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Bible Commentaries
Ecclesiastes 3

Trapp's Complete CommentaryTrapp's Commentary

Verse 1

To every [thing there is] a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

To everything there is a season. — A set time, such as we can neither alter nor order. This is one of those keys that God carries under his own belt. Acts 1:7 To seek, to do, or get anything before the time, is to pull apples before they are ripe, saith a father, Poma importuni tempore decerpunt. - Tertul. which set the teeth on edge, and breed stomach worms. They labour in vain that would prevent the time prefixed by God, as those hasty Ephraimites in Egypt 1 Chronicles 7:22 Psalms 78:9-10 those heady Israelites in the wilderness. Numbers 14:40 Moses would be acting the judge before his time, Exodus 2:12 he is therefore sent to keep sheep in Midian. Exodus 2:15 David stayed God’s leisure for the kingdom, those in Esther for deliverance - they knew that God would keep his day exactly, as he did with the Israelites in Egypt. "Even the self same day," when the "four hundred and thirty years" foretold were expired, God’s people were thrust out of Egypt. Exodus 12:40-41 So in Daniel 5:30 . In that night was Belshazzar slain; because then exactly the "seventy years" were ended. And as God fails not his own time, so he seldom comes at ours, Jeremiah 8:20 for he loves not to be limited. We are short breathed, short sighted, apt to antedate the promises in regard of the accomplishment. Habakkuk 2:2 And no less apt to outstand our own markets, to let slip opportunities of grace which are ever headlong, and once past, irrecoverable. "Oh, if thou hadst known at the least in this thy day," "How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?" Hebrews 2:3 "Therefore shall every one that is godly seek thee in a time when thou mayest be found." Psalms 32:6 There is a certain time set for men to come in and be saved; as Alexander set up a taper when he besieged a town; as Tamerlane hung out first a white flag and then a red. Many a man loseth his soul, as Saul did his kingdom, by not discerning his time. Esau came too late; so did the foolish virgins. If the gale of grace be past over, the gate shut, the draw bridge taken up, there is no possibility of entrance. "Let us, therefore, fear lest a promise being left us," and an overture made us "of entering into God’s rest, any of us should seem to fall short" υστερηκεναι , Hebrews 4:1 or come late, a day after the fair, an hour after the feast. God, who in his eternal counsel hath appointed things to be done, hath also ordained the opportunity and time wherein each thing should be done, which to neglect is such a presumption as he usually punisheth with final hardening. Ezekiel 24:13

Verse 2

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up [that which is] planted;

There is a time to be born, and a time to die — We do not hear the wise man say, There is a time to live. What is more fleeting than time? yet life is not long enough to be worthy the title of time. Death borders upon our birth, and our cradle stands in our grave. Orimur, morimur. we spring forth, we die.

Multos ostendunt terris bona faeta, nec ultra

Esse sinunt … Finisque ab origine pendet. ”

How many have we seen carried from the womb to the tomb; a from the birth to the burial! And what a short cut hath the longest liver from the grave of the womb to the womb of the grave! Men chop into the earth before they are aware many times; like as he that walks in a field covered with snow falls suddenly into a clay pit.

A time to plant, … — In point of good husbandry fit seasons are to be observed, or else little increase can be expected. God also, the great vinedresser, plants and plucks up more churches or particular persons at his pleasure. Isaiah 5:1-8 Matthew 15:13 Jerusalem, that plant of renown, is now of an Eden become a Sodom, and that which Moses threatened Deuteronomy 28:49-57 is fulfilled to the utmost. Susa in Persia signifies a lily, and was so called for the beauty and delectable sight; now it is called Valdac, of the poverty of the place. Nineveh, that great city, that once had more people within her walls than are now in some one kingdom, is at this day become a sepulture of itself, a little town of small trade, where the patriarch of the Nestorians keeps his seat at the devotion of the Turks.

Roma diu titubans variis erroribus acta

Corruet, et mundi definet esse caput. ” b

Verse 3

A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to kill, — viz., To cut off corrupt members by the sword of justice or of war, ne pars sincera trahatur: There is a cruel mercy, saith one; There is a pious cruelty, saith another. "But cursed is he that doth the Lord’s work negligently; and cursed is he that (in a good cause, and upon a good calling) keepeth back his sword from blood." Jeremiah 48:10 But that soldier can never answer it before God, that striketh not more as a justice of peace than as a soldier of fortune.

A time to break down, and a time to build up. — This and the rest, though every one knows to be so in common experience, yet one and the same thing (in effect) is oft repeated, that it may be once remembered - viz., that this whole world is nothing else but a mass of mutabilities; that every man, every state, everything is a planet, whose spherical revolutions are some of longer, some of shorter continuance. Omnia versantur in perpetuo ascensu et descendu, there is a perpetual ascending and descending of life and state.

Verse 4

time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh. — Only we must not invert the order, but weep with men that we may laugh with angels; lay godly sorrow as a foundation of spiritual joy. Surely out of this eater comes meat; out of this strong, sweet. Strong and sweet refreshments follow upon penitential performances; these April showers bring on May flowers. Tertullian saith that he was nulli rei natus nisi poenitentiae, born for no other purpose but to repent; but then he that truly repenteth, de peccatis dolet et de dolore gaudet, is grieved for his sins, and then is glad of such a grief. "Those that so sow in tears shall reap in joy": whereas those that will not - in an evil time, especially when God "calls to weeping and mourning," Isaiah 22:12 and even thrusts men down, as it were, with a thump on the back - weep here, where there are weeping handkerchiefs in the hands of Christ, are like to have their eyes whipt out in hell, and to howl with devils.

A time to mourn. — Matter enough of mourning we shall be sure of (and we should be soberly sensible of it) while we are in this vale of misery, valley of tears, in hoc exilio, in hoc ergastulo, in hoc peregrinatione, as Bernard hath it, in this prison house, purgatory, pilgrimage. In this place of banishment and bondage, how can we look for better? God sets us not here, as he did Adam in paradise, to take his pleasure, or as he did Leviathan in the sea, to sport and dally. We must not think to do as the people of Tombutum, in Africa, who are said to spend their time in singing and dancing. The way of this world is like the wilderness of Sin, or the vale of Siddim, or the Pacific Sea, which Captain Drake found tempestuous and troublous above measure. Camden’s Elisabeth. Many miseries and molestations, both satanical and secular, we are sure to meet with, to make us mourn. Jerome complains that he had furrows in his face, and icicles from his lips, with continual weeping. Origen is thought to have died of grief. Chrysostom calls the days of his life the days of his sorrow. Basil was made old and unprofitable for God’s Church before his time, with travail and trouble. Rebecca is weary of her life; so is Elijah. Naomi will be Naomi no longer, but Marah; Paul veils all his topsails, and sits down in the dust, 1 Timothy 1:15 besides his sympathising with others. 2 Corinthians 11:29-30

And a time to dance. — Or, Skip, as young cattle do at spring time. Here is nothing for mixed immodest dancings. Quid opus est talibus salsamentis? What need people provoke themselves to that evil they so naturally incline to? Nemo sobrius saltat, said the heathen orator: No sober man will offer to dance. Where there is dancing, there the devil is, saith a Father: Chrysostom. and cannot men be merry unless they have the devil for their playfellow? Dancing, saith another, Augustine. is a circle, whose centre is the devil, but busily blowing up the fire of lust, as in Herod, that old goat.

Verse 5

time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to cast away stones. — As when King Henry VIII pulled down the abbeys and other religious houses (as they called them), saying, Corvorum nidos esse penitus disturbandos, ne iterum ab cohabitandum convolent, that the crows’ nests were to be pulled in pieces, that they might never nestle there any more. Sander. Schism. Ang., lib. i. And herein he did but as Cardinal Wolsey did before him for he, by the Pope’s own license, had a little before pulled down forty monasteries, and taken their stones and revenues to build and endow his two colleges at Oxford and Ipswich. Acts and Mon. Elapidation is a piece of the Church’s happiness. Isaiah 5:2

And a time to gather stones together. — As in building forts, castles, colleges, bridges, causeys, such as was that in 1 Chronicles 26:16 ; 1 Chronicles 26:18 1 Kings 10:5 2 Chronicles 9:11 ; 2 Chronicles 16:6 .

A time to embrace. — With honest conjugal embracements (as the Chaldee paraphrast interprets it), not with those libidinous embracings of the bosom of a stranger Rupertus. Proverbs 5:20 No time for such. 1 Peter 4:3 Diabolus capite blanditur, ventre oblectat, cauda ligat.

And a time to refrain. — As in times of common calamity; for should we then make mirth? Ezekiel 21:10 Should not the bridegroom come forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet? Joel 2:16 Some of the ancients Ambros., De Noe et Arca, cap. 21. do very much note the manner of Noah’s going into the ark, and how the father and the sons went together, the mother and her daughters-in-law went together, God himself dividing at that time those whom himself had joined together. Others tell us that et bruta ipsa intra arcam quamdiu diluvium duravit, continuerint, the very brute creatures bred not in the ark during the deluge. There is both an intemperate and intempestive abuse of the marriage bed, which ought to be kept undefiled, Hebrews 13:3 and not stained and dishonoured with either unseasonable or sensual excesses and uncleannesses, which God will certainly plague (though they lie without the walk of human censure) without true and timely repentance. Lutheri nuptias amici etiam improbabant, e … Luther’s marrying a wife, then, when all Germany was in a hurly burly, and all Saxony in heaviness for the death of their good Elector Frederick, Luther’s greatest friend, was no small grief to his best friends; and afterward also to himself, as Melanchthon testifieth in an epistle to Camerarius. Quoniam vero ipsum Lutherum quodammodo tristierem esse cerno et perturbatum ob vitae mutationem, omni studio et benevolentia consolari eum cupio.

Verse 6

time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to get. — Heb., To seek; for men do but seek here, they do not properly get what they cannot long hold. How much better therefore were it to seek God! Cuius inventio est ipsum semper quaerere (as Nyssen hath it here), the finding of whom is always to seek him, and in seeking of whom there is so great reward. Hebrews 11:6 "Seek ye me and ye shall live." Amos 5:4 "Seek him that maketh the seven stars and Orion." Amos 5:8 Seek him "in a time when he may be found." Psalms 32:6 "Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation." 2 Corinthians 6:2 Take the present "now," and be serious, and then God scorns to do as heathen idols did - viz., to say to the seed of Jacob, "Seek ye me in vain." Isaiah 45:19 How greedy are men of getting gain! Kερδαινοντες ου κοπιωμεν . - Naz. Get God, and you get all: Habet omnia qui habet habentem omnia. Augustine.

And a time to lose. — There is an "uncertainty" in riches; 1 Timothy 6:17 a "deceitfulness"; Mark 4:19 a "lie." John 8:44 They were never true to those that trusted them; subject they are to vanity or violence. Matthew 6:19-21 How seldom do gamesters grow rich! Vitrea est fortuna; cum splendot, frangitur. Mimus. And as they say of the metal they make glass of: it is nearest melting when it shines brightest in the fire; so are many rich men nearest ruin when at greatest lustre, as Haman, Herod, Pythias, …

A time to keep. — It is good for a man to keep somewhat by him. Bonus servatius facit bonum bonifacium, according to the Dutch blunt proverb, ‘A good saver makes a good well doer.’ See Trapp on " Proverbs 6:8 "

And a time to cast away. — To "cast bread upon the waters," Ecclesiastes 11:1 upon those poor creatures that, pinched with penury, water their plants, feed upon tears. And although bread and other comforts cast upon such may seem cast down the waters, because no hope of recompense, yet thou shalt be "recompensed at the resurrection of the just," saith Christ to such, and blessed in the meanwhile. Luke 14:14 Temporalia Dei servis impensa non pereunt, sed parturiunt, Alms perisheth not, but is put to use.

Verse 7

time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

A time to rend, and a time to sew. — As in making a new or translating an old garment. Turks wonder at the English for pinking or cutting their clothes, and making holes in whole cloth, which time of itself would tear too soon. Fuller. It was a custom among the Jews to rend their clothes in the case of sad occurrences. The prophet Ahijah rent Jeroboam’s new garment in twelve pieces, to show that God would rend the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon. 1 Kings 11:31 Schismatics rend the Church, heretics the Scriptures. God will stitch up all in his own time, and heal the breaches thereof. Psalms 60:2

A time to keep silence, and a time to speak. — It is a singular skill to "time a word," Isaiah 50:4 to set it upon its wheels, Proverbs 25:11 as Abigail did for her family, 1 Samuel 25:23-31 as Esther did against Haman. And it is a happy thing when a man can pray, as one once did, Det Deus ut sermo meus adeo commodus sit, quam sit accommodus, God grant my speech may be as profitable as it is seasonable. He that would be able to speak when and as he ought, must first learn silence, as the Pythagoreans did of old, εχεμυθια Pythagorica. - Cuspin. de Caesarib., 475. as the Turks do at this day, Perpetuum silentium tenent ut muti, they are not suffered to speak. Discamus prius non loqui, saith Jerome upon this text. Let us first learn not to speak, that afterwards we may open our mouths to speak wisely. Silence is fitly set here before speaking, and first takes its time and turn. It is a good rule that one gives, either keep silence, or speak that which is better than silence. H σιγαν η κρεισσονα σιγης λεγειν .

Verse 8

time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

A time to love, and a time to hate. — Yet I like not his counsel that said, Ama tanquam osurus, odi tanquam amaturus, Cicero De Amicit. Let a man choose whom he may love, and then love whom he hath chosen. "Let love be without dissimulation; abhor the evil, cleave to the good." Romans 12:9 Hate we may, but then it must be, non virum, sed vitium, not the man, but his evil qualities; whereof also we must seek to bereave him, that he may be totus desiderabilis, "altogether lovely." Song of Solomon 5:16

A time of war, and a time of peace. — Time, saith an interpreter, is a circle; and the Preacher shutteth up this passage of time in a circle. For having begun with "a time to be born," and "a time to die," he endeth with "a time of war," which is a time of dying, and with "a time of peace," which is a time wherein people, by bringing forth, are multiplied.

Verse 9

What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth?

What profit hath he that worketh? …i.e., How can any man, by any means he can use, help or hinder this volubility and vanity that he meets with in every creature? Cui bono? What profit? See Trapp on " Ecclesiastes 1:3 " whereunto this verse relateth, as being a conclusion of the principal argument.

Verse 10

I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it.

I have seen the travail that God, … — Not fortune, but Providence ordereth all cross occurrences; "a wheel" there is "within a wheel"; Ezekiel 1:1-28 then when men may think things run on wheels, at sixes and sevens, as they say. "Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God." 1 Peter 5:6 His holy hand hath a special stroke in all our travails. He both ordaineth Acts 2:1-47 and ordereth all, Genesis 1:20 altering the property, Romans 8:28 and disposing them to good, raising profit from all. Thus men afflicted Job for covetousness, the devil for malice, Ecclesiastes 1:15-16 God, for trial and exercise of his graces. "To be exercised therein," saith the text, or, as the word signifieth, to be "humbled therewith," to "hide pride from man," Job 33:17 to tame and take him a link lower. "Their hearts are brought down," saith the prophet; "they speak out of the ground," Isaiah 29:4 that erst set their mouths against heaven, and said, "I am, and besides me there is none."

Verse 11

He hath made every [thing] beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.

He hath made everything beautiful, Kοσμος , ab ornatu; Mundus, a mundicie. — Plato was wont to say that God did always γεωμετρειν - work by geometry. Another sage said, Pondere, mensura, numero, Deus omnia fecit, God hath done all in number, weight, and measure; made and set all things in comely and curious order and equipage; he hath also prefined beforehand a convenient and beautiful season for everything; ordering the disorders of the world to his own glory and his Church’s good.

Also he hath set the world in their heart,i.e., He hath given to men the creature to contemplate, together with an earnest desire to search into nature’s secrets. The Vulgate renders this text thus: Et mundum tradidit disputationi eorum, And he hath delivered the world to their disputations. But so foolishly εμωρανθησαν . Romans 1:22 and impiously have men disputed of God, of his providence, of his judgments, of the chief happiness, …, that they have reasoned, or rather wrangled away the truth, being able to find out neither the beginning nor end of the causes or uses of God’s works. Romans 1:21-22 Veritatem philosophia quaerit, theologia invenit, religio possidet, said Picus Mirandula; Philosophy inquires after truth, divinity finds it out, and religion only improves it.

Verse 12

I know that [there is] no good in them, but for [a man] to rejoice, and to do good in his life.

I know that there is no good in them,i.e., No other good, but for a man to rejoice and do good in his life - i.e., Frui praesentibus et facere quod infuturo prosit, Glossa Minor. to enjoy things present, and to do that which may do him good a thousand years hence; to expend what he hath upon himself, and to extend it unto others that are in necessity, this is to "lay up in store for himself a good foundation against the time to come"; this is to "lay hold upon eternal life." 1 Timothy 6:18-19

Verse 13

And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it [is] the gift of God.

And enjoy the good of all his labour. — "They that will not labour must not eat," 2 Thessalonians 3:10 saith the apostle. As they that do shall enjoy the good of all their labour, eat the labour of their hands, and be thrice happy. Psalms 128:1-2 Jabal and Jubal, Genesis 4:20-21 frugality and music, good husbandry and good content, dwell together; and yet not always, but where God gives the gift. He gives strength to labour, and health to enjoy the good of our labour. Valeat possessor oportet, si comportatis rebus bene cogitat uti. - Horat. This the rich fool in the gospel either knew not or considered not. "Eat, drink, and be merry," said he to himself; but God was not in all his thoughts. How much better David! "Hope in the Lord," Psalms 43:5 saith he to himself and others, "and be doing good; dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed." Psalms 37:3

Verse 14

I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth [it], that [men] should fear before him.

I know that whatsoever God doeth it shall be for ever,i.e., That his decree is unchangeable, that his "counsel shall stand," Proverbs 19:21 that the sun may sooner be stopped in his course than God hindered of his will or in his work, since his power and grace is irresistible. Nature, angels, devils, men, may all be resisted, and so miss their design. Not so God. For who hath resisted his will? Vain men, while (like proud and yet brittle clay) they will be knocking their sides against the solid and eternal decree of God, break themselves in pieces, as Adonijah did. 1 Kings 1:5-9 ; 1 Kings 1:41-43 And while, with Pompey, vanquished by Julius Caesar, they complain that there is a great mist upon the eye of Divine providence, they do but blame the sun, because of the soreness of their bleary eyes. Certain it is, and Solomon knows it - though the best of heathens doubted it when they saw good men suffer, bad men prosper - that every creature walks blindfold; only he that dwells in light sees whither they go; and that the chariots of all effects and actions come forth from between those "mountains of brass," God’s provident decrees and counsels most firm and immutable. Zechariah 6:1

That men should fear before him. — And not lay the reins on the neck, casting away all care upon pretence of God’s decree, as that French king did that thus desperately argued: Si salvabor, salvabor; si vero damnabor, damnabor: If I shall be saved, I shall be saved; and if I shall be damned, I shall be damned; therefore I will live as I wish. Ludovicus II This was to suck poison out of a sweet flower, to dash against the rock of ages, to fall into the pit (like a profane beast) which was digged for better purpose; to "stumble at the word" (an ill sign, and yet an ordinary sin) "whereunto also they were appointed." 1 Peter 2:8 A bridge is made to give men safe passage over a dangerous river; but he that stumbleth on the bridge is in danger to fall into the river. So here.

Verse 15

That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past.

That which hath been is now, …, — viz., With God, to whom all things are present. Romans 4:17 2 Peter 3:8 Jeremiah 1:5-7 Hence God is said to know future things, Exodus 3:9 John 18:4 not to foreknow them. For indeed neither foreknowledge nor remembrance are properly in God, since his whole essence is wholly an eye or a mind; it is the example or pattern of all things, so that he needs but to look upon himself, and then he seeth all things, as in a glass. The eye of man beholds many things at once, as ants in a mole hill; but if it will see other things at the same time, it must remove the sight. The mind of man can take in a larger circuit, even a city, a country, a world; but this it doth only in the lump or whole mass of it, for else it must remove from form to form, and from thought to thought. But God takes all at once most steadfastly and perfectly. All things without him are but as a point or ball, which with as much ease he discerneth as we turn our eyes.

And God requireth that which is past. — Or, Inquireth, asketh, that which is bygone; he bespeaks it as present, "calling those things that are not as if they were." Non aliter scivit Deus creata quam creancla, saith Augustine. God knew things to be created, as if they had been before created.

Verse 16

And moreover I saw under the sun the place of judgment, [that] wickedness [was] there; and the place of righteousness, [that] iniquity [was] there.

The place of judgment, that wickedness was there,i.e., That wrong reigned in the places of judicature, that justice was shamefully perverted, and public authority abused to public injury. Cato saw as much in the Roman States, and complained that private robbers were laid in cold irons, when public thieves went in gold chains, and were clothed in purple. A. Gell., lib. xi. cap. 16. Another, not without cause, complains that, even among us Christians, some follow the administration of justice as a trade only, with an unquenchable and unconscionable desire of gain, which justifies the common resemblance of the courts of justice to the bush, whereto while the sheep flees for defence in ill weather, he is sure to lose part of his fleece. Such wickedness saw the wise man in the place of judgment, where he least looked for it. God himself "looked for judgment, but behold a scab." Isaiah 5:7 , marg. So the Hebrew hath it.

Verse 17

I said in mine heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked: for [there is] a time there for every purpose and for every work.

I said in my heart, God shall judge, … — He did not deny the Divine providence, as Averroes for this cause did; much less did he turn atheist with Diagoras, because he could not have justice done upon a fellow that had stolen a poem of his, and published it in his own name. But he concluded within himself, that God would surely take the matter into his own hand, judge those unrighteous judges, right and relieve the oppressed, "bring forth their righteousness as the light, and their innocence as the noonday," Psalms 37:6 if not in this world, yet certainly at that great assizes to be held by his Son. "Because he hath appointed a day in the which he will judge the world in righteousness, whereof he hath given assurance to all men." Acts 17:31 His petty sessions he keepeth now, letting the law pass upon some few corrupt judges by untimely death, disgraces, banishment, remorse of conscience, … - as he did upon Judge Morgan, that condemned the Lady Jane Grey; Judge Hales, Belknap, Empson, Dudley, that I speak not of Pilate, Felix, … - reserving the rest till the great assizes. 1 Timothy 5:24 Some he punisheth here, lest his providence - but not all, lest his patience and promise of judgment - should be called into question, as Augustine well observeth. His twenty-two learned books, De Civitate Dei, were purposely written to clear up this truth; and so were Salvian’s eight books, De gubernatione Dei, et de iusto praesentique eius iudicio.

Verse 18

I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts.

That they might see that they themselves are beasts. — It is reckoned a great matter that wicked men are made "to know themselves to be but men," and no more. Psalms 9:20 But God will make good men see and say with David, "So foolish was I and ignorant; I was as a beast before thee." Pulchre addidit, "apud te," saith Ambrose upon those words. Ambr. in Ps. lxxxiii, Elegantly said the Psalmist, "Before thee," because, in respect of God, what is man but an unreasonable beast? He that is wisest among men, said Socrates, who himself was held the wisest of men, if he be compared to God, Simia videbitur, non sapiens, he will seem rather an ape than a wise man. Socrat. apud Platon. David calls himself not a "beast" only, but "beasts," in the plural, Eram apud te sicut bestiae. - Mercer. behemoth, or at least a very great beast, not an ape, but an elephant. And this is that which God would have all good men see, hemmah lahem, as this text hath it, themselves to themselves, in their humble account of themselves, as holy Agur did. Proverbs 30:2 See Trapp on " Proverbs 30:2 "

Verse 19

For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all [is] vanity.

For that which befalleth the sons of men. — As hunger, thirst, heat, cold, diseases, aches, and other ill accidents.

As the one dieth. — They are sure to die, both of them.

Yea, they have all one breath. — They breathe in the same air, and expire alike, in respect of the body. a

So that a man hath no pre-eminence. — Unless it be in reason and speech, which he frequently abuseth to his own utter destruction. But otherwise -

Nos aper auditu praecellit, aranea tactu,

Vultur odoratu, lynx visu, simia gustu. ”

a Nec te tua plurima Pentheu,

Labentem texit pietas.

Verse 20

All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.

All are of the dust.See Trapp on " Genesis 3:19 "

Verse 21

Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?

Who knoweth the Spirit?q.d., Who but a man that is spiritually rational, and rationally spiritual? Who but he that hath "the mind of Christ?" 1 Corinthians 2:16 that hath seen the insides of nature and grace? Whether Plato and Cicero believed themselves in what they wrote touching the immortality of the soul, is a great question.

Verse 22

Wherefore I perceive that [there is] nothing better, than that a man should rejoice in his own works; for that [is] his portion: for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him?

Wherefore I perceive. — He resumeth his assertion, Ecclesiastes 3:13 and concludeth. See Ecclesiastes 2:24 .

Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 3". Trapp's Complete Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jtc/ecclesiastes-3.html. 1865-1868.
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