Ecclesiastes 3:8-14

Ecclesiastes 3:8

A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.


There is also a time to love other people, our spouses our friends and there is also a time to love the worldly pleasures that are set before us.  Then when we become believers we hate the very things we used to love. And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.  (Jude 23)  We are to hate the very sins which sent Christ to the cross both in our lives and in the lives of others.  We are to hate the things which can destroy us and our families and treat them with contempt.


Then there is a time for war and we know that war is a constant occurrence on this earth as one war ends and another one starts.  The great war that humans have to contend with is the fact that the unbeliever is at war with God especially since they are in the kingdom of Satan.  Then when a person becomes saved, they are transferred out of the kingdom of Satan into the Kingdom of God and the war between God and the believer is now over.  Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:  (Romans 5:1)  That peace that the believer has is permanent unlike the secular peace which is negotiated between warring nations on this planet. 


Ecclesiastes 3:9

What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth?


Then Solomon asks the question he asked at the beginning of the book of Ecclesiastes.  What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?  (Ecclesiastes 1:3)  A person works all their life and has but a short time to enjoy any of the benefits he may gain from his labor before he leaves it all to someone else.  He is tired, his body aches, he has many problems to face in this life and on top of that he faces the inevitable predicament of death.  Basically, the answer to the question is that he has no profit.


Ecclesiastes 3:10

I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it.


Travail carries with it the synonyms of “struggle, exertion, or effort.” The travail was the hard work that man was sentenced to because of Adam’s sin.  Hard work would be the calling of all people upon this earth which they must submit to.  The word “exercised” carries with it the meaning of “afflicted or chastened.”  When man was created, he lived in a paradise but now because of sin, the paradise has been turned into a global work camp which every human being must do their share.


Ecclesiastes 3:11

He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.


God created everything beautiful in his time which means as the world had progressed, the works of God were done accordingly to the purpose or will of God at that time.  Nothing was done out of randomness.


The word behind “world” in this verse is “ôlãm” which carries with it the meaning of “forever, everlasting, or eternity.”  This is how it is translated in the majority of the Hebrew Scriptures.


Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore. (Ezekiel 37:26)


He is the tower of salvation for his king: and sheweth mercy to his anointed, unto David, and to his seed for evermore. (2 Samuel 22:51)


However, the word “ôlãm” has a wider meaning than just eternity.  It can also be translated “old, ancient, old time, never.” 


Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations: ask thy father, and he will shew thee; thy elders, and they will tell thee. (Deuteronomy 32:7)


Hast thou marked the old way which wicked men have trodden? (Job 22:15)


And who, as I, shall call, and shall declare it, and set it in order for me, since I appointed the ancient people? and the things that are coming, and shall come, let them shew unto them. (Isaiah 44:7)


Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set. (Proverbs 22:28)


When I shall bring thee down with them that descend into the pit, with the people of old time, and shall set thee in the low parts of the earth, in places desolate of old, with them that go down to the pit, that thou be not inhabited; and I shall set glory in the land of the living; (Ezekiel 26:20)


{26} And ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, that hath dealt wondrously with you: and my people shall never be ashamed.  {27} And ye shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the LORD your God, and none else: and my people shall never be ashamed. (Joel 2:26-27)  


Sometime in the centuries preceding the King James Translation, the word “ôlãm” began to be translated as world.  When that happened I do not know any specific dates for that, as language tended to progress and during the 16th century, the English language underwent many changes. 


The Geneva Bible of 1560 uses the word “world” for “ôlãm.”


(1560 Geneva Bible) He hath made euery thing beautifull in his time: also he hath set the worlde in their heart, yet can not man finde out the worke that God hath wrought from the beginning euen to the end.


Now we go back to Ecclesiastes 3:11 and see why the King James Translators chose “world” instead of “eternity.” 


He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)


As we have seen that “ôlãm” does not always mean eternity even though that is the primary meaning of the word.  We safely conclude that “ôlãm” is a word that is defined by the context.  If we look at Ecclesiastes chapter 3, we read that it is speaking about this world and not about eternity.   Verses 1-8 speak about a time for everything under Heaven.  Verse 9 speaks about the labor of man and its profit.  Verse 10 speaks about the travail of man which was given by God.   Travail carries with it the synonyms of “struggle, exertion, or effort.”  Then we come to verse 11 which speaks about God setting the world in the heart of man but man is lacking the ability to understand the works of God.  Man has always been fascinated by God’s creation and has an innate desire to search it out and understand it.  Remember the 64 questions God asked Job at the end of the book?  Job was unable to answer any of them.  Then we come to Ecclesiastes 11:5.


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. (Ecclesiastes 11:5)


This gives us the key to understanding Ecclesiastes 3:11 and why they chose “world” simply because Ecclesiastes is about the futility of this life without God.  The works in view in both Ecclesiastes 3:11 and 11:5 are speaking about the works of this world and that is why plugging in the word “eternity” without factoring in context makes the verse a completely confusing verse making no sense.  When was the last time you heard an unbeliever speak about eternal things versus speaking about the things of the world?  The unbeliever is tied to this world and Ecclesiastes 3 is making no differentiation between saved or unsaved and is speaking to the human race in general.  Even believers are tied to this world simply by means of being human but believers also look to the future and see the eternal horizon where the natural, unsaved person does not.


The context of Ecclesiastes 3:11 demands that the word “world” be there simply

because it harmonizes with the rest of the chapter.


Ecclesiastes 3:12

I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life.


Solomon knows by means of his searching out and by means of his own experience that there is no good in all of the pleasures of this life as they all lead to a final death.  Solomon knew that not even in his immense wealth was there any good or benefit for the person who held onto these things.  The greatest reward that a man can have in this life is to enjoy some of the fruits of his labor and not in riotous or sinful living but to enjoy them in a goodly way such as enjoying the natural beauties of this world.  Then a person would be happy if they walked away from doing evil things and concentrated their life on doing good things by helping others or being a true friend which would bring more enjoyment than being an enemy of the people and having no friends.  Doing good will not get a person to Heaven as one is only saved through Christ.  As I have stated many times before to people, “I would rather see a sober sinner driving a car than a drunk sinner.”  In other words, becoming sober from being a drunk will not get you into Heaven but you will be a much better member of society.


Ecclesiastes 3:13

And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God.


As a man earns his living, it is good to save some money but it is also not wrong or sinful to enjoy the things of this life in a biblical, non-sinning manner.  Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.  (1 Corinthians 10:31)  For the believer it is necessary to enjoy the things of this world that the Lord gave us such as the parks, the oceans, rivers, forests, etc.  God could have made this world a total wasteland because of Adam and Eve’s sin but after the flood he chose to give us some really beautiful places in it such as the Grand Canyon, the Serengeti, Fujiyama, Canadian Maritime Provinces, the tropical paradises like the Caribbean Islands, etc.  God gave us much we can do that would not require us wrecking our bodies.  Did you ever go hiking in the woods?  Did you ever take a canoe down a river?  Did you ever jump on a trampoline?  Did you ever go skiing?  God has given us so many things that we can enjoy in this life for both the saved and the unsaved.


Ecclesiastes 3:14

I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him.


As Solomon was bemoaning the fact that everything on this earth has a time to be created and a time to expire, here he is extolling the fact that God’s work shall last forever.  This means that God’s purpose is unchanging.  The temporary works of God may pass away but he will create something to take its place for the purpose of working out his will which is forever.  Man can neither add or take away from the eternal purpose of God.  When Solomon ruled, it was about 2900 years ago and we did not have computers or cars or any of the modern conveniences but as Solomon stated that one generation goes and another comes, the wisdom and inventions of God are commensurate with each generation.  As God heads this world toward the end, the command of the Lord Jesus Christ was go into every nation and preach the gospel.  With the advent of the internet, the gospel is now in every country in the world and no longer does anyone have to wait for the mail to deliver a book or study, everyone that has access to the internet can have instant materials at their hand.  This has never happened before in history until our generation.  The website you are reading this on has been on line since November 1997.  The last phrase in this verse speaks about people fearing before God.  This is because just as in the time of Solomon as is now, even though the implements have become modernized with every generation, this only tells us that the world is heading for an eternal judgment soon.  It does not matter whether a person has much material goods or little material goods, if they are unsaved they should fear because their destiny is one of judgment and that fear of God should lead to a desire to seek the LORD while he may be found.