Ecclesiastes 11:1
Parallel Verses
New International Version
Ship your grain across the sea; after many days you may receive a return.

New Living Translation
Send your grain across the seas, and in time, profits will flow back to you.

English Standard Version
Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days.

New American Standard Bible
Cast your bread on the surface of the waters, for you will find it after many days.

King James Bible
Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.

Holman Christian Standard Bible
Send your bread on the surface of the waters, for after many days you may find it.

International Standard Version
Spread your bread on the water— after a while you will find it.

NET Bible
Send your grain overseas, for after many days you will get a return.

GOD'S WORD® Translation
Throw your bread on the surface of the water, because you will find it again after many days.

Jubilee Bible 2000
Cast thy bread upon the waters, for thou shalt find it after many days.

King James 2000 Bible
Cast your bread upon the waters: for you shall find it after many days.

American King James Version
Cast your bread on the waters: for you shall find it after many days.

American Standard Version
Cast thy bread upon the waters; for thou shalt find it after many days.

Douay-Rheims Bible
Cast thy bread upon the running waters: for after a long time thou shalt find it again.

Darby Bible Translation
Cast thy bread upon the waters; for thou shalt find it after many days.

English Revised Version
Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.

Webster's Bible Translation
Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.

World English Bible
Cast your bread on the waters; for you shall find it after many days.

Young's Literal Translation
Send forth thy bread on the face of the waters, For in the multitude of the days thou dost find it.
Parallel Commentaries
Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary

11:1-6 Solomon presses the rich to do good to others. Give freely, though it may seem thrown away and lost. Give to many. Excuse not thyself with the good thou hast done, from the good thou hast further to do. It is not lost, but well laid out. We have reason to expect evil, for we are born to trouble; it is wisdom to do good in the day of prosperity. Riches cannot profit us, if we do not benefit others. Every man must labour to be a blessing to that place where the providence of God casts him. Wherever we are, we may find good work to do, if we have but hearts to do it. If we magnify every little difficulty, start objections, and fancy hardships, we shall never go on, much less go through with our work. Winds and clouds of tribulation are, in God's hands, designed to try us. God's work shall agree with his word, whether we see it or not. And we may well trust God to provide for us, without our anxious, disquieting cares. Be not weary in well-doing, for in due season, in God's time, you shall reap, Ga 6:9.

Pulpit Commentary

Verses 1-6. - Section 16. Leaving alone unanswerable questions, man's duty and happiness are found in activity, especially in doing all the good in his power, for he knows not how soon he himself may stand in need of help. This is the first remedy for the perplexities of life. The wise man will not charge himself with results. Verse 1. - Cast thy bread upon the waters. The old interpretation of this passage, which found in it a reference to the practice in Egypt of sowing seed during the inundation of the Nile, is not admissible. The verb shalaeh is not used in the sense of sowing or scattering seed; it means "to cast or send forth." Two chief explanations have been given.

(1) As to sow on the water is equivalent to taking thankless toil (compare the Greek proverb, Σπείρειν ἐπὶ πόντῳ), the gnome may be an injunction to do good without hope of return, like the evangelical precept (Matthew 5:44-46; Luke 6:32-35).

(2) It is a commercial maxim, urging men to make ventures in trade, that they may receive a good return for their expenditure. In this case the casting seed upon the waters is a metaphorical expression for sending merchandise across the sea to distant lands. This view is supposed to be confirmed by the statement concerning the good woman in Proverbs 31:14, "She is like the merchants' ships; she bringeth her bread from far;" and the words of Psalm 107:23, "They that go down to the sea in ships, that do Business in great waters." But one sees no reason why Koheleth should suddenly turn to commerce and the trade of a maritime city. Such considerations have no reference to the context, nor to the general design of the book. Nothing leads to them, nothing comes of them. On the other hand, if we take the verse as urging active beneficence as the safest and best proceeding under men's present circumstances, We have a maxim in due accordance with the spirit of the rest of the work, and one which conduces to the conclusion reached at the end. So we adopt the first of the two explanations mentioned above. The bread in the East is made in the form of thin cakes, which would float for a time if thrown into a stream; and if it be objected that no one would be guilty of such an irrational action as flinging bread into the water, it may be answered that this is just the point aimed at. Do your kindnesses, exert yourself, in the most unlikely quarters, not thinking of gratitude or return, but only of duty. And yet surely a recompense will be made in some form or other. Thou shalt find it after many days. This is not to be the motive of our acts, but it will in the course of time be the result; and this thought may be an encouragement. In the Chaldee Version of parts of Ecclesiasticus there is extant a maxim identical with our verse, "Strew thy bread on the water and on the land, and thou shalt find it at the end of days" (Dukes, 'Rabb. Btumenl.,' p. 73). Parallels have been found in many quarters. Thus the Turk says, "Do good, throw it into the water; if the fish does not know it, God does." Herzfeld quotes Goethe -

"Was willst du untersuchen,
Wohin die Milde fliesst!
Ins Wasser wirf deine Kuchen;
Wer weiss wet sie geniesst?"


"Wouldst thou too narrowly inquire
Whither thy kindness goes!
Thy cake upon the water cast;
Whom it may feed who knows?"
Voltaire paraphrases the passage in his 'Precis de l'Ecclesiaste' -

"Repandez vos bienfaits avec magnificence,
Meme aux moins vertueux ne les refusez pas.
Ne vous informez pas de leur reconnoissance;
Il est grand, il est beau de faire des ingrats."


Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

Cast thy bread upon the waters,.... As the wise man had often suggested that nothing was better for a man than to enjoy the good of his labour himself, he here advises to let others, the poor, have a share with him; and as he had directed in the preceding chapter how men should behave towards their superiors, he here instructs them what notice they should take of their inferiors; and as he had cautioned against luxury and intemperance, he here guards against tenacity and covetousness, and exhorts to beneficence and liberality: that which is to be given is "bread", which is put for all the necessaries of life, food and raiment; or money that answers all things, what may be a supply of wants, a support of persons in distress; what is useful, profitable, and beneficial; not stones or scorpions, or what will be useless or harmful: and it must be "thy" bread, a man's own; not independent of God who gives it him; but not another's, what he owes another, or has fraudulently obtained; but what he has got by his own labour, or he is through divine Providence in lawful possession of; hence alms in the Hebrew language is called "righteousness": and it must be such bread as is convenient and fit for a man himself, such as he himself and his family eat of, and this he must cast, it must be a man's own act, and a voluntary one; his bread must not be taken and forced from him; it must be given freely, and in such a manner as not to be expected again; and bountifully and plentifully, as a man casts seed into the earth; but here it is said to be "upon the waters"; bread is to be given to such as are in distress and affliction, that have waters of a full cup wrung out unto them, whose faces are watered with tears, and foul with weeping, from whom nothing is to be expected again, who can make no returns; so that what is given thorn seems to be cast away and lost, like what is thrown into a river, or into the midst of the sea; and even it is to be given to such who prove ungrateful and unthankful, and on whom no mark or impression of the kindness is made and left, no more than upon water; yea, it is to be given to strangers never seen before nor after, like gliding water; so the Vulgate Latin version renders it, "passing waters": or else to such who may be compared to well watered ground, or "moist ground", as Mr. Broughton renders it; where the seed cast will grow up again, and bring forth fruit, and redound to the advantage of the sower, as what is given to the poor does; they are a good soil to sow upon, especially Christ's poor, who are partakers of his living water, grace; see Isaiah 32:20; though it may be the multitude of persons to whom alms is to be given are here intended, which are sometimes signified by waters, Revelation 17:15; as Ecclesiastes 11:2 seems to explain it. The Targum is,

"reach out the bread of thy sustenance to the poor that go in ships upon the thee of the water;''

and some think the speech is borrowed from navigation, and is an allusion to merchants who send their goods beyond sea, and have a large return for them;

for thou shalt find it after many days; not the identical bread itself, but the fruit and reward of such beneficence; which they shall have unexpectedly, or after long waiting, as the husbandman for his seed; it suggests that such persons should live long, as liberal persons oftentimes do, and increase in their worldly substance; and if they should not live to reap the advantage of their liberality, yet their posterity will, as the seed of Jonathan did for the kindness he showed to David: or, however, if they find it not again in temporal things, yet in spirituals; and shall be recompensed in the resurrection of the just, and to all eternity. So the Targum,

"for after the time of many days, then thou shall find the reward of it in this world (so it is in the king's Bible), and in the world to come;''

see Luke 12:12. Jarchi instances in Jethro. Noldius (p) renders it "within many days", even before many days are at an end; for seed sown by waters in hot climates soon sprung up, and produced fruit; see Daniel 11:20.

(p) Ebr. Concord. Partic. p. 155. No. 704.

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

CHAPTER 11

Ec 11:1-10.

1. Ec 11:2 shows that charity is here inculcated.

bread—bread corn. As in the Lord's prayer, all things needful for the body and soul. Solomon reverts to the sentiment (Ec 9:10).

waters—image from the custom of sowing seed by casting it from boats into the overflowing waters of the Nile, or in any marshy ground. When the waters receded, the grain in the alluvial soil sprang up (Isa 32:20). "Waters" express multitudes, so Ec 11:2; Re 17:15; also the seemingly hopeless character of the recipients of the charity; but it shall prove at last to have been not thrown away (Isa 49:4).

Ecclesiastes 11:1 Additional Commentaries
Context
Cast Your Bread upon the Waters
1Cast your bread on the surface of the waters, for you will find it after many days. 2Divide your portion to seven, or even to eight, for you do not know what misfortune may occur on the earth.…
Cross References
Matthew 10:42
And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward."

Galatians 6:9
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Hebrews 6:10
God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.

Deuteronomy 15:10
Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.

2 Samuel 17:29
honey and curds, sheep, and cheese from cows' milk for David and his people to eat. For they said, "The people have become exhausted and hungry and thirsty in the wilderness."

Proverbs 19:17
Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward them for what they have done.

Isaiah 32:20
how blessed you will be, sowing your seed by every stream, and letting your cattle and donkeys range free.
Treasury of Scripture

Cast your bread on the waters: for you shall find it after many days.

waters

Isaiah 32:20 Blessed are you that sow beside all waters, that send forth thither …

for

Ecclesiastes 11:6 In the morning sow your seed, and in the evening withhold not your …

Deuteronomy 15:10 You shall surely give him, and your heart shall not be grieved when …

Psalm 41:1,2 Blessed is he that considers the poor: the LORD will deliver him …

Psalm 126:5,6 They that sow in tears shall reap in joy…

Proverbs 11:18 The wicked works a deceitful work: but to him that sows righteousness …

Proverbs 19:17 He that has pity on the poor lends to the LORD; and that which he …

Matthew 10:13,42 And if the house be worthy, let your peace come on it: but if it …

Matthew 25:40 And the King shall answer and say to them, Truly I say to you, Inasmuch …

Luke 14:14 And you shall be blessed; for they cannot recompense you: for you …

2 Corinthians 9:6 But this I say, He which sows sparingly shall reap also sparingly; …

Galatians 6:8-10 For he that sows to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption…

Hebrews 6:10 For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love, …

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