This is Ecclesiastes 11
1Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.
The purpose of Ecclesiastes chapter 11 is to warn about troubles that must happen soon. Those troubles will certainly happen, and nobody can avoid them.
(1) There will be troubles in the country and across the world. Enemies will attack. Or there will not be enough food. Or there will be other terrible troubles.
(2) There will be trouble in people’s lives. They will become ill. They will become old and weak. In the end, they will certainly die.
Such things have happened to every person who has ever lived. It is foolish to imagine that they will not happen to us, too. So the King Solomon makes the same kind of statements that people make in such circumstances. Jesus did that too, in (Mark 13:15-19). “15 And let him that is on the housetop not go down into the house, neither enter therein, to take any thing out of his house:
16 And let him that is in the field not turn back again for to take up his garment.
17 But woe to them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days!
18 And pray ye that your flight be not in the winter.
19 For in those days shall be affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be.”
Such statements may seem like advice. But really, their purpose is to express how terrible the trouble will be.
As people cannot avoid their troubles, perhaps they can do something to prepare. It is a desperate plan in a desperate situation. Nobody can really prepare when they do not know what trouble to expect Ecclesiastes: 11:2.
So Solomon says, ‘Throw your bread upon the waters!’ Some people have tried to work out the meaning of these words. They guess that it may mean ‘Send ships to trade grain.’ Or, ‘Sow grain in the muddy pools when the streams flood.’ Those plans offer a possibility of success. But very desperate people do things that can never succeed. For them, even the most stupid plan seems to offer the hope of success. They want to do something, not to just wait for the inevitable to happen.
The ‘water’ in Ecclesiastes 11:1 does not mean real water. The ‘birds’ in the previous verse, Ecclesiastes 10:20, did not mean actual birds. Both are word-pictures that King Solomon uses to emphasize his lesson.
So, in my opinion, the meaning is this: ‘when these great troubles begin do not even try to worry about your possessions. The troubles in your country will be so terrible that you will certainly lose everything. If you want to find even bread to eat then, you will have to do desperate things to even eat then.
‘So, send what you have in every direction. One plan is not enough, because most of your schemes will fail. Let your possessions spread out, like bread on the water. Perhaps you will be able to find a few of them again, when you really need them.
2 Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth.
When life becomes very difficult, some people hope that their money and other possessions will save them. Other people think that their friends will help them in such circumstances.
King Solomon clearly believed that the difficulties would be extremely severe. He told people both to spread out their possessions Ecclesiastes 11:1 and to make as many friends as possible Ecclesiastes 11:2. If one plan did not succeed, then perhaps the other plan might.
People should not wait until their troubles have started. It will be too late to make friends then. So they must start now.
Of course, the Bible encourages us to show love for other people (Luke 10:27-37). “27 And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself.
28 And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.
29 But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbor?
30 And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.
31 And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
32 And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.
33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him,
34 And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
35 And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.
36 Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbor unto him that fell among the thieves?
37 And he said, He that showed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.”
But when we do that, our desire should not be to gain benefits for ourselves (Matthew 5:46-47); “46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?”
(Luke 14:12-14). “12 Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbors; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompense be made thee.
13 But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind:
14 And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.”
Instead, we should try to show God’s kindness to other people, especially to poor people. And then it will be God who rewards us, not other people (Proverbs 19:17). “17 He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord; and that which he hath given will he pay him again.”
But there is another problem with that plan to make friends. And that problem is even more important than the lack of sincere reasons. When people trust their possessions or their friends, they are often not trusting God. In all circumstances – but especially when our lives are difficult – it is essential to trust God. He alone gives security to our lives (Psalm 62:1-2). “1 Truly my soul waiteth upon God: from him cometh my salvation.
2 He only is my rock and my salvation; he is my defense; I shall not be greatly moved.”
Even the most impressive friends are weak; we cannot depend on them (Psalm 62:9). “9 Surely men of low degree are vanity, and men of high degree are a lie: to be laid in the balance, they are altogether lighter than vanity.”
But we can, and must, depend on God. He is all powerful, and He loves his people (Psalm 62:11-12). “11 God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this; that power belongeth unto God.
12 Also unto thee, O Lord, belongeth mercy: for thou renderest to every man according to his work.”
However, if we refuse to trust God, then we can only make desperate plans like those in Ecclesiastes 11:1-2 or (Revelation 6:15). “15 And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains;”
Listen to this lesson or you will not be ready when terrible troubles happen. But we should be aware that even the best plans will fail. Our friends will not be loyal to us. Our money will lose its value. If we find food, it will not satisfy us.
And, in the end, God will be our judge (Ecclesiastes 12:14). “14 For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.”
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.
People hope that they will never have any really severe troubles. And they hope to be able to deal with any troubles that happen.
But, of course, there will be troubles in everybody’s lives. Some of these troubles will be severe. And, of course, everyone must die in the end. Nobody can prevent that.
So we can compare our lives with a day when dark storm clouds fill the sky. On such a day, everyone knows that it will certainly rain. The clouds are evidence of that fact.
Through our whole lives, we know that troubles and death are approaching. We see constant evidence of that fact.
Death is like the fall of a tree. After it falls, the tree can never return to its former position. The effects of the fall are permanent.And when a person dies, that is permanent. Death separates a person from everything in this world: Ecclesiastes 9:5-6. That person’s body returns to the earth, but the person’s spirit must kneel in front of God (Revelation 20:12). “12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.”
God will be the judge of every person so what we do during this life matters. It matters whether we have found salvation in Jesus Christ. It is important for us to confess our sins to God. We need to invite him into our lives.And we must not delay. After death, it will be too late for us to trust God and find salvation. God has told us that we must trust him today (Hebrews 4:7). “7 Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”
4 He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap.
A farmer must watch the weather carefully. There is a right time to sow seeds and there is a right time for the harvest Ecclesiastes 3:2. Bad weather during these important times will ruin the crops.
So Ecclesiastes 11:4 describes a very desperate situation. It says that the weather will never be suitable for these important tasks. The wind and clouds are evidence that a terrible storm is approaching Ecclesiastes 11:3. When trees fall in a storm Ecclesiastes 11:3, there is no hope for the crops.
People are worried and desperate. They carry out stupid plans with the hope that something may succeed Ecclesiastes 11:1-2.
All of this is a word-picture for people’s lives. They all realize that death is approaching. Many people also know that the judgement of God is approaching Ecclesiastes 3:17; Ecclesiastes 12:14. But their reaction is not to trust God or to ask him to save them. Instead, they carry out stupid schemes to try to save themselves.
For example, people imagine that they can save themselves by their own good works. But King Solomon declared that our work on this earth achieves nothing Ecclesiastes 2:22-23. Other people imagine that their money can save them. But at death, a person loses all his money Ecclesiastes 5:15. And some people imagine that their good attitudes will save them. But this idea is wrong too Ecclesiastes 7:15-20.
The Bible says that we can only gain a right relationship with God because of Jesus Christ (John 14:6). “6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
Because of Jesus’ death on the cross, God can forgive us, when we trust in Him (John 3:14-16). “14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:
15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
That is the only proper way to prepare for the judgement of God.
And we must begin our relationship with God now (2 Corinthians 6:2). “2 (For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)”
This matter is too important for us to hesitate or to delay. We may make excuses and feel we are ready. But God has chosen today as the day when we must trust him (Hebrews 4:7). “7 Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”
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.
It is easy to understand the nature of people’s work. Their work is weak, and their best efforts do not achieve much: Ecclesiastes 2:20-23. People do many of these things publicly; everyone can see their true nature: Ecclesiastes 1:14.
But the work of God is different, and it astonishes us. Before a baby is born, God creates its body. We do not see how God does this work inside the mother’s body (Psalm 139:14-16). “14 I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.
15 My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
16 Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.”
We only see the wonderful results of his work.
If our efforts are like a weak breath, God’s work is like the most powerful wind (Acts 2:2). “2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.”
We do not see where such winds come from (Job 38:22-24). “22 Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow? or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail,
23 Which I have reserved against the time of trouble, against the day of battle and war?
24 By what way is the light parted, which scattereth the east wind upon the earth?”
We may not understand how God causes them to blow. But we feel the power of the wind.
Although people’s work is so weak, the results of foolish behavior are terrible Ecclesiastes: 10:5-11. So, the results of God’s great work in this world must be more powerful than anything that we can imagine. But we do not see his work, and we cannot understand it. We only see the effects in our world; it is hard to understand what God does.
But if we want to know God’s plan and understand more, we will find it in the Bible (Ephesians 3:2-11). “2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:
3 How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,
4 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)
5 Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;
6 That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:
7 Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power.
8 Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;
9 And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:
10 To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,
11 According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:”
His plan is that people can be born again into a new kind of relationship with him (John 3:7); “7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.”
(John 6:53-57). “53 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.
54 Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
55 For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.
56 He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.
57 As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me.”
Then, like a powerful wind, God’s Spirit will work in them and through them (John 3:6), “6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
(John 3:8). “8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.”
We cannot understand this by our human minds (John 3:9-10). “9 Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?
10 Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?”
But God has made it possible because of Christ’s death (John 3:16-17). “16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”
When people serve God in the power of the Holy Spirit, they are not weak. Instead, they are doing God’s work (Galatians 6:8-9). “8 For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
9 And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”8 For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
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.
King Solomon has already urged people not to be lazy Ecclesiastes 10:18. But now there is a special reason to be busy. King Solomon believes that great troubles will happen soon in his country Ecclesiastes 11:2.
So King Solomon urges people to sow their seeds and to carry out their work now. They might not get another opportunity.
King Solomon does not think that it is a good time to sow seeds Ecclesiastes 11:4. The weather is not right. People may be wasting their effort. But the work is urgent and necessary. Only God can bring a successful harvest; that is God’s work. But people must do their proper work too, although their best efforts are so weak.
This seems to be a word-picture for our lives. Of course, we want good things to happen. But, by our human strength, we do not have the power to cause those things to happen. The success of our efforts depends entirely on God (Psalm 127:1-2). “1 Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.
2 It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep.”
It is God’s work that matters. Our works are too weak to achieve anything worthwhile.
For that reason, nothing is more important for us than to do God’s work.
In (John 6:28-29), “28 Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?
29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.”
People asked Jesus how they could do God’s work. Jesus told them to believe the person whom God had sent. Jesus meant that they should believe Him. He, Jesus was the person whom God sent into this world (John 17:3). “3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” Jesus spoke God’s words, so it is essential to believe him (John 7:16). “16 Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.”
And God gives a wonderful promise to people who believe him. He promises them life that never ends (John 3:16). “16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
7 Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun:
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.
Of course we desire life and not death. Our lives are precious and they are God’s gift to us. Even as the sun surrounds us with light and warmth, so our lives offer us so many opportunities.
The most wonderful opportunity in our lives is the opportunity to know God. In God, we find the most perfect light (James 1:17). “17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”
In other words, everything that is good and perfect comes from Him. When we know Him, we belong to that light (1 Thessalonians 5:5). “5 Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.”
And the darkness does not make us afraid, even when the darkness means the death of our bodies (Psalm 23:4); “4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”
(Luke 1:78-79). “78 Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us,
79 To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
God gives His people life that never ends (John 3:16). “16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Darkness will never overcome the light and the life that comes from God (John 1:4-5). “4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.”
Did you know everyone will receive a life that never ends? Yes even sinners cast into hell will have an eternal body and live forever. They will live in eternal pain and punishment in hell forever!
Most people never choose to serve God. Instead, they follow their own desires and they live by their emotions. They do not want to know God and they would not choose to obey Him. When God is their judge at the white throne judgement, they will not be ready:Ecclesiastes 11:9; Ecclesiastes 12:14.By ‘darkness’, King Solomon means death. He chose the word ‘darkness’ to show that the good things in life had ended for that person. Instead, that person would suffer punishment and pain. It describes God’s judgement against the person who refused to obey Him and take Him as their Lord. For that reason, King Solomon urges people to accept a right relationship with God Ecclesiastes 12:1.
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.
If anyone knows how to enjoy life, young people do. For them, life seems to offer a series of adventures and opportunities. There seems to be no limit to the things that they can do. And so much seems new. There are so many new experiences for them to enjoy.
King Solomon’s purpose in this verse is to warn people – especially young people – about the judgement of God. God will be the judge of everything that people do Ecclesiastes 12:14. People can follow their emotions and desires, but God will be their judge.
That is a severe message. We can do whatever our hearts desire. And we can do whatever tempts us. But in all these things, God will be our judge. God gives us free will to do as we please, but there will be consequences.
We already can see that God’s judgement must be about these things. We know that our desires are evil and go against the Holy Spirit in us. We know how many wrong things we do. We often neglect to obey God’s law. We often choose to do sin. Everyone is guilty when God is the judge Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:23.
So, King Solomon is not advising people to follow their own desires. In fact, he is warning people that they must not follow their own desires. You can see King Solomon’s actual advice in Ecclesiastes 12:1. It is that people must think about their relationship with God. He explains that advice in Ecclesiastes 12:13. God has given his commands in order to teach people how to have a relationship with him.
Of course, nobody can obey God’s commands perfectly. So by his commands, people learn that they must trust God completely. That is the kind of relationship with God that Abraham knew because of God’s promises to him (Romans 4:3). “3 For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.”
And we can know it too, because of Christ’s death (Romans 4:23-25). “23 Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him;
24 But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead;
25 Who was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification.”
10 Therefore remove sorrow from thy heart, and put away evil from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity.
We may ask ourselves whether there is really any advantage to being young and strong.
The answer seems clear. A young person must grow old, and a strong person will become weak. In the end, they will die like everyone else and God will be their judge. If there is any advantage, they will soon lose that advantage.
Pain and anxious thoughts often come as a person grows older. King Solomon told his readers not to think about such things. Even the best and strongest part of our lives shows how weak we really are.
So the most important matter is to think how we should live. We all must become older. But we can choose whether or not to serve God. We must decide what we consider important in life.
For King Solomon, the right decision was clear. He had studied how weak people really are. He recognized that God is great. So, the only proper decision is to obey God from our earliest opportunity to do so Ecclesiastes 12:1 A young person should not waste his energy by a decision to follow his own desires and feelings Ecclesiastes 11:9. An older person should not just think about his own pain and anxious thoughts Ecclesiastes 11:10. People think too much about themselves, and they do not think enough about God.
God desires to have a very close relationship with his people. In fact, he wants to adopt them as His sons and daughters (John 1:12-13). “12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:
13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
He wants to fill their hearts and minds with sincere love, both for him and for other people (Mark 12:29-31). “29 And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord:
30 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.
31 And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.”
I will be posting the 12 chapters of the Book of Ecclesiastes one chapter at a time on my blog. Look on the blog for new postings of new chapters as I post them. I am using bold text for the Word of God from the King James Version Bible as it is written. I will use italic for my commentary below the chapters and verses from the book of Ecclesiastes, This commentary is how I help people understand what is written in the Bible.
All Glory to God
His humble servant Lee M Buchanan