There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
In the previous verses, 2:24-26, the Teacher has set forth a basic proposition that God is in control and that outside of His will, everything is useless, meaningless, empty, futile; vanity. Yet within His will there is satisfaction and true happiness; in this chapter, he sets forth to prove his point. In this first part, the Teacher reminds us that there is an undeniable pattern to life, a rhythm we might say, which has been established by God.
These vases are so familiar, they were even made into a hit song back in the 1960’s, but do we really grasp their significance?
To ensure that we really “get” this passage, commentators often go into great detail to analyze each of these couplets, to squeeze out every bit of juice from the poem, often engaging in great philosophical dissertations that are quite fascinating to ponder, and you are quite welcome to search these out if you like. If you choose to take this approach, you can join so many other great minds who suddenly find themselves trying to justify killing, tearing things down and hatred into a Biblical context of love and compassion. It sounds like taking a side trip that involves a whole lot of chasing the wind to me!
I say this because these verses are not eight separate points, this passage does not stand on its own in the context of this book; it is one complete thought set up to demonstrate one part of the demonstration of one point in a series of points that make up the complete message of Ecclesiastes, and as richly rewarding as it may be to analyze this line by line, to do so misses the point entirely. I’m sorry that I have to admit this, but to my strange little mind, and with my oddball little sense of humor, charging off on such an errand would be hilarious and supremely ironic while studying Ecclesiastes, of all books.
The Teacher’s thesis is stated in the beginning of my comments above, and verses 1-8 are supporting point 1 in his attempt to back it up; this is evidence, not a philosophical treatise. What is he really trying to tell us? Simple: (go figure)
Thesis: Satisfaction in this life and thus true happiness can only be found when we are within the will of Almighty God.
First supporting point: God, in His infinite wisdom has ordained a season for every purpose of Man.
Well, it would seem that we are ready for the next point now… and that is exactly what we will have next time!