Ecclesiastes 3:1-22 An exercise in Bible reading

Sometimes reading the Bible feels foreign to us simply because of the strange way in which it was written. It was written for a by-gone people, living in by-gone eras. But, with a simple reading tip, most of that can be overcome relatively easily. Bible publishers have practised this tip for many years, some with greater or lesser accuracy. You can do the same.

This Bible reading tip lies in the non-inspired chapter and paragraph headings in your Bible. The challenge to you is: “Write your own!”. When you read any set of verses that go together as a unit, write a heading for that unit explaining what is going on. There are many ways to do this. You could write headings that summarise the main point, or that emphasis the main application, or that help you remember what you’ve read.

Here is an example from Ecclesiastes 3:1-22. These headings were written to point out the flow of the argument with a pinch of application at the end. Make this text not only renew your mind today, but may this example aid you in your future reading of Scripture.

A POEM ABOUT TIME

THE HEADING (v. 1)
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

THE LINES (vv. 2-8)
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

THE EXPLANATION (Round 1)
Human question and answer (vv. 9-10)
What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with.

Divine perspective and explanation (v. 11)
He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.

Human application (vv. 12-13)
I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.

THE EXPLANATION (Round 2)
Divine perspective (vv. 14-15)
I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away.

Case study: Politics (vv. 16-17)
Moreover, I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, even there was wickedness, and in the place of righteousness, even there was wickedness. I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work.

Case study: Death (vv. 18-21)
I said in my heart with regard to the children of man that God is testing them that they may see that they themselves are but beasts. For what happens to the children of man and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts, for all is vanity. All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return. Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down into the earth?

Human application (v. 22)
So I saw that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his work, for that is his lot. Who can bring him to see what will be after him?

Ecclesiastes 3:1-22 An exercise in Bible reading
Scroll to top