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Cast thy bread upon the waters

Cast thy bread upon the waters, (Ecclesiastes 11:1).

As the wise man had often suggested that nothing was better for a man than to enjoy the good of his labour himself, he here advises to let others, the poor, have a share with him;

  • and as he had directed in the preceding chapter how men should behave towards their superiors, he here instructs them what notice they should take of their inferiors;
  • and as he had cautioned against luxury and intemperance, he here guards against tenacity and covetousness, and exhorts to beneficence and liberality: that which is to be given is "bread", which is put for all the necessaries of life, food and raiment;
  • or money that answers all things, what may be a supply of wants, a support of persons in distress;
  • what is useful, profitable, and beneficial;
  • not stones or scorpions, or what will be useless or harmful: and it must be "thy" bread, a man's own;
  • not independent of God who gives it him;
  • but not another's, what he owes another, or has fraudulently obtained;
  • but what he has got by his own labour, or he is through divine Providence in lawful possession of;
  • hence alms in the Hebrew language is called "righteousness": and it must be such bread as is convenient and fit for a man himself, such as he himself and his family eat of, and this he must cast, it must be a man's own act, and a voluntary one;
  • his bread must not be taken and forced from him;
  • it must be given freely, and in such a manner as not to be expected again;
  • and bountifully and plentifully, as a man casts seed into the earth;
  • but here it is said to be "upon the waters";
  • bread is to be given to such as are in distress and affliction, that have waters of a full cup wrung out unto them, whose faces are watered with tears, and foul with weeping, from whom nothing is to be expected again, who can make no returns;
  • so that what is given thorn seems to be cast away and lost, like what is thrown into a river, or into the midst of the sea;
  • and even it is to be given to such who prove ungrateful and unthankful, and on whom no mark or impression of the kindness is made and left, no more than upon water;
  • yea, it is to be given to strangers never seen before nor after, like gliding water;
  • where the seed cast will grow up again, and bring forth fruit, and redound to the advantage of the sower, as what is given to the poor does;
  • they are a good soil to sow upon, especially Christ's poor, who are partakers of his living water, grace; see Isaiah 32:20;  though it may be the multitude of persons to whom alms is to be given are here intended, which are sometimes signified by waters, Revelation 17:15.

John Gill
John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible
Posted: 21 Sep 2014