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Earthly pursuits are no doubt lawful in their proper time and order (Ec 3:1-8), but unprofitable when out of time and place; as for instance, when pursued as the solid and chief good (Ec 3:9, 10); whereas God makes everything beautiful in its season, which man obscurely comprehends (Ec 3:11). God allows man to enjoy moderately and virtuously His earthly gifts (Ec 3:12, 13). What consoles us amidst the instability of earthly blessings is, God's counsels are immutable (Ec 3:14).
1. Man has his appointed cycle of seasons and vicissitudes, as the
sun, wind, and water
2. time to die--
3. time to kill--namely, judicially, criminals; or, in wars of
self-defense; not in malice. Out of this time and order, killing is
4. mourn--namely, for the dead
5. cast away stones--as out of a garden or vineyard
6. time to get--for example, to gain honestly a livelihood
7. rend--garments, in mourning
figuratively, nations, as Israel from Judah, already foretold, in
(1Ki 11:30, 31),
to be "sewed" together hereafter
(Eze 37:15, 22).
8. hate--for example, sin, lusts
that is, to love God so much more as to seem in comparison to
hate "father or mother," when coming between us and God.
9. But these earthly pursuits, while lawful in their season, are "unprofitable" when made by man, what God never intended them to be, the chief good. Solomon had tried to create an artificial forced joy, at times when he ought rather to have been serious; the result, therefore, of his labor to be happy, out of God's order, was disappointment. "A time to plant" (Ec 3:2) refers to his planting (Ec 2:5); "laugh" (Ec 3:4), to Ec 2:1, 2; "his mirth," "laughter"; "build up," "gather stones" (Ec 3:3, 5), to his "building" (Ec 2:4); "embrace," "love," to his "princess" (see on Ec 2:8); "get" (perhaps also "gather," Ec 3:5, 6), to his "gathering" (Ec 2:8). All these were of "no profit," because not in God's time and order of bestowing happiness.
10. (See on Ec 1:13).
11. his time--that is, in its proper season
opposed to worldlings putting earthly pursuits out of their proper
time and place (see on
12. in them--in God's works (Ec 3:11), as far as relates to man's duty. Man cannot fully comprehend them, but he ought joyfully to receive ("rejoice in") God's gifts, and "do good" with them to himself and to others. This is never out of season (Ga 6:9, 10). Not sensual joy and self-indulgence (Php 4:4; Jas 4:16, 17).
13. Literally, "And also as to every man who eats . . . this is the gift of God" (Ec 3:22; 5:18). When received as God's gifts, and to God's glory, the good things of life are enjoyed in their due time and order (Ac 2:46; 1Co 10:31; 1Ti 4:3, 4).
15. Resumption of
Whatever changes there be, the succession of events is ordered by God's
and returns in a fixed cycle.
16. Here a difficulty is suggested. If God "requires" events to move in their perpetual cycle, why are the wicked allowed to deal unrighteously in the place where injustice ought least of all to be; namely, "the place of judgment" (Jer 12:1)?
17. Solution of it. There is a coming judgment in which God will
vindicate His righteous ways. The sinner's "time" of his unrighteous
"work" is short. God also has His "time" and "work" of judgment; and,
meanwhile, is overruling, for good at last, what seems now dark. Man
cannot now "find out" the plan of God's ways
If judgment instantly followed every sin, there would be no scope for
free will, faith, and perseverance of saints in spite of difficulties.
The previous darkness will make the light at last the more glorious.
18. estate--The estate of fallen man is so ordered (these wrongs are
permitted), that God might "manifest," that is, thereby prove them,
and that they might themselves see their mortal frailty, like that of
19. Literally, "For the sons of men (Adam) are a mere chance, as
also the beast is a mere chance." These words can only be the sentiments
of the skeptical oppressors. God's delay in judgment gives scope for the
"manifestation" of their infidelity
They are "brute beasts," morally
and they end by maintaining that man, physically, has no pre-eminence
over the beast, both alike being "fortuities." Probably this was the
language of Solomon himself in his apostasy. He answers it in
Ec 3:19, 20
be his words, they express only that as regards liability to
death, excluding the future judgment, as the skeptic oppressors do,
man is on a level with the beast. Life is "vanity," if regarded
independently of religion. But
points out the vast difference between them in respect to the future
beasts have no "judgment" to come.
21. Who knoweth--Not doubt of the destination of man's spirit (Ec 12:7); but "how few, by reason of the outward mortality to which man is as liable as the beast and which is the ground of the skeptic's argument, comprehend the wide difference between man and the beast" (Isa 53:1). The Hebrew expresses the difference strongly, "The spirit of man that ascends, it belongeth to on high; but the spirit of the beast that descends, it belongeth to below, even to the earth." Their destinations and proper element differ utterly [WEISS].
Ec 3:12; 5:18).
Inculcating a thankful enjoyment of God's gifts, and a cheerful
discharge of man's duties, founded on fear of God; not as the
not as the anxious money-seeker
(Ec 2:23; 5:10-17).