|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
3:16-22 Without the fear of the Lord, man is but vanity; set that aside, and judges will not use their power well. And there is another Judge that stands before the door. With God there is a time for the redressing of grievances, though as yet we see it not. Solomon seems to express his wish that men might perceive, that by choosing this world as their portion, they brought themselves to a level with the beasts, without being free, as they are, from present vexations and a future account. Both return to the dust from whence they were taken. What little reason have we to be proud of our bodies, or bodily accomplishments! But as none can fully comprehend, so few consider properly, the difference between the rational soul of man, and the spirit or life of the beast. The spirit of man goes upward, to be judged, and is then fixed in an unchangeable state of happiness or misery. It is as certain that the spirit of the beast goes downward to the earth; it perishes at death. Surely their case is lamentable, the height of whose hopes and wishes is, that they may die like beasts. Let our inquiry be, how an eternity of existence may be to us an eternity of enjoyment? To answer this, is the grand design of revelation. Jesus is revealed as the Son of God, and the Hope of sinners.
Verse 22. - After all, the writer arrives at the conclusion intimated in ver. 12; only here the result is gathered from the acknowledgment of man's impotence (vers. 16-18), as there from the experience of life. Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better, etc.; rather, so, or wherefore I saw that there was nothing, etc. As man is not master of his own lot, cannot order events as he would like, is powerless to control the forces of nature and the providential arrangements of the world, his duty and his happiness consist in enjoying the present, in making the best of life, and availing himself of the bounties which the mercy of God places before him. Thus he will free himself from anxieties and cares, perform present labors, attend to present duties, content himself with the daily round, and not vex his heart with solicitude for the future. There is no Epicureanism here, no recommendation of sensual enjoyment; the author simply advises men to make a thankful use of the blessings which God provides for them. For who shall bring him to see what shall be after him? The Revised Version, by inserting "back" - Who shall bring him back to see? - affixes a meaning to the clause which it need not and does not bear. It is, indeed, commonly interpreted to signify that man knows and can know nothing that happens to him after death - whether he will exist or not, whether he will have cognizance of what passes on earth, or be insensible to all that befalls here. But Koheleth has completed that thought already; his argument now turns to the future in this life. Use the present, for you cannot be sure of the future; - this is his exhortation. So he says (Ecclesiastes 6:12), "Who can tell a man what shall be after him under the sun?" where the expression, "under the sun," shows that earthly life is meant, not existence after death. Ignorance of the future is a very common topic throughout the book, but it is the terrestrial prospect that is in view. There would be little force in urging the impotence of men's efforts towards their own happiness by the consideration of their ignorance of what may happen when they are no more; but one may reasonably exhort men to cease to torment themselves with hopes and fears, with labors that may be useless and preparations that may never be needed, by the reflection that they cannot foresee the future, and that, for all they know, the pains which they take may be utterly wasted (cf. Ecclesiastes 7:14; Ecclesiastes 9:3). Thus in this section there is neither skepticism nor Epicureanism. In brief, the sentiment is this - There are injustices and anomalies in the life of men and in the course of this world's events which man cannot control or alter; these may be righted and compensated hereafter. Meantime, man's happiness is to make the best of the present, and cheerfully to enjoy what Providence offers, without anxious care for the future.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his own works,.... The Targum is, "in his good works"; not as justifying him before God, but as vindicating him before men, from unjust censures and charges: rather the sense is, that this is the wise man's conclusion, and this his sentiment, upon the whole; that there is nothing better for a man, than cheerfully to enjoy the fruit of his labours; to eat and drink in moderation, freely, joyfully, and thankfully; and make use of his riches, power, and authority, for his own good, the good of his family for the present, and the good of his fellow creatures; see Ecclesiastes 2:21;
for that is his portion; what is allotted to him, and thus enjoyed, is a very good one, and for which he has reason to be thankful;
for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him? to see who shall succeed him, and what use they will make of what he leaves them; he shall never return after death to see anything of this kind, nor shall any acquaint him with it; he shall not be able to know when he is dead what shall befall his sons, whether they will prosper or rio, so Jarchi; wherefore it is best for him to enjoy his substance himself in a comfortable way, and be beneficial to others, and not oppressive to them. The Midrash illustrates it thus,
"who shall bring David to see what Solomon did? and who shall bring Solomon to see what Rehoboam did?''
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
22. (Compare Ec 3:12; 5:18). Inculcating a thankful enjoyment of God's gifts, and a cheerful discharge of man's duties, founded on fear of God; not as the sensualist (Ec 11:9); not as the anxious money-seeker (Ec 2:23; 5:10-17).
his portion—in the present life. If it were made his main portion, it would be "vanity" (Ec 2:1; Lu 16:25).
for who, &c.—Our ignorance as to the future, which is God's "time" (Ec 3:11), should lead us to use the present time in the best sense and leave the future to His infinite wisdom (Mt 6:20, 25, 31-34).
Ecclesiastes 3:22 Parallel Commentaries
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