Upcoming Sacred Truth Expository Commentary on Ecclesiastes
1 For all this I considered in my heart even to declare all this, that the righteous, and the wise, and their works, are in the Hand of God: no man knoweth either love or hatred by all that is before them.
For all this refers to what he was discussing in 8:17, wherein he had mentioned the “work of God”, but was referring to all the sinfulness of man that could not be fully known, so deep and broad is its infestation. However, here, Solomon actually recognizes that God is Sovereign over all. He does not merely observe, but He testifies. The Pulpit Commentary records,
“For all this I considered in my heart even to declare all this; literally, for all this laid up in my heart, and all this I have been about (equivalent to I sought) to clear up.”
I would have to disagree: the Hebrew word translated as considered, which The Pulpit says literally is laid up, literally, would be, “given / made / put in my heart”.
Solomon here ever-so-briefly lapses into speaking about God. How sad, that the God who gave him wisdom (which wisdom he set aside to learn humanistic wisdom through the experience of sin) is spoken of so sparingly in this book. The One Who is the Truth, is hardly mentioned, and when He is, it is usually briefly, in passing. Regardless, Solomon expresses Biblical Truth here in his declaration. God is Sovereign over all. He is not passive. He determines all. God cannot “not think” or let His Mind go blank (and thus cannot leave the world or its creatures on “autopilot” to “evolve” or “write their own script” or “choose their own way”). He is Omniscient and that Omniscience is not passive. He is Immutable, and nothing external to Himself (nothing that is not God) can affect Him or alter His Thoughts or Actions. God does not “re-act”—He initiates all. He is the Source. He is the Alpha and Omega... the Beginning and the End—and all in between, for the intention of A to Z is that He planned all and He carries all through to perfection. God created all that exists and nothing that does not exist can come into being, and therefore, no thought of man or angel that is independent of God can force its way into God’s Mind. Nothing can exist independent of God. Nothing can exist that God did not first think and will. Man does not write his own script or chart his own course; and those who think that they do, do so because God has sent them such blasphemous delusion.
“I also will choose their delusions, and will bring their fears upon them...” (Isaiah 66:4)
“The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD” (Psalm 37:23)
“...it is not in man that walketh to direct his [own] steps.” (Jeremiah 10:23)
“For it is God which [Who] worketh in you both to will and to do of His Good Pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13)
“For in Him we live, and move, and have our being.” (Acts 17:28)
“...Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand.” (Isaiah 14:24)
“For God hath put in their hearts to fulfil His Will...” (Revelation 17:16)
“...He doeth according to His Will in the army of Heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay His Hand, or [authoritatively] say unto Him, ‘What doest thou?’” (Daniel 4:35)
“27For of a truth against Thy Holy Child Jesus, whom Thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, 28For to do whatsoever Thy Hand and Thy Counsel determined before to be done.” (Acts 4)
“9Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd [broken pottery] strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to Him that fashioneth it, ‘What makest Thou?’ or [shall] Thy work [the clay the Potter fashions, say unto Him], ‘He hath no hands?’ [that is, He is a clumsy and inept Potter, the clay thinking that it knows better] 10Woe unto him that saith unto his father, ‘What begettest thou?’ or to the woman [his mother], ‘What hast thou brought forth?’” (Isaiah 45)
“18...He Mercy on whom He will have Mercy, and whom He will [determines to] He hardeneth. 19Thou wilt say then unto me [the prophet], ‘Why doth He yet find fault? For who hath resisted His Will?’ 20Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to Him that formed it, ‘Why hast thou made me thus?’ 21Hath not the Potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? 22What if God, willing [determining] to show His Wrath, and to make His Power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to [created unto] destruction” (Romans 9)
“For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation...” (Jude 1:4)
“...I will harden Pharaoh’s heart.... And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh” (Exodus 7:3; 9:12 and several other passages)
“The king’s heart is in the Hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: He turneth it whithersoever He will.” (Proverbs 21:1)
“...that in all things He [Christ] might have the preeminence” (Colossians 1:18)
Man does not choose to be conceived or born, physically or spiritually. Man is not born a tabula rasa, in the sense that he will write his own script, or like a sponge, merely absorb whatever is nearest to him by either his own choice or random fortune. Nuture and Nature are indeed valid concepts—but they are not random evolutionary mechanisms, but designed tools that God uses to bring about all that He has Planned in each person’s life. Each person is genetically designed and intellectually “hard wired” and God programs each soul and all that transpires in his life and all that he thinks and chooses and does from conception to eternity. Man’s will is hardwired and irremediably controlled by God’s Will (simlar to the “student driver” car in which there are 2 steering wheels: the instructor’s wheel overrides the student’s wheel, and the student accellerates, turns, and stops at the command of the instructor). All carry out God’s exact Will whether they realize it or not. Whether man “likes” or “agrees with” or “embraces” or “thinks that certain parts are not ‘perfect’,” is immaterial. The confused thoughts of feeble creatures do not invalidate, overrule, or change the reality decreed by the Master of the universe. Yes, man has a will, but it is not independent from God’s Will; God uses man’s will for His Good Pleasure; hardening, softenening, directing.
The Pulpit offers further insight,
“No man knoweth either love or hatred. God’s favor or displeasure are meant. .... We cannot judge from the events that befall a man what is the view which God takes of his character. We must not, like Job’s friends, decide that a man is a great sinner because calamity falls upon him, nor again suppose that outward prosperity is a proof of a life righteous and well-pleasing to God. Outward circumstances are no criterion of inward disposition or of final judgment. From the troubles or the comforts which we ourselves experience or witness in others we have no right to argue God’s favor or displeasure. He disposes matters as seems best to him, and we must not expect to see every one in this world treated according to what we should deem his deserts (comp. Proverbs 1:52 with Hebrews 12:6).”
[While this is true, it must be understood in harmony with other Scripture. Indeed, we are told that “ye shall know them by their fruit”; but we also know that there is false fruit (when man functions in the flesh) and there are also tares sown in among the wheat. It seems most likely that no one suspected Judas of being a tare. Had he been so suspected, would he have been entrusted with the money bag? We are not really told too much about him in Scripture: how he interacted with others; what others thought of him. However, when Christ declared that one of them would betray Him, each felt pained within his own soul and asked, I would offer, “—please, tell me that it is not me: It is not me, is it?” Regardless, nowhere does Scripture record that either all or some of the disciples immediately wheeled about on their heals, pointed, and declared, It’s gotta be Judas—that sneaky scoundrel. He gives me the creeps. I never trusted him! Scripture declares, “the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart” (I Samuel 16:7). Jeremiah also declared that the heart is deceitful and above all things desperately wicked and that no man can know it. However, there is a balance: Scripture admonishes us to “test the spirits, whether they be of God”; however, the majority ignore what God commanded and admonished. This is not to say that Judas gave all appearances of being a saint. If the tares sown in among the wheat did not play a convincing role, who would believe them? Scripture informs us that Satan can appear as an angel of light and his ministers masquerade as ministers of righteousness. Those unsuspecting, those who don’t follow God’s Holy Spirit, where He leads, and commune with Him, but wander on their own, those without discernment, will easily be fooled.
It is quite certain that in retrospect, the disciples later (after Gethsemane) replayed many things in their minds and slapped themselves in the foreheads, saying, How could I have been so blind...? —[this and this and this and this...] I saw all these things about Judas, but just thought I was being overly critical or paranoid. He always had a convincing explanation whenever I questioned him about something, so I never thought any more about it.
However, while in many areas the other disciples were clearly dull-minded, they did not suspect Judas because it was not God’s Will that any of them suspect Judas—even though Judas was stealing from the money bag. And if he was stealing, certainly he was guilty of other vices and was a liar—and while the ignorant masses may follow some charlatan evangelist or Bible teacher, having star-dust in their eyes for him, thinking that he walks on water and can do no wrong, those that work closely around him, and those who are more astute, through only a few personal dealings with him, will realize that there is something rotten in Rotterdam.
However, many of the Pharisees did things outwardly to be seen of men, but in their heart were full of vice and corruption. This, I believe, is the intention of The Pulpit: that works can be deceiving. I have explained in numerous books of mine that the mechanistic works (the mere acts themselves) alone do not determine whether the work is good or not, but also the heart of the giver. Christ said that the widow woman who gave all, though she gave only 2 mites,* gave more than the wealth that a Pharisee deposited in the collection plate. Cain offered a sinful sacrifice (other than what was commanded)—but he did so because it was not in his hear to offer what was right, and he was not repentant of his sins, but Hell-bent on rebellion. Tell me, was Judas’ kiss upon greeting Christ that night in the garden of Gethsemane really an act of “brotherly love and affection”? Tell me, if a mobster engages in murder, graft, and extortion, and then donates $10,000 to the church, is that a “good work”...? A wife is delighted by a bouquet of flowers from her husband... but would she be delighted by the very same bouquet if it were sent to her by a deranged pervert who had been stalking her? The bouquet of flowers from the husband to the wife is a good work under “normal” (moral) circumstances—but what if it is given out of guilt for an affair that he had? Thus, the work is merely the outflow and expression of the inner man, and both must factor into the equation to be valid, “good works” (obedience, service, honor, reverence).
* Mite is a contraction of our word (from the Latin, minutum) minute (when pronounced, my-noot, and meaning, “exceedingly small”—as opposed to when it is pronounced minit, meaning “60 seconds”) and was half a penny.]
Fuller in [the Biblical books of his commentaries which were added to complete] Barnes’ Notes offers:
“No man ... literally, both love and also hatred man knoweth not: all are before them. Love and hatred here mean the ordinary outward tokens of God’s favor or displeasure, i.e., prosperity and adversity. ‘Man knoweth not’ probably means: ‘man knows not whether to expect prosperity or adversity from God; all his earthly future is in obscurity’.”
Even if this is really what the verse means—which is debatable—this really cannot be blanketly stated without proper explanation. God promises blessing when we obey and He likewise promises cursing / judgment when we rebel and sin against Him—or even if we sin against Him in ignorance as Uzza found out (upon his sudden appearance in the next life). However, God is not a vending machine. He does not operate immediately upon our timetable—for that would require no faith on our part; in fact, sinful (undeserving) creatures would then begin to expect, even demand. God delays the payoff (good or bad), for His Own Purpose, and to strengthen our faith (to where we focus on Him, not the thing desired) and to give the wicked a false sense of security as they heap unto themselves the filling up the measure of God’s Wrath that will be unleashed upon them one day.
While God is not a capricious god, like mortal men (and the gods of pagan mythologies, which men fashioned after their own sinful, fickle natures), who are driven uncontrollably by their own passions, Job expressed the stark reality: “What? shall we receive good at the Hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” (2:10) As we saw earlier, and as the trial of Job also reveals (and as Psalm 37 portrays)... often the wicked prosper—but their day is coming; and often the righteous suffer, due not to wickedness, but as a result of God’s ordination; even as Christ showed that the man was born blind due to no fault of his own (before he was even born—what a silly thought that it was his own fault that he was born blind!) and it was not due to any sins of his parents, but that he was born blind so that God would be glorified when Christ healed him and gave him vision, and gave life to his dead eyes.
However, I believe that what Job’s statement intended is that good is “blessing” and evil is “Judgment”. And thus, we have the same parallel in our main passage:
“...that the righteous, and the wise, and their works, are in the Hand of God: no man knoweth either love [as a result of God’s Favour in blessing] or hatred [as a result of God’s Wrath in Judgment] by all that is before them.” (Ecclesiastes 9:1)
Thus, the amplified meaning is that God has determined all, and man cannot in any specific situation know (even as Job’s friends) whether adversity in a person’s life is a result of their own wickedness—unless their lives are openly wicked; and man cannot in any specific situation know (as the masses misunderstood the Pharisees’ wealth) whether prosperity is a person’s life is a result of God’s blessing them (for they may be hypocrites outwardly doing “good-appearing” things to be seen of men, while inwardly being full of evil and corruption). Thus, God determines all for His Good Pleasure, and though we are to test the spirits, God alone knows the heart.
God tells us,
“8For My Thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My Ways, saith the LORD. 9For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My Ways higher than your ways, and My Thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55)
We know that everything happened to Job, the man born blind, etc.—exactly as it did—having been planned by God and ultimately for God’s Own Glory. All is for God’s Glory. Our purpose is to give Him glory. We are children of Light and He is the Father of lights and we are suppose to reflect His Image in which He created us. He must increase; we must decrease; that in all things He might have the pre-eminence.
Thus, while one side of the coin is that “you reap what you sow” and Christ has told us “every tree is known by its fruit”,* the other side of the coin is that God often does things that “seem to” contradict those laws.
[* —and an inferred corollary to this truth (which specifically seems to apply to this passage) is that every tree is known by its own fruit—not the fruit that its sire or grandsire bore. While indeed, the fruit should be the same, that is not a universal law. It will indeed be of the same species if God’s Law is not violated, but though fruit is of a pure species, that fruit can be either good or bad (for a variety of reasons, and in a variety of ways). Thus, this concept (of not coasting on the laurels of ones forebearers) seems to apply to our main passage, “... no man knoweth [personally, thus possibly inferring, “experienceth”] either love or hatred by all that is before them.” Our blessing or cursing; experiencing of God’s Love or Wrath, is not determined by what our ancestors experience, but based upon what we do. This is on an individual level, and is not in reference to Covenantal Promise, and it is not referring to individual salvation (which is not of works, but God’s gift of faith to the elect whereby the obey and repent unto salvation and thus have access to the application of the Sacrifice of God for their sin.]
However, “seeming” contradictions are not contradictions, but the result of our blind-spots as well as Divine over-rulings. We cannot see how God has planned things, or all that traspires “behind the scenes”, and that He oft delays the deliverance of “payment”, though the payment is sure and written in the ledger books of Heaven. Some seeds take many years (even decades) to germinate, though they lay in the ground and are watered. Likewise, it takes years (or decades) for some trees to come to maturity to the point that they bear fruit. Thus, “sowing, germination, and reaping” are a process, not a flash in the pan.
God declared that the tide may not encroach upon the sand farther than a certain point (Jeremiah 5:22); however, though that is a general universal rule—at times, God overrides it. Similarly, when a rocket bursts into space, it is not violating the law of gravity, it is appealing to higher laws (lift, thrust, propulsion). It is the perogative of the Boss, the Owner, the Commander, the Sovereign to interfere with the routine operations, whenever He so deems. Were it not for His Grace, we would reap a lot more Judgment than we do. He often intervenes, when we repent, and wipes away the Judgment against us and delivers us from the circumstances that we have set in motion. That’s what He did when Christ died and when the elect come under the Blood of His Sacrifice. Christ intervened and took our Judgment for us.
Thus Ecclesiastes 9:1 concludes: “no man knoweth either love or hatred by all that is before them”. Possibly this passage also parellels this thought:
“15See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil; 16In that I command thee this day to love the LORD thy God, to walk in His Ways, and to keep His Commandments and His Statutes and His Judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply: and the LORD thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to possess it. 17But if thine heart turn away, so that thou wilt not hear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them; 18I denounce unto you this day, that ye shall surely perish, and that ye shall not prolong your days upon the land, whither thou passest over Jordan to go to possess it. 19I call Heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: 20That thou mayest love the LORD thy God, and that thou mayest obey His Voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto Him: for He is thy Life, and the Length of thy days: that thou mayest dwell in the land which the LORD sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.” (Deuteronomy 30)
Robert Young in his Literal Translation renders Ecclesiastes 9:1:
“But all this I have laid unto my heart, so as to clear up the whole of this, that the righteous and the wise, and their works, are in the hand of God, neither love nor hatred doth man know, the whole is before them.”
However, despite my earlier thoughts concerning no man knowing what is to befall him personally based upon what his forebearers received from God’s Hand, it is also quite possible that the word before may mean that which is “ahead of them” (not that which is behind them). Scripture informs us:
“But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.” (I Corinthians 2:9)
Again, the flip side of this is also that neither do the wicked have a clue of the Judgment that shall be unleashed upon them.
Thus, the meaning of the final phrase in Ecclesiastes 9:1 may mean that whatever people’s lives shall become, and all the events that they shall experience, both good and bad, God has ordained. Man does not know or write his own script; all is in God’s Hand: good and bad: for His Own Glory, since He is the Alpha and Omega, that Christ may have the pre-eminence in all things.
Inquire if interested in when the entire book will be completed.