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Ecclesiastes 9 – Skeptic's Annotated Bible answered

A response and reply to the notes on Ecclesiastes 9 in the Skeptic's Annotated Bible (SAB).

King James Version

SAB comment

My comment

1 For all this I considered in my heart even to declare all this, that the righteous, and the wise, and their works, are in the hand of God: no man knoweth either love or hatred by all that is before them.

"The righteous ... are in the hand of God."
Has there ever been a righteous person?
The righteous can be called righteous because they have received the righteousness of Christ. No man, except Christ, has righteousness in himself, Is. 64:6. As John Gill comments:

those who are truly "righteous" in the sight of God; are so, in an evangelical sense, made so by the obedience of Christ; and who believe in him for righteousness, and live soberly, righteously, and godly: and who are "wise", not for the things of this world but another, who are wise unto salvation; and are concerned for the truth of grace, as well as an outward profession, and walk wisely in the world

2 All things come alike to all: there is one event to the righteous, and to the wicked; to the good and to the clean, and to the unclean; to him that sacrificeth, and to him that sacrificeth not: as is the good, so is the sinner; and he that sweareth, as he that feareth an oath.

(9:2-3) The same death comes to us all, the good and the bad alike.
Although we all die, 1 Kg. 2:2, it does not mean we all go to the same place, Luke 16:23.

3 This is an evil among all things that are done under the sun, that there is one event unto all: yea, also the heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live, and after that they go to the dead.

4 For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope: for a living dog is better than a dead lion.

As long as we are alive there is hope. After that there is nothing. "A live dog is better than a dead lion."
The author of Ecclesiastes explicitly declares there is life after death. There is a difference between man and beast, chapter 3:21.

5 For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.

Dead people know nothing and receive no reward. Is death final?
The author of Ecclesiastes explicitly addresses the subject of what happens after this life, see chapter 11:9. So the meaning of “dead people” cannot be the souls of the dead people. But Solomon refers here to their dead bodies which lie in the grave.

6 Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun.

7 Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works.

"Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart." Is it OK to drink alcohol?

8 Let thy garments be always white; and let thy head lack no ointment.

9 Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which he hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity: for that is thy portion in this life, and in thy labour which thou takest under the sun.

"Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest."
Is marriage a good thing?
Yes, see 1 Cor. 7:1.

10 Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.

"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might," because dead people don't work and they know nothing. Is death final?
Again, the subject is dead bodies. They do not work. The subject of the souls of the dead is addressed in chapter 11:9.

11 I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

(9:11-12) Human life is subject to indifferent laws and random events -- just like the lives of other animals.
The application the author of the SAB makes here is that life is subject to random events. But that is not exactly the point Solomon is making here. What Solomon says is that it is not our own skill that determines the outcome of an event. Wisdom is preferred above strength, verse 16 and the blessing of the Lord is necessary in all things, see Ps. 127:1.
And as John Gill comments:

victory is not always on the side of the mighty and the many, but oftentimes on the side of the weak and few; see 2 Chr. 14:9 so in spirituals, such who go forth in their own strength against an enemy, trusting in it, fall; while weak believers, depending on the grace and strength of Christ, wrestle with principalities and powers, and come off victorious;

Solomon uses here the word chance, because so it might appear to the strong that lose, and the swift that do not win. But believers know that all things are ordered by God.

12 For man also knoweth not his time: as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare; so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them.

13 This wisdom have I seen also under the sun, and it seemed great unto me:

14 There was a little city, and few men within it; and there came a great king against it, and besieged it, and built great bulwarks against it:

15 Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same poor man.

16 Then said I, Wisdom is better than strength: nevertheless the poor man’s wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard.

(9:16-17) Wisdom, though often ignored and despised, is better than strength.

17 The words of wise men are heard in quiet more than the cry of him that ruleth among fools.

18 Wisdom is better than weapons of war: but one sinner destroyeth much good.