Pristine Grace

Eccl 3:18-22, (GILL)
18  I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men,.... He thought of the condition of the children of men, their sinful and polluted state; he weighed and considered in his mind their actions, conversation, and course of life; and was concerned how it would go with them at the day of judgment on account of the same. Some render it, "I said in mine heart after the speech of the children of men" [r]; speaking in their language, and representing the atheist and the epicure, as some think the wise man does in the following verses; though he rather speaks his own real sentiments concerning men, as they are in their present state, and as they will appear in the day of judgment;

that God might manifest them; or "separate them" [s]; as the chaff from the wheat, and as goats from the sheep; as will be done at the day of judgment, Mt 3:10; or "that they might clear God" [t]; as they will, when he shall judge and condemn them;

and that they might see that they themselves are beasts; as they are through the fall, and the corruption of nature, being born like the wild ass's colt, stupid, senseless, and without understanding of spiritual things; nay, more brutish than the beasts themselves, than the horse and the mule that have no understanding, Ps 32:9; "mulo inscitior", as is Plautus's [u] phrase; see Ps 49:12 Isa 1:3; this is now made manifest to the people of God by the word and Spirit; is seen, known, and acknowledged by them, Ps 73:21; and the wicked themselves will see, know, and own what beasts they are and have been, at the day of judgment; how they have lived and died like beasts; how like brute beasts they have corrupted themselves in things they knew naturally; and that as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, spoke evil of things they understood not, and perished in their own corruption, Jude 1:10 2Pe 2:12; and that they have been beasts to themselves, as Jarchi renders and interprets it; made beasts of themselves by their brutish gratifications; have been cruel to themselves, ruining and destroying their own souls; or among themselves, and to one another, "homo lupus homini"; hence wicked men are compared to lions, foxes, evening wolves, vipers, and the like. So Mr. Broughton renders it, "how they are beasts, they to themselves."

[r] Mdah ynb trbd le "super verbum filiorum Adam", Montanus; "verbis hominum", Arabic and Syriac versions. [s] Mrbl oti diakrinei autouv "ut discernat illos", Cocceius; "quia delegit eos", some in Vatablus; so Aben Ezra and Ben Melech. [t] "Ut ipsi expurgent Deum", Anglic. in Reinbeck; some in Rambachius render it thus, "ut seligant ipsi (homines) Deum"; so Varenius. [u] Cisteilaria, Act. 4.

19  For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts,.... Aben Ezra says this verse is according to the thoughts of the children of men that are not wise; but rather the wise man says what he does according to his own thoughts, and proceeds to prove the likeness and equality of men and beasts;

even one thing befalleth them; the same events belong to one as to another; the same diseases and disasters, calamities and distresses: Noah's flood carried away one as well as another; they both perished in it; several of the plagues of Egypt were inflicted on both; and both are beholden to God for their health, preservation, and safety; see Ge 7:21;

as the one dieth, so dieth the other; the Targum compares a wicked man and an unclean beast together, in the former clause; and paraphrases this after this manner,

"as an unclean beast dies, so dies he who is not turned to repentance before his death:''

he dies unclean in his sins, stupid, senseless; no more thoughtful of his future state, and of what will become of his precious and immortal soul, than a beast that has none; see Ps 49:14; perhaps unjust judges, persecuting tyrants, may particularly be regarded: who, though princes, shall not only die like men, but even like beasts, Ps 82:7;

yea, they have all one breath; the same vital breath, or breath of life, which is in the nostrils of the one as of the other; they breathe and draw in the same air, and have the same animal and vegetative life, and equally liable to lose it, Ge 2:7;

so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: he has reason and speech, which a beast has not; which gives him a preference to them, did he make a right use of them; but, as an animal, he has no preeminence, being liable to the same accidents, and to death itself: the Targum excepts the house of the grave, man being usually buried when he dies, but a beast is not: yea, in some things a beast has the preeminence of a man; at least some have, in strength, agility, quickness of the senses, &c.

for all [is] vanity; all the gratifications of the senses; all riches, honours, pleasures, power, and authority, especially when abused.

20  All go unto one place,.... The earth [w] from whence they came;

all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again; Adam's body was made of the dust of the earth, and so all his posterity, all of them; in which they agree with beasts, who are made of the dust also; and, when they die, return to it; see Ge 2:7.

[w] "Magna parens terra est", Ovid. Metamorph. l. 1. Fab. 7.

21  Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward?.... There is indeed a difference between a man and a beast; though they have one breath, they have not one spirit or soul; man has a rational and immortal soul, which, when he dies, goes upwards to God that gave it; to be judged by him, and disposed of by him, in its proper apartment, until the day of the resurrection of the body;

and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth? when the beast dies, its spirit goes down to the earth, from whence it came, and is resolved into it, and is no more. But who is it that sees, or can see and know with the eyes of his body, the difference of these two spirits, or the ascent of the one, and the descent of the other?, Or who knows by the dint of reason, by the strength of his own understanding, without a divine revelation, that man has an immortal soul which goes upwards at death, when that of a beast goes downwards? No man, clearly and fully, as appears from the doubts and half faith of the wisest Heathens concerning it: or rather who knows and considers this difference between the spirit of a man and the spirit of a beast, and thinks within himself what a precious and immortal soul he has, and is concerned for the salvation of it? Very few; and hence it is they live and die like beasts, as they do. The Midrash interprets this of the souls of the righteous that go up to heaven, and of the souls of the wicked that go down to hell.

22  Wherefore I perceive that [there is] nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his own works,.... The Targum is, "in his good works"; not as justifying him before God, but as vindicating him before men, from unjust censures and charges: rather the sense is, that this is the wise man's conclusion, and this his sentiment, upon the whole; that there is nothing better for a man, than cheerfully to enjoy the fruit of his labours; to eat and drink in moderation, freely, joyfully, and thankfully; and make use of his riches, power, and authority, for his own good, the good of his family for the present, and the good of his fellow creatures; see Ec 2:21;

for that [is] his portion; what is allotted to him, and thus enjoyed, is a very good one, and for which he has reason to be thankful;

for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him? to see who shall succeed him, and what use they will make of what he leaves them; he shall never return after death to see anything of this kind, nor shall any acquaint him with it; he shall not be able to know when he is dead what shall befall his sons, whether they will prosper or rio, so Jarchi; wherefore it is best for him to enjoy his substance himself in a comfortable way, and be beneficial to others, and not oppressive to them. The Midrash illustrates it thus,

"who shall bring David to see what Solomon did? and who shall bring Solomon to see what Rehoboam did?''

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