Ecclesiastes 3:19—Is man’s fate the same as that of animals?

Problem: Solomon seems to claim here that there is no difference between the death of humans and animals. “One thing befalls them: as one dies, so dies the other.” Yet Solomon asserts later that, unlike animals, when a human dies, “the spirit will return to God who gave it” (Ecc. 12:7). How can this conflict be explained?

Solution: There are both similarities and differences between the death of animals and humans. In both cases, their bodies die and return to dust. Likewise, their death is certain, and both are powerless to prevent it. In these respects, the physical phenomena are the same for both humans and animals.

On the other hand, humans have immortal souls (spirits), and animals do not (Ecc. 12:7; cf. 3:21). Of no beasts does the Bible say, “to be absent from the body ... [is] to be present with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8). Likewise, nowhere does the Bible speak of the resurrection of animals, as it does of all human beings (cf. John 5:28–29; Rev. 20:4–6). So there is a big difference in the spiritual realm between the death of humans and animals. Consider the following summary:


See All Problems

This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.