Ecclesiastes 3:5
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(5) Gather stones.—As the collecting of stones for building purposes is included in Ecclesiastes 3:4, it is thought that what is here referred to is the clearing or marring of land (Isaiah 5:2; Isaiah 62:10; 2Kings 3:19; 2Kings 3:25).

3:1-10 To expect unchanging happiness in a changing world, must end in disappointment. To bring ourselves to our state in life, is our duty and wisdom in this world. God's whole plan for the government of the world will be found altogether wise, just, and good. Then let us seize the favourable opportunity for every good purpose and work. The time to die is fast approaching. Thus labour and sorrow fill the world. This is given us, that we may always have something to do; none were sent into the world to be idle.Stones may be regarded either as materials for building, or as impediments to the fertility of land (see 2 Kings 3:19, 2 Kings 3:25; Isaiah 5:2). 5. cast away stones—as out of a garden or vineyard (Isa 5:2).

gather—for building; figuratively, the Gentiles, once castaway stones, were in due time made parts of the spiritual building (Eph 2:19, 20), and children of Abraham (Mt 3:9); so the restored Jews hereafter (Ps 102:13, 14; Zec 9:16).

refrain … embracing—(Joe 2:16; 1Co 7:5, 6).

A time to cast away stones; which were brought together in order to the building of a wall or house, but are now cast away, either because the man who gathered them hath changed his mind, and desists from his project, or by other causes or accidents.

A time to embrace; when persons shall enter into friendship, and perform all friendly offices one to another.

A time to refrain from embracing; either through alienation of affections, or grievous calamities. See Joel 2:16 1 Corinthians 7:5A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together,.... To cast stones out of a field or vineyard where they are hurtful, and to gather them together to make walls and fences of, or build houses with; and may be understood both of throwing down buildings, as the temple of Jerusalem, so that not one stone was left upon another; of pouring out the stones of the sanctuary, and of gathering them again and laying them on one another; which was done when the servants of the Lord took pleasure in the stones of Zion, and favoured the dust thereof. Some understand this of precious stones, and of casting them away through luxury, wantonness, or contempt, and gathering them again: and it may be applied, as to the neglect of the Gentiles for a long time, and the gathering of those stones of which children were raised to Abraham; so of the casting away of the Jews for their rejection of the Messiah, and of the gathering of them again by conversion, when they shall be as the stones of a crown, lifted up as an ensign on his land, Zechariah 9:16;

a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing: or "to be far from" (g) it; it may not only design conjugal embraces (h), but parents embracing their children, as Jacob did his; and one brother embracing another, as Esau Jacob, and one friend embracing another; all which is very proper and agreeable at times: but there are some seasons so very calamitous and distressing, in which persons are obliged to drop such fondnesses: it is true, in a spiritual sense, of the embraces of Christ and believers, which sometimes are, and sometimes are not, enjoyed, Proverbs 4:8.

(g) "tempus elongandi se", Pagninus, Montanus; "tempus longe fieri", V. L. (h) "Optatos dedit amplexus", Virgil. Aeneid. 8. v. 405.

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
5. A time to cast away stones] The vagueness of the phrase has naturally given rise to conjectural interpretations. It seems obvious that the words cannot be a mere reproduction of Ecclesiastes 3:4 and therefore that the “casting away” and the “gathering” of stones must refer to something else than pulling down and building. Possibly we may think, with some interpreters, of the practice of covering fertile lands with stones as practised by an invading army (2 Kings 3:19) and clearing out the stones of a field or vineyard before planting it (Isaiah 5:2). In this case however we fail to see any link uniting the two clauses in the couplet. A possible explanation may be found (as Delitzsch half suggests) in the old Jewish practice, which has passed into the Christian Church, of flinging stones or earth into the grave at a burial, but this leaves the “gathering” unexplained, except so far as it represents the building of a house, and thus contrasts the close of a man’s home life with its beginning. In this case the ceremonial of death would be contrasted with the “embracing” of friends or lovers in the second clause.Verse 5. - A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together. There is no question about building or demolishing houses, as that has been already mentioned in ver. 3. Most commentators see an allusion to the practice of marring an enemy's fields by casting stones upon them, as the Israelites did when they invaded Moab (2 Kings 3:19, 25). But this must have been a very abnormal proceeding, and could scarcely be cited as a usual occurrence. Nor is the notion more happy that there is an allusion to the custom of flinging stones or earth into the grave at a burial - a Christian, but not an ancient Jewish practice; this, too, leaves the contrasted "gathering" unexplained. Equally inappropriate is the opinion that the punishment of stoning is meant, or some game played with pebbles. It seems most simple to see herein intimated the operation of clearing a vineyard of stones, as mentioned in Isaiah 5:2; and of collecting materials for making fences, wine-press, tower, etc., and repairing roads. A time to embrace. Those who explain the preceding clause of the marring and clearing of fields connect the following one with the other by conceiving that "the loving action of embracing stands beside the hostile, purposely injurious, throwing of stones into a field" (Delitzsch). It is plain that there are times when one may give himself up to the delights of love and friendship, and times when such distractions would be incongruous and unseasonable, as on solemn, penitential occasions (Joel 2:16; Exodus 19:15; 1 Corinthians 7:5); but the congruity of the two clauses of the couplet is not obvious, unless the objectionable position of stones and their advantageous employment are compared with the character of illicit (Proverbs 5:20) and legitimate love. "For who can eat, and who can have enjoyment, without [ equals except from Him?]" Also here the traditional text is tenable: we have to read ממנו חוץ, after the lxx (which Jerome follows in his Comm.) and the Syr. If we adopt the text as it lies before us, then the meaning would be, as given by Gumpel,

(Note: Vid., regarding his noteworthy Comm. on Koheleth, my Jesurun, pp. 183 and 195. The author bears the name among Christians of Professor Levisohn.)

and thus translated by Jerome: Quis ita devorabit et deliciis effluet ut ego? But (1) the question thus understood would require ממּנּי יותר, which Gumpel and others silently substitute in place of חוץ ם; (2) this question, in which the king adjudicates to himself an unparalleled right to eat and to enjoy himself, would stand out of connection with that which precedes and follows.

Even though with Ginsburg, after Rashi, Aben Ezra, and Rashbam, we find in Ecclesiastes 2:25 the thought that the labourer has the first and nearest title to the enjoyment of the fruit of his labour (חוץ ם thus exemplif. as Ecclesiastes 4:8, ע ... למי), the continuation with כּי, Ecclesiastes 2:26, is unsuitable; for the natural sequence of the thoughts would then be this: But the enjoyment, far from being connected with the labour as its self-consequence and fruit, is a gift of God, which He gives to one and withholds from another. If we read ממּנּוּ, then the sequence of the thoughts wants nothing in syllogistic exactness. חוּשׁ .ssen here has nothing in common with חוּשׁ equals Arab. ḥât, to proceed with a violent, impetuous motion, but, as at Job 20:2, is equals Arab. ḥss, stringere (whence hiss, a sensible impression); the experience here meant is one mediated by means of a pleasant external enjoyment. The lxx, Theod., and Syr. translate: (and who can) drink, which Ewald approves of, for he compares (Arab.) ḥasa (inf. ḥasy), to drink, to sip. But this Arab. verb is unheard of in Heb.; with right, Heiligst. adheres to the Arab., and at the same time the modern Heb. ḥass, חושׁ, sentire, according to which Schultens, quis sensibus indulserit. ממנו חוּץ is not equals ולא ם, "except from him" (Hitz., Zckl.), but מן חוץ together mean "except;" cf. e.g., the Mishnic לאמנה וחוץ לם, beyond the time and place suitable for the thank-offering, חוץ מאחד מהם, excepting one of the same, Menachoth vii. 3, for which the old Heb. would in the first case use בלא, and in the second זולא or מן לבד ( equals Aram. מן בּר) (vid., p. 637). Accordingly ממנו חוץ means practer cum (Deum), i.e., unless he will it and make it possible, Old Heb. מבּ, Genesis 41:44.

In enjoyment man is not free, it depends not on his own will: labour and the enjoyment of it do not stand in a necessary connection; but enjoyment is a gift which God imparts, according as He regards man as good, or as a sinner.

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