Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
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 hatred by all that is before them.CHAPTER 9
1. The common fate (Ecclesiastes 9:1-6)
2. Make the best of life (Ecclesiastes 9:7-10)
3. The great uncertainty (Ecclesiastes 9:11-12)
Ecclesiastes 9:1-6. Here is another conclusion. The righteous and the wise with their works are in the hands of God. One event is in store for all, for the righteous, the wicked, the good, the clean, the unclean, the one who sacrificeth and the one who sacrificeth not--the grave is the one common goal. In that goal there is the end of all human toil and ambition. But even with this knowledge that all go one way, and the certainty of it, man does not reckon with it at all; “the heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live.” They live on with madness in the heart; then comes death. Surely reason, dark reason, says “a living dog is better than a dead lion”; the dead lion has nothing left of all his majestic awe, but if man is alive, though he be as a dog, it is the better thing. Surely everything here is pessimism gone to seed. And what in this darkening perplexity does the searcher have to say about the dead? “The dead know not anything, neither have they any more reward; for the memory of them is forgotten” (Ecclesiastes 9:5). And again, “There is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave (Sheol) whither thou goest.” But is this the truth? Is this a doctrine of the faith delivered unto the saints? Is this the revelation of God? A thousand times, No! It is the verdict which the natural man, pagan or infidel philosopher, pronounceth. But revelation, the life and immortality brought to light by the gospel, tells us something entirely different. Yet these sentences penned when the searcher finds himself in the most despairing condition, are used by men and women, who claim to be Christians, to prove the abominable doctrines of “soul-sleep,” that after death the soul plunges into a state of unconsciousness, and that the wicked are annihilated. Christian doctrine? NO! but paganism, and a denial of the revelation from above the sun.
Ecclesiastes 9:7-10. Therefore, because “death ends it all,” that unbelievable conclusion of the natural man, make the best of life. Feast well and enjoy your wine, be sure and let the wine of earthly joys make your heart merry. Dress spotlessly in the heights of fashion; be well groomed; put ointment on your head. Have a good time with your wife; enter into everything energetically--for a little while longer and you reach the common fate. Is this also “revelation” for faith to follow, or is there something better from above the sun? The New Testament answers blessedly this question.
Ecclesiastes 9:11-12. He returns-to speak another word. Even this is not satisfying. A man knoweth not his time, “As the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare, so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them.”
This wisdom have I seen also under the sun, and it seemed great unto me:2. Praise of Wisdom and Philosophy, theFinal Word and the Great Conclusion
Before he had declared that wisdom is strength. He comes back to this statement and gives an illustration of it. He is in a calmer mood, but what does his meditation amount to? Only to show that this also is vanity.