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Bible Commentaries
Ecclesiastes 3

Bell's Commentary on the BibleBell's Commentary

Verses 1-15

  1. Intro: Times & Seasons
    1. Poem: The clock of life is wound but once, And no man has the power. To tell just when the hands will stop, At late or early hour. To lose one’s wealth is sad indeed. To lose one’s health is more. To lose one’s soul is such a loss, That no man can restore.
      1. 36 people died while we just read that short poem.
      2. Every hour over 6,300 go to meet their Maker. Almost 2 a second. [90, 2052]
    2. What is the Purpose of life? Better yet, What is the Purpose of your life?
      1. Many can’t answer this question. Many give up when they don’t find out.
    3. Life, Death, Time & Eternity make up the ingredients of life. [all are in this chapter]
    4. Also, we see where The Birds got their great lyrics to their 1965 song, To every season, turn, turn, turn from Eccl.3. [Written by Pete Seeger 1950’s] [became #1 pop hit in the nation...w/the oldest lyrics]
    5. What we’ll see here is individuality, we are unique. A special time for everyone to be birthed & a time appointed to die, etc.
      1. If we as individuals are not unique, then we are not important. If we are not important, then life has no meaning. If life has no meaning, then life is not worth living.
  2. TIMES ARE ESTABLISHED (1-8)
    1. They say timing is everything. Time is mentioned 31 x’s in this chapter.
    2. (1) Times = an appointed time (1-8). Season = times are working out Gods purpose (9-15).
    3. (1) Times & seasons are a regular part of life. They are God ordained natural Laws.
      1. Not only are there seasons & times, but there is also an overruling Providence in our lives.
        1. From our conception to our death, God is accomplishing His Divine purpose.
        2. God dwells in eternity, but time dwells in God.
      2. In these next 14 statements, Solomon affirmed God is at work in individual lives, seeking to accomplish His will.
        1. There is an appropriate time for every human activity. And, positive events are paralleled with negative ones to reflect reality.
      3. If we cooperate w/God’s timing, life will not be meaningless.
    4. (2) Even in the original these verses were set up uniquely as a song.
      1. You’ll note some order to their alignment in your bible.
    5. (2a) Born/Die – Birth & death are not human accidents; they are divine appointments, for God is in control.
      1. We may foolishly hasten our death, but we cannot prevent it when our time comes. Our days are numbered.
        1. Ps.31:15 My times are in Your hand.
        2. Job 14:5 Since his days are determined, The number of his months is with You; You have appointed his limits, so that he cannot pass.
        3. Job24:1 Since times are not hidden from the Almighty, Why do those who know Him see not His days?
    6. Plant/Pluck – They were agricultural people.
      1. A successful farmer knows that nature works for him only when he works w/ nature.
        1. The secret of a successful life...lean on Gods principles & cooperate w/them.
    7. (3) Kill/Heal – God permits some to die & others to be healed.
      1. When parents are praying their child won’t die (at any age), Sometimes God has compassion on the parents & other times on their child.
      2. ​​​​​​​A few have been allowed life extensions (eg. Hezekiah in Is.38)
        1. God can use both means & miracles to accomplish His purpose.
    8. William Sangster (British Methodist preacher) learned that he had progressive muscular atrophy and could not get well, he made 4 resolutions and kept them to the end:
      1. I will never complain - I will keep the home bright - I will count my blessings - I will try to turn it to gain. [sounds like our friend Jayna]
    9. Break Down/Build up – can be different parts of 1 process, such as remodeling or building a new house.
    10. (4) Weep/LaughMourning rituals were common in the ancient Near East.
      1. Job’s friends mourned for him for 7 days when they visited him. Job 2:11-13
      2. David sang a song of lament after hearing of Saul and Jonathan’s deaths 2 Sam.1:17-27
      3. The statement here is reminiscent of Paul’s encouragement for believers to Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. Rom.12:15
    11. Mourn/Dance while weep & laugh were private, mourn & dance were public.
    12. (5) Cast away stones/Gather stones – Israel is so stony you must remove the stones before you plant.
      1. To ruin an enemy’s field you’d fill it full of stones.
        1. Also you shall attack every fortified city and every choice city, and shall cut down every good tree, and stop up every spring of water, and ruin every good piece of land with stones. 2 Kings 3:19
      2. Stones needed to be collected to build walls & houses.
        1. They say, If your enemy throws stones in your field, don’t throw them back…build something with them. :)
    13. Embrace/refrain from Embracing
      1. This could be referring to a husband & wife. 1 Cor.7:5, or Lev.15:19,24.
      2. People in the Near East show their affections, kissing & hugging, when they meet & part. Paraphrased, a time to say hello & to say good-bye.
      3. Also, refraining from embracing could be a timing issue - it could refer to...not awakening love before its time, as Solomon wrote about (3x’s S.o.S. 2:7; 3:5; 8:4) [actually it was the Shulamites wisdom to the daughters of Jerusalem]
        1. How many (don’t raise hands) messed this one up by awakening love too early in your life & reaped the consequences from it?
    14. (6) Gain/Lose – obviously speaking about your weight? :)
      1. Actually maybe like Job said, Naked I came from my mother's womb, And naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD. 1:21
      2. Jesus said, For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it. Mark 8:35
    15. Keep/Throw away – Garage sale verse.
    16. (7) Tear/Sew – Possibly refers to the practice of rending a garment (during grief/mourning).
    17. Keep Silent/Speak – if only we could learn when to do each of these.
      1. Prov.26:4,5 Do not answer a fool according to his folly, Lest you also be like him. Answer a fool according to his folly, Lest he be wise in his own eyes.
      2. Restraint in speech is a recurring theme in wisdom literature. In Proverbs, a fool’s speech brings trouble (Prv.18:6,7), while those who keep their tongue avoid trouble (Prv.21:23).
    18. (8) Love/Hate – Are there things we should hate? Of course: senseless killings, abortion, foolish wars, children starving, our God dishonored, injustice, & most importantly we should hate the sin in our own lives.
      1. ​​​​​​​Ps. 97:10 You who love the LORD, hate evil.
      2. Prov.8:13 The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way And the perverse mouth I hate.
      3. Amos 5:15 Hate evil, love good.
      4. Like different drugs a pharmacist/chemist works with...Taken alone one ingredient may kill you; but properly blended, they bring healing. eg. Table salt.
    19. War/Peace – We saw a time for both in the O.T. (compare David’s reign vs. Solomon’s)
    20. So Time is very important to us. Our days are very scheduled.
      1. We have busy lives, we are so scheduled. Yet if you’re waiting at a doctors/ dentist appointment & you plan on an hour total for your check up. Yet the wait was that long...at 1st you’re bummed as this just messed w/your schedule...but then you quickly adjust your schedule to accommodate.
        1. Why can’t we adjust so quickly to God’s timing? W/man’s we’re so quick to adapt?
  3. TIMES ARE ESTABLISHED BY GOD (9-13)
    1. ​​​​​​​People have a desire to understand how they fit into the plan of life.
    2. We may not understand His time & purpose now, until we step out of our time (under heaven) & into His purpose (eternity).
      1. Bringing God into the picture always gives us the better perspective.
      2. Solomon glances above the sun, into the heavens.
    3. His promise is that He will make everything beautiful…in its time. Even the most difficult experiences of life.
    4. (9) Same question that was brought up in 1:3, but now he has 2 answers in light of new evidence.
      1. Is work a routine for you? Is your work only Toil (exhausting labor, drudgery)?… Are you badly waiting for the answer right now?
    5. Remember work can be enjoyed (13) If you remember these next 2 things:
      1. Remember our work is God-Given (10)
        1. Ask any person that can’t work if they would trade you places.
      2. Remember the fruit of our labor is a Gift of God (13)
        1. Don’t take all the credit for your job or successes. W/o Him you can do nothing.
    6. (11) Can you believe the one word everything in this verse?
      1. Solomon is not saying, Hakuna matada (Swahili), Don’t worry - be happy.
        1. He is promoting faith in God, not faith in faith.
        2. Faith is only as good as the object of faith & the greatest object of faith is the Lord
    7. Eternity in our hearts – Every man knows there's more than just this life.
      1. Yah, but His time is a long way off. Like the old joke…Now Lord, a 1000 yrs is to You like a minute right? Yes my son. And Lord, 1 million dollars to you is like a penny right? Yes my son. Then Lord, can I have a penny? Yes, in just a minute! :)
    8. Let’s remember 4 things
      1. God has given us a spiritual thirst.
      2. We have eternal value.
      3. Nothing but the eternal God can satisfy us.
      4. We were designed for eternity. [our only replaceable part in our part assembly is our shell. The motor & drive train stay the same]
        1. This is why the world can’t satisfy us.
        2. Thomas Watson (Puritan pastor), Eternity to the godly is a day that has no sunset; eternity to the wicked is a night that has no sunrise.
    9. (12) Rejoice & do good - People should enjoy life & be content with what they are given.
    10. (13) Enjoyment of life is also a gift of God.
  4. TIMES ARE ESTABLISHED BY GOD AND FOR GOD (14,15)
    1. ​​​​​​​(14) Forever – Life seems to be transitory, but whatever God does is forever.
      1. Therefore, being in tune with God, He makes life not only meaningful but manageable.
      2. 1 Cor.10:13 God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
    2. Nothing can be added to it - God’s work cannot be improved.
    3. Fear Him – not the cringing of a slave before a cruel master, but the submission of an obedient child to a loving parent. www
    4. (15) And God requires an account of what is past.
      1. NIV and God will call the past to account.
      2. Scholars have a difficult time agreeing on the translation of this phrase.
      3. It literally says, God seeks what hurries along (or, is pursued).
        1. Solomon seems to say that time goes by swiftly and gets away from us; but God keeps track of it and will, at the end of time, call into account what we have done with time.
    5. Prayer: God you are Sov & we trust in You.

Verses 16-22

  1. ntro: Man vs. Mongrel
    1. Why is Divine judgment delayed? How can God be in control when there’s so much evil in the world? Do puppy’s go to heaven when they die? Are we any different from animals; we all are born, live, & then go to the grave…so what’s the difference?
    2. Life, death, time & eternity, make up the ingredients of our brief experience in this world. www
    3. (1-15) told us, What a wonderful plan God has for your life.
      1. ​​​​​​​It says our life has: tremendous timing & a perfect purpose...in everything. (vs.1 every purpose, vs.11 everything)
      2. Verse16 now screams, wait a minute. If God has a wonderful plan for my life, then explain, why such-n-such happened, why things are stacked up against me, why I got such a raw deal?
  2. LIFE IS NOT FAIR (16) Read 16 only
    1. ​​​​​​​Johnny Carson, If life were fair, Elvis would be alive & all the impersonators would be dead.
    2. I bet every one of us knows at least one friend (if it’s not speaking directly to us) going through an Injustice right now.
      1. MLK, Jr. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
      2. Robert Browning said Injustice is...one more wrong to man, one more insult to God.
    3. Human courts are set up to correct injustice.
      1. But people can be bought. Others have a political agenda for them selves. Still others are just plain morally corrupt.
      2. How do you struggle with the tension of knowing God is in control and yet seeing wickedness in control?
    4. Why is Divine judgment delayed? Rev.6:9-11 says because more need to suffer & die.
    5. ​​​​​​​Remember, Injustice isn’t the end of the story. Read vs.17.
  3. LIFE WILL BE FAIR (17)
    1. ​​​​​​​He shall judge - He has timing - He has purpose.
      1. He shall judge – when history has ran its course.
        1. Though the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceedingly small.
      2. If God does not correct injustice in time, He has appointed a time for it to be dealt with.
        1. Solomon later says, God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad. Eccl.12:14 nlt
        2. Jesus said, For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops. Lk.10:2,3
    2. Heraclitus(Gk Philosopher 500bc) If it were not for injustice, men would not know justice
    3. Justice will ultimately prevail. Injustice is limited in scope.
      1. In eternity all wrongs will be righted, & perfect justice done.
    4. Be strong. It matters not how deep intrenched the wrong, How hard the battle goes, the day how long; Faint not, fight on! Tomorrow comes the song. Maltbie D. Babcock, Amer clergyman, late 1800’s.
  4. ANIMAL TESTING (18) not the kind you think
    1. ​​​​​​​That they may see that they are like animals – God is revealing what man is really like...if left to himself.
      1. When man leaves God out of the picture he is like an animal.
      2. The bible likens man unto animals many times:
        1. Ps.32:9 Do not be like the horse or like the mule, Which have no understanding, Which must be harnessed with bit and bridle, Else they will not come near you.
        2. ​​​​​​​Prov.7:22,23 Immediately he went after her (the immoral woman), as an ox goes to the slaughter, Or as a fool to the correction of the stocks, Till an arrow struck his liver. As a bird hastens to the snare, He did not know it would cost his life.
        3. Jude 10 But these speak evil of whatever they do not know; and whatever they know naturally, like brute beasts, in these things they corrupt themselves.
    2. Man often lives like a beast & dies like a beast (19,20).
    3. God allows certain circumstances/tests to show us that we all have that quality about us, where we act like brute beats.
  5. ASHES TO ASHES, DUST TO DUST (19,20)
    1. ​​​​​​​What the author was questioning, however, may have been the materialistic notions of afterlife that predominated in ancient Egypt, where people thought that after death a powerful man could continue to enjoy his possessions, his women, and the services of his slaves. [Ps: Sol. married a daughter of an Egyptian ruler 1Kgs.3:1]
      1. In short, this theology did not take seriously the finality of physical death (the great pyramids of the pharaohs were expressions of this view).
    2. (20) Death is the end result for humans and animals alike. This is not meant to be a statement concerning the afterlife.
    3. Kids letters to God: Dear God, Instead of letting people die and having to make new ones, why don't you just keep the ones you have now? – Jane
    4. Here’s Solomon’s view comparing the 2. If you look at a dead man & a dead animal they look pretty much the same. They both will decay & go the way of the earth.
  6. ​​​​​​​GOING UP? (21)
    1. ​​​​​​​So you don’t misinterpret the above 2 verses, there is a difference between man & mongrel.
      1. Solomon merely states they are the same in they both have a common mortality. They both come from the same dust of the earth. They both are animated from the same life breath (Job 34:14,15). They both go to the same place, returning to the dust.
      2. ASK...How are we different from animals? (image of God. Think, reason, create)
    2. Some translations put this in a question form (NIV Who knows if the spirit of man rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?)
    3. The bible teaches that death is the spirit leaving the body:
      1. James 2:26 says, For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
    4. Solomon again says it in 12:7 For then the dust will return to the earth, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.
    5. Where do souls come from?
      1. Creationism – God creates a new soul for each person & sends it to that person’s body sometime between conception & birth.
      2. Traducianism – holds that the soul as well as the body of a child is inherited from the baby’s mother & father at the time of conception.
      3. Pre-existentianism (exis-stenchen-ism) – holds the souls of people exist in heaven long before their bodies are conceived in the wombs of their mothers, & that God then brings the soul to earth to be joined w/the babies body as he or she grows in the womb.
    6. So which is it? – Not #3 (Mormons & Reincarnationist)
      1. I believe #1 or #2, or either. If both Augustine & Luther were undecided so can I be.
    7. Pro for Creationism (of soul):
      1. Is.42:5 Thus says God the LORD, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread forth the earth and that which comes from it, Who gives breath to the people on it, And spirit to those who walk on it.
      2. Zech 12:1 Thus says the LORD, who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him.
    8. Pro for Traducianism: (http://www.nouthetic.org/blog/?p=210)
      1. According to Genesis 2:3, after creating man He ceased creating. His Creative work was complete. The Scriptures never indicate that God created anything else.
      2. Sin (both corruption & guilt) is passed down from one generation to the next. Though the body suffers from the effects of sin (clubfeet, down syndrome, and so on), it is not the conveyor of the sinful nature itself. The sinful nature is a matter of the heart (or soul). Unless sinful corruption is passed down through the generations by means of the soul, it could not happen. Such continuity would be broken if the Creationist’s suppositions were true.
      3. If God created souls (after Adam and Eve’s) then He would be creating something sinful rather than good (otherwise where would their sin come from).
    9. Ps: Great men of God have backed up both theories:
      1. Creationism – Catholics, Luther, Calvin.
      2. Traducianism – Jonathon Edwards, A.H.Strong.
    10. SO, WILL FIFI GO TO HEAVEN? (why or why not?)
      1. There are heavenly animals (white horses, 4 liv creatures).
      2. But the question is whether our pets will be there, or the earthly animals there.
      3. Setting emotions aside. I have been pretty hard fast, saying no way.
        1. Sighting...an animal can’t be born again or redeemed.
        2. Also, the difference we have with the animal kingdom...we’re made in the image of God, thus above the animal kingdom.
      4. Evidence the other way? Rev.21:5 Behold He is making all things new. Not just people but also on earth all things. Do those include animals?
        1. Randy Alcorn in his book Heaven argues it this way, People are made in God’s image, and animals aren’t. People sinned, animals didn’t. Because animals didn’t sin, they don’t need a redeemer in the same way.
        2. Christ died for animals indirectly because His death for humanity purchased redemption for what was brought down by humanity’s sin, including animals.
        3. Rom.8:19-22 (the creation groans); 23-25 (we groan); vs.26 (HS groans)
        4. So...I’ll plead the 5th. And not be so dog-matic :)
    11. The soul of a beast is at death like a candle blown out, and there is and end of it. Whereas the soul of man is then like a candle taken out of the dark lantern, which leaves the lantern useless indeed, but does itself shine brighter. Charles Bridges Comm on Eccl., pg.77
  7. CONTENTMENT (22)
    1. ​​​​​​​Accept life from Gods hand & enjoy it while you can.
      1. We must live by Gods promises not explanations.
      2. We can’t always explain life, but we must experience life, either by enduring it or enjoying it.
      3. Accept life. Enjoy life. Be satisfied w/Life.
      4. Paul learned, in whatever state I am, to be content. Phil.4:11
        1. Remember circumstances bring us pain as well as pleasure & it is His choice for us.
        2. Remember all comes from a Wise Father.
    2. (22b) He will deal w/this question later.
      1. Answer...only God can help us to understand what lies beyond life.
Bibliographical Information
Bell, Brian. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 3". "Bell's Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cbb/ecclesiastes-3.html. 2017.
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