The Book of Ecclesiastes
James J. Barker

Lesson 12



  1. In Ecclesiastes 11 & 12, King Solomon comes to his conclusion (cf. 12:13, 14).
  2. In the beginning of this book, Solomon declared that life was vanity. Life was monotonous and tedious. Life was unprofitable.
  3. Nothing satisfied Solomon in his search for happiness and wisdom and pleasure and money.
  4. “I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit” (1:14).
  5. But as the book develops we see that Solomon came to understand that life indeed was vanity and unprofitable – if God was left out.
  6. Solomon understood that God makes the difference between a joyful life and an empty life.
  7. “For God giveth to a man that is good in his sight wisdom, and knowledge, and joy: but to the sinner he giveth travail” (2:26).
  8. “He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world {eternity} in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end” (3:11).
  9. Therefore, for the child of God, life is not tedious or monotonous. It is exciting and full of interesting challenges.
  10. We saw in Ecclesiastes 9, the mysteries of divine providence. In chapter 11 we see the blessings of divine providence. We still do not understand all that God is doing. Four times in chapter 11, Solomon says, “Thou knowest not” (11:2, 5, 6).
  11. We may not understand all that God is doing, we do know He is working all things out for our good.



  1. Solomon has already taught that selfishness is foolish (5:10-12; 6:1, 2).
  2. Therefore, the wise thing to do is to be generous (11:1, 2).
  3. We have a choice: we can either be selfish and self-centered, or we can be generous and try and help others. The Bible teaches that is far better to be generous.
  4. Our Lord said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
  5. The picture of a man throwing his bread (or grain) upon the waters (11:1) is similar to the picture of a man sowing seed. The Bible guarantees us a wonderful return “after many days” (11:1).
  6. Proverbs 19:17 says, “He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the LORD; and that which he hath given will He pay him again.”
  7. This is also the idea behind the parable of the unjust steward (cf. Luke 16:19).
  8. The clouds emptying themselves upon the earth (11:3) picture the abundant blessings of God.

    God moves in a mysterious way,
    His wonders to perform;
    He plants his footsteps in the sea,
    And rides upon the storm.

    Deep in unfathomable mines
    Of never failing skill,
    He treasures up his bright designs,
    And works his sovereign will.

    Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,
    The clouds ye so much dread
    are big with mercy, and shall break
    In blessings on your head.

    Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
    But trust him for his grace;
    Behind a frowning providence,
    He hides a smiling face.

    His purposes will ripen fast,
    Unfolding every hour;
    The bud may have a better taste,
    But sweet will be the flower.

    Blind unbelief is sure to err,
    And scan his work in vain;
    God is his own interpreter,
    And he will make it plain – William Cowper.

  9. Clouds are always moving, whereas trees are somewhat permanent.  Nevertheless, we do not know when a tree will fall.  Only God does (11:3).



  1. Sometimes our circumstances (e.g., bad weather) seem adverse, but we must still go to work (11:4).
  2. God’s ways are beyond our ways (11:5). Therefore we must trust Him at all times. These verses suggest that there are risks in this life, but those who dare to run the risks are those who succeed.
  3. Those who accomplish great things for God are those who those who go forward, trusting in God. They do not worry about risks or cloudy weather (11:4).
  4. Our Lord said to Nicodemus, “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8).
  5. King Solomon said, “As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all” (11:5).
  6. This Scripture also reminds us of Psalm 139:13—16.
  7. Four times, King Solomon says, “thou knowest not.” But that is not the key phrase here. The key phrase is in verse 6 – “withhold not thine hand.” We should keep busy, knowing everything is in God’s hands.
  8. We do not know what tomorrow holds in store so in the meantime we must work hard. First Corinthians 10:31 says, “Whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”
  9. King Solomon says, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might” (Eccl. 9:10).
  10. One preacher said that God “has given us the knowledge of the broad spectrum of His plan” (Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. Ecclesiastes: Total Life). We do not know all of the details. So we must keep busy and trust Him to guide us.



  1. We often take things for granted. It is a blessing to be able to look up and see the sun (11:7).
  2. “The vanity of the earth and man under the curse with his present trials should not blind us to the fact that life is a blessing and an opportunity for receiving and doing good” – Merrill Unger.
  3. After this word of blessing, Solomon gives a warning (11:8). We must appreciate the sunny days, because the dark days “shall be many.”
  4. Youth is generally a carefree and enjoyable time (11:9). Not a time for sin and worldly pleasures – “for all these things God will bring thee into judgment” (11:9b), but a time for good, clean fun.
  5. Life is to be enjoyed – but in line with the Bible.
  6. In verse 10, Solomon is not saying that childhood and youth are unimportant or meaningless.  He means they are transient and fleeting.  They go by very quickly and must not be wasted.
  7. Benjamin Franklin said, “Lost time is never found again.”



We are reminded again of that familiar poem. “Only one life. ‘twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.”

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