Does “Chance” Happen to All of Us?

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Most versions of the Bible have Ecclesiastes 9:11 translated something similar to what the King James Version has: “time and chance happens to them all.”

The Hebrew word translated “chance” is pega. It has the following words associated with its definition:

  • impact – (Strong)
  • happening (Brown-Driver-Briggs)
  • occurrence (Bullinger; Wilson; Young)
  • incident (Barnes)
  • encounter … intercession … to come together in meeting (Ancient Hebrew Lexicon)
  • circumstantial event (Baker-Carpenter)
  • literally, the coming to meet (Dabhar, footnote)

Any insertion of “chance” into the definition of pega is merely human interpretation. Green’s Literal Translation has, “For time and occurrence happen to them all.”

Albert Barnes (1798–1870) wrote regarding this phrase,

[Pega is] that which comes to us from without, one of the external events described in Ecclesiastes 3. (cf. Ecclesiastes 2:14 note) The word does not mean “chance,” independent of the ordering of Divine Providence: the Gentile notion of “mere chance,” or “blind fate” …

The various other ways that the KJV translates pega are:

come, cause to entreat, fall, meet, reach, intercession, intercessor, entreat, lay, light, prayer, reach, run.

For example, note how the KJV translates pega in Genesis 32:1.

And Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met [pega] him.

Was this meeting by “chance,” or divine appointment? Here is what John Gill (1697-1771) said on this subject:

[Pega], or event, which is under the wise direction and order of the providence of God, with respect to Whom nothing comes by “chance”; and it is rendered “occurrent” (I Kings 5:4, [KJV]); and so it is here, by the Septuagint version, “occurrence” or “event”; … and Aben Ezra interprets it … “superior ordination”; it is something we meet, or meets us, by divine appointment.

“Chance” never comes into play in God’s creation; the simple fact is that divinely appointed “times and events” happen to us all.

C2Pilkington-4Clyde L. Pilkington, Jr.
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