|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
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.
Verse 5. - A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together. There is no question about building or demolishing houses, as that has been already mentioned in ver. 3. Most commentators see an allusion to the practice of marring an enemy's fields by casting stones upon them, as the Israelites did when they invaded Moab (2 Kings 3:19, 25). But this must have been a very abnormal proceeding, and could scarcely be cited as a usual occurrence. Nor is the notion more happy that there is an allusion to the custom of flinging stones or earth into the grave at a burial - a Christian, but not an ancient Jewish practice; this, too, leaves the contrasted "gathering" unexplained. Equally inappropriate is the opinion that the punishment of stoning is meant, or some game played with pebbles. It seems most simple to see herein intimated the operation of clearing a vineyard of stones, as mentioned in Isaiah 5:2; and of collecting materials for making fences, wine-press, tower, etc., and repairing roads. A time to embrace. Those who explain the preceding clause of the marring and clearing of fields connect the following one with the other by conceiving that "the loving action of embracing stands beside the hostile, purposely injurious, throwing of stones into a field" (Delitzsch). It is plain that there are times when one may give himself up to the delights of love and friendship, and times when such distractions would be incongruous and unseasonable, as on solemn, penitential occasions (Joel 2:16; Exodus 19:15; 1 Corinthians 7:5); but the congruity of the two clauses of the couplet is not obvious, unless the objectionable position of stones and their advantageous employment are compared with the character of illicit (Proverbs 5:20) and legitimate love.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together,.... To cast stones out of a field or vineyard where they are hurtful, and to gather them together to make walls and fences of, or build houses with; and may be understood both of throwing down buildings, as the temple of Jerusalem, so that not one stone was left upon another; of pouring out the stones of the sanctuary, and of gathering them again and laying them on one another; which was done when the servants of the Lord took pleasure in the stones of Zion, and favoured the dust thereof. Some understand this of precious stones, and of casting them away through luxury, wantonness, or contempt, and gathering them again: and it may be applied, as to the neglect of the Gentiles for a long time, and the gathering of those stones of which children were raised to Abraham; so of the casting away of the Jews for their rejection of the Messiah, and of the gathering of them again by conversion, when they shall be as the stones of a crown, lifted up as an ensign on his land, Zechariah 9:16;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing: or "to be far from" (g) it; it may not only design conjugal embraces (h), but parents embracing their children, as Jacob did his; and one brother embracing another, as Esau Jacob, and one friend embracing another; all which is very proper and agreeable at times: but there are some seasons so very calamitous and distressing, in which persons are obliged to drop such fondnesses: it is true, in a spiritual sense, of the embraces of Christ and believers, which sometimes are, and sometimes are not, enjoyed, Proverbs 4:8.
(g) "tempus elongandi se", Pagninus, Montanus; "tempus longe fieri", V. L. (h) "Optatos dedit amplexus", Virgil. Aeneid. 8. v. 405.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
5. cast away stones—as out of a garden or vineyard (Isa 5:2).
gather—for building; figuratively, the Gentiles, once castaway stones, were in due time made parts of the spiritual building (Eph 2:19, 20), and children of Abraham (Mt 3:9); so the restored Jews hereafter (Ps 102:13, 14; Zec 9:16).
refrain … embracing—(Joe 2:16; 1Co 7:5, 6).
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