Ecclesiastes 3:1 - Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Bible Comments

Ecclesiastes 3:1. To every thing there is a season. The seasons of the year are four. But the Zodiac, Job 9., divides the times into twelve signs. In a similar manner are the labours of the husbandmen, the shepherds, and the gardeners divided: the text refers to the actions of men.

Ecclesiastes 3:11. He hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh. “Que l' homme puisse comprendre l' œuvre que Dieu a faite,” that man may comprehend the work that God hath made, from one end to the other; yea, that they may see the wisdom, love, and power of the Creator in all his works. This reading is preferable to the English version.

Ecclesiastes 3:14. I know that whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever. He will preserve the plants in the vegetable kingdom; the birds, beasts and fishes in the animal kingdom, with unremitting care: “none of them shall want his mate.” It is nevertheless a fact, we must confess, that many plants and living beings existed in the world before the flood, which now are nowhere to be found.

Ecclesiastes 3:21. Who knoweth the spirit of [the sons of] men that goeth upward: whether it return or ascend to God, as it descended from him at first. Genesis 2:7. This is a point the brutish man could not define, though Solomon himself had no doubt. He says in Ecclesiastes 3:17, that God shall judge the righteous and the wicked. He also affirms “that the spirit returns to God who gave it:” Ecclesiastes 12:7.


The natural or animal man, receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God. 1 Corinthians 2:14, He talks here of births and deaths, of sorrow and joy, of gain and loss, without any regard to God, or providence, or a future state. He sees no moral connection between the actions of men and their Maker. But Solomon draws a just conclusion, in advising a man to be happy in studying such works as are open to contemplation; to be happy in his labour, in his food, and family enjoyments, and to receive with hallowed delight the good things of the present life. While Solomon was contemplating the character of the brutish man, he saw in the bottom of his heart a source of wickedness which excited his indignation. I saw, he says, in the place of judgment, wickedness, bribery, and corruption. I saw in the place of righteousness, where equity should be done, iniquity defiling the hands of the judges. Therefore I said in my heart, God will judge the judges; that he would open out and make manifest their wickedness. My estimate was, that the sons of men are themselves but brutes, and shall perish like the beasts of the earth.

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?