Ecclesiastes 3:7
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
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.Rend - i. e., Tear garments in sign of mourning or anger. See 2 Samuel 1:2, 2 Samuel 1:11 ff. 7. rend—garments, in mourning (Joe 2:13); figuratively, nations, as Israel from Judah, already foretold, in Solomon's time (1Ki 11:30, 31), to be "sewed" together hereafter (Eze 37:15, 22).

silence—(Am 5:13), in a national calamity, or that of a friend (Job 2:13); also not to murmur under God's visitation (Le 10:3; Ps 39:1, 2, 9).

A time to rend; when men shall rend their garments, as they did in great and sudden griefs, as Genesis 37:29 Joel 2:13.

A time to keep silence; wherein men will or shall be silent, either through grief, as Job 2:12,13, or by sickness or weakness, or because God denies a man ability to utter his mind. A time to rend, and a time to sew,.... To rend garments, in case of blasphemy, and in times of mourning and fasting, and then to sew them up when they are over; see Isaiah 37:1; This the Jews apply to the rending of the ten tribes from Rehoboam, signified by the rending of Jeroboam's garment, 1 Kings 11:30; the sewing up or uniting of which is foretold, Ezekiel 37:22. Some interpret it of the rending of the Jewish church state, signified by the rending of the vail, at the death of Christ; and of the constituting the Gospel church state among the Gentiles;

a time to keep silence, and a time to speak (k); when it is an evil time, a time of calamity in a nation, it is not a time to be loquacious and talkative, especially in a vain and ludicrous way, Amos 5:13; or when a particular friend or relation is in distress, as in the case of Job and his friends, Job 2:13; or when in the presence of wicked men, who make a jest of everything serious and religious, Psalm 39:1; and so when under afflictive dispensations of Providence, it is a time to be still and dumb, and not open the mouth in a murmuring and complaining way, Leviticus 10:3. And, on the other hand, there is a time to speak, either publicly, of the truths of the Gospel, in the ministry of it, and in vindication of them; or privately, of Christian experience: there is a time when an open profession should be made of Christ, his word and ordinances, and when believers should speak to God in prayer and praise; which, should they not, the stones in the wall would cry out.

(k) , , Homer. Odyss. 11. v. 378.

A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
7. A time to rent, and a time to sew] The words are commonly connected with the practice of rending the garments as a sign of sorrow (Genesis 37:29; Genesis 37:34; Genesis 44:13; Job 1:20; 2 Samuel 1:2) and sewing them up again when the season of mourning is past and men return again to the routine of their daily life. It is, however, somewhat against this view that it makes this generalisation practically identical with that of Ecclesiastes 3:4. The symbolic use of “rending a garment” to represent the division of a kingdom, as in the prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite (1 Kings 11:30) and therefore of “sewing” for the restoration of unity (so the “seamless garment” of John 19:23 has always been regarded as a type of the unity of Christ’s Church) seems to suggest a more satisfying sense. There are seasons when it is wise to risk or even to cause discord and division in families (Matthew 10:34-35) or schism in Church or State, other seasons when men should strive to restore unity and to be healers of the breach (Isaiah 58:12). In the parable of the New Patch upon the old Garment we have an instance of an inopportune sewing which does but make the rent worse (Matthew 9:16).

a time to keep silence, and a time to speak] Here again the range of thought has been needlessly limited by interpreters to the silence which belongs to deep sorrow, of which we have an example in the conduct of the friends of Job (Job 2:12-13), of the want of which in the sons of the prophets Elisha complained bitterly (2 Kings 2:3; 2 Kings 2:5). This is, of course, not excluded, but the range of the law is wider, and takes in on the one hand, the unseasonable talk of the “prating fool” of Proverbs 10:8, and on the other the “word spoken in due season” (Proverbs 15:23), to one that is weary (Isaiah 50:4), the right word at the right time, in the utterance of which we rightly see a genius akin to inspiration. If it is true at times that speech is silvern and silence golden, there are times when the converse also is true, when the word in season is like “apples of gold (= perhaps, oranges) in a basket of silver” (Proverbs 25:11).Verse 7. - A time to rend, and a time to sew (καιρὸς τοῦ ῤῆξαι καὶ καιρὸς τοῦ ῤάψαι). This is usually understood of the rending of garments in token of grief (Genesis 37:29, 34, etc.), and the repairing of the rent then made when the season of mourning was ended. The Talmudists laid down careful rules concerning the extent of the ritual tear, and how long it was to remain unmended, both being regulated by the nearness of the relationship of the deceased person. In this interpretation there are these two difficulties: first, it makes the clause a virtual repetition of ver. 4; and secondly, it is not known for certain that the closing of the rent was a ceremonial custom in the times of Koheleth. Hence Plumptre inclines to take the expression metaphorically of the division of a kingdom by schism, and the restoration of unity, comparing the Prophet Ahijah's communication to Jeroboam (1 Kings 11:30, 31). But surely this would be a most unlikely allusion to put into Solomon's mouth; nor can we properly look for such a symbolical representation amid the other realistic examples given in the series. What Koheleth says is this - There are times when it is natural to tear clothes to pieces, whether from grief, or anger, or any other cause, e.g., as being old and worthless, or infected; and there are times when it is equally natural to mend them, and to make them serviceable by timely repairs. Connected with the notion of mourning contributed by this clause, though by no means confined to that notion, it is added, A time to keep silence, and a time to speak. The silence of deep sorrow may be intimated, as when Job's friends sat by him in sympathizing silence (Job 2:13), and the psalmist cried, "I was dumb with silence, I held my peace, even from good; and my sorrow was stirred" (Psalm 39:2); and Elisha could not bear to hear his master's departure mentioned (2 Kings 2:3, 5). There are also occasions when the sorrow of the heart should find utterance, as in David's lament over Saul and Jonathan (2 Samuel 1:17, etc.) and over Abner (2 Samuel 3:33, etc.). But the gnome is of more general application. The young should hold their peace in the presence of their elders (Job 32:4, etc.); silence is often golden: "Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: when he shutteth his lips, he is esteemed as prudent" (Proverbs 17:28). On the other hand, wise counsel is of infinite value, and must not be withheld at the right moment, and "a word in due season, how good is it!" (Proverbs 15:23; Proverbs 25:11). "If thou hast understanding, answer thy neighbor; if not, lay thy hand upon thy mouth" (Ecclus. 5:12; see more, Ecclus. 20:5, etc.). "Everything has its time, and every purpose under the heavens its hour." The Germ. language is poor in synonyms of time. Zckler translates: Everything has its Frist ..., but by Frist we think only of a fixed term of duration, not of a period of beginning, which, though not exclusively, is yet here primarily meant; we have therefore adopted Luther's excellent translation. Certainly זמן (from זמן, cogn. סמן, signare), belonging to the more modern Heb., means a Frist (e.g., Daniel 2:16) as well as a Zeitpunkt, point of time; in the Semit. (also Assyr. simmu, simanu, with ס) it is the most common designation of the idea of time. עת is abbreviated either from ענת (ועד, to determine) or from ענת (from ענה, cogn. אנה, to go towards, to meet). In the first case it stands connected with מועד on the one side, and with עדּן (from עדד, to count) on the other; in the latter case, with עונה, Exodus 21:10 (perhaps also ען and ענת in כען, כּענת). It is difficult to decide this point; proportionally more, however, can be said for the original ענת (Palest.-Aram. ענתּא), as also the prep. of participation את is derived from אנת (meeting, coming together).

(Note: Vid., Orelli's work on the Heb. Synon. der Zeit u. Ewigkeit, 1871. He decides for the derivation from ועד morf ; Fleischer (Levy's Chald. W.B. II. 572) for the derivation from ענה, the higher power of אנה, whence (Arab.) inan, right time. We have, under Job 24:1, maintained the former derivation.)

The author means to say, if we have regard to the root signification of the second conception of time - (1) that everything has its fore-determined time, in which there lies both a determined point of time when it happens, and a determined period of time during which it shall continue; and (2) that every matter has a time appointed for it, or one appropriate, suitable for it. The Greeks were guided by the right feeling when they rendered זמן by χρόνος , and עת by καιρός.

Olympiodorus distinguishes too sharply when he understands the former of duration of time, and the latter of a point of time; while the state of the matter is this, that by χρόνος the idea comprehends the termini a quo and ad quem, while by καιρός it is limited to the terminus a quo. Regarding חפץ, which proceeds from the ground-idea of being inclined to, and intention, and thus, like πρᾶγμα and χρῆμα, to the general signification of design, undertaking, res gesta, res.

The illustration commences with the beginning and the ending of the life of man and (in near-lying connection of thought) of plants.

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