

3. The great uncertainty (Ecclesiastes 9:11-12)

Ecclesiastes 9:1-6. Here is another conclusion. The righteous and the wise with their works are in the hands of God. One event is in store for all, for the righteous, the wicked, the good, the clean, the unclean, the one who sacrificeth and the one who sacrificeth not--the grave is the one common goal. In that goal there is the end of all human toil and ambition. But even with this knowledge that all go one way, and the certainty of it, man does not reckon with it at all; “the heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live.” They live on with madness in the heart; then comes death. Surely reason, dark reason, says “a living dog is better than a dead lion”; the dead lion has nothing left of all his majestic awe, but if man is alive, though he be as a dog, it is the better thing. Surely everything here is pessimism gone to seed. And what in this darkening perplexity does the searcher have to say about the dead? “The dead know not anything, neither have they any more reward; for the memory of them is forgotten” (Ecclesiastes 9:5). And again, “There is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave (Sheol) whither thou goest.” But is this the truth? Is this a doctrine of the faith delivered unto the saints? Is this the revelation of God? A thousand times, No! It is the verdict which the natural man, pagan or infidel philosopher, pronounceth. But revelation, the life and immortality brought to light by the gospel, tells us something entirely different. Yet these sentences penned when the searcher finds himself in the most despairing condition, are used by men and women, who claim to be Christians, to prove the abominable doctrines of “soul-sleep,” that after death the soul plunges into a state of unconsciousness, and that the wicked are annihilated. Christian doctrine? NO! but paganism, and a denial of the revelation from above the sun.

Ecclesiastes 9:7-10. Therefore, because “death ends it all,” that unbelievable conclusion of the natural man, make the best of life. Feast well and enjoy your wine, be sure and let the wine of earthly joys make your heart merry. Dress spotlessly in the heights of fashion; be well groomed; put ointment on your head. Have a good time with your wife; enter into everything energetically--for a little while longer and you reach the common fate. Is this also “revelation” for faith to follow, or is there something better from above the sun? The New Testament answers blessedly this question.

Ecclesiastes 9:11-12. He returns-to speak another word. Even this is not satisfying. A man knoweth not his time, “As the fishes 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.”

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 9:7". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". 1913-1922.

G. Campbell Morgan's Exposition on the Whole Bible

In view of the evidences of the truth of the affirmation, "vanity . . . all is vanity," the preacher now turns to its effect on the mind of the man living "under the sun." He extols this worldly wisdom, which he has already inculcated, and then exemplifies this method. He defends this wisdom and extols it.

First of all, it is to be remembered that all things are in the hand of God. Of course, his doctrine of God is that already dealt with in the earlier part of the discourse. The fact now is that these things being in God's hand, men do not know them, nor can they. The only certain thing is that there is one event to all, righteous and wicked, clean and unclean, the worshiper and the man who fails in worship, the good and the sinner, the swearer and the man who fears an oath. All these are really evil, with madness in their heart in life, and move to death. There is some hope in life, and yet all life at last passes into the utter failure of death. Therefore there is nothing for it other than to enter into the present life, to eat and drink, and to dress, to enter into the experiences of the life of vanity, for there is nothing beyond it. Everything is to be done in the present moment, and for the present moment with might, because there is nothing beyond. Still further, there is very little advantage in the things which men count advantageous. Swiftness, and strength, and wisdom, and skill, of what value are they in view of the fact that as fishes and birds are snared unawares, so at any moment the end of all may come? Wisdom under the sun is granted to be of much relative value, but in the long issues it is of little worth.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Morgan, G. Campbell. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 9:7". "G. Campbell Morgan Exposition on the Bible". 1857-84.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Go thy way,.... Thou righteous man, as Jarchi paraphrases it; and indeed epicures and voluptuous persons have no need of the following exhortation, and the reason annexed is not suitable to them; but the whole agrees better with religious persons, who under distressing views of Providence, and from gloomy and melancholy apprehensions of things, and mistaken notions of mortification, deny themselves the free and lawful use of the good things of life; and seeing there is no enjoyment of them in the grave, and after death, therefore let the following advice be taken, than which of worldly things nothing is better for a man to do;

eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; which includes all things necessary and convenient, and which should be used and enjoyed freely and cheerfully; not barely for refreshment, but recreation; not for necessity only, but for pleasure; yet with moderation, not to excess; and with thankfulness to God; and the rather joy and mirth should mix with these things, since to a good man they are in love. It may be observed that it is said "thy bread and thy wine", thine own and not another's; what is got by labour, and in an honest way, and not by rapine and oppression, as Alshech observes; what God in his providence gives, our daily food, what is convenient for us, or is our portion and allotment. The Targum interprets it figuratively of the joys of heaven;

"Solomon said, by a spirit of prophecy from the Lord, the Lord of the world will say to all the righteous, in the face of everyone, eat thy bread with joy, which is laid up for thee, for thy bread which thou hast given to the poor and needy that were hungry; and drink thy wine with a good heart, which is laid up for thee in paradise, for the wine which thou hast mingled for the poor and needy that were thirsty;'

see Matthew 25:34;

for God now accepteth thy works; both the persons of righteous and good men are accepted of God in Christ, and their works done in faith and love, and with a view to his glory; and since they are acceptable in his sight, as appears by his blessing on their labours, and bestowing the good things of life upon them, so it is well pleasing in his sight to make a free and cheerful use of them.

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 9:7". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". 1999.

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

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

Ecclesiastes 9:11Word Study on "chance" - Gesenius says the Hebrew word "chance" "peh"-gah" ( פֶּגַע) (H 6294) means, "an incident, event, chance." Strong says it means, "impact," and is derived from the primitive root "paw-gah'" ( פָּגַע) (6293), which means, "to impinge, by accident or violence, or by opportunity." The Enhanced Strong says it is used only 2times in the Old Testament, being translated, "occurrent 1, chance 1."

Ecclesiastes 9:11Comments- The victory does not always come to those with the greatest physical ability, which is referred to as "swift and strong." Nor does victory come to those of the greatest mental abilities, which is referred to as " Wisdom of Solomon, understanding and skill" in this verse. But because man lives within the realm of time and space, his life is affected by time and chance. Since the Hebrew word "chance" comes from a verb that means, "to encounter," it refers to the realm of space.

As we look back to we see how the Preacher equates time and seasons to divine providence. Song of Solomon, when the author says that time and chance happen to us all, he is mindful that time and chance are being influenced by God. The Preacher is speaking from an earthly perspective in order to help the reader understand the vanities of this temporal life.

Ecclesiastes 9:18 Wisdom is better than weapons of war: but one sinner destroyeth much good.

Ecclesiastes 9:18 "Wisdom is better than weapons of war" - Illustrations:

Note the story of the wise woman in :

2 Samuel 20:22, "Then the woman went unto all the people in her wisdom. And they cut off the head of Sheba the son of Bichri, and cast it out to Joab. And he blew a trumpet, and they retired from the city, every man to his tent. And Joab returned to Jerusalem unto the king."


Ecclesiastes 9:15, "Now there was found in it a poor wise Prayer of Manasseh, and he by his wisdom delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same poor man."

Ecclesiastes 9:18 — "but one sinner destroyeth much good" - Comments- Marietta Davis writes, "Sin added to sin enlarges it capacity and increases its advancement, until families, tribes, and nations are themselves to do battle on its behalf." 27]

27] Marietta Davis, Caught Up Into Heaven (New Kensington, Pennsylvania: Whitaker House, 1982), 88.

Copyright Statement
These files are copyrighted by the author, Gary Everett. Used by Permission.
No distribution beyond personal use without permission.
Bibliographical Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 9:7". Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. 2013.

Geneva Study Bible

Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now d accepteth thy works.

(d) They flatter themselves to be in God's favour, because they have all things in abundance.
Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 9:7". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". 1599-1645.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

God. Be grateful to him, and make a good use of his benefits, (St. Jerome, exp. 2.) or these are the words of libertines. (Bossuet) (St. Jerome, 1. explicat.) (Calmet)

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 9:7". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". 1859.

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

Ecclesiastes 9:7. The voice of the flesh is here opposed by the voice of the spirit. It is exactly so elsewhere; as, for example, in Psalms 39, where the Psalmist first strives with God and impatiently demands of Him to know the end of his life and sufferings, but afterwards rises up and casts down discontent and doubt to the ground. Here also we might say that in Ecclesiastes 9:1-6 the author speaks as the representative of the then prevailing spirit of the people; not, however, as though he appropriated views that were utterly strange to his own mind, but such as he also himself in his hours of weakness had been compelled to sympathise with. Now, on the contrary, the writer sets himself in God to oppose the popular views and feelings. Calvin's remarks on Psalms 42:6 hold good of this place also: "David represents himself to us as divided into two portions. So far as he rests by faith in God's promises, he rises in arms, with a spirit of unconquerable valour, against the feelings and will of the flesh, and condemns at the same time his own weak and yielding conduct." Here, just as there, it is the spirit which is strong in God that enters the lists against the "weaker vessel," the timid fearful soul, which in the book of Job is introduced under the personification of Job's wife. There is undoubtedly a reference to individual men, but still it is the "man Judah "of Isaiah 5:3, who is, in the first instance, addressed. This is evident from the entire context, of which the sufferings of the people of God form the point of departure. Eat thy bread in joy and drink thy wine with a good heart, "Joy and good heart," stand in opposition to the gloomy discontent which led them formerly to say, "Every one that doeth evil is good in the eyes of the Lord, and he delighteth in them, or where is the God of judgment?" (Malachi 2:17). The contrast to eating bread and drinking wine is presented in such passages as 1 Samuel 1:7, where it is said of Hannah, "she wept and ate not;" Psalms 42:4, "My tears are my meat day and night;" Psalms 80:6, "Thou feedest them with the bread of tears, and givest them tears to drink in great measure," ("Bread of tears," signifies bread that consists of tears), and Psalms 102:10, Job 3:24. God hath pleasure in thy works, ( רצה with the accusative means, "to have pleasure in anything,") and, therefore, in His good time thou wilt see the reward which thou now missest, and "ye shall discern again the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not," (Malachi 3:18). We have in this verse the distinct negation of Ecclesiastes 9:1. There, by a hasty conclusion drawn from the fact of the temporal sufferings of the righteous, it was affirmed that man does not at all know whether he has grace before God or not, whether he may or may not expect love from God. The great sting of temporal suffering is, that we very easily get to fancy that it will last for ever, and that it is apt to lead us into erroneous thoughts about God's grace. We can only overcome this temptation by rising in faith above the present. In Psalms 73:17, "till I come to the sanctuaries of God, then will I look on their end." The thing first mentioned stands to the second in the relation of cause to effect. Having entered into the sanctuary of God, the Psalmist sees that the prosperity of the wicked and the sufferings of the righteous are only transitory, and thus he attains to an unbounded confidence in God's help and redemption. A real, if not a verbal, parallel to the words, "God has pleasure in thy works," may be found in the commencement of Psalms 73 : "only good is God to Israel, to those who are of a pure heart." God is good, and not evil as the righteous may well fancy when they are plagued continually, when they are chastened every morning, whilst the wicked live in prosperity. Luther remarks on the verse, "He means to say something like this—thou livest in the world where there is nothing without that, for there is much sorrow, heart suffering, misery, there is death and much vanity: make use then of life with love, and do not make thine own life sour and hard with anxious and fruitless cares. Solomon says what he says not to the secure and godless children of the world, but to such as truly fear God and believe. These he comforts, and would fain see them comfort themselves and rejoice in God. To them he gives the exhortation, to be glad; he does not bid those to drink wine and eat, etc., who were beforehand too secure, and being godless and lost, spent their lives in indolence and debauchery."

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 9:7". Ernst Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

with a cheerful (not sensually ‹merry‘) heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:13; Ecclesiastes 5:18; Acts 2:46).

Copyright Statement
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 9:7". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". 1871-8.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works.

Eat thy bread with joy. Here the voice of the Spirit rebuts the voice of the flesh. Addressed to the "righteous wise" spoken of in Ecclesiastes 9:1.

Now accepteth thy works Being "in the hand of God," who "now accepteth thy works" in His service, as He has previously accepted thy person (Genesis 4:4), thou mayest 'eat etc., with a cheerful (not sensually "merry") heart' (Ecclesiastes 3:13; Ecclesiastes 5:18; Acts 2:46). Instead of giving way to gloomy discontent, as if God made no difference between the good and the bad in His dealings (Ecclesiastes 9:1; Malachi 2:17). God accepteth-literally, hath pleasure in ( raatsaah (Hebrew #7521)) - thy works, and therefore will in due time let thee see the difference which He makes (in spite of present appearances to the contrary) between the righteous and the wicked (Malachi 3:18); parallel is Psalms 73:1 - Hebrew, 'God is only good (not also evil, as carnal reason would suggest) to Israel even to such as are of a clean heart,' in spite of all appearances to the contrary.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 9:7". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.

The People's Bible by Joseph Parker

The Land of Shadows

Ecclesiastes 9

In this chapter we have a number of loose and disconnected notes about human life. The writer seems to have jotted down things as they came into his mind. His book is rather a heap of stones than an orderly building. Perhaps it is hardly just to regard the Book of Ecclesiastes as a piece of elaborate and continuous logic; it ought to be taken rather as a series of notes or memoranda which the writer himself could have expounded, and which readers can only use as hints pointing out certain directions of practical thought. It would be possible so to use the Book of Ecclesiastes as to make it almost contribute to an argument for atheism, but this would be manifestly unjust; yet in proportion as it yields itself to such a use does it seem to suggest that it is rather a gathering of miscellaneous remarks than an attempt to establish a process of final and authoritative reasoning. Sometimes Coheleth becomes religious, as in the first verse of this chapter. He has made many attempts to get God out of the way altogether, but somehow the holy Presence returns to the line of life and shines upon it, or darkens it with judgment, or so uses it as to startle the man who is most peculiarly interested in its course.

"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" ( Ecclesiastes 9:1).

Thus life is seen in a great thick maze, now and then broken in upon by startling radiance. Sometimes wisdom is supreme, and sometimes folly; now it seems as if wisdom would carry everything its own way, and presently it seems as if folly had been but waiting for an opportunity to overthrow Wisdom of Solomon, and show that life is after all either an elaborate joke or an elaborate failure. At the very moment when the wise man has seen the superiority of Wisdom of Solomon, and declared it, a voice says to him: "Let not the wise man glory in his Wisdom of Solomon, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches." Even when wisdom has been used for the best purposes, and when might has been enlisted on the side of right, and when wealth has been pledged to the cause of justice, all boasting on the part of Wisdom of Solomon, might, and wealth has been resolutely forbidden. There is to be but one object of glory: "Let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord." The picture of mental confusion which is presented in verse i is familiar to us all. Finality of judgment is not granted to man. It appears as if he must live continually in the process which is full of disappointment, and yet which is so urgent that it cannot be permanently resisted by the skill or the perversity of man. We know all this to be absolutely true. We have made the surest calculations, and our conclusions have been simply overturned by facts which never came within our view in making our elaborate reckoning. We have said that yesterday being such and such would inevitably make to-morrow of a certain quality, and yet God seems to have taken a new point of departure, and to have turned to-morrow into a revelation such as we had never dreamed of. We walk, therefore, in the midst of shadows; we are surrounded by uncertainties; we are never permitted to approach the point of personal infallibility; we live in a course of self-correction, and we grow wise to-morrow by amending the errors of yesterday. On the whole, this would seem to be the wisest method of education. At first sight other methods appear to have the advantage, but considering what we are, to what temptations we are exposed, and to what issues we are tending, experience confirms the course which providence adopts.

"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" ( Ecclesiastes 9:2).

Coheleth is here lost at the point where the two great lines of bad and good seem to meet and to become one current. To his great wonder he sees death seize both the righteous and the wicked; he sees them both going down the hill together, and as he looks from the hill-top, he says, I expected the one to go upward, and the other to go downward, but there seems to be but a common lot for all, so that moral distinctions really amount to nothing. Coheleth undoubtedly had appearances upon his side in this reason. There is not the broad distinction between the good and the bad at the last which one might have expected to find. That death should happen to all men is simply a surprise to those who have observed the character of goodness, and who have felt themselves impressed by the immortality of virtue. It would seem as if at the point of death there should be a distinctly visible difference between good men and bad men; that is to say, good men should rather ascend and disappear in the welcoming heavens, and bad men should descend and find their place in the sullen earth. Instead of this we find both good men and bad men dying, sometimes the good man as if under a cloud of depression, and the bad man in a mood almost heroic. All this is perplexing to the religious conscience and the religious imagination. Sure, we say, there might be some broader distinction at the point of death than we have yet discovered; if that distinction could only be established, it would at once substantiate the Christian argument, and destroy the standing-ground of every man who ventured to doubt the reality of Christian revelation. In all ages the prosperity of the wicked has been a perplexity to spiritual minds. "Wherefore do the wicked live, become old, yea, are mighty in power? Their seed is established in their sight with them, and their offspring before their eyes. Their houses are safe from fear, neither is the rod of God upon them. They take the timbrel and harp, and rejoice at the sound of the organ. They spend their days in wealth, and in a moment go down to the grave. Therefore they say unto God, Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways" ( , Job 21:12-14). It is in vain to make light of a testimony of this kind, for it is indeed the occasion of a sore perplexity to the religious conscience. If there is any truth at all in the doctrine of rewards and punishments, why should not the rewards be now given, and the punishments be now and visibly inflicted? It would seem from many statements in holy Scripture as if the discrimination between good and bad were postponed until the day of judgment, and as if in the meantime men had to do the best they could for themselves, the wicked often having an advantage over the righteous. On the other hand, we must not neglect the counter-testimony which is also found in the pages of revelation. In Job again ( Job 21:17-18) we find such words as these: "How oft is the candle of the wicked put out! and how oft cometh their destruction upon them! God distributeth sorrows in his anger. They are as stubble before the wind, and as chaff that the storm carrieth away." But even this counter-testimony often gives way in force as compared with the testimony on the other side, which is so broad and emphatic. The wicked themselves have built an argument upon these very appearances which so distressed the soul of Asaph; for example ( Malachi 3:14-15): "Ye have said, It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the Lord of hosts? And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered." It Isaiah, however,- not to the disadvantage of the Bible that all these testimonies are found in its own pages. We must insist upon that as a valuable consideration in the discussion of the whole argument. It is the Bible itself that actually supplies the very evidence which men so eagerly turn against its own inspiration and its own doctrine of a superintending providence. Apart from the emphatic statements which are made in the Bible, where would evidence be found to support the theory that the wicked are as much favoured as the righteous? We might have broad declarations upon the subject, as based upon this man"s observation or that man"s collection of facts; on the other hand, we should have both the experience and the facts hotly disputed by others who had happened to see more vividly the other side of life. We should thus be plunged into a controversy which would rage around personal authority and personal opportunities of observation; whereas in the Bible itself we find the most distinct statement of the perplexities arising from an apparent moral confusion in the world, as if sometimes God had actually mistaken the bad man for the good Prayer of Manasseh, and had sent down his punishments indiscriminately, often causing the good more pain and loss than were inflicted upon the evil. It is well, therefore, to have in the book itself a distinct statement that such moral confusion does exist, at least upon the surface, because this imposes upon the book the responsibility in some measure either of modifying its statement or contravening it; otherwise the reader would be forced to the conclusion that the policy of evil is stronger than the policy of good, and must ultimately extinguish it.

"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 9:3).

Coheleth. thinks this has a bad effect upon society. He thinks that a sharp distinction between the fate of the good and the bad would have been better. It is very wonderful to think in how many points we suppose ourselves able to do things better than God has done them. We want to see more. Both the good and the bad plunge into the common darkness of the grave. That seems wrong, as we have said. If we could hear the moaning of the bad man as the scourge of judgment falls upon him, and if we could see the good soul mounting up with wings strong and flashing to join a host of immortal worthies gathering within the field of the sun, it would seem to be better altogether; but the good and the bad are sucked into a common whirlpool, over which the darkness of night is spread. The argument of Coheleth would seem to point to the thought that God actually encourages evil by not sufficiently punishing it, and strongly discourages good by apparently handing all his rewards to those who are bad. Coheleth would seem to trace the madness of men to the looseness of Providence. The sons of men say, Seeing that one event happeneth unto all, what does it matter how we live? Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die; seize the immediate pleasure; make sure of the things that are round about us, and leave to-morrow to develop its own uncertainties as it may. We cannot live under theories of good, and philosophies of happiness, and ideals of peace; all these may be well enough, and may afford great enjoyment to the philosophers who set them up, and spend their days in their wordy defence, but we, say the sons of men, want wine and festival, dance and joy, liberty and enthusiasm, and we must have these immediately, and facts enable us to have them; so why do we theorise, and speculate, and idealise? Let us instantly be up and doing, and serve the first god that offers us his bribe. This is the loose talk of loose-minded men. They do not take in the whole case in its yesterday, to-day, and to-morrow; they see but the immediate glittering point of time; in other words, they live in time and not in eternity: hence we have all this selfish contemplation, and all this superficial reasoning, leading to all this immoral action. "Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil." There again we see exactly the point at which man so often fails. He must have things done "speedily"; if the sword of judgment fell upon the criminal in the very act of his transgression, superficial thinkers would at once be cleared of all doubts as to the reality of a superintending and judicial Providence. But they make no room for mercy; they do not see how divine patience may be equal to divine righteousness; they think the punishment of the sinner a greater deed than his possible salvation. Punishment might be instantaneous, but salvation requires long processes for its accomplishment. How noble is the mercy of God as compared with the fitful wrath of man! God indeed does pronounce judgment upon evil, and show himself hotly angry against it in all its varieties and moods; at the same time he is faithful to himself; he promised that the seed of the woman should bruise the head of the serpent, and he associates even wickedness itself with the vast scheme of remedy, amelioration, and redemption, for the full working out of which immeasurable time may be required. The Apostle Paul reasons upon this matter in a more rational and comprehensive manner: "What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death" ( Romans 6:21). It may be reverently said that God himself was surprised by the license which man allowed his imagination when he saw how wickedness was often spared, as if God had some hope of even yet converting the sinner from the error of his ways. "God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually" ( Genesis 6:5). The very greatness of man was developed in the greatness of his sin. It was evident that a man formed in the image and likeness of God, if he did take to evil ways would work mightily and terribly, and would show by the very inversion of his faculties how sublime was the destiny intended for him by his gracious Creator. It is because we can pray so nobly that we can curse so bitterly. It is because we are so much like God that we can debase ourselves almost into the likeness of devils. Our greatness is the opportunity for our wickedness. "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." In our very highest moods, when we seem to be but just outside heaven, we are in greatest danger, if so be we cease to pray and to hold on to the hand of the Almighty with growing determination and hopefulness.

"For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope: for a living dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun" ( ).

Coheleth did not care for death in any aspect. He would rather live with the dog than die with the lion. The words "death" and "hope" seem never to have come together in Coheleth"s thinking. And surely if one shall arise in the ages who shall attempt to connect hope with death, to bring together things so separate, he will have a soul capable of magnificent conceptions. Life and hope have always gone together as brother and sister, well matched for strength and beauty, and suffused with a common loveliness. But death and despair have always been companions; their groan has troubled the world"s feasting, and their shadow has thrown a spectral haze over the birth of the firstborn and over the joy of the wedding festival. How, then, can hope be joined to death? And how can the grim beast of prey be made to lie down harmlessly with the gentle lamb? Sweetly, like a friend"s voice in loneliness, there comes upon us a prophecy that death need not kill, that death may be a disguised messenger of God, and may be but the narrow line over which we pass into immortality. "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord, for they rest from their labours; and their works do follow them." "They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more;... for the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes." "This is the Lord"s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes."

We get a very humbling picture in the sixth verse. Here again we are brought into the land of shadows, and into the region of winds that blow without leaving behind them any trace either of wrath or blessing. Is it possible that a life so constructed can charge the responsibility of its existence upon a loving Creator? The contrary is evidently the case. If men can come and go without leaving any impression; if their love is but for a moment and then forgotten; if their wrath is but a splutter followed by eternal silence and oblivion; if all their thought and pain, all their scheming, invention, and enterprise shall end in nothingness and vanity, who then is responsible for a creation so destitute of coherence, and so utterly worthless in its whole issue? The very emptiness of the conclusion should lead us to doubt its validity. Rather let us reason that, because such great agents are employed, and such little results are apparent, the time of measuring up results has not yet fully come, that we are living in an intermediate period of time, and that presently, perhaps to-day or to-morrow, a great light will shine upon the mystery of life, and show us its real meaning, and force us to answer its high responsibilities. The answer to all the difficulties of outside life must ever be within the man himself. Puzzled by contradictions, perplexed by want of discrimination on the part of Providence, confounded by the evident success of wickedness, man should look within himself, and there he will find in his own religious consciousness the true answer to all that bewilders him when he contemplates the outside alone. In so far man will be as a god unto himself. He will have the full consent of reason and conscience in saying, Surely all this can be but for a moment; I do not see the complete state of the case, nor do I understand the reality of the events that are passing around me. I must patiently wait, for conscience tells me that judgment must follow wickedness and that heaven must be the portion of virtue. I am aware that appearances are bewildering and perplexing, and if the question were an external one altogether I should say but little against the argument of irreligious opponents. My safety is in waiting; my assurance is founded upon the eternal principle that what is wrong must eventually bring judgment upon itself, and perish in its own corruption.

"Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which he hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity: for that is thy portion in this life, and in thy labour which thou takest under the sun" ( Ecclesiastes 9:9).

Here Coheleth himself becomes a kind of moralising pagan. God is allowed to drop out of sight; life is limited by the horizon, and he who dances most and drinks most is the wisest. Thus Coheleth seemed to play at hide-and-seek with eternity: he is in, he is out; he is grand, he is mean; he is now on the hill-top, and now he is lost in the windings of the valley. This is just our own life. Sometimes we give up prayer, and say we will now betake ourselves to sensual enjoyments. We turn away from religion as from an altar on which we have never found anything that can really satisfy the soul. A great temptation seizes the mind, and hurries us on to all kinds of immediate enjoyment. We say, After all, what does it amount to? we had better eat the fruit which is already within reach than wait for some other tree to grow us some other fruit. Then we achieve, as it were, our majority in wickedness, we become men in evildoing. A kind of rough joy, too, follows immediately upon our decision, for the earth is ready with its store, and the evil spirits seem but to have been awaiting a signal to enter into our souls, and make a banqueting-house of them. Music is expelled by noise. Philosophy is deposed by sophism. The grave loses its terrors because it is covered with plucked flowers. Thus life has its seasons of madness, its times of outburst and vain enjoyment, even its seasons of tempestuous delight in which we forget everything but the gratification of the moment. We know, however, how all such satisfactions exhaust themselves. They are keen for the moment, but they perish in the using. Before we seize them we are assured that they will bring heaven into the soul; they look so enticing, and they promise so abundantly, but it is the universal experience of man that no sooner are such pleasures realised than they cease to please; not only do they cease to please, but they leave behind them a mortal sting, and the soul which they promised to make glad for ever burns with disappointment and hangs down its head in shame. Here the Christian teacher is not afraid to make his appeal to experience. There is no form of fleshly enjoyment which does not immediately upon its indulgence turn itself into an enemy; yet how luring is the temptation, how eloquent is the promise, how almost irresistible is the appeal; but the victim is led away like a lamb to the slaughter, an arrow pierces through his liver, his teeth are broken as with gravel-stone, and he who ran out to enjoy the liberty of sin is sent back to endure the bondage of compunction.

"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor Wisdom of Solomon, in the grave, whither thou goest" ( Ecclesiastes 9:10).

This verse contains good advice if we take it wisely. We must first be sure that the work which our hand finds to do is worthy of our best powers. This exhortation has undoubtedly been misapplied. There is a better proverb, "Whatsoever is worth doing is worth doing well." But it does not follow that everything is worth doing. Jesus Christ said, "I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work." We must be sure that we are doing God"s work if we are to do it with our might. Following upon the ninth verse the exhortation of the tenth may actually be an encouragement in a wrong direction. In the ninth verse we have been enjoined to "live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity"—in other words, to. enjoy all the pleasures the world can give; and then we are told, "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might." The one caution which must be regarded is the caution that whatever we do is itself to be of the right quality, to be worth doing, to be good in itself, and to be beneficent in its relation to other people. These points being assured, then let both hands be called into activity, and the whole soul burn with devotion to the great object of its accomplishment.

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

Now we come to a higher order of talk. Coheleth looks at life as a whole, and sees something in it which surprises him. It seems as if the race ought to be to the swift, and the battle to the strong, and as if the wise should never lack bread, or the men of understanding be short of riches. Yet men of skill are allowed to go without favour, and time and chance happeneth to all men alike. When we see likelihood set aside we ought to ask ourselves some serious questions. We say that the law of cause and effect must operate, that it is supreme and all-determining; yet this mechanical law is overthrown every day in actual life, showing as plainly as light that life is something higher than mechanics. Who would not instantly insist that swiftness must win the race, strength must determine the battle, and skill must settle the competition? Yet these things are contradicted by every day"s experience. The very law of gravitation may itself be temporarily suspended. He who drops a stone obeys that law, but he who lifts a hand defies it. The tiniest life is greater than the greatest mechanical law. Seeing, therefore, that probability, or likelihood, or the Song of Solomon -called law of cause and effect, may actually go for nothing in the arrangement and balancing of life, we ought to ask, What is behind all this? what is the meaning of this secret? what is the explanation of this most palpable and bewildering contradiction? Now we may see in Coheleth"s words a greater meaning than he himself saw. We say, What can be stronger than the great gravitation law? and the answer Isaiah, Life may be stronger. We ask, What can outspeed the lightning? and we answer, Thought can more quickly fly, and love has a stronger wing. Coheleth saw in the little incident which comes next a complete upset of the law of probability. A little quality may upset a great quantity. The least in the kingdom of heaven may be greater than the greatest out of it. It is the little wisdom that is in the world that saves all its cities. In point of bulk wisdom may be less than folly, but in point of force wisdom will prove itself to be omnipotent. This is the lesson of the incident which Coheleth gives in the following verses:—

"There was a little city, and few men within it; and there came a great king against it, and besieged it, and built great bulwarks against it: now there was found in it a poor wise Prayer of Manasseh, and he by his wisdom delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same poor man" ( ).

The incident is but small as compared with what has already been said regarding the pomp and boast of wickedness; yet the smallness of the incident is the smallness of its seed, not the smallness of a pebble. "The kingdom of heaven is like unto a grain of mustard seed;" so is this incident. "By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted." Ten righteous men would have saved the cities of the plain. It is surely discouraging that the poor man was not remembered, though he delivered the little city when a great king came against it, and besieged it, and built great bulwarks against it. Nevertheless the wise man will not give up his Wisdom of Solomon, for he finds a secret delight in its enjoyment, "Wisdom strengthened the wise more than ten mighty men which are in the city." It was the wisdom of Jesus Christ that astounded his contemporaries, and made them marvel concerning his origin and his resources. From whence hath this man these things? and what wisdom is this that is given unto him, that even such mighty works are wrought by his hands? It is important to notice that the poor man"s wisdom is despised and his words are not heard. As this is true in the common walks of life, we are prepared to believe it true in those higher relations which Jesus Christ sustained to the world. He was despised and rejected of men. We are prone to say, Show true Wisdom of Solomon, and the world will instantly recognise it and obey its behests. History gives a flat contradiction to this supposition. The world has not known wisdom when it has seen it, nor answered the voice of eloquence when it has heard it, nor bowed before the presence of beauty when it has been most openly revealed. Yet the wise man must not be discouraged, for his time is yet to come. It is still true that wisdom is better than weapons of war. All that the wise man can do is to hold on, and hope on, and toil on. The greatest surprise that can occur to him is that other people do not observe and acknowledge the value of wisdom. This must be a pain to his inmost heart, and a source of discouragement, which can only be dried up by considerations which lie beyond the line of time. Who could bear to teach constantly a school of dunces? Who would not shrink from being called upon constantly to sing to men who are deaf? Who could stand the wear and tear of attempting to teach blind men the beauty and the charm of colour? Yet this is what Jesus Christ has undertaken to do in the proclamation of his gospel and the revelation of his kingdom. Verily it is hard work; upon all sides there arise the questions, "Is not this the carpenter"s son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? And his sisters, are they not all with us?"

All this is true; yet wisdom is its own inspiration. The wise Prayer of Manasseh, like the good Prayer of Manasseh, is satisfied from himself, and in storm and calm, by night and by day, he pursues his way, quite sure that the end will justify his forecast and reward his patience.


Almighty God, thou art always calling us to larger life and larger liberty and deeper joy. Thou dost call upon us to advance, to grow, to ascend; thy whole speech to us is one of welcome and invitation to higher and securer places. We bless thee for this animating call, because it saves us from despair, and slothfulness, and neglect. May we hear thy voice, and obey it with all the eagerness of love; then shall we grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. We bless thee for the unsearchable riches of thy Son: who can discover them, or estimate them, or set a value upon such wealth? May we know that we are rich in Christ, and can never be poor any more, because all his resources are placed at our disposal. He was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor, that we through his poverty might be made rich. May we be rich in faith and love and all grace, and show our confidence in thee by daily trusting thee more and more, under all the burdens and in all the exigencies of life, with its poverty and its pain. Call us nearer to thyself, and hearing the call may we answer it joyfully; may all our cry be, Nearer, my God, to thee! We cannot be too near the Fountain of life, the Spring of all joy. Enable us, therefore, to feel the restlessness of spiritual discontent with all our present attainments, in order that we may be urged onward to the rest which comes through perfect sympathy with the Son of God. We pray that our sins may daily be forgiven through the blood of the everlasting covenant, through all the priesthood which that blood represents. Through Christ has been preached unto us the forgiveness of sins; we have heard of his spiritual release, and we are filled with hope and gladness: may we enter into the blessed experience of this liberty, and thus have a joy unspeakable and full of glory. We have wandered far: call us home again;—we have left the city and lived the desert life: may we return from the desolation of the wilderness, and find home and security in God"s Jerusalem. Amen.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 9:7". The People's Bible by Joseph Parker. 1885-95.

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Ecclesiastes 9:5. The dead know not any thing. This is explained by the next phrase, the memory of them is forgotten. Elijah went up to heaven, or paradise, as the Jews will have it. John 3:13. Similar are the words of a prophet: “Doubtless thou art our Father, though Abraham be ignorant of us.” The Jews understood that Abraham gathered into his bosom the souls of his children. The soul of a good man returns to God, and enjoys the happiness of separate spirits.


Solomon here returns to a subject often resumed, that all events come alike to all classes. These studies present us with the boundaries which God has placed to the researches of the human mind. In contemplation we are lost in the immensity of glories and beauties which fill the heavens and the earth. The students of nature cannot count the stars, the zoologists cannot number the living beings of the earth, nor the botanist present us with any classification of plants worthy to be compared with the plenitude of God.

It is the same in the study of providence. There we see the wise and the foolish go alike to the grave, the hero and the coward fall in war, the good and the bad share in the afflictions of life. The ocean is sublime, and boundless to the sight. In the study of moral science, even prophets have stumbled in the dark. Psalms 37:1; Psalms 73:1-2. Ecclesiastes 2:16-17. But because of clouds, shall we say that there is no light. On a closer view, on the extension of our regards, are we not led to conclude, that God has a plan in his moral government, as well as in his creation? Is there not a care of the ark, and a shield to cover Abraham? Is there not a God to punish the idolatrous Jews, and to set a mark on the faithful ones? Is there not a living Redeemer, to fulfil his faithful word to the holy apostles?

The vulgar or brutish philosopher had praised the dead more than the living; but seeing there is a gracious God, the preacher exhorts the virtuous to rejoice in their works, and keep their white garments, worn at festivals, unspotted from the world. He exhorts the good man to rejoice with the wife of his youth, to love her, to make her his companion and friend, and treat her as a woman should be treated. Then she will study to return love for love, and please her husband in the Lord. We learn farther, that industry in business is a grand resource of augmenting moral happiness. “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might.” Archbishop Leighton advises us, never to leave any thing till to-morrow which can be conveniently done to-day. The energies of life may be studied in the whole scale of animated nature. Happy for man to lay out his plans of labour, that he may finish some laudable work as the husbandman brings the labours of the seasons to a joyful harvest.

It is remarked further, that all men in the vicissitudes of life are overtaken with disappointments and afflictions. The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong. Homer, describing the races after the fall of Troy, names a chief who was overturned in his car, filled with rage, while his mouth was full of dirt, and his nose bleeding. Evils seen and unseen, overtake us as the fish are enclosed in the net, and as the bird is caught in the snare. Let us learn then to be calm under strokes of adversity; they are common to man, and they may work for good. Let us, like the mariner in the storm, stick close to the helm, for it will soon be calm again. It indicates a noble mind that can trust in a beclouded providence, and bow to the pleasure of a God.

The case of the poor man, who delivered the little city by his wisdom, is put here to encourage us under the afflictions of life. Let no man despair. Prudence and industry, with the blessing of God, can extricate us from many great and sore evils. And he who befriends us in the time of trouble, should not be forgotten in the day of prosperity. Solomon thus closes his scale of argument with a bright thought, and leaves not his reader lost in a chaos of darkness. Light is sown for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 9:7". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. 1835.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Ecclesiastes 9:7 Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works.

Ver. 7. Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy.] Vade, iuste, go thy way, thou righteous man; live in cheerfulness of mind, proceeding from the testimony of a good conscience: so Lyra senseth the words. God’s grace and favour turned brown bread and water into manchet and wine to the martyrs in prison. "Rejoice not thou, O Israel, for joy, as other people, for thou hast gone a whoring from thy God." [Hosea 9:1] Thou cutest thy bane, thou drinkest thy poison, because "to the impure all things are impure," and "without faith it is impossible to please God." "In the transgression of an evil man there is a snare (or a cord to strangle his joy with), but the righteous doth sing and rejoice." [Proverbs 29:6] He may do so; he must do so. What should hinder him? He hath made his peace with God, and is rectus in curia. Let him be merry at his meals, lightsome and spruce in his clothes, cheerful with his wife and children, &c. "Is any man merry at heart?" saith St James; [James 5:13] is he right set, and hath he a right frame of soul ( ευθυμει)? is all well within? "Let him sing psalms"; yea, as a traveller rides on merrily, and wears out the tediousness of the way by singing sweet songs unto himself; so should the saints. "Thy statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage." [Psalms 119:54]

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 9:7". John Trapp Complete Commentary. 1865-1868.

Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary

“Go, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for long ago hath God accepted thy work. Let thy garments be always white; and let not oil be wanting to thy head. Enjoy life with a wife whom thou lovest through all the days of thy vain life, which He hath given thee under the sun - through all thy vain days: for that is thy portion in life, and in thy labour wherewith thou weariest thyself under the sun. All that thy hand may find to do with thy might, that do; for there is not work, and calculation, and knowledge, and wisdom, in the under world, whither thou shalt go.” Hengstenberg perceives here the counterpart of the spirit; on the contrary, Oetinger, Mendelssohn, and others, discover also here, and here for the first time rightly, the utterance of an epicurean thought. But, in fact, this לך down to שׁ הולך is the most distinct personal utterance of the author, his ceterum censeo which pervades the whole book, and here forms a particularly copious conclusion of a long series of thoughts. We recapitulate this series of thoughts: One fate, at last the same final event, happens to all men, without making any distinction according to their moral condition, - an evil matter, so much the more evil, as it encourages to wickedness and light-mindedness; the way of man, without exception, leads to the dead, and all further prospect is cut off; for only he who belongs to the class of living beings has a joyful spirit, has a spirit of enterprise: even the lowest being, if it live, stands higher in worth, and is better, than the highest if it be dead; for death is the end of all knowledge and feeling, the being cut off from the living under the sun. From this, that there is only one life, one life on this side of eternity, he deduces the exhortation to enjoy the one as much as possible; God Himself, to whom we owe it, will have it so that we enjoy it, within the moral limits prescribed by Himself indeed, for this limitation is certainly given with His approbation. Incorrectly, the Targ., Rashi, Hengst. Ginsb., and Zöckl. explain: For thy moral conduct and effort have pleased Him long ago - the person addressed is some one, not a definite person, who could be thus set forth as such a witness to be commended. Rather with Grotius and others: Quia Deus favet laboribus tuis h. e. eos ita prosperavit, ut cuncta quae vitam delectant abunde tibi suppetant . The thought is wholly in the spirit of the Book of Koheleth; for the fruit of labour and the enjoyment of this fruit of labour, as at Ecclesiastes 2:24; Ecclesiastes 3:13, etc., is a gift from above; and besides, this may be said to the person addressed, since 7 a presupposes that he has at his disposal heart-strengthening bread and heart-refreshing wine. But in these two explanations the meaning of כּבר is not comprehended. It was left untranslated by the old translators, from their not understanding it. Rightly, Aben Ezra: For God wills that thou shouldst thus to [indulge in these enjoyments]; more correctly, Hitzig: Long ago God has beforehand permitted this thy conduct, so that thou hast no room for scruples about it. How significant כבר is for the thought, is indicated by the accentuation which gives to it Zakef: from aforetime God has impressed the seal of His approbation on this thy eating with joy, this thy drinking with a merry heart. - The assigning of the reason gives courage to the enjoyment, but at the same time gives to it a consecration; for it is the will of God that we should enjoy life, thus it is self-evident that we have to enjoy it as He wills it to be enjoyed.

Ecclesiastes 9:8

The white garments, לבּנים, are in contrast to the black robes of mourning, and thus are an expression of festal joy, of a happy mood; black and white are, according to the ancients, colour-symbols, the colours respectively of sorrow and joy, to which light and darkness correspond.

(Note: Cf. Shabbath 114 a : “Bury me neither in white nor in black garments: not in white, because perhaps I may not be one of the blessed, and am like a bridegroom among mourners; not in black, because perhaps I may be one of the blessed, and am like a mourner among bridegrooms.” Semachoth ii. 10: Him who is outside the congregation, they do not bury with solemnity; the brothers and relatives of such must clothe and veil themselves in white; cf. Joma 39 b . Elsewhere white is the colour of innocence, Shabbath 153 a, Midrash under Proverbs 16:11; and black the colour of guilt, Kiddushin 40 a, etc.)

Fragrant oil is also, according to Proverbs 27:9, one of the heart-refreshing things. Sorrow and anointing exclude one another, 2 Samuel 14:2; joy and oil stand in closest mutual relation, Psalms 45:8; Isaiah 61:3; oil which smooths the hair and makes the face shine ( vid ., under Psalms 104:15). This oil ought not to be wanting to the head, and thus the perpetuity of a happy life should suffer no interruption.

Ecclesiastes 9:9

In Ecclesiastes 9:9 most translators render: Enjoy life with the wife whom thou lovest; but the author purposely does not use the word האשּׁה, but אשּׁה ; and also that he uses חיּים, and not החיּים, is not without significance. He means: Bring into experience what life, what happiness, is (cf. the indetermin. ideas, Psalms 34:13) with a wife whom thou hast loved (Jerome: quaecunque tibi placuerit feminarum ), in which there lies indirectly the call to choose such an one; whereby the pessimistic criticism of the female sex, Ecclesiastes 7:26-28, so far as the author is concerned, falls into the background, since eudaemonism, the other side of his view of the world, predominates. The accus. designation of time, “through all the days of the life of thy vanity ( i.e., of thy transient vain life),” is like Ecclesiastes 6:12, cf. Ecclesiastes 7:15. It is repeated in “all the days of thy vanity;” the repetition is heavy and unnecessary (therefore omitted by the lxx, Targ., and Syr.); probably like והדרך, Psalms 45:5, a ditto; Hitzig, however, finds also here great emphasis. The relative clause standing after the first designation of time refers to “the days which He ( האלהים, Ecclesiastes 9:7 ) has granted under the sun.” Hu in Ecclesiastes 9:9 refers attractionally to חלקך (Jerome: haec est enim parts ), as at Ecclesiastes 3:22; Ecclesiastes 5:17, cf. Ecclesiastes 7:2; היא of the Babyl. is therefore to be rejected; this enjoyment, particularly of marriage joys, is thy part in life, and in thy work which thou accomplishest under the sun, i.e., the real portion of gain allotted to thee which thou mayest and oughtest to enjoy here below.

Ecclesiastes 9:10

The author, however, recommends no continual dolce far niente , no idle, useless sluggard-life devoted to pleasure, but he gives to his exhortation to joy the converse side: “All that thy hand may reach ( i.e., what thou canst accomplish and is possible to thee, 1 Samuel 10:7; Leviticus 12:8) to accomplish it with thy might, that do.” The accentuation is ingenious. If the author meant: That do with all might (Jerome: instanter operare ), then he would have said bechol - kohhacha (Genesis 31:6). As the words lie before us, they call on him who is addressed to come not short in his work of any possibility according to the measure of his strength, thus to a work straining his capacity to the uttermost. The reason for the call, 10 b, turns back to the clause from which it was inferred: in Hades, whither thou must go (iturus es), there is no work, and reckoning ( vid ., Ecclesiastes 7:25), and knowledge ( דּעתו )

(Note: Not ודעת, because the word has the conjunctive, not the disjunctive accent, vid ., under Psalms 55:10. The punctuation, as we have already several times remarked, is not consistent in this; cf. דּעתו, Ecclesiastes 2:26, and וערב, Psalms 65:9, both of which are contrary to the rule ( vid ., Baer in Abulwalîd's Rikma, p. 119, note 2).)

and no wisdom. Practice and theory have then an end. Thus: Enjoy, but not without working, ere the night cometh when no man can work. Thus spake Jesus (John 9:4), but in a different sense indeed from Koheleth . The night which He meant is the termination of this present life, which for Him, as for every man, has its particular work, which is either accomplished within the limits of this life, or is not accomplished at all.

Copyright Statement
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 9:7". 1854-1889.

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Enjoy the Good and Work as Long as You Live

These verses contain an advice. Life has only death as a perspective. Well, that is why the advice is, make of life what you can make of it. Do not despair and gloom, but go on your way and enjoy life. Be happy if you have bread to eat and enjoy your wine.

Bread and wine give strength (Gen 14:18; Lam 2:12a). You might as well remember that God grants it to you. He gives you the opportunity to enjoy it. It is all according to His plan, for He had already ordained it as a regulation for His creation. Therefore it is perfectly lawful for man to enjoy it.

As new testament believers, we know that God "has created food to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer" (1Tim 4:3-5). Moreover, we can rejoice in a living hope, even in the midst of trouble, because our hope is Christ in Whom we rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory (1Pet 1:3-8).

The Preacher advises us to make sure that our "clothes are white all the time" (Ecc 9:8). White clothes seem especially to refer to purity (Rev 3:4-5; 18). A life in purity also helps to ensure us that the joy in eating the bread and drinking the wine will not be disturbed. The first characteristic of wisdom which is from above, is purity (Jam 3:17). Impurity corrupts the real joy.

In addition, "let not oil be lacking" on our head. Oil is an ointment, which prevents from dehydration, it keeps the skin smooth and spreads a sweet odor. Isaiah speaks about "the oil of gladness instead of mourning" (Isa 61:3). He who sees life as a gift from God and enjoy it as such, will radiate that. The wearing of white clothes and oil on the head are the contrary of black clothes and ashes on the head, which are an expression of mourning.

In a spiritual sense it means that the believer leads a life in which there is no room for the defilement of sin (2Cor 7:1). In addition to that, our life will spread a pleasant smell, as oil does. Oil is a picture of the Holy Spirit (1Jn 2:20; 27). If He can work in our lives, it will be noticed by our environment. People will find it pleasant to get in touch with us.

The third advice refers to the marital relationship (Ecc 9:9). Also marriage is a matter that makes life pleasant and gives strength in a life that is full of frustration. Marriage is a gift from God and may be enjoyed as such, but exclusively "with the woman you love". Never should life be enjoyed with a woman other than one's own wife. Only towards her there can be talk of love. Love which is considered towards another woman is not enjoying love, but satisfying one's sinful lusts.

Of all advices that are given in Ecc 9:7-9 to enjoy life, it must be said that its enjoyment is limited to the "fleeting days" of life on earth. "This is your reward" indicates that it is a gift from God and that it is the best part of all earthly pleasures that makes one's "toil" in which he has "labored under the sun" somewhat bearable.

The addition "in life" implies the suggestion that man should look further than the earthly life and seek a better part in a future life. Marriage is an earthly pleasure that makes the labor with which one labors "under the sun" at least somewhat meaningful, no matter how temporary this pleasure may be.

After eating and drinking (Ecc 9:7), purity and joy (Ecc 9:8) and a good marriage (Ecc 9:9), the exhortation comes in Ecc 9:10 that we do our daily activities with all our might. "Whatever your hand finds to do", not only means 'do whatever you by accident find to do', but also 'do whatever is possible to work, and seize every chance you get to use all your might'. This must happen "with all your might", means 'with everything that lies within your power', with the use of all capacities (cf. Jdg 9:33; 1Sam 10:7).

Death makes an end to all searching and all labor with all our might on earth. When death enters in a person's life, "no activity or planning or knowledge or wisdom" can be expected from him anymore. Every form of labor, whether it is handiwork or thinking, has ceased, forever. In the grave, where man goes, he lies motionless, lifeless.

For us, the exhortation is that we always will be abounding in the work of the Lord, just because we know that there will be a resurrection where He will reward the results of the work that we have done for Him. Therefore it says that our "toil is not [in] vain in the Lord" (1Cor 15:58). 'In vain' has the meaning of 'empty', which means without result. That is exactly contrary to the conclusion of the Preacher, which in itself is right, because he only makes observations under the sun and passes on the results

Because we know that there will be a resurrection, we shall work as long as it is day (Jn 9:4). There comes a time that it will not be possible anymore, namely when we lie in the grave. Therefore we need to make the most of our time (Eph 5:16; Col 4:5) and not grow weary in doing good (Gal 6:9-10).

Copyright Statement
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
No part of the publications may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.
Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Ecclesiastes 9:7". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.

The Popular Commentary by Paul E. Kretzmann

Concerning Human Destiny

v. 1. For all this I considered in my heart, in applying himself to learn true wisdom, even to declare all this, that the righteous, and the wise, and their works, their fate or destiny, are in the hand of God, that human effort with all its results depends entirely upon God; no man knoweth either love or hatred by all that is before them, that is, he cannot tell whether happiness or unhappiness will be his lot, for his future is hidden by a veil which he cannot penetrate.

v. 2. All things come alike to all, the destiny of all men is decided by the Lord; there is one event to the righteous, and to the wicked, the same Providence governing the lives of both; to the good, and to the clean, and to the unclean, in the moral sense; to him that sacrificeth, fulfilling the outward obligations of divine worship, and to him that sacrificeth not; as is the good, so is the sinner; and he that sweareth as he that feareth an oath, the one who is rash and frivolous with his oath and he who holds it sacred.

v. 3. This is an evil among all things that are done under the sun, that there is one event unto all, that they are all subject to the same destiny, as it seems to the observer; yea, also the heart of the sons of men it full of evil, since they all apparently are in the power of death in the same manner, and madness is in their heart while they live, since they have their inevitable lot before their eyes, and after that they go to the dead, which seems to be the aim of existence and the end of all men, their ultimate fate.

v. 4. For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope, and so the condition of the living is still to be preferred, one should not give way to a sinful hopelessness; for a living dog is better than a dead lion, that is, no matter how lowly is a person's position in life, his condition is preferable to that of even the most honored person who has been claimed by death and can therefore no longer labor nor enjoy the fruits of his labor.

v. 5. For the living know that they shall die, the consciousness of their inevitable fate gives them at least so much superiority over the dead; but the dead know not anything, neither have they any more a reward, their fate is decided for the present, they are beyond reward; for the memory of them is forgotten, in most cases their very name becoming a hollow, meaningless mound in a few years.

v. 6. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, all the sentiments which actuated them in life, is now perished, the activities connected with these attributes have ceased; neither have they any more a portion forever in anything that is done under the sun, their bodies are in the grave, and all communication with the world of the living has ceased. Note that both the doctrine of purgatory and the vagaries of spiritism are here denied.

v. 7. Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart, this being the conclusion which the author reaches on the basis of his contemplations; for God now, at the present time, here in this world, accepteth thy works. Note that the text presupposes food gained by each person by his own efforts.

v. 8. Let thy garments be always white, in token of joy; and let thy head lack no ointment, for its absence would have been considered a sign of grief.

v. 9. Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest, the lawfully wedded spouse, all the days of the life of thy vanity, which He hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity, Pro_5:15-19; Pro_18:22; for that is thy portion in this life, and in thy labor which thou takest under the sun, that is, a proper enjoyment of God's blessings will compensate the believer for the toil and labor which is the inevitable lot of men in life.

v. 10. Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, whatever task falls to man's lot in life, whether in daily labor or in any other undertaking begun in the name of the Lord, do it with thy might, with vigor and energy; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave, whither thou goest. It is necessary for the believers to work the works of their heavenly Father while it is day; the night cometh when no man can work, Joh_9:4.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 9:7". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". 1921-23.

Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

The Consequences of Death The Proper Enjoyment of Life.

4 For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope: for a living dog is better than a dead lion. 5 For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward for the memory of them is forgotten. 6 Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun. 7 Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart for God now accepteth thy works. 8 Let thy garments be always white and let thy head lack no ointment. 9 Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which he hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity: for that is thy portion in this life, and in thy labour which thou takest under the sun. 10 Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.

Solomon, in a fret, had praised the dead more than the living (Ecclesiastes 4:2) but here, considering the advantages of life to prepare for death and make sure the hope of a better life, he seems to be of another mind.

I. He shows the advantages which the living have above those that are dead, Ecclesiastes 9:4-6. 1. While there is life there is hope. Dum spiro, spero--While I breathe, I hope. It is the privilege of the living that they are joined to the living, in relation, commerce, and conversation, and, while they are so, there is hope. If a man's condition be, upon any account, bad, there is hope it will be amended. If the heart be full of evil, and madness be in it, yet while there is life there is hope that by the grace of God there may be a blessed change wrought but after men go to the dead (Ecclesiastes 9:3) it is too late then he that is then filthy will be filthy still, for ever filthy. If men be thrown aside as useless, yet, while they are joined to the living, there is hope that they may yet again take root and bear fruit he that is alive is, or may be, good for something, but he that is dead, as to this world, is not capable of being any further serviceable. Therefore a living dog is better than a dead lion the meanest beggar alive has that comfort of this world and does that service to it which the greatest prince, when he is dead, is utterly incapable of. 2. While there is life there is an opportunity of preparing for death: The living know that which the dead have no knowledge of, particularly they know that they shall die, and are, or may be, thereby influenced to prepare for that great change which will come certainly, and may come suddenly. Note, The living cannot but know that they shall die, that they must needs die. They know they are under a sentence of death they are already taken into custody by its messengers, and feel themselves declining. This is a needful useful knowledge for what is our business, while we live, but to get ready to die: The living know they shall die it is a thing yet to come, and therefore provision may be made for it. The dead know they are dead, and it is too late they are on the other side the great gulf fixed. 3. When life is gone all this world is gone with it, as to us. (1.) There is an end of all our acquaintance with this world and the things of it: The dead know not any thing of that which, while they lived, they were intimately conversant with. It does not appear that they know any thing of what is done by those they leave behind. Abraham is ignorant of us they are removed into darkness, Job 10:22. (2.) There is an end of all our enjoyments in this world: They have no more a reward for their toils about the world, but all they got must be left to others they have a reward for their holy actions, but not for their worldly ones. The meats and the belly will be destroyed together, John 6:27,1 Corinthians 6:13. It is explained Ecclesiastes 9:6. Neither have they any more a portion for ever, none of that which they imagined would be a portion for ever, of that which is done and got under the sun. The things of this world will not be a portion for the soul because they will not be a portion for ever those that choose them, and have them for their good things, have only a portion in this life, Psalm 17:14. The world can only be an annuity for life, not a portion for ever. (3.) There is an end of their name. There are but few whose names survive them long the grave is a land of forgetfulness, for the memory of those that are laid there is soon forgotten their place knows them no more, nor the lands they called by their own names. (4.) There is an end of their affections, their friendships and enmities: Their love, and their hatred, and their envy have now perished the good things they loved, the evil things they hated, the prosperity of others, which they envied, are now all at an end with them. Death parts those that loved one another, and puts an end to their friendship, and those that hated one another too, and puts an end to their quarrels. Actio moritur cum personâ --The person and his actions die together. There we shall be never the better for our friends (their love can do us no kindness), nor ever the worse for our enemies--their hatred and envy can do us no damage. There the wicked cease from troubling. Those things which now so affect us and fill us, which we are so concerned about and so jealous of, will there be at an end.

II. Hence he infers that it is our wisdom to make the best use of life that we can while it does last, and manage wisely what remains of it.

1. Let us relish the comforts of life while we live, and cheerfully take our share of the enjoyments of it. Solomon, having been himself ensnared by the abuse of sensitive delights, warns others of the danger, not by a total prohibition of them, but by directing to the sober and moderate use of them we may use the world, but must not abuse it, take what is to be had out of it, and expect no more. Here we have,

(1.) The particular instances of this cheerfulness prescribed: "Thou art drooping and melancholy, go thy way, like a fool as thou art, and get into a better temper of mind." [1.] "Let thy spirit be easy and pleasant then let there be joy and a merry heart within," a good heart (so the word is), which distinguishes this from carnal mirth and sensual pleasure, which are the evil of the heart, both a symptom and a cause of much evil there. We must enjoy ourselves, enjoy our friends, enjoy our God, and be careful to keep a good conscience, that nothing may disturb us in these enjoyments. We must serve God with gladness, in the use of what he gives us, and be liberal in communicating it to others, and not suffer ourselves to be oppressed with inordinate care and grief about the world. We must eat our bread as Israelites, not in our mourning (Deuteronomy 26:14), as Christians, with gladness and liberality of heart, Acts 2:46. See Deuteronomy 28:47. [2.] "Make use of the comforts and enjoyments which God has given thee: Eat thy bread, drink thy wine, thine, not another's, not the bread of deceit, nor the wine of violence, but that which is honestly got, else thou canst not eat it with any comfort nor expect a blessing upon it--thy bread and thy wine, such as are agreeable to thy place and station, not extravagantly above it nor sordidly below it lay out what God has given thee for the ends for which thou art entrusted with it, as being but a steward." [3.] "Evidence thy cheerfulness (Ecclesiastes 9:8): Let thy garments be always white. Observe a proportion in thy expenses reduce not thy food in order to gratify thy pride, nor thy clothing in order to gratify thy voluptuousness. Be neat, wear clean linen, and be not slovenly." Or, "Let thy garments be white in token of joy and cheerfulness," which were expressed by white raiment (Revelation 3:4) "and as a further token of joy, let thy head lack no ointment that is fit for it." Our Saviour admitted this piece of pleasure at a feast (Matthew 26:7), and David observes it among the gifts of God's bounty to him. Psalm 23:5, Thou anointest my head with oil. Not that we must place our happiness in any of the delights of sense, or set our hearts upon them, but what God has given us we must make as comfortable a use of as we can afford, under the limitations of sobriety and wisdom, and not forgetting the poor. [4.] "Make thyself agreeable to thy relations: Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest. Do not engross thy delights, making much of thyself only, and not caring what becomes of those about thee, but let them share with thee and make them easy too. Have a wife for even in paradise it was not good for man to be alone. Keep to thy wife, to one, and do not multiply wives" (Solomon had found the mischief of that) "keep to her only, and have nothing to do with any other." How can a man live joyfully with one with whom he does not live honestly? "Love thy wife and the wife whom thou lovest thou wilt be likely to live joyfully with." When we do the duty of relations we may expect the comfort of them. See Proverbs 5:19. "Live with thy wife, and delight in her society. Live joyfully with her, and be most cheerful when thou art with her. Take pleasure in thy family, thy vine and thy olive plants."

(2.) The qualifications necessary to this cheerfulness: "Rejoice and have a merry heart, if God now accepts thy works. If thou art reconciled to God, and recommended to him, then thou has reason to be cheerful, otherwise not." Rejoice not, O Israel! for joy, as other people, for thou hast gone a whoring from thy God, Hosea 9:1. Our first care must be to make our peace with God, and obtain his favour, to do that which he will accept of, and then, Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy. Note, Those whose works God has accepted have reason to be cheerful and ought to be so. 'Now that thou eatest the bread of thy sacrifices with joy, and partakest of the wine of thy drink-offerings with a merry heart, now God accepts thy works. Thy religious services, when performed with holy joy, are pleasing to God he loves to have his servants sing at their work, it proclaims him a good Master.

(3.) The reasons for it. "Live joyfully, for," [1.] "It is all little enough to make thy passage through this world easy and comfortable: The days of thy life are the days of thy vanity there is nothing here but trouble, and disappointment. Thou wilt have time enough for sorrow and grief when thou canst not help it, and therefore live joyfully while thou canst, and perplex not thyself with thoughts and cares about to-morrow sufficient to the day is the evil thereof. Let a gracious serenity of mind be a powerful antidote against the vanity of the world." [2.] "It is all thou canst get from this world: That is thy portion in the things of this life. In God, and another life, thou shalt have a better portion, and a better recompence for thy labours in religion but for thy pains which thou takest about the things under the sun this is all thou canst expect, and therefore do not deny this to thyself."

2. Let us apply ourselves to the business of life while life lasts, and so use the enjoyments of it as by them to be fitted for the employments: "Therefore eat with joy and a merry heart, not that thy soul may take its ease (as Luke 12:19), but that thy soul may take the more pains and the joy of the Lord may be its strength and oil to its wheels," Ecclesiastes 9:10. Whatsoever thy hand finds to do do it with thy might. Observe here, (1.) There is not only something to be had, but something to be done, in this life, and the chief good we are to enquire after is the good we should do, Ecclesiastes 2:3. This is the world of service that to come is the world of recompence. This is the world of probation and preparation for eternity we are here upon business, and upon our good behaviour. (2.) Opportunity is to direct and quicken duty. That is to be done which our hand finds to do, which occasion calls for and an active hand will always find something to do that will turn to a good account. What must be done, of necessity, our hand will here find a price in it for the doing of, Proverbs 17:16. (3.) What good we have an opportunity of doing we must do while we have the opportunity, and do it with our might, with care, vigour, and resolution, whatever difficulties and discouragements we may meet with in it. Harvest-days are busy days and we must make hay while the sun shines. Serving God and working out our salvation must be done with all that is within us, and all little enough. (4.) There is good reason why we should work the works of him that sent us while it is day, because the night comes, wherein no man can work, John 9:4. We must up and be doing now with all possible diligence, because our doing-time will be done shortly and we know not how soon. But this we know that, if the work of life be not done when our time is done, we are undone for ever: "There is no work to be done, nor device to do it, no knowledge for speculation, nor wisdom for practice, in the grave whither thou goest." We are all going towards the grave every day brings us a step nearer to it when we are in the grave it will be too late to mend the errors of life, too late to repent and make our peace with God, too late to lay up any thing in store for eternal life it must be done now or never. The grave is a land of darkness and silence, and therefore there is no doing any thing for our souls there it must be done now or never, John 12:35.

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 9:7". "Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". 1706.

Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

The most despicable living man's state, is preferable to that of the most noble who have died impenitent. Solomon exhorts the wise and pious to cheerful confidence in God, whatever their condition in life. The meanest morsel, coming from their Father's love, in answer to prayer, will have a peculiar relish. Not that we may set our hearts upon the delights of sense, but what God has given us we may use with wisdom. The joy here described, is the gladness of heart that springs from a sense of the Divine favour. This is the world of service, that to come is the world of recompence. All in their stations, may find some work to do. And above all, sinners have the salvation of their souls to seek after, believers have to prove their faith, adorn the gospel, glorify God, and serve their generation.

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. "Concise Commentary on Ecclesiastes 9:7". "Matthew Henry Concise Commentary

on the Whole Bible". 1706.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Go thy way, make this use of what I have said,

eat thy bread; thine own, the fruit of thy own labours, not what thou takest unjustly from others. Bread; necessary and convenient food; by which he excludes excess.

With a merry heart; cheerfully and thankfully enjoy thy comforts, avoiding all distracting care and grief for the occurrences of this world.

God now accepteth thy works; is gracious to thee, hath blessed thy labours with success, and alloweth thee a comfortable enjoyment of his blessings.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 9:7". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

Chapter 9 The Same Things Happen to All Whether They Be Righteous, Wise Or Sons of Men. And In The End All Die In The Same Way. So Let The Righteous Live Life As They May And Enjoy It For God Has Accepted All That They Do. But Let Them Not Look For Anything Beyond.

After seeming to be making progress through an examination of religious experience The Speaker now turns to consider what difference there is between the overall treatment of the righteous and the wicked while on earth, and discovers that there is none.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 9:7". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". 2013.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

The Righteous Must Therefore Find Joy In Their Present Life For There Is None Beyond The Grave (Ecclesiastes 9:7-10).

The Preacher is still considering the facts on which he is to make his final decision, and he has just reiterated his great problem, that God does not differentiate between the treatment of the righteous and the unrighteous, between the wise and the foolish, and has appointed the same death for all. He has previously been impressed with the lives of the godly. They have something that no others have. But he now feels that that is also futile. He has reached the lowest point of his musings. So he now tells them that they must enjoy it while they may, for it seems to him that they will not enjoy anything beyond the grave. Yet it is clear that he still accepts that the godly ‘have the best of it’. They eat with joy, they drink joyously, they wear festive clothes, they anoint their heads lavishly, they live joyously with their wives. Nevertheless in the end they finish up like everyone else.

Ecclesiastes 9:7-10

‘Go your way, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a joyous heart, for God has already accepted your works. Let your clothes be always white, and do not let your heads lack ointment. Live joyfully with the wife whom you love all the days of your meaningless life, which he has given you under the sun. For that is your portion in life, and in your labour with which you labour under the sun. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave to which you go.’

He tells God’s true people that they must carry on living, eating and drinking joyfully, as normal, for God has already accepted their works as is demonstrated by the fact that they do have food and drink. They must wear festive garments and anoint their heads lavishly (signs of continual joy). They must live joyfully with their wives whom they love. But that is all that they can expect. That is their portion in life and in their labour which ‘He has given you under the sun’. This last phrase links the godly with the futility of the ungodly and limits all things to this earth. In view of that all that is open to them is to do whatever their hands do with all their might. For once they are in the grave there will be no work, no device, no knowledge and no wisdom. Death is the end. So they are told to enjoy their lives in contentment, and make the most of them while they can, for that is what God has allotted to them. The description covers everyone, both the labourer, the businessman, the student, and the professor. No one can work beyond the grave so they should put in every effort here in this life so as to achieve the best.

Until recognition comes of a life beyond the grave this is the best a man can hope for. But he wants us to know that it is a good best.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 9:7". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". 2013.

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible

Ecclesiastes 8:16 to Ecclesiastes 9:16. Life's Riddle Baffles the Wisest Quest.—The parenthesis in Ecclesiastes 8:16 b describes the ceaseless effort of the keen student of life, or perhaps the fate of the toiler who is too tired to sleep; with Ecclesiastes 8:17; cf. Ecclesiastes 7:24, Job 11:6-9, and from the Christian standpoint Romans 11:33, Ephesians 3:8 ("unsearchable riches"). By heart (Ecclesiastes 9:1) is meant the whole inner nature, intellectual and emotional; God is the supreme arbiter of human destiny. Whether He regards us with love or hatred we cannot tell; life is so tangled that the Divine attitude is inscrutable. Follow LXX, in adding the first word of Ecclesiastes 8:2 with a slight change to Ecclesiastes 8:1 and read, "All before them is vanity. To all alike, there is one event."

Ecclesiastes 9:2. to the good: see mg. "He that sweareth," the man who abides by his oath; "he that feareth an oath," the man who is afraid to take or carry out a vow. This interpretation is in line with the other comparisons, the good precedes the evil example; but perhaps we should take "sweareth" of profanity and "feareth an oath" of loyal obedience to a vow.

Ecclesiastes 9:3. an evil in all: a supreme evil.—full of evil: full of dissatisfaction. Life is all unrest and madness, and after that—"to the dead."

Ecclesiastes 9:4. a dog is a poor creature in the East, while the lion stands for kingly power.

Ecclesiastes 9:5. Even to know that one must die is superior to being dead. Death ends all, it extinguishes all the passions and emotions, takes a man from the only sphere of activity there is, and even blots out the remembrance of him (cf. Ecclesiastes 8:10 b). This being so, enjoy yourself while you can; God has so arranged the world that this is the only thing you can do, so it must be acceptable to Him.

has a remarkably close parallel in a fragment of the Gilgamesh epic; "Since the gods created man, Death they ordained for man, Life in their hands they hold; Thou O Gilgamesh fill thy belly, Day and night be thou joyful," etc.

Ecclesiastes 9:9 is less a eulogium of quiet home life than advice to a man to enjoy any woman who appeals to him; there is no contradiction to Ecclesiastes 7:26-28.

The advice in Ecclesiastes 8:10 a must be taken as referring to any form of enjoyment; it finds its transfiguration in John 9:4.—the grave: Sheol, described in Isaiah 14:9-11*, Ezekiel 32:18-32. In Ecclesiastes 8:11 Qoheleth takes up the idea again that life's prizes are not bestowed for merit or ability; men are the creatures of time and chance, misfortune attends them till their time is up. Even that hour is unknown, they are trapped unexpectedly like the bird and the fish. The closest historical parallel to the incident pictured in Ecclesiastes 8:13-16 is the siege of Abel-beth-maacah (2 Samuel 20:15-22); Qoheleth would not scruple to change the "wise woman" into a man. Other suggestions are the siege of Dor in 218 B.C. (1 Maccabees 15) or that of Bethsura (1 Maccabees 6:31, 2 Maccabees 13:9). The point of the story is that the wise as well as the righteous are soon forgotten.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 9:7". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". 1919.

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary


Ecc . Let thy garments be always white; and let thy head lack no ointment] No literal observance of these circumstances of external appearance is intended; but rather an exhortation to indulge those calm and pure emotions of joy, of which white garments and a face which oil causes to shine are the well-known symbols.

Ecc . For there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave whither thou goest.] This may be compared with the saying of our Lord in Joh 9:4. The grave.] The unseen state to which thou art hastening.



The Preacher had shown that the ways of God to man are full of dark mystery. This has been a terrible oppression to many—to some even a fatal one. We must admit that man's present condition is unsatisfactory; for it is rudimentary. It is on the way to perfection. The dark enigma of life, however, should not be a fatal obstacle to duty. Of the unsatisfactory conditions of the present life, we affirm—

I. They do not Forbid a Joyful Acceptance and Use of the Blessings of Providence. (Ecc .) The habit of dwelling exclusively upon the dark side of things is hurtful to the soul. We are either driven to melancholy and despair, or else to the mad pursuit of pleasure by which we seek to drown all anxiety and care. There is a safe middle way between these two extremes, by which we avoid gloom and despair, on the one hand, and a reckless pursuit of pleasure, on the other hand. We should thankfully accept the blessings of Providence, and use them with sobriety. The consciousness that God "accepteth" our "works" should be at once the impulse and the director of our joy (Ecc 9:7). The constant reference to God, and the intention of pleasing Him, will sanctify all life. There are three sources of enjoyment referred to here, which we may soberly and thankfully use.

1. The satisfaction of the appetites. (Ecc .) Our physical wants are a fact of our nature which we must accept. They crave for satisfaction. These natural endowments, as they arise from the appointment of the Creator, are not sinful in themselves. They only become the occasion of sin by unlawful indulgence. The bounty of the Great Giver has furnished means for the satisfaction of our common wants, even ministering to the most delicate perceptions of taste and gladdening the heart of man.

2. The taste for outward beauty. (Ecc .) There are outward forms, the contemplation of which gives an exquisite and refined pleasure. Thus the ornaments of dress minister to the instinct of beauty and harmony. The Creator, in His works, has not only studied utility, but has even prepared those graces and ornaments which wait upon our perception of elegance. He has placed this instinct in the human breast. We may indulge it if we only do so with moderation, remembering that outward beauty has no infinite capacity to please. It is a joy which is bounded, and God alone is the soul's pure and permanent delight.

3. Domestic joys. (Ecc .) The various relations of life, whether we are born to their possession, or enter them by choice, minister to our social enjoyments. They tend to abate the natural selfishness of the human heart and to multiply and exalt our pleasures. These are the gifts of God—they are our "portion" here. They serve for awhile to lift our minds above the overwhelming sense of the vanity of life. We can use such joys if we remember that they too are fleeting, and that the only sure and abiding portion for the soul is God. "The fashion"—the outward form, scheme, or arrangement—"of this world passeth away." (1Co 7:31.)

II. They do not Forbid proper Zeal and Diligence in the Work of Life. (Ecc .) We may dwell upon the dark things of life until we are driven to despair, and despair paralyses effort. Weak hands and feeble knees accompany melancholy. Whatever be the tendencies and issues of things—the ultimate solution of this mystery—we have great practical duties to perform.

1. We should accept the task and duty lying nearest to us. It is in vain to sit still and wait for some congenial task to fall in our way. There are duties enough lying to our hand. No man has need to be idle for lack of a task.

2. We should be earnest in our work. The most exalted natures are distinguished by the highest activity—God, who works in and through all—the angels, who are quick and strong to do His will. Throughout the whole course of nature we observe unwearied activity. Creation preaches to us, saying, be earnest. The illustrious names of history who have won a distinction that will never die exhort us to industry. Such is the price we have to pay for all possessions that are of true and abiding worth.

3. We have a strong motive for such earnestness. Whatever may lie before us in the future, there are certain kinds of work which can only be done in this world. While the work is before us and our faculty is fresh, all is fluent to our hands; but when our life's day is ended, all becomes rigid—fixed in the solemn stillness of eternity! There are forms of work and of knowledge which are only possible here. If we disregard them, there will be no chance afforded us to repair the omission. Even Christ himself, during his earthly sojourn, came under this law. There was a work which even He could do only in this world. (Joh .) He felt that in His mortal day His allotted task must be accomplished. The grave is the dark terminus of our earthly work.

III. They do not Destroy our Hope of Reward. From the appearances of this life we may draw the hasty conclusion that there is no reward for goodness hereafter, no vindication of suffering innocence. It seems as if this troubled drama of human history must repeat itself endlessly throughout the ages. But we have to reflect,

1. That we stand in a present relation to God. If we are good in His sight, He accepts our works now. He receives them as the homage of our gratitude, and pieces out our imperfections with His goodness. We may well hope that that goodness has provided for us the larger gift of immortality. God will not permit us to know Him and work for Him through the brief space of life, and then blot us out of existence for ever.

2. We have reason to hope that we shall stand in a future relation to Him. If we can say with the Psalmist, "O God, Thou art my God" (Psa ), we may well hope that He shall be our portion for ever, that He shall redeem us from the power of the grave. The majesty of God requires that He shall make His servants rich, not only by the bestowal of gifts by which they serve Him, but also in the heritage of eternal life, so that they may serve Him for ever. Therefore, though the way be dark, we can have light enough for duty; and unfading hope to assure us that there is for us a higher service in other worlds.


Ecc . The mystery of God's moral Government should not render our sight insensible to the impressions of His goodness, the proofs of which are full and manifest.

The Almighty Maker of all things intended that the beauty of His works should make an appeal to mind and heart. In like manner, He intends that the gifts of His hand should awaken in us the emotions of gratitude and joy.

When God accepts our works, the commonest actions of our life become sanctified.

Though faith be sorely tried by appearances, yet God is on the side of the righteous, giving them tokens of acceptance and reserving greater things for them.

We must learn to live before we can live rightly and well. With us, "that which is natural" forces itself upon us as our first care. Afterwards that which is spiritual. Wherefore those ordinary gifts of Providence by which we are constantly delivered from death deserve the instant tribute of our praise and joy.

Moses putting his hand into his bosom took it out leprous, putting it again into his bosom, he took it out clean. The hand is the instrument of working, and the works of man are sometimes leprous and unsound, sometimes healthy and good. If they proceed from a sincere and honest heart, which God approveth, then they are sound and healthy; but if they come from a corrupt heart, and be done for the pleasing of men, then they are leprous and unsound. Now it is a healthy and sound body that is fittest for mirth and freest in mirth, it is a healthy and sound body that eateth and drinketh most cheerfully. Wherefore seeing where God accepteth thy works, there is health and soundness, let there also be freeness of joy and mirth [Jermin].

Ecc . Cheerfulness should be the soul's habit, and joy the prevailing expression of the soul's countenance.

God gives His people the oil of joy to assuage their grief, and fits them for the feast of His pleasures by the garments of praise.

The notion of pleasure seems invariably associated with the practice; and it was aptly indicated by the richness and freshness, and, in many cases, by the aromatic fragrance, of the balsamic unguents. "Let thy head lack no ointment" is equivalent to—Rejoice in the bounty and loving-kindness of the Lord; "let not thy heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." And the expression "let thy garments be always white" is of the same account with the Apostolic exhortation, "Rejoice evermore!" Take the enjoyment of whatever the hand of a kind Providence bestows, with a grateful and cheerful spirit; not with selfishness or extravagance, or thoughtless mirth; but with benevolence and sobriety, and with that true joy which is independent of the possessions of time, which, coming from above, infuses into the things of earth a relish of heaven, and would continue to be the inmate of the pious soul, though they were all removed [Wardlaw].

Christ was anointed with the oil of joy, although he lived under the shadow of a great calamity. All noble souls have a deep and intimate joy which no disasters can dislodge.

Ecc . The disciples of wisdom affect no refinement beyond the ordinances of God.

We should joyfully use those solaces which God's Providence has provided for us as a peaceful retreat from the tumultuous scenes of life.

"Here love his golden shafts employs, here lights

His constant lamp, and waves his purple wings—

Here reigns and revels" [Paradise Lost].

The moral character of nations is determined by the purity and integrity of domestic life. The home is the support, the forerunner, the very material of the State and Church. The righteous man, by beautifying and sanctifying home, is the real safety and hope of his country.

We should look upon the joys of domestic life as the earthly reward of our labour, our measured portion of happiness here, and the gift of God.

The sense of time fast speeding on to eternity hangs over the most endearing scenes of life, and at times touches thoughtful minds with overwhelming emotion.

By the repetition of the last words we are expressly taught that, in the midst of the vanity and travail with which human existence is burdened, we are pressingly summoned not to seal up the sources of enjoyment which still remain open to us [Hengstenberg].

The consideration of the vanity and shortness of their life, and of the miseries incident to it, though it should not provoke them to excess of sensual delights, yet it should incite them to a more cheerful use of these comforts, that, seeing their time is short, they may have the more strength and encouragement to serve the Lord cheerfully. For while Solomon is pressing upon men a cheerful and free use of outward comforts, he minds them twice of the vanity of their life, which, in the midst of these things, they are ready to forget, and makes the same a reason pressing the cheerful use of their allowance [Nisbet].

Ecc . The melancholy and gloom which deep thought awakens is dissipated by the active exertion of our powers in duty.

Whatever is dark and mysterious in man's present state, his work, and the obligation to perform it, are quite clear and evident. It is better to spend his energy upon what is certain than to torment himself with the pain of speculation.

That the opportunity is short is a motive for diligent exertion in our work, but not the strongest motive; which the notion of our state hereafter, depending upon our work here, alone supplies. Therefore this exhortation requires, though it does not formally state, the doctrine of a future life.

Death is truly an unclothing of man, who, though his being is continuous, must put aside what he cannot resume again. There are duties to be performed, talents and powers to be used, which are peculiar to the present state; they must altogether be put off with our mortal life.

Though sustained by immortal hope, it is salutary to reflect upon the physical side of death, and learn from thence diligence in the duty of the moment, or even console ourselves by the melancholy prospect of its long repose. Whatever the state of the dead may be, it is certain that it is night to us, as far as some kinds of work and modes of knowledge are concerned.

Nothing that has been neglected here can be attended to there. If we fail to perform a duty in this life, there will be no opportunity of performing it in the place of the dead. If we have errors to confess, or wrongs to repair—if we have any bad influence to undo, or any good influence to employ—if we have any evil habits to unlearn, or any gracious tendencies to cultivate, now is the time [Buchanan].

Man's characteristic is restlessness; restlessness foretells his immortality; and a sluggard by his apathy seems to destroy the mark, and silence the prophecy. But if confined to other things, indolence may not be absolutely fatal; the indolent man may have wealth which secures him against want; and by the occasional exercise of rare talents he may, in spite of habitual sluggishness, even attain to some measure of distinction. But an indolent Christian—it is a sort of contradiction—Christianity is industry spiritualised [Melvill].

Diligence in our earthly and heavenly callings is the surest way through mystery and darkness up to God.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 9:7". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary

Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works.

There is a great beauty in this verse; if explained upon gospel principles. If a soul be accepted in Jesus, he may well eat the bread both of body and soul, with a cheerful heart. In Jesus, everything is blessed: and Jesus blesses everything.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 9:7". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". 1828.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Ecclesiastes 9:7-9. Go thy way — Make this use of what I have said. Eat thy bread — Thy necessary and convenient food; with joy, &c. — Cheerfully enjoy thy comforts, avoiding all distracting care and grief for the occurrences of this world. For God now accepteth thy works — Whosoever thou art, that art truly pious and upright before him, he is gracious unto thee, accepts thy services for his honour, and allows thee a comfortable enjoyment of his blessings. Let thy garments be always white — In all convenient times and circumstances; for there are times of mourning. The eastern people of the best sort used white garments, especially in times of rejoicing. But by this whiteness of garments he seems to intend a pleasant and cheerful conversation. And let thy head lack no ointment — Which, upon joyful occasions, was poured upon men’s heads. Live joyfully with thy wife — The one wife, whom thou lovest. Love her, and keep thyself only to her, avoiding all improper intercourse and familiarity with all other women, and thou wilt live comfortably with her; all the days of thy vanity — Of this vain and frail life: which expression he uses to moderate men’s affections even toward lawful pleasures, and to admonish them of their duty and interest in making sure of a better life, and more solid comforts. For that is thy portion — Allowed thee by God; and the best part of worldly enjoyments; in this life — By which addition he again reminds him of the duty of seeking another and better portion in a future life.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 9:7". Joseph Benson's Commentary. 1857.

Sermon Bible Commentary

Ecclesiastes 9:7-8

I. This is one of those passages, so remarkable in the writings of Solomon, in which the words of sinful men in the world are taken up by the Holy Ghost, to be applied in a Christian sense. As they stand in Ecclesiastes, it seems very plain that they are intended to represent the sayings and thoughts of sensual, careless people, indulging themselves in their profane ways, their utter neglect of God and goodness, with the notion that this world is all. But see the ever-watchful goodness and mercy of God. The words which the dissolute, wild-hearted sinner uses to encourage himself in his evil, inconsiderate ways He teaches us to take up, and use them in a very different sense: to express the inward joy and comfort which God's people may find in obeying Him. They are God's gracious word of permission to those who fear Him, encouraging them to enjoy with innocence, moderation, and thankfulness the daily comforts and reliefs with which He so plentifully supplies them even in this imperfect world.

II. If Christians were at all such as they ought to be, these words might be well and profitably understood with a particular reference to this sacred season of Whitsuntide. This time is the last of the holy seasons; it represents to us the full completion of God's unspeakable plan for the salvation of the world. Supposing, then, any humble, faithful Christian to have rightly kept the former holy seasons, may we not without presumption imagine him to hear the voice of his approving conscience, the certain yet silent whispers of the Holy Comforter in his heart, "Go thy way now; receive the fulness of the blessing of these sacred days, which thou hast so dutifully tried to observe "?

III. "Let thy garments be always white, and let thy head lack no ointment." (1) This would be felt by the Christians of ancient times as peculiarly suitable to the holy season of Whitsuntide. For that was one of the solemn times of baptizing, and the newly-baptized were always clothed in white. To say, therefore, to Christians at Whitsuntide, "Let thy garments be always white," was the same as saying, "Take care that at no time you stain or sully the bright and clear robe of your Saviour's righteousness." (2) Oil is in Scripture the constant token of the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit. Therefore to say, "Let thy head lack no ointment," would mean, "Take care that thou stir up, cherish, and improve the unspeakable gift of which thou art now made partaker. Use diligently all the means of grace which Christ has provided for thee in His kingdom, whereof thou art now come to be an inheritor."

Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times," vol. vi., p. 117.

References: Ecclesiastes 9:7, Ecclesiastes 9:8.—J. Keble, Sermons from Ascension Day to Trinity Sunday, p. 315. Ecclesiastes 9:8.—Outline Sermons to Children, p. 85.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 9:7". "Sermon Bible Commentary".

The Biblical Illustrator

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Ecclesiastes 9:7". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.

The Biblical Illustrator

Ecclesiastes 9:7-8

Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now aceepteth thy works.

Festival joy

This is one of those passages, so remarkable in the writings of Solomon, in which the words of sinful men in the world are taken up by the Holy Ghost, to be applied in a Christian sense. As they stand in Ecclesiastes, they are intended to represent the sayings of sensual, careless people, indulging themselves in their profane ways, their utter neglect of God and goodness, with the notion that this world is all. It is much the same as the unbeliever’s saying, “Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die.” But see the ever-watchful goodness and mercy of God. The words which the dissolute, wild-hearted sinner uses to encourage himself in his evil, inconsiderate ways, He teaches us to take up, and use them in a very different sense; to express the inward joy and comfort which God’s people may find in obeying Him. As thus: suppose a person giving himself up, with his whole heart, to the service and obedience of God; suppose him really Withdrawing himself from the sins which had most easily beset him; suppose him making some great sacrifice, parting with what he held very dear, or submitting to pain or grief for Christ’s sake: then the holy and merciful Comforter seems to say to him in the words of the text, “Go thy way now, thank God, and take courage; the blessing of God is now restored to thee, and will be upon all thou hast, and upon thine ordinary employments and refreshments: now thou mayest eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart, for God now accepteth thy works.” What a heavenly light it would throw over our ordinary works and refreshments, if, being always careful to set about them with a good conscience, we could seriously bring it home to ourselves, that they are so many tokens of heavenly and eternal love; so many reasonable grounds of hope, that God really accepteth our works. But there is yet a higher, a Christian sense of these words. The bread and wine, the white garments, the ointment for the head, are figures and types of our Christian privileges, the blessings and favours of the kingdom of heaven. It is, then, as if the Holy Word had said to us, being, as we are, Christian men, members of the mystical Body of our Lord and Saviour, “Now you have been brought into the communion of saints; now God has set His seal upon you; now you are washed, sanctified, justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. Go your way, then; use your privileges with all reverence, joy, and fear.” And it would seem that if Christians were at all such as they ought to be, the words might be well and profitably understood with a particular reference to this sacred season of Whitsuntide. This is the last of the holy seasons; it represents to us the full completion of God’s unspeakable plan for the salvation of the world. The words have a sound most comfortable to penitents, as well as to those who, by God’s help, have kept themselves from wilful, deadly sin. They sound like words of absolution: “Go thy way, return again to that holy Table, from which thy transgressions had for a time separated thee: eat thy Bread and drink thy Wine with a courageous and hopeful heart; for now there is hope that God accepteth thy works; that He hears thee, since thou hast left off inclining unto wickedness with thine heart. Thy case indeed is alarming, from the continual danger of a relapse; and thy loss at best is great, penitency instead of innoceney being thy portion; yet go on steadily and cheerfully.” Observe, however, the words which follow, which to the hearing of a thoughtful Christian convey a very serious admonition, telling us on what these unspeakable privileges depend, so far as our own conduct is concerned: “Let thy garments be always white, and let thine head lack no ointment.” To say, therefore, to Christians at Whitsuntide, “Let thy garments be always white,” was the same as saying, “Take care that at no time you stain or sully the bright and clear robe of your Saviour’s righteousness, which has just been thrown over you: according to the apostle’s saying, ‘As many as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.’ As much as possible keep it clear from all spot of wilful sin.” Again, says the wise man, “Let thine head lack no ointment”; and this again is an allusion which would come with a particular meaning in early times to the new-baptized Christians, and those who had been present at their baptism And oil is in Scripture the constant token of the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, to say, “Let thy head lack no ointment,” would mean, “Take care that thou stir up, cherish, and improve the unspeakable gift of which thou art now made partaker. Use diligently all the means of grace which Christ has provided for thee in His kingdom, whereof thou art now come to be an inheritor.” (Plain Sermons by Contributors to theTracts for the Times.”)

Let thy garments be always white.--

White robes

One of the most common beliefs of men concerning heaven is that all are to be robed in white; and it is no idle fancy, for the Bible warrants such a belief. The priestly robes worn in the temple service were white; the apocalyptic vision was filled with the white-robed; the poetry of the Bible teaches that purity and joy in life are symbolized by snowy raiments--“Let thy garments be always white.” “Thy garments.” This is a personal matter. The command is to the end that each is to see that his own dress is clean. The neighbour will take care of his own. And now the emphasis comes on “always.” There must not be a single careless moment. Why is the colour of our garments to be white? Why? Because everybody looks well in white. All complexions can stand white. The plainest are adorned and the most beautiful are made more angelic by wearing it. We love white garments because they are so pure. No impure dyes have disfigured the cloth, and all of Nature’s tints the bleachers have taken away. So white robes remind us constantly of purity. And did you ever think how important it is? The springs that furnish the thirsty with water must be in their fountain-heads pure, or who will dare to use it? The usefulness of anything depends upon its purity. The white garment is an object lesson, then, teaching the vital importance of purity in heart and life. To be able to look God in the face with steady eye and unblanched cheek. O, that is worth all the sacrifice that it may demand! “But it is so hard to keep pure and sweet,” they say. I may be tempted by the allurements of the world. Money, with its shining sunbeams, may twine its fingers about my heart to woo it. Ambition, with her lofty and imposing mien, may awe me to obey her. Shall I give up the white raiment of my soul? I would not dare to soil my raiment now, for the spots in such a light the whole world could see, and how could I ever again look up and cry “Abba, Father,” if on my heart was the stain of evil? But white raiment is the symbol of another quality in the true life. It is joy. Always dependent upon purity for its life, yet a separate quality. No impure life is ever a truly happy life. We put on our clean raiment to honour the joyful occasion. Children, I believe that pure heart is always happy. Then there is a duty attached, the duty to be joyful in being and doing good. How different the world would be to-day if the command about our spiritual toilet were heeded! Let us try hereafter to live in such a way as to teach our friends how blessed it is to have pure, and, therefore, happy hearts. White robes bring great responsibility. They soil so easily. The clean garment shows the dirt at the slightest contact. Keep your hearts clean, for they will soil as easily as the white dress. The little girl who went home from a visit to a neighbour’s by far the longest way, in order to keep her dress from the mud of a certain street, on being asked why she did it since it made her very tired, said: “It kept my dwess tean.” How much better children of our Heavenly Father we should be if we were as particular to keep the raiment of our hearts free from the mud-stains of sin, even though the extra toil makes us very weary. Better be tired, even to death, than soil the raiment of the soul. (G. F. Prentiss.)

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Ecclesiastes 9:7". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.

The Biblical Illustrator

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Ecclesiastes 9:7". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.

Expositor's Bible Commentary



The Quest Achieved. The Chief Good Is To Be Found, Not In Wisdom, Nor In Pleasure, Nor In Devotion To Affairs And Its Rewards;

But In A Wise Use And A Wise Enjoyment Of The Present Life, Combined With A Steadfast Faith In The Life To Come

Ecclesiastes 8:16 - Ecclesiastes 12:7

AT last we approach the end of our Quest. The Preacher has found the Chief Good, and will show us where to find it. But are we even yet prepared to welcome it and to lay hold of it? Apparently he thinks we are not. For, though he has already warned us that it is not to be found in Wealth or Industry, in Pleasure or Wisdom, he repeats his warning in this last Section of his Book, as if he still suspected us of hankering after our old errors. Not till he has again assured us that we shall miss our mark if we seek the supreme Good in any of the directions in which it is commonly sought, does he direct us to the sole path in which we shall not seek in vain. Once more, therefore, we must gird up the loins of our mind to follow him along his several lines of thought, encouraged by the assurance that the end of our journey is not far off.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 9:7". "Expositor's Bible Commentary".

Expositor's Bible Commentary

Nor in Pleasure:

Ecclesiastes 9:7-12

Imagine, then, a Jew brought to the bitter pass which Coheleth has described. He has acquainted himself with wisdom, native and foreign; and wisdom has led him to conclusions of virtue. Nor is he of those who love virtue as they love music-without practicing it. Believing that a righteous and religious carriage of himself will ensure happiness and equip him to encounter the problems of life, he has striven to be good and pure, to offer his sacrifices and pay his vows. But he has found that, despite his best endeavours, his life is not tranquil, that the very calamities which overtake the wicked overtake him, that that wise carriage of himself by which he thought to win love has provoked hatred, that death remains a frowning and inhospitable mystery. He hates death, and has no great love for the life which has brought him only labour and disappointment. Where is he likely to turn next? Wisdom having failed him, to what will he apply? At what conclusion will he arrive? Will not his conclusion be that standing conclusion of the baffled and the hapless, "Let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die"? Will he not say, "Why should I weary myself any more with studies which yield no certain science, and self-denials which meet with no reward? If a wise and pure conduct cannot secure me from the evils I dread, let me at least try to forget them and to grasp such poor delights as are still within my reach"? This, at all events, is the conclusion in which the Preacher lands him; and hence he takes occasion to review the pretensions of pleasure or mirth. To the baffled and hopeless devotee of wisdom he says, "Go, then, eat thy bread with gladness, and drink thy wine with a merry heart. Cease to trouble yourself about God and His judgments. He, as you have seen, does not mete out rewards and punishments according to our merit or demerit; and as He does not punish the wicked after their deserts, you may be sure that He has long since accepted your wise virtuous endeavours, and will keep no score against you. Deck yourself in white festive garments; let no perfume be lacking to your head; add to your harem any woman who charms your eye: and, as the day of your life is brief at the best, let no hour of it slip by unenjoyed. As you have chosen mirth for your portion, be as merry as you may. Whatever you can get, get; whatever you can do, do. You are on the road to the dark dismal grave where there is no work nor device; there is, therefore, the more reason why your journey should be a merry one" (Ecclesiastes 9:7-10).

Thus the Preacher describes the Man of Pleasure, and the maxims by which he rules his life. How true the description is I need not tarry to prove; ‘tis a point every man can judge for himself. Judge also whether the warning which the Preacher subjoins be not equally true to experience (Ecclesiastes 9:11-12). For, after having depicted, or personated, the man who trusts in wisdom, and the man who devotes himself to pleasure, he proceeds to show that even the man who blends mirth with study, whose wisdom preserves him from the disgusts of satiety and vulgar lust, is nevertheless-to say nothing of the Chief Good-very far from having reached a certain good. Then, at least, "the race was not (always) to the swift, nor the battle to the strong; neither was bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favour to the learned." Those who had the fairest chances had not always the happiest success; nor did those who bent themselves most strongly to their ends always reach their ends. Those who were wanton as birds, or heedless as fish, were often taken in the snare of calamity or swept up by the net of misfortune. At any moment a killing frost might blight all the growths of Wisdom and destroy all the sweet fruits of pleasure; and if they had only these, what could they do but starve when these were gone? The good which was at the mercy of accident, which might vanish before the instant touch of disease or loss or pain, was not worthy to be, or to be compared with, the Chief Good, which is a good for all times, in all accidents and conditions, and renders him who has it equal to all events.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 9:7". "Expositor's Bible Commentary".

The Pulpit Commentaries


Ecclesiastes 9:1-6

One fate happens to all, and the dead are cut off from all the feelings and interests of life in the upper world.

Ecclesiastes 9:1

This continues the subject treated above, confirming the conclusion arrived at in Ecclesiastes 8:17, viz. that God's government of the world is unfathomable. For all this I considered in my heart even to declare all this; literally, for all this laid up in my heart, and all this I have been about (equivalent to I sought) to clear up. The reference is both to what has been said and to what is coming. The ki, "for" (which the Vulgate omits), at the beginning gives the reason for the truth of what is advanced; the writer has omitted no means of arriving at a conclusion. One great result of his consideration he proceeds to state. The Septuagint connects this clause closely with the last verse of the preceding chapter, "For I applied all this to my heart, and my heart saw all this." The righteous, and the wise, and their works, are in the hand of God (Psalms 31:15; Proverbs 21:1); i.e. in his power, under his direction. Man is not independent. Even the good and wise, who might be supposed to afford the plainest evidence of the favorable side of God's moral government, are subject to the same unsearchable law. The very incomprehensibility of this principle proves that it comes from God, and men may well be content to submit themselves to it, knowing that he is as just as he is almighty. No man knoweth either love or hatred. God's favor or displeasure are meant. Vulgate, Et tamen nescit homo, utrum amore an odio dignus sit. We cannot judge from the events that befall a man what is the view which God takes of his character. We must not, like Job's friends, decide that a man is a great sinner because calamity falls upon him, nor again suppose that outward prosperity is a proof of a life righteous and well-pleasing to God. Outward circumstances are no criterion of inward disposition or of final judgment. From the troubles or the comforts which we ourselves experience or witness in others we have no right to argue God's favor or displeasure. He disposes matters as seems best to him, and we must not expect to see every one in this world treated according to what we should deem his deserts (comp. Proverbs 1:1-33 :52 with Hebrews 12:6). Delitzsch and others think that the expressions "love" and "hatred" are too general to admit of being interpreted as above, and they determine the sense to be that no one can tell beforehand who will be the objects of, his love or hate, or how entirely his feelings may change in regard of persons with whom he is brought in contact. The circumstances which give rise to these sentiments are entirely beyond his control and foresight. This is true enough, but it does not seem to me to be intended. The author is concerned, not with inward sentiments, but with prosperity and adversity considered popularly as indications of God's view of things. It would be but a meager assertion to state that you cannot know whether you are to love or hate, because God ordains all such contingencies; whereas to warn against hasty and infidel judgments on the ground of our ignorance of God's mysterious ways, is sound and weighty advice, and in due harmony with what follows in the next verses. The interpretation, "No man knows whether he shall meet with the love or hatred of his fellows," has commended itself to some critics, but is as inadmissible as the one just mentioned. By all that is before them. The Hebrew is simply, "all [lies] before them." All that shall happen, all that shall shape their destiny in the future, is obscure and unknown, and beyond their control. Septuagint, τὰ πάντα πρὸ προσώπου αὐτῶν. The Vulgate mixes this clause with the following verse, But all things are kept uncertain for the future. St. Gregory, "As thou knowest not who are converted from sin to goodness, nor who turn back from goodness to sin; so also thou dost not understand what is doing towards thyself as thy merits deserve. And as thou dost not at all comprehend another's end, so art thou also unable to foresee thine own. For thou knowest now what progress thou hast made thyself, but what I [God] still think of thee in secret thou knowest not. Thou now thinkest on thy deeds of righteousness; but thou knowest not how strictly they are weighed by me. Woe even to the praiseworthy life of men if it be judged without mercy, because when strictly examined it is overwhelmed in the presence of the Judge by the very conduct with which it imagines that it pleases him" ('Moral.,' 29.34, Oxford transl.).

Ecclesiastes 9:2

All things come alike to all; literally, all things [are] like that which [happens] to all persons. There is no difference in the treatment of persons; all people of every kind meet with circumstances of every kind. Speaking generally, there is no discrimination, apparently, in the distribution of good and evil. Sun and shade, calm and storm. fruitful and unfruitful seasons, joy and sorrow, are dispensed by inscrutable laws. The Septuagint, reading differently, has, "Vanity is in all;" the Syriac unites two readings, "All before him is vanity, all as to all" (Ginsburg). There is one event to the righteous, and to the wicked. All men have the same lot, whether it be death or any other contingency, without regard to their naomi condition. The classes into which men are divided must be noted. "Righteous" and "wicked" refer to men in their conduct to others. The good. The Septuagint, Vulgate, and Syriac add, "to the evil," which is said again almost immediately. To the clean, and to the unclean. "The good" and "clean" are those who are not only ceremonially pure, but, as the epithet "good" shows, are morally undefiled. To him that sacrificeth; i.e. the man who attends to the externals of religion, offers the obligatory sacrifices, and brings his free-will offerings. The good … the sinner; in the widest senses. He that sweareth, as he that feareth an oath. He who takes an oath lightly, carelessly, or falsely (comp. Zechariah 5:3), is contrasted with him who regards it as a holy thing, or shrinks in awe from invoking God's Name in such a case This last idea is regarded as a late Essenic development (see Josephus, 'Bell. Jud.,' 2.8. 6); though something like it is found in the sermon on the mount, "I say unto you, Swear not at all," etc. (Matthew 5:34-37). Dean Plumptre, however, throws doubt on the above interpretation, owing to the fact that in all the other groups the good side is placed first; and he suggests that "he who sweareth" may be one who does his duty in this particular religiously and well (comp. Deuteronomy 6:13; Isaiah 65:16), and "he who fears the oath" is a man whose conscience makes him shrink from the oath of compurgation (Exodus 22:10, Exodus 22:11; Numbers 5:19-22), or who is too cowardly to give his testimony in due form. The Vulgate has, Ut perjurus, its et ille qui verum dejerat; and it seems unnecessary to present an entirely new view of the passage in slavish expectation of a concinnity which the author cannot be proved to have ever aimed at. The five contrasted pairs are the righteous and the wicked, the clean and the unclean, the sacrificer and the non-sacrificer, the good and the sinner, the profane swearer and the man who reverences an oath. The last clause is rendered by the Septuagint, "So is he who sweareth ( ὁ ὀμνύων) even as he who fears the oath," which is as ambiguous as the original. A cautious Greek gnome says—

ὅρκον δὲ φεῦγε κᾶν δικαίως ὀμνύῃς

"Avoid an oath, though justly you might swear."

Ecclesiastes 9:3

This is an evil among all things that are done under the sun. The "evil" is explained in the following words, which speak of the common fate. The Vulgate (followed by Ginsburg and others) lakes the first words as equivalent to a superlative: Hoc est pessimum inter omnia, "This is the greatest evil of all that is done under the sun." But the article would have been used in this case; nor would this accurately express Koheleth's sentiments. He looks upon death only as one of the evils appertaining to men's career on earth—one of the phases of that identity of treatment so certain and so inexplicable, which leads to disastrous results (Ecclesiastes 8:11). That there is one event unto all. The "one event," as the end of the verse shows, is death. We have here the old strain repeated which is found in Ecclesiastes 2:14-16; Ecclesiastes 3:19; Ecclesiastes 5:15; Ecclesiastes 6:12; "Omnes eodem cogimur" (Horace, 'Carm.,' Ecclesiastes 2:3. 25). Yea, also the heart of the sons of men is full of evil. In consequence of this indiscriminating destiny men sin recklessly, are encouraged in their wickedness. Madness is in their heart while they live. The "madness" is conduct opposed to the dictates of wisdom and reason, as Ecclesiastes 1:17; Ecclesiastes 2:2, Ecclesiastes 2:12. All their life long men follow their own lusts and passions, and care little for God's will and law, or their own best interests. This is well called "want of reason. And after that they go to the dead. The verb is omitted in the Hebrew, being implied by the preposition כִּי, "to;" the omission is very forcible. Delitzsch, Wright, and others render, "after him," i.e. after man's life is ended, which seems rather to say, "after they die, they die." The idea, however, appears to be, both good and evil go to the same place, pass away into nothingness, are known no more in this world. Here at present Koheleth leaves the question of the future life, having already intimated his belief in Ecclesiastes 3:1-22. and Ecclesiastes 8:11, etc.

Ecclesiastes 9:4

For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope. As long as a man lives (is one of living beings) he has some hope, whatever it be. This feeling is inextinguishable even unto the end.

ἄελπτον οὐδέν πάντα δ ελπίζειν χρεών

"Hope springs eternal in the human breast."

Thus Bailey sings, in 'Festus'—

"All Have hopes, however wretched they may be,

Or blessed. It is hope which lifts the lark so high,

Hope of a lighter air and bluer sky;

And the poor hack which drops down on the flints,

Upon whose eye the dust is settling, he

Hopes, but to die. No being exists, of hope,

Of love, void."

This clause gives a reason for the folly of men, mentioned in Ecclesiastes 9:3. Whatever be their lot, or their way of life, they see no reason to make any change by reformation or active exertion. They go on hoping, and do nothing. Something may turn up; amid the inexplicable confusion of the ordering of events some happy contingency may arrive. The above is the reading according to the Keri. Thus the Septuagint: ὅτι τίς ὅς κοινωνεῖ; "For who is he that has fellowship with all the living?" Symmachus has, "For who is he that will always continue to live?" while the Vulgate gives, Nemo est qui semper vivat. The Khetib points differently, offering the reading, "For who is excepted?" i.e. from the common lot, the interrogation being closely connected with the preceding verse, or "Who can choose?" i.e. whether he will die or not. The sentence then proceeds, "To all the living there is hope." But the rendering of the Authorized Version has good authority, and affords the better sense. For a living dog is better than a dead lion. The dog in Palestine was not made a pet and companion, as it is among us, but was regarded as a loathsome and despicable object comp. 1 Samuel 17:43; 2 Samuel 3:8); while the lion was considered as the noblest of beasts, the type of power and greatness (comp. Proverbs 30:30; Isaiah 31:4). So the proverbial saying in the text means that the vilest and meanest creature possessed of life is better than the highest and mightiest which has succumbed to death. There is an apparent contradiction between this sentence and such passages as claim a preference for death over life, e.g. Ecclesiastes 4:2; Ecclesiastes 7:1; but in the latter the writer is viewing life with all its sorrows and bitter experiences, here he regards it as affording the possibility of enjoyment. In the one case he holds death as desirable, because it delivers from further sorrow and puts an end to misery; in the other, he deprecates death as cutting off from pleasure and hope. He may also have in mind that now is the time to do the work which we have to perform: "The night cometh when no man can work;" Ecclesiasticus 17:28, "Thanksgiving perisheth from the dead, as from one that is not; the living and sound shall praise the Lord" (comp. Isaiah 38:18, Isaiah 38:19.)

Ecclesiastes 9:5

For the living know that they shall die. This is added in confirmation of the statement in Ecclesiastes 9:4. The living have at least the consciousness that they will soon have to die, and this leads them to work while it is day, to employ their faculties worthily, to make use of opportunities, to enjoy and profit by the present. They have a certain fixed event to which they must look forward; and they have not to stand idle, lamenting their fate, but their duty and their happiness is to accept the inevitable and make the best of it. But the dead know not anything. They are cut off from the active, bustling world; their work is done; they have nothing to expect, nothing to labor for. What passes upon earth affects them not; the knowledge of it reaches them no longer. Aristotle's idea was that the dead did know something, in a hazy and indistinct way, of what went on in the upper world, and were in some slight degree influenced thereby, but not to such a degree as to change happiness into misery, or vice versa ('Eth. Nicom.,' Ecclesiastes 1:10 and Ecclesiastes 1:11). Neither have they any more a reward; i.e. no fruit for labor done. There is no question here about future retribution in another world. The gloomy view of the writer at this moment precludes all idea of such an adjustment of anomalies after death. For the memory of them is forgotten. They have not even the poor reward of being remembered by loving posterity, which in the mind of an Oriental was an eminent blessing, to be much desired. There is a paronomasia in zeker, "memory," and sakar, "reward," which, as Plumptre suggests, may be approximately represented in English by the words "record" and "reward."

Ecclesiastes 9:6

Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now (long ago) perished. All the feelings which are exhibited and developed in the life of the upper world are annihilated (comp. Ecclesiastes 9:10). Three are selected as the most potent passions, such as by their strength and activity might ideally be supposed to survive even the stroke of death. But all are now at an end. Neither have they any more a portion forever in any thing that is done under the sun. Between the dead and the living an impassable gulf exists. The view of death here given, intensely gloomy and hopeless as it appears to be, is in conformity with other passages of the Old Testament (see Job 14:10-14; Psalms 6:5; Psalms 30:9; Isaiah 38:10-19; Ecclesiasticus 17:27, 28; Bar. 3:16-19), and that imperfect dispensation. Koheleth and his contemporaries were of those "who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage" (Hebrews 2:15); it was Christ who brightened the dark valley, showing the blessedness of those who die in the Lord, bringing life and immortality to light through the gospel (2 Timothy 1:10). Some expositors have felt the pessimistic utterances of this passage so deeply that they have endeavored to account for them by introducing an atheistic objector, or an intended opposition between flesh and spirit. But there is not a trace of any two such voices, and the suggestion is quite unnecessary. The writer, while believing in the continued existence of the soul, knows little and has little that is cheering to say about it's condition; and what he does say is not inconsistent with a judgment to come, though he has not yet arrived at the enunciation of this great solution. The Vulgate renders the last clause, Nec habent partem in hoc saeculo et in opere quod sub sole geritur. But "forever" is the correct rendering of לְעוֹלָם, and Ginsburg concludes that Jerome's translation can be traced to the Hagadistic interpretation of the verse which restricts its scope to the wicked The author of the Book of Wisdom, writing later, takes a much more hopeful view of death and the departed (see Ecclesiastes 1:15; Ecclesiastes 2:22-24; Ecclesiastes 3:1; Ecclesiastes 6:1-12 :18; Ecclesiastes 8:17; 15:3, etc.).

Ecclesiastes 9:7-12

These verses give the application of the facts just mentioned. The inscrutability of the moral government of the world, the uncertainty of life, the condition of the dead, lead to the conclusion again that one should use one's life to the best advantage; and Koheleth repeats his caution concerning the issues and duration of life.

Ecclesiastes 9:7

Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy. This is not an injunction to lead a selfish life of Epicurean pleasure; but taking the limited view to which he here confines himself, the Preacher inculcates the practical wisdom of looking at the bright side of things; he says in effect (though he takes care afterwards to correct a wrong impression which might be given)," Let us eat and drink; for to-morrow we die" (1 Corinthians 15:32). We have had the same counsel in Ecclesiastes 2:24; Ecclesiastes 3:12, Ecclesiastes 3:13, Ecclesiastes 3:22; Ecclesiastes 5:18; Ecclesiastes 8:15. Drink thy wine with a merry heart. Wine was not an accompaniment of meals usually; it -was reserved for feasts and solemn occasions. Bread and wine are here regarded as the necessary means of support and comfort (comp. Ecclesiastes 10:19; Genesis 14:18; 1 Samuel 16:20, etc.). The moderate use of wine is nowhere forbidden; there is no law in the Old Testament against the use of intoxicating drinks; the employment of such fluids as cordials, exhilarating, strengthening and comforting, is often referred to (comp. 9:13; Psalms 104:15; Proverbs 31:6, Proverbs 31:7; Ecclesiasticus 31:27, 28). Thus Koheleth's advice, taken even literally, is not contrary to the spirit of his religion. For God now (long ago) accepteth thy works. The "works" are not moral or religious doings, in reward of which God gives temporal blessings, which is plainly opposed to Koheleth's chief contention in all this passage. The works are the eating and drinking just mentioned. By the constitution of man's nature, and by the ordering of Providence, such capacity of enjoyment is allowable, and there need be no scruple in using it. Such things are God's good gifts, and to be received with reverence and thanksgiving; and he who thus employs them is well-pleasing unto the Lord (Ecclesiastes 2:24; Ecclesiastes 8:15).

Ecclesiastes 9:8

Let thy garments be always white. The Preacher brings into prominence certain particulars of enjoyment, more noticeable than mere eating and drinking. White garments in the East (as among ourselves) were symbols of joy and purity. Thus the singers in Solomon's temple were arrayed in white linen (2 Chronicles 5:12). Mordecai was thus honored by King Ahasuerus (Esther 8:15), the angels are seen similarly decked (Mark 16:5), and the glorified saints are clothed in white (Revelation 3:4, Revelation 3:5, Revelation 3:18). So in the pseudepi-graphal books the same imagery is retained. Those that "have fulfilled the Law of the Lord have received glorious garments, and are clothed in white" (2 Esdr. 2:39, 40). Among the Romans the same symbolism obtained. Horace ('Sat.,' 2.2. 60)—

"Ille repotia, natales aliosve dierum

Festes albatus celebret."

"Though he in whitened toga celebrate

His wedding, birthday, or high festival."

Let thy head lack no ointment. Oil and perfumes were used on festive occasions not only among Eastern nations, but by Greeks and Romans (see on Ecclesiastes 7:1). Thus Telemachus is anointed with fragrant oil by the fair Polykaste (Homer, 'Od,' 3.466). Sappho complains to Phaen (Ovid,' Heroid.' 15.76)—

"Non Arabs noster rore capillus olet."

"No myrrh of Araby bedews my hair."

Such allusions in Horace are frequent and commonly cited (see 'Carm.,' 1.5. 2; 2.7. 7, 8; 2.11. 15, etc.). Thus the double injunction in this verse counsels one to be always happy and cheerful. Gregory Thaumaturgus (cited by Plumptre) represents the passage as the error of "men of vanity;" and other commentators have deemed that it conveyed not the Preacher's own sentiments, but those of an atheist whom he cites. There is, as we have already seen, no need to resort to such an explanation. Doubtless the advice may readily be perverted to evil, and made to sanction sensuality and licentiousness, as-we see to have been done in Wis. 2:6-9; but Koheleth only urges the moderate use of earthly goods as consecrated by God's gift.

Ecclesiastes 9:9

Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest; literally, see life with a wife whom thou lovest. The article is omitted, as the maxim is to be taken generally. In correction of the outspoken condemnation of women in Ecclesiastes 7:26, Koheleth here recognizes the happiness of a home where is found a helpmate beloved and worthy of love (comp. Proverbs 5:18, Proverbs 5:19; Proverbs 17:22, on which our passage seems to be founded; and Ecclesiasticus 26:13-18). (For the expression, " see life," vide note on Ecclesiastes 2:1.) St. Jerome's comment is misleading, "Quacumque tibi placuerit feminarum ejus gaude complexu." Some critics translate ishshah here "woman." Thus Cox: "Enjoy thyself with any woman whom thou lovest;" but the best commentators agree that the married state is meant in the text, not mere sensual enjoyment. All the days of the life of thy vanity; i.e. throughout the time of thy quickly passing life. This is repeated after the next clause, in order to emphasize the transitoriness of the present and the consequent wisdom of enjoying it while it lasts. So Horace bids man "carpe diem" ('Carm.,' 1.11.8), "enjoy each atom of the day;'" and Martial sings ('Epigr,' 7.47. 11)—

"Vive velut rapto fugitivaque gaudia carpe."

"Live thou thy life as stolen, and enjoy

Thy quickly fading pleasures."

Which he (God) hath given thee under the sun. The relative may refer to either the "wife" or" the days of life." The Septuagint and Vulgate take it as belonging to the latter, and this seems most suitable (comp. Ecclesiastes 5:17). That is thy portion in this life, and in thy labor, etc. Such moderate enjoyment is the recompense allowed by God for the toil which accompanies a properly spent life.

Ecclesiastes 9:10

Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might. In accordance with what has been already said, and to combat the idea that, as man cannot control his fate, he should take no pains to work his work, but fold his hands in resigned inaction, Koheleth urges him not to despair, but to do his part manfully as long as life is given, and with all the energies of his soul carry out the purpose of his being. The Septuagint gives, "All things whatsoever thy hand shall find to do, do it as thy power is ( ὡς ἡ δύναμίς σου);" Vulgate, Quodcumque facere potest manus tua, instanter operate. The expression at the commencement may be illustrated by Le Ecclesiastes 12:8; 25:28; 9:33, where it implies ability to carry out some intention, and in some passages is thus rendered, "is able," etc. (comp. Proverbs 3:27). It is therefore erroneous to render it in this place, "Whatever by chance cometh to hand;" or "Let might be right." Rather it is a call to work as the prelude and accompaniment of enjoyment, anticipating St. Paul's maxim (2 Thessalonians 3:10), "If any would not work, neither should he eat." Ginsburg's interpretation is dishonoring to the Preacher and foreign to his real sentiments, "Have recourse to every source of voluptuous gratification, while thou art in thy strength." The true meaning of the verse is confirmed by such references as John 9:4, "I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work;" 2 Corinthians 6:2, "Now is the accepted time; now is the day of salvation;" Galatians 6:10, "As we have opportunity, let us do good unto all men." For there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave. The departed have no more work which they can do, no plans or calculations to make; their knowledge is strictly limited, their wisdom is ended. It needs body and soul to carry on the labors and activities of this world; when these are severed, and can no longer act together, there is a complete alteration in the man's relations and capacities. "The grave," sheol (which is found nowhere else in Ecclesiastes), is the place to which go the souls of the dead—a shadowy region. Whither thou goest; to which all are bound. It is plain that the writer believes in the continued existence of the soul, as he differentiates its life in sheol from its life on earth, the energies and operations which are carried on in the one case being curtailed or eclipsed in the other. Of any repentance, or purification, or progress, in the unseen world, Koheleth knows and says nothing. He would seem to regard existence there as a sleep or a state of insensibility; at any rate, such is the natural view of the present passage.

Ecclesiastes 9:11, Ecclesiastes 9:12

Section 8. It is impossible to calculate upon the issues and duration of life.

Ecclesiastes 9:11

He reverts to the sentiment of Ecclesiastes 9:1, that we cannot calculate on the issues of life. Work as we may and must and ought, the results are uncertain and beyond our control. This he shows by his own personal experience. I returned, and saw under the sun. The expression here does not indicate a new departure, but merely a repetition and confirmation of a previous thought—the dependence and conditionality of man. It implies, too, a correction of a possible misunderstanding of the injunction to labor, as if one's own efforts were sure to secure success. The race is not to the swift. One is reminded of the fable of the hare and tortoise; but Koheleth's meaning is different. In the instances given he intimates that, though a man is well equipped for his work and uses all possible exertions, he may incur failure. So one may be a fleet runner, and yet, owing to some untoward accident or disturbing circumstance, not come in first. Thus Ahimaaz brought to David tidings of Absalom's defeat before Cushi, who had had the start of him (2 Samuel 18:27, 2 Samuel 18:31). There is no occasion to invent an allusion to the foot-race in the formal Greek games. The battle to the strong. Victory does not always accrue to mighty men, heroes. As David, himself an instance of the truth of the maxim, says (1 Samuel 17:47), "The Lord saveth not with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord's". Neither yet bread to the wise. Wisdom will not ensure competency. To do this requires other endowments. Many a man of cultivated intellect and of high mental power is left to starve. Riches to men of understanding. Aristophanes accounts for the unequal distribution of wealth thus ('Plutus,' 88), the god himself speaking-

"I threatened, when a boy,

On none but just and wise and orderly

My favors to bestow; so Zeus in jealousy

Hath made me blind, that I may none of these Distinguish."

Nor yet favor to men of skill. "Skill" hero does not mean dexterity in handicrafts or arts, but knowledge generally; and the gnome says that reputation and influence do not necessarily accompany the possession of knowledge and learning; knowledge is not a certain or indispensable means to favor. Says the Greek gnomist—

τύχης τὰ θνητῶν πράγματ οὐκ εὐβουλίας.

"Not prudence rules, but fortune, men's affairs."

That time and chance happeneth to them all. We have had the word eth, "time," all through Ecclesiastes 3:1-22. and elsewhere; but פֶגַע, rendered "chance," is uncommon, being found only in 1 Kings 5:4 (18, Hebrew). Everything has its proper season appointed by God, and man is powerless to control these arrangements. Our English word "chance" conveys an erroneous impression. What is meant is rather "incident," such as a calamity, disappointment, unforeseen occurrence. All human purposes are liable to be changed or controlled by circumstances beyond man's power, and incapable of explanation. A hand higher than man's disposes events, and success is conditioned by superior laws which work unexpected results.

Ecclesiastes 9:12

Man also knoweth not his time; Vulgate, Neseit homo finem suum, understanding "his time" to mean his death-hour; but it may include any misfortune or accident. The particle gam, "also," or "even," belongs to "his time." Not only are results out of man's control (Ecclesiastes 9:11), but his life is in higher hands, and he is never sure of a day. As the fishes that are taken in an evil net, etc. The suddenness and unforeseen nature of calamities that befall men are here expressed by two forcible similes (comp. Proverbs 7:23; Ezekiel 12:13; Ezekiel 32:3). Thus Homer ('Iliad,' 5.487)—

"Beware lest ye, as in the meshes caught

Of some wide-sweeping net, become the prey

And booty of your foes."


So are the sons of men snared in an evil time. Men are suddenly overtaken by calamity, which they are totally unable to foresee or provide against. Our Lord says (Luke 21:35) that the last day shall come as a snare on all that dwell in the earth (comp. Ezekiel 7:7, Ezekiel 7:12).

Ecclesiastes 9:13-16

Section 9. That wisdom, even when it does good service, is not always rewarded, is shown by an example.

Ecclesiastes 9:13

This wisdom have I seen also under the sun; better, as the Septuagint, This also I saw to be wisdom under the sun. The experience which follows he recognized as an instance of worldly wisdom. To what special event he alludes is quite unknown. Probably the circumstance was familiar to his contemporaries. It is not to be considered as an allegory, though of course it is capable of spiritual application. The event in Bible history most like it is the preservation of Abel-Beth-maachah by the counsel of the wise woman (whose name is forgotten) narrated in 2 Samuel 20:15-22. And it seemed great unto me; Septuagint, καὶ μεγάλη ἐστι πρὸς μέ, "And it is great before me." To my mind it appeared an important example (comp. Esther 10:3). Some critics who contend for the Solomonic authorship of our book, see here an allegorical reference to the foreseen revolt of Jeroboam, whose insurrection had been opposed by certain wise statesmen, but had been carried out in opposition to their counsel. Wordsworth considers that the apologue may be illustrated by the history of Jerusalem, when great powers were arrayed against it in the time of Isaiah, and the prophet by his prayers and exhortations delivered it (2 Kings 19:2, 2 Kings 19:6, 2 Kings 19:20), but was wholly disregarded afterwards, nay, was put to death by the son of the king whom he saved. But all this is nihil ad rem. As Plautus says, "Haec quidem deliramenta loquitur."

Ecclesiastes 9:14

There was a little city. The substantive verb is, as commonly, omitted. Commentators have amused themselves with endeavoring to identify the city here mentioned. Thus some see herein Athens, saved by the counsel of Themistocles, who was afterwards driven from Athens and died in misery (Justin; 2.12); or Dora, near Mount Carmel, besieged unsuccessfully by Antiochus the Great, B.C. 218, though we know nothing of the circumstances (Polyb; 5.66); but see note on Ecclesiastes 9:13. The Septuagint takes the whole paragraph hypothetically, "Suppose there was a little city," etc. Wright well compares the historical allusions to events fresh in the minds of his hearers made by our Lord in his parable of the pounds (Luke 19:12, Luke 19:14, Luke 19:15, Luke 19:27). So we may regard the present section as a parable founded on some historical fact well known at the time when the book was written. A great king. The term points to some Persian or Assyrian potentate; or it may mean merely a powerful general (see 1 Kings 11:24; Job 29:25). Built great bulwarks against it. The Septuagint has χάρακας μεγάλους, "great palisades;" the Vulgate, Extruxitque munitiones per gyrum. What are meant are embankments or mounds raised high enough to overtop the walls of the town, and to command the positions of the besieged. For the same purpose wooden towers were also used (see Deuteronomy 20:20; 2 Samuel 20:15; 2 Kings 19:32; Jeremiah lit. 4). The Vulgate rounds off the account in the text by adding, et perfects est obsidio, " and the beleaguering was completed."

Ecclesiastes 9:15

Now there was found in it a poor wise man. The verb, regarded as impersonal, may be thus taken. Or we may continue the subject of the preceding verse and consider the king as spoken of: "He came across, met with unexpectedly, a poor man who was wise." So the Septuagint. The word for "poor" in this passage is misken, for which see note on Ecclesiastes 4:13. He by his wisdom delivered the city. When the besieged city had neither soldiers nor arms to defend itself against its mighty enemies, the man of poor estate, hitherto unknown or little regarded, came forward, and by wise counsel relieved his countrymen from their perilous situation. How this was done we are left to conjecture. It may have been by some timely concessions or negotiations; or by the surrender of a chief offender as at Abel-Beth-maachah; or by the assassination of a general, as at Bethulia (Jud. 13:8); or by the clever application of mechanical arts, as at Syracuse, under the direction of Archimedes. Yet no man remembered that same poor man. As soon as the exigence which brought him forward was past, the poor man fell back into his insignificance, and was thought of no more; he gained no personal advantage, by his wisdom; his ungrateful countrymen forgot his very existence. Thus Joseph was treated by the chief butler (Genesis 40:23). Classical readers will think of Coriolanus, Scipio Africanus, Themistocles, Miltiades, who for their services to the state were rewarded with calumny, false accusation, obloquy, and banishment. The author of the Book of Wisdom gives a different and ideal experience. "I," he says, "for the sake of wisdom shall have estimation among the multitude, and honor with the elders, though I be young …. By the means of her I shall obtain immortality, and leave behind me an everlasting memorial" (Wis. 8:10-13).

Ecclesiastes 9:16

Then said I, Wisdom is better than strength. The latter part of the verse is not a correction of the former, but the whole comes under the observation introduced by "I said." The story just related leads to this assertion, which reproduces the gnome of Ecclesiastes 7:19, wherein it is asserted that wisdom effects more than mere physical strength. There is an interpolation in .the Old Latin Version of Wis. 6. I which seems to have been compiled from this passage and Proverbs 16:13, "Melter est sapientia quam vires, et vir prudens quam fortis." Nevertheless the poor man's wisdom is despised, etc. In the instance above mentioned the poor man's wisdom was not despised and his words were heard and attended to; but this was an abnormal case, occasioned by the extremity of the peril. Koheleth states the result which usually attends wisdom emanating from a disesteemed source. The experience of Ben-Sira pointed to the same issue (see Ecclesiasticus 13:22, 23). Horace, 'Epist.,' 1.1.57—

"Est animus tibi, sunt mores et lingua fidesque,

Sed quadringentis sex septem millia desunt;

Plebs erie."

"In wit, worth, honor, one in vain abounds;

If of the knight's estate he lack ten pounds,

He's low, quite low!"


"Is not this the carpenter's Son?" asked the people who were offended at Christ.

Ecclesiastes 9:17, Ecclesiastes 9:18

Section 10. Here follow some proverbial sayings concerning wisdom and its opposite, which draw the moral from the story in the text.

Ecclesiastes 9:17

The words of wise men are heard in quiet more than the cry of him that ruleth among fools. This verse would be better translated, Words of the wise in quiet are heard better than the shout of a chief among fools. The Vulgate takes the tranquility to appertain to the hearers, thus: Verba sapientium audiuntur in silentio; but, as Delitzsch points out, the contrast between "quiet" and "cry" shows that it is the man, and not his auditors, who is quiet. The sentence says that a wise man's words, uttered calmly, deliberately, without pompous declamation or adventitious aids, are of more value than the blustering vociferation of an arch-fool, who seeks to force acceptance for his folly by loudness and swagger (comp. Isaiah 30:15; and see Isaiah 42:2 and Matthew 12:19, passages which speak of the peacefulness, reticence, and unobtrusiveness of true wisdom, as seen in the Son of God). The verse introduces a kind of exception to the general rejection of wisdom mentioned above. Though the multitude turn a deaf ear to a wise man's counsel, yet this tells in the long run, and there are always some teachable persons-who sit at his feet and learn from him. "He that ruleth among fools" is not one that governs a silly people, but one who is a prince of fools, who takes the highest place among such.

Ecclesiastes 9:18

Wisdom is better than weapons of war. Such is the moral which Koheleth desires to draw from the little narrative given above (see Ecclesiastes 9:14-16; and Ecclesiastes 7:19). Wisdom can do what no material force can effect, and often produces results which all the implements of war could not command. But one sinner destroyeth much good. The happy consequences which the wise man's counsel might accomplish, or has already accomplished, may be overthrown or rendered useless by the villany or perversity of a bad man. The Vulgate, reading differently, has, Qui in uno peccaverit, multa bona perdet. But this seems to be out of keeping with the context. Adam's sin infected the whole race of man; Achau's transgression caused Israel's defeat (Joshua 7:11, Joshua 7:12); Rehoboam's folly occasioned the great schism (1 Kings 12:16). The wide° reaching effects of one little error are illustrated by the proverbial saying which every one knows, and which runs in Latin thus: "Clavus unus perdit equi soleam, soles equum, equus equitem, eques castra, castro rempublicam."


Esther 9:1-6

All things alike to all.


1. Their persons. The righteous and the wise (Esther 9:1), but not less certainly the unrighteous and the foolish. God's breath sustains all; God's providence watches over all; God's power encircles all; God's mercy encompasses all.

2. Their works. Their actions, whether good or bad, in the sense explained in the last homily, "are conditioned by God, the Governor of the world and the Former of history" (Delitzsch).

3. Their experiences. "All lies before them;" i.e. all possible experiences lie before men; which shall happen to them being reserved by God in his own power.

II. ALL MEN EQUALLY IGNORANT OF THE FUTURE. "No man knoweth either love or hatred," or "whether it be love or hatred, no man knoweth;" which may signify either that no man can tell whether "providences of a happy nature proceeding from the love of God, or of an unhappy nature proceeding from the hatred of God," are to befall him (J.W). Michaelis, Knobel, Hengstenberg, Plumptre); or that no man can predict whether he will love or hate (Hitzig, Ewald, Delitzsch). In either case the meaning is that no man can certainly predict what a day may bring forth. In so far as the future is in God's hand, man can only learn what it contains by waiting the evolution of events; in so far as it is molded by man's free determinations, no man can predict what these will be until the moment arrives for their formation.

III. ALL MEN EQUALLY SUBJECT TO DEATH. "All things come alike to all: there is one event" (Esther 9:2).

1. To the righteous and to the wicked; i.e. to the inwardly and morally good and to the inwardly and morally evil.

2. To the clean and to the unclean; i.e. to the ceremonially pure and to the ceremonially defiled.

3. To him that sacrificeth and to him that sacrificeth not; i.e. to him who observes the outward forms of religion and to him who observes them not.

4. To him that sweareth and to him that feareth an oath; i.e. to the openly sinful and to the outwardly reverent and devout. "All alike go to the dead" (Esther 9:3).

IV. ALL MEN EQUALLY DEFILED BY SIN. "The heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live" (Esther 9:3). From which may be learnt:

1. That sin is a kind of madness. This will not be doubted by those who consider that sin is the rebellion of a creature against the Creator, and that sinners generally hope both to escape punishment on account of their sin, and to attain felicity through their sin.

2. That the seat of this madness is in the soul. It may affect the whole personality of the man, but the perennial fountain whence it springs is the heart, in its alienation from God. "The carnal mind is enmity against God" (Romans 8:7).

3. That the heart is not merely tainted with this madness, but is fall of it. In other words, it is, in its natural condition, wholly under the power of sin. The total corruption of human nature, besides being taught in Scripture (Genesis 6:5; Genesis 8:21; Job 15:14; Psalms 14:2, Psalms 14:3; Ecclesiastes 7:20; Isaiah 53:6; Matthew 15:19; Romans 3:23; Ephesians 2:1-3), is abundantly confirmed by experience.

4. That, apart from Divine grace, this madness continues unchanged throughout life. There is nothing in human nature itself or in its surroundings that has power to subdue and far less to eradicate this madness. A new birth alone can rescue the soul from its dominion (John 3:3).


1. Hope a universal possession. "To him that is joined to all the living there is hope" (Esther 9:4); i.e. while man lives he hopes. Dum spirat, sperat (Latin proverb). "Hope springs eternal in the human breast" (Pope). Even the most abject are never, or only seldom, abandoned by this passion. On the contrary, "the miserable hath no other medicine, but only hope" (Shakespeare). When hope expires, life dies.

2. Hope a potent inspiration. In ordinary life "we are kept alive by hope" (Romans 8:24). The pleasing expectation of future good enables the heart to endure present ills, and nerves the resolution to attempt further efforts. Though sometimes, when ill-grounded, "kings it makes gods, and meaner creatures kings" (Shakespeare), yet when soundly based it

"Like a cordial, innocent though strong,

Man's heart at once inspirits and serenes."


Especially is this the case with that good hope through grace (2 Thessalonians 2:16) which pertains to the Christian (Romans 5:5; 2 Corinthians 3:12; Philippians 1:20; 1 Peter 1:13).

VI. ALL MEN EQUALLY POSSESSED OF INTELLIGENCE. Not of equal intelligence, but equally intelligent. In particular:

1. All know themselves to be mortal. "The living know that they shall die" (Esther 9:5). They may frequently ignore this fact, and deliberately shut their eyes upon it, but of the fact itself they are not ignorant.

2. In this knowledge they are superior to the dead, who "know not anything, neither have they any more a reward, for the memory of them is forgotten;" who in fact, having dropped out of life, have for ever ceased to take an interest in anything that is done under the sun.


1. The essential equality of all men.

2. The inherent dignity of life.

3. The value of the present.

Esther 9:4

A living dog better than a dead lion.

I. ANIMATED BEING BETTER THAN INANIMATE. Life a higher product than matter; and a lion without life is only matter. Life added to matter in its meanest forms imparts to it a dignity, worth, and use not possessed by matter in its most magnificent shapes where life is absent. The higher life, the nobler being.

II. COMPLETED BEING BETTER THAN INCOMPLETE. A living dog is a complete organism; a dead lion an organism defective. The living dog possesses all that is necessary to realize the idea of "dog;" the dead lion wants the more important element, life, and retains only the less important, matter. In the living dog are seen the "spirit" and "form" combined; in the dead lion only the "form" without the "spirit." If presently man is complete naturally, he is incomplete spiritually. Hereafter redeemed and renewed, man will be "perfect and entire, wanting nothing."

III. ACTIVE BEING BETTER THAN INACTIVE. The living dog, if not a person, is yet more than a thing. Along with life and an organism, it has powers and functions it can exercise; senses through which it can perceive, a measure of intelligence through which it can understand, at least rudimentary affections it can both feel and express, instincts and impulses by and under which it can act. On the other hand, the dead lion has none of these, however once it may have owned them all. It is now passive, still, inert, powerless—an emblem of the soul dead in sin, as a living dog is of the same soul energized by religion.

IV. SERVICEABLE BEING BETTER THAN UNSERVICEABLE. A living dog of some use, a dead lion of none. The gigantic powers of the forest king are by death reduced to a nullity, and can effect nothing; the feeble capacities of the yelping cur, just because it is alive, can be turned to profitable account. So magnificent powers of body and intellect without spiritual life are comparatively valueless, while smaller abilities, if inspired by grace, may accomplish important designs.


1. Be thankful for life.

2. Seek that moral and spiritual completeness which is the highest glory of life.

3. Endeavor to turn the powers of life to the best account.

4. Serve him from whom life comes.

Esther 9:7-10

The picture of an ideal life.

I. A LIFE OF PERENNIAL JOY. The joy should be fourfold.

1. Material enjoyment. "Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart" (Esther 9:7). The permission herein granted to make a pleasurable use of the good things of this world, of its meats and its drinks, has not been revoked by Christianity. Not only did the Son of man by his example (Matthew 11:19; Luke 7:34; John 2:1-11) show that religion did not require men to be ascetics or monks, Rechabites or Nazarites, but the apostolic writers have made it clear that Christianity is not meats or drinks (Romans 14:17; 1 Timothy 4:3; Hebrews 9:10), and that while no one has a right to over-indulge himself in either, thereby becoming gluttonous and a wine-bibber, on the other hand no one is warranted in the name of Christianity to impose on believers such ordinances as—"Touch not, taste not, handle not" (Colossians 2:21).

2. Domestic happiness. "Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity" (Esther 9:9). Marriage is not only honorable and innocent (Hebrews 13:4) as being a Divine institution (Matthew 19:4-6), but is one of the purest sources of felicity open to man on earth, provided it be contracted in the fear of God, and cemented with mutual love. As woman was made for man (1 Corinthians 11:9), to be his helpmeet (Genesis 2:20), i.e. his counterpart and complement, companion and counsellor, equal and friend; so he that findeth a with findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favor of the Lord (Proverbs 18:22)—findeth one in whose love he may indulge himself, in whose sympathy he may refresh himself, in whose grace he may sun himself without fear of sin. The notion that a higher phase of the religious life is attained by celibates than by married persons is against both reason and revelation, and is contradicted by the fruits which in practical experience it usually bears. 1'either the Preacher nor the great Teacher grants permission to men to live joyfully with unmarried females or with other people's wives, but only with their own partners; and neither Old Testament nor New favors the idea that men should take as wives any women but those they love, or should treat otherwise than with affection those they marry (Ephesians 5:28).

3. Religious felicity. Arising from two things.

II. A LIFE OF UNWEARIED ACTIVITY. The work of a good man ought to be:

1. Deliberately chosen. Voluntarily undertaken, not reluctantly endured; the work of one whose hands have been stretched out in search of occupation. "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do."

2. Widely extended. A good man's labors should not be too restricted either as to number, character, or sphere. "This one thing I do" (Philippians 3:13) does not signify that never more than one business at a time should engage a good man's attention. The ideal good man should put his hand to every sort of good work that Providence may place in his way (Galatians 6:9, Galatians 6:10)—at least so far as time and ability allow.

3. Energetically performed. Whatsoever the hands of a good man find to do, he should do with his might. Earnestness an indispensable condition of acceptable service. Fitful and intermittent, half-hearted and indifferent, labor especially in good work, to be condemned (1 Corinthians 15:58).

4. Religiously inspired. A good man should have sufficient reasons for his constant activity. The argument to which the Preacher alludes, though not the highest, but the lowest, is nevertheless powerful, viz. that this life is the only working season a man has. "There is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest" (Esther 9:10). The inhabitants of the under-world are forever done with the activities of earth. The good man no more than the wicked can pursue his schemes when he has vanished from this mundane scene. Hence the urgency of working while it is called today (John 9:4). Though the Christian has loftier and clearer conceptions of the after-life of the good than Old Testament saints had, the Preacher's argument is not possessed of less, but rather of more, force as an incitement to Christian work, seeing that the "now" of the present life is the only accepted time, and the only day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2).


1. The twofold aspect of every true life—as one of receiving and giving, of enjoying and working.

2. The essential connection between these two departments of life—the joy being a necessary condition as well as natural result of all true work, and the work being a necessary expression and invaluable sustainer of the joy.

3. The true way of redeeming life—to consecrate its days and years to serving the Lord with gladness, or to rejoicing in God and doing his will.

Esther 9:10

Words to a worker.


1. Furnished with capacities for work. With bodily organs and mental endowments, with speech and reason.

2. Located in a sphere of work. The world a vast workshop, in which every creature is busily employed—not only the irrational animals, but even things without life.

3. Appointed to the destiny of work. As while sinless in Eden man was set to dress the garden and to keep it, and after the Fall beyond its precincts he was commanded to till the ground and to earn his bread through the sweat of his brow, so is he still charged to be a worker, a Christian apostle even saying that "if a man will not work neither shall he eat" (2 Thessalonians 3:10).

4. Impelled by a desire of work. Under the compulsion of his own nature and of the constitution of the world, man is constrained to go forth in search of work, of labor for his hands, of exercise for his mind, and generally of employment for his manhood.


1. To do the duty that lies nearest. This the obvious import of the words, "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it." To men in earnest about finding their life-work, the duties that lie nearest will commonly be the most urgent; and vice versa, the duties that are most urgent will usually be found to lie nearest. Among these will stand out conspicuously

2. To do every duty with energy. "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might." Halt: hearted labor, besides wasting time, spoils the work and demoralizes the worker. It is due to God, whose servant man is, to the importance of the work in which he is engaged, and to himself as one whose highest interests are involved in all he does, that man should labor with enthusiasm, diligence, and might.

3. To do each duty from an impulse of individual responsibility. "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, that do thou!" As no man can tell what his neighbor's duty is in every instance, so can no man in any case devolve his duty on another. "To every man his work!" is God's great labor law. If other workers are unfaithful, be not thou unfaithful.

4. To do all duties under a sense of the value of time. Remembering that this life is man's only opportunity of working, that it is swiftly passing, that death is near, and that there is neither wisdom, knowledge, nor device in the grave whither man goes.

Esther 9:11, Esther 9:12

Time and chance for all.

I. AN UNDENIABLE PROPOSITION—that the issues of life are incalculable. This truth set forth in five illustrations.

1. The race not to the swift. Sometimes, perhaps often, it is, yet not always or necessarily, so that men can calculate the issue of any contest. Just as swiftness of foot is no guarantee that a runner shall be first at the goal, so in other undertakings the possession of superior ability is no proof that one shall attain pre-eminence above his fellows.

2. The battle not to the strong. By many experiences Israel had been taught that "the battle is the Lord's (1 Samuel 17:47), and that there is "no king saved by the multitude of a host" (Psalms 33:16). Neither Pharaoh (Exodus 14:27), nor Zerab the Ethiopian (2 Chronicles 14:12), nor the Moabites and Ammonites who came against Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 20:27), nor Sennacherib (2 Kings 19:35), were the better for their innumerable armies; and though Napoleon was wont to say that God was always on the side of the strongest battalions, instances can be cited in sufficient numbers to show that it is God who giveth the victory to kings (Psalms 144:10), and that he does not always espouse the side of those who can summon the most warriors into the field.

3. Bread not to the wise. Here again the sense is that while capacity and diligence are usually rewarded, yet the exceptions to the rule are so numerous as to prove that it cannot certainly be predicted that a man of sagacity will always be able to secure for himself the means of subsistence.

4. Riches not to men of understanding. At least not always. Men of talent, and even of industry, sometimes fail in amassing riches, and when they do succeed, cannot always keep the riches they have amassed Nothing commoner than to find poor wise men (Esther 9:15) and rich fools (Luke 12:20) Though as a rule the hand of the diligent maketh rich (Proverbs 10:4), men of splendid abilities often spend their strength for naught. Riches are no sign of wisdom.

5. Favor not to men of skill. Even genius cannot always command the approbation and appreciation it deserves. The world's inventors and discoverers have seldom been rewarded according to their merits. The world has for the most part coolly accepted the productions of their genius, and remanded themselves to oblivion. The fate of the poor wise man after mentioned (Esther 9:15) has often been experienced.

II. As INCONTROVERTIBLE ARGUMENT—that death, though certain as to fact, is uncertain as to incidence.

1. The momentous truth stated. "Man knoweth not his time," i.e. of his death, which ever fails upon him suddenly, as a thief in the night. Even when death's approach is anticipated, there is no reason to suppose its actual occurrence is not always unexpected.

2. The simple illustration given. "As the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare, even so are the sons of men snared in an evil time," viz. that of death, "when it falleth suddenly upon them."

3. The easy argument applied. This being so, it is obvious that no one can surely reckon upon the issues that seem naturally to belong to his several qualities or abilities, to his swiftness, or strength, or wisdom, or understanding, or skill. Death may at any moment interpose—as, for instance, before the race is finished and the goal reached, before the battle is concluded, before the wise plan has been matured or carried out; and then, of course, man's expectations are defeated.


1. Diligence: let every man do his best.

2. Humility: beware of overconfidence.

3. Prudence: neglect not the possibility of failure.

4. Submission: accept with meekness the allotments of Providence.

Esther 9:13-18

The parable of the little city.


1. The picture delineated. A little city threatened by a powerful assailant, deserted through fear by the main body of its inhabitants, and occupied by a small garrison of men capable of bearing arms, among them a poor wise man. Advancing against it a mighty monarch, who besieges and storms it with armies and engines, but is ultimately compelled to raise the siege by the skill of the aforesaid wise poor man.

2. The historical foundation. Probably

3. Some suggestive parallels. Incidents resembling that to which the Preacher here alludes may have happened often; as e.g. the deliverance of Athens by the counsel of Themistocles (Smith's 'History of Greece,' 19. § 5; Thucydides, 1.74), and of Syracuse by the skill of Archimedes, who for a time at least delayed the capture of the city by the wonderful machines with which he opposed the enemy's attacks (Livy, 24.34), according to some doubtful accounts, setting fire to their ships by means of mirrors.

4. Spiritual applications.


1. That wisdom and poverty are frequently allied. Not always, Solomon being witness (1 Kings 3:12, 1 Kings 3:13); but mostly, God seldom bestowing all his gifts upon one individual, but distributing them according to his good pleasure to one wealth and to another wisdom, dividing to each severally as he will (1 Corinthians 12:11). Nor is it difficult to discern in this marks of special wisdom and goodness.

2. That wisdom is superior to force. "Wisdom is better than strength," and" wisdom is better than weapons of war."

3. That wisdom mostly speaks into unwilling ears. "Nevertheless the poor man's wisdom is despised." Partly because of the world's want of appreciation of the intrinsic excellence of wisdom, the world usually possessing a keener relish and finer instinct for folly; and partly, perhaps chiefly, because of the wise man's poverty. At all events, it has usually been the world's way to treat its wise men with disdain. The picture of wisdom crying aloud in the street into unheeding ears (Proverbs 1:20-25) has often been reproduced, as e.g. in the persons of Jehovah's prophets (Le 26:43; 2 Chronicles 36:16; Isaiah 53:1; Matthew 21:34-36) and of Christ (John 5:40). To this day the world's treatment of Christ is not dissimilar, his words of wisdom being by men for the most part despised, and in particular the special wisdom he displayed in effecting their deliverance from sin and Satan by himself submitting to shame and death, and extending to them the offer of a full and free forgiveness, being frequently regarded with scorn and contempt.

4. That wisdom is more influential than folly. "The words of the wise," spoken "in quiet, are more than the cry of him that ruleth among fools," or that is the ringleader among fools, their very prince and chief. This assertion may seem to conflict with that of the preceding verse, but in reality it does not. The noisy demagogue who by sheer vociferation stirs the unthinking populace may appear to be more influential than the quietly speaking man of wisdom, but in the long run it is the latter that prevails. After all, it is ideas that move the world, in science, in philosophy, in religion, and these have their birth in meditative souls rather than in fiery spirits, and diffuse themselves, not amid the tempests of passion, but through the medium of calm and earnest speech. Remarkably was this exemplified in Christ—read in connection Colossians 2:3; John 7:37; Isaiah 42:3; and to this day the most powerful force operating in and on society is not that of eloquence, or of intellect, or of learning, all confessedly influential, but of goodness, which works silently and often out of sight like leaven.

5. That wisdom is commonly repaid with ingratitude. "No man remembered that same poor man." The Preacher says it with a touch of sadness, as if after all it was a strange and almost a new thing beneath the sun—which it is not. Whether the wise woman who saved the city Abel was remembered by her citizens is not recorded; but history reports that Themistocles, who delivered Athens from the Persians, was afterwards ostracized by his countrymen. Alas! ingratitude has never been an uncommon sin among men. Pharaoh's butler has had many a successor (Genesis 40:1-23 :28). The world has never been guilty of overlauding its benefactors or overloading them with gratitude. Rather the poet accurately likens Time to a sturdy beggar with a wallet on his back-

"Wherein he doth put alms for oblivion,

A great-sized monster of ingratitudes."

And goes on to add—

"Those scraps are good deeds past, which are devoured

As fast as they are made, forgot as soon As done," etc.

('Troilus and Cressida,' act 3. sc. 3.)

Nor is it merely the world of which such ingratitude can be predicted, but the Church also has been too often guilty of forgetting him to whom she owes her deliverance. How many of his words, for instance, are not heard by those who profess to have been redeemed and saved by him—words of counsel for the path of duty, words of comfort for the day of trial, words of caution for the hour of danger! And yet the remembrance of these would be the highest tribute of gratitude they could offer their Divine Redeemer.


Esther 9:1-3

The antidote to despondency.

It was said by a famous man of the world, "Life is a comedy to those who think, a tragedy to those who feel." The epigram is more sparkling than true; reflecting men in every age have been oppressed by the solemnity of life's facts, and the insolubility of life's problems. Some men are roused to inquiry and are beset by perplexities when trouble and adversity befall themselves; and others experience doubts and distress at the contemplation of the broad and obvious facts of human life as it unfolds before their observation. Few men who both think and feel have escaped the probation of doubt; most have striven, and many have striven in vain, to vindicate eternal Providence, and justify the ways of God to men.

I. THE FACT THAT IN THIS EARTHLY STATE THERE IS AN ABSENCE OF COMPLETE RETRIBUTION. "All things come alike to all;" "There is one event unto all." The righteous, the good, and the wise do not seem to meet with more prosperity and greater happiness than the wicked and the foolish. The man who offers due religious observance, and who reveres his oath, is subject to misfortune and calamity equally with the negligent, the impious, the false swearer. No thunderbolt of vengeance smites the sinner, no miraculous protection is round about the upright and obedient. Nay, the righteous is sometimes cut off in the prime of his manhood; the sinner's days are sometimes lengthened, and he dies in a delusive peace.

II. THE DIFFICULTY, DOUBT, AND PERPLEXITY OCCASIONED BY THE OBSERVATION OF THIS FACT. The writer of Ecclesiastes laid to heart and explored the mysteries of Providence; and in this he was not peculiar. Every observant and thoughtful person is sometimes compelled to ask himself whether or not there is a meaning in the events of life, and, if there be a meaning, what it is. Can our reason reconcile these events, as a whole, with belief in the existence, in the government, of a God at once almighty and benevolent? Are there considerations which can pacify the perturbed breast? Beneath the laws of nature is there a Divine heart? or is man alone sensitive to the inequalities of human fate, to the moral contradictions which seem to thrust themselves upon the attention?

III. THE TRUE SOLUTION OF THESE DOUBTS TO BE FOUND IN THE CONVICTION THAT ALL ARE IN THE HAND OF GOD. It is to be observed that faith in God can do what the human understanding cannot effect. Men and their affairs are not in the hand of chance or in the hand of fate, but in the hand of God. And by God is meant not merely the supreme Power of the universe, but the personal Power which is characterized by the attributes Holy Scripture assigns to the Eternal. Wisdom, righteousness, and benevolence belong to God. And by benevolence we are not to understand an intention to secure the enjoyment of men, to ward off from them every pain, all weakness, want, and woe. The purpose of the Divine mind is far higher than this—even the promotion of men's spiritual well-being, the discipline of human character, and especially the perfecting of obedience and submission. Sorrow and disappointment may be, and in the case of the pious will be, the means of bringing men into harmony with the will and character of God himself.—T.

Esther 9:4-6

Life and death.

No thoughtful reader can take these remarks upon the living and the dead as complete and satisfactory in themselves. The writer of this book, as we know from other passages, never intended them so to be taken. They are singularly partial; yet when they are seen to be so, they are also singularly just. Just one aspect of life and of mortality is here presented, and it is an aspect which a wise and reflecting reader will see to be of great importance. Life is a fragment, it is an opportunity, it is a probation. Death is an end, that is, an end of this brief existence, and of what especially belongs to it. If we thought of life and death only under these aspects, we should err; but we should err if we neglected to take these aspects into consideration.


1. They part with opportunities of knowledge which they enjoyed on earth.

2. They part with passions which they experienced whilst in the bodily life.

3. They part with possessions which they acquired in this world.

4. They are soon forgotten; for those who remember them themselves depart, and a faint memory or utter forgetfulness must follow. Death is a great change, and they who undergo it leave much behind, even though they may gain immeasurably more than they lose.


1. They have knowledge. This is doubtless very limited, but it is very precious. Compared with the knowledge which awaits the Christian in the future state, that which is within our reach now and here is as what is seen dimly in a mirror. Yet how can men be too grateful for the faculty in virtue of which they can acquaint themselves with truth of the highest importance and value? Knowledge of self, and knowledge of the great Author of our being and salvation, is within our reach. We know the limitation of our period of earthly education and probation; we know the means by which that period may be made the occasion of our spiritual good.

2. With all the living there is hope. Time is before them with its golden opportunities; eternity, time's harvest, is before them with all its priceless recompense. Even if the past has been neglected or abused, there is the possibility that the future may be turned to good account. For the dead we know that this earthly life has nothing in store. But who can limit the possibilities which stretch before the living, the progress which may be made, the blessing that may be won?

APPLICATION. It is well to begin with the view of life and death which is presented in this passage; but it would not be well to pause here. It is true that there is loss in death; but the Christian does not forget the assertion of the apostle that "to die is gain." And whilst there are privileges and prerogatives special to this earthly life, still it is to the disciple of Christ only the introduction and preparation for a life which is life indeed—life glorious, imperishable, and Divine.—T.

Esther 9:7-9

The joy of human life.

Optimists and pessimists are both wrong, for they both proceed upon the radically false principle that life is to be valued according to the preponderance of pleasure over pain; the optimist asserting and the pessimist denying such preponderance. It is a base theory of life which represents it as to be prized as an opportunity of enjoyment. And the hedonism which is common to optimist and to pessimist is the delusive basis upon which their visionary fabrics are reared. Pleasure is neither the proper standard nor the proper motive of right conduct. Yet, as the text points out, enjoyment is a real factor in human life, not to be depreciated and despised, though not to be exaggerated and overvalued.

I. ENJOYMENT IS A DIVINELY APPOINTED ELEMENT IN OUR HUMAN EXISTENCE. Man's bodily and mental constitution, taken in connection with the circumstances of the human lot, are a sufficient proof of this. We drink by turns the sweet and the bitter cup; and the one is as real as the other, although individuals partake of the two in different proportions.

II. MANY PROVISIONS ARE MADE FOR HUMAN ENJOYMENT. Several are alluded to in this passage, more especially

III. THE RELATION OF ENJOYMENT TO LABOR. The Preacher clearly saw that those who toil are those who enjoy. It is by work that most men must win the means of bodily and physical enjoyment; and the very labor becomes a means of blessing, and sweetens the daily meals. Nay, "the labor we delight in physics pain." The primeval curse was by God's mercy transformed into a blessing.


1. Pain, suffering, and distress are as real as happiness, and must come, sooner or later, to all whose life is prolonged.

2. Neither pleasure nor pain is of value apart from the moral discipline both may aid in promoting, apart from the moral progress, the moral aim, towards which both may lead.

3. It is, therefore, the part of the wise to use the good things of this life as not abusing them; to be ready to part with them at the call of Heaven, and to turn them to golden profit, so that occasion may never arise to remember them with regret and remorse.—T.

Esther 9:10


The prospect of death may add a certain zest to life's enjoyments, but we are reminded in this passage that it is just and wise to allow it to influence the performance of life's practical duties.

I. RELIGION HAS REGARD TO MAN'S PRACTICAL NATURE. The hand is the instrument of work, and is accordingly used as the symbol of our active nature. What we do is of supreme importance, both by reason of its cause and origin in our character, and by reason of its effect upon ourselves and upon the world. Religion involves contemplation and emotion, and expresses itself in prayer and praise; but without action all is in vain.

II. RELIGION FURNISHES THE LAW TO MAN'S PRACTICAL NATURE. We are expected to put up the prayer, "What wilt thou have me to do?" in response to this prayer, precept and admonition are given; and so the "hand findeth" its work.

1. True religion prescribes the quality of our work—that actions should be just and wise, kind and compassionate.

2. And the measure of our work. "With thy might" is the Divine law. This is opposed to languor, indolence, depression, weariness. He who considers the diligence and assiduity with which the powers of evil are ever working in human society will understand the importance of this urgent admonition.


1. There is the very general motive suggested in the context, that what is to be done for the world's good must be done during this present brief and fleeting life. There is doubtless service of such a nature that, if it be not done here and now, can never be rendered at all.

2. Christianity presents a motive of preeminent power in the example of the Lord Jesus Christ, who came to work the work of him who sent him, who went about doing good, who found it his food to do his Father's will, whose aim it was to finish the work given him to do.

3. Christianity enforces this motive by one deeper still; the Christian is inspired with the desire to live unto the Lord who lived and died for him. Grateful love, enkindled by the Divine sacrifice, expresses itself by consecrated zeal.

APPLICATION. Let the hand first be stretched out that it may grasp the hand of the Savior, God; and then let it be employed in the service of him who proves himself first the Deliverer, and then the Lord and Helper of all those who seek him.—T.

Esther 9:10, Esther 9:11

The powerlessness of man.

The reflections contained in these verses are not peculiar to the religious. No observer of human life can fail to observe how constantly all human calculations are falsified and all human hopes disappointed. And the language of the Preacher has naturally become proverbial, and is upon the lips even of those for whom it has no spiritual significance or suggestion. Yet it is the devout and pious mind which turns such reflections to profitable uses.

I. HUMAN EXPECTATION. It is natural to look for the success and prosperity of those who are highly endowed, and who have employed and developed their native gifts. Life is a race, and we expect the swift to obtain the prize; it is a battle, and we look for victory to the strong. We think of wealth and prosperity as the guerdon due to skill and prudence; we can hardly do otherwise. When the seed is sown, we anticipate the harvest. There are qualities adapted to secure success, and observation shows us that our expectations are justified in very many cases, though not in all. When we behold a young man begin life with every advantage of health, ability, fortune, and social recommendations, we forecast for such a one a career of advancement and a position of distinction and eminence. Yet how often does such an expectation prove vain!

II. HUMAN DISAPPOINTMENT. Human endeavor is crossed and human hope is crushed. The swift runner drops upon the course, and the bold warrior is smitten upon the battle-field. As the fishes are caught in the net, and the birds in the snare, so are the young, the ardent, the gifted, and the brave cut short in the career of buoyant effort and brilliant hope. All our projects may prove futile, and all our predictions may be falsified. The ways of Providence are inscrutable to our vision. We are helpless in the hands of God, whose thoughts are not as our thoughts. "Man also knoweth not his time." Attention is called to the suddenness with which our aims may be frustrated, our anticipations clouded, and our efforts defeated. And the observation of every experienced mind confirms the warning of the text. It is often when the sun is brightest that the cloud sweeps across its disc, when the sea is calmest that the storm arises in which the barque is foundered.


1. They rebuke human pride and self-confidence. It is natural for the young, the vigorous, the prosperous, to glory in their gifts, and to indulge bright hopes of the future, based upon their consciousness of power. Yet we have this lesson which the strong and fortunate will do well to lay to heart, "Let not the strong man glory in his strength," etc.

2. They check worldliness of spirit. We are all prone to attach importance to what is seen and temporal, and to allow our heart's affections to entwine around what is fair and bright, winsome and hopeful. God would teach us the supreme importance of those qualities which are imparted by his own blessed Spirit, and which endure unto everlasting life.

3. They lead the soul to seek a higher and more enduring satisfaction than earthly prosperity can impart. When riches take to themselves wings and fly away, this may enhance the value of the true, the unsearchable riches. When a fair, bright youth is plucked like a rosebud from the stem, and beauty withers, this may lead our thoughts and our hearts' desires away from this transitory scene to that region into which sorrow and death can never enter, and where God wipes away every tear.—T.

Esther 9:13-18

The praise of wisdom.

It has been remarked that, whilst the leading idea of religion in the earliest stage of Israel's history was the Law, this idea took at a later period the form of wisdom. It is not well to discriminate too carefully between that wisdom which is shown in great works and that which is synonymous with piety. All light is from God, and there is no holier prayer than that in his light we may see light. It is a commonplace remark that men may be clever and yet not good; but every reflecting mind discovers in a character so described a lack of harmony. The philosopher, the sage, the leader in learning or science, should, beyond all men, be religious. "An undevout astronomer is mad." No more melancholy and pitiable spectacle is to be seen on earth than the able man whose self-confidence and vanity have led him into atheism. In considering the case of the truly wise man, it is well to regard him as displaying wisdom not only upon the lower but upon the higher plane.

I. WISDOM MAY BE ASSOCIATED WITH LOWLY STATION. Solomon was an example of an illustrious and splendid king who was famed for wisdom. But the instance of the text is striking; poverty and obscurity are not necessarily inconsistent with unusual insight, ability, and skill.

II. WISDOM MAY ACCOMPLISH GREAT WORKS WITH SMALL MEANS. A mighty king with a numerous and formidable army besieges a small city. How shall the besieged offer resistance to the foe? The inhabitants are few, feeble, ill-armed, half-starved; and their case seems hopeless. But a citizen hitherto unknown, with no apparent resources, arises to lead the dispirited and helpless defenders. Whether by some marvelous device, or by the magnetic power of his presence and spirit, he accomplishes a task which seemed impossible—vanquishes the besiegers and raises the siege. Such things have been, and they are a rebuke to our worldly calculations, and an inspiration to courage and to faith.

III. WISDOM MAY NEVERTHELESS IN PUBLIC BE OVERLOOKED AND DESPISED. "No man remembered that same poor man." How often does it happen that the real originator, the prime mover, gains no credit for the enterprise which he conceived, and for whose success he prepared the way; whilst praise is given to some person of social or political eminence who joined the movement when its success was assured! It is "the way of the world."

IV. YET WISDOM, UNHONORED IN PUBLIC, MAY BE ACKNOWLEDGED IN SECRET AND IN QUIETNESS. Those who look below the surface and are not dazzled by external splendor, those who listen, not merely to the earthquake, the thunder, and the tempest, but to the "still, small voice," discover the truly wise, and, in their heart of hearts, render to them sincere honor. Much more he who seeth in secret recognizes the services of his lowly, unnoticed servants who use their gifts for his glory, and work in obscurity to promote his kingdom, by whose toil and prayer cities are sanctified and saved.

V. THUS WISDOM IS SEEN TO BE THE BEST OF ALL POSSESSIONS AND QUALITIES. There is greatness which consists in outward splendor, and this may awe the vulgar, may dazzle the imagination of the unthinking. But in the sight of God and of just men, true greatness is that of the spirit; and the truly wise shine with a luster which poverty and obscurity cannot hide, and which the lapse of ages cannot dim.—T.


Esther 9:4

Life is everything.

In a world like ours, where appearance goes so far and counts for so much, there is much in form. There is much in machinery, in organization; when this is perfected, power is powerful indeed. There is much in original capacity—in that invisible, immeasurable germ out of which may grow great things in the future. But it is hardly too much to say that everything is m life. Where that is absent, nothing of any kind will avail; where that is present, all things are possible. It is better to have life even in the humblest form than to have the most perfect apparatus or the most exquisite form without it. A living dog, with its power of motion and enjoyment, is better than a dead lion, for which there is nothing but unconsciousness and corruption. Of the many illustrations of this principle, we may take the following:—

I. AN EARNEST STUDENT IS BETTER THAN A DEAD WEIGHT OF LEARNING. A man whose mind is nothing more than a storehouse of learning, who does not communicate anything to his fellows, who does not act upon them, who is no source of wisdom or of worth, is of very little account indeed; he has not what he has (see Matthew 25:29). But the earnest student, though he be but a youth or even a child, who is bent on acquiring in order that he may impart, in whom are the living springs of an honorable aspiration, is a great treasure, from whom society may look for many things.

II. AN AWAKENED CONSCIENCE IS BETTER THAN UNCONSECRATED GENIUS. Unconsecrated power may be enlisted on the side of peace and virtue. But it is a mere accident if it be so. It is quite as likely that it will be devoted to strife, and will espouse the cause of moral wrong; the history of our race has had too many painful proofs of this likelihood. But where there is an awakened conscience, and, consequently, a devotion to duty, there is ensured the faithful service of God, and an endeavor, more or less successful, to do good to the world.

III. ONE LIVING SOUL IS BETTER THAN A STAGNANT CHURCH. A Christian Church may be formed after the apostolic model, and its constitution may be irreproachably scriptural, but it may fall into spiritual apathy, and care for nothing but its own edification. A single human soul, with an ear sensitive to "the still sad music of humanity," with a heart to feel the weight of "the burden of the Lord," with courage to attempt great things for Christ and for men, with the faith that "removes mountains," may be of far more value to the world than such an apathetic and inactive Church. Similarly, we may say that—


Esther 9:10

The day of opportunity.

There is great force in the Preacher's words, demanding present diligence and energy in view of future silence and inaction. It may be well to consider—

I. THE TRUTH LEFT UNSTATED. There is no work in the grave; but what is there beyond it? We who have sat at the feet of Jesus Christ know well that the hour is coming in which all who are in their graves shall hear his voice, etc. (John 5:28, John 5:29). The rest which remaineth for the people of God is not the rest of unconsciousness or repose, but of untiring activity; of knowledge that will be far removed from the dim visions of the present (see 1 Corinthians 13:12); of wisdom far surpassing the sagacity to which we now attain. In that heavenly country we hope to address ourselves to nobler tasks, to work with enlarged and liberated faculties, to accomplish far greater things, to be "ministers of his that do his pleasure" in ways and spheres that are far beyond us now. But what we have first to face, and have all to face, is—

II. AS ON-COMING EXPERIENCE. "The grave, whither thou goest." Our life is, as we say, a journey from the cradle to the grave. Death is a goal which:

1. Is absolutely inevitable. We may elude many evils, but that we must all encounter.

2. We may reach soon and suddenly. It may be the very next turn of the road which will bring us to it. No man can tell what mortal blow may not be struck on the morrow, what fatal disease may not discover itself before the year is out.

3. Will certainly appear before we are expecting it. So swiftly does our life pass—so far as our consciousness is concerned—with all its pressure of business and all its growing and gathering excitements, and so pertinacious is our belief that, however it may be with others, we ourselves have some life left in us still, and some work to do yet, that when death comes to us it will surprise us. What, then, is—

III. THE CONCLUSION OF THE WISE. It is this: To do heartily and well all that lies within our power. The Master himself felt this (John 9:4). He knew that there was glorious "work" for him in the long future, even as there had been for his Father in the long past (John 5:17). But he knew also that between the hour of that utterance and the hour of his death on the cross there was that work to be done which could only be done then and there. So he girded himself to do all that had to be done, and to bear all that had to be borne, in that short and solemn interval. We should feel and act likewise. We look for a very blessed and noble sphere of heavenly activity; but between this present and that future there is work to be done which is now within our compass, but will soon be without it. There is:

1. Good work to be done in the direction of self-culture, of gaining dominion over self, in casting out evil from our own soul and our own life.

2. Good service to be rendered to our kindred, to our friends, to our neighbors, whom we can touch and bless now but who will soon pass beyond our reach.

3. A good contribution, real and valuable, if not prominent, towards the establishment of the kingdom of Jesus Christ upon the earth. All, therefore, that our "hand findeth to do" because our heart is willing to do it, let us do with our might, lest we leave undone that which no future time and no other sphere will give us the opportunity to attempt.—C.

Esther 9:11, Esther 9:12

Prosperity-the rule and the exception.

We shall find our way to the true lessons of this passage if we consider—

I. THE RULE UNDER GOD'S RIGHTEOUS GOVERNMENT. The Preacher either did not intend his words to be taken as expressing the general rule prevailing everywhere, or else he wrote these words in one of those depressed and doubtful moods which are frequently reflected in his treatise. Certainly the rule, under the wise and righteous government of God, is that the man who labors hard and patiently' to win his goal succeeds in gaining it. It is right that he should. It is right that the race should be to the swift, for swiftness is the result of patient practice and of temperate behavior. It is right that the battle should be to the strong, for strength is the consequence of discipline and virtue. It is right that bread and riches and the favor of the strong should fall to wisdom and to skill. And so, in truth, they do where the natural order of things is not positively subverted by the folly and the guilt of men, it is the case that human industry, resting on human virtue as its base, conducts to competence, to honor, to success. It does, indeed, happen that the crown is placed on the brow of roguery and violence; yet is it not the less true that wisdom and integrity constitute the well-worn and open road to present and temporal well-being.

II. THE OBVIOUS AND SERIOUS EXCEPTION. No doubt it is frequently found that "the race is not to the swift," etc. No doubt piety, purity, and fidelity are often left behind, and do not win the battle in the world's campaign. This is due to one of two Very different and, indeed, opposite causes. It may be due to:

1. Man's interfering wrong. The human oppressor comes down upon the industrious and the frugal citizen, and sweeps off the fruit of his toil and patience. The scheming intriguer steps in, and carries off the prize which is due to the laborious and persevering worker. The seducer lays his nets and ensnares his victim. There is, indeed, a lamentable frequency in human history with which the good and true, the wise and faithful, fall short of the honorable end they seek.

2. God's intervening wisdom. It may often happen that God sees that human strength or wisdom has outlived its modesty, its beauty, and its worth, and that it needs to be checked and broken. So he sends defeat where victory has been assured, poverty where wealth has been confidently reckoned upon, discomfiture and rejection where men have been holding out their hand for favor and reward. What, then, are—


1. Do not count too confidently on outward good. Work for it faithfully, hope for it with a well-moderated expectation, but do not set your heart upon it as an indispensable blessing. Be prepared to do without it. Have those inner, deeper, diviner resources which will fill the heart with grace and the life with an admirable contentment, even if the goat is not gained and the prize is not secured. Be supplied with those treasures which the thief cannot steal, and which will leave the soul rich though the bank be broken and the purse be emptied.

2. Guard carefully against the worst evils. Be so fortified with Divine truth and sacred principles within, and secure so much of God's favor and protection from above, that no snares of sin will be able to mislead and to betray—that the feet will never be found entangled in the nets of the enemy.

3. Anticipate the Divine discipline. Live in such conscious and in such acknowledged dependence upon God for every stroke that is struck, for all strength and wisdom that are gained, for all bounties and all honors that are reaped, that there will be no need for the intervening hand of heaven to break your schemes or to remove your treasures.—C.

Esther 9:13-18

Wisdom and strength.

The picture which is here drawn is both picture and parable; it portrays a constantly recurring scene in human history. It speaks to us of—

I. THE RANGE OF WISDOM. Wisdom is a word that covers many things; its import varies much. It includes:

1. Knowledge; familiarity with the objects and the laws of nature, and with the ways and the history of mankind.

2. Keenness of intellect; that quickness of perception and subtlety of understanding which sees through the devices of other men, and keeps a watchful eye upon all that is passing, always ready to take advantage of another's mistake.

3. Sagacity; that nobler quality which forecasts the future; which weighs well many considerations of various kinds; which baffles the designs of the wicked; which defeats the machinations and the measures of the strong (Esther 9:14, Esther 9:15); which is worth far more than much enginery (Esther 9:18); which builds up great institutions; which goes forth on hazardous and yet admirable enterprises.

4. Wisdom itself; that which is more properly considered and called such, viz. the discernment of the true end, with the adoption of the best means of attaining it; and this applied not merely to the particulars of human life, but to human life itself; the determination to seek that good thing, as our true heritage, which is in harmony with the will of God, and to seek it in the divinely appointed way. To us who live in this Christian era, and to whom Jesus Christ is himself "the Wisdom of God," this is found in seeking and finding, in trusting and following, in loving and serving him.

II. ITS FAILURE TO BE APPRECIATED. "No man remembered that same poor man." Wisdom in each one of its particular spheres is valuable; in the larger and higher spheres it is of very great account, being far more effective than any quantity of mere material force or of worldly wealth; in the highest sphere of all it is simply invaluable. But it is liable to be disregarded, especially if it be found in the person of poverty and obscurity.

1. It is often forgotten, and thus overlooked (text).

2. It is either rejected or visited with contumely in the person of its author. "Is not this the carpenter's Son?" it is asked. "And they were offended in him," it is added. Many a man, wit h much learning in his head, much shrewdness in his speech, much weight in his counsel. much wisdom in his soul, walks, unrecognized and unhonored, along some very lowly path of life.


1. It is often heeded when mere noise and station are disregarded. "The words of the wise are listened to with more pleasure than the loud behests of a foolish ruler (Esther 9:17)" (Cox). And it is a satisfaction to the wise that they do often prevail in their quietness and their obscurity when the clamorous and the consequential are dismissed as they deserve to be.

2. The time will come when they who speak the truth will gain the ear of the world; there are generations to come, and we may leave our reputation to them, as many of the wisest and worthiest of our race have done.

3. To be useful is a better reward than to be applauded or to be enriched; how much better to have "delivered the city" than to have been honored by it!

4. Our record is on high.—C.

Esther 9:18

The destructiveness of one evil life.

How much of destruction may flow from one single life may be seen if we look at the subject—

I. NEGATIVELY. We may judge of the magnitude of the evil by considering:

1. How one evil life may hinder the work of God; e.g. Achan, Sanballat, Herod, Nero. Who shall say how much of Christian influence has been arrested by one grossly inconsistent member of a Church, or by one arch-persecutor of the gospel of Christ?

2. How much a man may fail to do by refusing to spend his powers in the service of God. To a man with large means, great resources, brilliant capacities, almost anything is open in the direction of holy usefulness, of widespread and far-descending influence. All this is lost, and in a sense destroyed, by a selfish and guilty withholdment of it all from the service of God and man.

II. POSITIVELY. We may estimate the serious and lamentable mischief of an evil life if we think that a godless man may be injuring his neighbors:

1. By weakening or undermining their faith; causing them to lose their hold on Divine truth, and thus sinking into the miseries of doubt or into the darkness and despair of utter unbelief.

2. By undoing the integrity of the upright; leading them into the fatal morass of an immoral life.

3. By cooling, or even killing, the consecration of the zealous; causing them to slacken their speed or even to leave the field of noble service. One man, by his own evil example, by his words of folly and falsity, by his deeds of wrong, may enfeeble many minds, may despoil many hearts, may misguide many souls, may blight and darken many lives.—C.


Esther 9:1-6

Inexorable destiny.

The teaching in this section of the book is very similar to that in Ecclesiastes 6:10-12. The Preacher lays stress upon the powerlessness and short-sightedness of man with regard to the future. A higher power controls all the events of human life, and fixes the conditions in which each individual is to live—conditions which powerfully affect his character and destiny. Such a thought has been to many a source of consolation and strength. "My times," said the psalmist, "are in thy hand" (Psalms 31:15). "Your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things," said Jesus (Matthew 6:32), when he counseled his disciples against undue anxiety for the future. But no such comfort is drawn by the Preacher from the consideration that "the righteous, and the wise, and their works, are in the hand of God" (Ecclesiastes 6:1). It suggests to him rather an iron destiny, a cage against the bars of which the soul may beat its wings in vain, than a gracious Providence. The loss of freedom implied in it afflicts him—the thought that not even the feelings and emotions of the heart are under man's control. They are excited by persons and things with whom or with which he is brought in contact. A slight change of circumstances would make his love hatred, and his hatred love; and these circumstances he cannot change or modify. Events of all kinds are before us, and God arranges what is to happen to us. "Whether it be love or hatred, man knoweth it not; all is before them" (verse lb, Revised Version). "The river of life, along which his course lies, is wrapped in mist. Man's destiny is wholly dark, and is out of his own control. But it is not man's ignorance that cuts him to the heart; it is that the injustice of earthly tribunals seems to have its counterpart in g higher region. No goodness, no righteousness, will avail against the persistent injustice of the laws by which the world seems ruled. What a half-blasphemous indictment, what passionate recalcitration against the God whose fear is in his mouth, is embodied in the cold and calm despair of the words which follow in the next verse (Ecclesiastes 6:2)!" (Bradley). He names five classes or' persons, embracing all the various types el righteousness and wickedness, and affirms that one event comes to them all, that no discrimination on the part of the Divine Ruler between them appears in their earthly lot. The first group is perhaps that of those whose conduct towards their neighbors is righteous or wicked; the second that of those who are pure or impure in heart; the third that of the religious and the irreligious; the fourth perhaps that of those whose characters are in all these relations good or evil; the fifth that of the profane swearer and the man who reverences the solemn oath (Isaiah 65:16). "There is no mark at all of a moral government in this world. The providence of God is as indiscriminating as the falling tree, or the hungry tiger, or the desolating famine. If the fittest survive for a time, that fitness has nothing in common with goodness or righteousness." And one of the evil consequences of this state of matters is, as already referred to in Ecclesiastes 8:11, that those evilly disposed are subject to less restraint than they would be if Divine Providence in all cases meted out reward and punishment immediately to the righteous and the wicked. "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 8:3). The gloomy thoughts concerning death and the world beyond it which filled his mind, made the "one event" that comes to all seem all the more unjust. For some, doubtless, it is a deliverance from misery, but to others it is an escape from merited punishment. Even life with all its inequalities and wrongs is better than death, and yet the righteous are swept away from the earth indiscriminately with the wicked.

"Streams will not turn aside

The just man not to entomb,

Nor lightnings go aside

To give his virtues room;

Nor is that wind less rough

which blows a good man's barge."

That a strong faith in Divine Providence in spite of all outward appearances, and a firm grasp of the truth of immortality, were denied to the Preacher, need not surprise us, when we remember that the confidence we have in God's fatherly love, and in the eternal happiness of those who are faithful to him, is derived from the teaching of Christ, and his triumphant resurrection from the dead. The Preacher had not the consolations which the gospel affords us. To him the world beyond the grave was dreary and uncertain. He was one of those "who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage" (Hebrews 2:15). The meanest form of life was superior to the condition of even the noblest who had passed within the grim portals of the grave. The living dog, loathed and despised, feeding on the refuse of the streets, was better than the dead lion (Ecclesiastes 8:4). Hope survives while life remains, even though it may be illusive; but with death all possible amelioration of one's lot is cut off. The bitterness of the thought is displayed in the touch of sarcasm which marks his words. "For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not anything, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten" (Ecclesiastes 8:5). The very consciousness of the coming doom gives a distinction to the living which is denied to the dead. The very memory of those who have passed away soon perishes. Others take their place, and carry on the business of the world. A new generation springs up, with interests and concerns and passions with which the dead have nothing to do. The strongest passions of love, hatred, and envy are quenched by the cold hand of death (Ecclesiastes 8:6), and those who may in life have been bosom friends, or mortal enemies, or jealous rivals, lie side by side in the grave, in silence and oblivion. Nothing that is done in the earth concerns them any more (cf. Isaiah 38:9-20). The view here given us of the state of the dead is gloomy in the extreme. The darkness is more intense and palpable than that with which the same subject is invested in the Book of Job, and even in some of the psalms. But we must remember that though the world beyond the grave is represented by him as dim and shadowy, he affirms at the same time that "God will bring every secret thing into judgment" in "his own time and season." "Consequently, the dead, even though regarded by him as existing in a semi-conscious state in Hades, are supposed to be still in existence, and destined at some future period to be awakened out of this dreary slumber, and. rewarded according to the merit or demerit of their actions on earth. He does not, it is true, speak of this awakening out of sleep, still less does he allude to the resurrection of the body. His book is mainly occupied with the search after man's highest good on earth, and it is only incidentally that he refers at all to the state of the dead' (Wright). The doctrine of a future judgment, in which every man will appear and receive the reward or punishment due to him, is repeatedly dwelt upon by our author; and. this of itself implies a conscious existence after death in the case of all. So far, however, as this life is concerned, the grave puts a period to all activity, extinguishes all the passions which animate the children of men. They pass into another state of existence, and. have no further concern with that which is done here on earth.—J.W.

Esther 9:7-10

Enjoyment of the present.

No one who is at all familiar with the Preacher's thoughts can be surprised with the advice here given, following so closely as it does upon the gloomy reflections on death to which he has just given expression. He for the sixth time urges upon his hearers or readers the practical wisdom of enjoying the present, of cheerfully accepting the boons which God puts within our reach, and the mere thought that he is the Giver, will of itself rebuke all vicious indulgence. He permits enjoyment; nay, it is by his appointment that the means for it exist. "Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and. drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works" (Esther 9:7). That is, God approves of these works—a cheerful, thankful enjoyment of food and drink. The white garment symbolical of a glad heart, the perfume sprinkled upon the head, are not to be slighted as frivolous or as inappropriate for those who are so soon to pass from life unto death (Esther 9:8). Asceticism, self-imposed scruples, halfhearted participations in the good things that lawfully fall to us, mean loss of the present, and are not in themselves a preparation for the future. The ascetic may have his heart set upon the very pleasures he denies himself, may value them more highly, than he who takes them as they come, and exhausts them of all the satisfaction they contain. The happiness, too, which marriage yields is commended by him. He speaks elsewhere of the wretchedness and shame into which sensuality leads, and of the hateful types of womanhood with which it brings the sensualist into contact (Ecclesiastes 2:8; Ecclesiastes 7:26); but here he alludes to the cairn peacefulness of a happy home, which, though it cannot remove the sense of the vanity and transitoriness of life, at least makes it endurable (Plumptre). A happy life, a useful life, a life filled by a wholesome activity, may be lived by all or by most, and the fact that the end is near, the grave in which there is neither "work, nor device, nor wisdom," should be a stimulus to such activity (Esther 9:10). Honest, earnest labor, together with whatever enjoyments God's providence brings within our reach, and not an indifference to all sublunary concerns because of their transitoriness, is asserted to be our bounden duty. Had he recommended mere sensuous indulgence, we should turn from him contemptuously. Had he recommended an ascetic severity, we might have felt that only some could follow his advice. But as it is, his ideal is within the reach of us all, and is worthy of us all. And those who speak censoriously of the conclusion he reaches and expresses in these words, would find it a very hard task to frame a higher ideal of life. Zealous performance of practical duties, a reasonable and whole-hearted enjoyment of all innocent pleasures, and mindfulness of judgment to come, are commended to us by the Preacher, and only a stupid fanatic could object to the counsel he gives.—J.W.

Esther 9:11, Esther 9:12

Time and chance.

In the preceding passage our author has exhorted the timid and slothful to bestir themselves and put forth all their powers, since death is ever at hand, and when it comes a period will be put to all endeavors; the wisdom that guides, the hand that executes, will be silent and still in the grave. He now exhorts the wise and strong not to be too confident about success in life, to be prepared for possible failure and disappointment. So full and varied is his experience of life that he has useful counsels for all classes of men. Some need the spur and others the curb. Some would, from timidity hang back and lose the chances of usefulness which life gives; others are so self-confident and sanguine that they need to be warned of the dangers and difficulties which their wisdom and skill may not succeed in overcoming. Plans may be skillfully constructed and every effort made to carry them into effect, but some unforeseen cause may defeat them, some circumstance which could not have been provided against, may bring about failure. The Preacher records the observations he had made of instances of failure to secure success in life, and gives an explanation. of how it is that the strenuous efforts of men are so often baffled.

I. THE PHENOMENA OBSERVED. (Esther 9:11.) Five instances of failure are enumerated: the swift defeated in the race, the strong in battle, the wise unable to make a livelihood, the prudent remaining in poverty, the gifted in obscurity. In none of the cases is the fault to be traced to the want of faculties or abilities of the kind needed to secure the end in view, or to a half-hearted use of them. The runner endowed with swiftness might reasonably be expected to be first in at the goal, the strong to be victorious in fight, the wise and prudent to be successful in acquiring and amassing riches, the clever to attain to reputation and influence. It is taken for granted, too, that there is no omission of effort; for if there were, the cause of failure would easily be discovered. But the phenomena being noted as extraordinary and perplexing, we are to understand that in none of the cases observed is there anything of the kind. And it is implied that while those who fulfill all the conditions of success sometimes fail, those who do not sometimes succeed. The phenomena referred to are familiar to us all. We have known many who have begun life with the fairest promise, and who have apparently, without any fault of their own, failed to make their mark. The impression they have made upon us has convinced us that they have ability enough to win the prizes in life; but somehow or other they fail, and remain in obscurity. And, at the same time, others whose abilities are in our opinion of a commonplace order come to the front, and succeed in gaining and keeping a foremost place.

II. THE EXPLANATION OF THE MATTER. (Esther 9:11.) "Time and chance happeneth to them all." There need to be favorable circumstances as well as the possession and use of the requisite faculties, if success is to be won. The time must be propitious, and give opportunities for the exercise of gifts and abilities. "There are favorable and unfavorable times in which men's lot may be cast; and such times, too, may occur alternately in the experience of the same individual. A man of very inferior talent, should he fall on a favorable time, may succeed with comparative ease; whereas, in a time that is not propitious, abilities of the first order cannot preserve their possessor from failure and disappointment. And even the same period may be advantageous to one description of business, and miserably the reverse to another; and it may thus be productive of prosperity to men who prosecute the former, and of loss and ruin to those engaged in the Latter; although the superiority in knowledge, capacity, and prudence may be all, and even to a great degree, on the losing side" (Wardlaw). At first sight it might seem as if the explanation given of the reason why the race is not always to the swift, or the battle to the strong, were based on a denial of the Divine providence, and unworthy of a place in the Word of God. But this opinion is considerably modified, if not contradicted, if we find a reference, as we may fairly do, in the word "time" to the statements in Ecclesiastes 3:1-22; that there are" times and seasons," for all things are appointed by God himself. And so far from the conclusion here announced by our author being a solitary utterance, out of harmony with the general teaching of Scripture, we may find many parallels to it; e.g. "The Lord sayeth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the Lord's, and he will give you into our hands" (1 Samuel 17:47). "Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the Name of the Lord our God" (Psalms 20:7). "There is no king saved by the multitude of an host: a mighty man is not delivered by much strength" (Psalms 33:16). Probably the unfavorable impression of which I have spoken arises from the ideas suggested by the word "chance" in our English Version, which does not convey exactly the meaning of the Hebrew pega'. It is a word only found twice in Scripture, here and in 1 Kings 5:4, and means a stroke. The general idea is that of adversity or disappointment inflicted by a higher power, and not merely that of something accidental or fortuitous interfering with human plans. "Chance," therefore, must here refer to the great variety of circumstances over which we have no control, but by which our schemes and endeavors are affected, which may take away success from the deserving, and in all cases render it extremely difficult to calculate beforehand the probabilities of success in an undertaking. The final result, whatever we may do is conditioned by God. Though our author does not here use these terms, yet we cannot doubt that they express his meaning. He does not say that life is a lottery, in which the swift and the slow, the strong and the weak, the wise and the simple, the industrious and the lazy, have equal chances of drawing prizes. He knew, as we all know, that success is won in most cases by those who are best qualified in ability and character for securing it; that the race is generally to the swift, and the battle to the strong. It is the exception to the rule that excites his astonishment, and leads him to the conclusion that mere human skill and power are not sufficient of themselves to carry the day. Failure and disappointment may at any moment and in any case overtake man, and these from causes which no wisdom could have foreseen or exertion have averted. Such a consideration is calculated to humble human pride, and create in the heart feelings of reverent submission to the great Disposer of events. "So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy" (Romans 9:16). This thought of the limitation of man in his efforts, in spite of all his gifts and abilities, is expressed again with still greater emphasis in 1 Kings 5:12. The time when life must close is a secret hidden from each of us, and we may be arrested in the mid-course of our endeavors just when our labors are about to be crowned with success. It may come upon us so unexpectedly as to take us as fishes are taken in a net or birds in a snare. This may be the event that snatches the prize from the runner, the victory from the strong (2 Chronicles 18:33, 2 Chronicles 18:34). The arrow shot at random may strike down the brave soldier who has successfully borne the brunt of battle, and lay his pride in the dust. To those whose whole interests are centered in the business and pleasures of the world, the sudden summons of death comes in an evil time (Luke 12:19, Luke 12:20); but those who are wise are not taken by surprise—"they understand and consider their latter end."—J.W.

Esther 9:13-16

An apologue.

The truth of the aphorism, that "the battle is not to the strong … nor yet favor to men of skill" (Esther 9:11), is illustrated by the Preacher in a striking little story or apologue, taken doubtless from the history of' some campaign familiar to his readers. It represents in a vivid manner the power of wisdom, and also the ungrateful treatment which the possessor of it frequently receives from those who have found him a deliverer in time of danger. A little city, with few in it to defend it, is besieged by a great king. The place is surrounded by his army, and round about it great mounds are erected from which missiles are hurled into it. All hope seems to be gone; no material forces which the besieged can muster for their defense are at all adequate to repel the assailants. When suddenly some poor man, whose name was perhaps known to few in the city, delivers it by his wisdom. The great king and his army are compelled to retire baffled from before the walls of the city, which probably when they first beheld them moved them to scornful laughter by their apparent insignificance and weakness. The picture is not overdrawn; history affords many parallel instances. The defense of Syracuse against the Romans by Archimedes the mathematician (Livy, 24:34), of Londonderry against James II. by Walker, and in later times of Antwerp by Carnot (Alison, 'Europe,' 87.), show how inferior material is to moral force. This is the bright side of the picture. "Wisdom is better than strength" (verse 16); "wisdom is better than weapons of war" (verse 18). The dark side is that it is often rewarded by the basest ingratitude. It was the wisdom of a poor man that delivered the city in which he dwelt; but when the danger was past he sank again into obscurity. No one thought of him as he deserved to be thought of. The public attention was caught by some new figure, and the savior of the city remained as poor and unnoticed as he had been before the great crisis in which his wisdom had been of such great service. Had he been high-born and rich, his great services would have been acknowledged in some notable manner; but the meanness of his surroundings obscured his merit in the eyes of the thoughtless multitude. It was this vulgar failing which prompted some to despise wisdom itself incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth, and to ask scornfully, "Is not this the carpenter?" Wisdom is unassuming, calm, and deliberate (of. Isaiah 42:2; Matthew 12:19), yet fall of strength and resources, and the pity is that it should so often lose its reward, and the public attention be caught by the blustering cry of fools (verse 17). It is, indeed, often a better defense than weapons of war; and therefore it is sad that it should sometimes be nullified by folly, that one perverse blunderer should sometimes be able through carelessness or passion to destroy all the defenses that wisdom has carefully erected.—J.W.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 9:7". The Pulpit Commentary. 1897.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works.
Genesis 12:19; Mark 7:29; John 4:50
2:24-26; 3:12,13; 5:18; 8:15; 10:19; Deuteronomy 12:7,12; 16:14,15; 1 Kings 8:66; 1 Chronicles 16:1-3; 29:21-23; 2 Chronicles 30:23-27; Nehemiah 8:10-12
Genesis 4:4,5; Exodus 24:8-11; Luke 11:41; Acts 10:35
Reciprocal: Genesis 29:1 - Jacob;  Genesis 43:34 - were merry;  Exodus 24:11 - did eat;  Numbers 6:20 - and after;  Deuteronomy 14:26 - rejoice;  Ruth 3:7 - his heart;  1 Samuel 1:18 - went her;  2 Samuel 13:28 - heart is merry;  1 Kings 18:41 - Get;  1 Chronicles 29:22 - eat and drink;  Job 42:9 - Job;  Psalm 104:15 - oil to make his;  Proverbs 17:22 - merry;  Ecclesiastes 3:22 - nothing;  Isaiah 24:9 - GeneralJeremiah 22:15 - eat;  Jeremiah 31:16 - for;  Jeremiah 35:5 - Drink;  Matthew 8:13 - Go;  Matthew 9:2 - be;  Mark 5:34 - go;  Luke 7:50 - go;  Luke 18:14 - went;  John 2:11 - beginning;  Acts 2:46 - did;  Acts 9:19 - when;  Romans 14:18 - is;  1 Corinthians 7:31 - use

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 9:7". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge".

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works.

Go — Make this use of what I have said.

Eat — Chearfully and thankfully enjoy thy comforts.

Accepteth — Allows thee a comfortable enjoyment of his blessings.

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
Wesley, John. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 9:7". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". 1765.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

7.Eat’ drink — This verse is an inference. If death be such, then life is of the nature of a holiday. Let us rejoice and be glad in it. The sentiment is not exactly Epicurean, (let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die,) but, “Our living to-day is proof of God’s merciful favour, and that he is pleased, not angry, with us.” Therefore let us enjoy the bread and wine, the good which he gives, with grateful and joyous temper.


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 9:7". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.