Ecclesiastes 3:18
I said in my heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts.
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Ecclesiastes 3:18. I said in my heart, &c. — And I further considered concerning their condition in this present world. That God might manifest them — God suffers these disorders among men, that he might discover men to themselves, and show what strange creatures they are, and what vile hearts they have. That they are beasts — That although God made them men, yet they have made themselves beasts by their brutish practices, and that, considered only with respect to the present life, they are as vain and miserable creatures as the beasts themselves.3:16-22 Without the fear of the Lord, man is but vanity; set that aside, and judges will not use their power well. And there is another Judge that stands before the door. With God there is a time for the redressing of grievances, though as yet we see it not. Solomon seems to express his wish that men might perceive, that by choosing this world as their portion, they brought themselves to a level with the beasts, without being free, as they are, from present vexations and a future account. Both return to the dust from whence they were taken. What little reason have we to be proud of our bodies, or bodily accomplishments! But as none can fully comprehend, so few consider properly, the difference between the rational soul of man, and the spirit or life of the beast. The spirit of man goes upward, to be judged, and is then fixed in an unchangeable state of happiness or misery. It is as certain that the spirit of the beast goes downward to the earth; it perishes at death. Surely their case is lamentable, the height of whose hopes and wishes is, that they may die like beasts. Let our inquiry be, how an eternity of existence may be to us an eternity of enjoyment? To answer this, is the grand design of revelation. Jesus is revealed as the Son of God, and the Hope of sinners.literally, I said in my heart with regard to the sons of men, it is that God may prove them and show them that they are beasts, they themselves. "Showing" is the reading of the Septuagint and Syriac: the present Hebrew text reads "seeing." The meaning is that the long delay of God's judgment Ecclesiastes 3:16-17 is calculated to show people that the brevity of their life renders them incapable of following out and understanding His distributive justice.18. estate—The estate of fallen man is so ordered (these wrongs are permitted), that God might "manifest," that is, thereby prove them, and that they might themselves see their mortal frailty, like that of the beasts.

sons of men—rather, "sons of Adam," a phrase used for "fallen men." The toleration of injustice until the judgment is designed to "manifest" men's characters in their fallen state, to see whether the oppressed will bear themselves aright amidst their wrongs, knowing that the time is short, and there is a coming judgment. The oppressed share in death, but the comparison to "beasts" applies especially to the ungodly oppressors (Ps 49:12, 20). They too need to be "manifested" ("proved"), whether, considering that they must soon die as the "beasts," and fearing the judgment to come, they will repent (Da 4:27).

I said in my heart; and further I considered with myself.

Concerning the estate of the sons of men; concerning their condition and deportment in this present world.

That God might manifest them; God suffers these horrible disorders among men, expressed Ecclesiastes 3:16, that he might discover men to themselves, and by permitting these actions show what strange creatures they are, and what vile hearts they have, which men would not otherwise understand or believe. See 2 Kings 8:13,14.

That they themselves are beasts, Heb. that they are beasts to themselves; either,

1. One to another, devouring and destroying one another. Or,

2. In their own judgment, or themselves being judges; that although God made them men or reasonable creatures, yet they have made themselves beasts by their brutish practices; and that men, considered only with respect unto the present life, which is the only thing valued and regarded by most men, and the vanity whereof is the principal subject of this book, are as vain and miserable creatures as the beasts themselves, the great differences between men and beasts being such as respect the other life. For men seem here to be called beasts in both these respects, and the latter he prosecutes more largely in the following verses. I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men,.... He thought of the condition of the children of men, their sinful and polluted state; he weighed and considered in his mind their actions, conversation, and course of life; and was concerned how it would go with them at the day of judgment on account of the same. Some render it, "I said in mine heart after the speech of the children of men" (r); speaking in their language, and representing the atheist and the epicure, as some think the wise man does in the following verses; though he rather speaks his own real sentiments concerning men, as they are in their present state, and as they will appear in the day of judgment;

that God might manifest them; or "separate them" (s); as the chaff from the wheat, and as goats from the sheep; as will be done at the day of judgment, Matthew 3:10; or "that they might clear God" (t); as they will, when he shall judge and condemn them;

and that they might see that they themselves are beasts; as they are through the fall, and the corruption of nature, being born like the wild ass's colt, stupid, senseless, and without understanding of spiritual things; nay, more brutish than the beasts themselves, than the horse and the mule that have no understanding, Psalm 32:9; "mulo inscitior", as is Plautus's (u) phrase; see Psalm 49:12, Isaiah 1:3; this is now made manifest to the people of God by the word and Spirit; is seen, known, and acknowledged by them, Psalm 73:21; and the wicked themselves will see, know, and own what beasts they are and have been, at the day of judgment; how they have lived and died like beasts; how like brute beasts they have corrupted themselves in things they knew naturally; and that as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, spoke evil of things they understood not, and perished in their own corruption, Jde 1:10, 2 Peter 2:12; and that they have been beasts to themselves, as Jarchi renders and interprets it; made beasts of themselves by their brutish gratifications; have been cruel to themselves, ruining and destroying their own souls; or among themselves, and to one another, "homo lupus homini"; hence wicked men are compared to lions, foxes, evening wolves, vipers, and the like. So Mr. Broughton renders it, "how they are beasts, they to themselves."

(r) "super verbum filiorum Adam", Montanus; "verbis hominum", Arabic and Syriac versions. (s) "ut discernat illos", Cocceius; "quia delegit eos", some in Vatablus; so Aben Ezra and Ben Melech. (t) "Ut ipsi expurgent Deum", Anglic. in Reinbeck; some in Rambachius render it thus, "ut seligant ipsi (homines) Deum"; so Varenius. (u) Cisteilaria, Acts 4.

I said in my heart concerning the state of the sons of men, that God might {h} tempt them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts.

(h) And made them pure in their first creation.

18. I said in mine heart] The word “estate” expresses fairly the meaning of the Hebrew noun, which may be rendered “word,” “matter,” or “subject.” In the next clause for “that God might manifest them,” we may better read, that God might separate, sift, or try them, i.e. in modern phrase, He leaves the disorders of the world unredressed, as part of man’s probation. This comes into the heart of the seeker as a partial explanation of the disorders noted in Ecclesiastes 3:16.

that they might see that they themselves are beasts] The pronoun in the original has, as in the English version, the strong emphasis of iteration, that they are beasts, they by themselves. The thought implied is that without a higher faith of some kind—whether in the Divine Righteousness or in Immortality, is not yet defined—Man stands, as having only an animal life, on the same level as other animals. In the words of an old English poet:

“Unless above himself he can

Erect himself, how poor a thing is man!”Verse 18. - The comfort derived from the thought of the future judgment is clouded by the reflection that man is as powerless as the beast to control his destiny. Concerning the estate of the sons of men; rather, it happens on account of the sons of men. God allows events to take place, disorders to continue, etc., for the ultimate profit of men, though the idea that follows is humiliating and dispiriting. The LXX. has περὶ λαλιᾶς, "concerning the speech of the sons of men." So the Syriac. The word dibrah may indeed bear that meaning, as it is also used for "word" or "matter;" but we cannot conceive that the clause refers solely to words, and the expression in the text signifies merely "for the sake, on account of," as in Ecclesiastes 8:2. That God might manifest them; rather, that God might test them; Ut probaret eos Dens (Vulgate). God allows these things, endures them patiently, and does not at once redress them, for two reasons. The first of these is that they may serve for the probation of men, giving them opportunity of making good or bad use of them. We see the effect of this forbearance on the wicked in Ecclesiastes 8:11; it hardens them in impenitence; while it nourishes the faith of the righteous, and helps them to persevere (see Daniel 11:35 and Revelation 22:11). And that they might see that they themselves are beasts. The pronoun is repeated emphatically, "that they themselves are [like] beasts, they in themselves." This is the second reason. Thus they learn their own powerlessness, if they regard merely their own animal life; apart from their relation to God and hope of the future, they are no better than the lower creatures. Septuagint. "And to show (τοῦ δεῖξαι) that they are beasts." So the Vulgate and Syriac. The Masoretic reading adopted in the Anglican Version seems best. "Thus I then perceived that among them (men) there is nothing better than to enjoy themselves, and indulge themselves in their life." The resignation would acquire a reality if לע טוב meant "to do good," i.e., right (lxx, Targ., Syr., Jer., Venet.); and this appears of necessity to be its meaning according to Ecclesiastes 7:20. But, with right, Ginsburg remarks that nowhere else - neither at Ecclesiastes 2:24, nor Ecclesiastes 3:22; Ecclesiastes 5:17; Ecclesiastes 8:15; Ecclesiastes 9:7 - is this moral rendering given to the ultimatum; also טוב ור, 13a, presupposes for לע טוב a eudemonistic sense. On the other hand, Zckler is right in saying that for the meaning of עשות תוב, in the sense of "to be of good cheer" (Luth.), there is no example. Zirkel compares εὖ πράττειν, and regards it as a Graecism. But it either stands ellipt. for לע לו טוב ( equals להיטיב לו), or, with Grtz, we have to read טוב לראות; in any case, an ethical signification is here excluded by the nearest connection, as well as by the parallels; it is not contrary to the view of Koheleth, but this is not the place to express it. Bam is to be understood after baadam, Ecclesiastes 2:24. The plur., comprehending men, here, as at Ecclesiastes 3:11, wholly passes over into the individualizing sing.

But this enjoyment of life also, Koheleth continues, this advisedly the best portion in the limited and restrained condition of man, is placed beyond his control: -

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