Turn! Turn! Turn!

Douglas VanBronkhorst

READ : Ecclesiastes 3:1-14

He has made everything beautiful in its time. (v. 11, niv)

To everything – turn, turn, turn

There is a season – turn, turn, turn

And a time for every purpose under heaven.

This 1965 hit song, performed by The Byrds, was written by Pete Seeger, based on Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. Seeger added his own sixties, peace-activist slant, while still being quite faithful to the text. His song has since been recorded by many artists (including Dolly Parton!), which has helped to make this the best-known section of the book. It is beautiful poetry.

But what does it mean? Taken by itself, it says life’s positive and negative aspects (including death) should be accepted as natural and “beautiful in their time” (v. 11). There is a season for everything, both good and bad, so deal with things as they come.

Some find this a comforting perspective, especially when set to a nice tune. The context, though, reveals a deeper message. Enjoy the good and accept the bad, says the Teacher, because we can’t change them anyway. At the same time remember that God is sovereign and has plans which transcend our lives here. The dream of eternal life that he puts in our hearts (v. 11) is fulfilled in his promises. This is a truly comforting truth and a nice “pause” in the Teacher’s otherwise depressing struggle with meaninglessness!


Lord, may my belonging to you be my only comfort, in life and in death. Amen.