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Thursday, December 7th, 2023
the First Week of Advent
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Bible Commentaries
Ecclesiastes 3

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Verse 1

There Is a Time for Everything

Whatever we are capable of, whatever initiatives we take, in fact we are slaves to the inevitable, inexorable times mentioned by the Preacher in Ecclesiastes 3:1-Ruth :. Our life is not only determined by the calendar, but also by the tide of events that go back and forth. All kinds of events take us from one choice and action to another. We react to events and thereby determine the next course of our lives. The duration or length of that journey depends on the next event that enters our lives.

We cannot place ourselves outside the events of life. We are part of it, they happen to us and we are in the middle of it. We cannot distance ourselves from it and then oversee things “from beginning to end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). This can only be done by God, He, “Who declares the end from the beginning” (Isaiah 46:10). All this puts man – who pretends to be the master of his destiny and thinks he has his own life in his hands and can map it out – in his place.

An “appointed time” refers to the duration of a period. With “a time for every event” the emphasis is on the content of a period, what happens in that time. Everything people do has an “appointed time”, a certain duration, nothing more. Man does not control that time and his time is not eternal, but measured, limited. Therefore we should not give our actions a greater weight than they have.

The fool weighs the things of time as if they were eternal (Psalms 49:12-1 Chronicles :). On the other hand, he considers the things of eternity to be of no importance. Everything around us is constantly changing. What folly it is to seek steadfast happiness in such a changing stage. It is the same as seeking peace on a wild ocean.

The whole section of Ecclesiastes 3:1-Ruth : emphasizes that life is filled with a series of contrasts and that we constantly move from one state to another and from experience to experience. Some are pleasant and enjoyable, and some are stressful and painful. Just as the cycles of sun, wind, clouds, and rain continue their incessant repetitions, so time moves inexorably from one event to another, even in opposing events. But each event plays its own role in God’s purpose.

There is also something compulsive in it; there is no escape. Time is a tyrant ruling over us. Little by little we feel older and start to look older. Time drives us on, until the day we die. Time determines at what time we do anything in our lives. Everything is dictated by the pace of the march of time and by changes, which we have not asked for. No one chooses a time to suffer pain or cry from sorrow.

However, the believer knows that all events are nothing but wheels of the throne wagon or government of God that interlock and make him move (Ezekiel 1:16). When we understand that God arranges and controls everything, everything looks different. Then we are able to trust God to weave His loving intentions for us through the carpet of time. If we want to learn to live life according to God’s purpose, we must work together with the time of each purpose of God.

The time on earth is filled with “every event under heaven”. Except that “under heaven” defines that everything takes place on the earth, it also reminds us that heaven has to do with it. In heaven is the throne of God, from where all government emanates (Matthew 5:34). The believer may rest in this consciousness with respect to all kinds of times that are described. God is the God of all grace, which means that He gives the necessary grace for every kind of time in the believer’s life.

We must learn to “understand the times” (1 Chronicles 12:32). Faith sees God’s hand in all the changes in life. In this way the believer can confidently say: “My times are in Your hand” (Psalms 31:15). Whether times of prosperity or adversity, the believer finds peace in the thought that every period of time in his life is directed and governed by God. All changes are under His absolute control. All these different times are not coincidental times. Time is an invention of God to bring order to His creation: “He has made everything appropriate in its time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

The awareness of the time that is available for all things must teach us to be conscious of our time. That awareness should not become a slave-driver, making us workaholics and neglecting our families, not taking time for friendships and being too busy to absorb the scent of flowers and admire a sunset.

Being responsible with our time also means that we take a time of rest. We use our time wisely when we, to say it with a pun, combine the right ‘stop’ with the right ‘step’. It is about being careful how we walk, “not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-Nehemiah :; Colossians 4:5). Our motto may be: Spend time wisely, invest in eternity.

The believer may know that there will be a “fullness of times” (Ephesians 1:10), a period in which all times determined by God will find their completion. God has a purpose with all the times there are. He controls everything in such a way that all times end in and come together in the realm of peace under the government of the Lord Jesus. Faith knows that what may seem for us – and for man in general – sometimes to be a coincidental concurrence of circumstances, appears to fit in God’s plan. All times are a preparation for that time of a thousand years of blessing. Everything that has happened “under heaven”, that is, on earth, has happened “according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will” (Ephesians 1:11).

Verse 2

To Give Birth–to Die; To Plant–to Uproot

In his description of events in time the Preacher begins with the two greatest events from a human life which are at the same time each other’s extremes: his birth and his death, or his coming into the world and his departure from it (Ecclesiastes 3:2). Nobody has any influence on his birth. The “time to give birth” or the “time to be born” is determined by God. That also applies to the “time to die”. It may seem as if by birth control and test tube fertilization on the one hand and euthanasia on the other hand, that man determines those two times. Here we read that birth and death are not human acts, but acts of God.

Between birth and death, for mankind everything on earth happens in the period of time that there is then. God has given everything its place and time between being born and dying. With our coming into the world, a great miracle takes place. That every human being is born in the very time in which he is born, is determined by God in His infinite wisdom. The duration of a person’s stay on earth is also fixed. The days and months of man are known by God and determined by Him (Job 14:5). By worries we can do nothing about the length of our lives (Job 14:5-Joshua :; Matthew 6:27). God can add to our days (Isaiah 38:1-Deuteronomy :).

Spiritually, we can apply the time to be born to the new birth, to be born of God (John 3:3). For this the gospel is proclaimed, of which it is said: “Behold, now is “the acceptable time,” behold, now is “the day of salvation”” (2 Corinthians 6:2). At the same time that we are born again, we know that our old man has been crucified with Christ. From that moment on we “have died with Christ” (Romans 6:8).

We can see a parallel between the first part of the verse – the beginning and the end of human life – and the planting and the uprooting what is planted in the second part of it. In the time between being born and dying, man “plants” (Ecclesiastes 3:2). He starts something with the expectation to harvest fruit from it. There will also come a time to “uproot what is planted”. This must also be done at the appointed time. This is the case when our activities, when what we have planted, do not produce good fruits. Then we have to uproot what is planted.

We may apply this to a particular service for the Lord. We start it, but it will also stop at some time. In between, there may also be a change in the way we perform our service, or also a change in the place where we serve. Are we open to these changes, that is to say, to God’s time to plant something and also to uproot what is planted?

We must ask ourselves what we, as believers, plant in our lives. Are these the good words of God’s Word? If we plant them in the ‘garden of our life’, if we feed ourselves with them, we will bear good fruits. Conversely, we must remove from our lives the wrong plants, the works of the flesh (John 15:2). God does the same with the nations: He breaks them down, but also plants them (Jeremiah 1:10; Jeremiah 18:7Jeremiah 18:9).

Verse 3

To Kill–to Heal; To Tear Down–to Build Up

The time to die in Ecclesiastes 3:2 is an act of God. The “time to kill” (Ecclesiastes 3:3) is an act of a man. One person can kill another. One can think of a soldier in the war or an executioner in the execution of a court sentence. There is also “a time to heal” from wounds. Then something can become healthy again and be used. That there is time for it, is because God determines the time for it.

The spiritual application of a time to kill can be the killing of the members of our earthly body (Colossians 3:5). This means that the threatening manifestations of sin are judged, so that sin has no chance to assert itself. Sin can also cause wounds. If we have sinned, we must confess it. Then sin is forgiven. Sometimes sin also has consequences which cannot simply be taken away. Sometimes time is needed for healing. God gives that time.

There is “a time to tear down” (Ecclesiastes 3:3), such as tearing down Jerusalem and God’s house because of the unfaithfulness of God’s people. God also gives restoration, so that for His city and His house “a time to build up” has come. In the – now near – future God Himself will at His time rebuild the fallen booth of David, that is His people Israel, “as in the days of old” (Amos 9:11).

From a spiritual point of view, “we must destroy speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Here it is about our thinking, about wrong thoughts that impose themselves upon us. After tearing down, we must build ourselves up on our “most holy faith” (Jude 1:20). This means that we should be occupied with God’s Word, reflect on it, and take it in and keep it in our hearts.

Paul says that he “destroyed” the law as a means of being justified by works for himself as a Christian and will not “rebuild” it (Galatians 2:18). The law has shown that man cannot keep the law. It is impossible to establish one’s own righteousness by the law (Romans 10:3). On the contrary, man is condemned by the law. This recognition means the end of the law as a rule of life. His rule of life is now Christ, “for Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Romans 10:4). Everyone who believes is rooted and is “built up in him” (Colossians 2:7).

Verse 4

To Weep–to Laugh; To Mourn–to Dance

The two pairs of this verse belong together. They are natural and personal emotions that spontaneously manifest themselves in an individual and show that life has its ups and downs. First there is the expression of sorrow, “a time to weep”, and then there is the expression of joy, “a time to laugh”.

The same order we see in the second part of the verse. First there is “a time to mourn”, then there is “a time to dance”. The Jews weep when they are in Babylon (Psalms 137:1), but their mouth is filled with laughter when they return to Zion (Psalms 126:1-Exodus :). “Sowing with tears” precedes “reaping with joyful shouting” (Psalms 126:5).

We weep when we observe the consequences of sin around us and see the injustice. There will come a time when those who weep now will laugh and rejoice and be comforted (John 16:20-Song of Solomon :; Matthew 5:4; Luke 6:21). God works this change in the circumstances and in the life of His own (Psalms 30:11).

One can mourn over the death of a loved one. It can also happen because of one’s own sins and because of God’s discipline over them (Zechariah 12:10, 12; Jeremiah 51:52; Ezekiel 7:15; Joel 1:8). Dancing is an expression of joy after receiving forgiveness and healing (Acts 3:8). It can also happen after an experience of God’s mercy. David leaped and danced when the ark was brought to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6:16).

Verse 5

To Throw Away–to Gather; To Embrace–to Shun Embracing

The “time to throw away stones” has come when we find that we cannot build with the kind of stones we have in our hands, if they are not suitable building material. Once we have thrown away those useless stones, it is “time to gather the stones” that we can use to build.

In throwing away and gathering stones we have an example in the law on leprosy. There is a situation in which the leprosy is present in the stones of the wall of a house. These stones must be removed from the wall of the house (Leviticus 14:39-Matthew :) and replaced by healthy stones (Leviticus 14:42).

We can apply this to believers, who are called living stones (1 Peter 2:5), but with whom a sin outbreak has occurred. If such persons persist in this sin, they must be removed from the church, which is God’s house. They can be inserted as stones in the house of God again once they have repented. We see this in the church in Corinth. In his first letter to them, Paul writes that they must remove the evil one from among themselves (1 Corinthians 5:13). In his second letter to them he says that they must forgive him and accept him again because he who has been removed has repented (2 Corinthians 2:7).

The above-mentioned connects to, but in reverse order, “a time to embrace”. That is a time to let someone feel accepted and secure. We can literally do that to our children. We can do this in a spiritual sense with the repentant sinner (Luke 15:20).

However, there is also “a time to shun embracing”. In a literal sense, we do that to our children when they have misbehaved. In a spiritual sense we do this when someone perseveres in sin. Then we should not give him the feeling of acceptance and security, otherwise we would embrace sin and give him the feeling that his sin is not so bad. Then we affirm him in his sin and he will not break with it. Then the blame will be on us.

Verse 6

To Search–to Give Up; To Keep–to Throw Away

If we have lost something and we become aware of it, we will start searching, then it is the “time to search”. It can be about possessions, but it can also be about people whom we see every day, but with whom we no longer have that cordial bond of fellowship. Distance has occurred, we have lost confidence in each other. When we see that, it is time to search ways to restore it.

It is also still time to search the lost sheep, the sinner, to bring him back to the good Shepherd. It is possible that our efforts to find the lost may not be successful. If we see that it is not in our power to continue our search, we must let it go. Then it is “time to give up as lost”. Further efforts to find the lost would then be a waste of time.

The second part of the verse connects to the first. It looks similar to the first part, but is not equal to it. This is not about something that we have lost, but about something that we own and that we should keep or throw away. What has been entrusted to us, we must keep. We can think of what has been entrusted to us, which is the truth of God’s Word (1 Timothy 6:20). We must not take anything away from this and we must not add anything to it (Revelation 22:18-Psalms :).

What is harmful to us we must throw away or reject, such as “worldly fables fit only for old women” (1 Timothy 4:7), “foolish and ignorant speculations” (2 Timothy 2:23) and “a factious man after a first and second warning” (Titus 3:10).

Verse 7

To Tear Apart–to Sew Together; To Be Silent–to Speak

In life there may be a situation where “a time to tear apart” has come (Ecclesiastes 3:7). God tore the kingdom from Saul. In the time of Solomon, He tore it in two parts. Both times this tearing of the kingdom is symbolically represented in the tearing of a cloak (1 Samuel 15:27-Hosea :; 1 Kings 11:11-2 Kings :; 1 Kings 11:30-Obadiah :). There will come a time when the breach in the kingdom in two and ten tribes will be sewn together again. That will happen when the Lord Jesus returns to earth. Then the two houses of Israel will be ‘sewn together’ again and will form a unity (Ezekiel 37:22).

To tear apart, or divisions arise in families when family members accept the Lord Jesus, while other family members do not (Matthew 10:34-Habakkuk :).When the other family members also convert, there is unity again and breaches are sewn up. In the church, division sometimes must occur. This is the case when the truth of God’s Word is violated and one does not want to conform to the truth (1 Corinthians 11:19). If there is humility and repentance, the breach can be sewn up again.

We can also apply this to a local church. A time to tear apart has come when in the church, despite repeated insistence, there is no discipline over sin. However, if the wrong thing is acknowledged, it is time to close the breach again, i.e. to seek and experience mutual fellowship with one another again. It is dramatic if time is not recognized for both the one and the other.

In “a time to be silent and a time to speak”, “silence” comes first (Ecclesiastes 3:7). “The prudent person keeps silent” in “an evil time” (Amos 5:13). “A man of understanding keeps silent” (Proverbs 11:12) and does not join mockers who ridicule God and His Word, for he bows to God’s Word. We must also remain silent when God speaks through judgment (Leviticus 10:3). Ezekiel had to remain silent for a while to be a sign for the rebellious people of God (Ezekiel 3:26; Ezekiel 33:22). Silence is the starting point. If we control our tongues now, we will not have to ‘eat’ our words later, i.e. face the consequences of our words.

We must break the silence if God gives us an indication that we must speak. The time to be silent and the time to speak must be known and distinguished. The wise man knows when to be silent and when to speak. Speaking is about speaking the right word at the right time (Proverbs 25:11; Isaiah 50:4). When asked, we will give an account for the hope that is within us (1 Peter 3:15). Nor can we remain silent about our faith: “I have believed, therefore I have spoken” (2 Corinthians 4:13).

Verse 8

To Love–to Hate; War–Peace

The love of Christ compels us to proclaim the gospel to lost people. What is not in accordance with Christ, we must hate. Hating is not only about the things that are plain sinful, but also about the things that are connected to the flesh and that become visible in the outward behavior (Jude 1:23). The Lord Jesus says to His disciples, and to us, that he who does not hate his own life cannot be a disciple of Him (Luke 14:26).

We live in an atmosphere of war, we’re in a war zone. It is a time of spiritual warfare. While the Lord Jesus is still rejected, the enemy is committed to making our life impossible for the Lord. But there will come a time when the God of peace will crush Satan under our feet (Romans 16:20). God will make the time of war come to an end (Psalms 46:9) and will let the time of peace come under the reign of the Messiah (Isaiah 9:6).

Verses 9-11

God Gives Men a Task

Because of the alternation of time periods with their events as described in the previous verses, the profit from the work in which he toils is not visible (Ecclesiastes 3:9). Everything happens to him, he has no influence on anything. All his efforts do not change the changing nature of things. He thinks that a time to plant has come, but soon it appears that what he has planted has to be uprooted. That is how it goes with all the different times in his life. A person unexpectedly passes from one situation to another situation.

In Ecclesiastes 3:10, the Preacher includes God in his observations. He looks beyond the sun for a moment. Not that his observations change in any way. He points to God as the origin of all the different times and thus confirms that nothing can influence God’s unchanging counsel with regard to times and events. If that has become clear, there is at least some explanation to be given to the existence, although that explanation is not directly something to be happy about. The activity God has given is tiring.

This pessimism is made undone by the Preacher in Ecclesiastes 3:11. He points out the beauty of all that God has made. The beauty of what God has made has become visible in the time that suits that beauty. It does not happen sooner or later than it should be, because every element is connected to the whole of God’s work.

Evidence of this can be found in the report of creation in Genesis 1. Each new day adds something to the previous one, and when creation is complete, it can be said: “And God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). God has given meaning and purpose to everything. Everything fits perfectly into the whole of His plan. We realize that, without considering even approximately the scope of it.

Man can never see the whole of what God has made. He can never take enough distance to see at a glance “from the beginning even to the end” what God’s intention is with His creation. This should humble us, it should not make us arrogant, and therefore we should not judge anything before the appointed time. We have to wait patiently for the complete unfolding of what still seems complicated and mysterious to us today.

The fact that He has set “eternity” in our hearts means that we are aware of the length of a certain period of time and of the characteristics of that particular period of time. We have the ability to learn to see that in the light of eternity. We can think about the course of events and look for their meaning. This will allow us to make sure that things should serve us and that we are not to start to serve things.

The Christian knows that all things belong to him: “For everything is yours” (1 Corinthians 3:22-Isaiah :). He does not yet have actual control over it, but he is connected to Christ Who does.

Verses 12-15

What God Does, Remains Forever

The fact that the Preacher speaks of “in one’s lifetime”, that is in the lives of the children of men, at the same time indicates the limit (Ecclesiastes 3:12). It does not extend further. They can only rejoice and do good during their lives. Then it is over. Even what the children of men enjoy is not of lasting value, although it can sometimes survive them. The man who is bound to the earth is a prisoner of a system he cannot break, he cannot even bend it. The best thing to do, then, is to resign oneself joyfully to the will of God and to comply with it.

God is a Giver of both earthly and heavenly blessings (Ecclesiastes 3:13). It is His gift to every person to eat and drink and to enjoy the good as a result of all his labor.

For many people, every Monday is the beginning of a new work week with a repetition of the monotonous work of the week before. Maybe there is a mountain of laundry for the woman to do and then to iron it, and for the man it may be putting the same part in a machine or working with the same computer program. This monotony can be a breeding ground for dissatisfaction, but also a training ground for developing a character and a life of service. It depends on whether we can see God in the daily duties we have to perform. Anything we do, even ordinary daily eating and drinking, we may do for the glory of God, with gratitude towards Him, for He gives it to us and allows us to enjoy it (Ecclesiastes 2:24; 1 Corinthians 10:31).

A woman in Boston did the same cleaning work for 40 years in the same office building. She was interviewed by a reporter who asked her how she could maintain the same monotony day in and day out. The woman said: ‘It does not get boring. I use cleaning products made by God. I clean things that belong to people made by God, and I make life easier for them. My mop is the hand of God!’ Every routine task is important for God’s work in and through us, for time and eternity. Everything that is done out of love for the Lord Jesus, keeps its value and will continue to exist.

“For God has [so] worked that men should fear Him”. Everything He does must provoke in us fear and reverence and awe for Him. The fear of God does not cause a paralyzing fear, but on the contrary a trusting of our whole being to Him, precisely because in His works He lets Himself be known as the protective God. The fear of God is the key to understanding this book.

There are some aspects in “everything God does” that balance the pressure of the monotony of all things in nature, in history and in the life of man (Ecclesiastes 3:14). These aspects have to do with God’s perfection and the beauty of His order and man’s fear of Him as a result:
1. Everything God does is not temporary, but remains “forever”, permanent, any failure is strange to Him. ‘Forever’ means as long as the earth exists.
2. What He does is not imperfect, but complete and effective, for “there is nothing to add to it and there is nothing to take from it”. He does not give up any of His works, nor does anything need to be added in order to improve His work.
3. He does not need any counselor or any protection for whatever He does (Romans 11:34-Habakkuk :). Everything is perfect in design and realization; there is no need for taking away anything from it. Nothing of it is in danger of being attacked by a hostile power, let alone be destroyed.

There is a connection between ‘that which is’, ‘has been already’ and ‘that which will be’ (Ecclesiastes 3:15). All events, both in present time, which is “that which is”, and in the past, of which is said, “has been already”, and the future, “that which will be”, are connected to one another by the righteousness of God Who directs all things. God has determined the course of things, and because He always acts righteously, things continue to go as He has ordained. The immutability of the mutable has existed since the beginning of creation and will continue to exist (Ecclesiastes 1:9-1 Kings :).

It does not testify of wisdom to think or say that the world has never been as bad as it is now and that things were better in the past. The opposite is not true either: it will not all get better because man is more intelligent than he was in the past, or because he starts to behave more exemplary. What we see is no different than it used to be, it is only a variation on it. The same goes for the variations to come.

God maintains the cycle of nature and history. What has disappeared from it for man is also under His constant attention. He “seeks” it (cf. Isaiah 11:11-2 Kings :). That He should look for it does not mean that He has lost it and would not know where it is. It means that He is checking things that have disappeared for man. Things that man has lost sight of, He summons to appear. Through this, history repeats itself and the past becomes present.

God also keeps control of the past. He can remind us of the past when He considers it necessary to do so in order to teach us lessons for the present and the future. Cain thinks he can fool God by saying he does not know where Abel is. But God tells him that He hears the blood of Abel calling to Him (Genesis 4:9-2 Samuel :).

In the same way all the blood of all the saints who have been killed through all the centuries for the sake of His Name calls to Him. He will answer the call and let the crimes that were committed appear. They are recorded in His book that He will open when the unbelievers stand before the great white throne, to remind them of what they have done in the past (Revelation 20:12-1 Chronicles :).

Verses 16-17

In the Place of Justice Is Wickedness

The Preacher goes on with his observations and sees something else, a new problem of life. This problem is the “wickedness” that is happening all over the world, especially “in the place of justice” and “in the place of righteousness”, which are the places where one might expect the maintenance of law and justice (v.16).

He has seen concrete examples of the distortion of justice, such as oppressive rulers, unjust judges and religious hypocrisy in courts where justice must be done. He has seen the same in secular or religious council chambers where the law of Divine justice must be applied. In those places people are selfish and ambitious. The greatest injustice in the place of justice is the trial against the Lord Jesus.

The whole world is a place where wickedness occurs instead of justice. You may have had a moment where you thought that you’ve bought a good item, but you are deceived. Your hard-earned money is gone. Someone had bought an article on a certain website. The address where he could pick up the article, was the address where I live in Middelburg. One Sunday, when we came back from the church meeting, he was in our front yard. He had come from Amsterdam to pick up the article he had paid for. Of course I could not give him that. [I offered him something else: a cup of coffee and the gospel. Unfortunately, he didn’t desire for either.] Other examples are that you do not get the promotion you deserve because of injustice or that your company is competed out of the market by mafia practices. The whole world is a place of wickedness and injustice.

How we would like to have a world where evil would be punished directly and justly and good would be rewarded directly and justly. However, we must reconcile ourselves with the reality that this – until Christ comes to earth – is a utopia. This leads us to the question of how we should deal with the injustice that is present and how we should react to it. We would like an answer to that question. The Preacher’s research helps us to find that answer.

After the injustice he saw “under the sun”, again his comment follows in Ecclesiastes 3:17, beginning with “I said”. It is in the form of a consideration, for he says it ‘to himself’. In his consideration, which as it were automatically rises into his heart when he sees injustice, he takes refuge in God as the righteous Judge. God will judge injustice in the future. This judgment concerns both the consideration, “every matter”, and the actions, “every deed”. God’s judgment is not confined to pronouncing the judgment, but also means the execution of the sentence.

The thought that injustice also has a time limit, and that God sets that limit, is a consolation when we see all injustice in the world (Genesis 18:25; Psalms 73:17). We cannot change that injustice, but God has set a time for everything (Ecclesiastes 3:1-Ruth :). God has also determined a time, a day, when He will judge (Acts 17:31; Psalms 37:13). Any unrighteous trial will be reopened and reviewed before the judgment seat of Christ. “The Judge is standing right at the door” (James 5:9), which is Christ. He will judge perfectly.

Verses 18-21

Similarity and Difference Between Man and Beast

The judgment of Ecclesiastes 3:17 is still postponed, although we yearn for it. It may give us an unsatisfactory feeling that evil can do its work unhindered. Yet that too has a purpose: all injustice in time becomes a test that makes it infallibly clear whether we fear God or not. We learn the truth about ourselves and then discover that we are not only judges of the injustice around us, but that the injustice is also within us.

The injustice of man proves at least one aspect of God’s intention: it provides an undeniable demonstration on the scene of the history of our ignorance of our own nature and destiny. There is probably nothing more capable of exposing man as a sinner and a wicked person – and this in all ranks – than cursing the iniquity of the world. Anyone who fears God can endure injustice. Anyone who curses it does not know himself.

Man is no better than beasts as long as he lives without connection to eternity. As long as the children of men do not fear God, they do not know God. And if they do not know God, they get excited about all the injustice in the world. Injustice shows that man is just as cruel and often more cruel than beasts. Furthermore, man has in common with the beasts that he dies just like the beasts. Without involving God or eternity there is no difference between man and a beast. Then man stands on the same level as the beast. We recognize this in the theory of evolution, which reasons in that way because it excludes God in the search for the origin of creation.

Ecclesiastes 3:19-: give an explanation of Ecclesiastes 3:18. To the eye, humans and beasts go to the same place. They all have the breath of life in them (Genesis 7:22; Psalms 73:22; Proverbs 7:22), and a man can be buried “with the burial of a donkey” (Jeremiah 22:19). Ecclesiastes 3:19 shows man’s mortality as something he has in common with all earthly creatures. It confronts us with the fall into sin and with the irony that while we imagine ourselves to be gods, we humans die like the beasts. Man and beast have the dust of the earth as a common origin (Ecclesiastes 3:20). Through man’s sin, man, and beasts too, return there when they die (Genesis 3:19).

The Preacher also notices the difference between man and beast in what happens after death (Ecclesiastes 3:21). Returning to dust relates to the body of both man and beast. However, man has something that the beast does not have and that is a spirit. Man has received his breath of life from God, through which he has become a living being (Genesis 2:7). This is not how God has done it with beasts. He created them by the power of His word (Genesis 1:24-Lamentations :).

The difference between man and beast that is present at death, is beyond the perception of man. The word “who”, which begins in Ecclesiastes 3:21, is a cry of despair. Man’s general view is that there is no difference. The Preacher knows that there is a difference (Ecclesiastes 12:7). We can only know this through revelation from God. The Preacher talks about people in their splendor (Psalms 49:12; Psalms 49:20) and not about the believer who is received by God (Psalms 49:15).

Verse 22


This verse is the conclusion. God is sovereign in His control of all earthly events (Ecclesiastes 3:1-Ezra :), He has an intention even in admitting human iniquity (Ecclesiastes 3:16-Proverbs :) and He holds our ultimate destiny in His hand (Ecclesiastes 3:21). The Preacher has therefore understood something, he has come to a certain understanding, namely: “That nothing is better than that man should be happy in his activities, for that is his lot”.

Whoever can look at life in this way can experience life with a certain degree of satisfaction and contentment. You do not walk around in a grumpy way and do not sulk about your work, but you “rejoice” in your “activities”. Be happy that you are healthy and that you have work. You have a meaningful use of time. Accept that as the “lot” you get from God.

The point is, that you enjoy life now. What happens after you is of no use to you at all because you have no part in it. Do realize that a person is not given more in this world than his activities. Awareness of this will make you modest and keep you from pompous ideas. With this you have tapped into a source of great satisfaction (1 Timothy 6:6-Judges :).

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Ecclesiastes 3". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/ecclesiastes-3.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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