Online Bible Commentary
In the Hand of God
Ecclesiastes 9:1 For I considered all this in my heart, so that I could declare it all: that the righteous and the wise and their works are in the hand of God. People know neither love nor hatred by anything they see before them. 2 All things come alike to all: One event happens to the righteous and the wicked; To the good, the clean, and the unclean; To him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice. As is the good, so is the sinner; He who takes an oath as he who fears an oath. 3 This is an evil in all that is done under the sun: that one thing happens to all. Truly the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil; madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead. 4 But for him who is joined to all the living there is hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion. 5 For the living know that they will die; But the dead know nothing, And they have no more reward, For the memory of them is forgotten. 6 Also their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished; Nevermore will they have a share In anything done under the sun. (NKJV)
The book of Ecclesiastes is classified as wisdom literature. Wisdom literature is especially concerned with helping us to deal with the issues of life. It is believed that Solomon wrote this book late in his life.
When Solomon became the king of Israel in 970 B.C. the first thing he asked of God was to be wise. God answered his prayer and made him the wisest man ever to live, at the age of nineteen (1 Kings 3:12).
Solomon begins this passage by stating that, after much contemplation, he has come to the conclusion “that the righteous and the wise and their works are in the hand of God” (v. 1a). The “righteous and the wise” are those who believe in the God of the Bible, Christians of today.
“People” are not to read into the events of their lives that God is expressing His “love or hatred” of them (v. 1b), for we all experience troubles in this life (v. 2a). Death comes to both Christians and non Christians (v. 2b). This death, that “happens to all”, is “an evil” in this life (v. 3a). The “hearts” of men “are full of evil” and their bodies all face the same end, “death” (v. 3b).
Only the living have “hope’ (v. 4a). Even a “living dog” is better off than a “dead lion” (v. 4b). In those days, the dog was considered the lowest form of animal life while the lion was considered the highest. The point is that even the most evil person is better off if he is still alive. For example, he still has hope, whereas the dead has already made his bed and now must lie in it.
The living still have knowledge, but the dead have none (v. 5a). The living can still be “rewarded” and be remembered, but the dead are soon forgotten (v. 5b). Also, the emotions of the dead have “perished”, never again to influence the things of life on earth (v. 6a).
It is important to remember that the book of Ecclesiastes is concerned with life under the Sun, life on this earth. Wisdom literature is especially concerned with helping us to deal with the issues of life. Therefore, Solomon is only writing of this life, not life after death.
In many ways life is unfair. Sometimes, good people die young. Sometimes evil people live a long life. Sometimes good people suffer. Sometimes, evil people prosper.
Christians should not view life in terms of what happens to them on this earth. This is not our home. We are only passing through. We know that better things are ahead for us.
Life is our training camp, like boot camp. Boot camp is hard, and short. Life is hard, and short compared to eternity. Life is where we prepare for the life to come, our real life, eternal life. It is a means to an end, not the end itself. What we do in this life determines our eternal life. Christians go to Heaven. Non Christians go to Hell.
This is why Solomon refers to the righteous as wise. The wisest man in the history of the world knew there was more to life than life under the Sun. It is that life, the next life, which we need to get right. We do that by becoming a Christian. We place ourselves in the hand of God. “The righteous and the wise and their works are in the hand of God.”