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1 To every thing there is a season [et], and a time [zeman] to every purpose under the heaven [Shomayim]:
What a wholesome, orderly contrast to the former gloomy picture he has given us.
Here is the first great lesson for man to learn -- that all God's work has wisdom, and purpose, and order, and arrangement which our puny, little finite minds cannot hope to fully comprehend, but which we must accept in faith and joy. *
8 A time [et (season)] to love, and a time to hate; a time of war [milchamah], and a time of peace [shalom].
There is a time for everything. Life is not just an endless, meaningless cycle, but an orderly, purposeful arrangement. All things we see and experience -- birth, death, killing, healing, weeping, laughing, loving, hating -- all have their place in the purpose of Providence.
Each contributes in its own mysterious way to the accomplishment of that glorious divine assurance to God's children:
"All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose."
Bro. Growcott - The whole Man
14 I know that, whatsoever [HaElohim] doeth, it shall be for ever [will endure l'olam]: nothing can be put [added] to it, nor any thing taken from it: and [HaElohim]doeth it, that men should fear before him.
Here is a contrast between natural man's endless, ever-changing cycle of futile, perishing efforts, and the eternal, purposeful, unchanging work of God. God's plans will stand forever, and man -- to be happy -- must adjust himself to them. *
17 I said in mine heart [lev], [HaElohim] shall judge the righteous [tzaddik] and the wicked [resha]: for there is a time [et (season)] there for every purpose [matter] and for every work [ma'aseh].
This is the first mention of judgment in the book, and it adds more significance to the first part of the chapter about a time for everything. The whole book ends on the thought of judgment.
Man is seen to have a responsibility for his actions. The book is about the human search for happiness and good, and the eternal facts of responsibility and judgment have a major bearing on this search.
The preacher goes further than saying a man must adjust himself to the fact of an all-powerful and unalterable God, if he would seek happiness.
He must also adjust his life to the equally real fact of a God who calls to account and metes out reward or punishment according to a man's actions. *
18 I said in mine heart [lev] concerning the estate of the sons of men [As for bnei haAdam], that HaElohim might manifest [tests] them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts [like beheimah].
19 For that which befalleth the sons of men [bnei haAdam] befalleth beasts [beheimah]; even one thing befalleth them [share one and same mikreh (fortune)]: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence [the adam hath no advantage] above a beast [beheimah]: for all is vanity [hevel].
"There is a natural body," saith he; a soma psuchikon: and he proceeds to prove the assertion by quoting the words of Moses, saying, "And so it is written. The first man Adam was made into a living soul" -- eis psuchen zosan. These words are parallel with le-nephesh khayyah, and are explanatory of them. If the Spirit be asked, what is a nephesh khayyah, he answers in Greek, psuche tzosa; and if it be further inquired, what is psuche tzosa? the English version replies, a living soul, or a natural body; but as !hebrew! khayyah is not an adjective, but a substantive, it should be rendered a body of life.
And what, then? say "the merchants of the earth," who auction off their spiritual merchandize from the pulpits of all lands. Are not "bodies and the souls of men," somata kai psuchai anthropon, the most precious of our wares? But wherein is the preciousness of souls, which we proclaim to be immortal jewels, whose estimation is incalculable, if men have no pre-eminence over monkeys; and bishops, deans, and ministers, no excellence over the reptiles of the wilderness? The supposition is downright atheism and infidelity! (Apoc. xviii. 13,11).
Doubtless, in the opinion of the soul-merchants of the earth the Spirit's teaching is both atheistic and infidel, for it is destructive of their whole system. He has, to speak apocalyptically, "spued them out of his mouth;" how, then, could there be any harmony between his word or teaching and their theologies?
They teach that there are in men "immortal souls;" souls which are immaterial, and therefore immortal; and which when their bodies die, exist without bodies: that the value of a single such soul is incalculable; and that it is the possession of this divine incorporeal entity angelized at death, which constitutes the pre-eminence of men over all other created things. But to such, the Spirit rejoins, "Fools and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!" -- "Man that is in honour, and understandeth not, is like the beasts that perish" (Psal. xlix. 12,20). One such divine oracle is worth incalculably more than whole shiploads of university logic and collegiate "bodies of divinity."
This, then, is the grand principle upon which the immortality of man is based -- a scriptural comprehension of the truth developing a faith that works by love and purifies the heart in the obedience it commands. A man with such an understanding heart is a "spiritual man;" but before he had the understanding of the truth, he was like bishops, deans, ministers, reptiles and monkeys, without pre-eminence demiurgically on any other speciality than form. The "natural man," the Spirit saith, is a beast; a mere "body of life."
He may be decorated with all imaginable titles of honour, and humbly worshipped by his fellows; nevertheless, if he "understandeth not," he is a mere natural still. There is no seed of immortality in him.
Now, the scriptures teach that the seed of immortality in a believing man is Christ; and therefore he is styled by Paul in writing to saints in Colosse, "Christ our life." "I am," said Christ, "the truth and the life." "Let Christ," says Paul, "dwell in your hearts by faith;" hence, "the truth and the life" dwell in the heart by faith, by an intelligent comprehension and conviction of the truth. A man of such an understanding has life in him in this sense; and in the same sense it is, that "he believing into the Son hath everlasting life" (John iii. 36); for "my words," saith Christ, "are spirit and life" (vi. 63).
21 Who knoweth [hath da'as] the spirit of man [ruach bnei haAdam] that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast [ruach habeheimah] that goeth downward to the earth [ha'aretz [see 12:7]?
Another basic lesson a man must master if he is to adjust himself to reality and learn the way of life -- man's oneness with the beasts in physical constitution and nature *
Bro Growcott - This is the whole man
Who knoweth [hath da'as] the spirit of man...
We may answer, "none, but God only; "He knoweth what is in man, and needs not that any should testify of Him" (John 2:25).
But, from this testimony some one might infer that, as man was made only "a little lower than the angels," and yet has "no pre-eminence over a beast," the beast also is but a little lower than the angels. This, however, would be a very erroneous conclusion. The equality of men and other animals consists in the kind of life they possess in common with each other. Vanity, or mortality, is all that pertains to any kind of living flesh. The whole animal world has been made subject to it; and as it affects all living souls alike, bringing them back to the dust again, no one species can claim pre-eminence over the other; for "one thing befalleth them; as the one dieth, so dieth the other."
Man, however, differs from other creatures in having been modelled after a divine type, or pattern. In form and capacity he was made like to the angels, though in nature inferior to them. This appears from the testimony that he was made "in their image, after their likeness," and "a little lower than the angels" (Psalm 13:5), or Elohim. I say, he was made in the image of the angels, as the interpretation of the co-operative, "let us make them in our image, after our likeness."
Elpis Israel 1.2.