Ecclesiastes 3:14
I know that, whatever God does, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God does it, that men should fear before him.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Ecclesiastes 3:14. Whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever — All God’s counsels or decrees are eternal and unchangeable. Nothing can be put to it — Men can neither do any thing against God’s counsel and providence, nor hinder any work or act of it. God doth it, that men should fear before him — That, by the consideration of his power, in the disposal of all persons and things, men should learn to trust in him, to submit to him, to fear to offend him, and more carefully study to please him.3:11-15 Every thing is as God made it; not as it appears to us. We have the world so much in our hearts, are so taken up with thoughts and cares of worldly things, that we have neither time nor spirit to see God's hand in them. The world has not only gained possession of the heart, but has formed thoughts against the beauty of God's works. We mistake if we think we were born for ourselves; no, it is our business to do good in this life, which is short and uncertain; we have but little time to be doing good, therefore we should redeem time. Satisfaction with Divine Providence, is having faith that all things work together for good to them that love him. God doeth all, that men should fear before him. The world, as it has been, is, and will be. There has no change befallen us, nor has any temptation by it taken us, but such as is common to men.The last clause of this verse goes beyond a declaration of the fact of God's government of the world Ecclesiastes 2:26 by adding the moral effect which that fact is calculated to produce on those who see it. It is the first indication of the practical conclusion Ecclesiastes 12:13 of the book. 14. (1Sa 3:12; 2Sa 23:5; Ps 89:34; Mt 24:35; Jas 1:17).

for ever—as opposed to man's perishing labors (Ec 2:15-18).

any thing taken from it—opposed to man's "crooked and wanting" works (Ec 1:15; 7:13). The event of man's labors depends wholly on God's immutable purpose. Man's part, therefore, is to do and enjoy every earthly thing in its proper season (Ec 3:12, 13), not setting aside God's order, but observing deep reverence towards God; for the mysteriousness and unchangeableness of God's purposes are designed to lead "man to fear before Him." Man knows not the event of each act: otherwise he would think himself independent of God.

Whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever; all God’s counsels or decrees are eternal and unchangeable, and his providence works effectually, so as men cannot resist or hinder it.

Nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it; men can neither do any thing besides or against God’s counsel and providence, nor hinder any work or act of it.

That men should fear before him; not that men should make this an occasion of despair, or idleness, or dissoluteness, as some abuse this doctrine, but that, by the consideration of his sovereign and irresistible power in the disposal of all persons and things as pleaseth him, men should learn to trust in him, to submit to him, to fear to offend or rebel against him, and more carefully and industriously to study to please him. I know that whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever,.... Which some, as Jarchi, understand of the works of creation, the heavens and the earth, which are however of long standing and duration; and though they shall be dissolved and perish, as to their form and quality, yet not as to the substance of them: the earth particularly is said to abide for ever, Ecclesiastes 1:4; the sun and moon, and stars, keep their course or station; and the several seasons of the year have their constant revolution, and shall as long as the earth endures; see Genesis 8:22; the several kinds of creatures God has made, in the earth, air, and sea, though the individuals die, their species remain; and man, the chief of creatures, though he dies, shall live again, and live for ever; so the Arabic version,

"I have learned that all the creatures which God hath made shall perpetually remain in the same order and condition:''

though Abarbinel (o) interprets this of the continuance of the world for a certain time, and then of the destruction of it; which he thinks is supported by Ecclesiastes 3:15, and which is to be understood of the creation of one world after another; and that which is past he explains of the world that is destroyed. But rather this is to be understood of the decrees of God, which are his works "ad intra"; the thoughts of his heart, that are to all generations; the counsel of his will, which always stands, and is performed; his mind, which is one, the same always, and invariable, and which he never changes; his pleasure he always does; his purposes and appointments, which are always accomplished, never frustrated and made void: for he is all wise in forming them, all knowing, and sees the end from the beginning, so that nothing unforeseen can turn up to hinder the execution of them; he is unchangeable, and never alters his will; and all powerful, able to effect his great designs; and faithful and true, cannot deny himself, nor ever lie nor repent. To this sense is the Targum,

"I know, by a spirit of prophecy, that all which the Lord does in the world, whether good or evil, after it is decreed from his mouth, it shall be for ever.''

This holds good of all his works, and acts of grace; election of persons to eternal life stands firm, not on the foot of works, but of grace, and has its certain effect; it can never be made void, nor be surer than it is; it will ever take place, and continue in its fruit and consequences: the covenant of grace, as it is made from everlasting, continues to everlasting; its promises never, fail, its blessings are the sure mercies of David: redemption by Christ is eternal; such as are redeemed from sin, Satan, and the law, are ever so, and shall never be brought into bondage to either again: the work of grace upon the heart being begun, shall be performed and perfected; the graces wrought in the soul, as faith, hope, and love, ever remain; the blessings of grace bestowed, as pardon, justification, adoption, and salvation, are never reversed, but ever continue; such as are regenerated, pardoned, justified, adopted, and saved, shall be ever so; and the work of God, as it is durable, so perfect;

nothing can be put to it, nor anything taken from it; the works of nature have been finished and perfected from the foundation of the world; the decrees of God are a complete system of his will, according to which he does all things invariably, in providence and grace; the covenant of grace is ordered in all things, and nothing wanting in it; the work of redemption is completely done by Christ, who is a rock, and his work is perfect; and the work of grace on the heart, though at present imperfect, shall be perfected; nor is it in the power of men to add anything to it, nor take anything from it;

and God doth it, that men should fear before him; his works of creation being done in so much wisdom, and giving such a display of his power and goodness, command art awe of him in his creatures, Psalm 33:6; his works of providence, being all according to his wise purposes and decrees, should be patiently and quietly submitted to; and men should be still, and know that he is God, and humble themselves under his mighty hand: his decrees, respecting the present or future state of men, do not lead to despair, nor to a neglect of means, nor to a dissolute life, but tend to promote the fear of God and true holiness, which they are the source of; and the blessings of grace have a kind influence on the same; particularly the blessing of pardoning grace, which is with God, that he may be feared, Psalm 130:4; and one principal part of the work of grace on the heart is the fear of God; and nothing more strongly engages to the whole worship of God, which is often meant by the fear of him, than his grace vouchsafed to men; see Hebrews 12:28. The Targum refers this to the vengeance of God in the world: and Jarchi, to the unusual phenomena in it; as the flood, the sun's standing still and going backward, and the like.

(o) Miphalot Elohim Tract. 8. c. 7. fol. 57. 4.

I know that, whatever God doeth, it shall be for {e} ever: nothing can be added to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him.

(e) That is, man will never be able to prevent God's work, but as he has determined so it will come to pass.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
14. I know that, whatsoever God doeth] We ask once again whether we are brought face to face with the thought of an iron destiny immutably fixing even the seeming accidents of life, and excluding man’s volition from any share in them, or whether the writer speaks of an order which men may, in the exercise of their freedom, transgress. And the answer, as before, is that the Debater, while he recognises man’s freedom, has come to see a purpose and an order even in those accidents. So Epicurus himself taught that it was better to hold even the popular belief as to the Gods than to be in bondage to the dogma of a destiny (Diog. Laert. x. 1, § 134). The Eternal Law fulfils itself “whether men will hear or whether they will forbear.” They cannot add to it or take from it, but they retain the power of obeying or resisting it. It partakes so far of the character which was afterwards ascribed to a special revelation (Revelation 22:18-19).

God doeth it, that men should fear before him] There is a profound psychological truth in the thought thus expressed. Men may dream that they can propitiate or change an arbitrary will, but no reverential awe, no fear of God, is so deep as that which rises from the contemplation of a Righteousness that does not change. So, in like manner, the unchangeableness of the Divine Will is made a ground of confidence and hope in the midst of perturbations (Malachi 3:6).Verse 14. - I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be forever. A second thing (see ver. 12) that Koheleth knew, learned from the truths adduced in vers. 1-9, is that behind man's free action and volition stands the will of God, which orders events with a view to eternity, and that man can alter nothing of this providential arrangement (comp. Isaiah 46:10; Psalm 33:11). Nothing can be put to it, nor anything taken from it. We cannot hasten or retard God's designs; we cannot add to or curtail his plans. Septuagint, "It is impossible to add (οὐκ ἔστι προσθεῖναι) to it, and it is impossible to Lake away from it." Thus Ecclus. 18:6, "As for the wondrous works of the Lord, it is impossible to lessen or to add to them (οὐκ ἔστιν ἐλαττῶσαι οὐδὲ προσθεῖναι), neither can the ground of them be found out." God doeth it, that men should fear before him. There is a moral purpose in this disposal of events. Men feel this uniformity and unchangeableness in the working of Providence, and thence learn to cherish a reverential awe for the righteous government of which they are the subjects. It was this feeling which led ancient etymologists to derive Θεός and Deus from δέος, "fear" (comp. Revelation 15:3, 4). This is also a ground of hope and confidence. Amid the jarring and fluctuating circumstances of men God holds the threads, and alters not his purpose. "I the Lord change not; therefore ye, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed" (Malachi 3:6). The Vulgate is not very successful: Non possumus eis quid-quam addere, nec auferre, quae fecit Deus ut timeatur, "We cannot add anything unto, or take anything away from, those things which God hath made that he may be feared." "To love has its time, and to hate has its time; war has its time, and peace has its time." In the two pairs of contrasts here, the contents of the first are, not exclusively indeed (Psalm 120:7), but yet chiefly referred to the mutual relations of peoples. It is the result of thoughtful intention that the quodlibet of 2 x 7 pairs terminates this for and against in "peace;" and, besides, the author has made the termination emphatic by this, that here "instead of infinitives, he introduces proper nouns" (Hitz.).
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