What Did the Wise Man Mean?
God Gives to the Righteous One and the Wicked One
Regarding what God gives to the righteous and the wicked, Ecclesiastes 2:26 says: “To the man that is good before him he has given wisdom and knowledge and rejoicing, but to the sinner he has given the occupation of gathering and bringing together merely to give to the one that is good before the true God.”
The good man, because of applying the guidelines provided by the Creator, becomes wise and knowledgeable. He is enabled to use his assets and abilities in harmony with wisdom and knowledge, and this contributes to his happiness. Were it not for his relationship with God, he would not have this genuine wisdom, knowledge and joy. So it can indeed be said that Jehovah God has given him “wisdom and knowledge and rejoicing.”
On the other hand, the wicked man or sinner ignores the counsel of God. Therefore, the Most High allows him to go ahead with his selfish schemes and to suffer the consequences. The sinner toils and struggles, trying to amass possessions. But he never gains contentment or satisfaction, lacking the wisdom and knowledge to derive joy from all his work. He misses out on the happiness that comes from using possessions to aid those in need. (Acts 20:35) Furthermore, he may attain his ends through lawless means and, in time, be caught in his own devices. Eventually all that the sinner has acquired may pass into the hands of the good man. Thus it was with the Canaanites. Though a morally depraved people, they prospered for many years. But, then, as Jehovah God had decreed, their vineyards, olive groves, houses and other possessions became the inheritance of the Israelites.—Deut. 6:10, 11.
‘An Appointed Time for Everything’
King Solomon noted that on the earthly scene things are ever subject to cycles and change. Just as the time comes for a pregnant mother to give birth to a baby, so the time eventually comes when old age or sickness brings the end of life. As with birth and death, so, too, there is ‘a time for planting and uprooting, for killing and healing, for breaking down and building, for weeping and laughing, for keeping quiet and speaking, for love and hate, and for war and peace.’—Eccl. 3:1-8.
Often the time for such things comes about through circumstances that are beyond human control. That is why, right after discussing these things, Solomon went on to raise the question: “What advantage is there for the doer in what he is working hard at?” (Eccl. 3:9) Yes, in view of the fact that major things take place in life over which a person has no control, how wise would it be to try to secure happiness from hard work alone? Because of life’s uncertainties, all one’s labor and struggling for some material goal may quickly come to nothing.—Matt. 6:27.
Solomon continues: “I have seen the occupation that God has given to the sons of mankind in which to be occupied.” (Eccl. 3:10) He could speak of himself as ‘seeing’ this because of having personally made a thorough examination of human labor. Based on his keen observation, what conclusion did Solomon reach about the framework in which man must carry out his activities? We read: “Everything he [God] has made pretty in its time.”—Eccl. 3:11.
In agreement with this, at Ecclesiastes 7:29, Solomon wrote: “See! This only I have found, that the true God made mankind upright.” This occurred at an appropriate time in God’s program of creation, when he created the first human creature perfect. To this man, Adam, God gave a wife, Eve, who was the perfection of feminine prettiness, far prettier than the three celebrated daughters of Job. (Job 42:15) With the marriage of Adam and Eve amid Edenic beauty, God’s sixth creative day ended, at which time “God saw everything he had made and, look! it was very good.”—Gen. 1:31.
In the paradise of Eden God set before mankind’s earthly parents the prospect of happy living in perfection “to time indefinite.” He set before them an eternal future on the condition that they would continue in flawless obedience to him. Thus he ‘put time indefinite in the heart of mankind.’ (Eccl. 3:11; Gen. 2:16–3:3) When, at the instance of Satan the Devil, this first human pair began to seek out many plans of their own in disobedience to their Creator, then, at a most crucial time, God did a “pretty” thing, for he made his promise of producing a seed that would bruise the head of the Great Serpent for God’s vindication and the blessing of all mankind. (Gen. 3:15) The producing of this precious seed was set in the indefinite future. So, thereafter, men and women who exercised faith in God’s promise looked forward expectantly to the future for the coming of the promised seed and to benefits for themselves from that seed. Thus God set a bright future before them, something for which to live, no matter how far in the future it might be.
After preserving Noah and his family through the global flood, God set a righteous future before mankind, beautifying his peace-inspiring covenant with a pretty rainbow. Timing his purposeful acts thereafter, God made his loving covenant with Abraham for the blessing of all families and nations of the earth through his seed. This confirmed the Edenic promise of the seed of God’s “woman.”
At the due time in the line of descent from Abraham onward to the promised seed, there arose David, king of Israel at Jerusalem. Further narrowing down the line of descent to the promised Seed, God did a “pretty” thing in making with faithful David a covenant for an everlasting kingdom in his family line. By God’s special choice, David’s young son Solomon became his immediate successor and built Jehovah’s temple at Jerusalem. During his peaceful reign, “Judah and Israel continued to dwell in security, everyone under his own vine and under his own fig tree, from Dan to Beer-sheba.” (1 Ki. 4:25) With good reason Solomon could write: “Look! The best thing that I myself have seen, which is pretty, is that one should eat and drink and see good for all his hard work with which he works hard under the sun for the number of the days of his life that the true God has given him, for that is his portion.”—Eccl. 5:18.
On considering the “pretty” things that God has made at the fitting time for them, we can appreciate how true are the additional words of Solomon regarding Jehovah God: “Even time indefinite he has put in their [the sons of mankind’s] heart, that mankind may never find out the work that the true God has made from the start to the finish.” (Eccl. 3:11) In due time God sent forth the Greater Solomon, the Principal One of the promised Seed, Jesus Christ. God also used this Messiah to put into the heart of the sons of mankind “even time indefinite.” This Son of God proclaimed the Messianic kingdom that is to be more glorious than that of Solomon, under which the obedient sons of mankind could gain life to time indefinite, yes, everlasting life. This kingdom will be one of the prettiest of the works of God. Eternal life will not become a bore, for this lifesaving kingdom will open the way into endless ages of time during which redeemed mankind will find out the further works that God will make without their ever getting to the finish of them. But we can be sure that each one of these as yet unrevealed works will be “pretty in its time.” So what a grand future portion is reserved for mankind!
Rejoice in What God Provides
What, then, is the advisable course that one should pursue? Solomon recommends getting wholesome enjoyment out of life, seeing good from hard work, instead of vainly trying to alter what God has provided. We read his further words: “I have come to know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good during one’s life; and also that every man should eat and indeed drink and see good for all his hard work. It is the gift of God. I have come to know that everything that the true God makes, it will prove to be to time indefinite. To it there is nothing to add and from it there is nothing to subtract; but the true God himself has made it, that people may be afraid on account of him.”—Eccl. 3:12-14; 5:18.
Human affairs, including birth and death, take place within a humanly unchangeable framework. For as long as it serves God’s purpose this will continue. So it is evidently with reference to there being “a time for every affair under the heavens” that Solomon said: “I have come to know that everything that the true God makes, it will prove to be to time indefinite.” (Eccl. 3:14) Man simply cannot do anything about the state of affairs that exists on earth either due to God’s allowance or direction. Mighty King Nebuchadnezzar, for example, was forced to acknowledge: “All the inhabitants of the earth are being considered as merely nothing, and he is doing according to his own will among the army of the heavens and the inhabitants of the earth. And there exists no one that can check his hand or that can say to him, ‘What have you been doing?’” (Dan. 4:35) No efforts at addition or subtraction will succeed, as the general pattern of life on earth continues due to God’s permission and purpose. The fact that the whole scope of God’s work in this area cannot be humanly comprehended should fill mankind with fear or reverential awe.
At the same time, human history shows that in the events on earth there are repetitious cycles of birth and death, war and peace, laughter and weeping, and so forth. These repetitious cycles link the past, present and future. Hence, Solomon could say: “What has happened to be, it had already been, and what is to come to be has already proved to be.” His next words, however, are not so readily understood. Solomon stated: “The true God himself keeps seeking that which is pursued.” (Eccl. 3:15) This may refer to the fact that righteous persons are often pursued by the wicked. God ‘seeks’ the good of his servants and, since he has full control of past, present and future, he can cause the wrongs of the wicked pursuers to catch up with them and can execute justice for the righteous. Or, it may mean that, even though repetitive cycles continue and there seems to be nothing really new, we can be sure that God is, nevertheless, working out his good purpose. So while man may be powerless to control certain circumstances, the Most High can always work out matters in the best interests of his obedient servants.
This is comforting, for in this imperfect world, a person should not expect that men will render justice in each case. Solomon well described the situation: “I have further seen under the sun the place of justice where there was wickedness and the place of righteousness where wickedness was.” (Eccl. 3:16) A person rightly expects justice from a court of law. But bribery and partiality may prevail, making it impossible for many persons to receive their just due. How can all these injustices be rectified? Solomon answers: “The true God will judge both the righteous one and the wicked one, for there is a time for every affair and concerning every work there.” (Eccl. 3:17) So instead of getting disturbed about what happens in the world, the wise person patiently waits on God, who will act at His appointed time and for the lasting good of His faithful people.—1 Sam. 26:7-10; Ps. 37:12, 13.