New International Version
Who knows if the human spirit rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?"
King James Bible
Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?
Darby Bible Translation
Who knoweth the spirit of the children of men? Doth it go upwards? and the spirit of the beasts, doth it go downwards to the earth?
World English Bible
Who knows the spirit of man, whether it goes upward, and the spirit of the animal, whether it goes downward to the earth?"
Young's Literal Translation
Who knoweth the spirit of the sons of man that is going up on high, and the spirit of the beast that is going down below to the earth?
Ecclesiastes 3:21 Parallel
CommentaryClarke's Commentary on the Bible
Who knoweth the spirit of man - I think the meaning of this important verse is well taken by the above able writer: -
The nobler part of man, 'tis true, survives
The frail corporeal frame: but who regards
The difference? Those who live like beasts, as such
Would die, and be no more, if their own fate
Depended on themselves. Who once reflects,
Amidst his revels, that the human soul,
Of origin celestial, mounts aloft,
While that of brutes to earth shall downward go?"
The word רוח ruach, which is used in this and the nineteenth verse, has two significations, breath and spirit. It signifies spirit, or an incorporeal substance, as distinguished from flesh, or a corporeal one, 1 Kings 22:21, 1 Kings 22:22, and Isaiah 31:3. And it signifies the spirit or soul of man, Psalm 31:6; Isaiah 57:16, and in this book, Ecclesiastes 12:7, and in many other places. In this book it is used also to signify the breath, spirit, or soul of a beast. While it was said in verse 19, they have all one breath, i.e., the man and the beast live the same kind of animal life; in this verse, a proper distinction is made between the רוח ruach, or soul of man, and the רוח ruach, or soul of the beast: the one goeth upwards, the other goeth downwards. The literal translation of these important words is this: "Who considereth the רוח ruach) immortal spirit of the sons of Adam, which ascendeth? it is from above; (היא למעלה hi lemalah); and the spirit or breath of the cattle which descendeth? it is downwards unto the earth," i.e., it tends to the earth only. This place gives no countenance to the materiality of the soul; and yet it is the strongest hold to which the cold and fruitless materialist can resort.
Solomon most evidently makes an essential difference between the human soul and that of brutes. Both have souls, but of different natures: the soul of man was made for God, and to God it shall return: God is its portion, and when a holy soul leaves the body, it goes to paradise. The soul of the beast was made to derive its happiness from this lower world. Brutes shall have a resurrection, and have an endless enjoyment in a new earth. The body of man shall arise, and join his soul that is already above; and both enjoy final blessedness in the fruition of God. That Solomon did not believe they had the same kind of spirit, and the same final lot, as some materialists and infidels say, is evident from Ecclesiastes 12:7 : "The spirit shall return unto God who gave it."
Treasury of Scripture Knowledge
of man that goeth upwards
LibraryEternity in the Heart
'He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also He hath set the world in their heart.'--ECCLES. iii. 11. There is considerable difficulty in understanding what precise meaning is to be attached to these words, and what precise bearing they have on the general course of the writer's thoughts; but one or two things are, at any rate, quite clear. The Preacher has been enumerating all the various vicissitudes of prosperity and adversity, of construction and destruction, of society and solitude, …
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture
But Thou who Both Hast Sons, and Livest in that End of the World...
The Holy War,
A Sermon on Isaiah xxvi. By John Knox.
The LORD will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the LORD your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom.
and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.
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