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Ecclesiastes 11:1 [study!]

American Standard Version (ASV 1901) [2]
— Cast thy bread upon the waters; for thou shalt find it after many days.
King James Version (KJV 1769)
— Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.
New American Standard Bible (NASB ©1995)
— Cast your bread on the surface of the waters, for you will find it after many days.
Webster's Revision of the KJB (WEB 1833)
— Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.
Darby's Translation (DBY 1890)
— Cast thy bread upon the waters; for thou shalt find it after many days.
Rotherham's Emphasized Bible (EBR 1902)
— Cast thy bread-corn, upon the face of the waters,—for, after many days, shalt thou find it:
Young's Literal Translation (YLT 1898)
— Send forth thy bread on the face of the waters, For in the multitude of the days thou dost find it.
Douay-Rheims Challoner Revision (DR 1750)
— Cast thy bread upon the running waters: for after a long time thou shalt find it again.
Original King James Bible (AV 1611) [2]
— Cast thy bread vpon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many dayes.
Brenton Greek Septuagint (LXX, Restored Names)
— Send forth thy bread upon the face of the water: for thou shalt find it after many days.
Full Hebrew Names / Holy Name KJV (2008) [2] [3]
— Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.

Strong's Numbers & Hebrew NamesHebrew Old TestamentColor-Code/Key Word Studies
Cast 7971
{7971} Prime
שָׁלַח
shalach
{shaw-lakh'}
A primitive root; to send away, for, or out (in a great variety of applications).
z8761
<8761> Grammar
Stem - Piel (See H8840)
Mood - Imperative (See H8810)
Count - 446
thy bread 3899
{3899} Prime
לֶחֶם
lechem
{lekh'-em}
From H3898; food (for man or beast), especially bread, or grain (for making it).
upon 6440
{6440} Prime
פָּנִים
paniym
{paw-neem'}
Plural (but always used as a singular) of an unused noun (פָּנֶה paneh, {paw-neh'}; from H6437); the face (as the part that turns); used in a great variety of applications (literally and figuratively); also (with prepositional prefix) as a preposition (before, etc.).
x5921
(5921) Complement
עַל
`al
{al}
Properly the same as H5920 used as a preposition (in the singular or plural, often with prefix, or as conjugation with a particle following); above, over, upon, or against (yet always in this last relation with a downward aspect) in a great variety of applications.
the waters: 4325
{4325} Prime
מַיִם
mayim
{mah'-yim}
Dual of a primitive noun (but used in a singular sense); water; figuratively juice; by euphemism urine, semen.
for x3588
(3588) Complement
כִּי
kiy
{kee}
A primitive particle (the full form of the prepositional prefix) indicating causal relations of all kinds, antecedent or consequent; (by implication) very widely used as a relative conjugation or adverb; often largely modified by other particles annexed.
thou shalt find 4672
{4672} Prime
מָצָא
matsa'
{maw-tsaw'}
A primitive root; properly to come forth to, that is, appear or exist; transitively to attain, that is, find or acquire; figuratively to occur, meet or be present.
z8799
<8799> Grammar
Stem - Qal (See H8851)
Mood - Imperfect (See H8811)
Count - 19885
it after many 7230
{7230} Prime
רֹב
rob
{robe}
From H7231; abundance (in any respect).
days. 3117
{3117} Prime
יוֹם
yowm
{yome}
From an unused root meaning to be hot; a day (as the warm hours), whether literally (from sunrise to sunset, or from one sunset to the next), or figuratively (a space of time defined by an associated term), (often used adverbially).
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Commentary

Ecclesiastes 11:1

_ _ Ecclesiastes 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 (Ecclesiastes 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 (Isaiah 32:20). “Waters” express multitudes, so Ecclesiastes 11:2; Revelation 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 (Isaiah 49:4).

Matthew Henry's Commentary

Ecclesiastes 11:1-6

_ _ Solomon had often, in this book, pressed it upon rich people to take the comfort of their riches themselves; here he presses it upon them to do good to others with them and to abound in liberality to the poor, which will, another day, abound to their account. Observe,

_ _ I. How the duty itself is recommended to us, Ecclesiastes 11:1. 1. Cast thy bread upon the waters, thy bread-corn upon the low places (so some understand it), alluding to the husbandman, who goes forth, bearing precious seed, sparing bread-corn from his family for the seedness, knowing that without that he can have no harvest another year; thus the charitable man takes from his bread-corn for seed-corn, abridges himself to supply the poor, that he may sow beside all waters (Isaiah 32:20), because as he sows so he must reap, Galatians 6:7. We read of the harvest of the river, Isaiah 23:3. Waters, in scripture, are put for multitudes (Revelation 16:5), and there are multitudes of poor (we do not want objects of charity); waters are put also for mourners: the poor are men of sorrows. Thou must give bread, the necessary supports of life, not only give good words but good things, Isaiah 58:7. It must be thy bread, that which is honestly got; it is no charity, but injury, to give that which is none of our own to give; first do justly, and then love mercy.Thy bread, which thou didst design for thyself, let the poor have a share with thee, as they had with Job, Job 31:17. Give freely to the poor, as that which is cast upon the waters. Send it a voyage, send it as a venture, as merchants that trade by sea. Trust it upon the waters; it shall not sink.”

_ _ 2. “Give a portion to seven and also to eight, that is, be free and liberal in works of charity.” (1.) “Give much if thou hast much to give, not a pittance, but a portion, not a bit or two, but a mess, a meal; give a large dole, not a paltry one; give good measure (Luke 6:38); be generous in giving, as those were when, on festival days, they sent portions to those for whom nothing was prepared (Nehemiah 8:10), worthy portions.” (2.) “Give to many, to seven, and also to eight; if thou meet with seven objects of charity, give to them all, and then, if thou meet with an eighth, give to that, and if with eight more, give to them all too. Excuse not thyself with the good thou hast done from the good thou hast further to do, but hold on, and mend. In hard times, when the number of the poor increases, let thy charity be proportionably enlarged.” God is rich in mercy to all, to us, though unworthy; he gives liberally, and upbraids not with former gifts, and we must be merciful as our heavenly Father is.

_ _ II. The reasons with which it is pressed upon us. Consider,

_ _ 1. Our reward for well-doing is very certain. “Though thou cast it upon the waters, and it seem lost, thou thinkest thou hast given thy good word with it and art likely never to hear of it again, yet thou shalt find it after many days, as the husbandman finds his seed again in a plentiful harvest and the merchant his venture in a rich return. It is not lost, but well laid out, and well laid up; it brings in full interest in the present gifts of God's providence, and graces and comforts of his Spirit; and the principal is sure, laid up in heaven, for it is lent to the Lord.” Seneca, a heathen, could say, Nihil magis possidere me credam, quam bene donataI possess nothing so completely as that which I have given away. Hochabeo quodcunque dedi; hae sunt divitiae certae in quacunque sortis humanae levitateWhatever I have imparted I still possess; these riches remain with me through all the vicissitudes of life.Thou shalt find it, perhaps not quickly, but after many days; the return may be slow, but it is sure and will be so much the more plentiful.” Wheat, the most valuable grain, lies longest in the ground. Long voyages make the best returns.

_ _ 2. Our opportunity for well-doing is very uncertain: “Thou knowest not what evil may be upon the earth, which may deprive thee of thy estate, and put thee out of a capacity to do good, and therefore, while thou hast wherewithal, be liberal with it, improve the present season, as the husbandman in sowing his ground, before the frost comes.” We have reason to expect evil upon the earth, for we are born to trouble; what the evil may be we know not, but that we may be ready for it, whatever it is, it is our wisdom, in the day of prosperity, to be in good, to be doing good. Many make use of this as an argument against giving to the poor, because they know not what hard times may come when they may want themselves; whereas we should therefore the rather be charitable, that, when evil days come, we may have the comfort of having done good while we were able; we would then hope to find mercy both with God and man, and therefore should now show mercy. If by charity we trust God with what we have, we put it into good hands against bad times.

_ _ III. How he obviates the objections which might be made against this duty and the excuses of the uncharitable.

_ _ 1. Some will say that what they have is their own and they have it for their own use, and will ask, Why should we cast it thus upon the waters? Why should I take my bread, and my flesh, and give it to I know not whom? So Nabal pleaded, 1 Samuel 25:11. “Look up, man, and consider how soon thou wouldest be starved in a barren ground, if the clouds over thy head should plead thus, that they have their waters for themselves; but thou seest, when they are full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth, to make it fruitful, till they are wearied and spent with watering it, Job 37:11. Are the heavens thus bountiful to the poor earth, that is so far below them, and wilt thou grudge thy bounty to thy poor brother, who is bone of thy bone? Or thus: some will say, Though we give but little to the poor, yet, thank God, we have as charitable a heart as any.” Nay, says Solomon, if the clouds be full of rain, they will empty themselves; if there be charity in the heart, it will show itself, James 2:15, James 2:16. He that draws out his soul to the hungry will reach forth his hand to them, as he has ability.

_ _ 2. Some will say that their sphere of usefulness is low and narrow; they cannot do the good that they see others can, who are in more public stations, and therefore they will sit still and do nothing. Nay, says he, in the place where the tree falls, or happens to be, there it shall be, for the benefit of those to whom it belongs; every man must labour to be a blessing to that place, whatever it is, 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. Or thus: some will say, “Many present themselves as objects of charity who are unworthy, and I do not know whom it is fit to give it to.” “Trouble not thyself about that” (says Solomon); “give as discreetly as thou canst, and then be satisfied that, though the person should prove undeserving of thy charity, yet, if thou give it with an honest heart, thou shalt not lose thy reward; which way soever the charity is directed, north or south, thine shall be the benefit of it.” This is commonly applied to death; therefore let us do good, and, as good trees, bring forth the fruits of righteousness, because death will shortly come and cut us down, and we shall then be determined to an unchangeable state of happiness or misery according to what was done in the body. As the tree falls at death, so it is likely to lie to all eternity.

_ _ 3. Some will object the many discouragements they have met with in their charity. They have been reproached for it as proud and pharisaical; they have but little to give, and they shall be despised if they do not give as others do; they know not but their children may come to want it, and they had better lay it up for them; they have taxes to pay and purchases to make; they know not what use will be made of their charity, nor what construction will be put upon it; these, and a hundred such objections, he answers, in one word (Ecclesiastes 11:4): He that observes the wind shall not sow, which signifies doing good; and he that regards the clouds shall not reap, which signifies getting good. If we stand thus magnifying every little difficulty and making the worst of it, starting objections and fancying hardship and danger where there is none, we shall never go on, much less go through with our work, nor make any thing of it. If the husbandman should decline, or leave off, sowing for the sake of every flying cloud, and reaping for the sake of every blast of wind, he would make but an ill account of his husbandry at the year's end. the duties of religion are as necessary as sowing and reaping, and will turn as much to our own advantage. The discouragements we meet with in these duties are but as winds and clouds, which will do us no harm, and which those that put on a little courage and resolution will despise and easily break through. Note, Those that will be deterred and driven off by small and seeming difficulties from great and real duties will never bring any thing to pass in religion, for there will always arise some wind, some cloud or other, at least in our imagination, to discourage us. Winds and clouds are in God's hands, are designed to try us, and our Christianity obliges us to endure hardness.

_ _ 4. Some will say, “We do not see in which way what we expend in charity should ever be made up to us; we do not find ourselves ever the richer; why should we depend upon the general promise of a blessing on the charitable, unless we saw which way to expect the operation of it?” To this he answers, “Thou knowest not the work of God, nor is it fit thou shouldst. Thou mayest be sure he will make good his word of promise, though he does not tell thee how, or which way, and though he works in a way by himself, according to the counsels of his unsearchable wisdom. He will work, and none shall hinder; but then he will work and none shall direct or prescribe to him. The blessing shall work insensibly but irresistibly. God's work shall certainly agree with his word, whether we see it or no.” Our ignorance of the work of God he shows, in two instances: — (1.) We know not what is the way of the Spirit, of the wind (so some), we know not whence it comes, or whither it goes, or when it will turn; yet the seamen lie ready waiting for it, till it turns about in favour of them; so we must do our duty, in expectation of the time appointed for the blessing. Or it may be understood of the human soul; we know that God made us, and gave us these souls, but how they entered into these bodies, are united to them, animate them, and operate upon them, we know not; the soul is a mystery to itself, no marvel then that the work of God is so to us. (2.) We know not how the bones are fashioned in the womb of her that is with child. We cannot describe the manner either of the formation of the body or of its information with a soul; both, we know, are the work of God, and we acquiesce in his work, but cannot, in either, trace the process of the operation. We doubt not of the birth of the child that is conceived, though we know not how it is formed; nor need we doubt of the performance of the promise, though we perceive not how things work towards it. And we may well trust God to provide for us that which is convenient, without our anxious disquieting cares, and therein to recompense us for our charity, since it was without any knowledge or forecast of ours that our bodies were curiously wrought in secret and our souls found the way into them; and so the argument is the same, and urged to the same intent, with that of our Saviour (Matthew 6:25), The life, the living soul that God has given us, is more than meat; the body, that God has made us, is more than raiment; let him therefore that has done the greater for us be cheerfully depended upon to do the less.

_ _ 5. Some say, “We have been charitable, have given a great deal to the poor, and never yet saw any return for it; many days are past, and we have not found it again,” to which he answers (Ecclesiastes 11:6), “Yet go on, proceed and persevere in well-doing; let slip no opportunity. In the morning sow thy seed upon the objects of charity that offer themselves early, and in the evening do not withhold thy hand, under pretence that thou art weary; as thou hast opportunity, be doing good, some way or other, all the day long, as the husbandman follows his seedness from morning till night. In the morning of youth lay out thyself to do good; give out of the little thou hast to begin the world with; and in the evening of old age yield not to the common temptation old people are in to be penurious; even then withhold not thy hand, and think not to excuse thyself from charitable works by purposing to make a charitable will, but do good to the last, for thou knowest not which work of charity and piety shall prosper, both as to others and as to thyself, this or that, but hast reason to hope that both shall be alike good. Be not weary of well-doing, for in due season, in God's time and that is the best time, you shall reap,Galatians 6:9. This is applicable to spiritual charity, our pious endeavours for the good of the souls of others; let us continue them, for, though we have long laboured in vain, we may at length see the success of them. Let ministers, in the days of their seedness, sow both morning and evening; for who can tell which shall prosper?

John Wesley's Explanatory Notes

Ecclesiastes 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.

Geneva Bible Translation Notes

Ecclesiastes 11:1

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.

Cross-Reference Topical ResearchStrong's Concordance
Cast:
That is, says Bp. Lowth, "Sow thy seed or corn on the face of the waters;" in plain terms, sow without any hope of a harvest. Do good even to them on whom your benefactions seem thrown away. Dr. Jebb has well illustrated it by the following passages:
"Vain are the favours done to vicious men;
Not vainer 'tis to sow the foaming deep.
The deep no pleasant harvest shall afford,
Nor will the wicked ever make return.

"To befriend the wicked is like sowing in the sea.
These, indeed, invert this precept;
Nor is it extraordinary that they should.

"The one, frail human power alone produced,
The other, God."

thy bread:

Deuteronomy 15:7-11 If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother: ... For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.
Proverbs 11:24-25 There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and [there is] that withholdeth more than is meet, but [it tendeth] to poverty. ... The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself.
Proverbs 22:9 He that hath a bountiful eye shall be blessed; for he giveth of his bread to the poor.
Isaiah 32:8 But the liberal deviseth liberal things; and by liberal things shall he stand.

waters:
Heb. face of the waters,
Isaiah 32:20 Blessed [are] ye that sow beside all waters, that send forth [thither] the feet of the ox and the ass.

for:

Ecclesiastes 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.
Deuteronomy 15:10 Thou shalt surely give him, and thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him: because that for this thing the LORD thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto.
Psalms 41:1-2 [[To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David.]] Blessed [is] he that considereth the poor: the LORD will deliver him in time of trouble. ... The LORD will preserve him, and keep him alive; [and] he shall be blessed upon the earth: and thou wilt not deliver him unto the will of his enemies.
Psalms 126:5-6 They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. ... He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves [with him].
Proverbs 11:18 The wicked worketh a deceitful work: but to him that soweth righteousness [shall be] a sure reward.
Proverbs 19:17 He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the LORD; and that which he hath given will he pay him again.
Matthew 10:13 And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it: but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you.
Matthew 10:42 And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold [water] only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.
Matthew 25:40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done [it] unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done [it] unto me.
Luke 14:14 And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.
2 Corinthians 9:6 But this [I say], He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.
Galatians 6:8-10 For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. ... As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all [men], especially unto them who are of the household of faith.
Hebrews 6:10 For God [is] not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.
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Dt 15:7, 10. Ps 41:1; 126:5. Pv 11:18, 24; 19:17; 22:9. Ec 11:6. Is 32:8, 20. Mt 10:13, 42; 25:40. Lk 14:14. 2Co 9:6. Ga 6:8. He 6:10.

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