What profit has he that works in that wherein he labors?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Ecclesiastes 3:9. What profit hath he that worketh, &c. — Seeing then all events are out of man’s power, and no man can do or enjoy any thing at his pleasure, but only when God pleaseth, as has been shown in many particulars, and is as true and certain in all others, hence it follows that all men’s labours, without God’s blessing, are unprofitable, and utterly insufficient to make them happy.2 Samuel 1:2, 2 Samuel 1:11 ff. Ecclesiastes 1:3; Man has no profit of his labour, since his time is so short to enjoy it, and he leaves it to another, he knows not who; and, while he lives, is attended with continual vicissitudes and changes; sometimes it is a time for one thing, and sometimes for its contrary, so that there is nothing certain, and to be depended on; and a man can promise himself nothing in this world pleasant or profitable to him, and much less that will be of any advantage to him hereafter. The Targum adds,
"to make treasures and gather mammon, unless he is helped by Providence above;''
though it is man's duty to labour, yet all his toil and labour will be fruitless without a divine blessing; there is a time and season for everything in providence, and there is no striving against that.What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth?
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)9. What profit hath he that worketh?] The long induction is completed, and yet is followed by the same despairing question as that of ch. Ecclesiastes 1:3, asked as from a stand-point that commands a wider horizon. Does not this very thought of a right season for every action increase the difficulty of acting? Who can be sure that he has found the season? The chances of failure are greater than the chances of success.Verse 9. - If thus man, in all his actions and under all circumstances, depends upon time and seasons which are beyond his control, we return to the same desponding question already asked in Ecclesiastes 1:3. What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboreth? The preceding enumeration leads up to this question, to which the answer is "None." Since time and tide wait for no man, since man cannot know for certain his opportunity, he cannot reckon on reaping any advantage from his labor. Ezekiel 37:6. The contrast has no need for such ingenuity to justify it. The striking down of a sound life stands in contrast to the salvation of an endangered life by healing, and this in many situations of life, particularly in war, in the administration of justice, and in the defence of innocence against murder or injury, may be fitting. Since the author does not present these details from a moral point of view, the time here is not that which is morally right, but that which, be it morally right or not, has been determined by God, the Governor of the world and Former of history, who makes even that which is evil subservient to His plan. With the two pairs of γένεσις καὶ φθορά there are two others associated in Ecclesiastes 3:3; with that, having reference, 2b, to the vegetable world, there here corresponds one referring to buildings; to פּרוץ (synon. הרוס, Jeremiah 1:10) stands opposed בּנות (which is more than גּדור), as at 2 Chronicles 32:5.
These contrasts between existence and non-existence are followed by contrasts within the limits of existence itself: -
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