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, 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.
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 God 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 man 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?1
1 Every thing has its time and season. God by his providence governs the world, and has determined particular things and operations to particular times. In those times such things may be done with propriety and success. However if we neglect the appointed seasons we sin against this providence and become the authors of our own distresses. God has given to man that portion of duration called time; the space in which all the operations of nature, of animals, and intellectual beings, are carried on. But while nature is steady in its course, and animals faithful to their instincts, man devotes it to a great variety of purposes, very frequently to that for which God never made time, space, or opportunity.2
2 It is worthy of remark, that in the list of events to verse 8, there are but two things which may be said to be done generally by the disposal of God, and in which men can have but little influence: the time of birth, and the time of death. All the others are left to the option of man, though God continues to overrule them by his providence.2 There is a time to plant or sow in season, another time to pluck up or reap. To plant out of season is vanity.3 There comes a time when even the finest fruit trees must be cut down.4
3 There is a right time to kill. Commentators disagree whether Solomon here refers to war or to other circumstances. It is possible that he is speaking of the execution of criminals, or he may be thinking of an injured domestic animal.4 Killing through malice is murder and out of God's time and order.3 Medicines when used out of season, that is, at the wrong time or for an unintended purpose, can lead to sickness or death. However if correctly applied in a timely manner can restore health.2 There is a time to break down; for example there comes a time when old buildings must be demolished and more convenient ones put up in their stead.4
4 It is a good thing at times to allow pent-up emotions to express themselves when men have just occasion.4 Laughter has been compared to a good medicine. There is a time to mourn for the dead. In ancient times dancing was an important part of religious and festive ceremonies; for example, David danced before the ark.3
5 There is a time to cast away stones such as clearing the fields of the stones that impede cultivation.4 A time to gather stones together such as to the building of a wall or house. A time to embrace when persons perform friendly graces one to another.5
6 There is a time to seek and search. There's also a time to give up as lost, for example, after an intensive search proves futile.4 There is a time to keep, for example, by not giving to the idle beggar. A time to cast away such in charity3 or when a man casts away his goods voluntarily as in a storm to save his life.5
7 There is a time for men to rend their garments as in great and sudden griefs.5 There are circumstances under which silence is golden.
8 There is a time to love such as when God stirs up love, or gives occasion for the exercise of it.5 There is a time to hate, for example, sins and lusts. A time of war and peace.3
9 What real good or pleasure is derived from all the labours of man? Necessity is the principal motive behind his cares and toils; he labours that he may eat and drink and thus to preserve his life and be kept from sickness and pain. Love of money, the basest of all passions, and restless ambition, drive men to many labours and expedients, which perplex and often destroy them.2
10 Because man is a sinner, he suffers much travail.2 The practical difficulties of life can be met successfully only under God's leading.4
11 God created everything good, not only perfect for practical use, but beautiful in its appeal to the eye and to the taste. God has deeply implanted within man a concern for the future. This awareness of the infinite in time and space stirs dissatisfaction with the transitory nature of the things of life. It is God's design that man realise that the present, material world does not constitute the sum of his existence. He is linked to two worlds, physically to this world, but mentally, emotionally and psychologically to the eternal world. The unaided human intellect cannot enter into the intricacies of God's created marvels or the mysteries of eternity that God has not seen fit to reveal.4
12 When received as God's gifts, and to His glory, the good things of life are enjoyed in their due time and order.3 Man should endeavour as much as possible to do others good and share his transient blessings.2 He should avoid self-indulgence and sensual joys.3
13 It was the will of the creator that man enjoy, in moderation, the good things provided for his needs, and happiness.4
14 All God's counsels or decrees are eternal and unchangeable. Men can neither do any thing against God's counsel and providence, nor hinder any work or act of it.5
15 Whatever changes there be, the succession of events is ordered by God's everlasting laws, and returns in a fixed cycle.3 God governs the world now, as he has governed it from the beginning; and the revolutions and operations of nature are the same now, that they have been from the beginning. What we see now is the same as that seen by those before us. The heavens themselves, taking in their great revolutions, show the same phenomena.2
16 A judge is supposed to be the embodiment or personification of all right doing. However throughout the ages bribery and corruption have resulted in the enthronement of wickedness in the very courts sacred to the dispensing of justice.4
17 God is not only the one who will act as arbiter to decide the cases of the righteous and wicked, but also the one who executes the penalty.4
18 God tests men as a disciplinary measure in order to cleanse and purify them. There is hope for the man who recognises his sinful and unclean condition.4
19 All living creatures are identical in that, with the cessation of breath, the creature dies; the physical consequences of death are the same. Outward appearances suggest no superiority for man. But through faith in the Inspired Word we believe that God will redeem man from the power of the grave.4
20 Both the man and beast live transient and frail lives, draw the same breath, grow old and return to the earth as dust from which they were made.2
21 The destiny of the body is known; it returns to the dust, through a process of disintegration - but human wisdom cannot ascertain what happens to the spirit or breath, except that it shall return unto God. The Hebrew word ruach is translated breath in verse 19 and spirit in verse 21. Note that man and beast both have a ruach, and the ruach of man is one with that of the beast. If then, the ruach or spirit of man becomes a disembodied entity at death, the ruach of beasts must also. But the Bible nowhere so much as infers that at death a disembodied, conscious spirit continues to live on, and no Christian claims this for animals. Solomon incredulously asks who can prove that the ruach of man ascends, while that of the beast descends. He knows nothing of such a proceeding and doubts that anyone else does. If so, let him prove it.4
22 Solomon says that man should find contentment and satisfaction in what this life has to offer. This is the normal outlook of the man who does not have faith firmly based on eternal things. What lies beyond the grave is outside the scope of human knowledge.4 When he is dead, man shall never return to see into whose hands his estate falls.5
References and notes
1. King James Authorized Version
2. Adam Clarke's Commentaries - Ecclesiastes 3
3. Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (1871) ECCLESIASTES; OR THE PREACHER. Commentary by A. R. FAUSSETT
4. SDA Bible Commentary Vol. 3 pgs. 1073-1076
5. John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible - The Book of Ecclesiastes Chapter 3
6. www.hyperdictionary.com/dictionary/Solomon - Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary