Ecclesiastes 3:1
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
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(1) A season.—The word is only found in later Hebrew (Nehemiah 2:6; Esther 9:27; Esther 9:31), and in the Chaldee of Daniel and Ezra.

Purpose.—The use of the word here and in Ecclesiastes 3:17; Ecclesiastes 5:8; Ecclesiastes 8:6, in the general sense of “a matter,” belongs to later Hebrew. The primary meaning of the word is “pleasureor “desire,” and it is so used in this book (Ecclesiastes 5:4; Ecclesiastes 12:1; Ecclesiastes 12:10).

Ecclesiastes 3:1. To every thing, &c. — Solomon having mentioned God’s overruling providence in the latter end of the foregoing chapter, proceeds in this to illustrate the imperfection of human wisdom, which is confined to a certain season for all things that it would effect, which if we neglect, or let slip, all our contrivances signify nothing. He then shows that the utmost perfection at which our wisdom can arrive in this world, consists, 1st, In being contented with this order in which God hath placed all things, and not disquieting ourselves about that which it is not in our power to alter. 2d, In observing and taking the fittest opportunity of doing every thing, as the most certain means to tranquillity. 3d, In taking the comfort of what we have at present, and making a seasonable and legitimate use of it; and, lastly, in bearing the vicissitudes which we find in all human things with an equal mind; because they are ordered by a powerful, wise, and gracious Providence. These were the things he had suggested in the conclusion of the former chapter, and this may be considered as having a relation to every one of them. See Bishop Patrick. There is a season — A certain time appointed by God for its being and continuance, which no human wisdom or providence can alter. And by virtue of this appointment of God, all vicissitudes which happen in the world, whether comforts or calamities, come to pass; which is here added to prove the principal proposition, that all things below are vain, and happiness is not to be found in them, because of their great uncertainty, and mutability, and transitoriness, and because they are so much out of the reach and power of men, and wholly in the disposal of God. And a time to every purpose — Not only things natural, but even the voluntary actions of men, are ordered and disposed by God. But it must be considered, that he does not here speak of a time allowed by God, wherein all the following things may lawfully be done, but only of a time fixed by God, in which they are actually done.

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.Everything - More particularly, the actions of people (e. g. his own, Ecclesiastes 2:1-8) and events which happen to people, the world of Providence rather than the world of creation. It would seem that most of his own works described in Ecclesiastes 2:1-8 were present to his mind. The rare word translated "season" means emphatically "fitting time" (compare Nehemiah 2:6; Esther 9:27, Esther 9:31). CHAPTER 3

Ec 3:1-22.

Earthly pursuits are no doubt lawful in their proper time and order (Ec 3:1-8), but unprofitable when out of time and place; as for instance, when pursued as the solid and chief good (Ec 3:9, 10); whereas God makes everything beautiful in its season, which man obscurely comprehends (Ec 3:11). God allows man to enjoy moderately and virtuously His earthly gifts (Ec 3:12, 13). What consoles us amidst the instability of earthly blessings is, God's counsels are immutable (Ec 3:14).

1. Man has his appointed cycle of seasons and vicissitudes, as the sun, wind, and water (Ec 1:5-7).

purpose—as there is a fixed "season" in God's "purposes" (for example, He has fixed the "time" when man is "to be born," and "to die," Ec 3:2), so there is a lawful "time" for man to carry out his "purposes" and inclinations. God does not condemn, but approves of, the use of earthly blessings (Ec 3:12); it is the abuse that He condemns, the making them the chief end (1Co 7:31). The earth, without human desires, love, taste, joy, sorrow, would be a dreary waste, without water; but, on the other hand, the misplacing and excess of them, as of a flood, need control. Reason and revelation are given to control them.Every thing hath its time; in which, to enjoy it, and therewith do good to others, is our good, Ecclesiastes 3:1-13. God doth all according to his decree that we should fear him, and there is nothing new, Ecclesiastes 3:14,15. The vanity of unjust judgment; God is the great Judge of all, Ecclesiastes 3:16,17; and he will make men know that they are here but as brute beasts, Ecclesiastes 3:18-22.

A season; a certain thee appointed by God for its being and continuance, which no human wit or providence can prevent or alter. And by virtue of this appointment or decree of God, all the vicissitudes and changes which happen in the world, whether comforts or calamities, do come to pass; which is here added, partly, to prove what he last said, Ecclesiastes 2:24,26, that both the free and comfortable enjoyment of the creatures which some have, and the crosses and vexations which others have with them, are from the hand and counsel of God; partly, to prove the principal proposition of the book, that all things below are vain, and happiness is not to be found in them, because of their great uncertainty, and mutability, and transitoriness, and because they are so much out of the reach and power of men, and wholly in the disposal of another, to wit, God, who doth either give or take them away, either sweeten or embitter them, as it pleaseth him; and partly, to bring the minds of men into a quiet and cheerful dependence upon God’s providence, and submission to his will, and a state of preparation for all events.

To every purpose, or will, or desire, to wit, of man; to all men’s designs. attempts, and businesses. Not only natural, but even the free and voluntary actions of men, are ordered and disposed by God to accomplish his own purpose. But it must be considered, that he doth not here speak of a thee allowed by God, wherein all the following things may lawfully be done, which is wholly besides his scope and business; but only of a thee fixed by God, in which they would or should be done.

To every thing there is a season,.... A set determined time, when everything shall come into being, how long it shall continue, and in what circumstances; all things that have been, are, or shall be, were foreordained by God, and he has determined the times before appointed for their being, duration, and end; which times and seasons he has in his own power: there was a determined time for the whole universe, and for all persons and things in it; a settled fixed moment for the world to come into being; for it did not exist from everlasting, nor of itself, nor was formed by the fortuitous concourse of atoms, but by the wisdom and power of God; nor could it exist sooner or later than it did; it appeared when it was the will of God it should; in the beginning he created it, and he has fixed the time of its duration and end; for it shall not continue always, but have an end, which when it will be, he only knows: so there is a determined time for the rise, height, and declension of states and kingdoms in it; as of lesser ones, so of the four great monarchies; and for all the distinct periods and ages of the world; and for each of the seasons of the year throughout all ages; for the state of the church in it, whether in suffering or flourishing circumstances; for the treading down of the holy city; for the prophesying, slaying, and rising of the witnesses; for the reign and ruin of antichrist; for the reign of Christ on earth, and for his second coming to judgment, though of that day and hour knows no man: and as there is a set time in the counsels and providence of God for these more important events, so for every thing of a lesser nature;

and a time to every purpose under the heaven; to every purpose of man that is carried into execution; for some are not, they are superseded by the counsel of God; some obstruction or another is thrown in the way of them, so that they cannot take place; God withdraws men from them by affliction or death, when their purposes are broken; or by some other way; and what are executed he appoints a time for them, and overrules them to answer some ends of his own; for things the most contingent, free, and voluntary, fall under the direction and providence of God. And there is a time for every purpose of his own; all things done in the world are according to his purposes, which are within himself wisely formed, and are eternal and unfrustrable; and there is a time fixed for the execution of them, for every purpose respecting all natural and civil things in providence; and for every purpose of his grace, relating to the redemption of his people, the effectual calling of them, and the bringing them to eternal glory; which are the things that God wills, that he takes delight and pleasure in, as the word (e) signifies. The Septuagint and Vulgate Latin versions render it, "to everything under the heaven there is a time"; and Jarchi observes that in the Misnic language the word used so signifies. The Targum is,

"to every man a time shall come, and a season to every business under heaven.''

(e) "omni voluntati", Montanus, Mercerus, Cocceius; i.e. "rei proprie capitae ac desideratae", Drusius.

To every thing there is a {a} season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

(a) He speaks of this diversity of time for two causes first to declare that there is nothing in this world perpetual: next to teach us not to be grieved, if we have not all things at once according to our desires, neither enjoy them so long as we would wish.

1. To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose] The two Hebrew nouns stand to each other in much the same relation as the Greek χρόνος and καιρός, the former expressing a period of duration, the latter the appointed time at which an event happens. Accepting this view, the words “season” and “time” in the A. V. ought, perhaps, to change places. The thought is one of which we find an echo in the maxim of Pittacus, Καιρὸν γνῶθι—“Know the right season for everything” (Diog. Laert. i. 4, § 6). It is significant, in connexion with the conclusion maintained in the Introduction, Ch. iii., that Demetrius Phalereus, the librarian of Ptolemy Philadelphus, wrote a treatise, περὶ καιροῦ, of opportuneness (Diog. Laert. Ecclesiastes 3:5 § 9). So Theognis, (402), Μηδὲν ἄγαν σπεύδειν, καιρὸς δʼ ἐπὶ πάσιν ἄριστος, “Do nothing in excess, In all we do is the right season precious.” So here the thought with which the new section opens is that it is wisdom to do the right thing at the right time, that inopportuneness is the bane of life. The survey of human occupations and interests that follows has a striking parallel in the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius (iv. 32), who, from his Stoic standpoint, sees in their perpetual recurrence, evidence of the monotonous iteration of the phenomena of man’s life, analogous to that of the phenomena of Nature.

Verses 1-22. - Section 4. In confirmation of the truth that man's happiness depends upon the will of God, Koheleth proceeds to show how Providence arranges even the minutest concerns; that man can alter nothing, must make the best of things as they are, bear with anomalies, bounding his desires by this present life. Verses 1-8. - The providence of God disposes and arranges every detail of man's life. This proposition is stated first generally, and then worked out in particular by means of antithetical sentences. In Hebrew manuscripts and most printed texts vers. 2-8 are arranged in two parallel columns, so that one "time" always stands under another. A similar arrangement is found in Joshua 12:9, etc., containing the catalogue of the conquered Canaanite kings; and in Esther 9:7, etc., giving the names of Haman's tensions. In the present passage we have fourteen pairs of contrasts, ranging from external circumstances to the inner affections of man's being. Verse 1. - To every thing there is u season, and a time to every purpose under heaven. . "Season" and "time" are rendered by the LXX. καιρός and χρόνος. The word for "season" (zeman), denotes a fixed, definite portion of time; while eth, "time," signifies rather the beginning of a period, or is used as a general appellation. The two ideas are sometimes concurrent in the New Testament; e.g., Acts 1:7; 1 Thessalonians 5:1 (comp. also Daniel 2:21, where the Septuagint has καιροὺς καὶ χρόνοις; and Daniel 7:12, where we find the singular καιροῦ καὶ καιροῦ in Theodotion, and χρόνου καὶ καιροῦ in the Septuagint). So in Wisd. 8:8, "wisdom to foreseeth signs and wonders, and the events of seasons and times (ἐκβάσεις καιρῶν καὶ χρόνων)." Every thing refers especially to men's movements and actions, and to what concerns them. Purpose; chephets, originally meaning "delight," "pleasure," in the later Hebrew came to signify "business," "thing," "matter." The proposition is - In human affairs Providence arranges the moment when everything shall happen, the duration of its operation, and the time appropriate thereto. The view of the writer takes in the whole circumstances of men's life from its commencement to its close. But the thought is not, as some have opined, that there is naught but uncertainty, fluctuation, and imperfection in human affairs, nor, as Plumptre conceives, "It is wisdom to do the right thing at the right time, that inopportuneness is the bane of life," for many of the circumstances mentioned, e.g. birth and death, are entirely beyond men's will and control, and the maxim, Καιρὸν γνῶθι, cannot apply to man in such cases. Kobeleth is confirming his assertion, made in the last chapter, that wisdom, wealth, success, happiness, etc., are not in man's hands, that his own efforts can secure none of them - they are distributed at the will of God. He establishes this dictum by entering into details, and showing the ordering of Providence and the supremacy of God in all men's concerns, the most trivial as well as the most important. The Vulgate gives a paraphrase, and not a very exact one, Omnia tempus habeat, et suis spatiis transenat universa sub caelo. Koheleth intimates, without attempting to reconcile, the great crux of man's free-will and God's decree. Ecclesiastes 3:1"Everything has its time, and every purpose under the heavens its hour." The Germ. language is poor in synonyms of time. Zckler translates: Everything has its Frist ..., but by Frist we think only of a fixed term of duration, not of a period of beginning, which, though not exclusively, is yet here primarily meant; we have therefore adopted Luther's excellent translation. Certainly זמן (from זמן, cogn. סמן, signare), belonging to the more modern Heb., means a Frist (e.g., Daniel 2:16) as well as a Zeitpunkt, point of time; in the Semit. (also Assyr. simmu, simanu, with ס) it is the most common designation of the idea of time. עת is abbreviated either from ענת (ועד, to determine) or from ענת (from ענה, cogn. אנה, to go towards, to meet). In the first case it stands connected with מועד on the one side, and with עדּן (from עדד, to count) on the other; in the latter case, with עונה, Exodus 21:10 (perhaps also ען and ענת in כען, כּענת). It is difficult to decide this point; proportionally more, however, can be said for the original ענת (Palest.-Aram. ענתּא), as also the prep. of participation את is derived from אנת (meeting, coming together).

(Note: Vid., Orelli's work on the Heb. Synon. der Zeit u. Ewigkeit, 1871. He decides for the derivation from ועד morf ; Fleischer (Levy's Chald. W.B. II. 572) for the derivation from ענה, the higher power of אנה, whence (Arab.) inan, right time. We have, under Job 24:1, maintained the former derivation.)

The author means to say, if we have regard to the root signification of the second conception of time - (1) that everything has its fore-determined time, in which there lies both a determined point of time when it happens, and a determined period of time during which it shall continue; and (2) that every matter has a time appointed for it, or one appropriate, suitable for it. The Greeks were guided by the right feeling when they rendered זמן by χρόνος , and עת by καιρός.

Olympiodorus distinguishes too sharply when he understands the former of duration of time, and the latter of a point of time; while the state of the matter is this, that by χρόνος the idea comprehends the termini a quo and ad quem, while by καιρός it is limited to the terminus a quo. Regarding חפץ, which proceeds from the ground-idea of being inclined to, and intention, and thus, like πρᾶγμα and χρῆμα, to the general signification of design, undertaking, res gesta, res.

The illustration commences with the beginning and the ending of the life of man and (in near-lying connection of thought) of plants.

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