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Ecclesiastes (24) Cast your bread upon the waters

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posted on Mar, 5 2021 @ 05:02 PM
The book of Ecclesiastes tends to be neglected.

I must admit that I’ve been neglecting it myself.
So I come to this book with no preconceptions, except that a book found in the Old Testament must be intended to have a spiritual meaning. The people who compiled the canon were not in the business of collecting an anthology of “Hebrew literature.

The main theme of the early chapters has been that natural life and human life in the natural world do not go beyond a series of cycles of alternating events. Any apparent changes are discovered to be stages within these cycles, while the overall system itself does not change.

It is “vanity” for humans to look for anything beyond these things in the natural world, trying to transcend the system on their own. It is better, and the gift of God, for them to find their enjoyment in the world as it is, maintaining themselves in the way which God has provided.

Nevertheless, God has “put eternity into man’s mind”, in such a way that eternity cannot be known completely. Thus man is made aware of something greater than himself. “God has made it so, in order that men should fear before him.”

It seems that this nearly completes the central message of the book. Much of what follows looks like an assortment of “footnotes” under the general heading “other flaws noticeable in human life when God is disregarded”.

Ch11 vv1-6

Ch10 was a collection of proverbs, largely about fools. Now the writer returns to giving advice to those who want to regard God in their lives.

V1 “Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days.”
Our maths teacher used to mystify us by quoting this verse and adding “but who wants a load of wet soggy bread anyway?”
The metaphor means that deeds of charity to others “come back” in the form of reciprocal benefits or God’s favour.

To me, it’s an obvious fishing image. The bait “comes back” as hungry fish ready for the net. I see others are determined to see the image as a metaphor about venturing on risky overseas trade.

V2 “Give a [charitable] portion to seven or even to eight, for you know not what evil may happen on earth.”
“Seven”, as the sacred number, is the usual ideal, so “eight” is superabundant generosity. Trouble may be coming for all of us, and we need to prepare for it together.

V3 “If the clouds are full of rain, they empty themselves on the earth; and if a tree falls to the north or to the south, in the place where the tree falls, there will it lie.”
In other words, the operations of the natural world still take their course as usual (not under our control)

V4 “He who observes the wind will not sow; and he who regards the clouds will not reap.”
The man who sows the seed wants rain to fall on it afterwards, If he keeps anxiously watching for fear that the wind will drive the rain-clouds away, he will never get the job done.
The man who harvests the grain wants rain not to fall while he is doing it, threatening to ruin the crop. If he keeps anxiously watching for fear that the rain will be coming at any moment, he will never get the job done.
The moral is not to be over-cautious. Put your trust in God, take the plunge, and get on with it.

V5 “As you do not know how the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything.”
Several times, in previous chapters, we’ve been told that men cannot know what is ahead of us (because only God knows). This is the first time that he’s pointed out our ignorance in the other direction, that we cannot know anything about our origin from God’s hands.

V6 “In the morning sow your seed, and in the evening withhold not your hand, for you cannot know which will prosper.”
This is the same message as v4, that there is no point in postponing our necessary business until we have greater certainty about how it will work.

So the general theme of this half-chapter is that; our uncertain situation in the world obliges us to get on with our good work and put our trust in God. We must acknowledge our ignorance and work within it.

However, it is only fair to acknowledge that Matthew Henry labels the whole section as “Solomon presses rich people to abound in liberality to the poor.”

For vv1-2, I’ve already given the same interpretation.

For v3, he says we should imitate the generosity of the clouds, which pour down the blessing of rain instead of holding on to it.
Not being in any great public office is no excuse. Whatever the limitations of his station, “in the place where the tree falls”, wherever that place may be, “every man must labour to be a blessing to that place”.

V4 means they should not be put off charitable work by objections and difficulties.

V5 means that we should not hold back simply because we do not know when and whether we shall get our recompense and reward.

And v6 means “persevere in well-doing”, in the charitable sense.

posted on Mar, 5 2021 @ 05:18 PM
a reply to: DISRAELI

Soaking bread in water for days and letting the yeasts ferment, converting the bread's carbohydrates to alcohol, was part of an ancient Egyptian beer making process.

Ecclesiastes faces the futility of the things that we, as humans, do, and suggests that there is nothing wrong with living humbly and enjoying the simple pleasures of life, as long as you ensure that you don't neglect your duties to God and to others.

The king (reputedly Solomon, son of King David and Beersheba) was contemplating his place in the world and he realized that most of what we do in our lives is transient, gone and soon forgotten - even for a king.

A modern equivalent would be asking "what is the point of existence"? He realized that in spite of the transience, there were things that were ancient and eternal. These concepts are required to understand God's revelation of Himself to us.

edit on 5/3/2021 by chr0naut because: (no reason given)

posted on Mar, 5 2021 @ 05:22 PM
a reply to: chr0naut
Well, "coming back" implies a gping away first, so he's evidently talking about mobile waters.
But if the fish eat this fermented bread, they might be too drunk to resist capture? (A compromise solution)

posted on Mar, 7 2021 @ 09:38 AM
huge palm face.

posted on Mar, 7 2021 @ 11:59 AM
a reply to: DISRAELI

V1 brings to mind breaking bread and sharing fellowship with others. The Our Father, asks we be given our daily bread, imo have our needs looked after.

The cyclical nature of water, and it's symbolism adds an emotional aspect for me. I get a put it out there, and it comes back, sooner or later (tbd, a ripple effect).

For me, it not about looking for rainchecks or using karma like a credit card.

It's giving thanks and hoping looking after one another makes it easier for others to look after you. This often appears in unexpected situations...

posted on Mar, 7 2021 @ 12:45 PM
a reply to: dffrntkndfnml
Thank you for those comments. Others could learn from you how to give thoughtful responses.

posted on Mar, 7 2021 @ 01:36 PM
a reply to: DISRAELI

I really enjoy your threads, DISRAELI. I find they help me study the scriptures on a more regular basis.

I confess recently one of my loved ones was in a bad way.

I was helpless and didn't know what would happen.

A random stranger helped out, and I had doubts after my phone rang. Idk he had a deep, gravelly, coarse voice, after giving him some PI my anxiety levels spiked. He didn't return my calls afterward.

I was overjoyed when he helped get them back home. Safe and sound.

edit on 7-3-2021 by dffrntkndfnml because: spelling and grammar

posted on Mar, 7 2021 @ 02:44 PM
a reply to: dffrntkndfnml
If your're finding support in the whole-book sequences of threads, I've already warned ATS that these will be happening less in the future because I've been running out of fresh books to look at.
Failing that, it might be helpful to go back to the older thread sequences, as indexed on Ten years of Bible threads (the ones listed in capital letters).

posted on Mar, 7 2021 @ 02:53 PM
a reply to: DISRAELI

Thank-you I regularly go through old threads here, like the Good Book, new insights pop up as you revisit.

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