Proverbs 27:17

Proverbs 27:17

Monday, July 1, 2024

Ecclesiastes 3:18-19 (Daily Verse and Comment)

  Ecclesiastes 3:18-19

(18) I said in my heart, "Concerning the condition of the sons of men, God tests them, that they may see that they themselves are like animals." (19) For what happens to the sons of men also happens to animals; one thing befalls them: as one dies, so dies the other. Surely, they all have one breath; man has no advantage over animals, for all isvanity. 
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This is quite a cynical perspective of death. Solomon penned Ecclesiastes in his old age, when he could look back on his wearisome years of searching for answers and experimenting and come to a few conclusions about life. An inference about death appears in Ecclesiastes 3:20-21: "All go to one place: all are from the dust, and all return to dust. Who knows the spirit of the sons of men, which goes upward, and the spirit of the animals, which goes down to the earth?"

Again, his outlook seems negative. He concludes that in many ways human beings are no better than animals, which is certainly the case when they try to live without God. Men simply die like beasts. Like animals, people are air-breathing, fleshly creatures, and when we can no longer breathe or our flesh is starved, diseased, wounded, or exhausted, we die like them. When we die, our bodies decompose, returning to dust just as their bodies do.

Yet, in Ecclesiastes 3:21, Solomon raises a question (paraphrased): "What do we really know about the human spirit as opposed to the spirit of a beast?" Do we actually know that a man's spirit goes upward and a beast's spirit returns to the earth? What can we observe? If we use scientific methods, what can we really find out? Nothing, because such a question involving spiritual matters is beyond science, beyond man's ability to measure or record.

Previously, in Ecclesiastes 3:11, Solomon had written that God has put eternity in man's heart—a yearning to live forever—so he has already conceded that God gives man the edge over beasts. He realizes that man is a special creation of God, made after the God-kind, who has been given dominion over the earth and all in it (Genesis 1:26), so his skeptical question conceals the fact that he believes that man's chances for life after death are far better than an animal's.

Ecclesiastes 12:7 reveals that, by the time he reaches the end of the book, Solomon has made up his mind on this question. He writes, "Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it." His conclusion is that, yes, there is a possibility of life after death for humanity. A person's spirit returns to God for safekeeping, yet that is as far as his understanding can take him. He does not know what happens next. However, he is wise enough to know that his conclusion leads to a truth: Since we do have a chance to live again, depending on God's judgment of our works, we had better fear God and keep His commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).

— Richard T. Ritenbaugh

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