“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”
Explanation and Commentary of Ecclesiastes 3:11
This is a difficult passage to understand because the preceding poem is difficult to understand. One thing is certain, “there is a time for everything” (Ecc 3:1-8), but is this meant by the author to be good news? God has set eternity in the human heart, but (yet) no one can fathom what God is doing.
The Christian worldview provides the answer on a macro scale. God created the world (Gen 1-2). The world fell into sin (Gen 3). God’s answer to restoring the fallen world is Jesus Christ (Ro 3). He will come again and take us to be with him in the New Heavens and the New Earth (Rev 21:1) where he has prepared a place for us (Jn 14:3).
Our own lives are meant to fall into that redemption story, and each moment is full of meaning as a result. But, this verse makes clear that we don’t always have a way to understand exactly why God does what he does when he does it. We trust that it is part of his plant of “eternity,” but we “can[not] fathom” how. We are left to trust him to have all knowledge and to reveal what he thinks is necessary to reveal. Sometimes even in hindsight, we will not be privy to his plan. But he is good and faithful, and we can rest in him with peace.
Breaking Down the Key Parts of Ecclesiastes 3:11
#1 “He has made everything…”
John 1:3 says, “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” God has created all and is in all (Col 3:11). He is behind the way things are and the way they are going to turn out.
#2 “…beautiful in its time.”
A more accurate translation of the word that is translated here as “beautiful” is “appropriate.” Everything that happens, happens just when it should happen according to God’s plan. This doesn’t necessarily help to understand why, but it does allow us to trust him and find our ultimate purpose in that.
#3 “He has also set eternity in the human heart.”
Humans, made in the image of God, are built with an internal sense of the eternal. We know that nothing is final, that things that happen matter in a cosmic sense. Animals don’t think this way.
#4 “yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”
Knowing that God is in control, that everything happens at the appropriate time, and that we are eternal, our actions having eternal significance, does not change the fact that we don’t always understand what God is actually doing and why. Sometimes he reveals himself, but often he is content to leave us with this fact: he does everything for his glory and for our good (Isa 48:9; Ro 8:28).
Bible Study on Ecclesiastes 3:11
Expert Overview of Ecclesiastes
Biblical Translations of Ecclesiastes 3:11
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.
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.
He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.
He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.