For all this I considered in my heart even to declare all this, that the righteous, and the wise, and their works, are in the hand of God: no man knoweth either love or hatred by all that is before them.Ecclesiastes 9:1. For, or therefore, as the LXX. render it, all this I considered in my heart — All that I have said concerning the methods of divine providence, toward good and bad men; to declare all this — To make this evident, first to myself, and then to others; that the righteous — Whom he mentions, not exclusively, as if wicked men were not also in God’s hand, for the next clause relates both to the good and bad; but eminently, because, by the course of God’s providence toward them, they might seem to be quite neglected by God; and their works are in the hand of God — All their actions and employments; all events which befall them are governed by his providence, and therefore, although we cannot fully understand the reasons of all, yet we may be assured they are done righteously. No man knoweth either love or hatred — No man can judge by their present outward condition, whether God loves or hates them; for whom he loves he chastens, and permits those whom he hates to prosper in the world.
All things come alike to all: there is one event to the righteous, and to the wicked; to the good and to the clean, and to the unclean; to him that sacrificeth, and to him that sacrificeth not: as is the good, so is the sinner; and he that sweareth, as he that feareth an oath.Ecclesiastes 9:2-3. All things come alike to all — The good and evil things of this world equally happen to good and bad men; as is the good, so is the sinner — As to all outward things. This is an evil, &c. — A great trouble and temptation to a considerate and good man; yea, also the heart of the sons of men — Of wicked men, such as the generality of mankind are; is full of evil — Of wickedness; and madness is in their heart — Upon this account they go on madly and desperately in evil courses, without any fear of an after reckoning; and after that they go to the dead — And after all they appear to die in the same manner as the best men do. So hitherto there is no difference. For Solomon here forbears to take into consideration the future life: he intimates, however, that as the madness, so the happiness of the wicked, is ended by death: which is more fully expressed in the following words.
This is an evil among all things that are done under the sun, that there is one event unto all: yea, also the heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live, and after that they go to the dead.
For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope: for a living dog is better than a dead lion.Ecclesiastes 9:4-6. For to him that is joined to all the living — That continues with living men; there is hope — He hath not only some comfort for the present, but also hopes of further and greater happiness in this world, which men are very prone to entertain and cherish in themselves. Yea, he may have the hopes of a better life, if he improve his opportunities. For a living dog is better than a dead lion — Much happier as to the comforts of this world. “The meanest and most contemptible person here, in this world, hath the advantage of the greatest king, when he is gone out of it.” For the living know that they shall die — Whereby they are taught to improve life while they have it. But the dead know not any thing — Of the actions and events of this world, as this is limited in the next verse. Neither have they any more a reward — In this world. The reward or fruit of their labours is utterly lost to them, and enjoyed by others. See Ecclesiastes 2:21. For otherwise, that there are future rewards after death, is asserted by Solomon elsewhere, as we have seen, and shall hereafter see. For the memory of them is forgotten — Namely, among living men, and even in those places where they had lived in great power and glory. Also their love and hatred, &c., is now perished — They neither love, nor hate, nor envy any thing in this world, but are unconcerned in what is done under the sun.
For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.
Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun.
Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works.Ecclesiastes 9:7-9. Go thy way — Make this use of what I have said. Eat thy bread — Thy necessary and convenient food; with joy, &c. — Cheerfully enjoy thy comforts, avoiding all distracting care and grief for the occurrences of this world. For God now accepteth thy works — Whosoever thou art, that art truly pious and upright before him, he is gracious unto thee, accepts thy services for his honour, and allows thee a comfortable enjoyment of his blessings. Let thy garments be always white — In all convenient times and circumstances; for there are times of mourning. The eastern people of the best sort used white garments, especially in times of rejoicing. But by this whiteness of garments he seems to intend a pleasant and cheerful conversation. And let thy head lack no ointment — Which, upon joyful occasions, was poured upon men’s heads. Live joyfully with thy wife — The one wife, whom thou lovest. Love her, and keep thyself only to her, avoiding all improper intercourse and familiarity with all other women, and thou wilt live comfortably with her; all the days of thy vanity — Of this vain and frail life: which expression he uses to moderate men’s affections even toward lawful pleasures, and to admonish them of their duty and interest in making sure of a better life, and more solid comforts. For that is thy portion — Allowed thee by God; and the best part of worldly enjoyments; in this life — By which addition he again reminds him of the duty of seeking another and better portion in a future life.
Let thy garments be always white; and let thy head lack no ointment.
Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which he hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity: for that is thy portion in this life, and in thy labour which thou takest under the sun.
Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.Ecclesiastes 9:10. Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, &c. — Whatever thou hast opportunity and ability to, in the duties of thy calling, or for the glory of God and the good of thy fellow creatures; do it with all thy might — With unwearied diligence, vigour, and expedition. Hereby again Solomon shows, that he does not persuade men to an idle and sensual life, but only to a sober enjoyment of their comforts in God’s fear, and with an industrious prosecution of the business of their vocations. For there is no work, &c., in the grave — Thou canst neither design nor act any thing tending to the glory of God, or to thine own comfort or advantage there. Therefore neglect not thine only season.
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.Ecclesiastes 9:11. I returned and saw — This may have some respect to the foregoing verse: for having urged men to labour with all their might, he now adds, by way of caution, that yet they must not be confident of their own strength, as if they were sure of success by it, but must look up to God for his blessing, without which all their endeavours would be in vain. But it seems chiefly to be added, either, as another instance of the liberty and power of God’s providence, in the disposing of human affairs, of which he spake Ecclesiastes 9:1-2; or as another of the vanities of this present life; that the race is not to the swift — Either ability to run, or success and victory in running; nor the battle to the strong — The victory in battle; nor riches to men of understanding — Who yet are most likely to get and keep riches; nor yet favour — Acceptance and love from men; to men of skill — Who know how to conduct themselves and all affairs, and therefore are most likely to find favour, at least, in the eyes of such as need their services; but time and chance happeneth to them all — There are times or seasons, casual to men, but known by God, in which alone he will give men success.
For man also knoweth not his time: as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare; so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them.Ecclesiastes 9:12. For man also knoweth not his time — Namely, the time of his death, or of some other sore distress, which God is bringing upon him; as fishes are taken in an evil net — While they are sporting and feeding themselves, are suddenly and unexpectedly ensnared to their ruin; so are the sons of men snared — When they are most careless and secure.
This wisdom have I seen also under the sun, and it seemed great unto me:Ecclesiastes 9:13-16. This wisdom have I seen — I have observed this among many other instances and effects of wisdom. Which he adds for the commendation of wisdom, notwithstanding its insufficiency for man’s safety and happiness without God’s blessing. And it seemed great unto me — I judged it very praiseworthy, though others despised it, as it follows. There was a little city, &c. — It is doubtful whether Solomon be here relating a certain fact which had occurred in some neighbouring country, or delivering a parable to represent the value of wisdom, and the ingratitude and neglect with which those who have greatly benefited others by it, are often treated by them. St. Jerome, as appears by the following paraphrase, considers him as alluding to several facts of the same or a similar kind, “It hath often been seen that a small city and few inhabitants, being beset by an army of innumerable enemies, and besieged so straitly that they were in danger, if not other ways, of perishing by famine; were, on a sudden, contrary to all men’s expectation, delivered by a mean person, who, having more wisdom than all the great and powerful citizens, thought of a way to save them, when they gave themselves up for lost, and effected that of which they utterly despaired. And yet, O the ungratefulness of mankind! after the siege was raised, no one thought of this poor man;” namely, to give him thanks, much less to reward him for their safety. “It sets forth,” says Lord Bacon, “the depraved and malignant nature of mankind; who, in extremities and straits commonly flee to men of wisdom and courage, whom before they despised; but, so soon as the storm is over, they become unthankful wretches to their preservers.”
There was a little city, and few men within it; and there came a great king against it, and besieged it, and built great bulwarks against it:
Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same poor man.
Then said I, Wisdom is better than strength: nevertheless the poor man's wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard.
The words of wise men are heard in quiet more than the cry of him that ruleth among fools.Ecclesiastes 9:17. The words of wise men — Though poor; are heard in quiet — Are uttered with a modest and low voice, and are, or should be, heard by wise men; more than the cry — The clamorous and senseless discourses; of him that ruleth among fools — Of a rich and potent, but foolish man, who has some influence on fools like himself, but is justly neglected, and his words disregarded by wise men. Or, as Aben Ezra interprets the verse, connecting it with the preceding, “The words of the wise are despised by the people when they are in prosperity, but when they are in distress, and silenced by fear and grief, then they listen eagerly and diligently.”
Wisdom is better than weapons of war: but one sinner destroyeth much good.