Ecc 9.1-18 continues with Kohelet’s discourse about the prosperity of the wicked and the afflictions of the righteous. He also touches on God’s sovereignty and realizes he will never understand how it all works based on his observations and experiences alone. He also continues to discuss wisdom.
v 1…For I have taken all this to my heart (to sift through) and explain it that righteous men, wise men, and their deeds are in the hand of God (all actions and events are guided by his hand, and we can’t fully comprehend it all right now),; man does not know whether it will be love or hatred; anything awaits him (we cannot judge by outward circumstances whether God loves or hates them. He chastises who he loves and prospers those who hate him).
v 2…It is the same for all (good and evil). There is one fate for the righteous and for the wicked (outward things of life); for the good, for the clean, for the unclean, for the the man who offers a sacrifice (zevach) and for the one who does not offer sacrifice. As the good man is, so is the sinner; as the swearer (takes a rash oath), so is the one who is afraid to swear (is cautious about taking one).
v 3…This is an evil (in the sense of an injustice) in all that is done under the sun (everywhere in the natural world), that there is one fate for all men (same destiny-death). Furthermore, the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil and insanity is in their hearts (thoughts and desires) all their lives (unrestrained by fear of the judgment). Afterward they go to the dead (presuming there is no God and no judgment, a fatalist).
v 4…For whoever is joined with the living, there is hope (for eternal life and not the hopelessness of the wicked); surely a live dog is better than a dead lion (no matter how lowly you are, being alive is better than the most famous and honorable person who is dead).
v 5…For the living know they will die; but the dead do not know anything (of human activity in this life-normal bodily functions have ceased-John 6.63; Jam 2.26; Ecc 12.7, 11.5, 3.20-21), nor have they any longer a reward (their toils in this world are over), for their memory is forgotten (among the living, even where they lived, won’t be aware of them).
v 6…Indeed their love, their hate, and their zeal have already perished, and they will no longer have a share in all that is done under the sun (some commentators say this verse refers to the un righteous dead).
v 7…Go eat your bread in happiness (enjoy your comforts), and drink your wine with a cheerful heart; for God has already approved your works (you have repented and can enjoy God’s blessings).
v 8…Let your clothes be white all the time (not in mourning wearing black, but rejoicing), and let not oil be lacking on your head (also speaking of a festive time-Psa 45.8).
v 9…Enjoy life (literally “see life”) with the wife whom you love all the days of your life (not with a harlot) which he has given you under the sun; for this is your reward in life (your portion), and in your toil in which you have labored under the sun.
v 10…Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might (with diligence, vigor); for there is no activity or planning or wisdom in Sheol where you are going (you can’t design or do anything for God in the earth anymore).
v 11…I returned and saw under the sun (life of the natural man everywhere) that the race is not to the swift, and the battle is not to the warriors (by their efforts), and neither is bread to the wise (as if their wisdom provided it), nor wealth to the discerning (who may know how to get it), nor favor to men of ability; for time and occurrence overtake them all (human success depends on circumstances and the power of Yehovah which is beyond our control).
v 12…Moreover, man does not know his time (of death). As the fish caught in the treacherous (evil)net and as birds trapped in a snare (unaware), so the sons of men are ensnared at an evil time when it suddenly falls on them.
v 13…Also this I came to see as wisdom under the sun (in life), and it impressed me (Kohelet now relates about some things that impressed him about wisdom).
v 14…There was a small city (vulnerable) with few men in it (to defend it) and a great king came to it, surrounded it and constructed large siege works against it (to take the city), victory was certain but it will not work out that way).
v 15…But there was found in it a poor wise man and he delivered the city by his wisdom (by negotiating with the king), yet no one remembered that poor man (before he saved the city; he wasn’t famous or had a reputation of greatness that contributed to this success, only his wisdom. That is the point of the story ).
v 16…Wisdom is better that strength (in an emergency, the wise man can do more than the mighty). But the wisdom of the poor man (before the emergency) is despised (neglected) and his words are not heeded (he is ignored).
v 17…The words of the wise heard in quietness (gentleness) are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools (wisdom is better that the shouting of fools).
v 18…Wisdom is better than weapons of war (more desirable and does what weapons cannot do as in v 15), but one sinner destroys much good (it can take away the good wisdom does, like Achan in Josh 7.11-12 or Rehoboam’s decisions in 1 Kings 12.16).