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Bible Commentaries
Ecclesiastes 9

Barnes' Notes on the Whole BibleBarnes' Notes


In Ecclesiastes 9:1-12 reasons are adduced for the universal conclusion Ecclesiastes 8:17 that no person can understand the works of God. This does not, however, prevent the assertion of the practical advantage in this life of that wisdom which includes the fear of God (Ecclesiastes 9:13 ff). Compare Ecclesiastes 9:1-10 with Wisd. 2:1-9.

Verse 1

A good man’s trust in God is set forth as a counterpoise to our Ignorance of the ways of Providence.

In the hand of God - Under His special protection (Deuteronomy 33:3 ff) as righteous, and under His direction Proverbs 21:1 as people.

No man ... - literally, both love and also hatred man knoweth not: all are before them. Love and hatred here mean the ordinary outward tokens of God’s favor or displeasure, i. e., prosperity and adversity. “Man knoweth not” probably means: “man knows not whether to expect prosperity or adversity from God; all his earthly future is in obscurity.”

Verse 2

Event - See Ecclesiastes 2:14 note.

Sweareth - i. e., Swears lightly or profanely.

Verse 3

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

Verse 4

For to him - Rather: “Yet to him.” Notwithstanding evils, life has its advantage, and especially when compared with death.

Dog - To the Hebrews a type of all that was contemptible 1 Samuel 17:43.

Verses 5-6

See Ecclesiastes 8:12, note; Ecclesiastes 8:14, note. The living are conscious that there is a future before them: but the dead are unconscious; they earn nothing, receive nothing, even the memory of them soon disappears; they are no longer excited by the passions which belong to people in this life; their share in its activity has ceased. Solomon here describes what he sees, not what he believes; there is no reference here to the fact or the mode of the existence of the soul in another world, which are matters of faith.

The last clause of Ecclesiastes 9:6 indicates that the writer confines his observations on the dead to their portion in, or relation to, this world.

Ecclesiastes 9:6

Now - Rather: “long ago.”

Verses 7-12

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 3:0. Compare Ecclesiastes 2:14 note.

Ecclesiastes 9:12

Time - See Ecclesiastes 3:1 ff.

Verse 13

Or, Also this have I seen - wisdom under the sun, and great it seemed to me.

From this verse to the end of Ecclesiastes 10:0, the writer inculcates, in a series of proverbs, wisdom in contrast to folly, as the best remedy in the present life to the evil of vanity.

Verses 14-15

A parable probably without foundation in fact. Critics who ascribe this book to a late age offer no better suggestion than that the “little city” may be Athens delivered 480 b.c. from the host of Xerxes through the wisdom of Themistocles, or Dora besieged 218 b.c. by Antiochus the Great.

Ecclesiastes 9:16-17 are comments on the two facts - the deliverance of the city and its forgetfulness of him who delivered it - stated in Ecclesiastes 9:15.

Verse 18

Sinner - The word in the original indicates intellectual as well as moral error.

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 9". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/ecclesiastes-9.html. 1870.
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