Ecclesiastes 3:21
Parallel Verses
New American Standard Bible
Who knows that the breath of man ascends upward and the breath of the beast descends downward to the earth?

King James Bible
Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?

Darby Bible Translation
Who knoweth the spirit of the children of men? Doth it go upwards? and the spirit of the beasts, doth it go downwards to the earth?

World English Bible
Who knows the spirit of man, whether it goes upward, and the spirit of the animal, whether it goes downward to the earth?"

Young's Literal Translation
Who knoweth the spirit of the sons of man that is going up on high, and the spirit of the beast that is going down below to the earth?

Ecclesiastes 3:21 Parallel
Barnes' Notes on the Bible

The King James Version of this verse is the only rendering which the Hebrew text, as now pointed, allows. It is in accordance with the best Jewish and many modern interpreters. A slightly different pointing would be requisite to authorize the translation, "Who knows the spirit of the sons of man whether it goes above, and, the spirit of the beast whether it goes down below?" etc., which, though it seems neither necessary nor suitable, is sanctioned by the Septuagint and other versions and by some modern interpreters.

Who knoweth - This expression (used also in Ecclesiastes 2:19; Ecclesiastes 6:12) does not necessarily imply complete and absolute ignorance. In Psalm 90:11, it is applied to what is partially understood: compare similar forms of expression in Proverbs 31:10; Psalm 94:16; Isaiah 53:1. Moreover, it is evident from marginal references that Solomon did not doubt the future existence and destination of the soul. This verse can only be construed as a confession of much ignorance on the subject.

Ecclesiastes 3:21 Parallel Commentaries

For what Christian Men of Our Time Being Free from the Marriage Bond...
15. For what Christian men of our time being free from the marriage bond, having power to contain from all sexual intercourse, seeing it to be now "a time," as it is written, "not of embracing, but of abstaining from embrace," [1977] would not choose rather to keep virginal or widowed continence, than (now that there is no obligation from duty to human society) to endure tribulation of the flesh, without which marriages cannot be (to pass over in silence other things from which the Apostle spares.)
St. Augustine—On the Good of Marriage

The Conclusion of the Matter
'Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them; 2. While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain; 3. In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened, 4. And the doors shall be shut in
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

It is not surprising that the book of Ecclesiastes had a struggle to maintain its place in the canon, and it was probably only its reputed Solomonic authorship and the last two verses of the book that permanently secured its position at the synod of Jamnia in 90 A.D. The Jewish scholars of the first century A.D. were struck by the manner in which it contradicted itself: e.g., "I praised the dead more than the living," iv. 2, "A living dog is better than a dead lion," ix. 4; but they were still more
John Edgar McFadyen—Introduction to the Old Testament

Cross References
Deuteronomy 28:13
"The LORD will make you the head and not the tail, and you only will be above, and you will not be underneath, if you listen to the commandments of the LORD your God, which I charge you today, to observe them carefully,

Ecclesiastes 12:7
then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.

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