The Race Is Not To The Swift: What Does Ecclesiastes 9:11 Mean?


Ecclesiastes 9:11, “I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.” King James Version (KJV)

TranslationEcclesiastes 9:11
ESVAgain I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all.
NASBI again saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift and the battle is not to the warriors, and neither is bread to the wise nor wealth to the discerning nor favor to men of ability; for time and chance overtake them all.
NIVI have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.
NLTI have observed something else under the sun. The fastest runner doesn’t always win the race, and the strongest warrior doesn’t always win the battle. The wise sometimes go hungry, and the skillful are not necessarily wealthy. And those who are educated don’t always lead successful lives. It is all decided by chance, by being in the right place at the right time.

The Race Is Not To The Swift: Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary

9:11,12 Men’s success seldom equals their expectations. We must use means, but not trust to them: if we succeed, we must give God the praise; if crossed, we must submit to his will.

Those who put off the great concerns of their souls, are caught in Satan’s net, which he baits with some worldly object, for which they reject or neglect the gospel, and go on in sin till they suddenly fall into destruction.

Ecclesiastes 9:11 | Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

This verse qualifies the sentiment, Ec 9:7-9. Earthly “enjoyments,” however lawful in their place (Ec 3:1), are to give way when any work to be done for God requires it.

Reverting to the sentiment (Ec 8:17), we ought, therefore, not only to work God’s work “with might” (Ec 9:10), but also with the feeling that the event is wholly “in God’s hand” (Ec 9:1).

race … not to the swift—(2Sa 18:23); spiritually (Zep 3:19; Ro 9:16).

nor … battle to … strong—(1Sa 17:47; 2Ch 14:9, 11, 15; Ps 33:16).

bread—livelihood.

favour—of the great.

chance—seemingly, really Providence. But as man cannot “find it out” (Ec 3:11), he needs “with all might” to use opportunities. Duties are ours; events, God’s.

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