I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happens to them all.
All Commentaries on Ecclesiastes 9:11 Go To Ecclesiastes 9
Didymus the Blind
Those who believe that human things are guided by providence do not ascribe anything accomplished by humans to their own effort. “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord guards the city, the guard keeps watch in vain.” He does not say that no one should build or no one guard the city but that one should remember: if the Lord does not grant success to the effort, both the effort and those who strive for it will be without success. It is up to us to start, but it is up to God to grant success. We start to build the house; God helps and perfects the construction. We guard our own city and are watchful of that decision to guard it, but God preserves it, undestroyed and undefeated by the aggressors. This is also expressed in Proverbs: “Keep your heart with all vigilance.” But even if you yourself keep your heart with all vigilance, say nevertheless to God: “You, Lord, will guard and preserve us.” This thought is also affirmed by Paul, when he says, “So it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who shows mercy.” He does not prohibit running towards the goals of our endeavor and to desire them. But he does prohibit belief that they are reached through one’s own effort. Many who have had this expectation have been found without success in their efforts. Question: How should we understand “the swift?” Answer: You can understand it clearly in the visible world: Some who are runners run fast, but in spite of that they still do not always escape their pursuers. And the slow are often not caught because the pursuers sometimes stumble. Therefore it is up to God, not to the swift, to finish the race.… The strong do not necessarily finish a war victoriously. Goliath was strong, and the war nevertheless did not end well for him. He was struck down like someone unarmed, like one who is not a general or someone inexperienced in war. For David the war ended successfully, although he did not trust in many armed forces. Rather, he defeated this mighty giant “in the name of the Lord.” Goliath, on the other hand, who was so proud of himself, had no success in war.