“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.”
Explanation and Commentary of Ecclesiastes 9:10
The author of Ecclesiastes is not speaking of our eternal existence with God in the New Heavens and Earth at the End of Days. The weight of biblical scholarship is that there will be work, planning, knowledge, and wisdom in the afterlife. The “realm of the dead” is not the present Heaven where Christians go to await Christ, but is Sheol, possibly hell. Throughout the Old Testament, God progressively revealed the realities of the afterlife, but early Jews believed that everyone who died went to this inhospitable and gloomy place.
Nevertheless, the wisdom for living this life is sound. We are called to do all things “for the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31). That includes working or anything else good that our “hand finds to do.” We should live this life to the full in the presence of God, filling every minute here on earth with meaningful activity.
Breaking Down the Key Parts of Ecclesiastes 9:10
#1 “Whatever your hand finds to do,”
Christians should be busy. If we abide in Christ (Jn 15) then we will have things set before us by God to undertake for his glory and his purposes. We are meant to work and take responsibility for what is given to us to steward.
#2 “do it with all your might,”
Why do anything in a mediocre way? Wise people say, “If it is worth doing, it is worth doing right.” Add to that, “If it is worth doing, it is worth giving your very best.” Some people have a way of rationalizing mediocre work because people in today’s culture are plagued by a sense of entitlement. The thinking is that unless you give me this much reward, I will only give you this much effort. But that is not the way God intended his people to operate. Rather, being like him, we should seek to be excellent in our efforts, trusting God for the results.
#3 “for in the realm of the dead, where you are going,”
The fact that revelation in Scripture is progressive does not mean that the Bible contradicts itself. The human race did go to Sheol before God in His mercy saved an individual and brought him to Paradise. Today, unbelievers will still go to hell, a place of eternal conscious torment, and they will pay for their sin and rebellion against God. Believers have a better promise then this verse reveals.
#4 “there is neither working nor planning, knowledge nor wisdom.”
This is very true of hell, but it is the opposite of what Heaven will be like. There will be working and planning (Mt 25:14-30), knowledge (Mt 13:11), and in the presence of God and fully transformed Christians there will be infinite wisdom (Dan 12:3).
Bible Study on Ecclesiastes 9:10
Expert Overview of Ecclesiastes
Biblical Translations of Ecclesiastes 9:10
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.
Whatever you do, do well. For when you go to the grave, there will be no work or planning or knowledge or wisdom.
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.
Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going.
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.