Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.
The verse means: "Show hospitality, even though the corresponding return of hospitality to you may seem improbable; nevertheless, be hospitable in faith." Compare Luke 14:13-14; Hebrews 13:2. Some interpreters (not unreasonably) understand by "bread" the seed from the produce of which bread is made. Seed cast upon the fertile soil flooded by the early rains would be returned to the sower in autumn with large increase.
Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth.
The verse means: "Let your hospitality and your alms be extensive: for you know not what reverses may befall either that person who by your liberality will be strengthened to meet them, or yourself who may come to need grateful friends." Compare Luke 16:9.
Seven, and also to eight - A definite number for an indefinite (compare marginal reference).
If the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth: and if the tree fall toward the south, or toward the north, in the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be.
"Unforeseen events come from God; and the man who is always gazing on the uncertain future will neither begin nor complete any useful work: but do thou bear in mind that times and circumstances, the powers of nature and the results to which they minister, are in the hand of God; and be both diligent and trustful." The images are connected chiefly with the occupation of an agricultural laborer: the discharge of rain from the cloud, and the inclination of the falling tree, and the direction of the wind, are beyond his control, though the result of his work is affected by them. The common application of the image of the fallen tree to the state of departed souls was probably not in the mind of the inspired writer.
He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap.
As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all.
Spirit - The same Hebrew word (like πνεῦμα pneuma in Greek and "Spirit" in English) signifies both the wind Ecclesiastes 11:4 and the Spirit (compare marginal reference). The Old Testament in many places recognizes the special operation of God Job 10:8-12; Psalm 139:13-16; Jeremiah 1:5, and distinctly of the Spirit of God Job 31:15 in the origination of every child. Compare Genesis 2:7.
In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good.
Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun:
The preceding exhortation to a life of labor in the sight of God is now addressed especially to the active and the young; and is enforced by another consideration, namely, the transitory character of all that sustains youth.
The light ... the sun - Gifts of God which cheer man's toil, but which he almost ceases to appreciate in his old age.
But if a man live many years, and rejoice in them all; yet let him remember the days of darkness; for they shall be many. All that cometh is vanity.
Days of darkness - The time of old age, and perhaps any time of sorrow or misfortune. Compare Ecclesiastes 12:2.
All that cometh - i. e., "The future," which must not be reckoned on by the active man, as if his present state of healthy energy were to continue.
Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment.
Rejoice ... cheer ... walk - The imperative mood is used to encourage one who possesses certain gifts from God to remember that they come from God and are to be used in accordance with His will.
Judgment - This includes a judgment beyond the grave; though the writer's view of it was dim and indefinite if compared with Christian's.
Therefore remove sorrow from thy heart, and put away evil from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity.
The sense appears to be, "Let the timely recollection of God's judgment, and of the fleeting character of youth, so influence your conduct that you will refrain from acts which entail future remorse and pain."