Ecclesiastes 11:6
In the morning sow your seed, and in the evening withhold not your hand: for you know not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(6) Prosper.—The word is used again in Ecclesiastes 10:10 and Esther 8:5, and belongs to modern Hebrew. (Comp. Galatians 6:7-8.)

Ecclesiastes 11:6. In the morning — Early and late, in all seasons, and on all occasions; do it speedily and continually: be not weary of it. Sow thy seed — Do all good works, especially that of alms-giving, as sowing means, 2 Corinthians 9:6; Galatians 6:7. In the evening withhold not thy hand — From working, or giving. For thou knowest not whether shall prosper — Which shall prosper most; which shall best answer thine end, or do most good to others; or which shall tend most to the comfort of thy great and final account. For thy morning alms may possibly be given to an unworthy person, or to one who did not need them, and will abuse them; and thy evening alms may fall upon a person of eminent worth, or upon one in extreme necessity, who might possibly have perished, both in soul and body, if thou hadst not relieved and comforted him. Besides, at one time thou mayest give with a more pure intention, and a more single eye to the glory of God, and with more tender compassion to thy distressed fellow-creature, than at another time, and so the one will be more right and acceptable to God than the other. Or whether they shall be both alike good — Equally successful to the receiver or to the giver.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.Spirit - The same Hebrew word (like πνεῦμα pneuma in Greek and "Spirit" in English) signifies both the wind Ecclesiastes 11:4 and the Spirit (compare marginal reference). The Old Testament in many places recognizes the special operation of God Job 10:8-12; Psalm 139:13-16; Jeremiah 1:5, and distinctly of the Spirit of God Job 31:15 in the origination of every child. Compare Genesis 2:7. 6. morning … evening—early and late; when young and when old; in sunshine and under clouds.

seed—of godly works (Ho 10:12; 2Co 9:10; Ga 6:7).

prosper—(Isa 55:10, 11).

both … alike—Both the unpromising and the promising sowing may bear good fruit in others; certainly they shall to the faithful sower.

In the morning, and in the evening; early and late, in all seasons and occasions; do it speedily and continually, be not weary of it. Sow thy seed; do all good works, and especially that of almsgiving, as sowing is understood, 2 Corinthians 9:6 Galatians 6:7.

Withhold not thine hand from working or giving.

Whether shall prosper; which shall prosper most, as the next clause explains it; the positive degree being put for the comparative, or the superlative, which is not unusual in the Hebrew text. Which shall best answer thine end, or do most good to others, or which shall tend most to the comfort of thy great and last account; for thy morning alms may possibly be given to an unworthy person, or to one who did not need it, and will abuse it, and thy evening alms may fall upon a person of eminent worth, yea, upon an angel in human shape, which is remembered as a motive to hospitality, Hebrews 13:2, or upon one in extreme necessity, who might possibly have perished both in soul and body, if thou hadst not comforted and relieved him: or one time thou mayst give with more sincere intention, and with more tender compassion, than another time, and so one will be more right and more acceptable to God than the other.

Alike good; equally successful to the receiver, or to the giver. In the morning sow thy seed,.... Do all good works early and diligently, which is expressed by sowing in righteousness, Hosea 10:12; particularly alms deeds, often signified by sowing seed, Psalm 112:9, 2 Corinthians 9:6; this should be in the morning of youth, that persons may be inured to it betimes as Obadiah was; and in the morning of prosperity, as soon as ever Providence smiles on men, and puts it into the power of their hands, who should honour the Lord with the firstfruits of their increase;

and in the evening withhold not thine hand; from sowing seed, from doing good, particularly acts of charity, in the evening of old age, as Jarchi, like old Barzillai; an age in which men are apt to be more tenacious and covetous, and withhold more than is meet; yea, in the evening of adversity do not leave off doing good as much as can be; but do as the Macedonian churches, whose deep poverty abounded to the riches of their liberality in a great trial of affliction, 2 Corinthians 8:2; in short, good is to be done at all times, as opportunity offers, throughout the whole of life, and in all conditions and circumstances;

for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that; the seed sown in the morning or in the evening, which good work shall best succeed; therefore do both, try all ways, make use of all opportunities;

or whether they both shall be alike good; acceptable to God, and useful to men; and if so, a man will have no occasion to repent of what he has done both in youth and old age.

In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening {e} withhold not thy hand: for thou knowest not which shall prosper, either this or {f} that, or whether they both shall be alike good.

(e) Be not weary of well doing.

(f) That is, which of your works are most agreeable to God.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
6. In the morning sow thy seed] Once again the enigmatic form, as in Ecclesiastes 11:2, is the touchstone of interpreters. It has been held to mean (1) that men are to seek sensual pleasures not in the morning of their youth only, but in the eventide of age, not to be afraid of begetting children, in or out of wedlock, in any period of their life; or (2) that man is to work, as we say, early and late, doing his appointed task, regardless of the chances of life; or (3) with a more specific application of the same general principle, that he is to sow the seed of good and kindly deeds, and wait for the harvest, the prospect of which is hidden from him. Of these (3) seems every way the truest and most satisfying interpretation. In “withdraw not thy hand,” and in the use of the two demonstrative pronouns (in the Hebrew, however, the same pronoun is repeated, this or this), we have a parallel to the thought and language of ch. Ecclesiastes 7:18. The whole precept is a call to activity in good, not unlike that of Him who said “I must work the works of Him that sent me, while it is called to day: the night cometh, when no man can work” (John 9:4); who taught men to labour in the vineyard, even though they were not called to begin their work till the eleventh hour when it was “toward evening, and the day far spent” (Matthew 20:1-16).

thou knowest not whether shall prosper] The ignorance of men as to the results of their labour, still more the apparent or the actual failure of their earlier efforts, tempts them too often to despondency and indolence. The maxim, like that of Ecclesiastes 11:6, bids them take comfort from that very ignorance. The seed sown in the morning of life may bear its harvest at once, or not till the evening of age. The man may reap at one and the same time the fruits of his earlier and his later sowing, and may find that “both are alike good.”Verse 6. - In the morning sow thy seed. Do not let your ignorance of the future and the inscrutability of God's dealings lead you to indolence and apathy; do your appointed work; be active and diligent in your calling. The labor of the farmer is taken as a type of business generally, and was especially appropriate to the class of persons whom Koheleth is instructing. The injunction occurs naturally after ver. 4. And in the evening withhold not thine hand. Labor on untiredly from morn till evening. It is not an advice to rest during midday, as that was too hot a time to work (Stuart), but a call to spend the entire day in active employment, the two extremities being mentioned in order to include the whole. Work undertaken in a right spirit is a blessing, not a curse, shuts out many temptations, encourages many virtues. Some see here a special reference to the maxim at the beginning of the chapter, as though the author meant, "Exercise thy charity at all times, early and late," the metaphor being similar 'to that in 2 Corinthians 9:6, "He which soweth sparingly," etc. Others find a figure of the ages of, man in the "morning and evening," thus, "From earliest youth practice piety and purity, and continue such conduct to its close." This leads naturally to the subject of the following section; but it may be doubted whether this thought was in the author's mind. It seems best to take the paragraph merely as commending activity, whether in business or in benevolence, without anxious regard to results which are in higher hands. "Withhold not thy hand," i.e. from sowing; Μὴ ἀφέτω ἡ χείρ σου (Septuagint). For thou knowest not whether shall prosper, which of the two sewings, either this or that, the morning or evening sowing. It is a chance, and a man must risk something; if one fails, the other may succeed. Or whether they both shall be alike good. The uncertainty rouses to exertion; labor may at any rate secure half the crop, or even give a double produce, if both sewings succeed. So in religion and morality, the good seed sown early and late may bear fruit early or late, or may have blessed results all along. The Vulgate is less correct, Et si utrumque simul, melius or, "And if both together, it will be better." "Curse not the king even in thy thought; and in thy bed-chamber curse not the rich; for the birds of the air carry away the sound, and the winged creature telleth the matter." In the Books of Daniel and Chronicles, מדּע, in the sense of γνῶσις, is a synon. of השׂכּל and חכמה; here it is rightly translated by the lxx by συνείδησις; it does not correspond with the moral-religious idea of conscience, but yet it touches it, for it designates the quiet, inner consciousness (Psychol. p. 134) which judges according to moral criteria: even (gam, as e.g., Deuteronomy 23:3) in the inner region of his thoughts

(Note: Hengst., not finding the transition from scientia to conscientia natural, gives, after Hartmann, the meaning of "study-chamber" to the word מדּע; but neither the Heb. nor the Aram. has this meaning, although Psalm 68:13 Targ. touches it.)

one must not curse the king (cf. Ecclesiastes 7:4.) nor the rich (which here, as at 6b, without distinction of the aristocracy of wealth and of birth, signifies those who are placed in a high princely position, and have wealth, the nervus rerum, at their disposal) in his bed-chamber, the innermost room of the house, where one thinks himself free from treachery, and thus may utter whatever he thinks without concealment (2 Kings 6:12): for the birds of the air may carry forth or bring out (Lat. deferrent, whence delator) that which is rumoured, and the possessor of a pair of wings (cf. Proverbs 1:17), after the Chethı̂b (whose ה of the art. is unnecessarily erased by the Kerı̂,

(Note: הכּן with unpointed He, because it is not read in the Kerı̂; similarly החנית (1 Samuel 26:22). Cf. Mas. fin. f. 22, and Ochla veochla, No. 166.)

as at Ecclesiastes 3:6, Ecclesiastes 3:10): the possessor of wings (double-winged), shall further tell the matter. As to its meaning, it is the same as the proverb quoted by the Midrash: "walls have ears."

(Note: Vid., Tendlau's Sprichwrter, No. 861.)

Geier thinks of the swallows which helped to the discovery of Bessus, the murderer of his father, and the cranes which betrayed the murderer of Ibycus, as comparisons approaching that which is here said. There would certainly be no hyperbole if the author thought of carrier-pigeons (Paxton, Kitto) in the service of espionage. But the reason for the warning is hyperbolical, like an hundred others in all languages:

"Aures fert paries, oculos nemus: ergo cavere

Debet qui loquitur, ne possint verba nocere."

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