Ecclesiastes 9:1
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 knows either love or hatred by all that is before them.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
IX.

(1) No man knoweth.—If this verse stood by itself we should understand, “Man cannot know whether he will experience marks of the Divine favour, or the reverse;” but taking Ecclesiastes 9:6 into account, we understand of a man’s own love or hatred the objects of which he cannot tell beforehand.

By all.—Rather, all 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.9:1-3 We are not to think our searching into the word or works of God useless, because we cannot explain all difficulties. We may learn many things good for ourselves and useful to others. But man cannot always decide who are objects of God's special love, or under his wrath; and God will certainly put a difference between the precious and the vile, in the other world. The difference as to present happiness, arises from the inward supports and consolations the righteous enjoy, and the benefit they derive from varied trials and mercies. As far as the sons of men are left to themselves, their hearts are full of evil; and prosperity in sin, causes them even to set God at defiance by daring wickedness. Though, on this side death, the righteous and the wicked may often seem to fare alike, on the other side there will be a vast difference between them.A good man's trust in God is set forth as a counterpoise to our Ignorance of the ways of Providence.

In the hand of God - Under His special protection (Deuteronomy 33:3 ff) as righteous, and under His direction Proverbs 21:1 as people.

No man ... - literally, both love and also hatred man knoweth not: all are before them. Love and hatred here mean the ordinary outward tokens of God's favor or displeasure, i. e., prosperity and adversity. "Man knoweth not" probably means: "man knows not whether to expect prosperity or adversity from God; all his earthly future is in obscurity."

CHAPTER 9

Ec 9:1-18.

1. declare—rather, explore; the result of my exploring is this, that "the righteous, &c., are in the hand of God. No man knoweth either the love or hatred (of God to them) by all that is before them," that is, by what is outwardly seen in His present dealings (Ec 8:14, 17). However, from the sense of the same words, in Ec 9:6, "love and hatred" seem to be the feelings of the wicked towards the righteous, whereby they caused to the latter comfort or sorrow. Translate: "Even the love and hatred" (exhibited towards the righteous, are in God's hand) (Ps 76:10; Pr 16:7). "No man knoweth all that is before them."All things in the hand of God: his love or hatred not visible in them; but the like happeneth to good and bad in this life, and in death they know nothing hereof, and are themselves forgotten, Ecclesiastes 9:1-6. It is best therefore for a man to enjoy the gifts of God with cheerfulness, Ecclesiastes 9:7-9; to be diligent in his calling, Ecclesiastes 9:10, and leave the issue to God, Ecclesiastes 9:11,12. The praise of wisdom, Ecclesiastes 9:13-18.

For; or, therefore, as the seventy interpreters render it.

All this; all that I have said concerning the methods of Divine Providence towards good and bad men.

To declare all this; to make this evident, first to myself, and then to others, as occasion required.

The righteous and the wise; whom he mentions not exclusively, as if wicked men were not in God’s hand, for the next clause relates both to good and bad men; but eminently, because by the course of God’s providence towards them they might seem to be quite neglected and forsaken by God.

Their works; either efficiently, all their actions and employments; or objectively, all things done to them, all events which befall them.

Are in the hand of God; are subject to his power, and governed by his providence, as this phrase is used Proverbs 21:1 John 3:35, compared with Matthew 28:18. And therefore although we cannot fully understand the reasons of all God’s works, as he now said, Ecclesiastes 8:17, yet because they are done by his unerring hand, we may be assured that they are done both righteously and justly, and that no man hath cause to murmur at the prosperity of the wicked, or at the calamities of good men.

No man knoweth either love or hatred by all that is before them; no man can judge by their present and outward conditions or dispensations of God’s providence whether God loves or hates them, for whom he loves he chastens, and permitteth those whom he hates to prosper in the world. And this translation and interpretation agreeth well with the following verse. But I must confess it differs from almost all other, both ancient and modern, translations. And these words with the foregoing clause are translated otherwise, and that word for word according to the Hebrew, the righteous, and the wise, and their works, are in the hand of God; also love and hatred (understand out of the foregoing clause, are in God’s hand. And this may be meant either,

1. Of God’s love and hatred, which he disposeth when, and to whom, and in what manner he pleaseth. Or,

2. Of, men’s love and hatred, also their love and their hatred, the pronoun their being repeated out of the former clause, as is frequent in Scripture. And so the sense is, that not only men’s works, as he now said, but even their inward passions or affections, which seem to be most in their own power, are as much in God’s disposal as their outward actions. Then follows the last clause in the same order in which the words lie in the Hebrew text): no man knoweth all, or any thing, which is before him. Which I thus understand, whereas all men, and all their affections, and actions, and the events of them, are perfectly known to God, and disposed by him, men know nothing, no, not such things as are most plain, and easy, and familiar to them, and can neither foresee the plainest things, nor dispose of the smallest things as they please; but all things are wholly ordered and overruled by God’s providence, not as men imagine or desire, but as he sees fit.

For all this I considered in mine heart,.... What goes before, in the latter end of the preceding chapter, concerning the various providences of God, the difficulty of finding out the reasons of them, and the fruitlessness of attempting it; and also what follows, the work of Providence: Solomon gave his mind unto, attended it with great application, and strictly considered and examined it, in order to find it out, but could not; and if he could not, no other man could. And he had a good intention in all; his views were,

even to declare all this; for the end of search and inquiry should be, to make known what is found for the good of others, Job 5:27; and as the wise man had done before, Ecclesiastes 7:25; or "to purge", or "purify", as the word (p) signifies; to make dark providences clear, and consistent with the perfections and promises of God; to free and vindicate them from all charges of unrighteousness and partiality, and to set them in a clear light to others: now though he failed in his attempt, yet having made some discoveries, he imparted them, as follows: and the observations he made were,

that the righteous, and the wise, and their works, are in the hand of God; that those who are truly "righteous" in the sight of God; are so, in an evangelical sense, made so by the obedience of Christ; and who believe in him for righteousness, and live soberly, righteously, and godly: and who are "wise", not for the things of this world but another, who are wise unto salvation; and are concerned for the truth of grace, as well as an outward profession, and walk wisely in the world; these, their persons, are under the special care of divine Providence; they receive from the hand of God what is needful and proper for them, and they are preserved and protected by him, 1 Timothy 4:8; and their "works", or affairs; all events relating to them, are all appointed, ordered, and directed by the hand of God, and all for their good. In a more evangelic sense, their persons are in the hands of God, Father, Son, and Spirit; in the hands of the Father of Christ, being engraven there: he looks at them, and upon them; with delight and pleasure, and never forgets them; he has a high and honourable esteem of them, they are a crown of glory, and a royal diadem in his hand; he directs and guides them, holds them, and upholds them with his right hand; and keeps them, by his power, through faith unto salvation, John 10:29. They are in the hands of Christ; put there by his Father, as the effect of his love, care, and wisdom; where they are in his possession, the objects of his delight; and are under his guidance and direction, his care and protection, Deuteronomy 33:3. And they are in the hands of the Spirit, who begins and carries on his own work in them; leads them to Christ, and into all truth, and guides them safe to glory, John 16:8. And so their "works" also are in the hands of God; the work of grace upon the soul is in the hand of the Spirit, to carry it on and finish it; good works done by them are done by the assistance of divine grace, the strength of Christ, and the aid of the blessed Spirit; are received and accepted with God through Christ; and will not be forgotten, but are retained, and will be remembered another day; see Ecclesiastes 9:7;

no man knoweth either love or hatred by all that is before them; no man knows his own love and hatred, his passions are so fickle and inconstant; what he loves now, he presently hates, as may be seen in the instances of Ammon, Ahasuerus, and others: or he knows not that what he loves and hates shall befall him, all depending on divine Providence; or he does not know the love and hatred of others, who are his friends or his foes, there is such deceitfulness in men: or rather, he does not know the love and hatred of God, with respect to himself or others, by the outward conduct of Providence; since the same things happen to one as to another; as health and strength, wealth and riches, honour and fame, wisdom and learning, long life, and the like: good men may know that they are loved of God, by his love being shed abroad in them, by the blessings of grace bestowed on them, and the witnessings of the Spirit to them; and know that sin is abominable to God, and wicked men are hated by him; and living and dying in sin, will be eternally damned; but who is an elect person, and who a reprobate, is not to be known by the outward estate of men, as to the things of life. Some render it, "even love and hatred" (q), in connection with the preceding clause; that is, these are in the hands of God also; his love to his people is purely sovereign, according to his own will; not through any motives in them, as their love, loveliness, or good works; and his hatred of others, or the punishment of them for sin, and appointment of them to it; for the same is also as he pleases; see Romans 9:11; or the love and hatred of men; for God has the hearts and passions of all men in his hand, and at his command, and can raise or restrain them at his pleasure, Proverbs 21:1; the love and hatred of good men; he works in them love to himself and all divine things, and hatred of that which is evil; and also of bad men, he can make them love his people, and he can restrain their wrath when he pleases, Proverbs 16:7; and then the last clause is rendered, "no man knoweth all that is before them" (r); either before Elohim, the three divine Persons, to whom all things are manifest, or that were before decreed, as Aben Ezra; the purposes and decrees of God, which are the secret and deep things of God, and cannot be known but by his promises or providences: or man is so short sighted, that he cannot discern the things that are plain and manifest before him; and much less things future, that are yet to come. But the words, according to the accents, may be better rendered, as by Munster, "neither love nor hatred man knows"; whether the love professed to him is sincere, and what secret hatred is bore to him: "but all things are before him"; Elohim, the three divine Persons.

(p) "purgare", Gejerus, Gouge. (q) "etiam amor, etiam odium", i.e. "in manu Dei", De Dieu, Gouge, Gussetius, p. 150, 873. (r) "non norunt homines quicquam corum quaea ante se sunt", De Dieu; "non est homo quisquam qui cognoscat omnes qui sunt coram ipsi", Gussetius, p. 873.

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 {a} hatred by all that is before them.

(a) Meaning, what things he ought to chose or refuse: or man knows not by these outward things that is, by prosperity or adversity, whom God favours or hates, for he sends them as well to the wicked as to the godly.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
For all this I considered in my heart] More literally, For to all this I gave my heart to dig through, i.e. to explain and penetrate to the secret of the great enigma of life.

that the righteous, and the wise, and their works, are in the hand of God] The words hover, as it were, between the thought of Destiny and Providence, the latter, perhaps, slightly predominating. The wise and good need not despair, though they remain in ignorance of the working of the Divine Will. It is enough for them to know that they are in Its power, under Its care, and that It is in its essence as righteous as It is almighty.

no man knoweth either love or hatred] The words have been differently interpreted according as the “love” and “hatred” are referred to God or man. In the former case, the thought would be, that as things are, no man knows by the outward events of his life whether he is the object of God’s favour or displeasure, in the latter that no man knows who, as he passes through life, will be the objects of his love or hate. Both interpretations are tenable, but the former seems more in harmony with what follows. The latter has the interest of finding a parallel in the thought of Sophocles as to the mutability of human life:

φθίνει μὲν ἰσχὺς γῆς, φθίνει δὲ σώματος,

θνήσκει δὲ πίστις, βλαστάνει δʼ ἀπιστία,

καὶ πνεῦμα ταὐτὸν οὔ ποτʼ οὔτʼ ἐν ἀνδράσιν

φίλοις βέβηκεν, οὔτε πρὸς πόλιν πόλει.

τοῖς μέν γὰρ ἤδη, τοῖς δʼ ἐν ὑστέρῳ χρόνῳ

τὰ τερπνὰ πικρὰ γίγνεται καὖθις φίλα.

“Earth’s strength doth wither, withers strength of limb,

And trust dies out, and mistrust grows apace,

And the same spirit lasts not among them

Who once were friends, nor joineth state with state.

To these at once, to those in after years,

Sweet things grow bitter, then turn sweet again.”

Œd. Col. 610–615.

by all that is before them] Better, all is before them. i. e. as in what follows: all chances and changes of life coming from love or wrath, are possible in the future.Verses 1-6. - One fate happens to all, and the dead are cut off from all the feelings and interests of life in the upper world. Verse 1. - This continues the subject treated above, confirming the conclusion arrived at in Ecclesiastes 8:17, viz. that God's government of the world is unfathomable. For all this I considered in my heart even to declare all this; literally, for all this laid up in my heart, and all this I have been about (equivalent to I sought) to clear up. The reference is both to what has been said and to what is coming. The ki, "for" (which the Vulgate omits), at the beginning gives the reason for the truth of what is advanced; the writer has omitted no means of arriving at a conclusion. One great result of his consideration he proceeds to state. The Septuagint connects this clause closely with the last verse of the preceding chapter, "For I applied all this to my heart, and my heart saw all this." The righteous, and the wise, and their works, are in the hand of God (Psalm 31:15; Proverbs 21:1); i.e. in his power, under his direction. Man is not independent. Even the good and wise, who might be supposed to afford the plainest evidence of the favorable side of God's moral government, are subject to the same unsearchable law. The very incomprehensibility of this principle proves that it comes from God, and men may well be content to submit themselves to it, knowing that he is as just as he is almighty. No man knoweth either love or hatred. God's favor or displeasure are meant. Vulgate, Et tamen nescit homo, utrum amore an odio dignus sit. We cannot judge from the events that befall a man what is the view which God takes of his character. We must not, like Job's friends, decide that a man is a great sinner because calamity falls upon him, nor again suppose that outward prosperity is a proof of a life righteous and well-pleasing to God. Outward circumstances are no criterion of inward disposition or of final judgment. From the troubles or the comforts which we ourselves experience or witness in others we have no right to argue God's favor or displeasure. He disposes matters as seems best to him, and we must not expect to see every one in this world treated according to what we should deem his deserts (comp. Proverbs 1:32 with Hebrews 12:6). Delitzsch and others think that the expressions "love" and "hatred" are too general to admit of being interpreted as above, and they determine the sense to be that no one can tell beforehand who will be the objects of, his love or hate, or how entirely his feelings may change in regard of persons with whom he is brought in contact. The circumstances which give rise to these sentiments are entirely beyond his control and foresight. This is true enough, but it does not seem to me to be intended. The author is concerned, not with inward sentiments, but with prosperity and adversity considered popularly as indications of God's view of things. It would be but a meager assertion to state that you cannot know whether you are to love or hate, because God ordains all such contingencies; whereas to warn against hasty and infidel judgments on the ground of our ignorance of God's mysterious ways, is sound and weighty advice, and in due harmony with what follows in the next verses. The interpretation, "No man knows whether he shall meet with the love or hatred of his fellows," has commended itself to some critics, but is as inadmissible as the one just mentioned. By all that is before them. The Hebrew is simply, "all [lies] before them." All that shall happen, all that shall shape their destiny in the future, is obscure and unknown, and beyond their control. Septuagint, Τὰ πάντα πρὸ προσώπου αὐτῶν. The Vulgate mixes this clause with the following verse, But all things are kept uncertain for the future. St. Gregory, "As thou knowest not who are converted from sin to goodness, nor who turn back from goodness to sin; so also thou dost not understand what is doing towards thyself as thy merits deserve. And as thou dost not at all comprehend another's end, so art thou also unable to foresee thine own. For thou knowest now what progress thou hast made thyself, but what I [-God] still think of thee in secret thou knowest not. Thou now thinkest on thy deeds of righteousness; but thou knowest not how strictly they are weighed by me. Woe even to the praiseworthy life of men if it be judged without mercy, because when strictly examined it is overwhelmed in the presence of the Judge by the very conduct with which it imagines that it pleases him" ('Moral.,' 29:34, Oxford transl.). "Because a sinner doeth evil an hundred times, and he becometh old therein, although I know that it will go well with them that fear god, that fear before Him: but it will not go well with the wicked, and he shall not live long, like a shadow; because he feareth not before God." Ewald (whom Heiligst., Elst., and Zckl. follow), as among the ancients, e.g., Mendelssohn, translates Ecclesiastes 8:12 : "Though a sinner do evil an hundred times, and live long, yet I know," etc. That an antecedent may begin with asher is admissible, Leviticus 4:22; Deuteronomy 18:22; but in the case lying before us, still less acceptable than at Ecclesiastes 8:11. For, in the first place, this asher of the antecedent cannot mean "although," but only "considering that;" and in places such as Ecclesiastes 6:3, where this "considering that" may be exchanged with "although," there follows not the part., but the fut. natural to the concessive clause; then, in the second place, by this antecedent rendering of asher a closer connection of Ecclesiastes 8:12 and Ecclesiastes 8:12 is indeed gained, but the mediation of Ecclesiastes 8:12 and Ecclesiastes 8:11 is lost; in the third place, גם כי, in the meaning "however" (gam, ὃμως, with affirmative ki), is not found; not asher, but just this ki gam,

(Note: That גּם is pointed גּם, has its reason in the disjunctive Jethîb with כי, which is not interchanged with the conjunctive Mahpach. Thus, Ecclesiastes 8:1, כּ מי, and Ecclesiastes 8:7, כּ כּי.)

signifies, in the passage before us, as at Ecclesiastes 4:14, εἰ καί, although, - only a somewhat otherwise applied gam ki, Ewald, 362b, as כי על־כן is a somewhat otherwise applied על־כן כי. Rightly, Hitzig: "In Ecclesiastes 8:12, Ecclesiastes 8:11 is again resumed, and it is explained how tardy justice has such a consequence." The sinner is thereby encouraged in sinning, because he does evil, and always again evil, and yet enjoys himself in all the pleasures of long life. Regarding חטא for חטא, vid., above, p. 641, 1. מאת is equals פעמים מאה, an hundred times, as אחת, Job 40:5, is equals אחת פעם; Hengst. and others, inexactly: an hundredfold, which would have required the word מאתים; and falsely, Ginsburg, with the Targ.: an hundred years, which would have required מאה, scil. שׁנה, Genesis 17:17. This centies (Jerome) is, like מאה, scil. בנים, Ecclesiastes 6:3, a round number for a great many, as at Proverbs 17:10, and frequently in the Talm. and Midrash, e.g., Wajikra rabba, c. 27: "an hundred deeply-breathed sighs (מאה פעיות) the mother gave forth."

(Note: Vid., Jac. Reifmann in the Zeitsch., המגיד, 1874, p. 342.)

The meaning of לו וּמעריך לו is in general clear: he becomes therein old. Jerome, improbable: et per patientiam sustentatur, as Mendelssohn: he experiences forbearance, for they supply 'pow (Isaiah 48:9), and make God the subject. לּו is in any case the so-called dat. ethic.; and the only question is, whether the doing of evil has to be taken from רע עשׂה,

(Note: We expect these two words (cf. Genesis 31:12) with the retrogression of the tone; but as this ceases, as a rule, with Mercha before Tifcha and Pashta, Genesis 47:3; Exodus 18:5; Deuteronomy 4:42; Deuteronomy 19:4; Isaiah 10:14 (cf. the penult. accent of יאכל, Leviticus 22:10, Leviticus 22:10, Leviticus 22:19, and בּנה, Genesis 4:17, with the ult. accent Leviticus 22:14; Habakkuk 2:12), so with Mercha sometimes also before other disjunctives, as here before Tebr.)

as obj. to ומא: he practises it to him long, or whether, which is more probable, ימים is to be supplied after Ecclesiastes 8:13, so that האריך signifies to live long, as at Proverbs 28:2, to last long; the dat. ethic. gives the idea of the feeling of contentment connected with long life: he thereupon sins wantonly, and becomes old in it in good health.

That is the actual state of the case, which the author cannot conceal from himself; although, on the other hand, as by way of limitation he adds ki ... ani, he well knows that there is a moral government of the world, and that this must finally prevail. We may not translate: that it should go well, but rather: that it must go well; but there is no reason not to interpret the fut. as a pure indic.: that it shall go well, viz., finally, - it is a postulate of his consciousness which the author here expresses; that which exists in appearance contradicts this consciousness, which, however, in spite of this, asserts itself. That to ליר האל the clause אשׁר מלּ, explaining idem per idem, is added, has certainly its reason in this, that at the time of the author the name "fearers of God" [Gottesfrchitige] had come into use. "The fearers of God, who fear before (מלּפני, as at Ecclesiastes 3:14) Him," are such as are in reality what they are called.

In Ecclesiastes 8:13, Hitzig, followed by Elster, Burg., and Zckl., places the division at ימים: like the shadow is he who fears not before God. Nothing can in point of syntax be said against this (cf. 1 Chronicles 29:15), although אשׁר כּצּל, "like the shadow is he who," is in point of style awkward. But that the author did not use so rude a style is manifest from Ecclesiastes 6:12, according to which כצל is rightly referred to ימים ... ולא־. Is then the shadow, asks Hitzig, because it does not "prolong its days," therefore ימים קצר? How subtle and literal is this use of ימים! Certainly the shadow survives not a day; but for that very reason it is short-lived, it may even indeed be called קצר ימים, because it has not existence for a single day. In general, qetsel, ὡς σκιά, is applicable to the life of all men, Psalm 144:4, Wisd. 2:5, etc. It is true of the wicked, if we keep in view the righteous divine requital, especially that he is short-lived like the shadow, "because he has no fear before God," and that in consequence of this want of fear his life is shortened by his sin inflicting its own punishment, and by the act of God. Asher, Ecclesiastes 8:13, as at Ecclesiastes 8:11, Ecclesiastes 8:12, is the relative conj. Also in Ecclesiastes 8:14, אשׁר (שׁ) as a pronoun, and אשׁר (שׁ) as a conj., are mixed together. After the author has declared the reality of a moral government of the world as an inalienable fact of human consciousness, and particularly of his own consciousness, he places over against this fact of consciousness the actual state of things partly at least contradicting it.

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