Ecclesiastes 11:5
Parallel Verses
New International Version
As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother's womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.

New Living Translation
Just as you cannot understand the path of the wind or the mystery of a tiny baby growing in its mother's womb, so you cannot understand the activity of God, who does all things.

English Standard Version
As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything.

New American Standard Bible
Just as you do not know the path of the wind and how bones are formed in the womb of the pregnant woman, so you do not know the activity of God who makes all things.

King James Bible
As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all.

Holman Christian Standard Bible
Just as you don't know the path of the wind, or how bones develop in the womb of a pregnant woman, so you don't know the work of God who makes everything.

International Standard Version
Just as you do not understand the way of the spirit in the womb of a pregnant mother, so also you do not know what God is doing in everything he makes.

NET Bible
Just as you do not know the path of the wind, or how the bones form in the womb of a pregnant woman, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything.

GOD'S WORD® Translation
Just as you don't know how the breath of life enters the limbs of a child within its mother's womb, you also don't understand how God, who made everything, works.

Jubilee Bible 2000
As thou dost not know what is the way of the spirit nor how the bones grow in the womb of her that is with child, even so thou dost not know the works of God who makes all.

King James 2000 Bible
As you know not what is the way of the wind, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so you know not the works of God who makes all.

American King James Version
As you know not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so you know not the works of God who makes all.

American Standard Version
As thou knowest not what is the way of the wind, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child; even so thou knowest not the work of God who doeth all.

Douay-Rheims Bible
As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones are joined together in the womb of her that is with child: so thou knowest not the works of God, who is the maker of all.

Darby Bible Translation
As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, how the bones [grow] in the womb of her that is with child, even so thou knowest not the work of God who maketh all.

English Revised Version
As thou knowest not what is the way of the wind, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child; even so thou knowest not the work of God who doeth all.

Webster's Bible Translation
As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor the structure of the parts of conception in her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all.

World English Bible
As you don't know what is the way of the wind, nor how the bones grow in the womb of her who is with child; even so you don't know the work of God who does all.

Young's Literal Translation
As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, How -- bones in the womb of the full one, So thou knowest not the work of God who maketh the whole.
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

Verse 5. - As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit. In this verse are presented one or two examples of man's ignorance of natural facts and processes as analogous to the mysteries of God's moral government. The word translated "spirit" (ruach) may mean also "wind," and is so taken here by many commentators (see Ecclesiastes 1:6; Ecclesiastes 8:8; and comp. John 3:8). In this view there would be two instances given, viz. the wind and the embryo. Certainly, the mention of the wind seems to come naturally after what has preceded; and man's ignorance of its way, and powerlessness to control it, are emblematic of his attitude towards Divine providence. The versions, however, seem to support the rendering of the Authorized Version. Thus the Septuagint (which connects the clause with ver. 4), ἐν οῖς ("among whom," i.e. those who watch the weather), "There is none that knoweth what is the way of the spirit (τοῦ πνεύματος);" Vulgate. Quomodo ignoras quae sit via spiritus. If we take this view, we have only one idea in the verse, and that is the infusion of the breath of life in the embryo, and its growth in its mother's womb. Nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child. Our version, by its insertions, has made two facts out of the statement in the Hebrew, which is literally, holy the bones (are) in the womb of a pregnant woman. Septuagint, "As (ὡς) bones are in the womb," etc.; Vulgate, Et qua ratione compingantur ossa in ventre praegnantis, " And in what way the bones are framed in the womb of the pregnant." The formation and quickening of the foetus were always regarded as mysterious and inscrutable (comp. Job 10:8, 9; Psalm 139:15; Wisd. 7:1, etc.). Wright compares M. Aurelius, 10:26, "The first principles of life are extremely slender and mysterious; and yet nature works them up into a strange increase of bulk, diversity, and proportion." Controversies concerning the origin of the soul have been rife from early times, some holding what is called Traducianism, i.e. that soul and body are both derived by propagation from earthly parents; others supporting Creationism, i.e. that the soul, created specially by God, is infused into the child before birth. St. Augustine confesses ('Op. Imperf.,' 4:104) that he is unable to determine the truth of either opinion. And, indeed, this is one of those secret things which Holy Scripture has not decided for us, and about which no authoritative sentence has been given. The term "bones" is used for the whole conformation of the body (comp. Proverbs 15:30; Proverbs 16:24); meleah, "pregnant," means literally, "full," and is used like the Latin plena can here and nowhere else in the Old Testament, though common in later Hebrew. Thus Ovid, 'Metam.,' 10:469 -

"Plena patris thalamis excedit, et impia dire
Semina fert utero."
And 'Fast.,' 4:633 -

"Nunc gravidum pecus est; gravidae sunt semine terrae
Telluri plenae victima plena datur."
Even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all. Equally mysterious in its general scope and in its details is the working of God's providence. And as everything lies in God's hands, it must needs be secret and beyond human ken. This is why to "the works of God" (Ecclesiastes 7:13) is added, "who maketh all." The God of nature is Lord of the future (comp. Amos 3:6; Ecclus. 18:6); man must not disquiet himself about this.

Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit,.... If indeed a man could foresee and be assured of seasonable weather for sowing and reaping, or a proper opportunity for doing good, all circumstances agreeing, it would be right to wait for it, and take it; but as these things are not in our power, nor within the compass of our knowledge, we should take the first opportunity of doing good, and leave the issue to divine Providence: as in many things in nature we are and should be content to be ignorant of them, and leave them with God, who brings them about by his secret power and providence: as, for instance, we know not "the way of the spirit", or "of the wind" (r), as some render it; from whence it comes and whither it goes, where and when it will subside, or what wind will blow next; or of the spirit or soul of man, how it enters into the body. So the Targum,

"how the spirit of the breath of life goes into the body of an infant:''

whether it is by traduction, as some, which is not likely; or by transfusion, or by creation out of nothing, or by formation out of something pre-existent, and by an immediate infusion of it: or, "what is the way of the breath"; of the breath of a child in the womb, whether it breathes or not; if it does, how? if not, how does it live? or what is the way of the soul out of the body, how it goes out of it when the body dies;

nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child; or is "full", pregnant, big with child: or "in the womb that is full" (s); full of liquids, and yet bones are separated from them, grow out of them, and in them, and are hardened; all which how it should be is unknown: "bones" are mentioned because they are the more solid and substantial parts of the body, the basis and strength of it; and because it may seem more difficult how any part of the seed should harden into them, while other parts are converted into skin and flesh;

even so thou knowest not the works of God, who maketh all; the Targum adds, in wisdom; as men are ignorant of many of the works of nature, so of those of Providence, especially which are future; as whether men shall be rich or poor, have days of prosperity or adversity; what their latter end will be, whether they shall not stand in need of the assistance of others, it may be of them or theirs to whom they now give; or what will be the issue of present acts of beneficence and liberality; these, with many other things of the like kind, should be left with God. Some understand this of the work of grace and conversion, which is a secret and difficult work, only wrought by the power and grace of God; and may be begun, or shortly will, in a poor person, judged an unworthy object of charity for supposed want of it, a thing unknown.

(r) "venti", Pagninus, Montanus, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Drusius, Mercerus, Amama, Cocceius, Gejerus, Rambachius; so Broughton, and the Syriac and Arabic versions. (s) "in utero pleno", Mercerus, Gejerus, Gussetius, p. 936. "in ventre pleno", Cocceius, so Aben Ezra.

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

5. spirit—How the soul animates the body! Thus the transition to the formation of the body "in the womb" is more natural, than if with Maurer we translate it "wind" (Ec 1:6; Joh 3:8).

bones … grow—(Job 10:8, 9; Ps 139:15, 16).

knowest not the works of God—(Ec 3:11; 8:17; 9:12).

Ecclesiastes 11:5 Additional Commentaries
Context
Cast Your Bread upon the Waters
4He who watches the wind will not sow and he who looks at the clouds will not reap. 5Just as you do not know the path of the wind and how bones are formed in the womb of the pregnant woman, so you do not know the activity of God who makes all things. 6Sow your seed in the morning and do not be idle in the evening, for you do not know whether morning or evening sowing will succeed, or whether both of them alike will be good.
Cross References
John 3:8
The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."

Psalm 139:13
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.

Psalm 139:15
My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.

Psalm 139:16
Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

Ecclesiastes 1:6
The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course.

Ecclesiastes 1:13
I applied my mind to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under the heavens. What a heavy burden God has laid on mankind!

Ecclesiastes 3:10
I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race.

Ecclesiastes 3:11
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

Ecclesiastes 8:17
then I saw all that God has done. No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all their efforts to search it out, no one can discover its meaning. Even if the wise claim they know, they cannot really comprehend it.

Ecclesiastes 11:4
Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap.
Treasury of Scripture

As you know not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so you know not the works of God who makes all.

thou knowest not what

John 3:8 The wind blows where it wants, and you hear the sound thereof, but …

nor

Psalm 139:14,15 I will praise you; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous …

even

Ecclesiastes 7:24 That which is far off, and exceeding deep, who can find it out?

Ecclesiastes 8:17 Then I beheld all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the …

Job 5:9 Which does great things and unsearchable; marvelous things without number:

Job 26:5-14 Dead things are formed from under the waters, and the inhabitants thereof…

Job 36:24-33 Remember that you magnify his work, which men behold…

Job 37:23 Touching the Almighty, we cannot find him out: he is excellent in …

Job 38:4 Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, …

Job 39:1-41:34 Know you the time when the wild goats of the rock bring forth? or …

Psalm 40:5 Many, O LORD my God, are your wonderful works which you have done, …

Psalm 92:5 O LORD, how great are your works! and your thoughts are very deep.

Psalm 104:24 O LORD, how manifold are your works! in wisdom have you made them …

Isaiah 40:28 Have you not known? have you not heard, that the everlasting God, …

Romans 11:33 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! …

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