Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
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.
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 come alike to all: there is one event to the righteous, and to the wicked; to the good and to the clean, and to the unclean; to him that sacrificeth, and to him that sacrificeth not: as is the good, so is the sinner; and he that sweareth, as he that feareth an oath.
2. All things … alike—not universally; but as to death. Ec 9:2-10 are made by Holden the objection of a skeptical sensualist. However, they may be explained as Solomon's language. He repeats the sentiment already implied in Ec 2:14; 3:20; 8:14.
one event—not eternally; but death is common to all.
sacrificeth—alike to Josiah who sacrificed to God, and to Ahab who made sacrifice to Him cease.
sweareth—rashly and falsely.
This is an evil among all things that are done under the sun, that there is one event unto all: yea, also the heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live, and after that they go to the dead.
3. Translate, "There is an evil above all (evils) that are done," &c., namely, that not only "there is one event to all," but "also the heart of the sons of men" makes this fact a reason for "madly" persisting in "evil while they live, and after that," &c., sin is "madness."
the dead—(Pr 2:18; 9:18).
For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope: for a living dog is better than a dead lion.
4. For—rather, "Nevertheless." English Version rightly reads as the Margin, Hebrew, "that is joined," instead of the text, "who is to be chosen?"
hope—not of mere temporal good (Job 14:7); but of yet repenting and being saved.
dog—metaphor for the vilest persons (1Sa 24:14).
lion—the noblest of animals (Pr 30:30).
better—as to hope of salvation; the noblest who die unconverted have no hope; the vilest, so long as they have life, have hope.
For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.
5. know that they shall die—and may thereby be led "so to number their days, that they may apply their hearts to wisdom" (Ec 7:1-4; Ps 90:12).
dead know not anything—that is, so far as their bodily senses and worldly affairs are concerned (Job 14:21; Isa 63:16); also, they know no door of repentance open to them, such as is to all on earth.
neither … reward—no advantage from their worldly labors (Ec 2:18-22; 4:9).
memory—not of the righteous (Ps 112:6; Mal 3:16), but the wicked, who with all the pains to perpetuate their names (Ps 49:11) are soon "forgotten" (Ec 8:10).
Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun.
6. love, and … hatred, &c.—(referring to Ec 9:1; see on Ec 9:1). Not that these cease in a future world absolutely (Eze 32:27; Re 22:11); but as the end of this verse shows, relatively to persons and things in this world. Man's love and hatred can no longer be exercised for good or evil in the same way as here; but the fruits of them remain. What he is at death he remains for ever. "Envy," too, marks the wicked as referred to, since it was therewith that they assailed the righteous (see on Ec 9:1).
portion—Their "portion" was "in this life" (Ps 17:14), that they now "cannot have any more."
Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works.
7. Addressed to the "righteous wise," spoken of in Ec 9:1. Being "in the hand of God," who now accepteth "thy works" in His service, as He has previously accepted thy person (Ge 4:4), thou mayest "eat … with a cheerful (not sensually 'merry') heart" (Ec 3:13; 5:18; Ac 2:46).
Let thy garments be always white; and let thy head lack no ointment.
8. white—in token of joy (Isa 61:3). Solomon was clad in white (Josephus, Antiquities, 8:7,3); hence his attire is compared to the "lilies" (Mt 6:29), typical of the spotless righteousness of Jesus Christ, which the redeemed shall wear (Re 3:18; 7:14).
ointment—(Ps 23:5), opposed to a gloomy exterior (2Sa 14:2; Ps 45:7; Mt 6:17); typical, also (Ec 7:1; So 1:3).
Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which he hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity: for that is thy portion in this life, and in thy labour which thou takest under the sun.
9. wife … lovest—godly and true love, opposed to the "snares" of the "thousand" concubines (Ec 7:26, 28), "among" whom Solomon could not find the true love which joins one man to one woman (Pr 5:15, 18, 19; 18:22; 19:14).
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.
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].
I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.
11. This verse qualifies the sentiment, Ec 9:7-9. Earthly "enjoyments," however lawful in their place (Ec 3:1), are to give way when any work to be done for God requires it. Reverting to the sentiment (Ec 8:17), we ought, therefore, not only to work God's work "with might" (Ec 9:10), but also with the feeling that the event is wholly "in God's hand" (Ec 9:1).
race … not to the swift—(2Sa 18:23); spiritually (Zep 3:19; Ro 9:16).
nor … battle to … strong—(1Sa 17:47; 2Ch 14:9, 11, 15; Ps 33:16).
favour—of the great.
chance—seemingly, really Providence. But as man cannot "find it out" (Ec 3:11), he needs "with all might" to use opportunities. Duties are ours; events, God's.
For man also 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.
12. his time—namely, of death (Ec 7:15; Isa 13:22). Hence the danger of delay in doing the work of God, as one knows not when his opportunity will end (Ec 9:10).
evil net—fatal to them. The unexpected suddenness of the capture is the point of comparison. So the second coming of Jesus Christ, "as a snare" (Lu 21:35).
evil time—as an "evil net," fatal to them.
This wisdom have I seen also under the sun, and it seemed great unto me:
13. Rather, "I have seen wisdom of this kind also," that is, exhibited in the way which is described in what follows [Maurer].
There was a little city, and few men within it; and there came a great king against it, and besieged it, and built great bulwarks against it:
14, 15. (2Sa 20:16-22).
bulwarks—military works of besiegers.
Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same poor man.
15. poor—as to the temporal advantages of true wisdom, though it often saves others. It receives little reward from the world, which admires none save the rich and great.
no man remembered—(Ge 40:23).
Then said I, Wisdom is better than strength: nevertheless the poor man's wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard.
16. Resuming the sentiment (Ec 7:19; Pr 21:22; 24:5).
poor man's wisdom is despised—not the poor man mentioned in Ec 9:15; for his wisdom could not have saved the city, had "his words not been heard"; but poor men in general. So Paul (Ac 27:11).
The words of wise men are heard in quiet more than the cry of him that ruleth among fools.
17. The words of wise, &c.—Though generally the poor wise man is not heard (Ec 9:16), yet "the words of wise men, when heard in quiet (when calmly given heed to, as in Ec 9:15), are more serviceable than," &c.
ruleth—as the "great king" (Ec 9:14). Solomon reverts to "the rulers to their own hurt" (Ec 8:9).
Wisdom is better than weapons of war: but one sinner destroyeth much good.
18. one sinner, &c.—(Jos 7:1, 11, 12). Though wisdom excels folly (Ec 9:16; 7:19), yet a "little folly (equivalent to sin) can destroy much good," both in himself (Ec 10:1; Jas 2:10) and in others. "Wisdom" must, from the antithesis to "sinner," mean religion. Thus typically, the "little city" may be applied to the Church (Lu 12:32; Heb 12:22); the great king to Satan (Joh 12:31); the despised poor wise man, Jesus Christ (Isa 53:2, 3; Mr 6:3; 2Co 8:9; Eph 1:7, 8; Col 2:3).