Ecclesiastes 11: Knowing God


Ecclesiastes 11 uses some figurative language that might seem a little bit bizarre to all of us today, but I think that it can tell us something about our faith in the work of God.

Ecc 11:5  As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all.

Ecc 11:6  In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good.

Verse 5 caught me off guard because we do know how bones develop for unborn children. Is the Bible wrong? It is important to remember that the Bible was written for a particular audience at a particular time, and it must have meant something to them at that time.

Neither Solomon nor his audience understood anatomy in the sense that we do nowadays, so it is not that the Bible is wrong here. At the time of writing, he was right. This does not affect the inerrancy of the Bible in any way, but it is actually a historical piece of data that tells us about the scientific understanding of people in Biblical times.

With that out of the way, we can really look at this verse and see what was being communicated with that example. Basically, we don’t know a lot of things about the world, and we don’t even understand whether or not our crops will prosper. How do we expect to understand the works of God entirely?

I think that is something that people still struggle with extensively today. We live in a world that is motivated by scientific and technological progress. We know more and more about the world around us, but I don’t think I would be exaggerating to say that there are more things we don’t know about the universe than we actually do know. Now, what if the Christian God exists? He created the universe, and He is much bigger than the universe. How can we expect to understand Him perfectly? We can learn things, but learning everything is simply not possible.

We might have a better understanding of the scientific mysteries that Solomon used in his example, but the point is still valid. We still do not perfectly understand our universe, and that is okay. We continue learning. However, it is not surprising that there are some things about God that we just don’t understand. We might be able to learn them, or we might never find out the particular answer we are looking for, but we need to trust that God is still in charge and still working.

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Posted on May 23, 2014, in Ecclesiastes and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Sometimes the problem is with the way verses are translated from Hebrew to english.
    This one may fit the intent of Ecclesiastes a bit better.

    “The rain will fall when the clouds are full of water, and a tree will fall when the wind blows from the right direction. You cannot plant your crops while you study the wind, nor can you reap while you watch the clouds. Just as you do not know how the spirit enters a baby being formed in its mother’s womb, neither can you comprehend the work of God, the creator of all things. So plant your seed in the morning, and in the evening do not let your hands be idle, for you do not know which endeavor will succeed or if both will do equally well.”

    Kohelet, the author of Ecclesiastes, is simply stating that human knowledge is limited and in light of that fact we should try different ventures and see which one is successful. Ecclesiastes is a theology of work and Kohelet reminds us that God has twisted the world and introduced randomness through the problems (thorns and thistles) that plague creation.

    Vance – artofwork.ca

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