Biblical Concept: Time and Chance



NAS Ecclesiastes 9:11 I 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.


The Context:


Ecclesiastes 9:1-12 1 For I have taken all this to my heart and explain it that righteous men, wise men, and their deeds are in the hand of God. Man does not know whether it will be love or hatred; anything awaits him.  2 It is the same for all. There is one fate for the righteous and for the wicked; for the good, for the clean, and for the unclean; for the man who offers a sacrifice and for the one who does not sacrifice. As the good man is, so is the sinner; as the swearer is, so is the one who is afraid to swear.  3 This is an evil in all that is done under the sun, that there is one fate for all men. Furthermore, the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil, and insanity is in their hearts throughout their lives. Afterwards they go to the dead.  4 For whoever is joined with all the living, there is hope; surely a live dog is better than a dead lion.  5 For the living know they will die; but the dead do not know anything, nor have they any longer a reward, for their memory is forgotten.  6 Indeed their love, their hate, and their zeal have already perished, and they will no longer have a share in all that is done under the sun.  7 Go then, eat your bread in happiness, and drink your wine with a cheerful heart; for God has already approved your works.  8 Let your clothes be white all the time, and let not oil be lacking on your head.  9 Enjoy life with the woman whom you love all the days of your fleeting life which He has given to you under the sun; for this is your reward in life, and in your toil in which you have labored under the sun.  10 Whatever your hand finds to do, verily, do it with all your might; for there is no activity or planning or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol where you are going.  11 I 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.  12 Moreover, man does not know his time: like fish caught in a treacherous net, and birds trapped in a snare, so the sons of men are ensnared at an evil time when it suddenly falls on them.


Note, the context teaches all: “for time and chance overtake them all” (9:11b) certainly includes God’s actions: “their deeds are in the hand of God. Man does not know whether it will be love or hatred; anything awaits him” (9:1b). God’s omniscient plan includes “time and chance.”  The believing human’s life will include “time and chance” for training, discipline, undeserved suffering, and His glory--as God sees fit.


The contextual setting of Ecclesiastes 9:1-12 notes that bad things will happen to good people, righteous people. Ecclesiastes 9:1-12 also notes that good, righteous people have no knowledge or control of the future.  Ecclesiastes 9:7-10 tells the good, righteous people to find happiness in this life, as a contrast to the “chance” in life.


Background: Because of freewill, fall, curse, and groaning creation; “time and chance” dominate humanity.  Special note: freewill includes fallen angels and their contributions to ‘time and chance.’  Consider Job 1-2.


Compare: 1 Peter 4:12-13  12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you;  13 but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation.


Note: “Which comes upon you” is similar to “time and chance.”


Note: “Which comes upon you” “time and chance” do not fall under the prerogative of Christians. 


Note: For the Christian, ‘which comes upon you time and chance’ is balanced with: NAS Romans 8:28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. “All things” includes ‘which comes upon you time and chance.’  A small thing for an omniscient God …


Note: NAS Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  3 For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart.  4 You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin;  5 and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, "My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, Nor faint when you are reproved by Him;  6 For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, And He scourges every son whom He receives."  7 It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?  8 But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.  9 Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live?  10 For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness.  11 All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.


Note: ‘Time and chance’ could be something you have negatively spiritually earned. An omniscient, omnipotent God can utilize ‘time and chance’ for a believer’s spiritual benefit: disciplined, scourged, trained.


Time in Ecclesiastes:


Ecclesiastes 3:1-17 1 There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven-- 2 A time to give birth, and a time to die; A time to plant, and a time to uproot what is planted.  3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; A time to tear down, and a time to build up.  4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; A time to mourn, and a time to dance.  5 A time to throw stones, and a time to gather stones; A time to embrace, and a time to shun embracing.  6 A time to search, and a time to give up as lost; A time to keep, and a time to throw away.  7 A time to tear apart, and a time to sew together; A time to be silent, and a time to speak.  8 A time to love, and a time to hate; A time for war, and a time for peace.  9 What profit is there to the worker from that in which he toils?  10 I have seen the task which God has given the sons of men with which to occupy themselves.  11 He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end.  12 I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good in one's lifetime; 13 moreover, that every man who eats and drinks sees good in all his labor-- it is the gift of God.  14 I know that everything God does will remain forever; there is nothing to add to it and there is nothing to take from it, for God has so worked that men should fear Him.  15 That which is has been already, and that which will be has already been, for God seeks what has passed by. 16 Furthermore, I have seen under the sun that in the place of justice there is wickedness, and in the place of righteousness there is wickedness.  17 I said to myself, "God will judge both the righteous man and the wicked man," for a time for every matter and for every deed is there.


Ecclesiastes 7:17 Do not be excessively wicked, and do not be a fool. Why should you die before your time?


Ecclesiastes 8:5-8   5 He who keeps a royal command experiences no trouble, for a wise heart knows the proper time and procedure.  6 For there is a proper time and procedure for every delight, when a man's trouble is heavy upon him.  7 If no one knows what will happen, who can tell him when it will happen?  8 No man has authority to restrain the wind with the wind, or authority over the day of death; and there is no discharge in the time of war, and evil will not deliver those who practice it.


NAS Ecclesiastes 9:11 I 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.


Ecclesiastes 10:17 Blessed are you, O land, whose king is of nobility and whose princes eat at the appropriate time-- for strength, and not for drunkenness.


Chance in Ecclesiastes:


The only use of “chance” ([g:P, / pega) is in 9:11.


Pega is found an additional 48 times in Scripture. Here are the examples with a similar “chance” nuance:


NAS Exodus 5:3 Then they said, "The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Please, let us go a three days' journey into the wilderness that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God, lest He fall (pega) upon us with pestilence or with the sword."


NAS Numbers 35:19 'The blood avenger himself shall put the murderer to death; he shall put him to death when he meets (pega) him.


NAS Joshua 2:16 And she said to them, "Go to the hill country, lest the pursuers happen (pega) upon you, and hide yourselves there for three days, until the pursuers return. Then afterward you may go on your way."


NAS Judges 8:21 Then Zebah and Zalmunna said, "Rise up yourself, and fall (pega) on us; for as the man, so is his strength." So Gideon arose and killed Zebah and Zalmunna, and took the crescent ornaments which were on their camels' necks.


NAS Amos 5:19 As when a man flees from a lion, And a bear meets (pega) him, Or goes home, leans his hand against the wall, And a snake bites him.