Ecclesiastes 9:11
Parallel Verses
New International Version
I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.

New Living Translation
I have observed something else under the sun. The fastest runner doesn't always win the race, and the strongest warrior doesn't always win the battle. The wise sometimes go hungry, and the skillful are not necessarily wealthy. And those who are educated don't always lead successful lives. It is all decided by chance, by being in the right place at the right time.

English Standard Version
Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all.

New American Standard Bible
I again saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift and the battle is not to the warriors, and neither is bread to the wise nor wealth to the discerning nor favor to men of ability; for time and chance overtake them all.

King James Bible
I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

Holman Christian Standard Bible
Again I saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift, or the battle to the strong, or bread to the wise, or riches to the discerning, or favor to the skillful; rather, time and chance happen to all of them.

International Standard Version
I considered and observed on earth the following: The race doesn't go to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor food to the wise, nor wealth to the smart, nor recognition to the skilled. Instead, timing and circumstances meet them all.

NET Bible
Again, I observed this on the earth: the race is not always won by the swiftest, the battle is not always won by the strongest; prosperity does not always belong to those who are the wisest, wealth does not always belong to those who are the most discerning, nor does success always come to those with the most knowledge--for time and chance may overcome them all.

GOD'S WORD® Translation
I saw something else under the sun. The race isn't [won] by fast runners, or the battle by heroes. Wise people don't necessarily have food. Intelligent people don't necessarily have riches, and skilled people don't necessarily receive special treatment. But time and unpredictable events overtake all of them.

Jubilee Bible 2000
I returned and saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of prudence, nor yet grace to men of eloquence; but time and chance happens to them all.

King James 2000 Bible
I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happens to them all.

American King James Version
I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happens to them all.

American Standard Version
I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

Douay-Rheims Bible
I turned me to another thing, and I saw that under the sun, the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the learned, nor favour to the skilful: but time and chance in all.

Darby Bible Translation
I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to the intelligent, nor yet favour to men of knowledge; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

English Revised Version
I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but fame and chance happeneth to them all.

Webster's Bible Translation
I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

World English Bible
I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happen to them all.

Young's Literal Translation
I have turned so as to see under the sun, that not to the swift is the race, nor to the mighty the battle, nor even to the wise bread, nor even to the intelligent wealth, nor even to the skilful grace, for time and chance happen with them all.
Parallel Commentaries
Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary

9:11,12 Men's success seldom equals their expectations. We must use means, but not trust to them: if we succeed, we must give God the praise; if crossed, we must submit to his will. Those who put off the great concerns of their souls, are caught in Satan's net, which he baits with some worldly object, for which they reject or neglect the gospel, and go on in sin till they suddenly fall into destruction.

Pulpit Commentary

Verses 11, 12. - Section 8. It is impossible to calculate upon the issues and duration of life. Verse 11. - He reverts to the sentiment of ver. 1, that we cannot calculate on the issues of life. Work as we may and must and ought, the results are uncertain and beyond our control. This he shows by his own personal experience. I returned, and saw under the sun. The expression here does not indicate a new departure, but merely a repetition and confirmation of a previous thought - the dependence and conditionality of man. It implies, too, a correction of a possible misunderstanding of the injunction to labor, as if one's own efforts were sure to secure success. The race is not to the swift. One is reminded of the fable of the hare and tortoise; but Koheleth's meaning is different. In the instances given he intimates that, though a man is well equipped for his work and uses all possible exertions, he may incur failure. So one may be a fleet runner, and yet, owing to some untoward accident or disturbing circumstance, not come in first. Thus Ahimaaz brought to David tidings of Absalom's defeat before Cushi, who had had the start of him (2 Samuel 18:27, 31). There is no occasion to invent an allusion to the foot-race in the formal Greek games. The battle to the strong. Victory does not always accrue to mighty men, heroes. As David, himself an instance of the truth of the maxim, says (1 Samuel 17:47), "The Lord saveth not with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord's" (comp. 2 Chronicles 20:15; Psalm 33:16). Neither yet bread to the wise. Wisdom will not ensure competency. To do this requires other endowments. Many a man of cultivated intellect and of high mental power is left to starve. Riches to men of understanding. Aristophanes accounts for the unequal distribution of wealth thus ('Plutus,' 88), the god himself speaking-

"I threatened, when a boy,
On none but just and wise and orderly
My favors to bestow; so Zeus in jealousy
Hath made me blind, that I may none of these Distinguish."
Nor yet favor to men of skill. "Skill" here does not mean dexterity in handicrafts or arts, but knowledge generally; and the gnome says that reputation and influence do not necessarily accompany the possession of knowledge and learning; knowledge is not a certain or indispensable means to favor. Says the Greek gnomist -

Τύχης τὰ θνητῶν πράγματ οὐκ εὐβουλίας.

"Not prudence rules, but fortune, men's affairs." That time and chance happeneth to them all. We have had the word eth, "time," all through Ecclesiastes 3. and elsewhere; but פֶגַע, rendered "chance," is uncommon, being found only in 1 Kings 5:4 (18, Hebrew). Everything has its proper season appointed by God, and man is powerless to control these arrangements. Our English word "chance" conveys an erroneous impression. What is meant is rather "incident," such as a calamity, disappointment, unforeseen occurrence. All human purposes are liable to be changed or controlled by circumstances beyond man's power, and incapable of explanation. A hand higher than man's disposes events, and success is conditioned by superior laws which work unexpected results.

Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

I returned, and saw under the sun,.... The wise man returned to his former subject, concerning the same events happening to all sorts of persons, righteous and wicked, wise and unwise, Ecclesiastes 10:1; and enlarged upon it in his mind; and took notice of various things done under the sun, and made the following remarks: and whereas he had exhorted men to use all their might in doing the duties of their calling while they lived here; he suggests, that they should not depend upon, and promise themselves, anything from their own strength and wisdom; but have a regard to the providence of God, that superintends all affairs, and gives or withholds success as he pleases; since it may be observed,

that the race is not to the swift; swiftness oftentimes is of no service to a man to escape dangers, as may be seen in the case of Asahel and others, 2 Samuel 2:18; so the Targum,

"men who are swift as eagles are not helped by running to escape from death in battle.''

Or the sense may be, that the swift are not always made use of in running a race; or, if they are, they do not always win the prize, something or other happens to hinder them; they fall, or become lame, when one more slow gets the advantage of them, 1 Corinthians 9:24; and so in spiritual things, one that is ready to halt, as David says of himself, gets to heaven, and is saved, Psalm 38:17; when others, at first starting or setting out in a profession, run well for a while, as the Galatians did, Galatians 5:7; but afterwards drop and fall short; for "it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God, that sheweth mercy", Romans 9:16;

nor the battle to the strong: as not to the Midianites, nor to Goliath, nor to Abner, in whom Jarchi instances; victory is not always on the side of the mighty and the many, but oftentimes on the side of the weak and few; see 2 Chronicles 14:9; so in spirituals, such who go forth in their own strength against an enemy, trusting in it, fall; while weak believers, depending on the grace and strength of Christ, wrestle with principalities and powers, and come off victorious;

neither yet bread to the wise: the Targum adds, in a time of famine, when their wisdom cannot help them; but the sense rather is, that skilful artificers, in any trade or business, do not always get the best livelihood, yea, sometimes want the necessaries of life, or eat the bread of sorrow, when persons of meaner capacities shall thrive and flourish; and even the wisest of men sometimes have been obliged to others for bread, as was the case of David, 1 Samuel 21:3; and even of a wiser than he, our Lord himself, Luke 8:2; and as for the wise men of this world, the bread of life, Christ Jesus, is neither enjoyed nor sought after by them;

nor yet riches to men of understanding; mention is afterwards made of a wise man that was poor, Jarchi instances in Job; and, on the other hand, sometimes fools are rich, as Nabal and others; and as for the riches of grace, and treasures of spiritual knowledge, they are not usually given to the wise and prudent Matthew 11:25; Nor yet favour to men of skill; to men of knowledge and learning, whose genius and abilities might be thought sufficient to recommend them to the favour, affection, and applause of men, and yet oftentimes fall herein; such who have the art of address and persuasion are not always able to ingratiate themselves, and gain the esteem of men: Jarchi interprets it of the favour of God, and instances in Moses; than whom there was not a more knowing and understanding man in Israel, yet could not by his prayer find grace and favour to enter into the land: but the Targum is better;

"neither they that know understanding are helped by their knowledge to find favour in the eyes of a king;''

but time and chance happeneth to them all; to the swift and strong, the wise, understanding, and skilful; or to the swift and slow, to the strong and weak, to the wise and unwise; everything befalls them just as it is ordered by divine Providence; for there is a certain "time" fixed by the Lord for every event; and whatever seems casual and contingent to man, and which he is ready to call "chance", is noticing but "decree" with God, firm and unalterable; Plato (e) has the same expression. The word signifies "occurrence" (f), or event, which is under the wise direction and order of the providence of God, with respect to whom nothing comes by chance; and it is rendered "occurrent", 1 Kings 5:4; and so it is here, by the Septuagint version, "occurrence" or "event"; and in the Targum, event by their star, which is fate: and Aben Ezra interprets it , the "superior ordination"; it is something we meet, or meets us, by divine appointment. Aben Ezra and Kimchi, who are followed by others, think that, from Ecclesiastes 10:4; to this, Solomon is speaking in the person of epicures and atheists; which is not likely, since it is not in character for such persons to talk of God's acceptance of men's works; of living joyfully with a wife; of this life being a life of vanity; and of death and the grave; and of diligence in working while the present life lasts.

(e) , Plato de Leg. l. 4. p. 827. (f) "occursus", Montanus; "sive eventus", Mercerus, Rambachius; "occurrent", Broughton,

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

11. This verse qualifies the sentiment, Ec 9:7-9. Earthly "enjoyments," however lawful in their place (Ec 3:1), are to give way when any work to be done for God requires it. Reverting to the sentiment (Ec 8:17), we ought, therefore, not only to work God's work "with might" (Ec 9:10), but also with the feeling that the event is wholly "in God's hand" (Ec 9:1).

race … not to the swift—(2Sa 18:23); spiritually (Zep 3:19; Ro 9:16).

nor … battle to … strong—(1Sa 17:47; 2Ch 14:9, 11, 15; Ps 33:16).

bread—livelihood.

favour—of the great.

chance—seemingly, really Providence. But as man cannot "find it out" (Ec 3:11), he needs "with all might" to use opportunities. Duties are ours; events, God's.

Ecclesiastes 9:11 Additional Commentaries
Context
Enjoy Your Portion in This Life
10Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might; for there is no activity or planning or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol where you are going. 11I again saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift and the battle is not to the warriors, and neither is bread to the wise nor wealth to the discerning nor favor to men of ability; for time and chance overtake them all. 12Moreover, man does not know his time: like fish caught in a treacherous net and birds trapped in a snare, so the sons of men are ensnared at an evil time when it suddenly falls on them.
Cross References
Deuteronomy 8:17
You may say to yourself, "My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me."

Deuteronomy 8:18
But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.

1 Samuel 6:9
but keep watching it. If it goes up to its own territory, toward Beth Shemesh, then the LORD has brought this great disaster on us. But if it does not, then we will know that it was not his hand that struck us but that it happened to us by chance."

2 Chronicles 20:15
He said: "Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the LORD says to you: 'Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God's.

Psalm 76:5
The valiant lie plundered, they sleep their last sleep; not one of the warriors can lift his hands.

Proverbs 1:5
let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance--

Ecclesiastes 9:2
All share a common destiny--the righteous and the wicked, the good and the bad, the clean and the unclean, those who offer sacrifices and those who do not. As it is with the good, so with the sinful; as it is with those who take oaths, so with those who are afraid to take them.

Jeremiah 9:23
This is what the LORD says: "Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches,

Amos 2:14
The swift will not escape, the strong will not muster their strength, and the warrior will not save his life.

Amos 2:15
The archer will not stand his ground, the fleet-footed soldier will not get away, and the horseman will not save his life.

Zechariah 4:6
So he said to me, "This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: 'Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the LORD Almighty.
Treasury of Scripture

I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happens to them all.

returned

Ecclesiastes 2:12 And I turned myself to behold wisdom, and madness, and folly: for …

Ecclesiastes 4:1,4 So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under …

Malachi 3:18 Then shall you return, and discern between the righteous and the …

that the race

1 Samuel 17:50 So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, …

2 Samuel 2:18-23 And there were three sons of Zeruiah there, Joab, and Abishai, and …

2 Samuel 17:14,23 And Absalom and all the men of Israel said, The counsel of Hushai …

Psalm 33:16,17 There is no king saved by the multitude of an host: a mighty man …

Psalm 73:6,7 Therefore pride compasses them about as a chain; violence covers …

Psalm 147:10,11 He delights not in the strength of the horse: he takes not pleasure …

Jeremiah 9:23 Thus said the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither …

Jeremiah 46:6 Let not the swift flee away, nor the mighty man escape; they shall …

Amos 2:14-16 Therefore the flight shall perish from the swift, and the strong …

but

Ecclesiastes 2:14,15 The wise man's eyes are in his head; but the fool walks in darkness: …

Ecclesiastes 3:14-17 I know that, whatever God does, it shall be for ever: nothing can …

Ecclesiastes 7:13 Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight, which he …

1 Samuel 2:3-10 Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not arrogance come out of …

Job 5:11-14 To set up on high those that be low; that those which mourn may be …

Job 34:29 When he gives quietness, who then can make trouble? and when he hides …

Proverbs 21:30,31 There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the LORD…

Lamentations 3:37,38 Who is he that said, and it comes to pass, when the Lord commands it not…

Daniel 4:35 And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and …

Ephesians 1:11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance…

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