Ecclesiastes 9:10
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, where you go.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(10) Thy hand findeth.—Leviticus 12:8; Judges 9:33; and margin, reff.

The grave.—Sheol (John 9:4).

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.9:4-10 The most despicable living man's state, is preferable to that of the most noble who have died impenitent. Solomon exhorts the wise and pious to cheerful confidence in God, whatever their condition in life. The meanest morsel, coming from their Father's love, in answer to prayer, will have a peculiar relish. Not that we may set our hearts upon the delights of sense, but what God has given us we may use with wisdom. The joy here described, is the gladness of heart that springs from a sense of the Divine favour. This is the world of service, that to come is the world of recompence. All in their stations, may find some work to do. And above all, sinners have the salvation of their souls to seek after, believers have to prove their faith, adorn the gospel, glorify God, and serve their generation.The works which we carry on here with the combined energies of body and soul come to an end in the hour of death, when the soul enters a new sphere of existence, and body and soul cease to act together. Compare John 9:4.

Device - See Ecclesiastes 7:25 note.

10. Whatsoever—namely, in the service of God. This and last verse plainly are the language of Solomon, not of a skeptic, as Holden would explain it.

hand, &c.—(Le 12:8, Margin; 1Sa 10:7, Margin).

thy might—diligence (De 6:5; Jer 48:10, Margin).

no work … in the grave—(Joh 9:4; Re 14:13). "The soul's play-day is Satan's work-day; the idler the man the busier the tempter" [South].

Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, what thou hast opportunity and ability to do in the duties of thy calling, and in order to thy comfort and benefit,

do it with thy might; with unwearied diligence, and vigour, and expedition; whereby he again discovers that he doth not persuade men to an idle and sensual life, but only to a sober enjoyment of his comforts in God’s fear, and with an industrious prosecution of his vocation.

There is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave; thou canst neither design nor act any thing there tending to thy own comfort or advantage; therefore slip not thine only season. Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do,.... Not anything that is evil, which is near at hand, and easy to be found, and is in the power of men's hands to do, Romans 7:21; for this is forbidden of God, abominable to him, and hurtful to men; but whatsoever is good; so the Targum,

"to do good and alms to the poor;''

even all good works in general, which God requires of men, and it is their duty to do; though they are not meritorious of anything at his hands, nor is there justification or salvation by them; yet should be done in obedience to the will of God, in gratitude to him for mercies received, and for his glory; as also for the profit of men, and for our own good; for the evidence of grace, and to preserve our characters from the insults and reproaches of men. Whatever is found written in the book of God should be done; not what is of a ceremonial kind, and now abolished, but everything of a moral nature, and of positive institution, under Gospel times; as all Gospel ordinances, and whatever falls within a man's calling: for every man has a work to do; in every station, as magistrates and subjects; in every relation, as husband and wife, parents and children, masters and servants; in every business of life men are called to; which they should attend, for the good of themselves and families, the relief of the poor, and the support of the interest of religion: and in religious things everyone has his work to do; the minister, in preaching and administering ordinances; the deacon, in taking care of the poor; private Christians, in praying in their closets and families, in hearing the word, making a profession of religion, and attending on ordinances; and, as opportunity serves, should do good to all men, especially to the saints, Galatians 6:10; and whatsoever is in the power of their hands, as this phrase signifies, Leviticus 12:8. Aben Ezra refers it to the delights and pleasures of life, such as before mentioned; which may be allowed, when used in a lawful and moderate manner;

do it with thy might; or "strength"; for though men have no might or strength of their own to do good, which is lost by sin; yea, even good men, of themselves, and without Christ, his spirit and grace, can do nothing spiritually good; yet there is strength in him, and to be had from him; and who should be applied to for it, and who gives it, Isaiah 40:29; the phrase denotes intenseness of spirit, vigour of mind, activity and fervency; doing that which is good, cheerfully and diligently, and not in a negligent careless manner; see Deuteronomy 6:5;

for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest; this, and not then, is our working time; good men at death cease from their labours in the grave, as the night in which no man can "work", Revelation 14:13; then the liberal man can no more "devise" liberal ways and means of doing good; his purposes of doing good are broken off; and no more plans can be laid, or designs formed, for the glory of God and the good of fellow creatures: and no more "knowledge" of objects to do good unto; nor any improvement in any kind of knowledge, natural or spiritual: nor "wisdom" and prudence in the management of affairs, to answer some good ends and purposes; nor opportunity of attaining that wisdom by the Scriptures, and by the ministry of the word, which make men wise unto salvation: and now, since every man is going to the grave, his long home, the place appointed for all living, and this, is the way of all flesh; and every step he has taken, and does take, is a step to the grave; therefore it is incumbent on him to do all the good he can in life.

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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
10. Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do] Here again men have interpreted the maxim according to their characters; some seeing in “whatsoever thy hand findeth” simply opportunities for enjoyment; others taking the precept as meaning practically, “do whatever thou hast strength to do, let might be right with thee;” others, as it seems, more truly, finding in it a call to work as well as enjoyment; to work as the condition of enjoyment (chs. Ecclesiastes 1:14, Ecclesiastes 5:12). It may be questioned whether the word for “work” is ever used of mere activity in sensual pleasure. For the phrase “whatsoever thy hand findeth” see the marginal reading of 1 Samuel 10:7; Jdg 9:33.

for there is no work, nor device] The words find a parallel, though in a far higher region, and with a far nobler meaning, in those which were spoken by the Son of Man, “I must work the works of Him that sent me while it is day: the night cometh when no man can work” (John 9:4). From the standpoint of the Debater the region behind the veil, if there be a region there, is seen as a shadow-world in which all the energies that belong to a man as a “being of large discourse looking before and after” are hushed in the deep sleep of death. The common saying, often in men’s mouths as if it came from the Bible, “There is no repentance in the grave,” is probably an echo of this passage. It is obvious, however, that the state of the dead which is in the writer’s thoughts approximates to a theory of annihilation rather than to that of a state of torment in which repentance is impossible or unavailing. The “grave” stands as elsewhere (Job 7:9; Psalm 6:5, et al.) for the Hebrew Sheôl, the Hades of the Greek, the unseen world of the dead. It is noticeable that this is the only passage in the book in which the word occurs.Verse 10. - Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might. In accordance with what has been already said, and to combat the idea that, as man cannot control his fate, he should take no pains to work his work, but fold his hands in resigned inaction, Koheleth urges him not to despair, but to do his part manfully as long as life is given, and with all the energies of his soul carry out the purpose of his being. The Septuagint gives, "All things whatsoever thy hand shall find to do, do it as thy power is (ὡς ἡ δύναμίς σου);" Vulgate, Quodcumque facere potest manus tua, instanter operate. The expression at the commencement may be illustrated by Leviticus 12:8; Leviticus 25:28; Judges 9:33, where it implies ability to carry out some intention, and in some passages is thus rendered, "is able," etc. (comp. Proverbs 3:27). It is therefore erroneous to render it in this place, "Whatever by chance cometh to hand;" or "Let might be right." Rather it is a call to work as the prelude and accompaniment of enjoyment, anticipating St. Paul's maxim (2 Thessalonians 3:10), "If any would not work, neither should he eat." Ginsburg's interpretation is dishonoring to the Preacher and foreign to his real sentiments, "Have recourse to every source of voluptuous gratification, while thou art in thy strength." The true meaning of the verse is confirmed by such references as John 9:4, "I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work;" 2 Corinthians 6:2, "Now is the accepted time; now is the day of salvation;" Galatians 6:10, "As we have opportunity, let us do good unto all men." For there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave. The departed have no more work which they can do, no plans or calculations to make; their knowledge is strictly limited, their wisdom is ended. It needs body and soul to carry on the labors and activities of this world; when these are severed, and can no longer act together, there is a complete alteration in the man's relations and capacities. "The grave," sheol (which is found nowhere else in Ecclesiastes), is the place to which go the souls of the dead - a shadowy region. Whither thou goest; to which all are bound. It is plain that the writer believes in the continued existence of the soul, as he differentiates its life in sheol from its life on earth, the energies and operations which are carried on in the one case being curtailed or eclipsed in the other. Of any repentance, or purification, or progress, in the unseen world, Koheleth knows and says nothing. He would seem to regard existence there as a sleep or a state of insensibility; at any rate, such is the natural view of the present passage. "For (to him) who shall be always joined to all the living, there is hope: for even a living dog is better than a dead lion." The interrog. אשׁר מי, quis est qui, acquires the force of a relative, quisquis (quicunque), and may be interpreted, Exodus 32:33; 2 Samuel 20:12, just as here (cf. the simple mi, Ecclesiastes 5:9), in both ways; particularly the latter passage (2 Samuel 20:11) is also analogous to the one before us in the formation of the apodosis. The Chethı̂b יבחר does not admit of any tenable meaning. In conformity with the usus loq., Elster reads מי אשר יבחר, "who has a choice?" But this rendering has no connection with what follows; the sequence of thoughts fails. Most interpreters, in opposition to the usus loq., by pointing יבחר or יבּחר, render: Who is (more correctly: will be) excepted? or also: Who is it that is to be preferred (the living or the dead)? The verb בּחר signifies to choose, to select; and the choice may be connected with an exception, a preference; but in itself the verb means neither excipere nor praeferre.

(Note: Luther translates, "for to all the living there is that which is desired, namely, hope," as if the text were יבחר מה אשׁר.)

All the old translators, with right, follow the Kerı̂, and the Syr. renders it correctly, word for word: to every one who is joined (שותף, Aram. equals Heb. חבר) to all the living there is hope; and this translation is more probable than that on which Symm. ("who shall always continue to live?") and Jerome (nemo est qui semper vivat et qui hujus rei habeat fiduciam) proceed: Who is he that is joined to the whole? i.e., to the absolute life; or as Hitzig: Who is he who would join himself to all the living (like the saying, "The everlasting Jew")? The expression ישׁ בּטּ does not connect itself so easily and directly with these two latter renderings as with that we have adopted, in which, as also in the other two, a different accentuation of the half-verse is to be adopted as follows:

כּי מי אשׁר יחבּר אל־כּל־החיּים ישׁ בּטּחון

The accentuation lying before us in the text, which gives a great disjunctive to יבחר as well as to הח, appears to warrant the Chethı̂b (cf. Hitzig under Ezekiel 22:24), by which it is possible to interpret יב ... מי as in itself an interrog. clause. The Kerı̂ יח does not admit of this, for Dachselt's quis associabit se (sc.,, mortius? equals nemo socius mortuorum fieri vult) is a linguistic impossibility; the reflex may be used for the pass., but not the pass. for the reflex., which is also an argument against Ewald's translation: Who is joined to the living has hope. Also the Targ. and Rashi, although explaining according to the Midrash, cannot forbear connecting אל כל־חה with יח, and thus dividing the verse at חה instead of at יח. It is not, however, to be supposed that the accentuation refers to the Chethı̂b; it proceeds on some interpretation, contrary to the connection, such as this: he who is received into God's fellowship has to hope for the full life (in eternity). The true meaning, according to the connection, is this: that whoever (quicunque) is only always joined (whether by birth or the preservation of life) to all the living, i.e., to living beings, be they who they may, has full confidence, hope, and joy; for in respect to a living dog, this is even better than a dead lion. Symmachus translates: κυνὶ ζῶντι βέλτιόν ἐστιν ἤ λέοντι τεθνηκότι, which Rosenm., Herzf., and Grtz approve of. But apart from the obliquity of the comparison, that with a living dog it is better than with a dead lion, since with the latter is neither good nor evil (vid., however, Ecclesiastes 6:5), for such a meaning the words ought to have been: chělěv hai tov lo min ha'aryēh hammeth.

As the verifying clause stands before us, it is connected not with ישׁ בּטּ, but with אל כּל־ה, of that which is to be verified; the ל gives emphatic prominence (Ewald, 310b) to the subject, to which the expression refers as at Psalm 89:19; 2 Chronicles 7:21 (cf. Jeremiah 18:16), Isaiah 32:1 : A living dog is better than a dead lion, i.e., it is better to be a dog which lives, than that lion which is dead. The dog, which occurs in the Holy Scriptures only in relation to a shepherd's dog (Job 30:1), and as for the rest, appears as a voracious filthy beast, roaming about without a master, is the proverbial emblem of that which is common, or low, or contemptible, 1 Samuel 17:43; cf. "dog's head," 2 Samuel 3:8; "dead dog," 1 Samuel 24:15; 2 Samuel 9:8; 2 Samuel 16:9. The lion, on the other hand, is the king, or, as Agur (Proverbs 30:30) calls it, the hero among beasts. But if it be dead, then all is over with its dignity and its strength; the existence of a living dog is to be preferred to that of the dead lion. The art. in 'הא הם is not that denoting species (Dale), which is excluded by hammēth, but it points to the carcase of a lion which is present. The author, who elsewhere prefers death and nonentity to life, Ecclesiastes 4:2., Ecclesiastes 7:1, appears to have fallen into contradiction with himself; but there he views life pessimistically in its, for the most part, unhappy experiences, while here he regards it in itself as a good affording the possibility of enjoyment. It lies, however, in the nature of his standpoint that he should not be able to find the right medium between the sorrow of the world and the pleasure of life. Although postulating a retribution in eternity, yet in his thoughts about the future he does not rise above the comfortless idea of Hades.

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