Ecclesiastes 11:1
Cast your bread on the waters: for you shall find it after many days.
11:1-6 Solomon presses the rich to do good to others. Give freely, though it may seem thrown away and lost. Give to many. Excuse not thyself with the good thou hast done, from the good thou hast further to do. It is not lost, but well laid out. We have reason to expect evil, for we are born to trouble; it is wisdom to do good in the day of prosperity. Riches cannot profit us, if we do not benefit others. Every man must labour to be a blessing to that place where the providence of God casts him. Wherever we are, we may find good work to do, if we have but hearts to do it. If we magnify every little difficulty, start objections, and fancy hardships, we shall never go on, much less go through with our work. Winds and clouds of tribulation are, in God's hands, designed to try us. God's work shall agree with his word, whether we see it or not. And we may well trust God to provide for us, without our anxious, disquieting cares. Be not weary in well-doing, for in due season, in God's time, you shall reap, Ga 6:9.The verse means: "Show hospitality, even though the corresponding return of hospitality to you may seem improbable; nevertheless, be hospitable in faith." Compare Luke 14:13-14; Hebrews 13:2. Some interpreters (not unreasonably) understand by "bread" the seed from the produce of which bread is made. Seed cast upon the fertile soil flooded by the early rains would be returned to the sower in autumn with large increase. upon...: Heb. upon the face of the waters
Cast thy bread upon the waters,.... As the wise man had often suggested that nothing was better for a man than to enjoy the good of his labour himself, he here advises to let others, the poor, have a share with him; and as he had directed in the preceding chapter how men should behave towards their superiors, he here instructs them what notice they should take of their inferiors; and as he had cautioned against luxury and intemperance, he here guards against tenacity and covetousness, and exhorts to beneficence and liberality: that which is to be given is "bread", which is put for all the necessaries of life, food and raiment; or money that answers all things, what may be a supply of wants, a support of persons in distress; what is useful, profitable, and beneficial; not stones or scorpions, or what will be useless or harmful: and it must be "thy" bread, a man's own; not independent of God who gives it him; but not another's, what he owes another, or has fraudulently obtained; but what he has got by his own labour, or he is through divine Providence in lawful possession of; hence alms in the Hebrew language is called "righteousness": and it must be such bread as is convenient and fit for a man himself, such as he himself and his family eat of, and this he must cast, it must be a man's own act, and a voluntary one; his bread must not be taken and forced from him; it must be given freely, and in such a manner as not to be expected again; and bountifully and plentifully, as a man casts seed into the earth; but here it is said to be "upon the waters"; bread is to be given to such as are in distress and affliction, that have waters of a full cup wrung out unto them, whose faces are watered with tears, and foul with weeping, from whom nothing is to be expected again, who can make no returns; so that what is given thorn seems to be cast away and lost, like what is thrown into a river, or into the midst of the sea; and even it is to be given to such who prove ungrateful and unthankful, and on whom no mark or impression of the kindness is made and left, no more than upon water; yea, it is to be given to strangers never seen before nor after, like gliding water; so the Vulgate Latin version renders it, "passing waters": or else to such who may be compared to well watered ground, or "moist ground", as Mr. Broughton renders it; where the seed cast will grow up again, and bring forth fruit, and redound to the advantage of the sower, as what is given to the poor does; they are a good soil to sow upon, especially Christ's poor, who are partakers of his living water, grace; see Isaiah 32:20; though it may be the multitude of persons to whom alms is to be given are here intended, which are sometimes signified by waters, Revelation 17:15; as Ecclesiastes 11:2 seems to explain it. The Targum is,

"reach out the bread of thy sustenance to the poor that go in ships upon the thee of the water;''

and some think the speech is borrowed from navigation, and is an allusion to merchants who send their goods beyond sea, and have a large return for them;

for thou shalt find it after many days; not the identical bread itself, but the fruit and reward of such beneficence; which they shall have unexpectedly, or after long waiting, as the husbandman for his seed; it suggests that such persons should live long, as liberal persons oftentimes do, and increase in their worldly substance; and if they should not live to reap the advantage of their liberality, yet their posterity will, as the seed of Jonathan did for the kindness he showed to David: or, however, if they find it not again in temporal things, yet in spirituals; and shall be recompensed in the resurrection of the just, and to all eternity. So the Targum,

"for after the time of many days, then thou shall find the reward of it in this world (so it is in the king's Bible), and in the world to come;''

see Luke 12:12. Jarchi instances in Jethro. Noldius (p) renders it "within many days", even before many days are at an end; for seed sown by waters in hot climates soon sprung up, and produced fruit; see Daniel 11:20.

(p) Ebr. Concord. Partic. p. 155. No. 704.

Cast thy bread upon the {a} waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.

(a) That is, be liberal to the poor, and though it seems to be as a thing ventured on the sea, yet it will bring you profit.

"The labour of the foolish wearieth him who knoweth not how to go to the city." If we do not seek to explain: labour such as fools have wearies him (the fool), then we have here such a synallage numeri as at Isaiah 2:8; Hosea 4:8, for from the plur. a transition is made to the distributive or individualizing sing. A greater anomaly is the treatment of the noun עמל as fem. (greater even than the same of the noun pithgam, Ecclesiastes 8:11, which admitted of attractional explanation, and, besides, in a foreign word was not strange). Kimchi, Michlol 10a, supposes that עמל is thought of in the sense of עמל יגיעת; impossible, for one does not use such an expression. Hitzig, and with him Hengst., sees the occasion for the synallage in the discordance of the masc. ייגּענּוּ; but without hesitation we use the expressions ייחל, Micah 5:6, ייסּ, Joshua 6:26, and the like. 'Amal also cannot be here fem. unitatis (Bttch. 657. 4), for it denotes the wearisome striving of fools as a whole and individually. We have thus to suppose that the author has taken the liberty of using 'amal once as fem. (vid., on the contrary, Ecclesiastes 2:18, Ecclesiastes 2:20), as the poet, Proverbs 4:13, in the introduction of the Book of Proverbs uses musar once as fem., and as the similarly formed צבא is used in two genders. The fool kindles himself up and perplexes himself, as if he could enlighten the world and make it happy, - he who does not even know how to go to the city. Ewald remarks: "Apparently proverbial, viz., to bribe the great lords in the city." For us who, notwithstanding Ecclesiastes 10:16, do not trouble ourselves any more with the tyrants of Ecclesiastes 10:4, such thoughts, which do violence to the connection, are unnecessary. Hitzig also, and with him Elst. and Zckl., thinks of the city as the residence of the rulers from whom oppression proceeds, but from whom also help against oppression is to be sought. All this is to be rejected. Not to know how to go to the city, is equals not to be able to find the open public street, and, like the Syrians, 2 Kings 6:18., to be smitten with blindness. The way to the city is via notissima et tritissima. Rightly Grotius, like Aben Ezra: Multi quaestionibus arduis se faitgant, cum ne obvia quidem norint, quale est iter ad urbem. אל־עיר is vulgar for אל־העיר. In the Greek language also the word πόλις has a definite signification, and Athens is called ἄστυ, mostly without the art. But Stamboul, the name of which may seem as an illustration of the proverbial phrase, "not to know how to go to the city," is equals εἰς τὴν πόλιν. Grtz finds here an allusion to the Essenes, who avoided the city - habeat sibi!

Ec 11:1-10.

1. Ec 11:2 shows that charity is here inculcated.

bread—bread corn. As in the Lord's prayer, all things needful for the body and soul. Solomon reverts to the sentiment (Ec 9:10).

waters—image from the custom of sowing seed by casting it from boats into the overflowing waters of the Nile, or in any marshy ground. When the waters receded, the grain in the alluvial soil sprang up (Isa 32:20). "Waters" express multitudes, so Ec 11:2; Re 17:15; also the seemingly hopeless character of the recipients of the charity; but it shall prove at last to have been not thrown away (Isa 49:4).

Cast thy bread upon the waters - An allusion to the sowing of rice; which was sown upon muddy ground, or ground covered with water, and trodden in by the feet of cattle: it thus took root, and grew, and was found after many days in a plentiful harvest. Give alms to the poor, and it will be as seed sown in good ground. God will cause thee afterwards to receive it with abundant increase. The Targum understands it of giving bread to poor sailors. The Vulgate and my old Bible have the same idea. Send thi brede upon men passing waters. 11:1 The waters - Freely and liberally bestow it upon the waters; upon those poor creatures, on whom it may seem to be as utterly lost, as the seed which a man casts into the sea or river. Find it - It shall certainly be restored to thee, either by God or men. This is added to prevent an objection, and to quicken us to the duty enjoyned. After - The return may be slow, but it is sure, and will be so much the more plentiful.
Ecclesiastes 10:20
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