The Book of Ecclesiastes
James J. Barker
THE MYSTERIES OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE
- The Scofield Bible says the
theme of Ecclesiastes is “All is vanity” (cf. 1:2). For Ecclesiastes 9, Scofield says, “The
unfolding (of the theme) continued: in view of the world’s wrong standard of
- The key phrase, “under the
sun,” appears 34 times in the book of Ecclesiastes, and is found six times here
in chapter 9.
- The phrase “under the sun”
is one of the keys to understanding the book. It means that man’s search for truth is
often limited to this world and to this
- When reading the book of
Ecclesiastes, this key phrase, “under the sun,” should be constantly kept in
mind. Otherwise, some verses in the
book of Ecclesiastes will seem to contradict the rest of
- If the phrase, “under the
sun,” is not properly understood, the book of Ecclesiastes will seem to
advocate strange teachings. The
famous atheist Voltaire liked to quote verses from Ecclesiastes. False religious
cults also refer to it. They are adept in twisting Scripture out of
- For example, they pull out
verses, which deal with death and the afterlife, to deny the doctrine of the
eternal damnation of the wicked (cf. 9:10 and Scofield’s notes, p.
- This chapter deals
extensively with the mysteries of life and death. Much of it is from the perspective of
the man “under the sun.”
- Merrill Unger wrote that,
“God makes no trenchant distinction between the good and the bad (the sinner) in
His providential working in a world of vanity. But the mystery is that God is working
through these providences with a far-reaching purpose (cf. II Cor. 12:9, 10)”
(Unger’s Commentary on the OT).
- I have entitled tonight’s
message, “The Mysteries of Divine Providence.”
UNFAIRNESS OF DEATH
Death terminates all our
opportunities in this world (9:5) – “under the sun.” Now is the time to serve God, to work,
and to enjoy life. All these opportunities will end at death (9:10).
Our Lord said in John 9:4,
“I must work
the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when
no man can work.”
- Ecclesiastes 9 begins with
an important declaration. We are
all in the hands of God (9:1).
- Then Solomon says something
we would expect from a man “under the sun.” “No man knoweth either love or hatred by
all that is before them” (9:1b).
- Humanly speaking, this may
seem to be true. But the Bible
says, “We love him, because He first loved us” (I John
- Regarding the problem of
death, King Solomon says, “All things come (or “happen”) alike to all: there is
one event to the righteous, and to the wicked…”
- The word “event” (9:2) means
“outcome.” It does not mean “fate”
(NASB). “Fate” is a heathen
concept, and is contrary to the Bible.
- The Bible teaches that God
knows the future, but it does not teach that everything is
- In verse 2, Solomon deals
with the apparent unfairness of death.
It is difficult for us to understand why wicked sinners should share the
same “one event” with the righteous.
- But the “one event” referred
to in verses 2 and 3 is the grave (cf. verse 10). This is what we observe here “under the
sun” (9:3, 6, 9, 11, 13).
- Solomon is not speaking here
of what happens after death (cf. 9:4- 10). He does deal with the subject
of judgment elsewhere (cf. (Eccl. 3:17; 11:9; 12:13, 14).
- We all share a common
destiny on earth (the grave), but we do not all share a common destiny in
eternity (heaven or hell).
- There is an old saying,
“While there is life, there is hope.”
This is similar to Ecclesiastes 9:4. Matthew Henry said, “The meanest
beggar alive has that comfort of this
world and does that service to it which the greatest prince, when he is dead, is
utterly incapable of.”
Lost sinners (e.g., Donald
Trump) make great efforts to make themselves famous, but after they die they are
soon forgotten (9:5b). “Their inward thought is,
that their houses shall continue for ever, and their dwelling places to all
generations; they call their lands after their own names. Nevertheless man being in
honour abideth not: he is like the beasts that perish” (Psalm 49:11,
While we are here in this
world, God has given us food and drink, home and marriage, and many other
enjoyments. First Timothy 6:17
says, “God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy.” This is one of the great themes of the
book of Ecclesiastes (9:7-9; cf. 2:24; 3:12-14, 22; 5:18-20; 8:15;
“Work, for the night is coming;
Work through the morning
Work while the dew is sparkling;
Work ‘mid springing
Work while the day grows brighter,
Under the glowing sun;
for the night is coming,
When man’s work is done” -- Anna Coghill.
OF UNEXPECTED DEATH (9:11, 12)
- “But time and chance happeneth to them all” (9:11). “For man also knoweth not his time…”
- Regarding Ecclesiastes 9:11, one preacher said, “Who was swifter than
Asahel, who fell needlessly, smitten by the butt end of Abner’s spear (II Sam.
2:22, 23)? Who was stronger than
Samson, but who was weaker before women (Judges 16:19)? Who was wiser than Solomon, but who was
more indulgent in sin (I Kings 11:1-25)?
Who was more discerning than Ahithophel, but who was so easily supplanted
by Hushai and his foolish counsel (II Sam. 16:23; 17:5-14)? Who was more learned in all the ways of
the Egyptians than Moses, yet who also preempted every agency of justice in
rushing into murder (Exodus 2:11-15; Acts 7:22)?” (Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.,
Ecclesiastes: Total Life).
- Asahel, Samson, Ahithophel, and many others in the Bible learned that
“the sons of men (are) snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon
- None of us knows when we will leave this world, so we must live for God
and be prepared to meet Him at any time.
WISDOM IS OFTEN NOT APPRECIATED
- Ecclesiastes 9 concludes with an interesting parable. A “poor wise man” delivered the
little city, “yet no man remembered that same poor man” (9:15).
- Even though the wise man was “despised” by the “fools” (9:16-18), Solomon
concluded that “wisdom is better than strength” (9:16).
- “The words of wise men are heard in quiet more than the cry of him
that ruleth among fools” (9:17).
Often it is difficult to hear the words of the wised man because of all
the noise and clamor of fools.
- “Wisdom is better than weapons of war: but one sinner destroyeth much
- As I was preparing the end of this message, I was reminded of the email
report I received today from one of our missionaries in Bolivia.
- The “one sinner” (9:18) could refer to the communist president of
Bolivia, Evo Morales. Or perhaps
Mr. Morales’ friend and advisor, Hugo Chávez.
- Certainly these men are they that “ruleth among fools”