The thought expressed at the end of the last chapter is developed in this chapter, which treats of the supremacy of God. Man can have no enjoyment except as He is pleased to bestow it. He has pre-ordained the times and seasons of all human events, and success cannot be obtained except in conformity with His arrangement.
Purpose.—The use of the word here and in Ecclesiastes 3:17; Ecclesiastes 5:8; Ecclesiastes 8:6, in the general sense of “a matter,” belongs to later Hebrew. The primary meaning of the word is “pleasure” or “desire,” and it is so used in this book (Ecclesiastes 5:4; Ecclesiastes 12:1; Ecclesiastes 12:10).
A time to die.—Job 14:5.
The world.—The word here translated “world” has that meaning in post-Biblical Hebrew, but never elsewhere in the Old Testament, where it occurs over 300 times. And if we adopt the rendering “world,” it is difficult to explain the verse so as to connect it with the context. Where the word occurs elsewhere it means “eternity,” or “long duration,” and is so used in this book (Ecclesiastes 1:4; Ecclesiastes 1:10; Ecclesiastes 2:16; Ecclesiastes 3:14; Ecclesiastes 9:6; Ecclesiastes 12:5). Taking this meaning of the word here (the only place where the word is used with the article), we may regard it as contrasted with that for “time,” or season, immediately before. Life exhibits a changing succession of weeping alternating with laughing, war with peace, and so forth. For each of these God has appointed its time or season, and in its season each is good. But man does not recognise this; for God has put in his heart an expectation and longing for abiding continuance of the same, and so he fails to understand the work which God does in the world.
So that no.—The connecting phrase here employed is rendered “because none” (Deuteronomy 9:28; 2 Kings 6:3, &c), “so that none” (Jeremiah 9:10; Zephaniah 3:6, &c).
End.—Ecclesiastes 7:2; Ecclesiastes 12:13; Joel 2:20; 2 Chronicles 20:16. A word belonging to the later Hebrew.
To do good.—This phrase is always used elsewhere in a moral sense: “to act rightly.” When enjoyment is meant, the phrase used is, as in the next verse, “to see good;” but the context seems to require that this sense should be given to the phrase in this verse also.
Requireth.—Seeketh again: i.e., recalleth the past. The writer has not been speaking of the bringing the past into judgment, but of the immutable order of the universe, which constantly repeats itself. But it would seem that the word suggesting the thought of seeking for the purpose of judgment leads on to the next topic.
Breath.—The same word as “spirit” (Ecclesiastes 3:21; Genesis 7:15; Psalm 104:30).
Ecclesiastes 3:22Wherefore 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?