Verse of the Day

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Pastor's Sermon Notes: Ecclesiastes (series), #32 - The Poor Man’s Wisdom (Ecclesiastes 9:13-18)

Series: Ecclesiastes
Sermon #32: The Poor Man’s Wisdom
Ecclesiastes 9:13-18


[Audio file from Internet Archive at https://archive.org/details/Ecclesiastes913-18.]

13This wisdom have I seen also under the sun, and it seemed great unto me:   14 There was a little city, and few men within it; and there came a great king against it, and besieged it, and built great bulwarks against it: 15 Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same poor man. 16 Then said I, Wisdom is better than strength: nevertheless the poor man’s wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard. 17 The words of wise men are heard in quiet more than the cry of him that ruleth among fools. 18 Wisdom is better than weapons of war: but one sinner destroyeth much good.

Introduction:

Is there any truth as far as a historical basis — Scriptural or otherwise — to the story recounted here as Qoheleth’s observation?

In other words, what city and what king is he referring to?

And, if so, can we identify the poor wise man in the account?

Or, is this a parable whose lesson we should consider without giving full reign to our curiosity or the temptation to allegorize Scripture?

Outline:

I. One Great Observation (9:13-15)
II. Three Conflicting Conclusions (9:16-18)

I. One Great Observation (9:13-15)

13 This wisdom have I seen also under the sun, and it seemed great unto me: 14 There was a little city, and few men within it; and there came a great king against it, and besieged it, and built great bulwarks against it: 15 Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same poor man.

1. The Apparent Greatness of the Wisdom (9:13)
2. The Apparent Hopelessness of the City (9:14)
3. The Ungrateful Anonymity of the Deliverer (9:15)

There is a threefold repetition of the word “great” in these verses that should steer us in the right direction so that we do not miss the main point:

“…it seemed great….there came a great king….built great bulwarks…”

1. The Apparent Greatness of the Wisdom (9:13)

This wisdom have I seen also under the sun, and it seemed great unto me:

Here is that perspective phrase again: “under the sun.” It will only occur once more in the book (10:15).

Notice how Qoheleth personalizes his perception: “it seemed great unto me.”

2. The Apparent Hopelessness of the City (9:14)

There was a little city, and few men within it; and there came a great king against it, and besieged it, and built great bulwarks against it:

Textual issue? NKJV note: “LXX, Syr., Vg. bulwarks
NKJV trans. = “snares” [This is not the same Heb. word as in 9:12 however.]
The Hebrew word here translated “bulwarks” is related to the word “Masada.”

Kyle R. Snodgrass lists this as an example of one of the Old Testament “parables/parabolic sayings.” Note: This is the only example he cites from the Wisdom literature.
— Klyne R. Snodgrass, “Prophets, Parables, and Theologians,” Bulletin for Biblical Research 18:1 (NA 2008), pp. 52.

“Scholars differ significantly over what they consider a parable, but little is gained from excluding forms by a narrow definition. Although not many OT precursors to the longer narrative parables of Jesus exist, I would suggest more parables and parabolic sayings occur than is typically granted.30 Some would list additional items, but I suggest that at least the following deserve attention (even though the noun and verb forms of משׂל rarely appear to describe these accounts):….”
— Snodgrass, op. cit., pg. 51.

“Birger Gerhardsson identifies only five parables from the Hebrew Scriptures, but also lists ten additional borderline cases. See his “The Narrative Meshalim in the Synoptic Gospels: A Comparison with the Narrative Meshalim in the Old Testament,” NTS 34 (1988): 339-63, 343. T. W. Manson lists nine parables and two fables (The Teaching of Jesus [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1939], 62-63) some of which are not in Gerhardsson’s two categories. Westermann, of course, would find numerous parabolic forms. See The Parables of Jesus in the Light of the Old Testament, 5-151.”
— Snodgrass, op. cit., pg. 51, s.v. footnote 30.

The framework of the scenario seen by Qoheleth is found in the contrast he sets up.

Walter Kaiser does not hesitate to refer to this as a parable, and comments: “The situation is one of remarkable contrast…”
Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., Ecclesiastes: Total Life, in Everyman’s Bible Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1979), pg. 104. See also Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., Toward An Exegetical Theology: Biblical Exegesis for Preaching and Teaching (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1981), pg. 230.

Leupold, while referring to this passage as “a kind of parable” nevertheless concludes: “Those interpreters who do not find a parable in this passage move about among shadowy figures and vague counsels that do not yield substantial guidance.”
— H. C. Leupold, Exposition of Ecclesiastes (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1952), pg. 222, 228.

Four elements are contrasted, with two on each side of the equation:

The Four Elements: “…city….men../..king….bulwarks…”

The Contrasting Modifiers: “…little....few../..great.…great…”

The key elements may be identified as the size and the population of the city versus the stature and the twofold activity (“…besieged….built…bulwarks…”) of the enemy king.

What this sets up looks like a lost cause. In such a situation it would seem that the city would have no hope if withstanding the tactics of the enemy king.

One of the Old Testament accounts of the deliverance of a city that some associate with this parable is that of Abel of Beth-maachah in 2 Samuel 20 during the reign of Solomon’s father David.

2 Sam. 20:16-22 — 13 When he was removed out of the highway, all the people went on after Joab, to pursue after Sheba the son of Bichri. 14 And he went through all the tribes of Israel unto Abel, and to Beth-maachah, and all the Berites: and they were gathered together, and went also after him. 15 And they came and besieged him in Abel of Beth-maachah, and they cast up a bank against the city, and it stood in the trench: and all the people that were with Joab battered the wall, to throw it down. 16 Then cried a wise woman out of the city, Hear, hear; say, I pray you, unto Joab, Come near hither, that I may speak with thee. 17 And when he was come near unto her, the woman said, Art thou Joab?  And he answered, I am he.  Then she said unto him, Hear the words of thine handmaid.  And he answered, I do hear. 18 Then she spake, saying, They were wont to speak in old time, saying, They shall surely ask counsel at Abel: and so they ended the matter. 19 I am one of them that are peaceable and faithful in Israel: thou seekest to destroy a city and a mother in Israel: why wilt thou swallow up the inheritance of the LORD? 20 And Joab answered and said, Far be it, far be it from me, that I should swallow up or destroy. 21 The matter is not so: but a man of mount Ephraim, Sheba the son of Bichri by name, hath lifted up his hand against the king, even against David: deliver him only, and I will depart from the city.  And the woman said unto Joab, Behold, his head shall be thrown to thee over the wall. 22 Then the woman went unto all the people in her wisdom.  And they cut off the head of Sheba the son of Bichri, and cast it out to Joab.  And he blew a trumpet, and they retired from the city, every man to his tent.  And Joab returned to Jerusalem unto the king.

Kaiser refers to this historical episode when he comments: “Such a triumph of wisdom over brute force as in the parable of 9:13-16 was not doubt fresh in Solomon’s mind.”
Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., Ecclesiastes: Total Life, op. cit., pg. 105.

However, there is no known example, Scriptural or otherwise, that fits the details of this parable, including 2 Samuel 20.

3. The Ungrateful Anonymity of the Deliverer (9:15)

Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same poor man.

Tom Taylor remarks: “This text has always fascinated me.”
Tom V. Taylor, Studies in Ecclesiastes (Port Colborne, Ontario, CA: Gospel Folio Press, 2013), pg. 55. He includes this account as one of the five examples in his article: Tom V. Taylor, “Insignificant People (An Exhortation To Leaders),” Emmaus Journal 20:1 (Summer 2011), pg. 125, s.v. “The Poor Wise Man.”

One of the real gems of the book is the story cited above: the poor wise man delivers his city from the attack of the great king — but he is despised and forgotten….here is this sober and down-to-earth story true wisdom is found not with the mighty king but, mysteriously, with the insignificant and ignored poor man.
— Paul M. Joyce, “The Poor Wise Man and the Cacophony of Voices” in Wilderness: Essays in Honour of Frances Young, ed. R. S. Sugirtharajah, Library of New Testament Studies 295, Journal for the Study of the New Testament Supplement series (London: T. & T. Clark, 2005),[1] pp. 101-102 (on Eccl. 9:13-16); on Google Books at https://books.google.com/books?id=uBdkQbZYQO8C&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false [accessed 25 JUN 2016]. Wilderness was reviewed by Craig A. Evans, “Book Reviews,” Bulletin for Biblical Research 16:2 (NA 2006), pp. 360-361.

[See also the Appendix: Other journal articles mentioning “the poor wise man” (besides those cited in sermon notes)]

1) The Poor Wise Man Found
2) The Poor Wise Man Delivers
3) The Poor Wise Man Forgotten

1) The Poor Wise Man Found

Now there was found in it a poor wise man

Is it strange to find “poor” and “wise” describing the same individual? What about what we learned in verse 11? In several aspects of this parable we see the truths of verse 11 “fleshed out.”

“I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.”

Poverty and wisdom were also linked, and seen as “better” regardless of age in Eccl. 4:13 —

“Better is a poor and a wise child than an old and foolish king, who will no more be admonished.”

The typical lack of details in this parable may be seen first in this simple statement of fact which contains no specifics concerning how the discovery this “poor wise man” took place, nor his identity beyond the description itself.

2) The Poor Wise Man Delivers

and he by his wisdom delivered the city

Help comes to the besieged little city from an unexpected quarter!

The sparseness of the details, typical of parabolic literature, may be seen again in the absence of any information concerning the counsel of “the poor wise man,” and how this deliverance was effected.

This should be seen as an example of the point made in verse 11 —
“I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.”

This is reemphasized with a caution/qualification in the last verse of this chapter:

“Wisdom is better than weapons of war: but one sinner destroyeth much good.” (Eccl. 9:18)

3) The Poor Wise Man Forgotten

yet no man remembered that same poor man

A nobody remembered by nobody!
An unsung hero!

Eccl. 2:16 — For there is no remembrance of the wise more than of the fool for ever; seeing that which now is in the days to come shall all be forgotten.  And how dieth the wise man?  as the fool.

Eccl. 8:10 — And so I saw the wicked buried, who had come and gone from the place of the holy, and they were forgotten in the city where they had so done: this is also vanity.

“…for the most part Christians still fail to take seriously the shocking idea that the wisdom of God is to be found among the broken and marginalized more often than among the secure and the powerful.
— Joyce, op. cit., pg. 102.

“And yet at the very heart of the gospel is a stark inversion of the usual expectations and assumptions of the world. There is a striking passage in St Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians where he speaks of Christ as the power and the wisdom of God: ‘Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?’ (1 Cor. 1.20). Paul goes on to speak of Christ crucified as a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles: ‘for God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength’ (1 Cor. 1.25). How we insulate ourselves against the shocking impact of this central truth of the Christian faith! We continue to order our lives in society and even in the Church according to values of power and status that are in fact contradicted and overturned by the gospel. The implications of the central symbols of the Christian faith are profound: the cross, on which the wisdom of God is stretched and broken, like the millions in our world racked by hunger or by torture; and the eucharist, which speaks of a body broken and blood shed and claims that these are the things of God.”
Ibid.

II. Three Conflicting Conclusions (9:16-18)

16 Then said I, Wisdom is better than strength: nevertheless the poor man’s wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard. 17 The words of wise men are heard in quiet more than the cry of him that ruleth among fools. 18 Wisdom is better than weapons of war: but one sinner destroyeth much good.

1. The Neglect of Wisdom (9:16)
2. The Contrast of Wisdom (9:17)
3. The Problem of Wisdom (9:18)

The three phrases that bind these verses together are:
           
 “…better than….more than….better than…”

The development in these verses may be traced in the following:

“…Wisdom.…the poor man’s wisdom.…The words of wise men….wisdom…”

1. The Neglect of Wisdom (9:16)

Then said I, Wisdom is better than strength: nevertheless the poor man’s wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard.

Wisdom is better than strength.

Cp. Eccl. 9:18 — “Wisdom is better than weapons of war: but one sinner destroyeth much good.”

“not heard” — contrast “heard” in 9:17!?!?

“…Wisdom….the poor man’s wisdom…” — here are the first two of the four framing terms for this passage.

Eccl. 7:12 — For wisdom is a defence, and money is a defence: but the excellency of knowledge is, that wisdom giveth life to them that have it.

Eccl. 7:19 — Wisdom strengtheneth the wise more than ten mighty men which are in the city.

Mk. 6:1-4 — 1 And he went out from thence, and came into his own country; and his disciples follow him. 2 And when the sabbath day was come, he began to teach in the synagogue: and many hearing him were astonished, saying, From whence hath this man these things? and what wisdom is this which is given unto him, that even such mighty works are wrought by his hands?
3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him. 4 But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.

2. The Contrast of Wisdom (9:17)

The words of wise men are heard in quiet more than the cry of him that ruleth among fools.

On the translation issues in this verse see especially Aron Pinker, “On The Meaning Of מושל זעקת In Qohelet 9:17b,” Bulletin for Biblical Research 22:4 (NA 2012), pp. 493-503.

Perhaps this verse could also be understood as a “better than” coordinate with the verses before and after it, i.e., “Wisdom is better than loud foolish kings.”

“The words of wise men…” — here is the third piece of the four framing terms for this passage.

Wisdom does not need volume.
Amplification does not make wisdom more “hearable.”

Contrast “heard in quiet” to “despised….not heard” in 9:16?!?!

Eccl. 4:6 — Better is an handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit.

Eccl. 7:5 — It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools.

Eccl. 10:12 — The words of a wise man's mouth are gracious; but the lips of a fool will swallow up himself.

3. The Problem of Wisdom (9:18)

Wisdom is better than weapons of war: but one sinner destroyeth much good.

Notice how this verse is framed: wisdom on one end, and good on the other, with the plural “weapons of war,” and a solitary destroying sinner as two negatives in between the two positive “poles” of the verse: “Wisdom…weapons of war….sinner destroyeth…good.”

“Wisdom…” — here is the final piece of the four framing terms for this passage.

Wisdom is better than weapons of war.

Cp. Eccl. 9:16 — “Then said I, Wisdom is better than strength: nevertheless the poor man's wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard.”

This concluding verse raises many questions:

1) Does the adversative clause at the end of the verse vitiate the initial clause?
In other words, does the “but” wipe out everything that went before it?

2) Can this be related to the initial scenario of the little city opposed by the great enemy king delivered by heeding the counsel of the poor wise man?

3) If so, how?

4) If not, then what is this final clause doing here? What purpose does it serve? Is it a reminder of what happens — perhaps next time — when the words of wisdom are not heeded, or the poor wise man cannot be found, due to the influence or actions of one sinner?

We may conclude:

In other words, it is true that wisdom is better than weapons of war, but while a general truism, it is also a relative truism, dependent of the influence of the wise, and the heeding of the hearers. It doesn’t take much to undermine wisdom in this world (“under the sun”), to destroy the influence of “the poor wise man,” or to sway the hearers of wise words not to heed them.

Josh. 7:1-26 — the sin of Achan and the defeat at Ai

2 Ki. 21:2-17 — the reigns of the wicked kings Manasseh and his son Amon in Jerusalem

Conclusion:

Question: Who is the poor wise man?

“The Church Fathers also employed more elaborate allegorical interpretation. For example, the writer of Ecclesiastes wrote about a “little city with few people in it. A great king came against it and besieged it.... Now there was found in it a poor wise man and he by his wisdom delivered the city” (Eccl 9:14-15). The little city was understood as the church, the king that besieged it was the devil, and the poor wise man that delivered it was Jesus.

Today we cannot with integrity employ allegorical interpretation to preach Christ.4 Allegorical interpretation is arbitrary and subjective. It also reads Christ back into the Old Testament (which is eisegesis) and subverts the intention of the biblical author.”
— Sidney Greidanus, “How To Preach Christ From Ecclesiastes,” Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 15:3 (Fall 2011), pg. 57.

“This statement does not deny that allegorical interpretation is appropriate for allegories, e.g. Eccl 12:3-4.”
— Greidanus, op. cit., pg. 57, s.v. footnote 4.

Jesus was regarded at a very early stage of Christianity as Lord of glory in the sense of an unbribable judge who so identifies himself with the poor and needy that he himself becomes the epitome of both the poor wise man and the judge who gives honour to him.
— Jack Freeborn, “Lord of Glory: A Study of James 2 and 1 Corinthians 2,” Expository Times 111:6 (MAR 2000), pp. 185-189; Faculty and Library Staff of Dallas Theological Seminary, Robert D. Ibach, Editor, “Periodical Reviews,” Bibliotheca Sacra 157:627 (JUL 2000), pp. 366.

Sinclair Ferguson is a careful modern example of this “take” on the passage:

            “Instinctively we think of Jesus. The man the Pundit saw had the attributes of true spirituality and wisdom; but he was just a reflection, a kind of preview of the spirituality of the true Poor and Wise Man who would later become a Saviour.
            The New Testament actually talks about Jesus in precisely these terms.”
— Sinclair B. Ferguson. The Pundit's Folly: Chronicles of an Empty Life (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1995), pg. 51. His development of this approach is on pp. 49-67, s.v. Ch. 3.

In the introduction Ferguson includes a brief citation from Robert Browning’s lengthy poem, Bishop Blougram’s Apology (Ferguson, op. cit., pp. 49-50. Note: Ferguson apparently misspells the title as “Bishop Blaugram’s Apology.”).

“So, you despise me, Mr. Gigadibs…
how can we guard our unbelief,                 
Make it bear fruit to us?--the problem here.
Just when we are safest, there's a sunset-touch,
A fancy from a flower-bell, some one's death,
A chorus-ending from Euripides--
And that's enough for fifty hopes and fears
As old and new at once as nature's self,
To rap and knock and enter in our soul,
Take hands and dance there, a fantastic ring…”

— Robert Browning, “Bishop Blougram's Apology,” in Men and Women, 2 vols. (London: Chapman and Hall, 1855), pp. 128-161; on The Literature Network at http://www.online-literature.com/robert-browning/men-and-women/7/ [accessed 23 JUN 2016], lines 13, 180-188. See also Robert Browning, Men and Women 1855, 2 vols. in 1 reprint (London: Henry Frowde, 1910); on Internet Archive at https://archive.org/details/menwomen00browuoft [accessed 23 JUN 2016].

The temptation to allegorize may be strongly influenced by the following suggestive elements of the parable:

1. The poverty of “the poor wise man”:

“For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.” (2 Cor. 8:9)

2. The wisdom of “the poor wise man”:

See Joyce, op. cit., pg. 102.

“But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” (1 Cor. 1:24)

“But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:” (1 Cor. 1:30)

“For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.” (1 Cor. 1:19)

“Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?” (1 Cor. 1:20)

“For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.” (1 Cor. 3:19)

3. The “few men” in the “little city”:

“Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Mt. 7:14)

“Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few;” (Mt. 9:37)

“So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.” (Mt. 22:14)

“For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Mt. 20:16)

“Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Lk. 12:32)

4. The “great king” laying seige:

“Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.” (Jn. 12:31)

“Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me.” (Jn. 14:30)

“Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.” (Jn. 16:11)

“Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:” (Eph. 2:2)

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:” (1 Pet. 5:8)

5. The forgotten “poor wise man”:

“He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” (Is. 53:3)

“But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:” (Phil. 2:7)

[Sermon preached 26 JUN 2016 by Pastor John T. “Jack” Jeffery at Wayside Gospel Chapel, Greentown, PA.]

Complete Outline:

I. One Great Observation (9:13-15)

1. The Apparent Greatness of the Wisdom (9:13)

2. The Apparent Hopelessness of the City (9:14)

3. The Ungrateful Anonymity of the Deliverer (9:15)

1) The Poor Wise Man Found

2) The Poor Wise Man Delivers

3) The Poor Wise Man Forgotten

II. Three Conflicting Conclusions (9:16-18)

1. The Neglect of Wisdom (9:16)

2. The Contrast of Wisdom (9:17)

3. The Problem of Wisdom (9:18)

Appendix: Other journal articles mentioning “the poor wise man” (besides those cited in sermon notes)

 “The first one was preached as “An Election Sermon” before the Governor and Legislature of
Massachusetts, January 2, 1851, and is a model for such an occasion. Had the “Election Sermon”
always been of this type, it never would have been thought unprofitable, and so discontinued.
The text was Eccles. 9:15. “Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom
delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same poor man.” Its plan is the common one,
with an Introduction, Proposition, &c. After a most appropriate introduction, full of delicate
humor, in which he defends the application of the text to the Christian ministry, he announces as
his subject, “The Indebtedness of the State to the Clergy.” In the discussion of this theme the
preacher specifies four things, for which the State is greatly indebted to the Clergy, viz.: (1) For
their influence in promoting the comfort of the people; (2) For their influence in educating the
people; (3) For their influence in promoting the political virtues—especially those of respect for
the laws, zeal for their amelioration, and love of country; (4) For their efforts in promoting
Christian benevolence.
The divisions under which these reasons are drawn out and elaborated are replete with learning
and wisdom. Taken in conjunction with the notes, they form a rich treasury of information in
regard to the beneficent work of the ministry. Keeping in mind the occasion on which it was
uttered, one wonders whether that company of legislators did not conceive a higher respect, and
preserve it for the rest of their lives, for that “poor wise man,” the minister, concerning whom
they heard such things. Certainly it is enough to inspire with courage and self-respect, not to say
pardonable pride, the heart of one of these poor wise men, just to read the sermon. Every
minister ought to own the volume that he might have the sermon always in reach, as a moral tonic in seasons of despondency and self-disparagement. The achievements and capability of the ministry for good were never better set forth.”

— A. H. Currier, and G. Frederick Wright, “Park’s Discourses Considered Homiletically And Theologically,” Bibliotheca Sacra 44:173 (JAN 1887), pp. 159-160. “Discourses on Some Theological Doctrines as Related to the Religious Character. By-Edwards A. Park, D.D. Andover: Warren F. Draper. 1885. pp. x., 390. 6½ X 3⅝.” Currier and Wright, op. cit., pg. 157,  s.v. footnote 1.

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Scott’s statement does not appear to fit the conclusion of the parable itself:

“The poor wise man will appear far higher than the rich fool.”

— Hugh M. Scott, “Preaching To The Church Of Our Times,” Bibliotheca Sacra 66:261 (JAN 1909), pg. 33. “An address delivered at the opening of Chicago Theological Seminary, October 1, 1908…” Scott, op.cit., pg. 15, s.v. footnote 1.

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“The older writers were wont to take high views of the duties of learned men. These men have
made their election between professional life and the life of laymen. By so doing they have
gained certain advantages, and incurred certain disadvantages. Lord Bacon5 speaks of the
meanness of employment of men of learning, who spend their lives in teaching children; and of
the peculiarity of manners, whereby they differ from those versed in affairs; and especially of
“the smallness of their fortune, since learned men do not grow rich so fast as other men,
because they do not convert their labors chiefly to lucre and increase”; and he insists that this
sacrifice on their part is needful, for barbarism would long since have prevailed, “if the poverty
of learning had not kept up civility and honor of life.” The great thinkers have! always been
content to live without large pecuniary resources. It has often been “the poor wise man” who has saved the city. The highest work for the world is never paid for. No man, indeed, is fit to be a leader of men who cannot say with Demosthenes: “My counsels to you are not such as enable me to become great among you while you become little among the Grecians; but while sometimes they are not fit for me to give, they are always good for you to follow.” Great statesmen have always had in them such stuff as martyrs are made of. Truth will not give admission to her arcana to the man who does not seek her for her own sake. “In the Roman state poverty was a reverend and honored thing.” The intellectual princes have not been those who served two masters. Mammon is as real, if not as great, a foe to learning as to godliness. Nor can the scholar hope to gain all things which are themselves excellent. Themistocles was not ashamed to confess that he was a stranger to elegant accomplishments; but, said he, “I know how to make a small city a great state.””

— E. H. Byington, “The Position And Methods Of The American Scholar,” Bibliotheca Sacra 28:111 (JUL 1871), pp. 451-452; “This Article is the substance of an Oration delivered before the Alumni of the University of Vermont, August 3, 1870.” Byington, op. cit., pg. 444, s.v. footnote 1. “Advancement of Learning. Bacon, Vol. ii. pp. 24-26.” Byington, op. cit., footnote 5, pg. 451.

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“The security is, that the soul be in fresh and living sympathy with the living Saviour rather than with the hortus siccus of creeds and systems, and in living sympathy with humanity in its actual life. The Saviour says: “My sheep hear my voice.” It is only as we are in sympathy with him, receiving through the Spirit his thought and life into our own, and in sympathy like him with man, that we shall know his voice amid the babel of voices in this age: “I understand more than the ancients because I keep thy precepts.” Spiritual discernment and far-sightedness come from keeping God’s precepts. When statesmen, having no affinity for the law of God and the spiritual life of love, recommend measures for the welfare of the state which assume that selfishness is the only power to be considered in human affairs, and so fatally mistake the drift and movement of human thought and miss the measures needed for the welfare of society, the spiritual mind discerns the spiritual forces which the carnal mind knows not, and proclaims with prophetic far-sightedness the principles of justice in which alone safety can be found. This is the “poor wise man “who delivers the city.

— Samuel Harris, “Characteristics Distinctive Of Christ’s Kingdom As Created By Redemption From The World, Or The Kingdom Of Satan,” Bibliotheca Sacra 28:111 (JUL 1871), pg. 546.

Select Sources on Ecclesiastes:

J. Sidlow Baxter, Explore The Book: A Basic and Broadly Interpretive Course of Bible Study from Genesis to Revelation, 6 vols. in 1 ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, n.d., 1960 printing).

William D. Barrick, Ecclesiastes: The Philippians of the Old Testament, Focus on the Bible series (Fearn, Ross-Shire, Scotland: Christian Focus, 2012).[1]

Charles Bridges, An Exposition of the Book of Ecclesiastes (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1860).[2]

C. Hassell Bullock, An Introduction to the Old Testament Poetic Books: The Wisdom and Songs of Israel (Chicago: Moody Press, 1979).

Franz Delitzsch, “Commentary on The Song of Songs and Ecclesiastes,” trans. M. G. Easton, in Commentary on the Old Testament in Ten Volumes, C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Vol. VI: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of SolomonThree Volumes in One (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., n.d., 1975 reprint), III:179-442.

Michael A. Eaton, Ecclesiastes: An Introduction and Commentary, Vol. 16, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity, 1983).

Sinclair B. Ferguson. The Pundit's Folly: Chronicles of an Empty Life (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1995).

Duane A. Garrett, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Vol. 14, New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman, 1993).

Donald R. Glenn, “Ecclesiastes,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, eds. J. F. Walvoord, and R. B. Zuck (Wheaton, IL: Victor, 1985).

William Henry Green, “Scope and Plan of the Book of Ecclesiastes,” Biblical Reparatory and Princeton Review 29 (1857), pp. 419-40; on Gordon Faculty Online at http://faculty.gordon.edu/hu/bi/Ted_Hildebrandt/OTeSources/21-Ecclesiastes/Text/Articles/Green-ScopeofEccl-1857.pdf [accessed 7 NOV 2015].[3]

Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., Coping With Change: Ecclesiastes (Fearn, Roth-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus, 2013).[4]

Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., Ecclesiastes: Total Life, in Everyman’s Bible Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1979).

Derek Kidner, The Message of Ecclesiastes: A Time to Mourn, and a Time to Dance, in The Bible Speaks Today, Old Testament series ed. J. A. Motyer (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1976).

H. C. Leupold, Exposition of Ecclesiastes (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1952).

Tremper Longman III, The Book of Ecclesiastes, New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997).

John MacArthur, MacArthur Study Bible, rev. ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997).

Tim Mackie, “The book of Ecclesiastes explained with illustrations,” on The Bible Project at http://www.jointhebibleproject.com [accessed 18 JUN 2016]; includes downloadable full resolution video (700+ mb), and poster; for the video see also “Read Scripture Ecclesiastes” (10 JUN 2016), on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lrsQ1tc-2wk [accessed 18 JUN 2016].[5]

Roland Edmund Murphy, Ecclesiastes, Vol. 23A, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, 1992).

John G. Reisinger, Studies in Ecclesiastes (Frederick, MD: New Covenant Media, 2008).

Philip Graham Ryken, Ecclesiastes: Why Everything Matters, in Preaching the Word, gen. ed. R. Kent Hughes (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010).

Philip G. Ryken, Why Everything Matters: The Gospel in Ecclesiastes (Fearn, Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, Ltd., 2015).

Benjamin Shaw, “On Reading Ecclesiastes,” in The Hope Fulfilled: Essays in Honor of O. Palmer Robertson, ed. Robert L. Penny (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2008), pp. 47-58.

Peter B. Steese, ed., Ecclesiastes, gen. ed. Leonard F. Dean (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, Inc., 1966).

Tom V. Taylor, Studies in Ecclesiastes (Port Colborne, Ontario, CA: Gospel Folio Press, 2013).[6]  

Addison G. Wright, “The Riddle of the Sphinx: The Structure of the Book of Qoheleth,” in Reflecting with Solomon: Selected Studies on the Book of Ecclesiastes, ed. Roy B. Zuck (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994), pp. 45-66; originally published in Catholic Biblical Quarterly 30 (1968), pp. 313-334.

J. Stafford Wright, “Ecclesiastes,” in Psalms-Song of Songs, Vol. 5, Expositor's Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1991).

J. Stafford Wright, “The Interpretation of Ecclesiastes”, in Classical Evangelical Essays in Old Testament Interpretation, ed. Walter C. Kaiser Jr. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1972), pp. 135-150; from J. Stafford Wright, “The Interpretation of Ecclesiastes,” Evangelical Quarterly 18 (1946), pp. 18-34; on Rediscovering the Bible at http://rediscoveringthebible.com/InterpretationOfEcclesiastes.html [accessed 7 MAY 2015].

Ronald F. Youngblood, “Qoheleth's 'Dark House' (Eccl. 12:5),” in A Tribute to Gleason Archer, eds. Walter C. Kaiser and Ronald F. Youngblood (Chicago: Moody Press, 1986), pp.211-228; also published in Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 29:4 (DEC 1986), pp. 397-410; on Biblical Studies at http://www.etsjets.org/files/JETS-PDFs/29/29-4/29-4-pp397-410_JETS.pdf [accessed 4 APR 2016].




Notes:

[1] Barrick’s lecture notes (PDF files) and audio (mp3) are on Dr Barrick at http://drbarrick.org/teaching/ecclesiastes/ [accessed 3 FEB 2016].

[2] On Internet Archive at https://archive.org/details/expositionofbook00bridrich [accessed 11 MAY 2015]; on Google Books at  http://books.google.com/books?id=e4kOAQAAIAAJ&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false [accessed 11 MAY 2015]; and linked on Precept Austin at http://preceptaustin.org/proverbs_commentaries.htm#cb [accessed 11 MAY 2015].

[3] Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. inexplicably refers to this as an “unsigned article” on at least two occasions in his commentary despite the facts that: 1) William Henry Green is clearly indicated as the author under the title on the first page of the article (pg. 419), and 2) one of his own faculty members (Ted Hildebrandt) has posted the article on the school’s web site where Kaiser served as both faculty member and President. Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., Ecclesiastes: Total Life, in Everyman’s Bible Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1979); and Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., Coping With Change: Ecclesiastes (Fearn, Roth-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus, 2013).

[4] Although not indicated on the copyright page, this appears in all respects to be a revised edition (2nd ed.) of the Moody Press 1979 original. The relationship to the original is referenced in the “Preface,” where the author mentions the inclusion of his own translation of Ecclesiastes in this revision as one significant change. “Dale Ralph Davis compares the two and says, “the ‘bones’ are much the same but the whole has been updated and expanded.” Source: Tim Challies, “Best Commentaries on Ecclesiastes” (18 NOV 2013), on Challies at http://www.challies.com/resources/best-commentaries-on-ecclesiastes [accessed 7 NOV 2015].

[5] “This video explores the main ideas and flow of thought of the book of Ecclesiastes.
The Bible Project is a non-profit creating animated videos that explain the narrative of the Bible. These videos are free to use for personal and educational purposes. Download a full resolution version of this video along with a study guide at www.jointhebibleproject.com.”
“About the author: Tim Mackie is a Pastor of Door of Hope church and a Professor at Western Seminary - timmackie.com”

[6] See also the “Thomas V. Taylor Library” on the Interdisciplinary Biblical Research Institute at  http://www.taylorlib.ibri.org/ [accessed 27 NOV 2013].

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Pastor's Sermon Notes: Ecclesiastes (series), #31 - You Never Know! (Ecclesiastes 9:11-12)

Series: Ecclesiastes
Sermon #31: You Never Know!
Ecclesiastes 9:11-12


[Audio file from Internet Archive at https://archive.org/details/Ecclesiastes911-12.]

11 I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all. 12 For man also knoweth not his time: as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare; so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them.

Introduction:

The emphasis in these verses is seen in the triple repetition of the noun “time”: “time and chance,” “his time,” and “an evil time.” A secondary emphasis seen in verse 12 is the repetition of the adjective connecting “an evil net” to “an evil time.”

Outline:

I. Qoheleth’s Investigation (Third “Return”) Negates Human Expectations
(9:11a-f)
II. Qoheleth’s Conclusion Dashes Human Predictions (9:11g)
III. Qoheleth’s Foundation (Basic Principle) Confronts Human Limitations (9:12a)
IV. Qoheleth’s Comparison Shatters Human Procrastinations (9:12b-e)

Transition:  

The first two points involve the issue of life in verse 11.
The second two points involve the issue of death in verse 12.

I. Qoheleth’s Investigation (Third “Return”) Negates Human Expectations (9:11a-f)

I returned, and saw under the sun,
that the race is not to the swift,
nor the battle to the strong,
neither yet bread to the wise,
nor yet riches to men of understanding,
nor yet favour to men of skill;

I returned, and saw under the sun,

Eccl. 4:1 — So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter.

Eccl. 4:7 — Then I returned, and I saw vanity under the sun.

that the race is not to the swift,
nor the battle to the strong,
neither yet bread to the wise,
nor yet riches to men of understanding,
nor yet favour to men of skill;

Focus
Qualification
Remarks
the race
the swift
Expectation: The fastest runner wins the race.
Reality: Victory in a race is not definite to the fastest runner.
the battle
the strong
Expectation: The mightiest warrior wins the battle.
Reality: Victory in a battle is not certain to the strongest warrior or army.
bread
the wise
Expectation: The wise are the best providers.
Reality: Food is not guaranteed to the possessors of wisdom.
riches
men of understanding
Expectation: The best investors gather the most returns.
Reality: Material wealth is not “in the bag” to those who have understanding.
favour
men of skill
Expectation: The most skillful have the best reputations.
Reality: Fame is not assured to the most talented.

When you’re a winner, but you can’t win.
When you’re a loser, and yet a winner.

Dt. 8:17-18 — 17 And thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth. 18 But thou shalt remember the LORD thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day.

2 Chr. 20:15 — And he said, Hearken ye, all Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem, and thou king Jehoshaphat, Thus saith the LORD unto you, Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God's.

Ps. 76:5 — The stouthearted are spoiled, they have slept their sleep: and none of the men of might have found their hands.

Is. 40:26-31 — 26 Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth. 27 Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the LORD, and my judgment is passed over from my God? 28 Hast thou not known?  hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary?  there is no searching of his understanding. 29 He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. 30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: 31 But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

Amos 2:14-16 — 14 Therefore the flight shall perish from the swift, and the strong shall not strengthen his force, neither shall the mighty deliver himself: 15 Neither shall he stand that handleth the bow; and he that is swift of foot shall not deliver himself: neither shall he that rideth the horse deliver himself. 16 And he that is courageous among the mighty shall flee away naked in that day, saith the LORD.

Zech. 4:6 — Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.

Rom. 9:10-16 — 10 And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac; 11 (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;)
12 It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. 13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. 14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. 15 For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 16: So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.

Jer. 9:23-24 — 23 Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: 24 But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD.

1 Cor. 1:18-31 — 18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. 20 Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?
21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. 22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: 23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; 24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: 27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; 28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: 29 That no flesh should glory in his presence. 30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: 31 That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.

“Conquering now and still to conquer, rideth a King in His might;
Leading the host of all the faithful into the midst of the fight;
See them with courage advancing, clad in their brilliant array,
Shouting the Name of their Leader, hear them exultingly say:
Refrain:
Not to the strong is the battle, not to the swift is the race,
Yet to the true and the faithful vict’ry is promised through grace.”[1]

II. Qoheleth’s Conclusion Dashes Human Predictions (9:11g)

but time and chance happeneth to them all.

On “time” in Ecclesiastes see 3:1-8, 11, 17; and 8:5-6, 9.

The only other occurrence in the Old Testament of this same Hebrew word here translated “chance”: 1 Ki. 5:4 — But now the LORD my God hath given me rest on every side, so that there is neither adversary nor evil occurrent.

Different word, same concept (3 Heb. words, and 2 Gk. words trans. “chance” by KJV. See Dt. 22:6; 1 Sam. 6:9; 2 Sam. 1:6; Eccl. 9:11; Lk. 10:31; 1 Cor. 15:37):

1 Sam. 6:9 — And see, if it goeth up by the way of his own coast to Beth-shemesh, then he hath done us this great evil: but if not, then we shall know that is not his hand that smote us; it was a chance that happened to us.

1 Ki. 22:34 — And a certain man drew a bow at a venture, and smote the king of Israel between the joints of the harness: wherefore he said unto the driver of his chariot, Turn thine hand, and carry me out of the host; for I am wounded.

“Solomon describes people as victims of inscrutable or even “cruel” chance. Nevertheless, the believer understands that God orders events in unexpected ways.”
New Geneva Study Bible, note, pg. 998.

More on the Unpredictability of Life. While not denying God’s sovereign ordering of human affairs (e.g., 3:1-15; 7:14), the Preacher admits that from a finite, fallible human perspective, many things that occur in the world have the appearance of being the result of pure chance (cf. 9:1-6).”
ESV Study Bible, note, pg. 1206.

“9. The true causes of events are hidden to us
Yet since the sluggishness of our mind lies far beneath the height of God’s providence, we must employ a distinction to lift it up. Therefore I shall put it this way: however all things may be ordained by God’s plan, according to a sure dispensation, for us they are fortuitous. Not that we think that fortune rules the world and men, tumbling all things at random up and down, for it is fitting that this folly be absent from the Christian’s breast! But since the order, reason, end, and necessity of those things which happen for the most part lie hidden in God’s purpose, and are not apprehended by human opinion, those things, which it is certain take place by God’s will, are in a sense fortuitous. For they bear on the face of them no other appearance, whether they are considered in their own nature or weighed according to our knowledge and judgment. Let us imagine, for example, a merchant who, entering a wood with a company of faithful men, unwisely wanders away from his companions, and in his wandering comes upon a robber’s den, falls among thieves, and is slain. His death was not only foreseen by God’s eye, but also determined by his decree. For it is not said that he foresaw how long the life of each man would extend, but that he determined and fixed the bounds that men cannot pass [Job 14:5]. Yet as far as the capacity of our mind is concerned, all things therein seem fortuitous. What will a Christian think at this point? Just this: whatever happened in a death of this sort he will regard as fortuitous by nature, as it is; yet he will not doubt that God’s providence exercised authority over fortune in directing its end. The same reckoning applies to the contingency of future events.[2] As all future events are uncertain to us, so we hold them in suspense, as if they might incline to one side or the other. Yet in our hearts it nonetheless remains fixed that nothing will take place that the Lord has not previously foreseen.
In this sense the term “fate” is often repeated in Ecclesiastes [chs. 2:14–15; 3:19; 9:2–3, 11],[3] because at first glance men do not penetrate to the first cause, which is deeply hidden. And yet what is set forth in Scripture concerning God’s secret providence was never so extinguished from men’s hearts without some sparks always glowing in the darkness. Thus the soothsayers of the Philistines, although they wavered in doubt, yet attributed their adverse fate partly to God, partly to fortune. If the Ark, they say, shall pass through that way, we shall know that it is God who has struck us; but if it passes through another way, then it has happened to us by chance [1 Sam. 6:9]. Foolishly indeed, where their divination deceived them, they took refuge in fortune. Meanwhile we see them constrained from daring to think simply fortuitous what had happened unfavorably to them. But how God by the bridle of his providence turns every event whatever way he wills, will be clear from this remarkable example. At the very moment of time in which David was trapped in the wilderness of Maon, the Philistines invaded the land, and Saul was compelled to depart [1 Sam. 23:26–27]. If God, intending to provide for his servant’s safety, cast this hindrance in Saul’s way, surely, although the Philistines took up arms suddenly and above all human expectation, yet we will not say that this took place by chance; but what for us seems a contingency, faith recognizes to have been a secret impulse from God.
Not always does a like reason appear, but we ought undoubtedly to hold that whatever changes are discerned in the world are produced from the secret stirring of God’s hand. But what God has determined must necessarily so take place, even though it is neither unconditionally, nor of its own peculiar nature, necessary. A familiar example presents itself in the bones of Christ. When he took upon himself a body like our own, no sane man will deny that his bones were fragile; yet it was impossible to break them [John 19:33, 36]. Whence again we see that distinctions concerning relative necessity and absolute necessity, likewise of consequent and consequence,[4] were not recklessly invented in schools, when God subjected to fragility the bones of his Son, which he had exempted from being broken, and thus restricted to the necessity of his own plan what could have happened naturally.
— John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, in The Library of Christian Classics, gen. eds. John Baillie, John T. McNeill, and Henry P. Van Dusen (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1960;  Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), I:208-210, s.v. 1:16:9, s.v.The true causes of events are hidden to us.”

III. Qoheleth’s Foundation (Basic Principle) Confronts Human Limitations (9:12a)

For man also knoweth not his time:[5]

Man’s mortality is his ultimate limitation. The fact that man is absolutely ignorant of when his life will end — when he will die — is a fundamental reality that should confront him each and every moment of each and every day. This basic principle — man is ignorant of the time of his death — now becomes a foundation for Qoheleth to build a loud wake-up call on. This is Qoheleth’s “alarm clock” if you will.

Eccl. 8:7 — For he knoweth not that which shall be: for who can tell him when it shall be?

Lk. 12:15-21 — 15 And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. 16 And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: 17 And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?
18 And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. 20 But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? 21 So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.

Lk. 12:35-40 — 35 Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; 36 And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately. 37 Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them. 38 And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants. 39 And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through. 40 Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.

“2. Conquering now and still to conquer, who is this wonderful King?
Whence are the armies which He leadeth, while of His glory they sing?
He is our Lord and Redeemer, Savior and Monarch divine;
They are the stars that forever bright in His kingdom shall shine.
Refrain:
Not to the strong is the battle, not to the swift is the race,
Yet to the true and the faithful vict’ry is promised through grace.”

IV. Qoheleth’s Comparison Shatters Human Procrastinations (9:12b-e)

as the fishes that are taken in an evil net,
and as the birds that are caught in the snare;
so are the sons of men snared in an evil time,
when it falleth suddenly upon them.

The startling nature of these figures of speech constitute Qoheleth’s “alarm clock”!

1. Figures (Similes)

as the fishes that are taken in an evil net,
and as the birds that are caught in the snare;
so are the sons of men snared in an evil time,

Subject
Verb
Adverb Phrase
fishes
taken
in an evil net
birds
caught
in the snare
sons of men
snared
in an evil time

“With his eyes screwed up to see into the distance, he is blind to the danger of the present moment, even if he is wise; and he becomes entangled in it, as a fish or a bird is entangled in a net (9.11f.). (Jeremiah said that the stork, the swallow and other migratory birds were wiser than the people in Israel; Jer.8.7.) But even if man recognizes the hour when it comes, he cannot avert the destiny it brings with it; that has long been determined by one stronger than man (Eccles. 6.10).”
— Hans Walter Wolff, Anthropology of the Old Testament, trans. Margaret Kohl (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1974; from Anthropologie des Alten Testaments, Munich: Chr. Kaiser Verlag, 1973), pg. 91, s.v. Ch. X, “The Old Testament Concept of Time,” pp. 83-92.

Pr. 7:21-27 — 21 With her much fair speech she caused him to yield, with the flattering of her lips she forced him. 22 He goeth after her straightway, as an ox goeth to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction of the stocks; 23 Till a dart strike through his liver; as a bird hasteth to the snare, and knoweth not that it is for his life. 24 Hearken unto me now therefore, O ye children, and attend to the words of my mouth. 25 Let not thine heart decline to her ways, go not astray in her paths. 26 For she hath cast down many wounded: yea, many strong men have been slain by her. 27 Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death.

Pr. 29:6 — In the transgression of an evil man there is a snare: but the righteous doth sing and rejoice.

Is. 24:16-18 — 16 From the uttermost part of the earth have we heard songs, even glory to the righteous.  But I said, My leanness, my leanness, woe unto me!  the treacherous dealers have dealt treacherously; yea, the treacherous dealers have dealt very treacherously. 17 Fear, and the pit, and the snare, are upon thee, O inhabitant of the earth. 18 And it shall come to pass, that he who fleeth from the noise of the fear shall fall into the pit; and he that cometh up out of the midst of the pit shall be taken in the snare: for the windows from on high are open, and the foundations of the earth do shake.

Ezek. 12:13 — My net also will I spread upon him, and he shall be taken in my snare: and I will bring him to Babylon to the land of the Chaldeans; yet shall he not see it, though he shall die there.

Hos. 7:12 — When they shall go, I will spread my net upon them; I will bring them down as the fowls of the heaven; I will chastise them, as their congregation hath heard.

Hos. 9:8 — The watchman of Ephraim was with my God: but the prophet is a snare of a fowler in all his ways, and hatred in the house of his God.

Lk. 21:34-36 — 34 And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. 35 For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.

2. Application

when it falleth suddenly upon them.

“…petha` signifies that something arrives imperceptibly, surprisingly, and unnoticed, and when the eyes are raised unexpectedly, it is suddenly there. This notion of an unexpectedly occurring surprise appears at Eccles. 9.12 (et al.), in the comparison with the fish and birds who notice nothing until they find themselves ‘suddenly’ ensnared….I do not believe that these last-named words allude to the mere opening of the eye; they portray how in sheer surprise the mouth as well as the eyes opens involuntarily when something unexpected is suddenly seen.”
— Thorleif Boman, Hebrew Thought Compared With Greek, 2nd ed. rev., trans. Jules L. Moreau (New York: W. W. Norton. 1960; from Das hebrӓische Denken im Vergleich mit dem Griechischen, Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1954), pg. 137, s.v. “d. Duration and Instant,” pp. 135-137.

Lk. 17:26-36 — 26 And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. 27 They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. 28 Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; 29 But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. 30 Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed. 31 In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back.
32 Remember Lot's wife. 33 Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it. 34 I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. 35 Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left. 36 Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.

1 Th. 5:1-4 — 1 But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. 2 For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.
3 For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. 4 But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.

Conclusion:

“3. Conquering now and still to conquer, Jesus, Thou Ruler of all,
Thrones and their scepters all shall perish, crowns and their splendor shall fall,
Yet shall the armies Thou leadest, faithful and true to the last,
Find in Thy mansions eternal rest, when their warfare is past.
but time and chance happeneth to them all.
Refrain:
Not to the strong is the battle, not to the swift is the race,
Yet to the true and the faithful vict’ry is promised through grace.”

[Sermon preached 19 JUN 2016 by Pastor John T. “Jack” Jeffery at Wayside Gospel Chapel, Greentown, PA.]

Complete Outline:

I. Qoheleth’s Investigation (Third “Return”) Negates Human Expectations
(9:11a-f)
II. Qoheleth’s Conclusion Dashes Human Predictions (9:11g)
III. Qoheleth’s Foundation (Basic Principle) Confronts Human Limitations (9:12a)
IV. Qoheleth’s Comparison Shatters Human Procrastinations (9:12b-e)

Select Sources on Ecclesiastes:

J. Sidlow Baxter, Explore The Book: A Basic and Broadly Interpretive Course of Bible Study from Genesis to Revelation, 6 vols. in 1 ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, n.d., 1960 printing).

William D. Barrick, Ecclesiastes: The Philippians of the Old Testament, Focus on the Bible series (Fearn, Ross-Shire, Scotland: Christian Focus, 2012).[6]

Charles Bridges, An Exposition of the Book of Ecclesiastes (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1860).[7]

C. Hassell Bullock, An Introduction to the Old Testament Poetic Books: The Wisdom and Songs of Israel (Chicago: Moody Press, 1979).

Franz Delitzsch, “Commentary on The Song of Songs and Ecclesiastes,” trans. M. G. Easton, in Commentary on the Old Testament in Ten Volumes, C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Vol. VI: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon: Three Volumes in One (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., n.d., 1975 reprint), III:179-442.

Michael A. Eaton, Ecclesiastes: An Introduction and Commentary, Vol. 16, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity, 1983).

Sinclair B. Ferguson. The Pundit's Folly: Chronicles of an Empty Life (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1995).

Duane A. Garrett, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Vol. 14, New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman, 1993).

Donald R. Glenn, “Ecclesiastes,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, eds. J. F. Walvoord, and R. B. Zuck (Wheaton, IL: Victor, 1985).

William Henry Green, “Scope and Plan of the Book of Ecclesiastes,” Biblical Reparatory and Princeton Review 29 (1857), pp. 419-40; on Gordon Faculty Online at http://faculty.gordon.edu/hu/bi/Ted_Hildebrandt/OTeSources/21-Ecclesiastes/Text/Articles/Green-ScopeofEccl-1857.pdf [accessed 7 NOV 2015].[8]

Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., Coping With Change: Ecclesiastes (Fearn, Roth-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus, 2013).[9]

Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., Ecclesiastes: Total Life, in Everyman’s Bible Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1979).

Derek Kidner, The Message of Ecclesiastes: A Time to Mourn, and a Time to Dance, in The Bible Speaks Today, Old Testament series ed. J. A. Motyer (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1976).

H. C. Leupold, Exposition of Ecclesiastes (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1952).

Tremper Longman III, The Book of Ecclesiastes, New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997).

John MacArthur, MacArthur Study Bible, rev. ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997).

Tim Mackie, “The book of Ecclesiastes explained with illustrations,” on The Bible Project at http://www.jointhebibleproject.com [accessed 18 JUN 2016]; includes downloadable full resolution video (700+ mb), and poster; for the video see also “Read Scripture Ecclesiastes” (10 JUN 2016), on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lrsQ1tc-2wk [accessed 18 JUN 2016].[10]

Roland Edmund Murphy, Ecclesiastes, Vol. 23A, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, 1992).

John G. Reisinger, Studies in Ecclesiastes (Frederick, MD: New Covenant Media, 2008).

Philip Graham Ryken, Ecclesiastes: Why Everything Matters, in Preaching the Word, gen. ed. R. Kent Hughes (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010).

Philip G. Ryken, Why Everything Matters: The Gospel in Ecclesiastes (Fearn, Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, Ltd., 2015).

Benjamin Shaw, “On Reading Ecclesiastes,” in The Hope Fulfilled: Essays in Honor of O. Palmer Robertson, ed. Robert L. Penny (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2008), pp. 47-58.

Peter B. Steese, ed., Ecclesiastes, gen. ed. Leonard F. Dean (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, Inc., 1966).

Tom V. Taylor, Studies in Ecclesiastes (Port Colborne, Ontario, CA: Gospel Folio Press, 2013).[11]  

Addison G. Wright, “The Riddle of the Sphinx: The Structure of the Book of Qoheleth,” in Reflecting with Solomon: Selected Studies on the Book of Ecclesiastes, ed. Roy B. Zuck (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994), pp. 45-66; originally published in Catholic Biblical Quarterly 30 (1968), pp. 313-334.

J. Stafford Wright, “Ecclesiastes,” in Psalms-Song of Songs, Vol. 5, Expositor's Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1991).

J. Stafford Wright, “The Interpretation of Ecclesiastes”, in Classical Evangelical Essays in Old Testament Interpretation, ed. Walter C. Kaiser Jr. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1972), pp. 135-150; from J. Stafford Wright, “The Interpretation of Ecclesiastes,” Evangelical Quarterly 18 (1946), pp. 18-34; on Rediscovering the Bible at http://rediscoveringthebible.com/InterpretationOfEcclesiastes.html [accessed 7 MAY 2015].

Ronald F. Youngblood, “Qoheleth's 'Dark House' (Eccl. 12:5),” in A Tribute to Gleason Archer, eds. Walter C. Kaiser and Ronald F. Youngblood (Chicago: Moody Press, 1986), pp.211-228; also published in Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 29:4 (DEC 1986), pp. 397-410; on Biblical Studies at http://www.etsjets.org/files/JETS-PDFs/29/29-4/29-4-pp397-410_JETS.pdf [accessed 4 APR 2016].



Notes:

[1] Fanny J. Crosby (1820-1915).

[2] Cf. Comm. Harmony of the Evangelists, Matt. 10:29. Calvin holds all contingency within the operation of God’s providence. So also Westminster Confession V. 2: “… by the same providence, he ordereth … [all things] to fall out according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently.” See the quoted statements on contingent events by Reformed theologians in Heppe RD, ch. xii, pp. 265 ff. Calvin, J. (2011). Institutes of the Christian Religion & 2. (J. T. McNeill, Ed., F. L. Battles, Trans.) (Vol. 1). Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.

[3] “Eventus.”

[4] Aquinas, Summa Theol. I. xix. 3. Barth and Niesel, citing Bonaventura, Duns Scotus, Erasmus, and Eck in agreement, point out Luther’s rejection of this view in his De servo arbitrio (Werke WA XVIII. 615 ff.). Melanchthon’s position is not different from that of Aquinas and of Calvin: Loci communes, 1543 (CR Melanchthon XXI. 649 f.); Loci theologici, 1559 (ed. Engelland, op. cit., pp. 229 f., 233). Calvin, J. (2011). Institutes of the Christian Religion & 2. (J. T. McNeill, Ed., F. L. Battles, Trans.) (Vol. 1). Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.

[5] “The time of his misfortune, especially death (cf. 11:8, “days of darkness”; 12:1, “difficult days”).”John MacArthur, MacArthur Study Bible, note, pg. 936.

[6] Barrick’s lecture notes (PDF files) and audio (mp3) are on Dr Barrick at http://drbarrick.org/teaching/ecclesiastes/ [accessed 3 FEB 2016].

[7] On Internet Archive at https://archive.org/details/expositionofbook00bridrich [accessed 11 MAY 2015]; on Google Books at  http://books.google.com/books?id=e4kOAQAAIAAJ&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false [accessed 11 MAY 2015]; and linked on Precept Austin at http://preceptaustin.org/proverbs_commentaries.htm#cb [accessed 11 MAY 2015].

[8] Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. inexplicably refers to this as an “unsigned article” on at least two occasions in his commentary despite the facts that: 1) William Henry Green is clearly indicated as the author under the title on the first page of the article (pg. 419), and 2) one of his own faculty members (Ted Hildebrandt) has posted the article on the school’s web site where Kaiser served as both faculty member and President. Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., Ecclesiastes: Total Life, in Everyman’s Bible Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1979); and Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., Coping With Change: Ecclesiastes (Fearn, Roth-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus, 2013).

[9] Although not indicated on the copyright page, this appears in all respects to be a revised edition (2nd ed.) of the Moody Press 1979 original. The relationship to the original is referenced in the “Preface,” where the author mentions the inclusion of his own translation of Ecclesiastes in this revision as one significant change. “Dale Ralph Davis compares the two and says, “the ‘bones’ are much the same but the whole has been updated and expanded.” Source: Tim Challies, “Best Commentaries on Ecclesiastes” (18 NOV 2013), on Challies at http://www.challies.com/resources/best-commentaries-on-ecclesiastes [accessed 7 NOV 2015].

[10] “This video explores the main ideas and flow of thought of the book of Ecclesiastes.
The Bible Project is a non-profit creating animated videos that explain the narrative of the Bible. These videos are free to use for personal and educational purposes. Download a full resolution version of this video along with a study guide at www.jointhebibleproject.com.”
“About the author: Tim Mackie is a Pastor of Door of Hope church and a Professor at Western Seminary - timmackie.com”

[11] See also the “Thomas V. Taylor Library” on the Interdisciplinary Biblical Research Institute at  http://www.taylorlib.ibri.org/ [accessed 27 NOV 2013].