The Puritan Exegesis Project: John Trapp on Ecclesiastes 11:6

John Trapp’s (1601 – 1669) commentaries were Spurgeon’s personal treasure. As biblical scholarship progresses the minister and serious student continue to benefit greatly from consulting Trapp’s thought, suggestions and devotional contributions.  For years I waited patiently for a set of Trapp. After finally obtaining one, my dad–equally thrilled at my find–asked to borrow it. Now, having waited so long, I’ve finally re-obtained the set and hope to add Trapp to our project on Puritan exegesis.

Ecclesiastes 11:6 has a peculiar phrase not found elsewhere in the OT: “This or that” (hazeh ʾow-zeh). The labor of sowing seed as a literal representation of agricultural life or figurative of procreation does not contain certainty. We can’t know, says Qoheleth, the intimate details of the work of God, (i.e. we can’t predict the success or failure of our work.) The knowing or not knowing the outcome of one’s industry  in ‘this or that’ is here compared to God’s knowledge. The human perspective is drastically limited: one act or another may succeed, or perhaps both will. There’s reason to diversify.

For Trapp the solution to life’s uncertainty is simple. “At all times be prepared for every good work (Tit. 3:1) … sow mercy in the morning, so it likewise in the evening, as those bountiful Macedonians did, to the shame of those richer but harder Corinthians (2 Co. 8:3; Phil. 4:16).” Nothing is more certain, says Trapp, than the fruits of love’s labor. The advance of blessedness is accompanied by God’s superintendence (Heb. 6:10) even if only one leper in ten returns the favor.

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