Ecclesiastes 3:1 - Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible

Bible Comments

From one point of view this section may be entitled In Praise of Opportunism, from another Human Helplessness. Every action in which man can engage has its allotted season, but who can be sure that he has found this season? God's plan can be known only in part, hence man's efforts to succeed are always liable to fail; nothing remains but to enjoy the present.

Ecclesiastes 3:1. purpose: read business or affair. In the Heb. the antitheses that follow are in parallel columns like a Greek sustoichia or Table of Contrasts.

Ecclesiastes 3:2. Untimely birth and untimely death are both abhorrent; human entrances and exits have their parallel in the agricultural operations of sowing and reaping. There is no need to compare Jeremiah 1:10; Zephaniah 2:4, though the Heb. word is the same.

Ecclesiastes 3:3 finds particular application in time of war.

Ecclesiastes 3:4 reminds us of Jesus-' parable of the children in the market-place and the contrast between Himself and John the Baptist.

Ecclesiastes 3:5 a. The best comment is 2 Kings 3:19-25 and Isaiah 5:2; others make it synonymous with Ecclesiastes 3:3 b. To take the casting as referring to the custom of throwing stones into a grave at a burial leaves the gathering unexplained.

Ecclesiastes 3:5 b has to do with the marital (or an illicit) relationship (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:29-31).

Ecclesiastes 3:6. The first clause refers to the acquisition (and loss), the second to the protection (and rejection) of property.

Ecclesiastes 3:7. rend may betoken sorrow and mourning or perhaps schism (1 Kings 11:30; cf. Matthew 10:34 f.); sew would then mean the return of joy or of unity (cf. Isaiah 58:12); silence and speech may also have to do with sorrow and joy.

Ecclesiastes 3:9. As often in this book, the positive question is a negative assertion. Man has to go the round of all these activities and experiences, yet he wins nothing from them. With Ecclesiastes 3:11 cf. Genesis 1:31; the word rendered beautiful will bear the translation fitting or appropriate. he hath set the world in their heart: for world mg. reads eternity; the Heb. word is that which is usually translated for ever. If we adopt this we must understand it of the soul's yearning after a larger, fuller, and clearer life than is possible on earth a yearning which does not amount to a belief in subsequent existence but only adds to the burden of present experience. But by reading the word with other vowels, - elem for - olam, we get the more intelligible meaning of something hidden or concealed, and may render it ignorance. God, jealous lest man should rival Him, has set ignorance in his heart (cf. Genesis 2:16 f., Genesis 3:5). Another slight change makes the word mean wisdom, but this is unlikely.

Ecclesiastes 3:12. Cf. Ecclesiastes 2:24; to do good: to enjoy life (cf. mg.).

Ecclesiastes 3:13 depends on the I know of Ecclesiastes 3:12. God's one good gift to man is the bit of healthy animal life which comes with the years of vigour (Barton).

Ecclesiastes 3:14. If this is Qoheleth's it means that there is no escape for man from the scheme of things, he wins no gain from the course of life, nothing except Epicurean enjoyment with the dread of God as a shadow in the background. But it may be from the hand of a pious annotator who make God's unchanging purpose the ground of man's trust in Him.

Ecclesiastes 3:15. Man is bound to the wheel of life; events pursue each other and repeat themselves (cf. Ecclesiastes 1:9), and he is but a puppet in the hands of the master showman.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-15

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