Question: "What does it mean that there is a time to be born and a time to die (Ecclesiastes 3:2)?"
Answer: Looking back over his life and considering the sovereignty of God, King Solomon penned these words: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die” (Ecclesiastes 3:1–2).
Solomon had observed that life consists of a series of beginnings and endings, and God is the ultimate authority over them all. With the statement “there is a time to be born and a time to die,” Solomon acknowledged that, from start to finish, every moment in every season of the cycle of life is appointed by God. From the day of our birth until the day we die, God is designing our destiny.
Solomon’s father, King David, similarly reflected, “You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed” (Psalm 139:15–16, NLT).
In Ecclesiastes 3:1–8, Solomon presents a catalog of fourteen contrasting seasons and times (birth and death, planting and harvest, killing and healing, etc.). Together, these pairings communicate a sense of all human activity in its myriad forms. While appearing to be opposites, a time to be born and a time to die are instead counterparts, both having their appropriate place in the rhythm of ever-changing seasons and cycles of life. Everything between the time of our birth and our death happens at an appointed time.
In the original language, the word translated as “be born” is the active verb form “to bear, or to give birth.” As humans, we have the extreme privilege of collaborating with God in creating new life through the process of conception and giving birth.
Every human life has a determined span, and within its duration there are meaningful events. Birth and death are perhaps the most significant, book-ending every person’s existence. There is an appointed time for every person to be born and a time to die. Job said to God, “You have decided the length of our lives. You know how many months we will live, and we are not given a minute longer” (Job 14:5, NLT; see also Hebrews 9:27).
Childbirth is typically a joyous and celebratory season in life (John 16:21; Psalm 113:9; 127:3). On the other hand, death generally is a grievous and mournful time. Yet God has a good purpose for everything that takes place between one’s birth and death: “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28, ESV).
“Our lives are in his hands, and he keeps our feet from stumbling,” declares Psalm 66:9 (NLT). “My times are in your hands,” affirms David in Psalm 31:15. With Scripture’s promise that our lives and times are in God’s hands, we can trust that there’s no such thing as an untimely death. We can take comfort and rest assured that nothing in life can escape God’s supreme control.
There is a time to be born and a time to die ought also to remind us of Christ’s encouragement not to be anxious about our everyday lives. In Luke 12:23–31 and Matthew 6:25–34, Jesus taught that life is more than food and clothing. Birds and wildflowers don’t worry about what they will wear and how they will get their next meal. Neither should we because worrying won’t add a single moment to our lives. We can trust that God, who knows our needs from beginning to end, will love and care for us all of our days. If we seek His Kingdom first, He will provide for us in every moment of every season from the day we are born until our final breath.