Bible Commentary

Ecclesiastes 11

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

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(Read all of Ecclesiastes 11)

Verse 1

[1] Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.

The waters — Freely and liberally bestow it upon the waters; upon those poor creatures, on whom it may seem to be as utterly lost, as the seed which a man casts into the sea or river.

Find it — It shall certainly be restored to thee, either by God or men. This is added to prevent an objection, and to quicken us to the duty enjoyned.

After — The return may be slow, but it is sure, and will be so much the more plentiful.

Verse 2

[2] Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth.

Give — A part of thy estate or provisions. He alludes to the ancient custom, whereby the master of the feast distributed several parts to each guest, and withal sent portions to the poor.

To eight — To as many as thou art able.

For — Great calamities may come whereby thou mayest be brought to poverty, and so disabled from doing good.

Verse 3

[3] If the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth: and if the tree fall toward the south, or toward the north, in the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be.

The clouds — Learn, O man, the practice of liberality from the very lifeless creatures, from the clouds; which when they are filled with water, do not hoard it up, but plentifully pour it forth for the refreshment both of the fruitful field and the barren wilderness. Therefore, let us just not bring forth the fruits of righteousness, because death will shortly cut us down, and we shall then be determined to unchangeable happiness or misery, according as our works have been.

Verse 4

[4] He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap.

He — He who neglects the necessary works of sowing and reaping, because the weather is not exactly suitable to his desires will lose his harvest. Whereby he intimates, that men will never do good here, which is expressed by sowing, and consequently not receive good hereafter, which is called reaping, if they be discouraged from it by every doubt and difficulty.

Verse 5

[5] 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.

The spirit — Of the soul of man, how it comes into the child in the womb; or how it is united with the body; or how and whether it goes out of the body.

The works — What God is doing and will do with thee or others; the counsels and methods of God's providence. Therefore use the present opportunity.

Verse 6

[6] In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good.

In the morning — Early and late, in all seasons and occasions; do it speedily and continually, be not weary of it.

Sow — Do all good works.

With-hold not — From working or giving.

Verse 7

[7] Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun:

Truly — It cannot be denied that life is in itself desirable.

Verse 8

[8] But if a man live many years, and rejoice in them all; yet let him remember the days of darkness; for they shall be many. All that cometh is vanity.

Rejoice — Enjoy all the comforts, and escape all the embitterments of human life, all his days.

Darkness — Of death, or of the state of the dead.

Many — Far more than the days of this short life.

All — All things which befall any man belonging only to this life, are but vain, because they are short and transitory.

Verse 9

[9] Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment.

Rejoice — Indulge thy humour, and take thy fill of delights.

And walk — Whatsoever thine eye or heart lusteth after, deny it not to them.

But know — But in the midst of thy jollity consider thy reckoning.

Verse 10

[10] Therefore remove sorrow from thy heart, and put away evil from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity.

Sorrow — Sensual and disorderly lusts, which he elegantly calls sorrow, to intimate, that although such practices at present gratify mens senses, yet they will shortly bring them to intolerable sorrows.

Evil — All evil desires, tho' now they seem good to thee.

Vanity — Most vain. The time of youth is vanishing and transitory, and old age and death will speedily come, against which every wise man will take care to lay in solid provisions and comforts.

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