Ecclesiastes 3:1 - G. Campbell Morgan's Exposition on the Whole Bible

Bible Comments

The vanity of life under the sun is evidenced not merely in the experience of the preacher himself, but in the wider outlook which he has been able to take. He now gives us some of the results of that learning in the process of which he had found no personal satisfaction. And first he speaks in greater detail of that mechanism of the universe to which he had referred at the opening of his discourse. There is everywhere a ceaseless routine. Though we have often read some parts of his description as though they were the words of wisdom, there is no doubt that his ceaseless reiteration of the words, "A time... a time... a time," are intended to indicate his sense of the monotony of things, rather than of their variety. Through all experiences men have to pass because the time comes for them so to do. The doctrine of God deduced from such a conception of the universe is of a Being who is absolutely inexorable, and from whom there can be no escape. He is One who has set eternity in the heart of man, that is, created deep and passionate longings there, and yet has given to man no capacity for finding the thing for which he seeks; and, moreover, there is no escape from this inexorable order. The issue of all this is confusion rather than order. In the place of judgment and of righteousness wickedness exists; and the conclusion is that, after all, man is no better than the beasts.

It must be remembered that all this is absolutely true in the case of men who have no commerce with God through revelation. To discover Him in the universe, and recognize Him is not to be at peace with Him; but to be filled rather with the sense of the vanity of all things, and the impossibility of escape.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-22

1 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

6 A time to get,a and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

7 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

9 What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth?

10 I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it.

11 He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.

12 I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life.

13 And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God.

14 I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him.

15 That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past.b

16 And moreover I saw under the sun the place of judgment, that wickedness was there; and the place of righteousness, that iniquity was there.

17 I said in mine heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked: for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work.

18 I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that Godc might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts.

19 For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity.

20 All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.

21 Who knoweth the spirit of mand that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?

22 Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better, than that a man should rejoice in his own works; for that is his portion: for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him?